By RONNIE ELLIS
FRANKFORT — Drive to Horse Cave and you’ll encounter signs along I-65 advertising the area’s majestic cave system and the usual tourist attractions.
But you might be surprised to see one about a nationally renowned theater tucked away downtown – the Kentucky Repertory Theatre, which draws actors and audiences from across the country and from outside the United States.
Annie Potts has acted on its stage and served on its board. Sallie Bingham premiered plays there. So has Liz Fentress, including “The Honey Harvest” and “Circus Story.” “The Honey Harvest” was recently performed in England and won an award.
“It’s not just a place where education and theater happen in a rural community,” said Robert Brock, the artistic director. “It’s a mission – a mission to bring great theater to Kentucky.”
Brock was speaking Wednesday in the rotunda of the state Capitol, one of nine recipients of the 2008 Governor’s Awards in the Arts. Others were Charlie Hughes of Nicholasville for his poetry, his one-man publishing house of Kentucky authors and the Kentucky Literary Newsletter; Owsley Brown II of Louisville for his support of the arts; Susan-Lori Parks, a Fort Knox native, the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her play, “Topdog/Underdog”; Vince DiMartino, a Centre College music professor who has performed with Lionel Hampton, the Boston Pops, Chuck Mangione and Pearl Bailey; John Timmons, owner of ear x-tacy; Owensboro music teacher Julie Ann White; the Cowan Community Action Group of Whitesburg which teaches and preserves mountain music; and the city of Covington for its use of the arts as an economic development tool.
Hughes, who is married to Glasgow native LaVeece Ganter Hughes, reveled in the award because “it substantiates my efforts and that is extremely gratifying.” The retired analytical chemist, provides a way for Kentucky authors to publish their works.
“There are a lot of books that I think are worthy of being printed that the big publishers aren’t interested in,” Hughes said, explaining why he operates a one-man publishing house where “I’m both janitor and president of the company, too.”
White, the Owensboro music teacher, produced some moist eyes, describing her inspiration in teaching music in Owensboro Independent Schools, bringing the arts to students from diverse backgrounds.
“Children are changed through the power of the arts,” she said. “As I get older, I realize that helping realize the dreams of others is even more rewarding than realizing my own,” she said.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.