Department of Tourism
Discover Your Own Backyard: Kentucky's Many Regional Summer Theaters
From Prestonsburg to Bardstown to Gilbertsville, Kentucky is home to an exciting variety of summer theaters. A few have been producing shows for more than a half-century and have achieved renown throughout the state and beyond its borders. Several newer additions to the Kentucky Summer Theater Trail are attracting attention and theater-lovers by presenting unique stages, settings and productions throughout the commonwealth.
From mid-June through August, these purveyors of dramatic entertainment provide a bit of Broadway in your backyard. Depending on your theatrical taste, you can take in a comedy, musical or drama. Theaters near or far can enliven a summer evening and provide memories for years to come. Among the venues are Jenny Wiley Theatre in Prestonsburg, Kincaid Regional Theatre in Falmouth, Louisville’s Broadway at Iroquois, Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Stephen Foster Productions in Bardstown, Kentucky Repertory Theatre in Horse Cave, Pine Knob Theatre in Caneyville and Twilight Cabaret Theatre Productions in Gilbertsville.
Stephen Foster Productions, Bardstown
Kentucky’s official outdoor musical turns 50 years old this summer. “Stephen Foster: The Musical” recounts the story of the composer from Pittsburgh who, while visiting relatives in Bardstown, gave the commonwealth its own anthem (“My Old Kentucky Home”), and penned one of the nation’s first pop tunes (“Oh! Susanna”). Performers in 1850s vintage costumes serenade the audience with many other Foster favorites like “Camptown Races” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” A cast reunion is planned for June 21, and other anniversary events are on tap, including parades and a city-wide costume show. For more information: 800-626-1563, www.stephenfoster.com.
Pioneer Playhouse, Danville
Celebrating its 59th season in 2008, Pioneer Playhouse will feature a summer schedule highlighted by an original murder mystery written by a Kentucky author, inspired by Kentucky history and honored with “Best Play” at the first International Mystery Festival in Owensboro last summer. “Death by Darkness” spins a web of fictional mystery around an actual occurrence: Charles Dickens visited Mammoth Cave in 1842 but never told anyone about this experience. Other productions scheduled this summer include “Leading Ladies,” “Mornings at Seven” and “Love, Sex and the IRS.” For more information, 859-236-2747, www.pioneerplayhouse.com.
Jenny Wiley Theatre, Prestonsburg
On tap this summer at the amphitheater at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park are productions of perennial favorites “The Wizard of Oz” and “A Chorus Line.” Also to be presented are “Little Red – Life in the Hood,” and “Honky Tonk Angels.” For more information on Kentucky’s only professional repertory theater east of I-75, call 877-225-5598, or visit www.jwtheatre.com
Broadway at Iroquois, Louisville
Marking its 70th season, the recently renovated Iroquois Amphitheatre in South Louisville’s Iroquois Park will host “Cats,” “The Wiz,” “Mame” and, making its regional premiere, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The amphitheatre now seats 2,400, with half the seats covered by a cantilevered roof. For more information, 502-589-4060 or www.musictheatrelouisville.com.
Kentucky Repertory Theatre, Horse Cave
The Kentucky Repertory Theatre at Horse Cave is celebrating the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of the 16th president’s birth in Kentucky in 1809, with two productions: “Abraham Lincoln” and “One Man’s Lincoln.” Also on the playbill are two stage classics, “Private Lives” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” For more information, 270-786-2177 or www.kentuckyrep.org.
Kincaid Regional Theatre Company, Falmouth
For summer 2008, two popular musicals are slated at Kincaid Regional Theatre: “Big River,” a retelling of Mark Twain’s novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” a down-home comedy that features plenty of country music numbers. For more information, 800-647-7469, www.krtshows.com.
Pine Knob Theatre, Caneyville
Now in its 22nd season, Pine Knob Theatre in Caneyville has carved out a niche for itself by producing local original plays set in Caneyville and dealing with regional themes. On the program this summer are audience favorites “Down in Hoodoo Holler” and “Dock Brown: Legend of an Outlaw.” New this season is an afternoon of performances of three productions for one admission price (“At the Hop,” “Lucy and Ruth’s Diner” and “Daddy Took the T-bird Away”). For more information, 270-879-8190 or www.pineknob.com.
Twilight Cabaret Theatre Productions, Gilbertsville
With performances held at the Ken-Bar Lodge near the northern entrance to the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Twilight Cabaret Productions this summer spotlights “The Costume Ball,” a three character play about mistaken identity that is making its Kentucky premiere. For more information, 270-436-2399, www.twilightcabaretproductions.
From real life Kentucky legends captured in story and song to Broadway hits beneath a blanket of stars, Kentucky’s summer theaters invite you to begin your exploration of the uncharted territory of the mind when stars and dreams emerge. Make time this summer to venture down the road and enjoy at least one of the many offerings of Kentucky’s outdoor theaters.
This “Discover Your Own Back Yard” travel column is produced twice monthly by the Department of Tourism to help promote Kentucky events and travel destinations. For more information about these and other tourism opportunities, visit www.kentuckytourism.com
Editors: To obtain photographs related to this column, please click here.
The Kentucky Department of Tourism, an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, exists to promote The Commonwealth as a travel destination, generate revenue and create jobs for Kentucky’s economy.