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Cincinnati Theater? Big News? You Bet!

By Rick Pender · September 1st, 2010 · Curtain Call
Over the past week, there’s been a lot of theater news to report. On Aug. 25, many fans of local theater were surprised by the announcement that the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs), supported by CityBeat since 1997, would join forces with the Acclaim awards, created in 2004 and supported by The Cincinnati Enquirer. If you have a good memory, you might recall a column I wrote back in May urging a stronger, singular program. After a lot of conversation (and some very helpful mediation), The Enquirer’s Jackie Demaline and I agreed that this would make for a program with a promising future while combining the best features of each program under the Acclaim banner.

We reiterated that announcement on Aug. 29 at the final presentation of the theater CEAs at Know Theatre before a crowd of approximately 200. I want to single out several companies for their outstanding work. (Find photos from the event and the complete list of winners here.)

Ensemble Theatre’s production of 33 Variations saw three of its actors — Amy Warner, Dale Hodges and Dennis Parlato — picked by public voting for their outstanding work.

Brian Mehring’s scenic design for that show was selected as the season’s best by a panel of critics. Know Theatre’s staging of Angels in America was named by the critics as the season’s best play, and its ensemble of actors was cited for outstanding work; in addition, actor Michael Bath was honored by the public for his performance as the vituperative Roy Cohn. Other shows picking up multiple recognitions were Know’s Adding Machine, The Carnegie’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Northern Kentucky University’s Bye Bye Birdie.

Aubrey Berg, chair of the musical theater program at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music for 23 years, was inducted into the CEA Hall of Fame, following his selection by the League of Cincinnati Theatres for its 2010 Continuing Achievement Award. His 2009 production of Hair, marking the CCM program’s 40th anniversary, was voted by the public as the season’s favorite university musical.

The Cincinnati Playhouse walked off with four CEAs, including critical achievement awards for the season’s best premiere, David Bar Katz’s tale of Superman’s creator, The History of Invulnerability (Outstanding Local Premiere), and Ed Stern’s magical production of The Fantasticks (Outstanding Musical). The latter recognition was especially poignant in light of last week’s other big news: Stern announced his planned departure from the Playhouse after the 2012 season. By that time he will have overseen 20 years of generally excellent plays and musicals at the Playhouse, a remarkable record for any artistic leader, especially in the tumultuous and volatile world of theater. His longevity and firm hand as an artistic and community leader will be hard to replace, but he leaves the Playhouse on excellent footing, including the addition of two Tony Awards to its illustrious 50-year history.

That’s a big week for local theater: The finale of a 14-year theater recognition program, an honor for Berg’s 23 years at CCM and the announcement that the end of Stern’s tenure is imminent. Stern played a role in the founding of the League of Cincinnati Theatres. Berg has trained performers who entertain theatergoers across the United States. And the CEAs have recognized the excellent work of these creative talents and many others. It’s a good time to celebrate theater in Cincinnati.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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