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Curtain goes up on Theatre Downstream

By Christopher Brooke



The Theatre Downstream will test the waters for performing arts in Henry County with its first production, “Moon Over Buffalo,” debuting Sept. 5. They hope interest in the community theatre will prove broad and deep.

Vocal music and theatre teacher at Henry County middle and high James Russell Cooper, eighth grade language arts teacher Jill Barnes-Moore and independent filmmakers Ashley Raymer-Brown and Rachael Yeager pooled their years of experience in music, theatre and cinema to form the new performing arts group.


“I’m starting my eighth year as the choir and drama teacher here, and I’ve seen through what I’ve done with the students through the school plays and musicals there’s really strong support for that,” Cooper said, while sitting in the high school’s 451-seat John W. Smith Auditorium recently. “I know when this facility was built it was intended to serve not just as a school room but as a possible venue for cultural offerings, so the idea was in the back of my head.”

The Theatre Downstream — the name inspired by author Wendell Berry who once wrote, “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you” — arose from a confluence of the founders’ passion, vision and talent.

A University of Louisville graduate who studied vocal music and music education, Cooper has performed with the Kentucky Opera, Choral Arts Society and the Louisville Orchestra, according to information posted on the performing arts group’s website, thetheatredownstream.wordpress.com. 

Raymer-Brown has written, performed and directed plays at eight theaters in six counties, the website said. Filmmaker Yeager considers the stage her “second home” and remains dedicated to performing arts in the community.

Moore honed her dramatic skills as a theatre major at Centre College and as assistant director on Henry County school productions for the last five years. 

“I think it was a combination of the right people at the right time and the right place,” Cooper said. “What was originally brought up as a ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be fun if we did this,’ became a reality, so here we are getting ready to do a show.”

Theatre board members chose the farce, “Moon Over Buffalo” by Ken Ludwig, as their inaugural performance. It’s a fun and fast-paced comedy with the extra advantage of boasting a relatively small cast for the troupe’s first production.

The play introduces repertory theatre players and husband and wife George and Charlotte Hay who think they’re going to hit the big time with starring roles in a production of film director Frank Capra. 

After a case of mistaken identity, hilarity ensues.

Organizers hope a flood of support comes in for the community theatre effort after their premiere.

“My vision for this is people to come to the show, get excited about this and it blossoms and grows,” Cooper said.

Opportunities from acting to creating the sets, sponsoring shows, becoming a board member and to helping steer the community theatre group will be available.

Performances of “Moon Over Buffalo” are scheduled for Sept. 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 7 and 14 at 3 p.m. at the high school auditorium.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Make reservations by going to thetheatredownstream.com, leaving a message at (859) 813-4226, or buying tickets at the performance.