The Theater

Who are we? The Hamner Theater, founded in 2005 by Peter Coy and Boomie Pedersen.

What is our mission?
To offer a performing arts venue in Nelson County and to create a community theater open to and reaching out to all residents of Nelson and its surroundings.

The inspiration for creating the theater:
We have dedicated this theater to one of Nelson County’s most famous residents, Earl Hamner, Jr., creator of THE WALTONS, the long-running and award-winning TV series. We did this to express our thanks for the contribution he has made to the county in telling the timeless story of his family’s life during the Depression here.

What is the need for a theater in Nelson County?
Until now there has been no theater space in Nelson County devoted to the performing arts. It seems clear from the response to our first offerings that the theater is filling a need both for the participants and for the audiences.

Nelson County is a rural county in central Virginia that has a diverse population of about 14,000. There is a rich vein of artistic talent here. Professionals and amateurs from many of the arts – potters, classical musicians, bluegrass and rock bands, traditional Irish fiddlers and dancers, actors, painters, sculptors, poets, novelists, playwrights, songwriters, set and lighting designers for the stage, film makers, and more – are living in the county.

We have training programs for adults, teens, elementary school children in all aspects of theater production: acting, directing, improvisation, technical theater, lighting and set design, and playwriting. We have the personnel and the facilities. We are working with the high school to find interested and motivated teens. Earl Hamner has been an inspiration and a support for our programs.

Having a theater space of our own gives focus to everyone involved, those creating the performance and those in the audience. The theater itself creates a desire to reach and maintain a standard of solid work. It creates loyalty in the audience because they feel the theater belongs to them as much as to the performers. It creates an atmosphere of familiarity and permanence. This is Nelson County’s theater.

What exactly does the Hamner Theater look like?
It is an intimate and flexible theater, created in a 26’ by 42’, handicapped-accessible, former elementary-school classroom. Seats are on risers that can be configured in the way that is best for each particular production. A lighting grid with dimmer packs is permanently attached to the ceiling. The lobby and the dressing room are in adjacent classrooms.

What are our plans for the future?
We will continue to produce up to five plays each year. And the space will continue to be a venue for music, dance performances, storytelling nights, film clubs, a meeting space for other non-profit and community groups…whatever is needed and possible within our production schedule.  We would like to create a series of evening events where Virginia writers will read from their new work. Because this is the only theater in the county besides the high school auditorium, we want to fill it with a variety of events that appeal to as many different county residents as possible.