Vision of American Mountain Theater
By Susie Heckel, Founder of AMT
In 2002, God began to deal with me about a Branson or Ozark Mountain style live music theater here in Elkins. I had worked at this type of theater before in Arkansas and I really wasn’t interested in doing it again. However, God continued to deal with me until I couldn’t sleep at night. I would be up all night sketching stage designs, going over musical material and calculating numbers. Finally in a sleep-deprived state, I took my notebook to my father-in-law, who owned an empty commercial building, and presented my idea of a music theater to him. He agreed to let me try my hand at this project for a very small amount of rent. So my husband and I gathered every cent we could invest, which wasn’t much, and the project began.
Renovation of the facility was long and hard. We did much of the work ourselves and everyone said that I was crazy, but God blessed us, and many people were moved to help with their talents and some even financially. My brother-in-law Kenny Sexton, who is a CPA, agreed to help me keep my records straight.
In December of 2004 the shows began with a cast made up of mostly family including my dad, two daughters, a son, and several close musical friends. They worked very hard, even though I couldn’t really pay much for their services. In the beginning, crowds were very small; sometimes only 2 or 3 people, but we did our very best at every show. I believe God has shown me that there would be phases to this project with mine being the first phase, and that being the birth of American Mountain Theater.
Kenny, my brother-in-law, felt called by God to help the American Mountain Theater grow into the next phase with the relocation into a new facility located in the Elkins historic railyard. He and his wife (my sister Beverly) have given their all to see this project through.
As we walk through the years with this project, I have asked God many times, “Why a music theater? Why in Elkins?” God’s answer to me is he wants to do a “New Thing.”
I have seen so many miracles concerning this project and I believe that there are many more things to come for the American Mountain Theater. I feel blessed to have just been a part of this “new thing” – the American Mountain Theater, so I say, “May God Be Praised!”