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What's This?

atthevanishingpoint-01Butchertown isn’t an industrial slaughterhouse along Story Avenue. It’s not the gritty refinement of the riverside neighborhood’s historic architecture—or the swaths of urban fabric that disappeared during the 1937 flood. It’s the connected stories of its inhabitants, past and present. Those stories are at the center of Naomi Iizuka’s play, At the Vanishing Point, opening tonight at Actors Theater.

The play was originally performed inside an abandoned warehouse in Butchertown for the 2004 Humana Festival of New American Plays and is back as part of the Brown-Forman Series, running through February 15. And we’re giving Broken Sidewalk readers the chance win two tickets to Thursday’s 7:30p.m. showing of At The Vanishing Point as well as two tickets to Friday’s OFFstafe@Actors party at the Copper & Kings distillery in Butchertown (details below).

At the Vanishing Point is “based on interviews with locals and an extensive exploration of the area’s history.” Those community stories are shaped around the collective memory of the neighborhood and accompanied by the cello music of Ben Sollee, who will be playing live at every performance.

“The piece is about the spirit of a place,” Iizuka told Actors Theater, “and what drew all sorts of different people to this extraordinary part of America.”

Bruce McKenzie takes the stage as the Photographer in the 2004 Humana Festival premiere. (Harlan Taylor / Courtesy Actors Theater)
Bruce McKenzie takes the stage as the Photographer in the 2004 Humana Festival premiere. (Harlan Taylor / Courtesy Actors Theater)

Hannah Rae Montgomery, dramaturg at Actors Theater, put it this way:

Imagine having lived and worked in the same neighborhood your whole life. You’ve watched it grow and change as the years pass, your story one snapshot among many in an ever-evolving collage of neighbors, friends, and family.

For the characters in Naomi Iizuka’s At the Vanishing Point, that neighborhood is Louisville’s historic Butchertown. Drawing inspiration from archival research, interviews with long-time residents, and the work of Kentucky photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Iizuka has crafted a finely detailed, yet remarkably fluid look at this close-knit community. In At the Vanishing Point, historical fact merges with fiction and local legend, music complements storytelling, and past and present intertwine.

These memories and community histories are reinterpreted by Iizuka in the play. “It’s set in Butchertown, and all the references are about Butchertown,” Actors Theater art director Les Waters told Montgomery, “but it wasn’t just a matter of going and taking down what people said and editing it together… What we’re not trying to do is recreate Butchertown onstage.”

Set for At the Vanishing Point. (Ben Sollee)
Set for At the Vanishing Point. (Ben Sollee)

The set design by Annie Smart reinforces this state of transition in its abstract form. According to Montgomery, “It includes trees and grass, which evoke the characters’ descriptions of afternoons at the Point or by the banks of Beargrass Creek, placed amidst more industrial, metallic surfaces (an indirect nod to the neighborhood’s meatpacking origins).” Photographs will be projected onto the set at various times.

“Visually, this should feel as if it’s going from something incredibly small to a torrent of images coming at you,” Waters told Montgomery. “So it gets very very big and then settles down to something very still again. It’ll have a strong poetic quality, as if the past is trying to talk to us.”

We’re thrilled to see Actors Theater’s continued interest in using the local community as a backdrop to its performances, and At the Vanishing Point is sure to present a fascinating look into the spirit that has shaped Butchertown over the past three centuries.

To enter the drawing for two tickets to Thursday’s showing of At the Vanishing Point paired with two tickets to Friday’s OFFstafe@Actors event, simply leave a short comment on this article below about a memory you have of Butchertown (be sure to use your real email so we can get in touch if you win) and share this article on Facebook or Twitter. That’s it. We’ll pick one winner at random and announce the results tomorrow, Wednesday, January 28 at 5:30p.m.

Here’s some additional information about OFFstage@Actors, taking place at 6:30p.m.:

Join us for a fun, casual night, featuring live music from members of the Slow Charleston and JOE, a one-of-a-kind collection of Louisville bluegrass and folk musicians. Plus, sample bites from some of Louisville’s favorite hotspots, including Harvest, Joy Luck, Comfy Cow and Garage Bar, and enjoy a fully-stocked cash bar with drink specials.

Good luck! And be sure to check out At the Vanishing Point before it closes February 15.

[Top Image: A lone boat floats down Main Street during the 1937 flood. (Courtesy Metropolitan Sewer Collection, UL Photographic Archives)]
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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

12 COMMENTS

  1. I remember sweeping floors at Butchertown Pub and drinking butcher blocks while playing Captain Fantastic at the upstairs pinball tourneys….. Working the Springfest and hanging out at Bakery Square, laying tile in bathrooms doing sweat equity at 3 am on Franklin Street and having rollerskate tournaments in 942 maybe E Washington St with Billy Hertz and Nancy April……… We loved the hood !

  2. I would love tickets to this show!

    My memory of Butchertown is hanging out at my friend’s house on Franklin for Thunder over Louisville and climbing up on the flood wall to watch fireworks.

  3. I remember, of course, Butchertown Pub, but what I really remember is the Hogs Run. A brutal race down Washington St. under the spires of beautiful St. Joseph’s. Always a great time, and a porcelain pig as an award!

  4. My favorite memories include taking my daily walk around the neighborhood and seeing how it has changed over the past 10 years. . . .

  5. I remember coming to Butchertown for Octoberfest. Once I went to Mass at St. Joseph’s, and then enjoyed the wonderful brats, sauerkraut, beer etc. at the festival. I also enjoyed visiting The Blind Pig in recent years. and attending a play at the theater in Butchertown, can’t recall the name of it.

  6. I saw the 2004 performance of At The Vanishing Point and remember experiencing a transposition I’d never felt from the theatre. Being in the heart of Butchertown and sitting in that drafty, brick warehouse provided an overwhelming sense of place that added a haunting layer to the show. To this day I talk about that show, it was that memorable. I’d love to be able to take my fiancè so he could understand what a fantastic show this is, and it would be a treat for me to see it performed again all these years later.

  7. I remember moving back to Louisville in 2013 after having been away for 7 years, riding my bike down Washington Street and knowing immediately that this neighborhood was where I would call home.

  8. My boyfriend and I used to live on spring street. My fondest memories were walking to Spring St bar and grille to grab dinner and drinks before walking to headliners for a show. Especially in milder weather! We also loved taking the bike path on beargrass to get to Lexington and Grinstead. We would also ride our bikes down to waterfront wednesdays and back.

  9. Memory of Butchertown…walking down the block on Franklin St. from my place to my friend’s. And then down to waterfront from there, and back again. Night after summer night.

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