A Pioneering Theater

I saw my first show at Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky when I was fourteen. Our family still quotes a memorable line from that play on occasion: “I done peed in my chili!” However, after that first show, we couldnt imagine what a part of our summertime this place would become.

The summer tradition started right around the time Tim and I got married. We remembered what fun we had all those years ago and decided we had to go back. So we went back. And then we went back again. And again and again and again. One summer we made it our goal to see every show in the season–and we did it. My parents have since become regulars (at least one Patron’s Pass finds its way under the tree each Christmas for my mom and/or dad), recognized by name by the girls in the box office and by the family that owns this amazing venue. I can honestly say that it doesn’t feel like a true summer if I haven’t seen at least one show at Pioneer Playhouse. Even though we have a further drive now than we did before, we’ll keep coming back.

Pioneer Playhouse was started with a bunch of scraps and a dream by Eben Henson. Piece by piece, the outdoor theater came together, and actors started coming to perform summer stock. Actors like Lee Majors and John Travolta took turns on the Pioneer Playhouse stage before hitting it big. All the while, the Hensons continued to build a theater program that would draw thousands people every year to enjoy shows under the stars. The Henson family still runs the theater: Mrs. Henson provides entertainment during the dinner hour before the show; two of the kids run the show, and one of them has even written one in the current season. The family welcomes guests, and they make you feel like you’ve just been welcomed into their living room for the evening. In all the years we’ve been coming, they’ve only had to move the show indoors once because of rain. The outdoor setting is one of my favorite things about the playhouse: the smells and sounds of a warm Kentucky evening are always the cherry on top of the whole experience.

Robbie and Heather Henson welcome everyone to the show.

And the shows! The productions are always top notch, and we’ve yet to see a show that didn’t make us laugh or feel inspired or entertained. There is always a variety each season. Tonight’s show was an entertaining comedy that had us laughing until the end.


We recommend Pioneer Playhouse for great shows and a great summer-in-Kentucky experience. It’s worth a trip–even if you have no other reason to come to Danville!

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