I had a wonderful experience doing Peter and the Starcatcher at Jenny Wiley. Our show was in the indoor Pikeville space, which is just 3 years old and very nice. The staff couldn’t have been friendlier and our production people (stage manager, music director, costume designer, etc.) were all top notch. Jenny Wiley is still finding its audience as a year round theatre, however, and our audiences were very small. It was kind of demoralizing to consistently play to 20ish people in a house meant for 200, but I’m told audiences in the summer and fall are bigger. They covered all our travel (we flew from LGA to Charleston, WV and then they drove us) and we had no problems with paychecks.
Housing is in cabins 35ish minutes away in the middle of a state park in Prestonsburg. Beds were very comfy, but you couldn’t control the AC/heating. Some rooms would be boiling all night and some rooms would be freezing all night with no rhyme or reason and you couldn’t control it. There was only enough hot water for half the people in our cabin to take a shower at any given time. The company cars are functional, but each had its own unique set of problems that made them difficult to drive.
Also, you have to sign something in the contract saying that they can add performances up to 48 hours in advance without paying you more. They make their money off student matinees. We only did 3 of them, but they were at 10 AM and we had 7:30 PM shows the same day. It was death. The people who had worked at Jenny Wiley before said they had these matinees almost every day of the run, which is insanity, so it’s worth inquiring about before signing.
There was more to do in the two towns than I was expecting: A great movie theater with $4 tickets, $2 a game bowling, terrific BBQ, a planetarium, a cool museum about local history, amazing biscuits, a no frills gym, and the world’s slowest coffee shop. There are also numerous hiking, fishing, and other outdoor opportunities. Plus: Drive thru liquor stores! God bless America.
The contracts are generally only a month and the pay is decent, so despite a few negative things about the housing and student matinees, it’s pretty sweet as far as regional non-eq gigs go. If they offer you a role you want to play and/or you just need a little break from the city, I say take it. I’d gladly return. :)
Jenny Wiley could be a great theatre to work for. The stage manager and designers are very talented and work wicked fast and hard. The cabins are nice for being in the middle of nowhere with a/c and heat and amazing tempurpedic beds. (Though fair warning they are a 40 minute drive from the indoor theatre in Pikeville.) Also, the people in these small towns LOVE the theatre and the cast. They really do treat you like celebrities everywhere you go. You rehearse quickly and do A LOT of two show days, but our cast ended up having a lot of fun. While there aren’t many days off, there are a lot of beautiful hikes and nature activities to do.
That being said, they are clearly going through an administrative growth spurt at the moment. The managing director, Darryl, is new to his position after several years serving as TD and he is clearly more comfortable in the latter role. His communication is brusque and slow to non-existent. Our cast was informed days before leaving that we would be driving from NYC to Kentucky instead of driving (though we flew back thankfully). In addition, due to “how their payroll period works,” we were only paid once during a 4 week contract and only for one week’s worth of work. We got the second check closing night, and the final one nearly 3 weeks later mailed back to NY.
Sooo, if the play is good and you’re offered a great role, take the contract. It’s relatively short and mostly positive, but be prepared for some administrative issues.
Jenny Wiley Theatre is a wonderful place to work. Many come back for multiple seasons because he/she love it so much. It definitely gives you a break from the fast pace of city life, but be prepared to live in the mountains. It's gorgeous and the people are VERY nice in the area. Most of the local kids will attach quickly to you and you will soon feel like you have a new family.
As for productions, the shows are always wonderful, especially for outdoor theatre. Actors do help with the strike of the last show, which usually isn't bad at all. Living is fun, and usually lots of theme parties throughout the summer.
All in all, not many places I would give this much credit to.
I had a good experience.
Pros: They negotiate. There was a huge disparity amongst our leads, all about the same age, in pay. I made good money for a non-eq summer theater.
Like a lot of small town theaters, there is a lot of passion here and those few people make the theater go. However, they are few.
Con: You are in the middle of nowhere. I'm not into nature/hiking and while it was a nice place to run miles, you can barely walk to the nearest place to buy a soda. You live in a park.
I don't know if this is a con for you but it is folksy in the extreme. From greeting all the guests as they leave to naked children shrieking down the aisles of the sweltering (KY in the summer) ampitheater with light up toys sold by the concession stands.
It's a mixed bag. Not a great credit or anything but if you can be paid well to do a role you want on your resume, do it.
Did you got to KY from NYC? If so how did you get there? It's not close to any airports and the information I've received thus far hasn't said anything about pick up (I don't drive).
I worked at JWT (Pikeville location) over the holiday season. They are a newer theatre so you could tell they are trying to do everything they can to make the experience a good one. The housing is great, they are actual houses in the neighborhood (remember this is Pikeville, not Prestonsburg. In Prestonsburg you live in cabins). Anything you need, they are very quick to respond about in a helpful way. Just be prepared to be in a small town in Kentucky with not much to do. There's a movie theatre nearby for only $4, a few restaurants, and 1 bar. The most exciting outings are the once a week Walmart runs. The production value is high for non-equity theatre. Also, they are great about bringing people back for upcoming shows. I'd definitely recommend this theatre!
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