Things ain’t what they used to be at
Ensemble Theatre. A decade ago 1127 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine was near
ground zero for some of the city’s worst behavior — drug-dealing,
shootings, arrests and police controversy. During the 2001 riots,
artistic director D. Lynn Meyers and the cast of a show she was
rehearsing had to be barricaded and locked into the theater for their
Cincinnati no longer has a theater awards
program resembling the Tonys (nominees for the year’s best Broadway
productions will be out soon), but that won’t stop me from naming my
choices for the best shows so far.
Reach into your wallet and pull out a $20
bill. Do you know anything about the dashing guy portrayed there?
Andrew Jackson, a military hero, was our seventh president, serving from
1829 to 1837. But he was a rock star back in his day, a rabble-rouser.
Most CityBeat readers want to read
about things to do right here and right now, so I don’t allocate many
words to theater season announcements that show up this time of year.
Keep your eye on citybeat.com, especially the arts blog, for
up-to-the-minute information and recommendations.
you pay attention to theater on a regular basis, you surely know Stephen
Sondheim’s name. He’s has been esteemed as the greatest creator of
musical theater for more than 50 years. When he turned 80 in 2010, there
were celebrations across the United States and around the world.
Cincinnati has been fertile terrain for his work.
When I read Andrew Bovell’s play Speaking in Tongues,
the current Shelterhouse production at the Cincinnati Playhouse
(through March 4), I have to admit I was mystified as to what it would
become on the stage.
When you go to the theater, I suspect you
focus on the actors. That’s as it should be, but it’s important to bear
in mind that it’s the director who pulls a production together and
evokes performances that add up to the larger whole.
answer the inevitable question about local roots: Playwright Theresa
Rebeck grew up in Kenwood and graduated from Ursuline Academy. But she’s
made her career as a writer for theater and television series like Brooklyn Bridge, LA Law, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and NYPD Blue.
Have I got a show for you? Well,
actually, I have a dozen that you should consider calling Cincinnati
theater box offices right now so when the season is over you can smugly
say, “Yeah, I caught that one — best thing all year!” I can’t tell you
which one that will be, but I’ll narrow the field for you.
When I enter a theater for a performance,
my enjoyment comes from the chance to escape the everyday world. I love to
experience new perspectives and ideas. And once that’s over — as a fan
or a theater critic — I look forward to telling others about what I’ve
seen. But a
new trend is giving me pause: tweeting during performances.
People often ask me to recommend the best
holiday show. I can’t do it. Everyone has different tastes. You need to
think about what appeals to you and choose accordingly. Cincinnati
theaters offer lots of options.
Cincinnati is blessed with a strong
community theater scene. Several of these volunteer organizations have
been around longer than any of our professional companies. We all
appreciated the wonderful 50th anniversary season of the Cincinnati
Playhouse in 2009-2010, but this year marks the 75th year that Mariemont
Players has been in business, generally offering five or six
Paul Simon asked that question a long
time ago in his 1966 song, “The Dangling Conversation.” I suspect it’s
been answered simply by the fact that I can restate it almost a
half-century later. But let’s ask what needs to be the next question:
Why is theater still alive? The art form began thousands of years ago,
so why does it still resonate? How about some current local examples?
When Andrew Carnegie mapped out plans for
libraries across America — including one now serving as the Carnegie
Center in Covington — he probably never envisioned one of them as a
venue for a play about issues of love and sexuality in the 1880s. But
that’s what’s happening at the Carnegie (Nov. 4-20) when Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play is presented.
“I love theater,” says Ed Stern, producing artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
for 20 seasons. He’s been responsible for more than 200 productions
during his tenure, remarkably long for an arts leader. When he came to
town in 1992, things were in disarray.