‘All That Brass!’ opens next Pioneer Playhouse season

Published 6:17 pm Thursday, November 14, 2019

Heather Henson said this year’s season opener ties two iconic Danville organizations together. Pioneer Playhouse will open with “All That Brass!” a fictional take on a real event, which is the Great American Brass Band Festival. 

“We say this every year, but we are really excited about this lineup,” Managing Director Henson says. “All That Brass!” was written by Holly Hepp-Galvan, a New York City playwright who co-wrote Angela Correll’s “Guarded” and “Granted” plays. Like those plays, this one is considered a Kentucky Voices original. As the opener, it will run June 5-20.

“She just took off it with it,” Henson says. Hepp-Galvan began researching and talking to folks who have been involved in the festival since its inception, including board members, volunteers and Vince DiMartino, for example. 

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“She came up with a story that really spoke to us and to the history of the festival.”

Henson says the story centers on a fictional family who helps run the festival, but also weaves together the story of a historical trumpet passed down through generations. 

The trumpet was played at the Battle of Perryville, by a woman in an all female band in Lexington during the Women’s Suffragette movement — Henson says that is taken from a true story.

“‘All That Brass!’ does what our Kentucky Voices plays do best: brings Kentucky history and heritage into the spotlight. It’s really a chance to celebrate Danville and all the amazing things we have going on here,” she says.

Although the season is all lined out — and this certainly isn’t the Hensons’ first rodeo — funding is always a challenge for them. The Playhouse celebrated 70 years last summer, and it was a terrific season, Henson says. “But we really couldn’t keep going without help from the community, our sponsors, from all the patrons who have been coming year after year and who tell friends about it. Word of mouth is huge for us — many have fallen in love with the Playhouse over the years and want to share that love with friends, and that’s wonderful.” 

Henson’s father and the Playhouse’s founder, Eben C. Henson, worked hard to get dedicated state funding to all outdoor theaters in Kentucky.

“We lost that funding two years ago, after 40 years of being in the state budget. We are thankfully able to apply for marketing funds through the Kentucky Department of Tourism, and we are so very grateful for that,” she says. But the bottom line is the theater increasingly must rely on private donors and local businesses for funding.   

Grants are becoming fewer and farther between, Henson says, but they are a nonprofit and have been since the early ‘60s; all donations are tax-deductible. 

“And we’re proud of the fact that we’ve received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for nearly 10 years, which funds our life-changing prison outreach program, Inside Voices.”  

She says although the theater is all about the arts, it is also about tourism. “We want to help bring folks to Danville to eat here, stay here, see all the sights. A huge portion of our audiences come from outside the county, outside the state. We feel we’re definitely part of what makes Danville unique.” 

The rest of the season 

  • “Clue,” June 23-July 4 —  It’s a dark and stormy night, and you’ve been invited to a very unusual dinner party!  Each of the guests has an alias, the butler offers a variety of weapons, and the host is, well, dead. So…whodunnit? And more importantly, who will be next? Join the iconic oddballs known as Scarlet, Plum, White, Green, Peacock and Mustard as they race to find the murderer before the body count at Boddy Manor stacks up! A madcap comedy that will keep you guessing until the final twist!  Rated PG.
  • “Southern Fried Funeral,” July 7-18 — Dewey Frye is dead, and the rest of his family is left to pick up the pieces — if they don’t kill each other first!  Not only does matriarch Dorothy have to deal with sudden widowhood, she must contend with a nosy church lady, a snake-in-the-grass brother-in-law, two grown daughters reliving their childhood rivalry, and a son who’s convinced he’s won the lottery. As Dorothy discovers, funerals definitely bring out the worst, the best, and the funniest in people.  A big-hearted comedy about family — Southern style! Rated G.
  • “Jeeves in Bloom,” July 21-Aug. 1 — Things will never be the same after Bertie Wooster and his unflappable butler Jeeves pay a visit to Aunt Dahlia! What starts as a plan to play matchmaker for a tongue-tied, amphibian-loving friend goes hilariously wrong. Soon Bertie is fending off amorous advances, a possible burglary, and a homicidal French chef!  Can the one and only Jeeves save the day? A delightfully silly comedy! Rated G.
  • ”Maybe Baby, It’s You,” Aug. 4-15 — A mild-mannered Midwesterner who’s blind date turns out to be the Greek Goddess of Vengeance; a gorgeous brain surgeon who’s always “Mr. Wrong” because of his wild-and-crazy dancing style; a film noir guy and gal caught in a loop of razor-sharp movie banter; a pair of elderly ex’s possibly reuniting at their grandson’s soccer game. This modern comedy — full of song and dance, love and laughter — takes a tender, funny look at finding your soulmate. Rated G.
  • Special Comedy Weekend starring Lee Cruse and the KY All-Stars Comedy Tour, Aug. 21-22 — Kentucky funnyman Lee Cruse returns to Pioneer Playhouse! Joined by Comedy Off-Broadway MC, Scott Wilson, and winners of the 2020 KY All-Stars Comedy Tour, this is a special stand-up comedy show you won’t want to miss! Rated PG.