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.”