Every year it feels as if things get off to a slow start at Know Theatre of Cincinnati. The company, based in a two-story facility on Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine, is a venue for September’s Midpoint Music Festival, so its fall season begins a month later than other local theaters. (This year it kicked off with Gary Henderson’s Skin Tight. Drew Fracher staged the poignant piece about a tempestuous marriage, a tale told with beautiful language and stunning physicality, and it was a highlight of the fall season.)
But Know’s slow start is deceptive, especially this year. When the season was announced, Producing Artistic Director Eric Vosmeier described a new concept, “The Jackson Street Market.” It’s intended to provide space and other forms of support for fledgling theatrical producers without space or resources of their own. It’s still in its infancy, but the concept is bearing fruit in several obvious ways.
The first is True Theatre, which had its second quarterly outing earlier this week. A Monday evening of monologues about actual experiences or events, these two-hour presentations are assembled around a theme. With the new year just under way, the most recent program was dubbed “True Beginnings.” Coming in April will be “True Foolishness,” while the July program is seeking stories of “True Independence.” Organizers Jeff Groh and Dave Levy have found plenty of willing participants and the evenings are playing to overflow crowds.
The second program is Artemis Exchange.
Organizer Chris Wesselman says the group came together to produce Fringe Festival offerings. (The Fringe is another program Know operates.) Artemis presented A Perfectly Wonderful Evening in 2009 (recognized as the year’s “Best Alternative Production” by the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards) and Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I in 2010 (which earned another CEA nomination).
Wesselman jumped at Know’s offer and has assembled a new package of offerings, “@ the Underground,” a name reflecting the theater’s below-street-level lobby bar which doubles as a small performance space. Artemis Exchange’s first program was in mid-November with Peyote Business Lunch, a script drafted for the 2011 Fringe, and Seen Through the Eyes of a Crow, a collaborative piece from Pones Inc. and Performance Gallery, two other Fringe regulars. Wesselman recently issued a call to local theater artists for more programming (he invites ideas at email@example.com), and in February, the group will stage Winky, a script based on a short story by George Saunders and first adapted for the Satori Group, a set of theater artists with Cincinnati roots (and Fringe experience) now operating in Seattle.
Know has added a new wrinkle to the Fringe, too, with the creation of FringeNext, a program that invites high school students to create works for presentation during the annual festival. Applications were due this week for performance pieces that will be presented during the first week of Fringe in June.
As if that weren’t enough, Know is gearing up for its recently announced third production of the season, Aliens with Extraordinary Skills (Jan. 29-Feb. 16), mapping out the 2011 Fringe (May 31-June 11) and making plans for an LGBT Arts Festival, tentatively scheduled for November.
The slim staff at Know was recently augmented with a new managing director. Haley Elkins, formerly with the Cincinnati Ballet, joined the team on Jan. 1.
“Know Theatre is all about connection,” Elkins says, “connecting audiences to new work, connecting organizations to one another, connecting emerging arts administrators to their passion and connecting performers and writers to their craft.”
She and her colleagues at Know are working hard at those tasks.
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