There’s no one like Charlotte! Dubbed “the iron butterfly” by one of our long-standing board members due to her grace and her strength, Charlotte has been the backbone of the Pioneer Playhouse for over sixty years.
She was a young girl on a date with another man when she came to one of the very first Pioneer Playhouse productions…at an insane asylum, no less! But it was Eben Henson who soon claimed her heart, and her resolve to keep Kentucky’s Oldest Theatre going in sickness and in health . . . sixteen years after Eben’s passing.
Charlotte raised four children, all of whom pursued the arts in unique ways, and she continues to nurture the dreams of all who pass through the Playhouse.
Robby Henson, Artistic Director
Robby started directing plays at the Playhouse long before he was an award-winning filmmaker working with such stars as Kris Kristofferson and Billy Bob Thornton, and Academy Award-winners Patricia Arquette, Patricia Clarkson, and Chris Cooper.
His feature-length films include Pharaoh’s Army, The Badge, The Visitation, Thr3e, and House. Robby is also project director of Voices Inside, our award-winning prison writing and performance outreach program, and he teaches screenwriting and media production and at the University of Kentucky. His film on prison poets, I Come From, was presented on PBS, and his original play, Good Blues Tonight! was produced at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington.
Heather was born and raised right here at the Playhouse, acting on stage and working behind the scenes. After moving to New York City for college, Heather decided to focus on a career in writing rather than in theatre. She was an editor of books for young readers at HarperCollins Publishers for many years, and is now the author of 9 award-winning picture books and novels for children — all available in the gift shop!
Heather returned to Kentucky after 17 years in Brooklyn, to write, raise her children, and help keep her father’s dream of bringing Broadway to the Bluegrass alive and kicking.
She lives on a farm nearby with her husband, Tim, and three kids, Daniel, Lila, and Theo.
Tom Hansen, Chef
When he’s not perfecting his own special BBQ sauce and spending hours hickory-smoking the yummy pork and chicken for our farm fresh patron dinners, Tom is booking major comedy acts all over the country.
He works with such comic legends as Jimmy “JJ” Walker and Louis Anderson, as well as rising new stars like Josh Blue (Last Comic Standing.) Tom and his wife, Lesia, are the proud parents of four wonderful children, Jude, Ewan, Stella, and (future linebacker) Finn!
Holly Henson began performing at an early age at Pioneer Playhouse, the theater her father, Eben C. Henson, founded in 1950. She went on to study drama at Stephens College in Columbia, MO, and at the Drama Studio of London, and later lived in Los Angeles and Minneapolis, pursuing a career in film and stand-up comedy. Each year, Holly returned to Danville and the Pioneer Playhouse, during the summer months to help run Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theater, eventually taking the helm after the passing of her father, “the Colonel,” in 2004. Under Holly’s dynamic direction, attendance at the historic theater grew steadily to nearly 10,000 patrons per summer. Holly’s many accomplishments included forming stronger bonds with the Danville community by initiating an annual local history play and by extending arts outreach to include more programs for young people, as well as the groundbreaking prison writing program, VOICES INSIDE. Holly was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago, but never let the disease define her. She continued to run the theater and to travel extensively to stand-up clubs throughout the Midwest in between chemo treatments. She had recently returned to Danville to live full time with her husband, Tom Hansen. On May 27, 2013, just two weeks before the start of the 63rdseason, Holly Henson died where she had lived: at her home, not a stone’s throw from the legendary stage she had worked so hard to preserve.
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.