The arts don’t really take a vacation in Lexington anymore, and there were actually points in July when the theater calendar seemed to be about as busy as it is during the school year with groups such as the Lexington Children’s Theatre, KCT SummerFest and the Lexington Theatre Company all in production.
But that does not make the fall any less significant in the arts calendar. As people go back to class and we start wearing socks again — OK, maybe that’s just me — the stage lights go up in places like the Singletary Center for the Arts and Studio Players and weekend calendars fill with performances and exhibitions to excite the senses as much as a spicy cup of cider.
It is always a joy to settle into a seat to hear some music or see a show, but there are always those events you eagerly anticipate. Here are some of the dates I am circling on my calendar.
Lexington Philharmonic season opener
The biggest story of the coming arts season is that it will be the swan song for Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra music director Scott Terrell, and he is bowing out with a lineup that highlights some of the hallmarks of his career here, including championing living composers and inventive, diverse performances.
We will get some of that as the season bows Oct. 20 with a concert that, like many classical presentations this year, celebrates the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. This show does that in a bit of an off-beat way, presenting a semi-staged performance of Lenny’s one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti,” which is not often performed, as well as his overture to “Candide.”
But this concert also marks a homecoming with omni-talented pianist Ryan Shirar as the featured soloist in George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Shirar grew up in Lexington and was the music director of Paragon Music Theatre before opportunities took him away to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and eventually New York City where he now works in a variety of roles including conductor, arranger and pianist. (7:30 p.m. Oct. 20. Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St., 859-233-4226, lexphil.org.)
The University of Kentucky Opera Theatre returns to staging contemporary works in November with “Silent Night” by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell. The opera, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2012, recounts a spontaneous Christmas Eve truce between French, Scottish and German soldiers in 1914 at the Belgian border during World War I. New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini called the opera, based on the 2005 French film “Joyeux Noël,” “a tautly paced and involving work,” that was somewhat astonishing in its success, considering it was Puts’ first opera. (7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 and 10, 2 p.m. Nov. 11. Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St., 859-257-4929, scfatickets.com.)
‘I Was Here’
You had us at Nikky Finney, Marjorie Guyon and Patrick J. Mitchell. The poet, artist and photographer have collaborated on an exhibit of ancestor spirit portraits that will be shown at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning later this month. The exhibit centers on Cheapside, one of the largest slave auction sites in the United States, as well as other places where human beings were sold in our country, well under two centuries ago. The opening of the exhibit will include a community conversation, poetry reading and artists talk Sept. 22.
‘The Ghosts of Pineville’
Here’s an intriguing Lexington collaboration: Sara Turner of Cricket Press fame has teamed up with Lexington Children’s Theatre education director Jeremy Kisling to adapt her graphic novel to the stage. The story is about three friends who set out to solve a local mystery and end up in the rhealm of the supernatural. The combined visual talents of Turner and the LCT set and costume designers should definitely make this show something to see. (2 and 7 p.m. Oct. 20, 2 p.m. Oct. 21, with school matinees Oct. 16-19. Lexington Children’s Theatre, 418 W. Short St. 859-254-4546, lctonstage.org.)
A lot of musicals have made it to local stages faster than this highly-influential Mel Brooks show, which helped reset the economics and expectations for Broadway in its original 2001 production starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. This was the show that made the $100-plus ticket price commonplace on Broadway and elsewhere, though rest assured the Woodford Theatre will be charging a lot less when the show hits its stage in October. Like the 1967 film, the plot revolves around a Broadway producer and accountant who conspire to stage a certain-flop so they can collect the insurance money and skip the country. But instead, they find they have staged an improbable smash. (Oct. 5-21. The Woodford Theatre, Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center, 275 Beasley Dr. 859 873 0648, Woodfordtheatre.com.)
Did you even know Boyle County had an airport? It does, and its lobby is the setting for the American premiere of this show by British playwright John Godber. The play is a comedy set in 10 airports around the world, and a cast of four actors will play eight different roles in the show directed by former Centre College Theatre professor Tony Haigh. Adding to the fun of the Scarlet Cup Theatre production: regular airport activity will continue during performances, so if planes land and people exit through the lobby, they’ll find they’ve walked in on a play. Welcome to Danville! (Oct. 4-14. Danville-Boyle County Airport, 420 Airport Road, Danville. 859-319-1204, danvillearts.org/scarlet-cup.)
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
You don’t have to look into Lexington art long to run into Ralph Eugene Meatyard and his distinctive photography, primarily from the 1950s and ‘60s. Despite the photographer’s status as one of the best-known artists to emerge from Lexington, there has never been a prominent solo exhibition of his work in town, until now. The University of Kentucky Art Museum opened “Stages of Being” this weekend, and it runs through Dec. 9. One of the goals of the show is to explain what Meatyard was trying to do with his images that often incorporated masks and rituals, and what made these photographs great. Tom Eblen wrote a larger feature on this show, which ran in last Sunday’s Herald-Leader and you can find it at LexGo.com. (Through Dec. 9. University of Kentucky Art Museum, in the Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St. 859-257-5716, finearts.uky.edu/art-museum.)
‘The Play that Goes Wrong’
We’ll have more on this later in the week, but the comedic British import is definitely a bit of a coup for the Lexington Opera House, where the show has been in technical rehearsals for a week now, leading up to its “preview” performances here Sept. 14 and 15. It brings a rare touring play to the Opera House and one that is going to leave here to hit some major markets in the United States — I was pleasantly surprised to see it being advertised in Boston Opera House when I caught a show there late last month. Also, it looks like it’s absolutely hysterical. (8 p.m. Sept. 14 and 15. Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St. 859-233-3535. lexingtonoperahouse.com.)