The Shows Go On in Lexington:
Lexington’s Year in Theatre 2022
BY KIM THOMAS
Believe it or not, this past year, the stages of Lexington theaters were actually filled with thespians who were determined to give you a good show in 2021.
What’s in store for 2022, as many Broadway shows and tours are on pandemic-pause, remains to be seen.
Tim X Davis is a Professor of Theatre and Film at Bluegrass Community Technical College, in addition to being one of Lexington’s most sought-after actors. From one of Summerfest’s Three Musketeers to the father In Silas House’s Long Time Traveling, Davis puts his signature on every role he plays.
Asked about theatre in 2021 versus 2022, his appetite for quality theatre and film presentations was still healthy.
In the Spring, they partnered with Stephanie Fitch and the BCTC film program to film a cinematic production of The Covid Monologues. This film has been entered in a number of film festivals, including the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, where they were named by the Festival as “Best Covid-themed film” in June of 2021.
In October, BCTC Theatre presented Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Initially, the production was supposed to be staged at the Winchester campus amphitheater, with a live audience. Due to some Covid-related issues, that performance has been postponed to Spring of ’22.
With the help of the BCTC film folks once again, they filmed the production and streamed it over YouTube. Their final production for Fall ’21 was streamed in December, a devised/documentary style piece called The Next Moment.
Davis and staff interviewed a number of arts professionals from around the country to find out what their professional activities were before Covid, how Covid affected their lives and their work, and where they are now in their efforts to create a “new normal.” He describes the film experience as “a company of actors portraying those professionals, and interpreting their responses, as they discuss what the ‘next moment’ in the arts may look like.”
Caitlyn Waltermire performed in Much Ado at BCTC, under Tim X’s direction over 10 years ago. Today, Caitlyn is an award winning playwright, recently honored for First Place by the Bronx’s SOOP to NUTS Festival.
In 2021, she performed a scene with Daniel Ellis, directed by Marty Wayman, with ActOut Theatre. She says, “Proceeds went to Moveable Feast, a lovely charity that delivers meals to those with chronic illness (especially those in the LGBT+ community). It was part of a filmed short play event with many great local actors involved!”
Waltermire adds, “I also did Smoke on the Mountain with my family in Florida! We performed it at First Baptist Church of High Springs in June. Many people who attended had little interest in theatre before, but loved it to death.”
Bo List is the Artistic Director of AthensWest Theatre Company and Director of Theatre at Sayre School. He admits the pandemic imposed big limitations on anything theatrical in 2021, “but I adapted as best I could with both AthensWest Theatre Company and Sayre School. With AthensWest, we produced two radio theatre events with our friends at WUKY 91.3: the original play Limestone: 1833, with local writers Adanma Onyedike Barton, Margo Buchanan, Kevin Lane Dearinger and Samuel Lockridge, and Kentucky Humanities’s one-woman historical drama Nancy Green: Being Aunt Jemima, the Pancake Queen.”
At Sayre, we produced It’s About Time: A Dramatic Musicale – a socially distanced, masked, plexiglassed live event that included songs, monologues, and old cartoons revoiced with student actors. In the fall, [we staged] a somewhat-normal production of the musical Animal Farm with the Upper School.”
What does List see in Bluegrass theater in 2022? He’s optimistic. “I see a lot of recovery. AthensWest will be back and in-person for the first time in two years, beginning with Steel Magnolias, and concluding its short season with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.”
List predicts a brighter future, saying, “Stages all over are yawning and waking up already, with live theatre and all kinds of adjustments made for health and safety. We’re some of the lucky ones, able to hit the ‘pause button’ since we have a mostly-volunteer staff. We hope everyone supports their favorite theatre(s), so we can bring the drama back to the stage (and hopefully out of our everyday lives)!”
In Winchester, there stands a gem in the world of local theatre, called the Leeds. Its Executive Director, Selina Arnett says, “Leeds is more than just a theater, it is a community space. After going dark for the majority of 2020 and part of 2021 we were excited to be able to safely host artists and patrons again with success this year. In April and May of 2021, we hosted two Clark County schools to film their productions of Addams Family and Singin’ in the Rain. In July we held our annual Musical Theatre Intensive for young artists which culminated in a show called Welcome Home.
In August, the Youth Board presented Stitching Our Community Together. This event celebrated their creation of a Social Justice Sewing Academy Quilt along with a gallery of quilts made by kids from all over the United States. The Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle joined us for a concert in September, and we were finally able to produce Our Town in October, our season closer from 2020.”
Arnett maintains their “most exciting venture in 2021 has been SPARK, our new arts education program. We now offer weekly classes in singing, dancing, and acting for young people. We will always continue to work diligently to provide a safe space where children can learn to lead, discover their voice, and are valued for their uniqueness.”
Leeds closed out 2021 with Happy Hollerdays, a Christmas variety show presented by Ben Sollee.
In February and March of 2022, she says, “we will produce Into the Woods, with a cast of youth performers ages 12-18. Our theatrical season announcement will be coming soon after along with some exciting new projects. We will continue to offer more classes for SPARK, and our Youth Board is working on another creative arts project.
Ryan Case is a veteran of Winchester and Lexington stages. From BATBOY to the equally engaging and repulsive Caligula, he’s directed a number of plays, including Book of Liz for Balagula Theatre. Case told me he collaborated with old friends while enduring the pandemic.
He adds, “Due to the pandemic, UAM decided to alter course on what would have been its third project, The Lasso of Truth by Carson Kreitzer. In the Fall of 2021, Upstairs at Midnight produced a sold-out run of The Turn of the Screw, by Jeffery Hatcher, directed by Joe Ferrell.”
“Currently, UAM is in development stages for productions in Spring and Fall 2022. UAM is an actor-driven company based in Lexington, Kentucky dedicated to producing dynamic, thought provoking live entertainment that is creative, engaging, artistic risk taking,” he explained.
As for what is to be on the pro touring scene, Michael Jansen Miller happily declares, “Broadway Live at the Opera House is back and season ticket sales are at an all time high. The season began with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Lexington actress Audrey Belle Adams making her national tour debut.”
“The remaining shows of the season start at the end of January when a new musical An Officer and a Gentleman makes a stop here on its first national tour. It’s fairly rare for Lexington to get a first national tour engagement, so this is a pretty big deal!”
Wesley Nelson, Executive Director Distilled Theatre Company, says, “As a company we spent the early months of 2021 planning a safe and meaningful return to live performances. We felt strongly that our art should serve as a reflection of the past year and a half. This led us to producing an intimate outdoor production of Broadway Under the Stars at a smaller outdoor venue, The Grove. Utilizing music, original spoken word pieces, and American Sign Language this production was divided into three chapters; Injustice/Protest/Perseverance, Pandemic/Loss/Survival, and Healing. Distilled believes that theatre is more than entertainment. It has the power to activate change and provide a safe space for difficult discussions. Our production of Broadway Under the Stars was filmed live and will be released virtually later in 2021 to allow more opportunities for
audiences to hear these essential messages.
“I believe that 2022 holds incredible potential for the theatre industry. As we continue to find safe ways to reconnect with our audiences we must also learn from the obstacles we have faced over the past two years. It is my hope that we will see theatre become a more accessible, equitable, and honest platform for storytelling.”
What is the show you most want to see in 2022?