The Charleston Playhouse was a magical place. It was only open for about year, but in that year it was a madhouse of art, music, and theater, tucked away in a hidden corner of Kanawha City. It was an oasis of music, food, comedy, and mayhem.
And ther was plenty of drama–not all of it on stage. There were what seemed like a few thousand people who owned a share of the Playhouse, and by the time they shut down, none of them were speaking to each other. It was a case of too many cooks.
However, all the cooks had interesting things going on. The rock and roll faction was responsible for the legendary Tuesday night jam sessions and weekend concerts. The theater crowd put on some of the best shows Charleston has seen–from “True West” to “Side by Side by Sondheim”. The art crowd encouraged creativity by providing paper table cloths and crayons at each table. For its short life, the Playhouse was a nexus for all things cool in Charleston.
I even met Melanie there, at a Stark Raven album launch party.
Where else could you find Sondheim, Sam Shepard, Brian Diller, Clownhole, David Friesen, Duke Robillard, Go Van Gogh, Eraserhead, Danny Boyd’s movies, and drunken Reggae renditions of the “Beverly Hillbillys” theme, all on the same stage?
But the creative schizophrenia was destined to burn out, and the playhouse gang all scattered to the four winds in the early 90s.
So, it’s a little sad to see that the building that once housed the Playhouse has now become the home of a gambling parlor. It was probably inevitable. There never really has been a successful business in that location. Still, it’s a little undignified that the business that moved in is not even an original gambling parlor, they swiped their name from a successful chain of money-suckers. I mean, geez, at least come up with an original name if you’re going to defile the Charleston art community’s holy ground!