What the heck are theater critics good for? Few of us are actually curmudgeons who revel in badmouthing actors and shows. Most I know are theater fans. I typically attend a show full of optimism, expecting to be entertained. I love it when something unexpected happens and I only write negatively when I feel a production has failed to live up to its promise. I’m especially thrilled by fresh interpretations or revelatory performances.
I like to write about the excitement of new works and regional premieres, which are important in sustaining theater as an art form. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect the classics. In its prior 16 seasons, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company presented all but five of the Bard’s 37 plays. They’ve checked another one off the list with the just-concluded production of King John and they plan to complete the canon in 2015 by offering one of the remaining works in each of the next four years.
In a phone conversation with Paul Shortt, the CEA Hall of Fame scenic designer explains the distinction between the theaters for which his set for Tom Dudzik’s Over the Tavern was created. It was presented at St. Louis Repertory Theatre late in 2010, and now it’s coming to the Cincinnati Playhouse’s Marx Theatre.
Actors often say the most invigorating part of any production is rehearsing, in “the room” where a director imposes a vision and steers performers and designers toward the final product. For this reason, you should pay heed to who’s directing shows you choose to see.
With just a few days left for Christmas shopping, I'm making a few theater-related suggestions: a Broadway snowglobe, new musical theater recordings, 'Sondheim: The Birthday Concert' on DVD and gift certificates to our wonderful local theater companies.
I annually face the holidays with mixed
emotions. I love the holiday season, but I also know that it means I'll be in overdrive, attending numerous theatrical holiday productions. But there are excellent options again this holiday season, starting with Cincinnati Playhouse's 'A Christmas Carol' and ETC's 'Cinderella.'
During a week when we count our blessings, I want to mention several things I'm grateful for, starting with Mrs. Mary Price, a high school English teacher who pulled me out of a study hall in 1963 and urged me to audition for a play she was directing. I've been in love with theater ever since. I'm grateful to CityBeat for supporting my support for local theater, and I'm grateful to all the fine theaters in Greater Cincinnati that provide a remarkable variety of choice.
If I say "Second City," you say "Chicago?" Maybe. But I bet "comedy club" comes in a close "second." The Windy City’s legendary improv club is now exporting city-specific shows around the country, including one right here for Cincinnati audiences at Playhouse in the Park for the holidays.
I occasionally write about concepts that theaters might consider to give us a broader array of performances. Know Theatre recently established an umbrella concept, the Jackson Street Market, that’s beginning to produce results. With a goal of building and retaining the local artist community, the Market seeks to help local “artistic entrepreneurs” to leverage Know Theatre’s resources on their behalf.
In August it was announced that CityBeat's longtime Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs) for theater would join forces with the Acclaims, another local theater recognition program. Since the season began last month, I have worked closely with Acclaims volunteers, including Cincinnati Enquirer theater critic and Acclaims founder Jackie Demaline, to evolve and improve the program in several important ways.
The current touring production of 'South Pacific' at the Aronoff Center offers a rare treat: an orchestra of 25 musicians. According to the production's conductor Lawrence Goldberg, a typical band on the road is 15. 'South Pacific' tours with only three musicians, and the rest are local professionals.
David Gallo, 44, is everywhere, from 'Yo Gabba Gabba Live' and 'Spongebob Squarepants' to Broadway musicals in the U.S. and around the world. His realistic designs for several August Wilson plays earned Tony nominations, and his whimsical set for 'The Drowsy Chaperone' was a 2006 Tony winner. So what brings him to Cincinnati? "The Playhouse in the Park is unquestionably my favorite regional theater," Gallo says.
Over the past week, there's been a lot of theater news to report. The 14th and final Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for Theater were held Aug. 29, where it was confirmed that the CEAs would join forces with the Acclaim Awards for the upcoming theater season. Earlier in the week, Ed Stern announced his departure from Playhouse in the Park following the 2011-12 season.
Sunday evening's 14th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs) for theater, held at Know Theatre, will also be the final CEA theater presentation. The program, begun in 1997, will combine forces for the coming theater season with the Acclaim Awards, established in 2004 and supported by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
I recently traveled to New York City where I saw six Broadway shows. If you read my column occasionally, you've heard me extol the virtues of Cincinnati's theater scene, so you might ask why I need to travel to one of America's most expensive cities, where tickets for shows in Manhattan's theater district routinely top $100. There are several reasons I'd like to share.