deTour: Lexington Children’s Theatre at Sleepy Head House

The Blue Grass Trust’s deTours  is a group of young professionals (and the young at heart).  The program provides behind-the-scenes tours of  historic buildings, places, and sites in central Kentucky.   BGT deTours are free and open to the public. They occur on the first Wednesday of every month.

Lexington Children’s Theatre.  Image via Panoramio

This month deTours visited the Lexington Children’s Theatre to get a behind the scenes look at their operation (the sets! the costumes! the rehearsal space!) and their historic location, the former Sleepy Head House office and factory buildings.

The Lexington Children’s Theatre (LCT) is a “fully professional, non-profit organization dedicated to the intellectual and cultural enrichment of young people.”  It creates “imaginative compelling theater experiences for young people and families” and it aspires to “impart, explore, foster and develop artistry at all levels and ages in every theatrical discipline.”

deTour participants hang out around the main stage.

The LCT was founded in 1938, but did not have a permanent home until 1998 when it completed renovations on the Sleepy Head House buildings.  The adaptive reuse project combined the interior spaces of 4 buildings (416, 420, 422, and 426 West Short Street). In two years, LCT’s architects were able to take factory space in the heart of downtown and remold and reshape its interiors  into a self-sufficient theater and education space complete with two stages, a costume shop, a set design shop, classrooms, rehearsal spaces and storage, storage, storage.

Head costume and puppet designer, Eric Abele, at work in the design studio.

The Theatre’s buildings are part of the block of buildings dating from the late 19th century to the early 20th century that were renovated in the 1980s to create Victorian Square, a mixed use development.  The Theatre is not owned by Victorian Square, but its buildings are contributing resources to the National Register Historic District by the same name.

Sleepy Head House was a subsidiary of Southern Bedding. This photo of its retail store taken in March of 1934 shows people gathered to watch a radio broadcast of WLAP from its window. Image via GTSmith

According to the LFUCG, the LCT’s buildings date from the 1920s and 1930s.  The LCT’s facade is made up of two 3-story, multi-bay wire brick buildings and two 2-story, multi-bay brick buildings. As I mentioned before, the building once housed the manufacturing and office space for Sleepy Head House.  Sleepy Head House advertised itself as “The South’s most complete Factor-Furniture Store”  where “discriminatory customers can get exactly what they desire in quality home furnishings at low factory-t0-consumer prices.”  The company manufactured Sleepy Head brand mattresses, pillows, box springs, living room suites,and studio couches.   It also produced institutional bedding, which it supplied to many Kentucky colleges. Sleepy Head’s showroom was located on the other side of the block in the Feeney Building (415-419 West Main Street), where the company’s motto was proudly displayed: “We Work That You May Sleep”

LCT cast rehearsal

Currently the LCT is showing their production, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (the screen play was written in-house!) and will soon be showing the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. If you are in Lexington, be sure to stop by for a show. They are always one-of-a-kind!  Tickets are available online and at the door.

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