Amy Guinn takes the reins as New Horizon Theatre’s artistic director

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 2, 2023

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WEST POINT — After 39 years with the New Horizon Community Theatre (NHCT) Bill Nixon is stepping aside as its artistic director. He is being succeeded by his assistant, Amy Guinn, but plans to have some degree of continuing involvement with the theatre. He will direct two of its eight productions in the coming year.

Nixon and Guinn talked about the NHCT’s upcoming season at a recent meeting of the West Point Rotary Club.

Nixon has been involved in local theatre since the Hi Fever Follies became very popular in the 1980s. This transitioned into the NHCT, which was founded by David O’Keefe in 1985.

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“Back then, we would do performances in any place we could get 50 people together,” Nixon said. “Our first production was in Langdale Theatre in 1986. It was before a major renovation took place there.”

That play would be the first of 174 productions that have taken place. Thousands of local people have taken part in some way in those productions. Many have acted and sang on stage. Others were part off the vital stage crew, making sure everything came together for each production.

For a number of years, theater productions took place in an old store building on West Eighth Street in downtown West Point. As the number of theatre patrons and people watching the plays and musicals increased, a major step was taken in the recent past to have a larger, more modern theatre right next to the old one. Over $400,000 was raised to build it, and an Auburn consultant was hired to design it. The new theatre will seat 215 people in a very comfortable setting with excellent acoustics. It’s a showplace for downtown West Point with a marquee that lists the upcoming performances.

The next one will be taking place July 27-29. “Finding Nemo Jr.” will be directed by Sophie McDow.

From Sept. 7-9, “Oliver!” will be directed by Laura Cates. Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” will be taking place Oct. 19-21. It will be directed by Jarrett Black.

From Nov. 30-Dec. 2, Bill Nixon will be directing the NHCT’s sixth production of Charles Dickens’ enduring classic “A Christmas Carol.”

On Dec. 16, “Once Upon a December, IX,” will be directed by Julia Langley. Proceeds from the production will benefit the Cliff Glover Scholarship Fund.

“It will be a one-day show full of glitter and holiday lights,” Nixon said.

The first production of the new calendar year will be taking place Feb. 8-10. Noelle Reed will be directing “Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang JR.”

Directed by Keith McDow, “Play On!” will be taking place March 14-16. The season will conclude April 25-27 with “Smoke on the Mountain.”

Nixon, who will be directing the production, said it’s being brought back by popular demand.

“We have had a lot of requests to do it again,” Nixon said. “People like the gospel music and the mountain culture.”

Guinn talked about the NHCT’s annual Performing Arts Camp that will be taking place June 19-24. It’s for students in the 6 to 18 age group. 

“We are excited to have a professional performer, Julia Langley, to return for her 14th year as camp director,” she said. “This year we will be offering a Master’s Class as part of the camp experience for students ages 15 and 16. We look forward to an amazing week of fun, learning and incredible performances.”

The camp will be operating from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. EDT each day. It’s $215 per camper (ages 6-14) or $115 for qualified Master Class attendees who are 15 or 16 years of age. There’s a family discount for multiple campers. To register, go to hwheelerNHCT@yahoo,com.

“Please join us for a spectacular week of acting, choreography and music,” Guinn said. “Register early before the camp fills up.”

Kids will really like this year’s pirate theme, “Swashbucklers on the Seven Seas.”

Guinn thanked local theatre goers for their continuing support.

“It is because of this support that our 38th season was incredibly successful,” she said. We are excited about our upcoming 39th season. We expect the coming season to be filled with a variety of entertaining dramas and musicals. It’s our goal to please people of all age groups.”

Over the past 24 years, the NHCT has given away over $53,000 in scholarships to 79 deserving high school graduates.

“This will give them a helping hand to continue their educations,” Guinn said. “We have also sought to provide increasing opportunities for children and teens to experience the many benefits of participating in the performing arts through show selections and special events.”

Some NHCT alumni have gone on to success elsewhere. One is a model in New York City, another performs at Dollywood and another young lady who started out on the local stage is now in Orlando, where she was recently on the lead float in a Disney parade.

Nixon has no regrets on what New Horizon has accomplished over the years.

“I think we have done some good things,” he said. “I think our shows have been good. I think we have accomplished something for the community.”