Pioneer Playhouse “Glows On” with Fireflies!

Pioneer Playhouse of Danville, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre, continues its 75th anniversary season with Fireflies, a funny, heartfelt comedy about finding love when you least expect it.

Fireflies, which runs from July 23 through August 10, was adapted for the stage by Matthew Barber from a novel entitled Eleanor and Abel by Annette Sanford. The down-home comedy centers around a retired schoolteacher named Eleanor who lives alone, set in her ways, and secure in her position as the most respected woman in her small Texas town. Enter a smooth-talking drifter named Abel who seems intent on renovating Eleanor’s house, and possibly her life.

“This is a terrific play,” says Robby Henson, artistic director of the historic theatre his father, Eben Henson, founded in 1949. “When we read it, we immediately knew it would speak to our audiences, and that it would be perfect for one of our favorite leading ladies, Pat.”

Patricia Hammond, who plays Eleanor, is in her 27th season at Pioneer Playhouse. She began when Col. Eben Henson was still running Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre. Over the years, she has become like family to the Hensons.

“Pat doesn’t just appear each summer,” says Heather Henson, sister to Robby, and managing director of the Playhouse. “We consult with her during the off-season on what plays to read and what plays might work. She and my sister, Holly, and my mother, Charlotte, were very close, and Pat mourns their loss with us.”

Holly Henson died of cancer in 2012, and Charlotte Henson passed away at the age of 93 on February 13th of this year.

“Our 75th season is dedicated to my beautiful mother,” says Heather. “She was the heart and soul, and also the backbone of the theatre. I know she’s still with us here.”

Fireflies is directed by Alana Ghent, who directed Mom’s Gift at Pioneer Playhouse several years ago. That play also starred Patricia Hammond.

“Alana and Pat have worked together before, so we thought it would be a great match,” says Robby.

“It’s a delight to be back at the Playhouse, celebrating the 75th anniversary,” says Ghent. “What I like about the play is that I think we can all relate to weighing safety and comfort over the risk that comes with taking a chance on another human being. I find Eleanor’s courage inspiring and I think audiences will too.”

Fireflies also stars Rita Hight, who has appeared in many Pioneer Playhouse favorites including last year’s Farce of Nature. Hight plays Eleanor’s nosy neighbor who is not at all sure about Abel’s intentions. Lewis Wright takes a turn as a former pupil-turned suspicious cop. Abel is played by Playhouse newcomer Shawn Dodd.

“Shawn sent in an audition reel from his homebase of Chicago, and right away we felt he was perfect for Abel,” says Robby. “Audiences have really enjoyed his performance as the unconventional bootlegger in That Book Woman.”

Fireflies will run nightly, Tuesdays through Saturdays, from July 23 through August 10.) An optional home-cooked dinner of BBQ Pulled Pork or Pulled Chicken and all the fixings is served at 7:30 before the 8:30 show. Reservations are required for dinner; suggested for the show. Pioneer Playhouse is located at 840 Stanford Road in Danville, KY. More information can be found at or by calling 859-236-2747.

There will be a special ASL-Interpreted production for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.