Op-Ed

Jenny Wiley Theatre expanding, not moving

The board and staff at Jenny Wiley Theatre thank the Herald-Leader for its interest in the expansion of the theater. However, the article contained some erroneous statements.

Jenny Wiley Theatre is not moving to Pikeville; rather, we are expanding to include a full roster of year-round offerings in a permanent space. The summer amphitheater will continue to operate, and we will offer professional outdoor musical productions as we have for 47 years.

We have always been and will continue to be a resource for the entire region. Having locations in both Prestonsburg and Pikeville will enhance our presence in Eastern Kentucky and enhance our role as a regional organization.

As the newspaper has reported on numerous occasions, these are hard times for arts organizations and outdoor theater is even more vulnerable with the constant challenges of inclement weather, heat and bugs.

We have been limited in our ability to offer year-round productions by having no permanent space of our own. This means having to negotiate space and scheduling with other venues, scrounging for rehearsal space, having to build all sets off site and then move them to the performance facility, and not being able to employ full-time artistic staff, since there are long periods without performances.

The opportunity to continue to provide our tradition of summer outdoor performances at an amphitheater in a beautiful state park and to have the security of being able to offer regularly scheduled shows throughout the remainder of the year is the best possible solution for Jenny Wiley Theatre as well as for Eastern Kentucky.

Your article notes that the contract "allows for the possibility of a name change." In fact, the board has the ability to change the name of the theater at any time and always has. This clause preserves that ability but also protects the name from being changed by any other interested party (such as the city of Pikeville) without board consent.

In other words, this preserves the operations in Pikeville as Jenny Wiley Theatre and maintains the connection to the existing amphitheater and its history, tradition and reputation.

Jenny Wiley Theatre has, for almost half a century, provided high-quality entertainment in Eastern Kentucky that enhances the region culturally and economically. We are excited by the opportunity to offer more productions, more workshops, more children's theater and more school programs and to be able to employ more actors, directors, designers, musicians and dancers with longer contracts and steady work.

At a time when many theaters are reducing offerings or even closing their doors, we want to make sure we will be able to call Eastern Kentucky home to high-quality professional theater for another 47 years.

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