“Eben’s contributions to theatre in Kentucky are extraordinary, not only with his own productions, but with his work bringing greater recognition to theatre and drama across the state. In the world of outdoor drama, he is legendary.”
— Ann Latta, former Secretary of Tourism and Development
For over five decades, the husband-and-wife team of Eben and Charlotte Henson have devoted themselves to keeping Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre afloat as a labor of love for actors and the community.
Now, with the passing of Eben Henson, Charlotte, Robby and Heather Henson are keeping up the high standards set by the man everyone knew “the Colonel.”
Robby Henson received his M.F.A. from New York University’s graduate film school, his thesis film won the Student Academy Award. His films have been seen on PBS, the BBC, at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris and at film festivals in Canada, Ireland, France, Yugoslavia, Australia and Poland. He has directed over 30 theater productions and has made 5 award winning documentaries shown on PBS including SPALDING GRAY: A LIFE IN PROGRESS and TROUBLE BEHIND a film about a Southern race riot that was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Robby’s dramatic first feature PHARAOH’S ARMY with Academy Award winner Chris Cooper, Academy Nominee Patricia Clarkson and music legend Kris Kristofferson was released theatrically by Lions Gate Filmsand was shown on PBS. He collaborated with Academy Award winner Norman Jewison on a screenplay for Sony Pictures and Michael Medavoy. In 2002 he wrote and directed THE BADGE, a southern crime drama starring Billy Bob Thornton, Patricia Arquette, Thomas Hayden Church and Sela Ward for Starz Pictures and Lions Gate Films that was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award (Gay and Lesbian Alliance) and won Best Drama at the Breckinridge Film Festival and Best Feature Film at the Texas Film Festival. In 2005 he directed THE VISITATION, a supernatural thriller released by 20th Century Fox that starred Edward Furlong, Kelly Lynch, Martin Donovan and Randy Travis. His 5th dramatic feature film HOUSE was filmed in Poland and was released in 2008 by Lions Gate Films. He recently contributed footage to Steven Soderbergh’s documentary AND EVERYTHING IS GOING FINE and most recently was commissioned to write and direct a science fiction web movie ASPARAGUS for the Independent Television Service and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival and on the innovative PBS web portal FutureStates.
Heather Henson grew up at Pioneer Playhouse, performing on stage from the time she could walk, and working behind the scenes at the theater her father, Eben C. Henson, founded in 1950. Although she dreamed as a girl of starring on Broadway one day, she gradually became more interested in fiction writing. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and Film Studies from The New School University in New York City, and an MA in Creative Writing and Literature from City College/City University of New York. For many years, she was an Editor of books for young readers at HarperCollins Publishers in New York. She is the author of many award-winning picture books, including That Book Woman, as well as novels for teens and middle grade readers. Her novel, Here’s How I See It/Here’s How It Is was a Bank Street Best Book of 2010 and was inspired by growing up at the Playhouse.
The founder of Pioneer Playhouse served as location representative for six major movie companies and was author of the book How to Play the Voice as an Instrument. This former mayor of Danville has been a leading force in bringing film productions to the Bluegrass area and served in that capacity under six governors. For his work in helping establish the outdoor drama movement in the state, he received the Governor’s ‘Pioneering Award.’ Along with Rosemary Clooney and Loretta Lynn, he was one of six recipients to receive a Sidewalk Star in downtown Lexington.
As president and founding member of the Kentucky Arts Commission, he once visited the White House to consult on the formation of the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to establishing the first State Theatre in the nation, he was also instrumental in helping form Kentucky’s first Film Commission — bringing an additional 14 movies to the region.