West lives childhood dream as State Theater director

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Hardin County native proud to attract residents back to historic building

By Becca Owsley

As a little girl, Emily West often rode past the Historic State Theater with her family. From the back seat of the car, she told her parents she wanted the former theater to reopen so she could work there someday.


That wish is now a reality. In 2011, West became executive director of the State Theater, a movie house that closed the year she was born, 1982, and reopened in 2009.

A Hardin County native, West takes pride in the theater and experiences from her youth shaped her business style.

As a child, her grandmother taught her about customer service and how to deal with the public. She credits her grandmother’s example for those skills.

Working at The Whistle Stop in Glendale for seven years to earn money for college was another learning experience. Waitressing taught her to work with others. The experience not only taught her a lot about herself, but also how to relate with customers.

After college, West worked a few jobs around town until landing at radio station WAKY in 2006. She worked with sales and marketing for more than four years at the station. It was a perfect fit for West, who loves music from the 1970s.

“I feel like I’m an old soul,” she said.

She was the youngest employee at the station at the time and said she knew the music just as well as older coworkers who grew up with that sound track.

Because her interests are etched in the entertainment industry, the State Theater was another natural fit for West.

She spends a lot of her time promoting the theater and scheduling concerts, comedy shows and classic film events. Because she has become the public face of the theater, West said many refer to her as “the State Theater girl.”

West has many memories so far involving acts performing at the theater.

Casey James and his band ate a lot, she said.

“Eating seemed to be their main focus; music was secondary,” she said.

Because she is a huge Andy Griffith fan, Mayberry Week was her most memorable event so far. West was a little star struck when she met Don Knotts’ daughter during the event.

Her work bringing attention to the theater has been noticed by those promoting downtown Elizabethtown.

Elizabethtown-Hardin County Heritage Council Executive Director Heath Seymour said West is great to work with.

Seymour calls West an asset for downtown and to the community.

“She’s brought in a lot of fun shows to the theater and thanks to Emily, it seems like the audience is growing all the time,” he said.

West knows the importance of bringing attention to the theater because of the memories it holds.

Residents often tell West stories about their memories of the theater, which first opened in 1942. Many are love stories of couples who had their first date there, she said.

The theater is a part of many childhoods, she said. West’s grandfather, William Carter, told her stories about his mom dropping him off at the theater with a quarter. Carter and many other children spent hours at the venue.

Because the building is so personal to residents, promoting and scheduling events and attracting audiences to the theater is something she is especially proud of, she said.

“It holds a lot of history,” she said. “The State Theater is probably the most iconic building in Hardin County.”

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Getting to know Emily West:

  • Favorite movie: “Fried Green Tomatoes”
  • Hobby: Swimming
  • Favorite TV shows: “Big Bang Theory,” “How I Meet Your Mother” and “The Andy Griffith Show”
  • Family: A 3-year-old daughter, Roxanne (Roxie), and husband John, who has a plumbing business.
  • Favorite books: Books by Mary Higgins Clark and books by Kentucky authors.
  • Pets: Three rescued dogs: Lilly, Rex and Layla
  • Celebrations: She celebrates her 31st birthday next week.