Summer Theaters going year-round

Two of Kentucky’s longstanding summer theaters have announced plans to expand their offerings around the calendar.

Jack Worthing (Henry Layton, back to camera) faces off against (L-R) Gwen (Ellie Clark), Lt. Fairfax (Nick Vannoy), Algy (Jesse Hungerford) and Lane (Wilson Shirley) in The Impersonation of Being Ernest. (c) Herald-Leader photos by Rich Copley.

In Lexington, SummerFest will produce its first indoor, school-year show with a production of Tracy Letts’ Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning August: Osage County, Oct. 13-23 at the Downtown Arts Center. Sumerfest and its predecessor, the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, have produced indoor shows in the past, close to the time of the outdoor festival in July at the Arboretum. The most recent was June’s presentation of Spencer Christensen’s The Impersonation of Being Earnest by SummerFest’s parent group, Kentucky Conservatory Theatre,  at the Downtown Arts Center. And there have been talks of year-round offerings in the past, but this will be the first venture outside the summer months.

The University of Kentucky Theatre has previously announced a production of August: Osage County at the Guignol Theatre Feb. 23 to March 4. It will be directed by former Actors Guild of Lexington director Vic Chaney.

There’s a Lexington connection to Letts as one of his frequent collaborators is one-time Lexington resident and Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon.

Martin Childers pointed out storm damage at Jenny Wiley Theatre in June 2004. © Herald-Leader photo by Janet Worne.

Martin Childers pointed out storm damage at Jenny Wiley Theatre in June 2004. © Herald-Leader photo by Janet Worne.

In Pikeville, Jenny Wiley Theatre has some huge ambitions, signing an agreement with the city to build a new space in downtown Pikeville that will offer productions in the fall, winter and spring. According to a news release, the fare will include, “musicals, comedies, children’s theatre and educational programs, as well lunch/dinner performances.  The indoor facility will also be available for area meetings and conferences.    The new facility will also house a box office, gift shop, rehearsal space, and the possibility of a café.”

It is billed as a mutually-beneficial move, expanding cultural offerings in Pikeville and giving the theater, based at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, a chance to expand its year-round offerings. It has been offering some school productions and educational programs.

“Jenny Wiley Theatre has been an important contributor to the culture, tourism and economics of Eastern Kentucky for almost fifty years,” Executive Director Martin Childers said in a news release. “We want to ensure that we continue to adapt to the needs and circumstances so that we are here for another fifty.  The ability to produce shows all year long is an important step in that direction.”

The Pikeville space, a 300-seat theater, is slated to begin construction in January and be completed by December 2012.

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