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February 19, 2004

John Kenley John Kenley
courtesy of Human Race Theatre

Actors’ Equity Award Honorary Life Membership to John Kenley

At its meeting on February 17, 2004, the Council of Actors’ Equity unanimously awarded an Honorary Life Membership to John Kenley, the colorful and flamboyant producer and director of the Kenley Players. For almost 30 years, the Kenley Players were synonymous with summer theatre in Ohio and Michigan.

“From 1957 to 1995, Kenley put the “stars” in summer skies over Ohio,” said President Patrick Quinn. “John entertained millions of theatre goers and gave our members tens of thousands of workweeks. It is only fitting that we honor his extraordinary contribution to the American theatre by bestowing him with this Life Membership. Many Equity members, including myself, got out start in professional theatre during those happy, incredible summers with the Kenley Players.”

On Wednesday, March 24th, the Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton will pay tribute to John Kenley and the Kenley Players, with a special gala performance of “Getting To Know You,” followed by a cast performance at Marion’s Piazza.

Several Council members spoke fondly about their experience working at the Kenley Players.

Councillor Jane A. Johnston, who grew up in Akron, recalled that Kenley gave many stars a boost, and shaped her own career: “The list of stars who worked for John is fantastic - Paul Lynde, Vivian Blaine, Ethel Merman, Ed Ames, Jane Powell, Robert Goulet, Florence Henderson, Robert Reed, Shirley Jones, Joel Grey, Gloria Swanson, Tommy Tune, Vince Price, Henry Winkler, Mickey Rooney, Ann Miller, Noel Harrison, Jack and Alan Jones, Imogene Coca, Artie Johnson, Elaine Stritch, Rich Little, Robert Horton, Chester Morris and many, many more.”

Quinn added that “John was, and is, one of the true originals in this business. He refined and ultimately defined the golden days of Equity Summer Stock.”

Related story: http://www.actorsequity.org/TheatreNews/04_2_11_kenley.html For more information about the gala, visit www.humanracetheatre.org or call 937-461-3823.

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