Turning 25 might not seem like a big accomplishment — unless you’re doing theater in Over-the-Rhine. Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) is drawing its first quarter-century to a close with 25 The Musical (May 4-22), a medley of tunes representing the company’s musical offerings since 1986.
As Carson Kreitzer put the finishing touches on her new play, Behind the Eye, we talked by phone from her home in Minneapolis. We first met when The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer premiered at the Cincinnati Playhouse in 2003. Now’s she’s back for a third Cincinnati world premiere, Behind the Eye, a work commissioned by the Playhouse and based on the life of fashion model and photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977).
Not many theaters have been led by an artistic director for more than a decade. The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has had Ed Stern as its producing artistic director for nearly two. He’ll end his run in June 2012, completing his 20th season. Stern recently announced the shows for his final season at the Tony Award-winning regional theater.
Announcements for the 2011-12 theater season are beginning. Assembling a smart season is essential to theaters. That effort enables them to sell subscriptions (that is, tickets for multiple productions). Subscription dollars help theaters budget predictably and manage the expenses for sets and costumes. Even with these distraction, Cincinnati theaters have some great line-ups.
In August of last year, CityBeat’s Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs) for theater ended a run of 14 years by merging with the Acclaim Awards, a program established more recently by The Cincinnati Enquirer. As part of that merger, CityBeat offered to develop a new element that would preserve the CEA process of public voting whereby theater enthusiasts can cast ballots for onstage work they appreciate. To that end, the 2011 Acclaims will feature the newly established Cincinnati Theater Awards (CTAs) with results announced later this spring. That’s where your help is needed.
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.