If Lexington had a star actor, a veritable Tom Cruise or George Clooney of Bluegrass stages, it would be Adam Luckey.
Actors Guild of Lexington artistic director Richard St. Peter once dubbed him "Lexington's leading man," and on area stages, Luckey has led productions of Hamlet, Arcadia, The Importance of Being Earnest, Rounding Third and many other shows.
But Luckey is hardly rolling in Cruise-Clooney cash.
"There certainly are artistic opportunities here," Luckey says. "Now, finding the opportunities that pay a little bit are fewer and farther between than we'd like.
"I'm hanging around right at your average poverty line. I'm not looking for millions or grand success. I'd like to find opportunities, make opportunities and complete them, and if there's money to be made, that's icing on the cake."
Lexington and Central Kentucky do not offer many opportunities for actors to make money on the boards. Lexington Children's Theatre, where Luckey has worked, is the only theater that pays staff actors. Some theaters, including Actors Guild of Lexington, pay stipends to actors, but most other productions utilize only volunteer actors.
Many area actors end up balancing the stage with a day job, be it lawyer, waiter or something in between. But Luckey has been distinctive in trying to make as much of his living as possible from acting and related activities, including teaching acting classes and private students.
Luckey has heard numerous suggestions that he leave Lexington and try to break through in New York or Chicago, where professional acting opportunities are more plentiful.
The problem is, a lot of people go to the big city hoping to break into theater and find that many a mid-American town's leading man can become a big-city bartender.
"What I get from people who have gone there is they're finding wonderful opportunities in taking workshops, classes, and certainly getting the opportunity to audition a lot," Luckey says of New York City. "But sometimes it seems the biggest skill they're getting is how many drinks they can get on their tray.
"That shows how discouraging it can be for anyone, and the strength these people have to fight to find that opportunity and get themselves in."
The main reason that Luckey, 35, has not tried the Big Apple, the Windy City or any other American theater mecca is his 11-year-old daughter.
"I wouldn't feel right leaving her at this time," Luckey says. "My family is here, and the more I am here, the more I enjoy it."
So, he tries to make opportunities for himself in addition to seizing the opportunities that are out there.
And those opportunities are growing, he says, particularly with an increasingly entrepreneurial theater scene, notably Balagula Theatre at Natasha's Bistro. Luckey's recent activities have included teaching continuing-education courses at the University of Kentucky and working as a museum theater specialist at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort.
"That came from me going out there and letting them know I am an actor who was willing to play," Luckey says.
The historical society can be five or six days a week, and as an actor trying to make a living, Luckey acknowledges that days can stretch to 12 or 16 hours, if he has a play in addition to museum or education work. Luckey says the trade-offs are days of rest, when he can enjoy quiet after a busy period, and the chance to act.
"Having the opportunity to do that, and to be paid to do that ... I'm blessed to be able to do that, because it's Lexington, Kentucky — Central Kentucky," Luckey says. "It's a gorgeous place; it's a beautiful place. I could see myself maybe going somewhere, but right now, I'm happy with how things are going."