Department of Tourism
Two Top Directors Join Owensboro Mystery Festival Team
OWENSBORO, Ky. – One of Disney Theatrical Productions' top Broadway directors is joining in the fun of the first International Mystery Writers' Festival as director of the two main stage productions in “Discovering New Mysteries,” and one of Chicago’s top award-winning professionals will direct two of the other leading plays.
Working directly with veteran Broadway Producer Zev Buffman (40 Broadway shows & 27 Tony award nominations), Jeff Lee will take a brief sabbatical from his duties with Disney's post-Broadway international tours of "Tarzan" & “The Lion King” to join with several other nationally known theatre professionals participating in directing the live festival performances. Ron OJ Parson, recent winner of Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award, is wrapping other Chicago productions and joining the mystery festival as well.
In a career that spans more than 30 years, Lee has worked as an actor, singer, dancer, production manager, writer, director and producer in several entertainment mediums in the United States and internationally including Broadway, off-Broadway, regional and touring theatre, concert arenas, film, television and video. Currently, Lee serves as staff associate director for all Disney Theatrical Productions in New York, where, as associate director to Bob Crowley, he most recently opened the Broadway production of “Tarzan”.
Originally, Lee mounted Disney’s Broadway production of “The Lion King” with director, Julie Taymor. Following that, he directed, or co-directed with Taymor, several companies of the show in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Nagoya, Japan; London; Toronto; Los Angeles; Chicago; a U.S. Touring Company; and Hamburg, Germany; having cast and artistically supervised the most recent production in Sydney, Australia.
Lee sits on the Artistic Advisory Board at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Washington, D.C., where for many years he maintained a regular directorial schedule. His freelance directorial productions of “Cats”, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, “Evita”, “Oliver”, “A Chorus Line”, “Sweet Charity”, and “Oklahoma!” have played the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
For the mystery festival, Parson will direct two plays in repertoire at the RiverPark Center’s Jody Berry Cabaret Theatre. The plays Parson will direct are William Link’s “Columbo Takes the Rap” and Elizabeth Orndorff’s “Death by Darkness.”
Parson is founder and former artistic director of the Onyx Theatre Ensemble of Chicago, and a co-founder and co-director of Ripe Mango Productions Film and Television Production Company. Parson currently resides in Chicago and is a resident director at the Court Theatre. Since moving to Chicago in 1994, he has worked as both actor and director. Some of the theatres Parson has worked with include The Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Chicago Dramatists, Black Ensemble Theatre, ETA Creative Arts Foundation and, most recently, The Actors Theatre of Louisville. He is the winner of Chicago’s coveted Jefferson Award as Best Director. An accomplished actor, some of his TV and film credits include “ER”, “Early Edition”, “American Playhouse”, “Vamping”, “Ali”, “Barbershop 2”, “Primal Fear” and “Drop Squad”.
Two Kentucky-based directors will oversee the mystery plays staged in Theatre Workshop of Owensboro’s Trinity Theatre - Wes Bartlett and Kelley Elder.
Bartlett will direct Don Nigro’s “Widdershins” and Elder will direct David Foley’s “If/Then.” Bartlett has acted in approximately 75 plays and directed 25 plays. He currently teaches theatre at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, and is a member of the Society of American Fight Directors.
Elder has been deeply involved with professional and community theater since 1973. He professionally toured the one-man show “Mark Twain Here!” throughout the Midwest and in Europe. He has acted and directed with community theaters in Kansas, Colorado, and Kentucky. Kelley and his wife, Jenifer, own and operate Elder Environmental and Safety Services, a regulatory consulting service.
The first International Mystery Writers’ Festival, “Discovering New Mysteries,” takes place June 12-17 at the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, Ky. Producers, directors, agents, publishers and critics representing national and international theater, television and motion pictures will attend, along with many guest stars, to view the festival’s world premiere of 12 new live stage works.
In addition, many of the festival’s executive committee members will attend. They are award-winning and nationally renowned authors and screenwriters, including Sue Grafton (“Alphabet Murders”), Ira Levin (“Deathtrap,” “Rosemary’s Baby”), William Link (creator of “Murder She Wrote” starring Angela Lansbury), current Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America and Edgar Winner Stuart Kaminsky, John Jakes, Samuel “Biff” Liff, Robert S. Levinson and James W. Hall.
Audiences during the festival will help select “The Angie” Award winners for the Sunday Gala that concludes the festival on June 17.
Now in its 15th year, RiverPark Center is a first-class regional entertainment complex. Six professional, international touring musical productions have been built here, making Owensboro, Ky., one of the top five communities outside New York City for building and premiering these shows prior to their U.S. or Asian tours.
The nearly 100,000 square-foot facility includes the state-of-the-art 1,500-seat Cannon Hall, the 300-seat black-box Jody Berry Cabaret Theatre, the 1,000 capacity outdoor riverfront BB&T Plaza and the International Bluegrass Music Museum.
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The Kentucky Arts Council, a state agency in the Commerce Cabinet, provides operational support funding for RiverPark Center with state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
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.