Sequels: They aren’t just for the movies.
While audiences usually think of sequels in terms of space epics and superhero movies, Danville’s Pioneer Playhouse is presenting the follow-up to one of its most successful shows, a more down-home affair.
“Grounded,” which the playhouse produced in 2015, told the story of Annie, a New York-based flight attendant who returned to her family’s farm in Kentucky after her life in the city fell apart. She struggled to find herself and her place back at home, away from her jet-setting lifestyle, while bumping heads with her grandmother, Beulah, and rekindling a relationship with an old flame.
“It really spoke to audiences because it is about faith, family, and returning home to Kentucky,” says Heather Henson, Pioneer Playhouse’s managing director.
“Guarded” catches up with Annie as she continues her journey of self discovery. She comes across a collection of letters revealing an old family secret that sends her around the world trying to uncover the mystery.
Both are original plays adapted from the novels of the same names by author Angela Correll, a seventh generation Kentuckian.
For the sequel, the Playhouse invited actors from “Grounded” to come back and reprise their roles. Erika Lee (Annie), Patricia Hammond (Beulah), and Liam McDermott (Woody) are among the actors who returned.
“It is easier,” Hammond explains of getting back into character. “It is comfortable … it is a pleasure to recreate something like that because you are already in them.”
There are a few new characters this time around ready to stir up some trouble in “Guarded.” Rita Hight (Betty) is new to the Playhouse stage, but Kathleen Thompson Parker (Rossella) was at the Playhouse last year for “Mom’s Gift.”
“Guarded” echoes many of the same themes as “Grounded,” but the sense of family and unity is developed more in the second play as the characters grow as individuals and in their relationships.
“Communities become more than communities, but family,” McDermott says. “Grounded” touched a little on community, but “Guarded” expands on it, he says, adding, “All of a sudden, you have a community that is more than that — it is a group of people that supports each other through difficult and weird times.”
“Guarded” was written by Holly Hepp-Gavin, whose “Tamed” was presented at the Playhouse in 2013, and Robby Henson, the playhouse’s artistic director.
Hepp Gavin read “Guarded” and fell in love with it.
“What a beautiful story … a lot of deep feeling,” Gavin says. “Very moving.”
“Guarded” is the latest in the playhouse’s decade-long series of Kentucky Voices plays, which are either penned by Kentuckians and/or are about the Bluegrass State. The theater opened its season with one of the series’ biggest hits, “Death By Darkness,” a murder mystery set in Mammoth Cave.
“Grounded” was also part of the series, which Correll likes as she says she loves Kentucky and believes in “honoring the history and talking about the rich things that make Kentucky great.”
If you go
When: Through Aug. 19
July 11-22: “Guarded”
July 25-Aug. 5: “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery”
Aug. 8-19: “Elvis Has Left the Building”
Aug. 24-26: Special comedy weekend with Jimmie Walker
Showtimes: Dinner is served at 7:30 p.m., and showtime is 8:30 Tuesdays-Saturdays.
Where: 840 Stanford Road, Danville
Tickets: $32 for dinner and show; $18 for show only. Ages 12 and younger: $17 for dinner and show; $10 for show only
Note: Shows are rain or shine. An indoor theater will be used in inclement weather.