Stage & Dance

Woodford Theatre hits its 25th anniversary in full stride

Central Kentucky theater veterans Trish and Ellie Clark are working with The Woodford Theatre in Versailles.
Central Kentucky theater veterans Trish and Ellie Clark are working with The Woodford Theatre in Versailles. staff

When the directors of The Woodford Theatre sat down to plan the 2013-14 season, they realized something.

"Somebody was doing the brochure, and they looked back at the dates and said, 'I think this is the 25th anniversary,'" associate producer and education director Ellie Clark said.

They looked back and talked to some folks, because the origins of the Versailles theater are murky, and they concluded that indeed, 2013-14 is the 25th-anniversary bow for the theater.

You might forgive them for nearly missing this milestone. Things have been a little crazy at Woodford County's leading arts group for the past couple of years.

In 2011, Beth Kirchner announced that she was stepping down from her post as artistic director of the theater after 16 years at the helm of the organization once known as the Woodford County Theatrical Arts Association.

The theater hired a new director, Steve Arnold, that summer, but he left in October 2012, after barely a year on the job. Neither Arnold nor the theater board commented on the reasons for his departure.

Trish Clark, a former drama teacher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and a former artistic director of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, was selected as interim director. She carried out the rest of the 2012-13 season and programmed the current lineup.

It opens Friday with Dolly Parton's 2008 musical 9 to 5, based on the 1980 movie about three office workers who get fed up with their horrible boss and turn the tables on him.

Clark, who is Ellie's mother, is enjoying the gig, and she's forging ahead with plans to give the theater a 25th-anniversary makeover, including rebranding and a new website,, set to launch soon.

Clark says the best thing about the theater is "the patrons. They give us so much support financially, and they are invested in it emotionally and socially. They see this theater as theirs."

Since taking the reins of the theater not quite a year ago, Clark says, she has worked to maintain the troupe as the organization that is familiar to the community while trying to clean up and add some things.

The most public thing she has added are "Something Else" events between theater productions, including a Parton tribute event last month, and Lexington musician (and Herald-Leader contributing critic) Tedrin Blair Lindsay performing his show PianoLust at the theater between 9 to 5 and December's show, A Tuna Christmas.

Then there is the rebranding, which she says came courtesy of a friend of the theater with design and Web expertise. Ellie Clark says that the theater has contracted with a new vendor for online ticketing, which is already available through the theater's website.

Trish Clark says that behind the scenes, she has been divesting the theater of some assets — including costumes, props and set pieces that have not been used in years — to free up room for rehearsal and more dressing room space.

Through all the changes, the Clarks say, they have seen steady and somewhat surprisingly strong support for the theater.

"It was the first big arts offering in the community," Clark says.

In 2011, Kirchner told the Herald-Leader that she first worked with the theater when she moved to Woodford County in the 1990s. She was at a social event, and she mentioned that she had a degree in theater. Another party guest mentioned that the county had a theater but needed a director. Kirchner took the job and helped the theater grow from a wandering band to the resident company in the Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center's theater.

"They fought so hard to have that theater included in the center," Clark says. "People here are very proud of this theater, and they should be."


'9 to 5'

What: The Woodford Theatre's production of the musical with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and a book by Patricia Resnick.

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19; and 2 p.m. Oct. 6, 13, 20.

Where: Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center, 275 Beasley Dr., Versailles.

Tickets: $19 adults, $12 students. Available at (859) 873-0648 or