The Cincinnati Fringe had its finale on Saturday evening in
a chaotic round of thanks and kudos at Know Theatre. If you’ve never attended
but want to know what it’s like, I’d compare the party to a tumultuous Saturday
morning at Findlay Market.
I’ve been a theater critic for almost
three decades. I’m an optimist: I routinely attend shows hoping to be
pleased or surprised. Doesn’t always happen, of course, but I keep going
back. Maybe that’s a little crazy, but I’ve kept at it for all these
years because our Cincinnati theater scene gets better and better, and I
want everyone to hear about it.
I don’t have the bandwidth nor does CityBeat
have enough space to write often about community theaters — groups of
volunteers who produce and perform in shows, often for audiences in a
specific neighborhood — but that’s not because they don’t do a good job.
You won’t find cutting-edge material
onstage at the Carnegie. The theater’s managing director Joshua Steele
has mastered two elements: He collaborates with a wide array of local
theater artists and companies, and he produces works that are, by and
large, familiar fare.
As CityBeat’s theater critic, I
write about plays and musicals, so I’m occasionally asked which I like
better. The truth is I appreciate both forms. But they are distinct, so
let me hold forth on some differences and similarities.
I love going to the movies, but I leave writing about them to others, especially my CityBeat
colleague tt stern-enzi, who routinely offers a perspective worth
reading. Nevertheless, I’m going to local cineplexes more often for
digital transmissions of theater from around the world.
Blake Robison wants the Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park to be at the forefront of Cincinnati’s cultural
conversation. “It’s our responsibility to bring the best theatrical
material, both old and new, to our community," he says.
With this week’s announcements of the 2014-15 seasons
for touring shows presented by Broadway in Cincinnati and by Cincinnati
Landmark Productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, you
have more than a dozen choices to consider.
Just a few more shopping days before
Christmas. Theater is a great idea for last-minute gifts. Start a
tradition that’s easy to repeat year after year. A trip to see a show is
a wonderful gift, especially for kids. My earliest memory of
theatergoing is my grandfather taking me to see the musical Brigadoon. I still remember it.
So it’s Thanksgiving week and I’m
wandering down memory lane to offer an insight into why I’m thankful to
be a theater critic. I grew up in a small town near Cleveland, acted
(poorly) in some high school productions and was infected with an
abiding love for theater. As a teenager I sought out productions at
places like the Cleveland Playhouse and summer seasons at Great Lakes
Know Theatre is typically the last of our
local professional theaters out of the gate in the fall. It takes the
small company a while to recuperate from the Fringe Festival, from being
a venue for the MidPoint Music Festival and from the numerous other
activities they host at their Jackson Street venue in Over-the-Rhine.
But they’re finally in the midst of the run of their first regular
production for fall 2013, Mike Bartlett’s Bull.
When I mention the Cincinnati Playhouse
in the Park, you likely think of the theater that sits on the hilltop
above Mount Adams...But the folks who run the
Playhouse know that new audiences must be continuously cultivated, and
for that reason, they deliver performances through a program they call
“Off the Hill,” which tours shows for young audiences to community arts
centers across the Tristate.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is partnering with the theater
program at Xavier University to stage Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
(Oct. 25- Nov. 3; tickets are $15-$30; 513-745-3939.) This came about
because Stephen Skiles, who heads XU’s theater program, is friends with
Brian Isaac Phillips, CSC’s artistic director. Skiles was an acting
intern at the Cincinnati Playhouse 16 years ago when Phillips was
recruited to fill out a cast.