The changing of the leaves brings the beginning of an exciting arts season. Remy Sisk has the cultural highlights from the stage to the outdoor arts exhibits. Get your calendars out.

It’s common knowledge by now that Louisville is a haven for the arts. Though we may be more well known for our horseracing and bourbon, we offer an absolutely extraordinary breadth of arts programming throughout the year, a great majority of which is stunningly innovative in its design and utterly remarkable in its production.

From the performing arts to visual art, the year ahead is sure to be no different. Take a look at what some of the city’s powerhouse institutions will be offering this year, and don’t forget to mark your calendars and make time for fall’s plethora of art shows.

Actors Theater of Louisville

As the region’s premier professional theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville is set to dazzle audiences once again with its blend of innovation and authenticity when it launches its 2018-19 season this fall. On September 7, Actors will open this year’s iteration of the annually beloved “Fifth Third Bank’s Dracula,” which will run through Halloween night. An exciting highlight this year is that director Drew Fracher will be adding new and extended fight choreography. Meanwhile, ATL newcomer Santio Craven will be portraying Dracula himself, and the team promises it to be the most frightening take on the character yet. Additionally, local actor Neill Robertson will be returning to the iconic role of Renfield, his portrayal of which blew audiences away in his inaugural year last fall.

After “Dracula” opens, Associate Artistic Director Meredith McDonough will debut her take on “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” the stage version of the modern classic novel. Following that production, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” will run October 2 - November 4. After a highly lauded run on Broadway, the show imagines what have happened following the events of Henrik Ibsen’s seminal 1879 drama, “A Doll’s House.” David Sedaris’ “The Santaland Diaries” will be back this holiday season, as will “Fifth Third Bank’s A Christmas Carol.” “Pipeline,” about a struggle between a mother and son, will be the first show of 2019, and it will be followed by “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin,” a musical that chronicles the career of the legendary composer. This incredibly diverse season will close out March 1 - April 7 with the 43rd Humana Festival of New American Plays.

This Just In:
After some very positive audience feedback, Actors Theatre will be extending its flexible ticket package options this season. A Platinum Pass gives you eight vouchers – redeemable at any show and in any combination – for $250. It’s the perfect way to guarantee that you experience the new season just exactly how you like.

The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

After a devastating fire, The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts is just about ready to resume their previously programmed season and continue to bring some of the best art the city – and the world – has to offer to Louisville audiences. In addition to hosting performances by the Ballet and the Orchestra as well as the Opera at the Center-managed Brown Theatre, The Kentucky Center has a wealth of shows lined up that they’re presenting themselves. Perhaps the greatest and most anticipated highlight is Reese Witherspoon’s “Whiskey in a Teacup Tour,” which will play the Center’s Whitney Hall on September 21. Internationally renowned actress, producer and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon will share personal stories about what growing up in the South taught her about life, love and work.

Additionally, The Kentucky Center will host a wide variety of musicians, comedians and other artists – such as Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, Cream, Brian Regan and the Dance Theatre of Harlem presented by Brown-Forman Midnite Ramble – across its venues. And then of course there is the PNC Broadway in Louisville series, which brings the best of Broadway right to Kentuckiana. This year’s features include “Disney’s Aladdin,” “A Christmas Story” and then the unprecedented smash “Hamilton,” which will run June 4-23, 2019.

This Just In:
The Kentucky Center is ready to come back stronger than ever after the fire and celebrate its 35th anniversary season. The original opening night was 35 years ago on November 19, 1983.

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

Louisville’s source for some of the most creative and sometimes unconventional art displays in the world is unquestionably the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. Located downtown, KMAC offers an extraordinary variety of exhibitions that connect patrons to art and creative practice. From August 18 to December 2, KMAC will offer an exhibition by Jibade-Khalili Huffman, an interdisciplinary artist whose work spans multiple media platforms. On display will be a new site-specific video installation made in conjunction with his recently revealed Smoketown public art project called “Reflection,” a collaboration with 19 other artists from across the region and the nation that was developed for the The Wheelhouse Project in partnership with the Community Foundation of Louisville.

Simultaneous to much of that exhibit’s run will be a showcase by Elsa Hansen Oldham from October 19 through January 27. A Louisville native, Oldham imbues the traditional decorative art of embroidery, and its associated feminine and domestic associations, with a personalized form of social critique. Then, from December 15 to April 7, painter Sarah Crowner’s work will be on display. Known for her geometric abstractions, Crowner works with canvases in which each color and form is comprised of a different piece of cloth, attached by stitching the pieces of canvas together.

This Just In:
The KMAC Museum recently received a $100,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which will go toward supporting two years of exhibition programming.

Louisville Ballet

Revered for both its high-quality productions and seemingly ceaseless dedication to creativity and innovation, the Louisville Ballet is gearing up for another extraordinary season. It kicks off with “Romeo and Juliet” September 7-8 at The Kentucky Center. In their interpretation, the Ballet will focus on the consequences of ignoring the wisdom of our youth while also having traditionally male roles danced by females. In October, the company will produce “Mozart,” which will feature three pieces with one of them a world premiere choreographed by Louisville Ballet Artistic and Executive Director Robert Curran and another world premiere choreographed by company dancer Brandon Ragland.

The Ballet will follow its 10th-anniversary production of the Louisville culture staple “The Brown-Forman Nutcracker” in December with the “Choreographers’ Showcase” in January and February, the time when company dancers are given the chance to choreograph something of their own. Next is a collaboration between the Ballet and Louisville Visual Art with “Human Abstract,” an ensemble piece that focuses on a single dancer’s interaction with the whole. Finally, the Ballet will close its season with the irresistible crowd pleaser “Cinderella” April 5-6.

This Just In:
In a true demonstration of a commitment to universal accessibility, the Louisville Ballet will present its first-ever sensory-friendly performance this season. On December 9 at 11:30 a.m., the Ballet will perform “The Brown-Forman Nutcracker” in a sensory-friendly setting, which means a lower sound level with low lighting and a reduction on lighting focused on the audience as well as having the audience free to talk and leave their seats during the performance.

Louisville Orchestra

Perhaps no performing arts company in town has quite the extent of programming that is offered by the Louisville Orchestra. With over 40 concerts scheduled this season, the Orchestra is ready to launch its season with offerings for even the pickiest of patrons. The 2018-2019 Brown-Forman Classic Concerts series kicks off on September 29 with “Bernstein at 100,” the company’s contribution to the international centennial birthday celebration of Leonard Bernstein. A musical tribute to the legendary composer, the show will feature selections from “West Side Story,” “Candide” and “On the Town” as well as Bernstein’s first symphony, “Jeremiah.” Interestingly, Bernstein was the mentor to Michael Tilson, who was Teddy Abrams’s mentor, so Bernstein is in a way Abrams’s musical grandfather.

The LO Pops Season will open on September 15 when Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt leads the Orchestra in his favorite film scores by his favorite composer, John Williams. Then in February, The Midtown Men – comprised of original cast members of “Jersey Boys” – will  return to Louisville with their take on some classics as well as more modern tunes. For the younger ones, or just the young at heart, the Family Concerts are back this year, and patrons of all ages can look forward to “Halloween Spooktacular” in October, “Home for the Holidays” in November and “Carnival of the Animals” in March. Other exciting events this season include “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” in November and “Star Wars: A New Hope” in February.

This Just In:
This season, the Orchestra will be doing a Featured Musician for each program, which will give the musicians a voice to the audience while also allowing them to share their experiences with a specific piece of music or composer. First up is concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz, so keep an eye out!

Kentucky Opera

Starting September 21, the Kentucky Opera is set to launch their 2018-19 season in the professional, grandiose and absolutely singular style Louisville audiences have come to expect from the company. The season begins with Mozart’s take on the iconic fairy tale, “The Magic Flute,” which will run through September 23 at The Brown Theatre. The season will continue in November with “Enemies, A Love Story,” which sets romance and comedy against the moving, turbulent backdrop of the mid-20th century. Finally, the season will close in February 2019 with Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” which the Opera is touting as, “Shakespearean in its complexity and grandeur.”

In addition to the performances, Kentucky Opera is ready to engage its patrons by offering a host of social activities around the productions. The Pre-Show Bites Series, for example, sees audience members to enjoy hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar prior to performances while also taking in an opera preview. Additionally, the Opera invites one and all to join the company for its cast parties on Friday nights at Marketplace Restaurant to mix and mingle with the cast and crew.  And new this year is Opera Unwrapped, which will have patrons of the closing shows go behind the scenes and hear the creative team break down what they have just witnessed on stage.

This Just In:
An exciting pre-season event this year will be Opera in the Park on Friday, August 24, in Willow Park at 7 p.m. Guests will enjoy entertainment featuring the Kentucky Opera Studio Artists at this free community concert.

Speed Art Museum

As remarkable for its architectural beauty as for its locally unparalleled art collection, the Speed Art Museum is Louisville’s premier destination for visual art. In addition to their astounding permanent collection, the Speed has some exciting special exhibits on the horizon. Currently on display through January 13 is “Picasso to Pollock: Modern Masterworks from the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University.” The exhibition serves as a basic primer in early 20th-century modern Western art as nearly every major artistic movement between 1900 and 1950 in Europe and America is represented, including Fauvism, Cubism, German Expressionism, Dada and Surrealism.

Also currently on display at the Speed is “American Storybook: The Imaginary Travelogue of Thomas Chambers.” This exhibition boasts 22 landscapes produced by Thomas Chambers, one of the earliest American artists to specialize in the genre of landscape painting for commercial production.

Coming up at the Speed October 6 - February 3 is “Keltie Ferris: *O*P*E*N*,” a solo exhibition of paintings and works on paper by the artist and Louisville native Keltie Ferris, who offers a fresh approach to abstract painting and the exploration of the artist’s identity through the body. Other upcoming exhibitions include “Making Time: The Art of the Kentucky Tall Case Clock” (February 2 - June 2, 2019), “Ebony G. Patterson” (June 20 - September 29, 2019) and “Gonzo! The Art of Hunter S. Thompson” (July 13 - October 13, 2019).

This Just In:
One of the Speed’s most popular sculptures, Constantin Brancusi’s “Madame Pogany,” has been in conservation laboratories since last fall, but after some extraordinary work, the piece will soon return back home to the Speed!

More Fall Performances

Our city is also fortunate to have a thriving community of small theaters that stage top-notch productions. Here are a few not to miss this season:

Acting Against Cancer

“The Rocky Horror Show”

October 27, 28, 31 at PLAY Louisville

AAC is back for the fifth year of doing the Time Warp and presenting this modern classic where audience participation and costumes are always encouraged!

CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center

“Into the Woods”

October 18 - November 4 at The J

CenterStage is poised to produce a stellar interpretation of Sondheim’s fractured fairytale where themes extend far beyond a trip to grandmother’s house.

Commonwealth Theatre Center

“The Laramie Project”

October 11-20 at Commonwealth Theatre Center

With this groundbreaking drama, CTC commemorates the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death by honoring the ongoing campaign for LGBTQ rights.

Derby Dinner Playhouse

“The Church Basement Ladies in Rise Up O Men”

August 22 - September 3 at Derby Dinner Playhouse

Derby Dinner is ready to bring you the next installment of the uproarious series by introducing the husbands of everyone’s favorite ladies.

Pandora Productions


September 14-29 at The Henry Clay Theatre

Set against the backdrop of decadent Berlin just before the Nazis rise to power, Pandora’s “Cabaret” is sure to be a must-see in how it reconciles the struggle of excess and fear.

StageOne Family Theatre


October 19-31 at The Kentucky Center

Just in time for the season, StageOne will present this classic story of a scientist and his creation that’s sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

VOICES of Kentuckiana

“Red and Green: An Electric Holiday Celebration”

December 9 at The Kentucky Center

The singers of VOICES are set to decorate your holiday season with joy, heart, and fun in this festive concert.

Art Shows

Art in Speed Park August 25-26

Highlights: Just 10 minutes from Louisville, Sellersburg, Indiana’s Art in Speed Park is returning later this month for its 28th year. A wonderful event that celebrates some of the best of our local culture, Art in Speed Park is treated by its organizers almost as more of a backyard garden party – with the setting of a historic, tree-lined shady park, the atmosphere is calming and easy as opposed to hectic and crowded. There will be art for sale to meet any budget, and such local artists as Jeaneen Barnhart, Albert Nelson and Chad Balster will be showcasing some of the best visual art of the area. Additionally, musical entertainment will be provided by such local favorites as Robbie Bartlett, the Troubadours of Divine Bliss and more. For the kiddos, a Kids Create Tent will be onsite to help the younger ones get the creative spark. Meanwhile for the adults, a wine garden with wine and sangria provided by Huber’s Orchard and Winery is sure to be a hit.

What’s New: This year, attendees can look forward to a brand new market area with handcrafted foods that are sure to be more than just a hot dog and a pretzel.

Price Range: $20-Thousands

Logistics: Not only is the event free, but parking is free as well at Silver Creek High School, just a block away from Speed Park. Hours on both Saturday and Sunday are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and air conditioned restrooms will be available within the park.

St. James Court Art Show   October 5-7

Highlights: One of the Louisville’s most hotly anticipated art shows, the St. James Court Art Show will return this year October 5-7 in historic Old Louisville. As attendees peruse the gorgeous artworks, they will also meander the streets of a neighborhood that is one of the nation’s finest examples of Victorian architecture. With over 700 exhibiting artists and 17 artistic mediums, there is sure to be something for everyone. And it’s all sure to be top-notch as well, as only about one-in-four artists who apply to exhibit are accepted. The wildly popular event, which annually attracts over 150,000 visitors and tops $3 million in sales, is always highly attended, so get there early!

What’s New: This year is Howard Rosenberg’s first year as executive director, and he will bring with him a wealth of experience to his new position as he currently serves as the chair of the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council and the Garvin Gates Blues Festival. Additionally, the team has hired a marketing firm and is making concentrated effort to reach the younger art lover as well we as the perennial patron.

Price Range: $10-$10,000

Logistics: The St. James Court Art Show is always free to guests, and 2018 hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Parking is free on the streets, but spots can be extremely limited. Various nonprofits and organizations have paid lots set up in the neighborhood if you’d prefer to spend your time browsing the art as opposed to hunting for a parking spot.

Big Four Arts Festival

September 8-9 

Highlights: After last year’s wonderfully successful inaugural festival, the Big Four Arts Festival is ready to gear up for year two! This one-of-a-kind event is set against the backdrop of one of the community’s most scenic areas: the Big Four Bridge and Lawn. Guests will be able to stroll along the spacious paths and take in some pieces from across the country as well as from across the city. Music will keep the party going with a fastidiously curated lineup that is sure to only add to the enjoyment of the beautiful visual art. A highlight is the Preview Party held the night before the festival officially opens; guests for this exclusive evening will enjoy private access to select artists booths as well as sumptuous refreshments.

What’s New: The festival has added a whopping 100 artists to the lineup this year, setting up patrons for an even greater chance of finding the very thing they’re looking for. Additionally, this year will see a kid-friendly petting zoo featuring llamas.

Price Range: $5-$15,000

Logistics: The event is completely free, and a trolley will help ease the parking headache along River Road. The hours this year are 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Mellwood Interactive Art Show

September 8-9

Highlights: For the 10th year, the Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center will host its September art show. Though this year will once again see a wide range of artists showcasing their various wares, this year’s event has been relaunched as the Mellwood Interactive Art Show. So in addition to the 40+ vendors specializing in painting, photography, furniture, handmade clothing/accessories, digital art and more, the event will feature immersive art exhibitions that take the experience to a new level. The show is completely family-friendly, and all proceeds from the interactive activities will be donated to Gilda’s Club Louisville.

What’s New: What’s truly going to make this year stand out on the show’s timeline is the interactive aspect. Karl Otto will design a mini-Gallopalloza that attendees can color in with paint markers, and Roscoe, a local graffiti artist, will do live graffiti during the event. There will also be a tie-dye station and a “Splash Into History” community art project. Three balloons can be purchased for $1, which participants will then throw at a soon-to-be demolished metal building. The painted section will later turn into a sculpture to be displayed on Mellwood’s property.

Price Range: $15-$500

Logistics: Completely free, the show will run 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. A special luxury of Mellwood is that it will offer restrooms and water fountains indoors. There’s also expansive parking opportunities, which will make getting there a breeze.

Posted on 2018-08-06 by Remy Sisk