One of the reasons Cincinnati has a fine local theater scene is because of our strong community theaters across the Tristate. Approximately two dozen of these companies constitute ACT-Cincinnati, the "association of community theaters," which are groups of volunteers in neighborhoods all over the area -- several good ones operate in Northern Kentucky -- who put on shows for the love of doing it.
Of course, some of the work is amateurish, but you'd be surprised how often a production is truly worth seeing. I don't have room in CityBeat to write about all these shows, but this time of year I remind readers to check out the annual ACT-Cincinnati excerpt competition Friday and Saturday at the Hamilton campus of Miami University.
Over a two-day stretch (and for a mere $20; you can buy a ticket at Parrish Auditorium when you arrive) you'll see more than a dozen 30-minute cuttings from some of our area's hardworking community theaters.
Lebanon Theater Company, for instance, is presenting scenes from its staging of Tennessee Williams' classic play The Glass Menagerie on Thursday evening.
On Saturday morning, William Nicholson's Retreat from Moscow -- an intense drama Cincinnati Playhouse produced in March 2005 -- will be offered by Stagecrafters. That afternoon The Drama Workshop, which presents its shows at the Westwood Town Hall, will present a portion of Inherit the Wind, the classic drama about the Scopes "Monkey Trial."
There's even a bit of Shakespeare on the program, The Comedy of Errors from Wyoming Players, early on Saturday afternoon. Here's a link to the full schedule: http://tinyurl.com/3twmwm.
Some of these performances will go on to a statewide competition later this summer. Watching these excerpts helps me identify performances to include in the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs), the theater and music recognition program established by CityBeat 12 years ago. The CEAs recognize theater performances and productions in 20 categories; this year most of them will have five nominees -- that's nearly 100 things onstage that you should have seen during the 2007-2008 season.
When the nominations are announced in early July, many will be from community theaters, and the "Community Theater" category will offer five productions that readers will be urged to cast a vote for their favorite.
Good theater is good theater, whether it's at our Tony Award-winning Cincinnati Playhouse or in a converted schoolhouse (Mariemont Players).
Many of the actors and directors you see working with Cincinnati's semi-professional companies started with a community theater, and many people in the audiences at the Playhouse and Ensemble Theatre first found their passion for theater at a neighborhood production. Check out the excerpts this weekend or a performance at a "theater near you." You'll be glad you did.
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