“Outdoor theatre is a combination of favorite things – live theatre and spending time outside – the theatrical equivalent to spending the evening sitting on the front porch,” said Johnny Warren, managing artistic director at Stephen Foster Productions.
Kentucky’s outdoor summer theatres are a thriving group of performance arts venues, each presenting a unique stage, setting and sensibility. From early- to mid-June through August and, in some cases into September, the theatres along Kentucky’s unofficial but historic outdoor theatre trail offer a variety of theatrical experiences, including everything from Bluegrass legends taken from the pages of history to splashy Broadway musicals.
“Outdoor theatre can be so grand and breathtaking because there are no walls,” said Warren. “Outdoor stages are large and often seem to lay naturally in the landscape so the setting is realistic and alive.”
Many of the theatres offer onsite dining options, several have extended seasons at indoor venues, and all have something for everyone.
Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
Prestonsburg: Kentucky State Parks enthusiastically embraces the locally grown and sourced movement. Enjoy Southern-style vittles at the May Lodge Dining Room – Kentucky favorites like fried catfish, the cheesy Kentucky Hot Brown and bourbon-barbecued chicken. An appetizer and pizza menu is offered at Dewey’s where wine and beer are served. Overnight at the lodge or a cabin in Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, www.Parks.ky.gov; you’ll be able to walk off dinner en route to the theatre down the hill.
Harrodsburg: Sleep and eat in comfort at family-owned Beaumont Inn, www.BeaumontInn.com, and its trio of restaurants: The classic Main Dining Restaurant, more casual Old Owl Tavern and pub-like Owl’s Nest. This Southern country inn is known for its yellow-legged fried chicken, two-year-old Kentucky cured country ham, corn pudding and General Robert E. Lee orange-lemon cake.
The Farm, LLC
Danville: The Farm, LLC, www.TheFarmLLC.com, a country inn farm-stay, has a special package that includes tickets to Pioneer Playhouse with an overnight in one of its specialty suites, barn and animal tour, goat’s milk ice cream social, dinner and full country breakfast for $175.
Federal Hill at My Old Kentucky Home State Park
Bardstown: Beautiful Dreamer Bed and Breakfast, www.BDreamerBB.com, located directly across the street from My Old Kentucky Home State Park, offers a summer theatre special: Stay two nights Sunday through Thursday inclusive, attend “The Stephen Foster Story” or “Shrek the Musical!” and get the cost of the theatre tickets deducted from your bill. (Total discount not to exceed $38.)
Dan Krist Bed and Breakfast
Caneyville: About a 30-minute drive from Pine Knob Theatre, the Dan Krist Bed and Breakfast, www.DanKristBedandBreakfast.com in Leitchfield is a member of the Kentucky Bed and Breakfast Association, making it a good choice for those seeking a quality and memorable stay in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Best bet for dinner is to enjoy the Backyard Buffet served before the show at the theatre or buy a train pass and have dinner on the Diner Train during the show.
Kenlake State Resort Park
Hardin: Overnight at the lodge or in a cabin at Kenlake State Resort Park, www.Parks.ky.gov, where you can also enjoy dinner at Aurora Landing Restaurant. The lakeside view is elevated to spectacular with color provided by lush floral gardens.