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Patricia Kennedy
IU Department of Theatre and Drama

Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brown County Playhouse to provide performance space for displaced Little Nashville Express

WHAT: Little Nashville Express
WHEN: Doors will open at 7 p.m. for performances that will take place Fridays from 8-11 p.m., Nov. 13, 20, 27, Dec. 4, 11 and 18. Special shows will take Thursday, Nov. 26, 8-11 p.m., in honor of Thanksgiving, and Thursday, Dec. 31, from 9 p.m.-midnight in honor of New Year's Eve.
WHERE: The Brown County Playhouse is located in Nashville, Ind., on Ind. 135 (South Van Buren St.). Concessions will be available for purchase before the show and during intermission.
TICKETS: $10. Tickets can be purchased from the Brown County Visitors Bureau by calling 800-753-3255 or at the Brown County Playhouse box office the Friday of each show beginning at noon. Seating is limited, so theatergoers are encouraged to order tickets in advance. General seating only, no reserved seats.
NOTE: Tickets from Little Nashville Opry shows will not be honored at these shows.

Nov. 10, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- When the historic Little Nashville Opry closed its doors after a devastating fire in September, Indiana University Department of Theatre and Drama Chair Jonathan Michaelsen met with staff and leadership from IU Foundation and asked "What can we do to help the community?"

theatre image

Brown County Playhouse

Michaelsen, also producer of the Brown County Playhouse, began a conversation with the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCCVB) that led to a decision to open the Brown County Playhouse in Nashville, Ind., during the holiday season. The playhouse, which is owned by IU Foundation, is normally closed all winter, opening in the late spring and concluding its shows in the early fall.

Appearing each week through New Year's Eve at the Brown County Playhouse will be the Little Nashville Express Band, which has performed country hits at the Opry for the past 30 years. The band incorporates multiple guitars, a fiddle, keyboards and drums to deliver the classic country sound it has had for more than three decades. Little Nashville Express Band will be presented by the BCCVB on Friday nights starting Nov. 13, with special performances on Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.

"The Brown County Playhouse is Indiana's oldest professional theater company," said Patricia Kennedy, arts administrator for the Department of Theatre and Drama. Kennedy said that although the playhouse isn't big enough to accomodate the large touring shows that performed at the Opry, when Debbie Dunbar of the BCCVB called with a proposal to present the Little Nashville Express at the Brown County Playhouse, "it seemed like an excellent opportunity to find a viable way to keep the playhouse open for some productions during the winter."

The Brown County Playhouse opened in the summer of 1949 in partnership with Nashville businessman Jack Rogers and Professor Lee Norvelle, who is heralded as the founder of the Department of Theatre and Drama as it exists today. Consisting then of a barn and tent, the not-for-profit playhouse opened its first season with the comedy The Old Soak by Don Marquis.

The Brown County Playhouse has become one of the longest-running professional summer stock theaters in the Midwest, bringing in seasoned professionals from around the country as well as serving as a professional training ground for student actors, directors and designers.

The current Brown County Playhouse, now owned by the IU Foundation and managed year-round by the Department of Theatre and Drama and Brown County Playhouse Inc., is a not for profit 501c(3) organization. "It's always a surprise to tourists when they pass through the deceptively small entrance," said Kennedy. "Inside, the playhouse has 425 seats with great leg room, a three-quarter thrust stage and an outstanding reputation that brings visitors from around the nation back year after year."

"It wasn't easy to put together an agreement like this," said Michaelsen. "All members of our department are actively engaged in eight full productions at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center from September to May, as well as teaching a full academic load. I am very proud of my staff for lending their time and talents to work with the Brown County CVB."

Michaelsen also credits John Wilhite and the IU Foundation for "the spirit of generosity and support they have shown to the Department of Theatre over the years, and now to the community of Nashville at a time of need."

"We've wanted to try something like this for some time and have great confidence in the Brown County CVB as presenters," says Michaelsen. "Although the department will be providing maintenance and technical advice, by stepping up to the plate and taking on responsibility for these dates, they have helped turn this into a win-win situation for IU and the community of Nashville."

"The entire community is excited about the new partnership with the playhouse and the IU Foundation, and hopes that this will lay the groundwork for future opportunities," said Mike Patrick, vice chair of the BCCVB board.

For more information about Brown County Playhouse, see