The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Kentucky Repertory Theatre has appointed Christopher Carter Sanderson, founding artistic and producing director of New York’s Gorilla Rep, as its executive director. Sanderson will be only the third director of the 35-year-old professional theater in Horse Cave.
He succeeds founding director Warren Hammack, who led the theater for its first 25 years, and his successor, Robert Brock, who announced his departure late last year to start a theater program at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia.
Sanderson is already setting out an ambitious agenda for Kentucky Rep, formerly called Horse Cave Theatre, including a year-round season including concerts, dance, lectures and visual arts. He also says co-productions with theaters in New York and Chicago are in the works. For more information, visit Kentuckyrep.org.
Robert Brock is leaving his post as artistic director of Kentucky Repertory Theatre at Horse Cave to establish a new theater program at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia. Brock, a Henry Clay High School and University of Kentucky graduate, has been the director of the theater, formerly known as Horse Cave Theatre, since 2002. He replaced the theater’s founding artistic director, Warren Hammack, who helped realize the dream of establishing a professional theater in the small Kentucky town between Louisville and Nashville.
Under Brock’s direction, Kentucky Repertory Theatre presented nine world-premier productions, hosted performances by internationally acclaimed actors such as Annie Potts and Sally Struthers, was named one of the Top 10 places in the country to see theater outside of Broadway by USA Today, was designated by the state legislature as the “Repertory Theatre of Kentucky” and won the Community Arts Award in the Governor’s Awards in the Arts.
Brock also saw theater through a severe financial crisis that threatened to close its doors in 2009. He first worked with the theater in 1998 as an actor and quickly became its education director.
The Kentucky Arts Council is accepting nominations for the 2010 Governor’s Awards in the Arts through March 1. The awards recognize extraordinary achievements in the arts or outstanding contributions to the arts. The categories are:
■ Milner Award, for outstanding philanthropic, artistic, or other contributions to the arts and their role in the economy, community and culture of Kentucky
■ National Award, for a Kentuckian who has received national acclaim in the arts
■ Artist, for lifetime achievement by an individual artist
■ Business, for a businesses that shows interest in and support of the arts
■ Community arts, to an organization or individual who has made a positive impact on a community through the arts
■ Education, for an individual, school, school district or organization’s contributions to arts education
■ Folk heritage, to an individual or group that has made exceptional efforts to perpetuate Kentucky’s artistic traditions
■ Government, to a government entity or leader who has made significant contributions to the arts
■ Media, for a Kentucky journalist or a media organization in Kentucky that has made outstanding efforts to bring the arts to the public’s attention
Recent winners from the Lexington area have included trumpeter Vince DiMartino, visual artist Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, actor George Clooney and arts-supporting business The Liquor Barn.
Nominations are due by March 1. For information and nomination forms call Dan Strauss at (502) 564-3757, ext. 474 or visit the Arts Council’s website. Gov. Steve Beshear will present the 2010 Awards at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in October.
Here’s a slide show of this year’s new Kentucky Chautauqua performers. Mouse over the bottom of the slide show to get controls. Click on the little comment cloud to the left to activate captions (if you want captions on this show, it’s probably best to go to the large version of the show). If you click on a photo, it will take you to a larger version of it at Picasa, and you can click the link at the bottom left of the slide show window for a larger version of the whole show.
We spent Monday at the Lexington History Center checking out the new performers on the Kentucky Humanities Council’s Kentucky Chautauqua program.
Chautauqua performers present significant characters from Kentucky’s history in 45-minute presentations to groups that book them. The roster includes everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Grandpa Jones.
This year’s additions to the lineup include four 19th Century figures and one unforgettable star from the 20th Century. Here’s a look at them, in order they were presented.
Justice John Marshall Harlan, presented by Edward Smith — A glass of bourbon in hand, Harlan regales the audience with an often funny chat about the development of his political and legal career. Along the way, we get tidbits like the fact that Supreme Court Justices didn’t have offices in the 19th Century. The main point of the presentation though is exploring how Harlan, a former slave owner, turned out to be the dissenting vote on numerous Civil Rights cases, including Plessy vs. Ferguson, which upheld segregation.
Billy Herndon, presented by Robert Brock – Herndon was Abraham Lincoln’s law partner in Springfield, Ill., up until the time he became President and, like Lincoln, he was a native Kentuckian. In his presentation, Herndon speaks passionately about the man he hoped would make good on his promise to come back and pick up the law practice and whose biography he gave his life to writing. Brock, a Henry Clay High School and University of Kentucky, is director of Kentucky Repertory Theatre at Horse Cave.
Johnny Green, presented by Ethan Smith — Johnny Green was one of the surviving members of the Orphan Brigade, a Confederate troupe that endured some of the harshest conditions the Civil War had to offer. In the presentation, Green offers details about life as a soldier in the War Between the States, some stories told with a distinctly youthful vigor, his rationale for fighting on and his deep desire to return home to Kentucky.
Rosemary Clooney, presented by Bet Stewart – She was the woman who put the Clooney family name on the map in her career as a chart-topping singer and movie star. In Endangered Singer, Stewart focuses on the turbulent life that bubbled underneath her marquee career, including a failed marriage and drug addiction, and how she navigated her way to happiness. Stewart read a lot and talked to people who knew Clooney, including her brother Nick Clooney, to develop the piece. She is director of Cincinnati’s Intuition Theatre.
Lucy Audubon, presented by Kelly Brengelman – Audubon was the wife of famed bird expert John J. Audubon, and apparently it was not easy to be married to him. Brengelman’s presentation recounts long periods of time being separated from her husband, often living on the brink of poverty, as he pursued his work. He eventually achieved timeless fame with the publication of Birds of America. Brengelman is an actor who lives in Midway.
Five years ago, Horse Cave Theatre fell into a financial ditch.
Some accumulated debt and shortfalls put the company in a position where it couldn’t even make payroll. So theater director Robert Brock approached two of the company’s largest donors. He spent time detailing the situation to them and explaining his plans to make sure it didn’t happen again.
The donors gave Horse Cave the money it needed to stabilize, “and nobody ever knew what happened,” Brock said.
That’s the way arts groups like it.
Just like no one wants to bet on a lame horse, people want to be associated with a successful enterprise. That is why most arts groups will try to put on a happy face, even in times of deep crisis.
But faced with a life-threatening $350,000 deficit last month, Brock took a different course of action.
Kentucky Repertory Theatre, the name Horse Cave theatre adopted in 2004, launched the Save a Kentucky Treasure Campaign to raise $350,000 by March 15.
On Feb. 1, The Courier-Journal of Louisville published a story detailing how a perfect storm of high gas prices, a 50 percent tourism drop in the Mammoth Cave region last summer and a shortfall in donations put the theater in danger of closing.
“It shocked some people, probably in a good way,” Brock said Tuesday.
He went public with the theater’s plight because “I don’t have any place to go,” he said, “and the economy has never been like this in the entirety of the theater’s existence. A theater in San Francisco put out an appeal like this and made it.”
Feb3Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, dance, Music, Opera, Theater, UK; Tagged as: American Spiritual Ensemble, Bob Edwards, Kennedy Center, Kentucky Humanities Council, Kentucky Repertory Theatre, Lexington Singers, Nick Clooney, Our Lincoln, Robert Brock, UK Symphony Orchestra, University of Kentucky
WASHINGTON – Last February, the Kentucky Humanities Council and the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre claimed Abraham Lincoln as the Bluegrass State’s own through music and words in the Our Lincoln concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
Monday night, the same artists staked that claim on a national stage: the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.
The performance of Our Lincoln at the Kennedy Center was a chance for the artists involved, including the Lexington Singers and the UK Symphony Orchestra, to play on the stage of one of the most prestigious arts venues in America. It was also a chance for Kentucky to show off.
“When I heard about this, I said, in one fell swoop, you could change a lot of people’s minds about our state,” Robert Brock, artistic director of Kentucky Repertory Theatre, said, recalling receiving his invitation to portray Lincoln’s law partner, Billy Herndon, in the show.
Brock’s performance was one of numerous pieces meant to portray the 16th President, usually associated with Illinois, from a distinctly Kentucky perspective. The performance was created as part of the celebration of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in Hodgenville.
Our Lincoln included Augusta’s Nick Clooney narrating Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, UK alum and Metropolitan Opera tenor Gregory Turay singing a new musical setting of The Gettysburg Address, Kentucky Poet Laureate Jane Gentry reading her poem about a Lincoln portrait in her house, and excerpts from River of Time, a forthcoming opera about Abraham Lincoln by UK composer Joseph Baber.
The program was narrated by national radio host and Louisville native Bob Edwards, and it was attended by a who’s who of Central Kentuckians including Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry, and U.S. Reps. Ben Chandler and Hal Rodgers.
“This is a proud night for the State of Kentucky because of what we are about to show the nation,” University of Kentucky President Lee Todd said to about 400 people at a pre-show reception in the Kennedy Center.
The crowd included Kentuckians who made the trip to Washington, expatriate Kentuckians living in Washington, people invited by their Kentucky friends and pure concertgoers.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich