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Actors Theatre of Louisville

Award-winning. Avant Garde. A+. These are just a few words to describe the subject of this Etcetera: Actors Theatre of Louisville (ATL), the State Theatre of Kentucky.

In 1964, two local drama groups merged to form the non-profit Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Actors Theatre circa 1970, in old Illinois Central railroad station Begun in a tiny tea house on South Fourth Street, the rapid growth of the organization prompted moves to bigger venues, including an abandoned railroad station at the Ohio River.

The current complex, established in 1972, stands on downtown’s Main Street and includes the landmark old Bank of Louisville, which serves as the lobby.

Called the epitome of excellence, Actors Theatre has helped propel the careers of many famous actors, including Ned Beatty and Kathy Bates.

Courtesy of Actors Theatre of Louisville The theatre has also received many prestigious awards and accolades. In 1980, ATL became only the second recipient of the Special Tony Award as an outstanding non-profit resident theatre.

Much of Actors Theatre’s success can be credited to the dedication of two individuals: Alexander “Sandy” Speer, former executive director, who retired after 40 years of service … and Jon Jory, former producing director and creator of the renowned Humana Festival of New American Plays. Jory’s appointment lasted from 1969 to 2000.

Now in its 43rd season (2008-2009), the company presents some 30 productions to over 200,000 patrons a year.

Dracula, archival image And, ATL’s “Popular Plays” continue to be a tradition for Louisville theatergoers. Showing soon are A Tuna Christmas and A Christmas Carol; the latest adaptation of Dracula is onstage through November 1, 2008.

More on Actors Theatre of Louisville:

  • The company’s founding directors were Richard Block and Ewel Cornett. They were responsible for the merging of Actors, Ind. And Theatre Louisville.
  • The Actors Theatre of Louisville complex contains three theaters: the Pamela Brown (opened in 1972), the Victor Jory (opened in 1973), and the Bingham (opened in 1994).
  • The old Bank of Louisville building, which serves as the lobby to ATL’s Pamela Brown Auditorium, is a designated National Historic Landmark. It was built in 1837.
  • In 1998, the Sara Shallenberger Brown Lobby was restored to its original colors.
  • According to The Encyclopedia of Louisiville, the Pamela Brown Auditorium was built in part with a gift from John Y. Brown Jr. Brown was a local businessman and brother to actress Pamela Brown. Pamela was lost at sea while attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon.
  • Actors Theatre of Louisville was designated the State Theatre of Kentucky in 1974.
  • The Humana Festival of New American Plays was started in 1976. Actors Theatre has produced over 300 plays during the festival’s history, representing the work of more than 200 playwrights.
  • The Humana Festival has premiered several Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, including Crimes of the Heart (Beth Henley) and The Gin Game (D.L. Coburn). The Gin Game debuted in the festival’s first year.
  • Upon his retirement, Jon Jory had produced 1,300 productions at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Meet ATL's Managing Director, Jennifer Bielstein and former Scenic Designer Paul Owen. Plus, visit ATL's Prop Shop and learn about the company's Apprentice Program, all from our archives.

Program 305
Odd tales about the Commonwealth, a unique leather goods store, local costumer Louise Cecil, and Actors Theatre of Louisville. Sandy Bowen, executive director of Safe Place, joins us in the studio. (#305)