Final Play of the Season Inspired by ‘Happiness’!  

Pioneer Playhouse, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre, will end its regular play season with Kosher Lutherans, a modern comedy that playwright William Missouri Downs says was inspired by one word: happiness.   

“Many years ago, I was looking up a name in the phone book and saw the word ‘Happiness’ and a phone number beside it,” explains Downs. “I blinked, my eyes re-focused, and the word ‘Happiness’ became “Hapgood.” But the idea stuck with me. What if one day you randomly found happiness in the phone book? That’s how Kosher Lutherans was born.”  

Kosher Lutherans, which runs from July 25 to August 12, and which will close out the historic theatre’s regular 2023 play season, revolves around Franklyn and Hannah, the seemingly perfect couple who desperately want to have a child of their own, but can’t. A chance encounter with a God-fearing pregnant girl from Iowa named Alison seems to offer the perfect solution. Things get complicated, however, when the couple realizes that Alison does not know they are Jewish. Should Franklyn and Hannah pretend to be Lutheran in order to appeal to the girl’s Midwestern sensibilities?  

Kosher Lutherans is about how chance events and curve balls change our lives,” Downs says. “It’s a comedy about a childless couple and their desperate attempt to find happiness in a world full of crumbling marriages, unhappy jobs, and fertility clinics.”  

“We’re huge fans of William Missouri Downs’ writing,” says Robby Henson, artistic director of Pioneer Playhouse, which his father, Eben C. Henson, founded in 1950. “His dialogue is sharp and funny, and his characters are very relatable. I think it comes from his early background in writing for television and sitcoms, such as the original The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”  

William Missouri Downs will be traveling to Danville, Kentucky from his home out west to see the July 29th production of Kosher Lutherans. Pioneer Playhouse will offer a talk-back with the playwright immediately following the Saturday night performance.  

“We’re always thrilled when a playwright comes here to see their work,” says Heather Henson, sister to Robby, and managing director of the family-run summer stock theatre. “It’s fun to give the audience a chance to ask questions and learn a little bit about what went into writing the play they just saw.”  

“A year ago, I attended Pioneer Playhouse,” says Downs. “It was magical to sit under the stars and watch my comedy. So, I had to come back to see Kosher Lutherans.”  

A Modern Romantic Comedy at Pioneer Playhouse  

Pioneer Playhouse of Danville continues its 73rd season under the stars with Cockeyed, a witty and whimsical modern-day romantic comedy by award-winning playwright, William Missouri Downs.

Cockeyed, which opens July 26th and runs through August 6, tells the story of a nerdy accountant named Phil who falls hopelessly in love with his boss’s secretary, the beautiful Sophia, and who tries to win her heart despite the fact that she can’t see him – literally.

Cockeyed is an extremely well-written romance with a quirky high comedy concept,” says Robby Henson, artistic director of Pioneer Playhouse, which is Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre and which was founded by his father, Col. Eben C. Henson in 1950.” We’ve done several plays by the author William Missouri Downs, and besides having a fantastic pen name, he writes thought-provoking works about the foibles of the human condition with great characters, pratfalls, and brilliant dialogue. I think his comedy writing is influenced by his background in television and sitcoms.”

Adian Chapman, who has been a crowd pleaser at Pioneer Playhouse for the past three seasons plays Phil, while newcomer Peyton White plays Sophia. Silas Waugh, who gave memorable performances this summer as the fly-eating, lunatic Renfield in Dracula Bites and the steadfast Beecham in Southern Fried Nuptials, embodies the self-absorbed boss, while Jack Giglia who zip-lined over audiences this year as Dracula himself rounds out the small cast.

Making her directorial debut will be Erika Lee Sengstack, a long-time Pioneer Playhouse favorite.

“After eight years performing as an actress at the Playhouse, it’s been a true delight to be on the ‘other side’ as a director for Cockeyed,” says Sengstack. “Being that it’s the last show of the season, I’ve developed great relationships with the actors both on and off stage, which makes for a unique, intimate, and rewarding rehearsal process. They’ve been incredibly prepared, and helped my first directing experience at the Playhouse feel remarkably smooth and fulfilling.”

“We’re thrilled Erika is directing this smart, funny show,” says Heather Henson, managing director of the family-run theatre and sister to Robby. “It’s a perfect match.”

“I’m enjoying every second of it,” says Sengstack. “I think I found a new passion!”

And we’re excited to announce that the playwright himself will actually be here for a performance,” adds Robby.

William Missouri Downs will attend the show on Saturday, July 30, and audience members are invited to stay afterward for a Q&A with the playwright.

“It’s not every day that a nationally known playwright flies in to see a production, so we’re honored,” says Heather. “And we think patrons will enjoy learning more about the play from the writer’s perspective.”

Cockeyed runs nightly, Tuesdays through Saturdays, July 26 through August 6. A BBQ dinner is available before the show. Pioneer Playhouse is an outdoor theatre located at 840 Stanford Road in Danville Kentucky. For reservations and information, call the box office at 859-236-2747 or go online at www.pioneerplayhouse.com.

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