The Eben Henson timeline

April 26, 2004

Jan. 27, 1923 - Eben Henson was born in Danville to Celia Bloch Henson, a New Yorker from a tough neighborhood, and Eben Burdette, a sign painter, magician and federal revenue agent who chased moonshiners through Kentucky. He graduated from Danville High School and studied at Centre College and the University of Redland.

1940s - Henson appeared on Broadway in three shows, "Grantland Rice's Spotlight," "All the Kings Men" and "Androcles and the Lion."

1947 - Henson graduated from Indiana University and returned to Kentucky after serving in the Navy and pursuing an acting career in New York. He vowed to bring Broadway to the bluegrass.

1949 - Served on the founding and advisory board of Studio Players in Lexington.

1950 - Pioneer Playhouse, the outdoor theater, started its first season. The stage helped many young actors get their start, including John Travolta, Jim Varney, Lee Majors and Bo Hopkins.


1956 - Henson named Danville's distinguished citizen and outstanding young man.

1967-1969 - Henson was elected mayor of Danville to fill an unexpired term. During that term he introduced the 1 percent payroll tax and organized the Isaac Shelby Festival.

September 1973 - Henson was elected to the board of directors of the Kentucky Campground Owners Association.

1974 - Henson worked on a documentary film for the Honduras government, and writes and directs a historical drama of Eastern Kentucky University, "The Spirit of Eastern."

1976 - "The Thoroughbreds," a movie, was shot in Kentucky, and Henson is production manager. This year he also served on the Kentucky Film Commission.

1999 - The playhouse celebrated its 50th anniversary. A New York Times journalist describes Henson as "part George M. Cohan, part Lee Strasburg, part used-car salesman," and one of a dying breed.

2002 - Henson's son, Robby, directed "Summerstock," a documentary about the playhouse that appeared on KET and nationally on PBS.

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