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Fair Play: Kentucky Playwrights Show Off Blue-Ribbon Works at State Fair

Dairy goats and blueberry pies aren’t the only champions at this year’s Kentucky State Fair. The commonwealth’s playwrights also compete to show their works on the fair stage. Founded by Corinth-based playwright William McCann in 2012, the Kentucky New Play Series selects six short plays written by Kentuckians from an open competition to premiere at the state fair. This year, two of the six winning works are written by Louisville playwrights, Brian Walker and Nancy Gall-Clayton.Produced by Elizabethtown’s Artist Asylum Theatre, the Kentucky New Play Series will be performed Monday on the Performing Arts Showcase stage in the North Wing of the Fair and Exposition Center (here's the day schedule).Gall-Clayton’s short play is an intergenerational story about that quintessential Kentucky state fair subject: quilts.“I can’t say I’ve ever quilted, but I’ve been around dozens of quilts. I have quilts made by family members,” she said. “My grandfather’s house was not heated, so when we went up there in the winter we always got under big, heavy, wonderful, warm quilts.”

  “A Curiosity Quilt” is the story of three generations of women – Mama and Granny are quilters, but eleven-year-old Polly prefers acing spelling championships. She wants nothing to do with the family folk art until she sees the connection between spelling and quilting.“It’s a Kentucky sort of thing to celebrate, the art of quilting,” she said.Gall-Clayton is a visiting artist at the Ohio State University, where her play “English Therapy” was produced. More than sixty of her plays have been produced on three continents and in 23 states. The state fair is a different sort of venue for her.“I think we’ll have a really diverse audience. We’ll have people who might be curious, they might not be frequent theater-goers,” she said.And getting people in the door is one of the biggest challenges facing new work.“Some people just don’t want to take a chance on something new,” she said. “I’m hopeful that the State Fair will expose us [to a new audience.]”Louisville playwright Brian Walker’s “Visitation Privileges” explores family ties in the wake of a matriarch’s death. Walker is the artistic director of Finnigan Productions and his full-length plays, including “Dirty Sexy Derby Play” and “The Friend Factory” have been produced in Louisville, across the country and in Australia. Walker also produces the annual short play showcase Finnigan’s Festival of Funky Fresh Fun.The four other plays on the bill are:

  • “Reindeer” by Richard Cavendish (Richmond)
  • “My Father Thinks He’s Irish” by George McGee (Georgetown)
  • “Sunny Side” by Phil Paradis (Ft. Thomas)
  • “When Grandma Davis Hit the Glass” by Rebecca Ryland (Danville)