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It always goes on — Playhouse deals with last-minute cast change before first show


Read Bobbie Curd’s excellent story on our first play from the Advocate-Messenger:

“Luck of the Irish” is described by the Urban Dictionary to be less about luck and more about an attitude — a positive look at a bad situation. That’s the best way to describe how the folks at Pioneer Playhouse have chosen to handle having two of their actors as no-gos for the very first production of the season — scheduled to open in less than 10 days, on June 8.  

The first play, “The Return of Tinker Doyle” is the Kentucky Voices choice, written by Danville playwright Liz Orndorff as a sequel to her play from five years ago — a huge hit at Pioneer Playhouse. Kieran Cunningham was cast in the show; he’s originally from Carrickfergus, Danville’s sister city in Northern Ireland. 

Cunningham has been to Danville twice in the past, acting for the playhouse as well as doing some cultural outreach around town, sharing his heritage and making fast friends. Always filled with great stories, Cunningham has appeared on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” as well as stints on both stage and screen in Ireland and England. 

Rickie O’Neill was also set to be in “Tinker Doyle.” He’s an actor, musician and the drummer of an iconic Irish band, The Saw Doctors. O’Neill and Cunningham were to fly out together from Dublin on Sunday, headed to Danville. 

Both were set for multiple appearances in different programs around town, from the playhouse to the library and beyond. 

But their flight was cut short before it ever left the runway. Both men were stopped in customs in a Dublin airport, apparently because they were required to have work instead of tourist visas due to getting paid for their play appearances. 

Heather Henson says it never even occurred to the playhouse to apply for work visas for them since the visits in the past have been mostly part of a cultural exchange. They would have been in Danville for 28 days, and both had return flights booked. 

“I’m heartbroken. I love Kieran, and was so excited about meeting Rickie,” Henson, the managing director of the playhouse, says. But on the flip side — they had to realize the actors more than likely were not going to make it here in time, the way things were looking. Emails and calls went out, but there was not much that could be done to get the two men here. 

“We’re putting on a show in 10 days; the clocks are ticking,” Henson says, so they hit up a returning favorite, Daniel Hall Kuhn.

“We were just lucky, everything else aside, that Daniel was even available …” Henson says.  “Daniel is one of those actors audiences ask for again and again. So we’re thrilled that he’ll be returning to fans who love him.”

Read the rest on the Advocate-Messenger site: