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In the Know

By Rick Pender · September 27th, 2011 · Curtain Call
Eric Vosmeier, artistic director at Know Theatre, the purveyor of Cincinnati’s annual Fringe Festival, keeps building on a concept of a community of artists as he maps the edgy theater’s future. Know began in 1997 as an itinerant company that moved from place to place; it parked for a while at Gabriel’s Corner, a church basement at Sycamore and Liberty, before moving to OTR’s Jackson Street location in 2006, recently brightened by a sprightly marquee garnished with neon.

While other theaters have opened their 2011-2012 seasons, Vosmeier is just now announcing what Know will present, waiting on scripts with the ink still drying. Know was at the center of last week’s Midpoint Music Festival, with its contribution to the Box Truck Carnival, an intimate play, We Haul — in a truck, of course, accommodating two actors and an audience of six. (Know commissioned the script by writer Sharyn Rothstein.)

Know’s first onstage production will be Gruesome Playground Injuries (Oct. 8- Nov. 5), Rajiv Joseph’s new play about the connection between love and pain. It features the artists from 2010’s Skin Tight, Know’s best show of last season: director Drew Fracher and actors Beth Harris and Jens Rasmussen.

For the holidays Vosmeier will present Abe Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party (Nov. 26-Dec. 23), a recent off-Broadway hit that stepped up from the New York Fringe. He’s still negotiating rights for an early 2012 show; in March he’ll offer a work assembled from the Afghan Women’s Writing Project that Vosmeier hopes might feature Zahra Fazal, whose Headscarf and the Angry Bitch was a hit during the 2011 Fringe.

To finish the season next spring, Vosmeier is negotiating for a recent Rock musical. (UPDATE: It's a good one: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.)

“Know has been lacking in musicals, and I felt we needed more works by women,” Vosmeier says.

Issues of diversity are important, too, as is collaboration, including a project with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to present Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children late next summer. Before next June’s Fringe Festival, Vosmeier will bring back several popular 2011 artists, including Jimmy Hogg on Oct. 19 and Joe Hutcheson’s Miss Magnolia Beaumont in January.

Vosmeier says Know strives to “present the best-crafted stories that can be told only in a live theatrical setting.” The theater has struggled with tight financing for several seasons. “We’re treading water but getting by,” Vosmeier says, who handles fundraising as well as artistic activities. “Our prospects are improving.”

Funding from the Haile Foundation, which has supported ticket prices for several seasons, has been transferred to Know’s innovative Jackson Street Market project, creating a nurturing environment for entrepreneurial artists, theatrical and otherwise. Vosmeier hopes to offer grants to performers beyond Know’s facility. Calculus: The Musical, a piece that Know first presented in the 2006 Fringe, is now a touring production they manage: last season it played to 45,000 students in 33 states.

“We’re a little more off-color than other theaters,” Vosmeier says, “and we like to play a little more. Looking to the future, we see ourselves as an artist-services company, operating in an increasingly entrepreneurial way. We’re trying to build a community of artists.” 

That’s a unique niche for a theater company, one that Vosmeier and Know are creatively filling.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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