Former Marshall student brings new play production to Joan C. Edwards Playhouse


“West By God,” a play directed by former Marshall University student Brandon McCoy, debuted 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. McCoy said the play tells a story of defining where home is and how that varies from person to person, from state to state. 

McCoy said the reason he decided to write about West Virginia was mostly because he was frustrated. 

“I live in a place that is geographically so close to West Virginia, but the way people would talk about West Virginia it was as though it was a foreign country,” McCoy said. “Once you hit those hills, you turn around and head back for the city lights.”

McCoy is a 2004 graduate of Marshall’s School of Theatre and now lives in Washington D.C., which he said he was drawn to because of it being the second largest theatre community in the U.S. 

The Keegan Theatre in D.C. is where his play “West By God” debuted in September 2019. The play follows a man, Bobby, as he travels back to where he grew up in West Virginia to visit his family. While there he is faced with the question of what, or who, makes  a place your home.

McCoy said in today’s culture of inclusivity and diversity, there are so many great things happening, but he went on to say he was confused as to why that inclusivity does not extend to the stereotypes placed on Appalachians.

By writing the play, McCoy said his hope is to get people to reflect on their opinions of places like West Virginia and help them to see more dimension.

“Act I is more of an introduction to the audience about rural America, and Act II is very much a family drama,” McCoy said. “My hope was that by the time a D.C. audience got to Act II, this family they are watching just happens to be from West Virginia. They’re your family, so we are not the different.”

After a month-long run in D.C., McCoy started to prepare to bring this story of home back to his home at the Marshall University theater. He said that from very early on he knew he wanted to bring this play to West Virginia.

“I left (Marshall) sixteen years ago and in the back of my head I always had this inkling that I wanted to come back, I wanted to give back and do something for (the area),” McCoy said. “This homecoming, seeing all of these faces and talking to all these people, it’s a literal dream come true.”

After its run in West Virginia, McCoy said he hopes to bring the play to other states to see how other people perceive a West Virginia based play. 

“I think that this play would play well in any state that has a predominate rural component,” McCoy said. 

There are two more shows at Marshall on Jan. 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be picked up at the Joan C. Edwards box office, free with a student ID or purchased for $10. Tickets may also be purchased by calling the Joan C. Edwards box office at (304) 696-2787. 

Emily Hayslett can be contacted at [email protected]