Kentucky Theatre Yearbook 2017
Authored by Bill McCann Jr., Derek R. Trumbo Sr., Stephanie Robinson, Melissa Bond, Elizabeth Orndorff, George McGee
JW Books, $19.95
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Both Lexington and Louisville claim great pride in their local arts scene, but a statewide perspective is a little bit harder to come by. The second edition of Bill McCann, Jr.’s book seeks to remedy that, at least as regards theatre.
Much of the content is straightforward reference: a census of new plays written and produced in the Bluegrass State. It seems to be comprehensive, and in this second edition, it expands its listings to include plays produced outside of Kentucky. It is impressive to find writers like Nancy Gall-Clayton and Phil Paradis being produced in New York, Florida, California, and Montana.
There is also a section of Productions in Kentucky of work written by playwrights NOT born in Kentucky, and all companies that produced new work, all of which makes the volume a de facto reference on virtually all Kentucky theatre companies and their productions in the last two years.
As much original work as the state can boast, this would still make for a slim volume, so Editor Bill McCann, Jr. fills the book out with various resources: contests, festivals, and opportunities to submit plays for readings, productions, and publications, theatre venues available to rent and training programs, just to repeat a few.
McCann’s work results in a valuable reference book that recognizes the growth of will and talent for new plays across the state. He also takes the opportunity to publish two short plays, The Door, by Derek R. Trumbo, Sr., a tense psychological drama about incarcerated women, and Black to White Movie, by Stephanie Robinson, a comedy about racial acquiescence in Hollywood. Trumbo’s play is stringent and tough, while Robinson’s satire just misses a necessary edge that the situation would seem to demand.
Two essays are included: Melissa Bond writes about the University of Kentucky’s Extension Arts Program, and Elizabeth Orndorff reports on Pioneer Playhouse’s outreach program at Northpoint Training Center (a medium-security prison in Burgin) – with Mr. Trumbo’s play, the relationship between theatre and prison becomes a subplot of sorts. A piece in which long-time Henry Clay interpreter George McGee “interviews” himself as the historical figure feels too cute by half.
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.