Laura Dean Bennett
Everyone who knows Marilyn Creager knows that it’s entirely fitting to find her working at the Pocahontas County Opera House.
She’s recently signed on as an AmeriCorp, and she will be spending 30 hours a week in her job at the opera house.
“I love West Virginia history, I love Pocahontas County, and I love the opera house so this is the perfect place for me to be,” Creager said, smiling.
The Pocahontas County High School graduate recently graduated from Shepherd University with an English major and double minors – in History and Communication and New Media.
Creager grew up in Green Bank.
In between graduation from Shepherd University and when she leaves for grad school, Creager is living back at home in Green Bank with her family.
Her mother is LuAnn Creager, who was originally from Elkins and has for many years worked at, or owned and operated Good Life Financial.
Creager’s father, Ray Creager, is a software engineer at the Green Bank Observatory.
“My family didn’t go out all that often, so whenever we came down to the opera house to see a show, it was a big deal,” Creager said.
“I remember how impressed I always was by the Opera House. And I still am. I feel so lucky to be able to be working here now.
“I had been looking for a way to give back to my community, and this turns out to be perfect for me.
“The Opera House is a wonderful resource, and we’re so fortunate to have it.”
Creager began work as an AmeriCorps in mid-January 2020 and will serve in that capacity until she leaves for grad school in the fall.
And how did that come about?
One of the beautiful things about small town life is that everyone is connected.
“Gibbs Kinderman called me out of the blue one day and asked, ‘What are you doing between graduation and grad school?’
“He suggested the Opera House could use an AmeriCorp serviceperson and that I would be a good fit for the job.
“So I signed up and was assigned to the Opera House by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (pawv.org), which places AmeriCorps members at historic locations around the state.
“AmeriCorps is a great program,” Creager said.
“I’d encourage anyone to look into it.
“You can work full-time or half-time, and it’s not just for young people or students. Anyone can apply to serve.
“AmeriCorps provides a stipend to defray living expenses during your time of service.
“Although it is a volunteer program, there is an incentive aspect.
“When you complete your term of service, you receive an educational award, a monetary award, the amount of which depends on whether you worked full or half-time,” she explained.
“That educational award can be applied to one’s own education or may be assigned to someone else’s.
“For instance, an AmeriCorps educational award can be transferred to a family member, meaning a grandparent could transfer it to help pay for a grandchild’s education.
“I’m fascinated with history, and I’m learning a lot about the history of the Opera House,” Creager said.
“Like so many other similar theaters of its kind, the Pocahontas County Opera House was built during the Appalachian timber boom.
“J.G. Tilton built it as a draw for the burgeoning population in Pocahontas County.
“There were hundreds of these kinds of theaters built around the turn of the last century.
“They called them “opera houses” because the term, “theater” had a somewhat sullied image and “opera house” sounded classier,” Creager explained.
“Like our Opera House, there are many of the old opera houses that have been restored or are in the process of being restored now.
“This is an encouraging trend.
“It’s important for us to recognize and appreciate our history.
“One thing’s for sure, I’m learning how to wear a lot of hats,” she laughed.
“First of all, I’ll be researching and documenting the history of the Opera House.
“I’m going through a lot of the papers and documents left to us by Ruth Morgan, who spearheaded and then shepherded the renovation of the opera house.
“And I’m also organizing the filing system and preparing a volunteer capacity study to ascertain how many and what kind of volunteers it takes to run things at the Opera House.
“I’m also going to be preparing a volunteer application for people who’d like to help out here,” she said.
“And I’ll be doing other things, too – whatever is needed.”
Opera House manager Brynn Kusic said she’s delighted to have Creager onboard.
“Marilyn represents a great investment in our community,” Kusic said.
“Besides Opera House history, she’ll be working on a new display about the restoration of the Opera House and on our film series.
“She’s such a knowledgeable and passionate addition, and I’m sure she’ll accomplish great things.”
Creager plans to go to grad school at Simmons College in Boston.
As for her plans after grad school, Creager says she’s taking a “wait and see” approach.
“I’m hoping the right something will come along,” she said.
“We’ll just have to see what the universe brings.
“For now, I’m just glad to be working here.
“It’s incredible the kinds of acts that Brynn and the Opera House Foundation have been able to bring into Pocahontas County,” Creager said.
“I can’t wait for the premier party this June when the new season will be presented.
“I’m looking forward to meeting people who don’t know me and, of course, seeing old friends.
“If there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t been to a performance at the Opera House, I would say, you have to come,” she said.
“And when you do, I’ll be here, so be sure to say ‘hello.”’
Marilyn Creager will be working at the opera house weekdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and may be reached at the office number, 304-799-6645.
Her email address is: Marilyn@pocahontasoperahouse.org