If you’re ever in Webster County on a summer night, you can probably hear the sounds of fiddles, guitars, upright bass, and humming from the Jerry Run Summer Theater. This wooden and rustic—but charming—music hall is tucked within the small community of Jerry Run that brings music to locals and visitors from surrounding counties. You can expect the theater’s schedule to be stacked with musicians from all over the Mountain State and beyond with various genres including bluegrass, old-time Americana, country and more.
We sat down with the founders of the Jerry Run Summer Theater, Dusty and Renee Anderson, to learn how the idea of the theater came to be and what they enjoy most about running the theater.
When was Jerry Run founded? What was it like to get started working on the theater?
We started having shows in June or July of 2002.
We received a lot of help from family, neighbors, and those interested in the project. Folks would not only give us their time to help out but they would give us items that could spruce up the theater. So many things just came together whether it was donated or bought secondhand and sometimes even found.
It took years to finish because we also had regular jobs too.
What sprung the original thought to create the theater?
Probably one summer when we went to Branson and saw all of the theaters and thought, “Wow! We need to have a little theater like that in our community.” We were also having concerts in the old school gymnasium and the acoustics were terrible, and we realized we needed a better place to hear music in.
Have you always been interested in music?
We’ve always been interested in music, whether it’s playing it or just enjoying it. Dusty actually played the electric bass in several bands and continues to play with friends. So it’s really nice to have a place to play music and hear it.
What was your (Renee’s) reaction when Dusty said he wanted to build a theater?
I thought well, we can give it a try. It took a while and it definitely didn’t happen overnight because we worked on plans for a long time. It wasn’t until we got the seats installed that we really felt that it was going to actually happen.
What’s your favorite thing about running the theater?
The musicians and the people that come out to the shows. When the crowd is enjoying the show and the musicians are happy, then we’re happy. It’s really nice the way the seats are situated to face the stage so that there can be a focus on the performers rather than music playing in the background and it just makes the audience more engaged with the performers.
How do you choose the talent to perform at the theater?
In the first year, we went on a week-by-week basis because we were a little worried if we could get enough bands to perform, but after that first year, the bands started calling us. Some of the same bands continue to come and they’re always welcome back, but this year we have several new bands performing. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had any trouble getting performers.
What’s been your biggest show at the theater?
Probably The Little Roy and Lizzy Show or Marteka and William or Iron and Wine when they came to film a movie.
We get a lot of folks that are from the area as well as people from Braxton and Upshur counties. But we would really love to find a way to appeal to the younger people—whether that’s having musicians from different genres or different bands throughout the summer.
Were you affected by the pandemic at all?
We closed down completely during 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began and then in 2021 we opened again in July but by September everything had tanked so we left it up to the musicians and the band since they have to sing close together.
When do you usually wrap up for the season?
Why do you think Jerry Run is so popular?
I think it’s popular with musicians because the acoustics are really lovely in the theater and the sound fills up the space. It’s also popular because people love coming out and enjoying the theater and listening to music together. It’s a family affair.
How far do people travel to play/see shows at the theater?
Local people will travel about 10 minutes or so, but then we do get folks from the surrounding counties. Some of the bands will travel a couple of hours, and we’ve had a few bands travel from Nashville and Georgia and really all over West Virginia.
What does Jerry Run mean to you both?
It represents the summer to us because we usually vacation before or after our season, so running the theater is just our main focus during the summer. And we enjoy it. It’s not a burden or anything at all.
What’s your favorite memory at the theater?
We have a lot of favorite moments, but probably our first show because we were wondering if anyone would come out and we ended up getting quite a crowd.
If you’re looking for some entertainment this summer in beautiful Webster County, head to the Jerry Run Summer Theater for a show! Check out this season’s schedule now.