Smoot to show ‘What About Auburn?’

Documentary film set for May 10

A scene in Auburn, Ritchie County, in 1901. Filmmaker Richard Anderson will premiere his latest film “What About Auburn?” at the Smoot Theatre in Parkersburg on May 10 at 7 p.m. (Photo Provided)

AUBURN — Filmmaker Richard Anderson will premiere his latest film “What About Auburn?” at the Smoot Theatre in Parkersburg on May 10 at 7 p.m.

Anderson, of Baltimore, combines location footage, historic photos, aerial photography and personal interviews to paint a portrait of a once-thriving community in eastern Ritchie County that can easily stand in for the many rural towns that flourished because of a local industry and have now fallen on hard times, he said.

Anderson’s interviews with current and former townspeople and local dignitaries depict a town that once was self-sustaining and provided a fulfilling life for its residents. Auburn once had stores, a bank, hotels and a movie theater.

Auburn, with a “strong pioneer spirit,” was booming in the early 1800s with farming and timbering and later with oil drilling, Anderson said.

Slowly the town of Auburn and its populace withered, however, and the current oil and gas boom has not helped the town, according to Anderson.

Auburn town hall on Main Street in Ritchie County in 2018. (Photo Provided)

Interspersed is a narrative voiced by singer-songwriter Todd Burge of Parkersburg. Burge also composed an original score for the film.

Mike Morningstar of Gilmer County also provides music and commentary. Grammy winner Tim O’Brien and others also contribute music to the soundtrack.

Reviewer Thom McKay states: “Anderson probably set out to tell the story of a town and its quirky, hardscrabble residents. He succeeded at much more than that.”

Anderson started working on the 57-minute film in May 2018 and visited Auburn five times, including during the ice cream social in August. He has been visiting Ritchie County for 40 years and had ridden his bicycle through Auburn.

Anderson said “What About Auburn?” is a historical study, a study of the boom and bust of the extractive industry, describes school consolidation and the purpose and meaning of small towns.

Lesa Moore Kirkley is interviewed for the movie. (Photo Provided)

“So what happens when small towns are reduced to nothing?” he asks.

Other films by Anderson include “Mike Morningstar: Here’s to the Workingman” and “The Sudden Pianist.”

“What About Auburn?” is produced and directed by Richard Anderson and co-produced by Rowland and Marcie Hill of Laffin’ River Films. Anderson collaborated with David Whitcomb (cinematography and story development) and Paul Newill-Schamp (cinematography, drone photography and audio recording) to produce the movie.

To visit the website and order tickets go to

The premiere at the Smoot Theatre will have a question-and-answer session after the film.