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Nationally touring productions, famous musicians, and more come to Morgantown with the University Arts Series

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MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s University Arts Series has dedicated itself for nearly half a century to providing quality entertainment to both students at the university and residents of the surrounding areas.

The series has been going on for 47 years, said Kristie Stewart-Gale, the marketing and advertising manager of arts and entertainment.

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“We receive no university or state funding to directly produce these events,” she said. “All of the series events must pay for themselves through ticket sales and advertising.”

This season, they had musicals, such as “Dirty Dancing” and “Elf,” concerts, including “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles” and “Foreigner,” the “Moscow Ballet” and more. Each year, they work to cater to the requests of attendees.

“We bring in everything from Broadway musicals and comedy to dance and magic,” Stewart-Gale said. “The series also includes many genres of music, including but not limited to jazz, blues, oldies, folk, pop, swing and R&B. If our audience asks for it, we do our best to bring it.”

The various events are offered to members of the community and to university students for a discounted price. There are currently 12 events per season, beginning in September and ending in April.

“It offers both our students and our community the opportunity to see nationally touring, professional performing arts events to which many here would not otherwise have access,” Stewart-Gale said.

“The University Arts Series offers the same quality touring productions as you would get in major metropolitan areas like Atlanta. We work to make the production affordable and always offer our students significant discounts. Why travel to Pittsburgh or farther when you can see the same shows right here in Morgantown?”

They’ve also had a long-standing relationship with Mountain Stage with Larry Groce, the NPR radio show that features a rotating cast of talented musicians and storytellers. They’ve been the show’s second home since 2006, and Stewart-Gale said that they’re “very proud of this partnership.”

“Mountain Stage is one of the most exciting events in West Virginia. It showcases the best of our state on a national stage, and we look forward to bringing the live show here to Morgantown each season,” she said.

Stewart-Gale said that while it was difficult to pick a favorite, Lily Tomlin, David Copperfield, “The Wizard of Oz,” “STOMP” and “Cats” were some of her top picks, as well as “The Opera Show” and Mountain Stage.

“I absolutely love Mountain Stage,” she said.

Maher Shamma is a senior at West Virginia University, and will be graduating with a biomedical engineering degree. He said his favorite University Arts Event was the Mountain Stage concert that he and his roommates attended around a year ago.

“I decided to go because it was something to do at the time. I didn’t expect that much from it, but it really exceeded all my expectations when I went because there were so many different kinds of artists,” Shamma said. “A lot of them, I continued to listen to after the concert because the artists were so unique and interesting.”

In the future, he hopes to see the series offer even more events related to students.

“I think the job of a university is to educate its students as much as they can, and I think cultural education is part of that,” Shamma said. “I think it’s a great series, and we should offer more of it.”

Expansion is exactly what Stewart-Gale is hoping to see in the future of the series, adding that, “I’d like to see it go from 12 events to 25.”

Still available in the series is acclaimed trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, who will be visiting WVU on March 23, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” April 3. For more information, visit www.events.wvu.edu.