840 Stanford Rd
Danville KY 40422
Contact Information
Address 840 Stanford Rd
Danville, KY 40422
Phone (859) 236-2747
Fax 859 236-2341
Contact Name Heather Henson
Web and Social Media
Theatre Under the Stars
At A Glance
IRS Ruling Year 1960
Other ways to donate, support, or volunteer We accept monetary donations by check, cash, credit card, or via our online ticket sales.  We also accept in-kind donations and sponsorships.  There are many opportunities for volunteers throughout the summer play season!
Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expenses - All Years
Expense Breakdown - Recent Year
Mission Statement
To be a leading regional arts complex, school of drama and outdoor theatre, dedicated to fostering creativity and self expression in actor, audience and student alike, in order to expand the mind, awaken the heart and kindle the human spirit.
Background Statement
Currently celebrating sixty-nine years, Pioneer Playhouse is Kentucky’s oldest
outdoor theatre, a state historic landmark, school of drama and major tourist
attraction in Central Kentucky. It is one of a handful of very rare summerstock
theatres in America, producing four comedies and one original “Kentucky history”
play, over a ten week period, every summer.

Theatre grounds include two Kentucky history displays, outdoor and indoor theatre,
dining area, rehearsal hall, actors dorms and courtyard.  Amazingly, the theatre is
built from 90% recycled materials that span over two centuries of local history and

Founded in 1950 by Col. Eben C. Henson, Pioneer Playhouse serves roughly 10,000
visitors per summer, bringing an estimated one-million tourism dollars into the
region, every year.  It has trained over 3,000 actors, interns and students in all
phases of stage craft, while serving as a leading cultural arts and civic gathering
place, for over six decades.

Impact Statement PAST:

Commissioned and produced The Dillinger Dillema, by Elizabeth Orndorff, performed to sold out audiences that spoke of our region’s shared culture and history.

Received an NEA grant for Artistic Excellence to allow our theater artists to
perform and teach classes to prison inmates at Northpoint Education Center, to help with rehabilitation and recidivism.

Won first place in the KentuckyTourism Council's Traverse Award, for radio PSA excellence.

Worked with the Danville/Boyle County tourism office, to strengthen the economic impact of tourism in the region.

Increased sponsorship and donations by 13% over the previous year, by providing a high quality cultural arts experience that focused on our community’s shared legacy.


To develop a full architectural plan that will make Pioneer Playhouse the
first"green" LEED-certified outdoor theatre in Kentucky.

To fund a capital campaign drive to fully refurbish, refit and remodel our physical plant.

To continue developing original Kentucky-themed historical event plays.

To strengthen the cultural heritage of our community by continuing to seek
out underserved audiences in central Kentucky.

Initiating new educational programs, by offering workshops and interactive arts
programming to Bluegrass area high school students. 
Needs Statement
Capital Campaign - $4 million needed to rebuild Kentucky's oldest outdoor theatre to meet 21st century needs.
Foundation - $1 million needed to establish a Foundation to insure financial stability and growth.
General Operations - $250,000/ per year - pays all bills and expenses for one fiscal year.
School of Drama - $25,000/ per year - provides a high quality educational experience in an inspirational setting that embodies the spirit of determination needed to achieve goals.
Kentucky History - $5,000/ per year needed to help Pioneer Playhouse continue to explore and develop original plays about Kentucky.
CEO/Executive Director Statement
Founded by the visionary Colonel Eben C. Henson, Pioneer Playhouse has a mission of making theater accessible to a wide audience.  The life skills it engenders in students, theater artists and patrons alike is the underlying spirit that uplifts and connects all who step on its grounds. Visitors frequently comment on the authenticity and one-of-a-kind uniqueness of the well as the "pioneering" spirit that is manifest in every brick, beam, doorknob and performing experience.  Actors, students and audience alike marvel at this "feel good" piece of American theatre history, and they return, year after year.  By every measure of success (increased attendance,  grants, bequests, and public service outreach) Pioneer Playhouse is continuing to grow.  We strive to make our audience feel a part of our "theatre family," because they are a huge part of our success.  Everyone, from ticket takers to the stars of the show, bend over backwards to make sure that visitors have a wonderful experience.
Under the leadership and guidance of  current Artistic Director Robby Henson Pioneer Playhouse is poised to make a bold leap into the future.
Board Chair Statement

From Mike Perros, Emeritus member and current Mayor of Danville,  

I choose to serve on the board because Pioneer Playhouse is a cultural and financial asset to the the region and state, and is too valuable to lose.  There is no theatre in the world that presents such a high quality experience in a setting that is crafted out of stories themselves.

Attendance has shown an increase over the past decade with an emphasis on commissioning original works about local history.  We produced a "Top Ten Summer Festival" (KY Tourism Council designation) to celebrate the filming of "Raintree County" in Danville, fifty years ago and a documentary was made  which continues to air on Turner Classic Movies.  "The Infamous Ephraim" celebrates Danville's pioneering surgeon Dr. Ephraim McDowell, a world-renowned physician, for whom Danville's major regional medical center is named.  Discussions are in the works to take The Infamous Ephraim into the Kentucky school system, bringing wider recognition to the Bluegrass region and its contributions to the world.

Our current efforts are directed towards increasing box office, grant writing, and reaching into community for donations, sponsorships and bequests.

However, funding for a theatre that is as old as Pioneer Playhouse is a challenge.  Built out of recycled materials in the early 1950's, Pioneer Playhouse is in dire need of a renovation, to bring it up to 21st Century standards. Our greatest challenge is to overhaul the theatre and also to create the means to cover an annual shortfall of $10,000 to $30,000. 

The Playhouse Board of Directors, Playhouse staff and myself are committed to all of the above, offering our full support, as we preserve the past and inspire future generations. Your help is greatly needed and we invite you to join our efforts, in preserving the best of Kentucky's roots and wings. 


Geographic Areas Served
Situated in Danville/Boyle County in Central Kentucky, Pioneer Playhouse draws 70% of its audience from a 100 mile radius with 40% out-of-county, 30% from Danville and 30% from out-of-state.  It serves 10,000+ visitors annually.

Board Chair
Board Chair Melynda Jamison
Company Affiliation CASA of Lexington
Term Oct 2016 to Oct 2019
Board Members
Kay BerggrenRetiredVoting
David BrewerEKU Colonel Board of DirectorsVoting
Mary L. ConleyCity of DanvilleExofficio
Charlotte HensonPioneer PlayhouseVoting
Robby HensonDirector, Pioneer PlayhouseVoting
Heather HensonManaging DirectorVoting
Michael HughesAfrican American Historical SocietyVoting
Melynda JamisonCASA of LexingtonVoting
Gail LouisRetired, State GovernmentVoting
Teresa MartinComminity VolunteerVoting
Julie McCallisterKY LEADS CollaborativeVoting
Peggy C. WhiteRetiredVoting
Board Demographics - Ethnicity. Add number
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 11
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 3
Female 9
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 6
Board Meeting Attendance % 83%
Written Board Selection Criteria? Under Development
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 100%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 4
Board Co-Chair
Term Oct 2010 to Oct 2011
CEO/Executive Director
Executive Director Mrs. Charlotte Henson
Term Start Apr 2004
 Charlotte Henson, a music education graduate of Transylvania University, worked each step of the way with Playhouse founder Eben C. Henson.  She assisted her husband with casting auditions in New York City and read & recommended numerous plays.  She is especially active in overseeing maintenance of the physical plant.  Danville Business & Professional Women honored her with the  "Woman of Achievement Award "  in 2006.  
Full Time Staff 2
Part Time Staff 25
Volunteers 26
Contractors 2
Retention Rate 100%
Management Reports to Board? Yes
Staff Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 2
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Staff Demographics - Gender
Male 1
Female 1
Unspecified 0
Former CEOs
Eben Charles HensonJan 1950 - Apr 2004
Senior Staff
Title Director

Robby Henson received his MFA in film from New York University and directed his first production at Pioneer Playhouse in 1983. His award-winning documentaries have shown at the Sundance Film Festival, the Guggenheim Museum and on PBS. He wrote, produced and directed Pharaoh’s Army, a Civil War drama starring Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson and Patricia Clarkson.

Recent work includes writing and directing the The Badge, an award-winning New Orleans crime drama starring Billy Bob Thornton, Patricia Arquette, Sela Ward and Thomas Hayden Church.

His thriller The Visitation, based on the bestselling novel by Frank Peretti and starring Randy Travis, Kelly Lynch and Edward Furlong, was released by 20th Century Fox in 2005. His current project House, with Michael Madsen, was filmed in Poland and will be released by Lionsgate Films this fall.


Title Managing Director
Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation Yes
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency Quarterly
Senior Management Formal Evaluation No
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency N/A
NonManagement Formal Evaluation No
Non Management Formal Evaluation Frequency N/A
CEO Comments Pioneer Playhouse has been the starting point of lifelong skills for thousands of interns, students and actors --as well as creating memorable experiences for its patrons. The theatre's one-of-a-kind historical ambiance, described as "(one of) The 100 Most Enriching Vacation Destinations in America" by National Geographic," is an invaluable asset to the region and the state. In Pioneer Playhouse, history, education, cultural arts and innovation combine to elevate the standard of living, for all.
Behind the Scenes: an innovative education program that allow area high school students to take educational workshops and tours of our professional theater. Supported by Trim Masters Inc.
Budget 5000
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Theater
Population Served Children and Youth (0 - 19 years)
Northpoint Performance and Education Project: a successful theater project at Northpoint Education Center (a medium security prison in central Kentucky) using theater arts and creative thinking to humanize and enrich the lives of those closed off behind bars. Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Budget 59840
Category Education, General/Other Extracurricular Arts & Culture
Population Served At-Risk Populations, Adults, Offenders/Ex-Offenders
Northpoint Performance and Education Project: a successful theater project at Northpoint Education Center (a medium security prison in central Kentucky) using theater arts and creative thinking to humanize and enrich the lives of those closed off behind bars. Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Budget 19999
Category Education, General/Other Extracurricular Arts & Culture
Population Served Adults
Historical Event Production: Each summer Pioneer Playhouse stages an original play production that speaks to the shared history and culture of our community.
Budget 50000
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Theater
Population Served Adults, Families
Plans & Policies
Organization has a Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has a Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 6
Date Strategic Plan Adopted Jan 2008
Management Succession Plan? No
Organization Policy and Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistleblower Policy No
Document Destruction Policy No
Chamber of Commerce2005
National Endowment for the Arts - Partner2010
Best Radio AdKentucky Toursim Council2010
Best Volunteer VacationsNational Geographic2007
Revenue vs Expenses - All Years
Expense Breakdown - Recent Year
Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year Start Oct 01, 2015
Fiscal Year End Sept 30, 2016
Projected Revenue $412,066.00
Projected Expenses $412,016.00
Endowment Value $125,000.00
Spending Policy N/A
Detailed Financials
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available). Revenue from foundations and corporations may be included in individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201720162015
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$31,200$33,000$33,000
Individual Contributions$96,764$88,301$92,315
Investment Income, Net of Losses$2,119$2,542$2,454
Membership Dues$0$0$0
Special Events$0$0$0
Revenue In-Kind$24,135$27,594$24,814
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201720162015
Program Expense$425,247$393,066$404,019
Administration Expense$13,223$12,894$11,513
Fundraising Expense$413$232$149
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses1.060.960.98
Program Expense/Total Expenses97%97%97%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue------
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201720162015
Total Assets$348,713$319,036$328,381
Current Assets$51,915$17,191$22,326
Long-Term Liabilities$140,405$143,208$138,365
Current Liabilities$10,512$4,178$777
Total Net Assets$197,796$171,650$189,239
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes
State Registration Yes
Foundation Staff Comments Pioneer Playhouse has filed an extension to submit its 2011 990EZ.
Address 840 Stanford Rd
Danville, KY 40422
Primary Phone 859 236-2747
Contact Email
CEO/Executive Director Mrs. Charlotte Henson
Board Chair Melynda Jamison
Board Chair Company Affiliation CASA of Lexington