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Start Your Engines

By Rick Pender · May 30th, 2012 · Curtain Call
fringe1WONDERHEADS present 'Grim & Fischer' - Photo: James Douglas

By the time you read this, the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival will be fully under way. Even if you can’t see every show (an almost impossible task, even if you buy the “Full Frontal” pass with access to all performances), you owe it to yourself to come for an evening or two and sample the creativity that will be flowing throughout the 10 venues across Over-the-Rhine. I recommend you purchase a “Voyeur” pass, good for six admissions (shows are individually priced at $12; the “Voyeur” is $60, so you get a free ticket); plan on three different evenings and see two shows each night.

Unless you have a friend in a show or there’s a performer you loved last year who you want to be sure to see again, I suggest waiting until Friday for your first evening. By that time, more than half of the shows will be up and running. If you want some guidance, check out CityBeat’s arts blog where reviews will be posted the day after a show opens. And don’t forget the value of word of mouth: Listen to what other Fringe attendees are saying.

I can only guess which shows will be must-see choices, but I’ll suggest on Friday evening you might want to catch Tanya O’Debra in Radio Star at 7:15 p.m. and Kevin J. Thornton in Strange Dreamz at 9 p.m., both at the “Hanke 2” venue (1128 Main St., enter from Michael Bany Way). Both are touring performers: O’Debra has earned “best” awards at other Fringe festivals; Thornton was a hit at the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe with I Love You (We’re Fucked), a monologue with original tunes. Another good option for Friday will be two FringeNext shows by high school kids, presented at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. 

On Saturday you could focus on Cincinnati-based productions. Don’t Cross the Streams: The Cease & Desist Musical (Know Theatre, 4:15 p.m.) sounds like a zany piece of tomfoolery about the legal challenges faced by actors trying to make a musical out of an iconic comedy film from the ’80s. The Doppelganger Cometh and Overtaketh (Emery Theatre, 7:45 p.m.) is the first production by a new company, Homegrown Theatre, featuring young local talent performing an original script inspired by the worlds of fantasy and video gaming.

You might still have time to squeeze in a third local piece on Saturday, Quake: A Closet Love Story, by Minnesota playwright Tyler Olsen (Hanke 1, 9 p.m.).

Your Fringe experience is best extended on any evening by dropping in to the Underground, Know Theatre’s below-the-street bar where everyone hangs out between shows and late in the evening. There’s fun planned every night (“An Evening of Tom Waits” on Friday and the annual Fringe Prom on Saturday), but the best part is meeting a performer or two and comparing notes with others who are seeing shows. Fringe is a complete social experience and one you should experience if you love our local theater scene.

• There’s something different getting under way at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (CSC), which recently announced that Jay Woffington will join the classical theater’s administrative team as executive director. It’s an unexpected move by a guy who’s made waves in the business community for 15 years: He impressed a lot of people as a young marketer with Procter & Gamble, grew the digital marketing agency Bridge Worldwide from 30 people into a 1,000-employee powerhouse called Possible Worldwide with $100 million in net revenue. Ready for a new challenge, he stepped down as Possible’s Global President in 2011 and began seeking his next gig, which turned out to be CSC.

Woffington is also a theater guy. The son of a high school drama teacher, he performed as a kid and while studying at Duke University; he’s been involved for years with Cincinnati community theaters. Six years ago, he brought his enthusiasm and his agency’s expertise to CSC’s board, leading the company through a successful re-branding that has spelled box-office success. 

As of July 1, he’ll be engaged in a more hands-on way, increasing the company’s business and strategic capacity. He and artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips have a grand vision that might include a new location, multiple performance spaces and more. Plans are still taking shape, but it’s “possible” Woffington will be a catalyst for CSC to grow into an important regional theater. Keep an eye on them. It’s a game-changing move.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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