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Tom Chaney: Playwrights and Their Plays in Horse Cave

Of Writers And Their Books: Playwrights and Their Plays in Horse Cave. For many years Horse Cave Theatre encouraged the development of new work by staging readings followed in some cases by full productions. Tom tells us about what was happening with the Kentucky Voices program in 2005. This column first appeared 17 April 2005.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Christmas at the Theatre

By Tom Chaney

Playwrights and Their Plays in Horse Cave

Kentucky Repertory Theatre has a national reputation for lots of reasons. I'll spell them out one of these days. This week I want to look at just one.

New Plays!

Over the last twenty-eight seasons the theatre has produced nineteen new plays by Kentucky playwrights. Mighty few regional theatres take the risk of placing untried plays by relatively unknown playwrights in their main season. I say 'risk' because the cost of producing any play is considerable. Often it is easier to do a known work that will sell tickets than to take the increased chance of failure with a new play.

But from the beginning Horse Cave Theatre, now Kentucky Repertory Theatre, has been willing to take chances. The first director, Warren Hammack, who began the new playwrights program, risked establishing a theatre which would do productions of classical plays for local audiences. Hence, plays such as Death of a Salesman, Waiting for Godot, and numerous productions of Shakespeare have been spread across the boards at Horse Cave. Current director Robert Brock is continuing that fine tradition.

Next weekend [2005] local folks get a chance to take a peek at what is new at the theatre. Three tried playwrights are polishing their plays for a reading in the Kentucky Voices series.

Liz Bussey Fentress, herself a playwright whose work has been seen at the theatre, has been conducting a playwriting workshop these past few months. Three of her students, Nancy Gall-Clayton of Louisville; Walter May, Lexington; and Larry Pike, Glasgow will have their fully formed plays read next Saturday and Sunday in staged readings featuring a number of local readers and directed by Donna Freeburn, educational director for Kentucky Repertory Theatre.

I spoke with Walter May the other night before the last meeting of the playwriting class. Mr. May, an attorney, was a member of the acting company at Horse Cave from 2000 to 2002. His play, Watershed, kicks off the series next Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Set in his native eastern Kentucky, Watershed deals with the process of letting go -- spelled out in the relationship between a mother and a daughter and their ability to transcend the roots of place and past.

Mr. May observed that Ms Fentress was an excellent tutor of writers. "She has a fine sense of what will work on stage. We have been fortunate this year in that all three of us came to the workshop with fully formed plays." That is not to say, he continued, that the process of revision and change is over. With a playwright, "as Warren Hammack once said, revision stops only at death."

Ms Gall-Clayton's play The Snowflake Theory will be read Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Her play is a rich blend of the serious and the comic as a family deals with inter faith marriage, interesting birth technology, and love among the elderly. We have seen her work in 1998 when the theatre produced Just Taking Up Space. Since then several of her plays have been produced around the country.

Newsroom by Mr. Pike rounds out the weekend. Newsroom was read in an earlier production of Kentucky Voices. Folks who were present at the earlier reading have a fine chance to observe the growth of this play about life in a small-town newsroom. Mr. Pike's play, Beating the Varsity, was produced in Horse Cave as a part of the 2000 season. Incidentally, Walter May played the coach in that production.

In announcing the second season of Horse Cave Theatre in 1978, Director Hammack observed, "Live things grow!" More than a quarter century later proof of that growth can be seen in these three plays.

(Editors Note by Robert Stone. I saw many of the Kentucky Voices readings and still go to many readings. Now in Tennessee we have the Ingram New Works Festival but Horse Cave was doing readings a long time before the Ingram program was started. I used to give Horse Cave Theater a separate yearly contribution for Kentucky Voices, in honor of 2004 Jeremy Passut, 2005 Walter May, 2006 Alex Eversoll, 2007 Nancy Gall-Clayton, 2008 Sandra Dutton, 2011 John Keabler.)

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney -

This story was posted on 2016-04-10 06:41:49
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