In the summer of 1986, “The Robber Bridegroom,” was staged as part of Hernando’s sesquicentennial celebration. Many talented individuals in the county who had been introduced to theater during high school came together and performed to packed houses in the historic Hernando High School Auditorium.
This success led several of the actors and supporters to form the Northwest Mississippi Theatre Guild, which later became known as Kudzu Playhouse. The next production, “The Fantasticks”, was taken to a statewide competition and swept the awards, winning best production, best director, best actress, best set, and best supporting actress. In 1989, Kudzu again took a production to state competition and returned home with a car full of awards: best show, best director, and best supporting actor for their production of “On the Verge”, a short comedy. The show was then presented at the Southeastern Regional Theater Competition in Louisville, Kentucky, where it again was voted best show and advanced to the national competition in Omaha, Nebraska. The show came in fourth place and attracted enough attention to garner an invitation to perform at the Canadian National Theater Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.
Kudzu also created a theater program aimed at younger audience. Kidzu began as a theater troupe composed of teenagers who took shows to the local elementary schools, but over the years it evolved into a summer workshop for children under 12 and was at one time co-sponsored by the First Regional Library as part of the library’s summer reading program. Most recently, Kidzu has become a full-time children’s arm of Kudzu and is now successfully producing shows with entire casts of local kids.
Since its beginning, Kudzu Playhouse has taken pride in producing high-quality dramatic entertainment using local talent. Despite being “homeless” for most of its history, Kudzu has produced quality entertainment in school cafeterias, high school auditoriums, elementary school classrooms, churches, and restaurants.
In the spring of 1990, Kudzu was instrumental in bringing theater into Horn Lake and Hernando High Schools, which had no formal theater program at the time. With a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, Kudzu helped produce the play “Making It” at Hernando High School, and the grant enabled them to stage joint productions until the spring of 2000 when both schools began individual theater programs.
Although it has struggled throughout its history and has been plagued by a lack of money and performance space, Kudzu Playhouse has a long and distinguished history. Like the vine that was chosen as its name, Kudzu is hard to kill. Given a little time and fertile soil, it will thrive and spread. Kudzu continues today to present quality, live community theater that entertains and delights its audiences.