Stage & Dance

New amphitheater at Beaumont was built to be busy

Andy Haymaker said the new amphitheater, MoonDance at Midnight Pass, will host a wide variety of events, including plays and parties.
Andy Haymaker said the new amphitheater, MoonDance at Midnight Pass, will host a wide variety of events, including plays and parties.

Lexington's newest performing-arts venue opens this weekend with a show by Actors Guild of Lexington, but the brains behind the amphitheater inside Beaumont Centre Circle expect the outdoor space to host everything from plays and concerts to Halloween parties and festivals.

"A mother called us about reserving it for a wedding," said Tim Haymaker, who with his son Andy developed the venue, called MoonDance at Midnight Pass. "We hadn't even thought about that."

The amphitheater, named after a nearby street, will seat 1,000 to 1,200 people on lawn chairs or blankets that they bring. Earlier this week, construction crews put the finishing touches on the project, which cost more than $2 million.

Besides the Actors Guild's encore production of Tommy: The Concert, the Haymakers said, there are more events scheduled.

In mid-August, the University of Kentucky women's basketball program will have a free pep rally, with inflatables for kids, appearances by mascots and cheerleaders, and a musical performance by coach Matthew Mitchell.

"He is a riot," Tim Haymaker said. "He can sing country music as good as most of the country music guys."

In September, an international group has booked the amphitheater for a festival, and on Oct. 29, the Kentucky Blood Center will host a Halloween fund-raiser called "Blood: The Event."

Eric Seale of Actors Guild said it's exciting that the group's encore of Tommy, first performed in early June at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, will be the "very first thing on those boards."

Seale was among a number of community arts leaders whom the Haymakers approached as they planned the amphitheater.

"I said, we'll see how Tommy goes at Buster's, and if it does well, we'll bring it over here," Seale said. "The day Tommy closed, me, the band and some of the actors knew we needed to do it again."

The group's performance with The Johnson Brothers Band isn't the Broadway version of the hit rock opera. It's a concert. Unlike a pit orchestra, the band will be on stage, and members will even sing some songs and background vocals. But unlike at a concert, there will be costumed actors on stage, performing some of the classics, including Pinball Wizard and I'm Free.

"It's almost like the actors are fronting the band when their songs play," which Seale said is great because "most actors all wanted to be rock stars at one point."

The production is the latest for Actors Guild, which has struggled and cut back productions in the past few years as it deals with financial and organizational problems.

AGL board member and Johnson Brothers guitarist Jim Gleason said the organization took a big step forward last month by hiring Seale as artistic director. Seale had been interim artistic director since January.

"He's done a good job trying to work in difficult circumstances to keep the Actors Guild's visibility up," Gleason said.

Seale and Gleason said Actors Guild will announce a season of performances soon, and Gleason said the schedule includes a wide range of plays.

"I think it's the grown-up theater that people have historically expected from Actors Guild," he said. "It's a return to that."

Seale said the past several months have been a learning curve. "I had to go back and basically get all my history locked in and know exactly what our issues were and what we needed to address."

One change is that the group has expanded its board.

"We had a good but small board at the time, and we needed more members to basically help me do what I need to do," he said.

"This encore presentation is a celebration for the new AGL," Seale said. "There's a lot of good stuff happening, a lot of really positive stuff going on, and people will get real excited as we roll out our new plans."