Sunday, January 4, 2004

'Getting to Know You' tributes old-time troupe

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

For three decades John Kenley, straw hat impresario, and his Kenley Players were synonymous with summer theater in Ohio, putting on 10-week tours across the state (and into Michigan).

Growing up in Cleveland, my first experiences of live theater came when I was kindergarten age, and parents and aunts and uncles tried me out on operettas like The Student Prince at Kenley's Warren, Ohio, operation.

Kenley's southwest anchor was in Dayton's Memorial Hall. On March 24, Dayton's Human Race Theatre Company and its musical-loving executive director Kevin Moore (no slouch in the entrepreneurial department himself, and a former Kenley Player) will pay tribute to Kenley with a special preview performance of a new play-about-musicals, Getting to Know You.

Moore says he's been thinking about doing something to honor Kenley for a number of years. (Kenley started his show biz career as a professional hand walker in 1924 in the Greenwich Village Follies and admits to being 98.) Getting to Know You, he says, looked like a perfect fit.

If you're feeling nostalgia for those good old days, Kenley is planning to attend a patrons' reception and the show on March 24. (The cast party after the show will revive the Kenley tradition of gathering at Marion's Piazza.)

For ticket information and reservations ($25-$75) call the Human Race business office at (937) 461-3823. For show information, visit the theater's Web site at

In the meantime, Human Race opens contemporary musical Convenience on Jan. 15.

Convenience is about 26-year-old Vince, who is trying to come to terms with the "relationship of convenience" he's shared with his mother most of his life. The show's development included presentation in Human Race's Musical Theatre series in 2002.

The Midwest premiere continues through Feb.1.

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