I've commented more than once that African-American playwright AUGUST WILSON has been too long ignored in Cincinnati. That's changing with a near avalanche of works by Wilson, who died of liver cancer in 2005 at the age of 60. A series of free readings of his collected plays by CINCINNATI NEW LIGHT FESTIVAL begins 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Greenwich (2442 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills) with Gem of the Ocean. TAYLORE MAHOGANY SCOTT, who theater fans might remember from several seasons at Cincinnati Shakespeare five years ago, directs these performances. Wilson's 10 plays form a history of African-American life, each set in one of the 10 decades of the 20th century. Saturday the script is Joe Turner's Come and Gone (7:30 p.m.); then a double-bill on Sunday with Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (4 p.m.) and Wilson's 1990 Pulitzer Prize script, The Piano Lesson (7:30 p.m.).
The week continues with more 7:30 readings: Seven Guitars (Oct. 1); his 1985 Pulitzer winner, Fences (Oct. 2); Two Trains Running (Oct. 3); Jitney (Oct. 4); and King Hedley II (Oct. 5). The last reading offers excerpts from Wilson's final play, Radio Golf (4 p.m. Oct. 6). ENSEMBLE THEATRE OF CINCINNATI will fully stage Radio Golf (March 19-April 6, 2008). But before that happens, LYLE BENJAMIN and QUEEN CITY OFF-BROADWAY will present Jitney (opening Oct. 11 at New Stage Collective's space at 1140 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine); Benjamin also plans to produce Gem of the Ocean in the same space in January. If you've never experienced a Wilson play, you should; and if you've seen one performed, you'll be back for more. Info: www.freewebs.com/cincinnatinewlightfestival. ...
One of the newest members of the League of Regional Theatres (often referred to by its initials, LORT) is ENSEMBLE THEATRE OF CINCINNATI. ETC joins more than 70 nonprofit companies in an association of the nation's leading resident professional theaters. According to ETC's LYNN MEYERS, "As ETC continues to move forward, the LORT contract was a goal. It is a tangible representation of our dedication to professional and high performance standards." It's also a tangible step forward in improvement in what ETC pays its professional actors. "We believe in investing in the artists you see on our stage today and those who will appear in years to come." On Sunday, ETC concludes a run of its powerful season opener, David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole; its 2007 production of Michael Hollinger's Opus won the Cincinnati Entertainment Award for outstanding drama. ...
THE BROADWAY SERIES opened its 20th season this week with a production at the Aronoff Center of My Fair Lady. (Tickets: 513-241-7469). Since 1987, more than 4.5 million people have seen touring shows here in Cincinnati. With the highest number of season ticket holders in the Broadway Across America network of 40 cities, Cincinnati has become the No. 1 city for touring shows. We have been among the first cities in the country to present The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Les Misérables and Wicked. That tradition continues this year with tours of The Color Purple, Jersey Boys and John Doyle's Broadway revival of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. ... If you want to play artistic director for a local theater, Jersey Productions, which makes its home at Covington's Carnegie Center, awaits your suggestions. Larry Smiglewski has asked fans of musicals to recommend up to three shows they'd like to see him stage. Entries are due to by Monday (send them to Larry@jerseyproductions.org). Submissions will be entered into a raffle for a 2008 season subscription, drawn on the opening night of Jersey's December production, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
contact rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com