The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Trish Clark, former drama teacher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and former artistic director of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, has been named as the interim artistic and executive director of Woodford Theatre.
Clark steps in for Steve Arnold, who left the theater in October after just over a year in the post. He had succeeded longtime director Beth Kirchner, who made the Versailles theater one of the region’s premier community theaters during her 16-year tenure.
Clark, 59, said the opportunity came along at a good time after her position with the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s educational outreach programs was eliminated in a widespread round of layoffs earlier this year. She says she has not decided whether she will apply for the permanent director job at Woodford.
“They needed some immediate care, and that’s what I can do,” Clark said, taking a break from watching rehearsals of The Christmas Foundling, which opens Friday and runs three weekends. “Being around so long, I knew I could get people together, and they’ve been really good about stepping up.”
In two weeks, Clark has retained directors for the three remaining shows on the season after The Christmas Foundling, including bringing Kirchner back to direct Driving Miss Daisy, Feb. 1 to 17. She changed the April production of Neil Simon’s God’s Favorite to Simon’s The Odd Couple, because she said the cost of the set for the originally scheduled play would be prohibitive. Tonda-Leah Fields will direct Odd Couple and retired University of Kentucky Theatre professor James W. Rodgers will direct the season finale, The Secret Garden, May 31 to June 16.
Clark said she does not know what role she will play in selecting a 2013-14 season for Woodford Theatre.
Clark’s daughter, Ellie Clark, is one of three co-directors of Lexington-based Project SEE Theatre, so there are now two theaters in the family.
The Woodford Theatre has announced it’s 2012-13 season, which is a significant milestone as it’s the first season selected by new artistic director Steven J. Arnold. When Arnold took the reigns of the theater last summer, following the retirement of longtime director Beth Kirchner, the current season had already been selected.
In an email, Arnold said the season, “will not only be a highly entertaining one for our audience, it will also allow us to continue to define ourselves through ambitious design and performance opportunities.”
When choosing a season, Arnold said, “I attempt to put together a healthy balance of comedy and drama, musical and non-musical, contemporary and classic (or “classic feeling”), available male roles versus available female roles, and titles that will be of interest to both our audiences and our community of artists in the region. I also want to give audiences the opportunity to enjoy things they already know, in some form or another … while allowing them to discover something new or not well known.”
The season is:
Sept. 29-Oct. 14: Lucky Stiff by Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music). The duo whose credits include Seussical and Ragtime got their start marrying the musical form with this good ol’ English door-slamming farce about missing millions and a corpse in a wheelchair.
Nov. 30-Dec. 16: The Christmas Foundling by Norman Allen, based on the stories of Bret Harte. A group of gold miners in the 1850s Sierras become surrogate parents of a baby boy when his mother dies at Christmastime and a decade later have to fight to keep a meddling aunt from taking him away.
Feb. 1-17: Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry. You may know the Academy Award-winning 1989 movie. This is the play that came first.
April 5-21: God’s Favorite by Neil Simon. The 1974 play, which Arnold says has been enjoying a community theater renaissance, tells the story of a modern-day Job, whose faith is tested by misfortune.
May 31-June 16: The Secret Garden by Marsha Norman (book and lyrics) and Lucy Simon (music), based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Arnold says the Tony Award-winning musical about a magical garden, “feels like it literally fell off the page of the book and onto the stage, and it easily has one of the most moving and lush scores of the Broadway stage. It also has really terrific actor/singer opportunities that will be of great interest to the region’s talent base.”
The Woodford Theatre’s 2011-12 season concludes this weekend with the final performances of Smoke on the Mountain.
Jim and Melissa Wilkeson are doing something this weekend they have not done in 16 years of marriage: they’re performing opposite each other in a play.
Both Wilkesons are familiar to Lexington theatergoers. Jim has played roles such as Dub in Dearly Departed and Christmas Belles and the title role in Fortinbras at Studio Players. Melissa played Patsy Cline’s biggest fan in Studio’s blockbuster production of Always … Patsy Cline and recently had multiple roles in Balagula Theatre’s The Book of Liz.
They have been in the same shows a couple of times recently — as in Christmas Belles — and in the Midway 10-Minute Play Festival.
But no show has brought them together on stage until The Woodford Theatre’s production of John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, which opens Friday (Jan. 27, 2012) and runs through Feb. 12 at the Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center in Versailles.
“Our dogs aren’t very happy,” Melissa says. Jim adds, “Our dogs hate us right now. They’re like, ‘Are you ever going to be home again, ever again?’”
Aside from the canine conundrum, Jim says, “It’s great to finally be in something together and see how it works, see how we look on stage. We looked pretty good on the altar.”
While the Wilkesons have not shared the stage much since tying the knot, their union was born of nine intense months at the Burt Reynolds Institute of Theatre Training in Jupiter, Fla., where they were both students and company members. There, they worked long hours, sometimes performing in a children’s theater show, a black-box show, a mainstage dinner theater show and in lessons with Reynolds — all in one day.
“We were together all the time,” Wilkeson recalls. “We did nothing but theater from the time we woke up until, literally, sometimes Burt Reynolds would come in and say he wanted to have a class at midnight.”
Their relationship grew quickly as they started dating in November 1993 and got engaged soon after, on Christmas Eve. But they had a long engagement.
“There was no way on God’s green earth I was going to marry him after not living in the real world for nine months,” Melissa says of the institute.
They tied the knot Oct. 21, 1995, at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington. Four days later, they moved to New York — “pursuing our theater dream,” Melissa says.
The Woodford Theatre has named Steven J. Arnold as its new executive and artistic director, succeeding its longtime leader, Beth Kirchner.
For the past four years, Arnold has been executive producing director of the Church Hill Theatre in Church Hill, Md. He has worked as a professional producer, director, designer, playwright and actor, and he has amassed more than 80 production credits in the past 30 years, the theater said in a press release.
A graduate of Ohio State University, he also has worked as a freelance director and designer in central Ohio and eastern Maryland; was the artistic director of The Mansfield Playhouse in Mansfield, Ohio; and was a founder of the improv comedy group Under the Influence.
The theater says Arnold was selected from more than 70 candidates from across the country.
Brett Butler, chairman of the theater’s search committee and incoming president of its board of directors, said, “Beth Kirchner has built an incredibly solid foundation of artistic excellence, business acumen and educational commitment over the past 16 years. … It is now up to Steve to advance The Woodford Theatre from best in the Bluegrass to best in the Southeast, to our eventual goal of being the best community theater in the nation.”
- This comes from the desk of Herald-Leader arts and entertainment editor Scott Shive, who penned a couple of our ArtyFacts briefs at the end this busy week.
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