History Channel's 'American Pickers' films at Pioneer Playhouse in Ky.
With walls decorated by memorabilia from the likes of John Travolta and Elizabeth Taylor and structures built and furnished over 63 theater seasons, it’s easy to imagine why the TV show “American Pickers” might be attracted to Pioneer Playhouse and what they may have taken with them when they left.Unfortunately, due to a pesky confidentially contract between Playhouse owner Charlotte Henson and the show, all we can do is imagine.What we do know is that the History Channel’s show hosts, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, spent time and money there earlier this month, filming an episode that likely will run in early summer.The show’s premise is part scavenger hunt as the two run down clues and part treasure hunt as what they find each week may be a priceless artifact — or not. It’s the quest as much as the find that makes the show producers describe as “just two ordinary guys looking for extraordinary things” such a hit.They must have been in heaven at the Pioneer Playhouse.By the time the show airs, Henson may be too busy to watch. “We will have five plays in 10 weeks,” she said.What looks like a sleepy ghost town today echoes with the energy of the more than 3,000 actors who have taken the stage the late Col. Eben C. Henson and his bride, Charlotte, brought to Danville. Very soon, the property will start to fill up with youngsters with stars in their eyes who will perform under star-filled skies.As a working summer-stock school of drama, some like Travolta and Lee Majors who performed there went on to become icons of a generation. All who come through leave with memories of Danville and Kentucky as represented by Pioneer Playhouse.Henson said her late husband grew the compound through bartering and cunning as much as anything.“The beams here,” she points out some of the massive elements of a sturdy structure, “he got those by trading a bottle of bourbon for each.”Sounds like a good deal, both ways, considering the beams are still intact and Kentucky still holds a place of honor among bourbons.Maybe one of those dusty bottles was tucked away somewhere waiting to be discovered? One can only imagine.Preparations are already under way leading up to this year’s season, which begins June 8-23 with “Dracula Bites.”
By JOANNA KINGThe Advocate-Messenger