Live theatre in Charleston has a storied past. With the recent creation of the League of Charleston Theatres and the hiring of executive director Emily Wilhoit, its future looks to be even brighter.

In summer 2005, the minds behind five local theatres sought direction from the League of Chicago Theatres during a visit to America’s Second City, a trip funded by a grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. Shortly afterward, the companies launched a local version modeled on that organization. Aimed at broadening theatre audiences in the Lowcountry and encouraging the creation of more, and better, live theatre here, the League is looking to Wilhoit to lead the charge.

“People in Charleston know that there’s theatre,” Wilhoit says. “People just don’t know the amazing variety and quality of the theatre here.”

Expect that to change, and quickly. Wilhoit, a North Carolina native, is charming, aggressive, and, at just 27, already a veteran of several Charleston stages. Acting since the age of eight, she earned a BFA in Musical Theatre at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. After graduating, she worked with several regional theatres across the U.S. before landing an acting internship with Charleston Stage Company in 2003. While in Charleston, she performed in shows there, at Footlight Theatre, and at the Village Playhouse, among them Dinner with Friends; The Philadelphia Story; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; West Side Story, and Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf.

After a year living in Chicago with her husband Josh Wilhoit, who’s also an actor, Wilhoit returned to the Lowcountry last January, and by July was working for the League, now known simply as Theatre Charleston. With most companies’ 2006-07 seasons beginning in earnest this weekend, she’s been eyebrow-deep in coordinating promotional materials that’ll go into each member theatre’s playbills, as well as working on a recently launched website for the group, www.theatrecharleston.com, that acts as a clearinghouse of resources for member organizations, local actors, and Charleston area theatregoers.

The website, says Wilhoit, “will centralize the information, times, locations and anything else you might need to go out there and enjoy Charleston theatre. If you want to know about upcoming plays in Charleston, we will be the first place you should look.” –Dana Magliola

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