Northern Kentucky has a terrific selection of theaters showcasing local actors and artists. From the sizable theater at the Carnegie to the charm of Union Community Theatre, our homegrown thespians are taking the boards by storm. Lucky for us, we get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The Carnegie in Covington is home to galleries, classrooms and the Otto M. Budig Theatre. The iconic building was originally constructed in 1904 as a Carnegie Library, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of only a handful of remaining Carnegie Libraries with a full-scale auditorium. 

Today, the restored theater attracts audiences from both sides of the Ohio River, according to Maggie Perrino, theater director, “the split is about 50-50 for our audience and Northern Kentuckians have found a great place in their own backyards for theater.”

The Carnegie Theatre Series this year includes productions of the musical comedy Company, the intriguing Sleuth (can you solve the mystery?) and follow the yellow brick road (or at least Scott Boulevard) to catch The Wizard of Oz. 

Perrino is especially excited about the collaboration within the Carnegie to produce The Wizard of Oz. She says, “All three branches of the Carnegie are working together on this project. The Munchkins will be selected from children in our theater education program and Carnegie artist Pam Kravitz is doing the set design.”

Budding actor in your household? The Eva G. Farris Education Center at The Carnegie offers up acting classes for children in after-school programs and at their summer camp.

The Showbiz Players, Inc., also call The Carnegie home and have produced such laugh-out-loud classics such as Monty Python’s Spamalot, Avenue Q and, this season, The Rocky Horror Show-Live.

Ted Weil is the artistic director of the Falcon Theatre in Newport and we asked him to share his views on the local theater scene. “This area has an amazing theater scene. There is so much theater being done in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area that there’s no way to see it all. That’s really exciting for us as we develop our company and programming. There is a lot of competition out there for audiences to choose from, but it’s also helping to inspire audiences to try new things and seek out new theatrical opportunities.”

Weil continues, “It’s also an incredible place to live as an artist. There are so many opportunities for artists to develop their skills and collaborate with others. It also offers opportunities for theater companies like ours to work with other companies at times. The sharing spirit that exists between all the theaters in this area is also one of the reasons we’ve all been able to be successful.”

The Falcon is looking forward to its January production of Prelude To A Kiss, says Weil. “[Prelude] was a very popular show in the ‘90s and then it disappeared from stages almost as quickly as it emerged. It was originally written as an allegory of the AIDS crisis, but at its core, it’s about loving another person and holding on to your faith in them long after the physical attraction has gone. Our small space will make this play very intimate and will make its impact that much more powerful.” 

At the corner of Eighth and York streets in Newport you will find the Stained Glass Theatre. Once the Salem United Methodist Church, it became home to the theater group the Footlighters, Inc. in 1986, and they lovingly repurposed the then-tornado-damaged church into their new home. Built in 1882, the church was designed by Samuel Hannaford, (designer of Cincinnati’s City Hall and Music Hall) and had sustained considerable damage during the tornado. Today, it is a lovely venue for a show, and while the pews are gone, the stained-glass windows and ambience remain.

A quick check of its past productions includes such favorites as Rent, Annie and Into the Woods. This season is offering up How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Picnic and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. 

What’s it like to perform in Northern Kentucky? We asked local actor Sean P. Mette about the Northern Kentucky theater scene from an actor’s point of view. 

“Every theater that I have worked with in Northern Kentucky, and the entire Tristate area, strives to make the best art possible. I would put the productions being performed in this region on par with productions being performed in any other major market. 

“Our theaters, may not have the same budgets as theaters in Chicago and New York, but who gets into theater for the money?” jokes Mette.

“When I think of the theater and art being performed and created, I don’t necessarily see this boundary between Kentucky artist and Ohio artist. I know many, including myself, that will perform on both sides of the river. I think that what will often strike me more is that the audiences are very similar to each other, but for whatever reason they may not travel across the divide that is the Ohio River to see theater on the other side. However, that does create the desire for quality theater in communities across our region, creating more opportunities for artists to perform and showcase their craft.”

Keeping the stage set close to home are the Village Players of Ft. Thomas, the Union Community Theatre and WIT-Women in Theatre. The Village Players have been performing in an old Cincinnati Bell building for decades and upcoming performances include Dearly Departed and the family-friendly My Friend the Fox. Union Community Theatre is currently performing at the historic Boone County Courthouse in Burlington and just wrapped up its youth production of Disney’s High School Musical, Jr. The Tony-award winning comedy/drama, Venus in Fur, was performed by WIT at St. John United Church of Christ in Bellevue.

Both Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More College have theater departments and offer several productions annually. Upcoming Villa Players (Thomas More) shows include Christmas Carol Radio Drama and Godspell. Northern Kentucky University’s theater program is housed in its Fine Arts Center and coming soon are Into the Woods and Once in a Lifetime.

Whether you are looking for a serious play, something fun for the family or want to belt out some show tunes on your drive home, Northern Kentucky theaters have something for almost everyone.