Pioneer Playhouse continues laughter with second play Southern Fried Funeral

Published 11:30 am Friday, July 2, 2021


News release

Pioneer Playhouse of Danville continues its 72nd season under the stars with Southern Fried Funeral, a heartfelt comedy about one quirky family coming together for their patriarch’s funeral. The play, which opens on July 6 and runs through July 24, was penned by the popular playwriting team of Osborne and Eppler.

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“Southern Fried Funeral is perfect for our audiences,” said Heather Henson, managing director of the historic theatre her father, Eben C. Henson, founded in 1950.  “It has outrageously funny moments, but it’s also full of heart and soul with characters everybody can recognize and identify with.”

Set in a small Mississippi town, Southern Fried Funeral begins with local Dewey Frye’s death, an event that not only leaves his wife, Dorothy (played by longtime Pioneer Playhouse favorite, Patricia Hammond), to contend with sudden widowhood, but also to deal with a snake-in-the-grass brother-in-law (another Playhouse favorite, Daniel Hall Kuhn), a nosy church lady (newcomer Ashley Rose Jones), a son who thinks he’s won the lottery (second-year alum Adian Chapman), and a couple of grown daughters (returning actresses Erika Lee Sengstack and Jessa DeLuca) acting like toddlers.

Dorothy (Patricia Hammond) tries to calm her two squabbling daughters Harlene (Erika Lee Sengstack) left, and Sammy-Jo (Jessa DeLuca) right. The sister characters are grown women — they just don’t act like it. – Photo submitted

“As the official description of the play says, funerals can bring out the best and the worst, but also the funniest in people,” Henson acknowledges. “This play definitely puts an emphasis on the funny. It shows how laughter can get us through even the toughest of times.”

Southern Fried Funeral is directed by Jennifer Goff, assistant professor of theatre at Centre College in Danville.   

“We have a terrific relationship with Centre,” said Robby Henson, artistic director of the historic theatre, and brother to Heather. “Along with First Southern National Bank, Centre College is sponsoring this play. We also have several company members, both on stage and behind the scenes, who are either past or present Centre students.”

“We love our cast and crew this year, and we love our sponsors,” Heather said.  “It’s our 72nd season here in Danville, and we could not keep going without all the support we receive, both from our sponsors and from our loyal patrons, some of whom have been coming since the very beginning!”

Dorothy (Patricia Hammond) reminisces with Benny Charles (Eric Hedland) and Fairy June (Jan Shellield). – Photo submitted

Southern Fried Funeral is the second show in the 2021 summer season and will run nightly, Tuesdays through Saturdays. A home-cooked, hickory-smoked BBQ dinner (choice of pulled pork or pulled chicken) is available at 7:00 pm each evening before the show, which begins at 8:30 pm. Beer, wine, and spirits are served at a bar inside the grounds to those 21 years and older.

Pioneer Playhouse is located at 840 Stanford Road in Danville. Tickets are $20 for show only and $35 for dinner and show. Discounts are available for kids and for groups. Shows are outdoors, and performances will continue during light rain. If shows are canceled due to severe weather, rain checks or refunds will be given. Call the box office at 859-236-2747 or go online at for more information and to purchase tickets.