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A Sleeping Country

Theaters, Actors, Etc.

By Rick Pender · July 25th, 2007 · Curtain Call
  Neva Rae Powers, shown here in ETC's CEA-nominated Souvenir, will reprise her role for a run in Austria.
Sandy Underwood

Neva Rae Powers, shown here in ETC's CEA-nominated Souvenir, will reprise her role for a run in Austria.

The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park this week put in place the final production of its 2007-08 season when it announced the Mickey Kaplan New Play Prize, A SLEEPING COUNTRY by MELANIE MARNICH, to be presented March 22 to April 20, 2008, in the Thompson Shelterhouse. The Playhouse says it's a comedy "about sleep lost and hope found." A woman from New York City with a serious case of insomnia travels to Venice seeking help from a sleepless heiress who might be a distant relative. The Playhouse's ED STERN, praising the play's "singular comedic sensibility" says, "I was captivated by the totally unique voice Melanie Marnich has created." The writer has Cincinnati connections: She lived here 20 years ago when she was a copywriter for a local ad agency; she's been commissioned by Children's Theatre of Cincinnati to write several scripts (including the popular Jack and the Beanstalk).

Two of her scripts have been staged at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville: Quake (2001) and Tallgrass Gothic (2004). I interviewed her both times, so I can bear witness to her quick wit and her quirky sense of humor. Today she lives in Minneapolis and makes a full-time living as a playwright. She's a member of The Playwrights' Center there and also a participant in New Dramatists, a set of respected playwrights who come together in New York City to nurture one another's scripts. Stern has good instincts about scripts, so this one could be a must-see. ...

If you have doubts that Cincinnati is a place to see new works, check out the nominees for "Local Premiere" in this year's CINCINNATI ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS: You'll find four very different works. The "oldest" premiere nominee of 2006-07 is Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, which was first seen five years ago when it won the 2002 Tony for best new play; it was offered locally by New Stage Collective. That production's stage director, Alan Patrick Kenny, was music director for Know Theatre's staging of John Michael LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See, which got its start in 2005 at New York City's Public Theater. The other two CEA-nominated premieres happened at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC), whose mission is to present works new to Cincinnati audiences. They offered an almost brand-new work in Michael Hollinger's Opus (first staged in 2006) about a fractious string quartet, and followed it with another musically inspired piece, Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins by Stephen Temperley, which premiered in 2004 and had a Broadway run in 2005. Souvenir is about a real-life off-key singer from the 1940s. One of these productions will be named as the season's outstanding premiere on Aug. 27 when the CEAs are handed out at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. Check out other nominees: www.citybeat.com/cea. ...

If you missed Souvenir during its run at ETC, you have another chance to see it. But it will mean a trip to Austria in early September. Director MICHAEL EVAN HANEY, whose day job is as the Cincinnati Playhouse's associate artistic director, is restaging the production at Vienna's English Theatre, the oldest English-language theater in continental Europe (founded in 1963). Haney will re-assemble the two-person cast from Cincinnati -- New York actress NEVA RAE POWERS and Cincinnati pianist SCOT WOOLLEY -- to play the roles that earned them Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominations. ...

If you're one of those people who plans ahead for the holidays, you should mark Monday on your calendar, when four specially priced preview performances of A CHRISTMAS CAROL will go on sale. It's a great chance to experience a Cincinnati tradition at a bargain price: Preview performances on Dec. 1-2 will have adult tickets in selected locations Monday for only $35 if you buy them by Aug. 6. (Limit: Four tickets per order.) Box office: 513-421-3888.

contact rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com


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