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Danville has an airport _ for 2 weekends, it’s also a stage

October 6, 2018

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The flight has been canceled.

Jim, Steve and their recently hired assistant, Zoe, are having to deal with an airline representative to arrange transportation and lodging, since the next available flight to their destination isn’t until 0-dark-hundred the next morning.

But this is actually an airport where this sort of thing never happens.

Stuart Powell Field, the Danville-Boyle County Airport is not a commercial hub with airlines, connections, delays and all the things that make air travel a ... ahem ... joy. It’s a small-yet-busy airport that deals primarily in small planes, general aviation and business travel with 56 planes based there and about 30,00 operations (take offs and landings) a year. In addition, it offers flight training and special aviation events.

For the next two weekends, it will also be a theater, hosting the Scarlet Cup Theatre’s production of playwright John Godber’s “Departures,” a comedy about business people dealing with all the joys of commercial air travel and the strains it puts on their lives and relationships.

For Scarlet Cup Theatre, doing a play set in an airport at an airport comes naturally.

“Our patrons don’t ask what the next play is, they ask where it is,” board president Elizabeth Orndorff says.

The theater company was founded three years ago as a site-specific theater, meaning it tries to present plays in locations relevant to the story. So it has presented parent-teacher drama “Gidion’s Knot” at Danville High School, the monk play “Aidan’s Gift” at Danville’s Third Street Methodist Church, and the death’s door drama “Mare Rider” at the hospital-like environment of the Kentucky School for the Deaf.

Even before launching, Danville was already a town with a high number of theaters per capita with Pioneer Playhouse, West. T. Hill Community Theatre, and Centre College theater. Orndorff says the company sought to find its own niche, which was informed by its founders’ desires.

“We thought it would be fun to do plays that nobody else was doing,” she says. “We wanted to see contemporary plays, cutting-edge plays, dramas, international plays. So we said, ‘Why don’t we start our own theater?’

“Good idea, but we don’t want the financial burden of owning a theater. Why don’t we do a site-specific theater where every play is at a different place.”

Another one of the theater’s board members is retired Centre College drama professor Anthony Haigh, who makes annual trips to England and has gotten to know Godber, one of the most popular playwrights in Britain. When Haigh came back last time with Godber’s “Departures,” Orndorff said there was only one answer.

“We have to do it at the airport,” she said.

The airport ... or its board, at least ... couldn’t agree more.

“We consider it to be the most important mile of asphalt in the county,” Stuart Powell Field board president Rob Caldwell says. “But a lot of people don’t know we’re out here.”

The play gives the airport a chance to get more people into the facility who aren’t catching or arriving on flights.

The airport also serves as the launch site for the annual balloon race during Danville’s Great American Brass Band Festival.

“Even among the people in the theater who’ve been out here practicing, we’ve heard people say, ‘We didn’t realize this place was so busy,’” Caldwell says.

All of the action will take place in the airport’s lounge, as the play is set in lounges around Europe and the United States. For the show, a simple set of stage lights has been brought in, and there will be seating for between 40 and 50, for each of the eight performances.

“Working on something so intimate really allows the acting to come forth and the audience to be very attached to the work,” says New York-based actor Fannie Lemasters, who worked at Pioneer Playhouse this summer and stuck around for “Departures.”

In addition to the play, patrons are likely to see airport activity as planes arrive into the evening, often with business people coming back from meetings and the like. In fact, the company was asked to move its regular Sunday afternoon matinee to the evening because Sunday is one of the airport’s busiest days.

“We really like this balance of finding the right play and the right location,” Haigh says. “And the audience is excited by that. Some people are intimidated by the notion of theater, where you dress up and go to this special place that’s all dark, and velvet seats. But to go to a church or KSD or a high school classroom, or even an airport, they’re comfortable with that.

“And our audience is very vocal: ‘Where are you going next?’”

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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