There’s Broadway, off-Broadway, and off-off-Broadway. Then there’s Louisville, where you can jam a season’s worth of theater into a single weekend, rub elbows with actors at late-night joints, and eavesdrop on playwrights over bourbon during the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays (March 2–April 10).
Hosted by Actors Theatre of Louisville (316 W. Main St., 502-584-1205) and now in its 40th year, the festival has given birth to several Pulitzer Prize winners, launched the early careers of talents such as Tony Award–winning playwright Marsha Norman and Oscar winner Kathy Bates, and premiered original dramas and comedies that have gone on to acclaim in New York, across the country, and on film. Because plays run in repertoire, weekend visitors can take in multiple shows (packages from $164 for three shows) and—depending on the crowd—fall in with the artists, critics, and industry professionals who make the westward pilgrimage.
The hottest ticket this year? A new play by Sarah Ruhl, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist who has racked up kudos in a career that includes sensational Victorian-era comedy In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). As you might guess from that earlier work, this latest effort from Ruhl, For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, is not exactly kid-friendly. But advance notices indicate that (yes!) there will be flying.
Meeting the talent is pretty easy. After shows, actors can be found having a nosh (and nip) at the bar in MilkWood Restaurant, the theater’s in-house eatery. Because performers stay nearby at the Galt House (140 N. 4th St., 502-589-5200), your odds of hobnobbing are also good in the hotel’s Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar, a vintage-Kentucky spot with dark wood and cushy armchairs. And since you’ll probably want to sleep in after such a show-stopping night, make breakfast a matinee brunch at Toast on Market (620 E. Market St., 502-569-4099) in the NuLu (“New Louisville”) district.
The chow is chic, seasonal, and regional at Proof on Main (702 W. Main St., 502-217-6360)—and served with a side of contemporary art at the adjoining 21c Hotel Museum.
The brand-new boutique hotel Aloft Louisville has geek-out tech, but the great views of downtown are the real marvel (102 W. Main St., 502-583-1888).