Etta May Brings Historic Season to a Comic Close!

Pioneer Playhouse of Danville has been celebrating a stellar 70 years in the Bluegrass this summer with five main stage productions, and will now close its historic season with a special stand-up comedy weekend starring iconic comedienne, Etta May.

“Etta May’s back, and better than ever,” says Heather Henson, daughter of Pioneer Playhouse founder Eben C. Henson and acting managing director of the official Kentucky Landmark. “My sister, the late Holly Henson, was friends with Etta May, and so we always feel like Etta is part of the Playhouse family.”

Originally from Kentucky, Etta May is hugely successful in both her home state and across the country. Hailed as the “Polyester Princess” and the “reigning queen of Southern Sass,” Etta May is the winner of the prestigious American Comedy Awards “Comic of the Year,” and has appeared on Oprah, Showtime, CMT, CBS Morning America, ABC, and NBC. She headlines the nationally popular Southern Fried Chicks Comedy Tour, and she boasts an enormous fan base with the Sirius-XM comedy channels.

“There’s no one like Etta May,” says Heather, “and we’re thrilled to have her at the Playhouse to finish off our 70thanniversary with a bang.”

Opening for Etta May will be Meg Mark, who hails from New York City, and Terron Young, a Lexington, Kentucky native.

“Pioneer Playhouse regulars will know Meg from being one of the two-actor cast of our season-ender Red, White and Tuna,” says Henson. “She played lots of different characters in that show and was just hilarious.”

“Meg started out at the Playhouse twelve years ago,” says Robby Henson, brother to Heather and artistic director of Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre. “She was in our first Kentucky Voices play, A Jarful of Fireflies, which was about the making of MGM classic, Raintree County in Danville. And she came back and made audiences laugh again in Dracula Bitesand Bottoms Up.”

As a stand-up comic, Meg Mark produces and hosts the Jokes at Jacks Comedy Show and is the weekly host of the Northern Lights Open Mic at QED, both in New York City. 

Pioneer Playhouse audiences will remember Terron Young from last year’s Kentucky All-Stars Comedy Tour starring Lee Cruse.

“Terron was one of the finalists last year, and we just really liked his material,” says Robby, “so we asked him back.”

Terron Young was voted Lexington’s Funniest Comic in 2015, and won the 2017 Walmart Associate Talent Search, where he had the opportunity to perform in front of a crowd of 14,000 and share the stage with Kevin Hart.

“I think it’s a really strong comic trio this year,” says Robby.  “We wanted to end our big 70th on a high note, and that’s just what we’re doing.”

The Pioneer Playhouse Special Comedy Weekend starring Etta May is sponsored by AARP of Kentucky. Card-carrying members receive a 50 percent discount by showing their card at the box-office window.

“AARP of Kentucky” is a new sponsor for us this year, and we’re just thrilled to be working with them,” says Heather Henson. “They’re a terrific organization, and I know all the comics will enjoy some good-natured ribbing of the ‘senior’ audience members. It’s going to be a fun show.”

Showtime for the Comedy Nights will be 8:00 pm, which means dinner is served at 7:00 pm for these two nights only (August 23 and 24).

A home-cooked BBQ dinner featuring pulled pork or pulled chicken, parmesan roasted potatoes, coleslaw, cornbread, and fruit cobbler is available.

A Hilarious Helping of Tuna Closes Historic Season!

Pioneer Playhouse, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre, ends its regular 2019 play season with Red, White and Tuna, a hilarious comedy set in the fictional “third smallest town” in Texas, which is populated by an eccentric cast of characters, all connected through the airwaves of the hometown radio station, OKKK and its DJs, Arles Struvie’s and Thurston Wheelis’ constant comment on local happenings.

“The plays work as a series, but they’re also complete stand-alones,” says Heather Henson, managing director of Pioneer Playhouse, which has been celebrating 70 years in the Bluegrass this summer. “Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the other plays. It doesn’t matter at all. Each play has its own plot, its own big event that the residents of Tuna, Texas are all worked up about.”

Red, White and Tuna was written by a team of playwrights, Ed Howard, Joe Sears, and Jaston Williams, and is the third in a series of four “Tuna” plays which are both an affectionate look and satirical comment on Southern small-town life and attitudes. Pioneer Playhouse has previously presented two of the “Tuna” plays in years past: Greater Tuna and Tuna Does Vegas.

As the title suggests, Red, White and Tuna is set in the week leading up to the big Fourth of July celebration, which happens to coincide with the big Tuna High School reunion. Both events have all the Tuna townsfolk in an increasingly frenzied state of anticipation.

As with all the “Tuna” plays, two actors play the entire ensemble of kooky residents in a rapid-fire series of quick-change scenes and costumes.

“If you’ve been coming to the Playhouse for a while then you know actor, Daniel Hall Kuhn,” says Robby Henson, artistic director of Pioneer Playhouse. “He’s a fan favorite, and audiences always ask when he’s coming back. Well, he’s back with a vengeance in this one.”

“Daniel was one of the two actors the last time we did a ‘Tuna’ play,” says Heather. “He was in Tuna Does Vegas, and audiences loved him. They couldn’t stop laughing at all the different characters – both men and women – he played.”

“And this time we’re doing something a little different,” adds Robby. “We have Daniel back, but we are changing things up a bit, and having an actress play the other traditionally male role.”

Meg Mark, who debuted at Pioneer Playhouse over ten years ago in Pioneer Playhouse’s very first “Kentucky Voices” production, A Jarful of Fireflies by local writer Catherine Bush, returns to the historic stage to play opposite Kuhn in the demanding 20-odd character comedy.

“Meg was here when she was just starting out,” says Heather.  “And she returned about seven years ago, and audiences loved her in Dracula Bites and Picasso at the Lapin Agile. She’s been working in New York City, acting and doing stand-up comedy. She’s funny, with great energy and crazy comedic timing. We’re incredibly lucky to have her return.”

“It’ll be fun to see Daniel Hall Kuhn and Meg Mark working together again,” says Robby. “These are two actors at the very top of their game. You’re not going to want to miss one.”

Red, White and Tuna is directed by Drew Davidson. It opens on August 6 and runs through August 17, nightly, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:30 pm. A home-cooked BBQ dinner featuring pulled pork or pulled chicken, parmesan roasted potatoes, coleslaw, cornbread, and fruit cobbler is available at 7:30 before the show. Reservations are suggested for the play; required for dinner.