Arts and Culture

The 2016 Kentucky State Fair won’t just be a mecca for livestock exhibitions and fried food enthusiasts. Thanks to producer Bill McCann, fairgoers will also have the opportunity to enjoy some theater.

McCann is the producer of the fifth annual Kentucky New Play Series, a collection of 5 to 15-minute comedies created by state playwrights. The event was started after McCann returned to the University of Kentucky to finish his master’s degree at the age of 55.

“My first semester there I wrote to the state fair and said, ‘It’d be great if you did some new plays,’” McCann says. “And in June of 2012, I got a response back that said, ‘We’d love to do that! Can you do it this year?’”

That year, McCann didn’t have much time to plan with the August fair just a couple months away. But he and a fellow graduate student produced two of their own plays for the fair that year. Now, five years in, McCann is gearing up for one of his biggest seasons yet.

The plays to be performed at this year’s state fair were selected from submissions to the Kentucky New Play Series contest that ended in early March 2016. Here’s what audience-members can expect to see:

  • “Twizzler” by Dudley Stone (Lexington)
  • “The Estate Affair” by Nancy Gall-Clayton (Metro Louisville)
  • “RE DO IT” by Cat Rhoden Goguen (Barbourville)
  • “Waiting for Bardot” by Chris Harris (Somerset)
  • “Aluminum Linoleum” by Tommy Jones (Richmond)
  • “Senior Prom” by Morgan Patton (Covington)

McCann says producing a play festival at a state fair comes with its own unique challenges.

“They don’t have a place for people to change clothes, or for us to store props,” McCann says. “They’ve got limitations on what they can provide.”

The fair provides the playwrights with a 6-foot banquet table, two chairs and three lapel mics. Each play can only feature three actors who share one handheld prop. But that doesn’t stop McCann’s vision.

“The purpose of the event is to give playwrights some exposure, actors an opportunity to perform new works, and fairgoers a rest and some laughs,” he says.

This year, McCann has even expanded the Kentucky New Play Series.

“We’ve invited Lindsey Wilson College professor Robert Brock to bring some of his students and do readings of their new plays,” McCann says. “We’re going to wind up producing 11 new plays at the Kentucky State Fair this year.”

The Kentucky New Play Series will take place on the Performing Arts Stage in the North Wing of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, at 7:00 p.m. on Aug. 22. Readings of new plays by Lindsey Wilson College students, directed by Robert Brock, will be on that same stage at 7:00 p.m. on Aug. 28.