Pioneer Playhouse gearing up for season

April 04, 2004

Spring is in the air. The crew is busy making preparations for the 55th Summer Season at Pioneer Playhouse. Five crowd-pleasing plays have been selected and auditions are scheduled in New York to acquire professional actors for the 10-week sequence.

This is proof that summer stock theater is alive and well in Kentucky, especially at the state's oldest outdoor drama, Pioneer Playhouse, a distinctive landmark on the outskirts of Danville.

Against all odds, Col. Eben Henson has kept his dream of "Broadway in the Bluegrass" alive since 1950. He cites one major contributor to this success as the participation of groups - civic clubs, churches and businesses. For Henson, the surest sign of spring came recently when Jess Correll purchased 40 patron passes for First Southern National Bank.

This is the third year of such participation by the employees and friends of First Southern, and Henson says the patron's passes are just the tip of the iceberg. "These passes guarantee that 40 people will see six performances, but when a person visits one time, they are hooked," says Henson. "Jess and Angela support this theater in many ways, and it all comes from their interest in the arts. Fortunately we have several groups that have continued to visit the playhouse over the years. This makes me feel like I have really done something worthwhile here."


The 2004 season starts with a kickball comedy "Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood." which opens the 55th season for Pioneer Playhouse June 12. In 1933, George Bernard Shaw made his one and only trip to America, where he attended a star-studded luncheon in his honor. This hilarious comedy serves up snarky gossip, studio politics and career-threatening scandal. Rated PG.

The opening production will be directed by Robby Henson, son of the playhouse founder. Robby Henson's most recent project was director of a movie starring Billy Bob Thornton and Patricia Arquette. "The Badge," which he also wrote, was filmed in Louisiana. It is the story of a prejudiced sheriff who takes refuge among the people he claims to despise.

Robby Henson's one-hour documentary, "Summerstock," aired nationwide on PBS TV stations in 2003 and will repeat on KET in June 2004. Described as a shotgun collaboration between reality and desire, the film details the busy lives of the actors from auditions in New York through a summer season at Pioneer Playhouse.

Five completely different Broadway plays are performed under the stars between June 12 and Aug. 21, and a "Standup Comedy Special" is offered two nights only Aug. 27-28. In case of rain, the production is moved to the indoor stage.

For a summer schedule, call (859) 236-2747, or write to Pioneer Playhouse, 840 Stanford Road, Danville KY 40422.

Central Kentucky News Articles