Lunch with the Arts to Feature Local Playwright and Children’s Author

Published 9:23 am Monday, May 22, 2017


Contributing Writer

Wednesday, the Community Arts Center’s Lunch with the Arts program takes you back in history. Heather Henson and Liz Orndorff will present a program to discuss Stephen Bishop, the real-life historical inspiration for a play and a children’s book.

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The play “Death By Darkness,” an award-winning mystery by Danville playwright Orndorff, was first produced at Pioneer Playhouse in 2008 and will be presented once again as part of this year’s summer line up. The play won the International Mystery Writers Festival in 2007 and the Southern Playwrights Competition in 2008.

After seeing the play, Henson — who is managing director at the playhouse —  was so inspired by the lead character, Bishop, she decided to do more research. As a result, she wrote the children’s book “Lift Your Light A Little Higher: The Story Of Stephen Bishop, Slave-Explorer,” published in September 2016, with illustrations by Caldecott-Honor winner Bryan Collier. It was recently named a Bank Street Best Book of 2016.

Bishop lived and died before the Civil War. As an enslaved teenager, he was brought to Kentucky and installed as a guide in the then privately-owned Mammoth Cave. There, he was instrumental in exploring and mapping the cave system. Bishop eventually gained his freedom a year before his death at age 36. Orndorff and Henson will discuss the inspiration and research behind both the play and the book, and will talk about the upcoming 2017 revival.

Orndorff worked in advertising and public relations before turning to fiction and playwriting. In addition to her previously-mentioned awards, her play “Aidan’s Gift” won the Kentucky Theatre Association’s playwriting award in 2009 and the Silverthorne Theatre new works award in 2015. In 2009, she won a Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship to live and write plays in Taos, New Mexico. She recently retired from teaching in the Voices Inside playwriting classes conducted by Pioneer Playhouse at Northpoint Training Facility. In 2012, she participated in an Artist Exchange sponsored by the Danville Sister Cities Commission and spent a month in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, teaching playwriting and acting. In 2016, she co-founded the new Scarlet Cup Theater. She lives in Danville with her husband, Robert.

Henson was born and raised in Danville and grew up at Pioneer Playhouse, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre, which her father founded in 1950, and her family continues to operate. She is the author of many award-winning books for young readers, including “That Book Woman,” which won the prestigious Christopher Medal and the Great Lakes Book Award, and was a finalist for both the Kentucky Bluegrass Award and the Texas Bluebonnet Award. Her latest picture book is “Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop, Slave-Explorer.” Henson lives on a farm near Danville with her husband and three children.

Online: Henson:



Lunch with the Arts:Featuring Heather Henson and Elizabeth Orndorff

noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at the Community Arts Center


On Exhibit
Student Showcase – open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, through May 25, featuring artwork by over 300 local students; suggested donation of $5 

Starry Night Studio: Tree Hugger

Tuesday, May 23 | 7pm to 9pm | $28

Capture a favorite childhood memory with this lovely painting of a tree with tire swing. Register online at

Starry Night Studio: Blue Blooms
Sunday, May 28 | 2pm to 4pm | $28

Add a splash of color to your home with these vibrant, elegant flowers. We’ll use a 12″ square canvas for this painting. Register online at

Ceramic Lotus Candle Holder Workshop
Saturday, June 17 | 10am to 11:30am
$30 per person

In this 90 minute beginner clay workshop, each student will create two lotus flower candle holders. Keep one for yourself and give one to a friend! 

Register online at

Ceramic Woven Basket Workshop
Wednesday, June 21 | 7:00pm to 8:30pm
$30 per person

Learn to create a beautiful ‘woven’ ceramic basket/platter in this beginner clay workshop. 

Register online at

Introduction to Wheel-Thrown Pottery
Thursdays, June 22 to August 3
7pm to 9pm | $120

Special summer pricing for this introductory pottery class! 

Register online at

Bookworms Art Camp – June 5 to 9

Rainforest Adventure Camp – June 12 to 16

Fabulous Food Art – July 17 to 26

Take Flight – July 24 to 28

Camps for rising 2nd through 6th graders

9am to 12pm OR 1pm to 4pm

$100 per camper ($125 after May 14)

Register online at

Middle School Nerd Camp – July 28 to August 4

Rising 7th through 9th graders

1pm to 4pm

$125 per camper ($150 after May 14)

Register online at

Photo contributed
Death by Darkness