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by Rick Pender 04.29.2016 51 hours ago
Posted In: Theater at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door 4-29 - satchel paige @ playhouse - robert karma robinson) - mikki schaffner photography

Stage Door

Baseball, mysterious Scotland, Romans (and countrymen) and an astronomer

Need suggestions for a good theater production to attend this weekend? Here are some good choices on Cincinnati stages.

Last night I attended the opening of Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It’s an inventive recreation of the legendary African-American pitcher who found his fame eclipsed by Jackie Robinson. The changes wrought by events in 1947 affected both black and white Americans, and this play by Ricardo Khan and Trey Ellis explores them. They know their way around storytelling: Their play Fly, about the Tuskegee Airmen, was well received at the Playhouse in 2013. In this one, players from two teams of baseball all-stars, one black and one white, share a boarding house on a rainy night in Kansas City. We get to eavesdrop on what they might have talked about, their dreams, their grudges and their fates. Robert Karma Robinson wholly inhabits the role of Paige as an angular, grumpy philosopher of sports, race and life. It’s onstage through May 21. Tickets: 513-421-3888.

Before they wrote My Fair Lady and Camelot, the lyricist-composer team of Lerner and Loewe had a 1949 hit with the musical Brigadoon. It’s about a pair of American tourists who happen upon a mysterious town in Scotland that appears just once every century. Of course, one of the guys falls in love with a resident of the town — and that gets complicated. When I was six years old, I went to see this show with my very British grandfather, my first experience of musical theater. I still love the show, and I’ll be seeing it this weekend at the Covedale Center, where it will be onstage through May 22. Tickets: 513-241-6550.

Don’t shy away from Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar because you read it in high school. Set in ancient Rome, there’s as much political intrigue — and perhaps more danger — that you’d find in your average episode of House of Cards. Several fine acting performances make this production especially watchable: Brent Vimtrup gives a textured performance of the principled but conflicted Brutus; Josh Katawick is the “lean and hungry” Cassius who recruits the assassins who bring down Caesar; and Nick Rose is the wily Mark Antony who finds a way to turn Caesar’s death to his own advantage. Once you’ve seen this production, you should make plans to return for a kind of sequel as Cincy Shakes stages Antony and Cleopatra with several of the actors from Julius Caesar reprising their roles. Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson presented a quartet of badass women from 18th-century France in The Revolutionists at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in February. Some more strong females — Americans from the early 20th century — are the characters of Silent Sky, the current production at Know Theatre. The central character is Henrietta Leavitt, an aspiring astronomer who had to work doubly hard to earn recognition for her scientific insights. She’s bracketed by a devoted, conservative sister and a pair of “lunatic women” who are her scientific colleagues. Director Tamara Winters has an excellent cast of actors to tell this story — especially Maggie Lou Rader in a luminous portrait of the feisty, persistent Henrietta. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati seldom brings back a show it’s presented in the past, but when it staged Jeanine Tesori’s musical Violet back in 1998, that was long before Over-the-Rhine was a go-to neighborhood for entertainment. So there’s a good rationale for reviving this lovely, heartfelt story. Check out this video preview. 


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
 
 
by Rick Pender 04.22.2016 9 days ago
Posted In: Theater, Arts community at 08:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door 4-22 - julius caesar @ cincy shakes - josh katawick (cassius) & brent vimtrup (brutus) - mikki schaffner photography

Stage Door

Noble Romans, ambitious astronomers, fairy tales and one bad girl

You have more theater choices this weekend than time, I suspect, so choose carefully depending on the kind of show you most enjoy.

If it’s a classic, I suggest you check out Julius Caesar at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This tale of one of history’s most memorable political assassinations is one of Shakespeare’s shorter plays, about two hours and 15 minutes. But it’s action-packed with a lot of intrigue, soul-searching and emotions that ebb and flow. Cincy Shakes relies on its acting ensemble to fill these iconic roles, and they bring them to life more vividly than I’ve seen in a long time. Josh Katawick is especially engaging as the leader, “lean and hungry” Cassius, whose motives are not far below his ambitious surface; Brent Vimtrup is Brutus, caught up in the plot for reasons of principle rather than envy, and his subtle performance of this conflicted man is compelling. Veteran Nick Rose is the blustery soldier Marc Antony, who’s actually a subtle manipulator of opinion. (We’ll see more of him next month when Cincy Shakes move on to Shakespeare’s other Roman play, Antony and Cleopatra). Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

An engaging new play, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, is onstage at Know Theatre, the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman of science from a century ago when women were not expected to have meaningful insights. But drawn to the mysteries of astronomy, she tirelessly made advances despite many barriers. Maggie Lou Rader plays the feisty woman, and her moral support from two older women, played by Annie Fitzpatrick and Regina Pugh, has elements of humor. This is a well-acted, well-staged play (direction by Know’s Tamara Winters), worth seeing. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

The 2014 movie of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods featured Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Johnny Depp. A production currently onstage at Northern Kentucky University doesn’t have that kind of star power, but the student cast does an admirable job with a show that places extraordinary vocal demands on singers. Director Jamey Strawn hit upon an imaginative framing device for the legendary fairy tale mash-up, setting it in a library where a young boy (played with a mischievously expressive demeanor by Charlie Klesa, a sixth-grader at Mercy Montessori), hides away for an overnight adventure of reading and fantasizing. As giants threaten the kingdom, books tumble from the library’s two-story-tall shelves. Into the Woods requires a big cast, and more than 20 NKU student actors plus a stylized wooden cow are clearly committed to giving their all to this production. Opening night on Thursday was an enthusiastic full house. Through May 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464.

Neil LaBute’s plays traffic in complex, often ironic, manipulative situations, frequently brutal stories of abusive, selfish behavior. The Shape of Things, presented by New Edgecliff Theatre at Hoffner Lodge in Northside, is that kind of story — about Evelyn, an ambitious young woman who makes an art project of Adam, another student who thinks their relationship is a love affair. Rebecca Whatley and Matthew Krieg handle these complicated roles believably, but you’ll walk away wondering about their motives — she’s cold, he’s clueless. It’s a compelling, disturbing story that makes for an evening of edgy, psychological theater. Another Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through April 30. Tickets here.

There’s a touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast onstage at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. It’s an entertaining, visually captivating production. There’s nothing new about it, to be sure, but the young cast carries off the sprightly songs and choreography with lots of energy. I wish there was a little more heart and a little less clowning, especially by Sam Hartley as the Beast, who’s meant to be a tragic hero. The chemistry between him and Brooke Quintana as Belle is in the script, but it only shows up intermittently onstage. Nevertheless, Wednesday night’s full house with lots of kids dressed for the evening clearly had a good time watching the story unfold. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-621-2787.

Quick Notes: True Theater is back for another quarterly evening of storytelling on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. Know Theatre. This time the theme is True Gay, so it will be enlightening to hear the personal reminiscences that get shared. … At UC’s College-Conservatory of Music this weekend, the drama program presents a staged reading of Grace Gardner’s new script, Very Dumb Kids, tonight 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. It’s the beginning of a new play commissioning initiative that will foster new works. … This is the final weekend for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Incline Theater in East Price Hill and for Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years, at The Carnegie in Covington.


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

 
 
by Katherine Newman 04.19.2016 11 days ago
Posted In: COMMUNITY, Get Involved at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Nonprofit Spotlight: May We Help

Patty Kempf was one of May We Help’s first clients before the organization really even existed. She had cerebral palsy and was having trouble turning the pages of the books she loved reading. Bill Wood agreed to help Kempf by designing something that would make reading easier for her. At the same time, Bill Dieseling was doing something similar for a member of his family. The two Bills were connected through a mutual friend and began to work together. Shortly after that they met Bill Sand and the idea for May We Help was born. The Bills began working together harmoniously and May We Help now has hundreds of completed projects and satisfied clients.

The goal of May We Help is to make life easier for people with disabilities. They do this through technology, mechanical engineering, handy work, programming and problem solving. May We Help hopes to free people from their disabilities with these custom creations that will allow them to gain independence and pursue their passions.

The organization designs unique devices for people with disabilities to meet the needs that are not being met by anything else on the market. Clients pitch to the organization what they are looking for, the team researches the idea and if nothing has been developed to meet the need, they accept the project. Beginning with design and then moving into building, the team is focused on the client and what will work for them.

Volunteer:

At May We Help there are 60 volunteers for every one staff member. “They are the heart and soul of our organization,” says Katy Collura, development director. “They truly are the glue that holds everything together.”

There are many different opportunities to get involved with this organization, whether you want to design, build or work behind the scenes. “Our volunteers design and create custom solutions to free individuals with special needs,” Collura says.

Technical volunteers develop the unique devices for clients. Most volunteers in this category are professionals or have a serious interest in product development. These volunteers hear the needs of the client and go from there. This is a very creative opportunity.

There are resource volunteers who build and get to be hands-on with projects. This is a great place to start with May We Help because it is not a leadership position, but it gets into the action of product construction.

A person with a lot of personality makes a great “first impressions” volunteer. In this role, volunteers take charge of the experiences of new volunteers and clients. Their job is to make sure everyone is comfortable, heading to the right place and introduced to the right people during monthly volunteer meetings and monthly work meetings.

Follow-up volunteers make monthly visits to clients who have received their devices. This is a key role because May We Help wants to be sure what they build is working the way it was intended; they don't want to send someone home with a device that isn’t meeting their needs. The follow-up team receives feedback from clients about how their needs are, or aren’t, being met by their device.

May We Help provides meals for around 40 people at all of their monthly meetings. Foodie volunteers are in charge of making sure the people eat. The organization reimburses the cost of food for the meals, but be prepared to cook for what feels like an army.

One of the most important positions is the procurement volunteer. This role was designed to ensure the technical volunteers have the crucial materials they will need throughout the project. Procurement volunteers are responsible for meeting with potential material and service providers to build donor relationships. On the inside they work with the technical volunteers by helping them meet their needs. Sometimes that means contacting other volunteers for advice, checking what is in stock or contacting donors. This position is the bones of the operations and keeps the ball rolling forward.

To become a volunteer, fill out the application online and someone will be in contact soon after. There is no hourly requirement — volunteers can make their own hours. The organization just asks that all projects are done in a timely manner. “In most cases we are the families last resort and they are counting on us to deliver,” Collura says.

Donate:

Monetary donations are crucial to the success of this nonprofit. Because each device is custom to the client, it is hard to know what materials will be needed for the next project. Business owners with available resources to help are encouraged to contact the procurement team about donating services or material.

For more information and access to the volunteer application, visit maywehelp.org.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 04.18.2016 12 days ago
Posted In: Film, Arts community, Visual Art, Movies at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Animated Films with Insects

Live score played on toy instruments highlight Mini Microcinema's end

When I lived in Los Angeles, one of the most unforgettable events I attended was a screening of films by the 20th-century Russian animator Ladislaw Starewicz, who used insects in his amazingly inventive animated films. (He also used puppets.)

He placed the insects into various settings and then shot the stop-motion films frame by frame. A Jazz/New Music group called Tin Hat Trio played a live score to accompany the visuals.

Lo and behold, the Mini Microcinema on Tuesday (April 19) is presenting Starewicz’s films in the auditorium of Covington’s Carnegie. And there will be a live score played by Little Bang Theory, a group led by Detroit composer Frank Pahl. They play children’s instruments and toys.

There will be a reception starting at 6 p.m. and the performance gets underway at 7 p.m. It is free. This is the last event for the Mini during its residency at The Carnegie. It should be a rewarding one. For more information, please visit www.mini-cinema.org.

 
 
by Cassie Lipp 04.18.2016 12 days ago
Posted In: Culture at 01:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Slice of Cincinnati: Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Situated on a hill overlooking a strip of Gilbert Avenue sits an old house that stands out from its urban surroundings in Walnut Hills. Though it may seem out of place against the backdrop of apartment buildings and businesses, inside the house lies a story of being in the right place at the right time, of discussion and of empathy and compassion.

2950 Gilbert Avenue is the last remaining building that was once part of the Lane Theological Seminary. It is also the former home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Although it is not where she wrote the novel that introduced Northerners to what slavery is like in the South and increased tensions between the two regions, it is where Stowe spent 18 years of her life.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been translated into more than 60 languages — second only to the Bible. It is no wonder that visitors from as far away as Russia and China have recently visited the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. In fact, Kelli Higginson, the house’s only paid employee, says most visitors come from out of town.

“This house is unique because at one time it was the ground center for discussion of slavery,” says volunteer John Douglass. Built in 1832, the house was saved from demolition and purchased by the Ohio Historical Society in 1943. It is still owned by the society today and is designated as a historic landmark.

Stowe lived in Cincinnati from her early 20s until 1859, one year before her famous book was published. Her presence in Cincinnati had a lasting impact on U.S. history and beyond, as Uncle Tom’s Cabin is read in schools around the world. While living in the border town allowed Stowe to see firsthand the desperation of slaves trying to escape to freedom across the Ohio River, it was also here that Stowe was exposed to the controversial debates going on at the seminary where her father, Dr. Lyman Beecher, was president.

Students of the seminary debated about the issue of slavery in 1834 before it became a hot topic throughout the rest of the U.S. Should slaves be emancipated? If slaves were to be freed, where should they go? Some supported sending freed slaves to Africa, while others thought they should be allowed to stay in the U.S. Enrollment at the seminary dropped after the school’s board of trustees dismissed these so-called “Lane Rebels.”

Living in Cincinnati also gave Stowe a stark look at the tension between the anti-slavery movement and those opposed to it. During the Cincinnati riots of 1836, the press that printed The Philanthropist, an abolitionist newspaper published by James Birney, was twice destroyed and thrown into the Ohio River. This sparked Stowe to find her own abolitionist voice and write her first remarks about slavery, in which she defended free speech and denounced mob rule. Her work was published in her brother Henry’s newspaper.

When the cholera epidemic swept through Cincinnati and Stowe’s one-year-old son Samuel Charles died, the personal tragedy caused Stowe to empathize with slave mothers who were often separated from their children. Her son’s death was the catalyst that caused Stowe to begin writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

While it is a work of fiction, Stowe’s novel depicts what American slavery was like at the time. Her visit to a Kentucky plantation allowed her to see how slaves lived. However, many argued that the book’s depiction of slavery couldn’t be accurate. Stowe responded with A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which provides factual evidence from her experience in Cincinnati to defend her claims. (Copies of the key just arrived in the Stowe House’s gift shop; Higginson says they were on backorder for six weeks).

The Ohio Historical Society plans to renovate the house this summer. The renovations will restore the house to what it would have looked like when Stowe’s family lived there. The house will also host Stowe’s 205th birthday celebration (with cake and ice cream, of course) on June 14.

The house is open for tours from noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is also the site of many field trips, lectures, film screenings, history portrayals and more. More information at stowehousecincy.org.

 
 
by Katherine Newman 04.15.2016 15 days ago
Posted In: COMMUNITY at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Nonprofit Spotlight: Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones was founded in 1963 as a nonprofit organization to increase independence, improve lives and promote inclusion for children and adults with disabilities. There are four campuses in the Greater Cincinnati area serving close to 1,000 children and adults every year.

The organization offers programs for people of all ages with many different abilities. The Summer Day Camp, Saturday Clubs, Overnight Staycations and Respites and the Sensory Needs Respite and Support Program are all ways for Stepping Stones to provide support, opportunity and education and to increase independence for participants and their families.

Volunteer:

Our participants love to meet new people and the attention they receive from a volunteer makes them feel important and valued,” says Moira Grainger, marketing, board and community liaison at Stepping Stones.Volunteers enhance our activities and programs by providing an added layer of respect, care, concern and enthusiasm for the daily goals our participants strive for.”

All year there are opportunities for volunteers to work on special maintenance projects, like landscaping and painting. Stepping Stones can use volunteers on the weekends for the Saturday Kids Club and during Weekend Respites. There are also frequent fundraising events where a helping hand is always welcome.

The Summer Day Camp is a program for children with a range of disabilities; it is also where the most volunteers are needed. In 2015 the camp served 455 children and utilized more than 800 volunteers. Summer camp runs Monday-Friday, June 6-Aug. 5. It is not required to be at camp every day of the week, but volunteers must commit to being there from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on the days they choose. This opportunity is open to people as young as 13. We are fortunate to have compassionate and caring individuals who simply love the involvement with our participants, regardless of age,” Grainger says.

Saturday Clubs are a time to celebrate the abilities of children and young adults that participate in the program. This weekend activity encourages friendships and social interaction and is a good opportunity for volunteering. Weekends Respites are for children with severe sensory needs. Since 2013, Stepping Stones along with its volunteers has been providing one-on-one attention for participants helping them learn social skills to take home with them.

Volunteers that have experience working with people with disabilities or a background in special education are often placed in leadership roles, where they can share their experience with less experienced volunteers.

Community groups are encouraged to volunteer at Stepping Stones. Business groups, boy and girl scout groups and school leadership programs are just a few types of groups that have already used the organization to engage in community service. “These groups will usually tackle a project such as landscaping or building something needed, sometimes a maintenance project, or setting up for a special event such as a group dance,” Grainger says.  When corporations visit, a lot of times they will host a special event, like a picnic, for the participants at Stepping Stones.

To become a volunteer, start by filling out the online application. After a receiving a clean background check there is a training program. “The goal of the training is to ensure that all events ranging from needing a band aid to responding to a weather alert can be addressed in a safe and orderly manner,” Grainger says. During training new volunteers learn how to work with people who have disabilities, the appropriate terminology to use when communicate about disabilities and safety procedures.

Stepping Stones hopes that all volunteers are willing to make a long-term commitment. “It makes the experience more rewarding for the participants and the volunteers,” Grainger says.

Donate:

Stepping Stones relies on financial donations to support their programs and activities. The materials they use change depending on the needs of the programs and participants. If you can’t donate time to Stepping Stones, the gift of money can provide financial aid for participants that can’t afford the programs.

Register a Kroger Plus Card to earn cash rewards for Stepping Stones by enrolling in the Community Rewards Program, which gives a portion of every purchase to the chosen organization. Amazon Smile is a similar program that can be used to make donations.


For more information on STEPPING STONES and access to the online volunteer application, visit steppingstonesohio.org.

 
 
by Rick Pender 04.15.2016 16 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door 4-15 - brent vimtrup as brutus in julius caesar @ cincy shakes - mikki schaffner photography

Stage Door

Emperors, assassins, a whole lotta Shakespeare and a feisty mongoose

We’re closing in on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and today is the Ides of April (that means the 15th of the month), so let’s start with several notes about the Bard.

Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar continues this weekend (it’s onstage through May 7). You might recall that the emperor’s assassination happened on the Ides of March. We’re a month late, but it’s worth noting since that historic event was the impetus for one of Shakespeare’s great plays of Roman history. Caesar is the focal point, but the play’s most interesting characters are Brutus, the morally conflicted conspirator, and the ambitious Marc Antony, who has his own designs on the throne. It’s also worth noting this production, since it will be followed in May by Shakespeare’s other Roman story, Antony and Cleopatra. Many of the actors playing key roles in Julius Caesar will return in the second production. It’s a rare pairing of these two works, made possible by Cincy Shakes depth of talent in its resident acting company. I wrote about this project in a recent Curtain Call column. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

If a history play isn’t enough, then you might want to head to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where Cincy Shakes is continuing its education initiative, Project 38 Festival, working with more than 1,600 students at 45+ different area schools to bring each of Shakespeare’s 38 plays to life in creative ways. The celebration is already underway (performances continue through Monday) in Washington Park and the Woodward Theatre (1404 Main St.) — 43 free performances in all. Eighteen performances feature exclusively Shakespearean text, while others interpret the plays with music, dance, filmmaking and visual arts. One is even told with computer animation. For the festival’s full schedule, go here.

Know Theatre opens Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson this weekend. The Cincinnati Playhouse recently presented Gunderson’s intriguing show, The Revolutionists, a fantasy set during the French Revolution. The show at Know is rooted in real events, too, focusing on a group of brilliant women hired by the Harvard Observatory to catalog the stars. Directed by Tamara Winters, the production features a cast of excellent local professionals — Maggie Lou Rader, Justin McCombs and Miranda McGee (from Cincy Shakes) and Annie Fitzpatrick and Miranda McGee (regularly seen at Ensemble Theatre). It’s a fascinating story as well as a chance to experience another work by an award-winning young playwright. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

New Edgecliff Theatre opened the final production of its 2015-2016 season this week, Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things. It’s an emotional drama about relationships and love and what you can believe. Performances are at The Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside). Read my recent column for more about NET’s search for a home. For NET tickets here.

A production with young audiences in mind kicks off this weekend with the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s “Off the Hill” staging of The Garden of Rikki Tikki Tavi adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book by playwright Y York. It’s about a fierce mongoose and his enemy the cobra Nag. The show, directed by the Playhouse’s new director of education, Daunielle Rasmussen, debuts at the theater on Saturday (10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.); tickets are $5 at the box office. The show then tours throughout Greater Cincinnati, starting Sunday at 2 p.m. at Cedar Village Retirement Community in Mason. Full schedule here.


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
 
 
by Cassie Lipp 04.08.2016 22 days ago
Posted In: Visual Art at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Slice of Cincinnati

The Art Academy of Cincinnati's Senior Thesis Exhibitions

With both the Contemporary Arts Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum now offering free admission, and more galleries popping up in Over-the-Rhine and Camp Washington, there’s never been more opportunities to see fine art (for free) in Cincinnati. However, the best-kept secret of Cincinnati art lies in the Art Academy of Cincinnati. That’s right — let’s go back to where many artists get their start: art school.

From the complex layers surrounding everything around us to the concepts on concealing, revealing and everything in between, students at the Art Academy are exploring many realms this spring in their senior thesis shows.

The thesis shows are the final requirement for students of all majors to graduate from the Art Academy, exhibiting the culmination of their work completed over their academic career there. What makes the students’ exhibitions interesting is their creative freedom to center them on any theme or subject they choose.

For many students, it is their first exhibition and introduction into the professional art world. For many gallery visitors, it is a look at the youngest and newest talent in the art world. In addition to displaying their work, students are responsible for all other aspects of the exhibitions, such as lighting and publicizing their event.

“The thesis show is crucial to every student,” says Aaron Broughton, whose work is featured in the thesis show THIS/THAT. “It's that instance at the end of education that says, ‘Look out world, I'm here to fuck shit up!’ ”

THIS/THAT, which closed tonight with a reception from 5-8 p.m., has no prevailing theme; instead, it is a combination of solo shows for the six students represented. The eclectic sample features fashion design, photography, painting, sculpture, video and more.

“The school teaches us a bunch of tools, figuratively and literally, then gives us a bunch of opportunities,” Broughton says. “Then we learn to put in the hard work to make them worthwhile. It's prepared me to seek what I want and grab any opportunity I can.”

Art Academy Professor Jimmy Baker says it is important not only that the students create work, but also for them to learn to put their work into the world for criticism and public engagement.

As each exhibition remains on display for only one week, visitors can see the Art Academy transformed into a new world to explore each week from March through April. The rich curry of mediums and topics explored give viewers a little bit of everything, such as Katie Barnett’s fusion of plant displays into sculpture, Leslie Hacker’s series of pillows printed with images of nudes or Morgan Greer’s exploration of hair with braids forming into intricate designs and sculptures.

“I feel like our seniors have a real interesting interdisciplinary senior year,” Baker says. “Sometimes we have people who may be majoring in sculpture but making video, we have people who are designers but might end up doing performance.”

While you will probably never be disappointed with a visit to any art exhibit in Cincinnati, be sure to make your way to the Art Academy this month to catch some innovative and thought provoking art from Cincinnati’s freshest up-and-coming talent. The last senior thesis show, Zenith, runs until April 29.

 
 
by Rick Pender 04.08.2016 23 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door

Onstage this weekend

I’m heading to Louisville this weekend for the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre. (You’ll find a report online and in CityBeat later this month.) For those of you staying in town, there are several interesting shows to catch locally. 

If you’ve been a Fringe Festival regular for the past three years, it’s likely that you’ve enjoyed one of Paul Strickland’s musical monologues about the Big Fib Trailer Park Cul-de-Sac. If you missed them (or if you simply want to be outrageously entertained by them again), they’re being reprised this weekend at Falcon Theater (636 Monmouth St., Newport). Papa Squat’s Store of Sorts happens on Friday at 8 p.m.; Ain’t True and Uncle False shows up on Saturday at 8 p.m. Both evenings you can catch Tales Too Tall for Trailers at 9:15 p.m., the latter featuring Strickland with Erika Kate MacDonald, shadow puppets … and clothespins. Advance tickets: 513-300-5669

Incline Theater continues to produce adult drama, this time with David Mamet’s hard-hitting (and foul-mouthed) Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s about a group of unprincipled real estate guys competing to be the top dog in a slimy sales contest, selling worthless Florida property and homes to unsuspecting buyers. Their jockeying for position knows no ethical bounds. That might sound like a story that’s tough to watch, but the play — which won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for drama — uses a kind of word-jazz with Mamet’s rat-a-tat-tat dialogue that makes it both fascinating and darkly humorous. The Incline’s production, which opened Wednesday, features seven actors directed by stage veteran Greg Procaccino. They wrestle with this gristly verbiage, some with more success than others, but Mike Dennis (as the hard-selling No. 1 guy, Ricky Roma) has just the right amount of oiliness and superficial arrogance, and David A. Levy (as nervous George Aaronow) is especially convincing as a schlub who can’t catch a break. Nik Pajic (as brash young Dave Moss) has a lot of fire, and Joel Lind (as over-the-hill Shelly “The Machine” Levine) is sympathetic playing a character who talks way too much as he revels in past success. Mike Hall portrays the trying-to-be-tough sales manager; Tom Peters is a gruff cop investigating the very suspicious burglary in the show’s second act; and Scott Unes has a brief scene as a hapless client trying to get out of a bad deal. Through April 24. Tickets: 513-241-6550.

Perhaps you read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in high school. Maybe it’s time to revisit it during a presidential election year where the draw of power and the charisma of men who want to govern is top of mind. This production, opening tonight and running through May 7, will be followed by Antony and Cleopatra (May 13-June 4), in which Shakespeare returned to several of the earlier play’s central characters. Cincinnati Shakespeare is producing the two works in sequence with the actors playing the overlapping roles in both shows. It will be an interesting chance to see how the plays relate and diverge, and how young generals become old politicians. Read more about Cincy Shakes’ productions in my Curtain Call column. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

Jason Robert Brown’s musical exploration of a marriage that comes apart, The Last Five Years, is told in an unusual way, with parallel stories, one running from start to finish and the other in the opposite direction, from the final sad moments to the joyous beginning. The retelling of Jamie and Cathy’s marriage in a series of solo songs overlaps at only one moment — their wedding day. It’s a fascinating way to track the course of love … and loss. Brown’s gorgeous score makes it all the more poignant. Weekends through April 24. Tickets: 859-957-1940.

OK, the final four for men and women are now over and done, both with exciting finishes. If you’re in need of one more weekend of basketball action — featuring men and women — check out Lysistrata Jones, a musical performed in the Cohen Family Studio at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. It’s an amusing retelling of the ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes, updated to a story of women withholding their “favors” to get the men of the Athens University basketball team on the winning track. The show had a quick Broadway run in 2011-2012. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, but you need to call ahead for tickets: 513-556-4183.

Wrapping up and continuing: Annapurna, about the reunion of a colorful and dysfunctional couple, wraps up on Sunday at Ensemble Theatre. At the Cincinnati Playhouse, an excellent stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird finishes its run on Sunday, while the contemporary drama Mothers and Sons, about gay marriage and parenting, is on the Shelterhouse stage for another week.


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
 
 
by Katherine Newman 04.05.2016 25 days ago
Posted In: COMMUNITY at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Nonprofit Spotlight: Women Helping Women

Women Helping Women is a nonprofit agency serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The organization was founded in 1973 to provide advocacy, support and safety to survivors. WHW serves around 12,000 people yearly between the two offices in Hamilton County and Butler County.

One-on-one counseling, court advocacy, support groups and hospital accompaniment are just a few of the free services that are available. The education and prevention team gives presentations to business and community service agencies that focus on recognizing sexual assault and domestic violence along with how to access resources. 

Volunteer:

“We rely so much on our volunteers,” says Ellen Newman, Hamilton County volunteer coordinator. And for good reason: There are about 40 volunteers right now covering a range of survivor services from the 24-hour hotline to court room accompaniment.

The 24-hour hotline is mostly operated by volunteers. This is a daytime opportunity to answer calls from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the office on East Ninth Street. The hotline is an anonymous support system for survivors who might need someone to talk to or advice on how to move forward.

Hospital advocates are on call anywhere from 11-13 hours per day. If a survivor is at the hospital and asks for someone to talk to, the on-call volunteer will be contacted to answer questions and provide support.

Court advocates attend arraignment court with, and sometimes without, survivors. “They are there to answer questions and help them in the initial first step,” Newman says. If a survivor can’t attend the arraignment, the volunteer advocate will make notes of what happened there. As the trial progresses, advocates continue to attend and support the survivor.

Education advocates help with community awareness. Volunteers travel to businesses, churches, schools and events around the Greater Cincinnati area to provide information on recognizing and surviving sexual assault and domestic violence. There is also a Teen Dating Violence Prevention curriculum the travels to area high schools focusing on preventing violence before it starts. The program helps teens identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors in relationships and encourages them to challenge the social norms that encourage dating violence.

Women Helping Women will often need volunteers to work a table at an event, talk about the programs and hand out information. They are also looking for people to help with Light Up The Night, their annual fundraising event on April 28.

“We are survivor-centric — that is the first and foremost quality you have to have,” Newman says. To become a volunteer, you first need to fill out the online application; after it’s reviewed, there will be an interview to determine if you are a good fit for WHW.

“Our name is a little misleading — we are really searching to add more male volunteers,” Newman says. The organization is nondiscriminatory and they are hoping to grow in the number of male volunteers they have available to work with survivors.

The training program is 40 hours and includes an overview of the programs and services along with the ethics of the organization. There is information about what to report and how to work with survivors. They also focus on how to work with specific populations of people to ensure all survivors feel safe.

All volunteers must be 18 and have a clean background check. Women Helping Women asks that volunteers stay with them for at least a year and complete two sessions a month in any of the programs.

Donations:

Donations are always evolving with the needs of each survivor. Feel free to contact the organization to find out what is in immediate need. Some things that can always be used are feminine hygiene products, new clothes and bus passes for survivors to get home, to court and to the doctor’s office.


For more information on WOMEN HELPING WOMEN and to access the volunteer application visit womenhelpingwomen.org.


 
 

 

 

Arts & Culture
 
by Rick Pender 04.29.2016 51 hours ago
Posted In: Theater at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door 4-29 - satchel paige @ playhouse - robert karma robinson) - mikki schaffner photography

Stage Door

Baseball, mysterious Scotland, Romans (and countrymen) and an astronomer

Need suggestions for a good theater production to attend this weekend? Here are some good choices on Cincinnati stages.

Last night I attended the opening of Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It’s an inventive recreation of the legendary African-American pitcher who found his fame eclipsed by Jackie Robinson. The changes wrought by events in 1947 affected both black and white Americans, and this play by Ricardo Khan and Trey Ellis explores them. They know their way around storytelling: Their play Fly, about the Tuskegee Airmen, was well received at the Playhouse in 2013. In this one, players from two teams of baseball all-stars, one black and one white, share a boarding house on a rainy night in Kansas City. We get to eavesdrop on what they might have talked about, their dreams, their grudges and their fates. Robert Karma Robinson wholly inhabits the role of Paige as an angular, grumpy philosopher of sports, race and life. It’s onstage through May 21. Tickets: 513-421-3888.

Before they wrote My Fair Lady and Camelot, the lyricist-composer team of Lerner and Loewe had a 1949 hit with the musical Brigadoon. It’s about a pair of American tourists who happen upon a mysterious town in Scotland that appears just once every century. Of course, one of the guys falls in love with a resident of the town — and that gets complicated. When I was six years old, I went to see this show with my very British grandfather, my first experience of musical theater. I still love the show, and I’ll be seeing it this weekend at the Covedale Center, where it will be onstage through May 22. Tickets: 513-241-6550.

Don’t shy away from Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar because you read it in high school. Set in ancient Rome, there’s as much political intrigue — and perhaps more danger — that you’d find in your average episode of House of Cards. Several fine acting performances make this production especially watchable: Brent Vimtrup gives a textured performance of the principled but conflicted Brutus; Josh Katawick is the “lean and hungry” Cassius who recruits the assassins who bring down Caesar; and Nick Rose is the wily Mark Antony who finds a way to turn Caesar’s death to his own advantage. Once you’ve seen this production, you should make plans to return for a kind of sequel as Cincy Shakes stages Antony and Cleopatra with several of the actors from Julius Caesar reprising their roles. Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson presented a quartet of badass women from 18th-century France in The Revolutionists at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in February. Some more strong females — Americans from the early 20th century — are the characters of Silent Sky, the current production at Know Theatre. The central character is Henrietta Leavitt, an aspiring astronomer who had to work doubly hard to earn recognition for her scientific insights. She’s bracketed by a devoted, conservative sister and a pair of “lunatic women” who are her scientific colleagues. Director Tamara Winters has an excellent cast of actors to tell this story — especially Maggie Lou Rader in a luminous portrait of the feisty, persistent Henrietta. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati seldom brings back a show it’s presented in the past, but when it staged Jeanine Tesori’s musical Violet back in 1998, that was long before Over-the-Rhine was a go-to neighborhood for entertainment. So there’s a good rationale for reviving this lovely, heartfelt story. Check out this video preview. 


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
 
 
by Rick Pender 04.22.2016 9 days ago
Posted In: Theater, Arts community at 08:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door 4-22 - julius caesar @ cincy shakes - josh katawick (cassius) & brent vimtrup (brutus) - mikki schaffner photography

Stage Door

Noble Romans, ambitious astronomers, fairy tales and one bad girl

You have more theater choices this weekend than time, I suspect, so choose carefully depending on the kind of show you most enjoy.

If it’s a classic, I suggest you check out Julius Caesar at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This tale of one of history’s most memorable political assassinations is one of Shakespeare’s shorter plays, about two hours and 15 minutes. But it’s action-packed with a lot of intrigue, soul-searching and emotions that ebb and flow. Cincy Shakes relies on its acting ensemble to fill these iconic roles, and they bring them to life more vividly than I’ve seen in a long time. Josh Katawick is especially engaging as the leader, “lean and hungry” Cassius, whose motives are not far below his ambitious surface; Brent Vimtrup is Brutus, caught up in the plot for reasons of principle rather than envy, and his subtle performance of this conflicted man is compelling. Veteran Nick Rose is the blustery soldier Marc Antony, who’s actually a subtle manipulator of opinion. (We’ll see more of him next month when Cincy Shakes move on to Shakespeare’s other Roman play, Antony and Cleopatra). Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

An engaging new play, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, is onstage at Know Theatre, the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman of science from a century ago when women were not expected to have meaningful insights. But drawn to the mysteries of astronomy, she tirelessly made advances despite many barriers. Maggie Lou Rader plays the feisty woman, and her moral support from two older women, played by Annie Fitzpatrick and Regina Pugh, has elements of humor. This is a well-acted, well-staged play (direction by Know’s Tamara Winters), worth seeing. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

The 2014 movie of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods featured Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Johnny Depp. A production currently onstage at Northern Kentucky University doesn’t have that kind of star power, but the student cast does an admirable job with a show that places extraordinary vocal demands on singers. Director Jamey Strawn hit upon an imaginative framing device for the legendary fairy tale mash-up, setting it in a library where a young boy (played with a mischievously expressive demeanor by Charlie Klesa, a sixth-grader at Mercy Montessori), hides away for an overnight adventure of reading and fantasizing. As giants threaten the kingdom, books tumble from the library’s two-story-tall shelves. Into the Woods requires a big cast, and more than 20 NKU student actors plus a stylized wooden cow are clearly committed to giving their all to this production. Opening night on Thursday was an enthusiastic full house. Through May 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464.

Neil LaBute’s plays traffic in complex, often ironic, manipulative situations, frequently brutal stories of abusive, selfish behavior. The Shape of Things, presented by New Edgecliff Theatre at Hoffner Lodge in Northside, is that kind of story — about Evelyn, an ambitious young woman who makes an art project of Adam, another student who thinks their relationship is a love affair. Rebecca Whatley and Matthew Krieg handle these complicated roles believably, but you’ll walk away wondering about their motives — she’s cold, he’s clueless. It’s a compelling, disturbing story that makes for an evening of edgy, psychological theater. Another Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through April 30. Tickets here.

There’s a touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast onstage at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. It’s an entertaining, visually captivating production. There’s nothing new about it, to be sure, but the young cast carries off the sprightly songs and choreography with lots of energy. I wish there was a little more heart and a little less clowning, especially by Sam Hartley as the Beast, who’s meant to be a tragic hero. The chemistry between him and Brooke Quintana as Belle is in the script, but it only shows up intermittently onstage. Nevertheless, Wednesday night’s full house with lots of kids dressed for the evening clearly had a good time watching the story unfold. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-621-2787.

Quick Notes: True Theater is back for another quarterly evening of storytelling on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. Know Theatre. This time the theme is True Gay, so it will be enlightening to hear the personal reminiscences that get shared. … At UC’s College-Conservatory of Music this weekend, the drama program presents a staged reading of Grace Gardner’s new script, Very Dumb Kids, tonight 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. It’s the beginning of a new play commissioning initiative that will foster new works. … This is the final weekend for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Incline Theater in East Price Hill and for Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years, at The Carnegie in Covington.


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

 
 
by Katherine Newman 04.19.2016 11 days ago
Posted In: COMMUNITY, Get Involved at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Nonprofit Spotlight: May We Help

Patty Kempf was one of May We Help’s first clients before the organization really even existed. She had cerebral palsy and was having trouble turning the pages of the books she loved reading. Bill Wood agreed to help Kempf by designing something that would make reading easier for her. At the same time, Bill Dieseling was doing something similar for a member of his family. The two Bills were connected through a mutual friend and began to work together. Shortly after that they met Bill Sand and the idea for May We Help was born. The Bills began working together harmoniously and May We Help now has hundreds of completed projects and satisfied clients.

The goal of May We Help is to make life easier for people with disabilities. They do this through technology, mechanical engineering, handy work, programming and problem solving. May We Help hopes to free people from their disabilities with these custom creations that will allow them to gain independence and pursue their passions.

The organization designs unique devices for people with disabilities to meet the needs that are not being met by anything else on the market. Clients pitch to the organization what they are looking for, the team researches the idea and if nothing has been developed to meet the need, they accept the project. Beginning with design and then moving into building, the team is focused on the client and what will work for them.

Volunteer:

At May We Help there are 60 volunteers for every one staff member. “They are the heart and soul of our organization,” says Katy Collura, development director. “They truly are the glue that holds everything together.”

There are many different opportunities to get involved with this organization, whether you want to design, build or work behind the scenes. “Our volunteers design and create custom solutions to free individuals with special needs,” Collura says.

Technical volunteers develop the unique devices for clients. Most volunteers in this category are professionals or have a serious interest in product development. These volunteers hear the needs of the client and go from there. This is a very creative opportunity.

There are resource volunteers who build and get to be hands-on with projects. This is a great place to start with May We Help because it is not a leadership position, but it gets into the action of product construction.

A person with a lot of personality makes a great “first impressions” volunteer. In this role, volunteers take charge of the experiences of new volunteers and clients. Their job is to make sure everyone is comfortable, heading to the right place and introduced to the right people during monthly volunteer meetings and monthly work meetings.

Follow-up volunteers make monthly visits to clients who have received their devices. This is a key role because May We Help wants to be sure what they build is working the way it was intended; they don't want to send someone home with a device that isn’t meeting their needs. The follow-up team receives feedback from clients about how their needs are, or aren’t, being met by their device.

May We Help provides meals for around 40 people at all of their monthly meetings. Foodie volunteers are in charge of making sure the people eat. The organization reimburses the cost of food for the meals, but be prepared to cook for what feels like an army.

One of the most important positions is the procurement volunteer. This role was designed to ensure the technical volunteers have the crucial materials they will need throughout the project. Procurement volunteers are responsible for meeting with potential material and service providers to build donor relationships. On the inside they work with the technical volunteers by helping them meet their needs. Sometimes that means contacting other volunteers for advice, checking what is in stock or contacting donors. This position is the bones of the operations and keeps the ball rolling forward.

To become a volunteer, fill out the application online and someone will be in contact soon after. There is no hourly requirement — volunteers can make their own hours. The organization just asks that all projects are done in a timely manner. “In most cases we are the families last resort and they are counting on us to deliver,” Collura says.

Donate:

Monetary donations are crucial to the success of this nonprofit. Because each device is custom to the client, it is hard to know what materials will be needed for the next project. Business owners with available resources to help are encouraged to contact the procurement team about donating services or material.

For more information and access to the volunteer application, visit maywehelp.org.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 04.18.2016 12 days ago
Posted In: Film, Arts community, Visual Art, Movies at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Animated Films with Insects

Live score played on toy instruments highlight Mini Microcinema's end

When I lived in Los Angeles, one of the most unforgettable events I attended was a screening of films by the 20th-century Russian animator Ladislaw Starewicz, who used insects in his amazingly inventive animated films. (He also used puppets.)

He placed the insects into various settings and then shot the stop-motion films frame by frame. A Jazz/New Music group called Tin Hat Trio played a live score to accompany the visuals.

Lo and behold, the Mini Microcinema on Tuesday (April 19) is presenting Starewicz’s films in the auditorium of Covington’s Carnegie. And there will be a live score played by Little Bang Theory, a group led by Detroit composer Frank Pahl. They play children’s instruments and toys.

There will be a reception starting at 6 p.m. and the performance gets underway at 7 p.m. It is free. This is the last event for the Mini during its residency at The Carnegie. It should be a rewarding one. For more information, please visit www.mini-cinema.org.

 
 
by Cassie Lipp 04.18.2016 12 days ago
Posted In: Culture at 01:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Slice of Cincinnati: Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Situated on a hill overlooking a strip of Gilbert Avenue sits an old house that stands out from its urban surroundings in Walnut Hills. Though it may seem out of place against the backdrop of apartment buildings and businesses, inside the house lies a story of being in the right place at the right time, of discussion and of empathy and compassion.

2950 Gilbert Avenue is the last remaining building that was once part of the Lane Theological Seminary. It is also the former home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Although it is not where she wrote the novel that introduced Northerners to what slavery is like in the South and increased tensions between the two regions, it is where Stowe spent 18 years of her life.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been translated into more than 60 languages — second only to the Bible. It is no wonder that visitors from as far away as Russia and China have recently visited the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. In fact, Kelli Higginson, the house’s only paid employee, says most visitors come from out of town.

“This house is unique because at one time it was the ground center for discussion of slavery,” says volunteer John Douglass. Built in 1832, the house was saved from demolition and purchased by the Ohio Historical Society in 1943. It is still owned by the society today and is designated as a historic landmark.

Stowe lived in Cincinnati from her early 20s until 1859, one year before her famous book was published. Her presence in Cincinnati had a lasting impact on U.S. history and beyond, as Uncle Tom’s Cabin is read in schools around the world. While living in the border town allowed Stowe to see firsthand the desperation of slaves trying to escape to freedom across the Ohio River, it was also here that Stowe was exposed to the controversial debates going on at the seminary where her father, Dr. Lyman Beecher, was president.

Students of the seminary debated about the issue of slavery in 1834 before it became a hot topic throughout the rest of the U.S. Should slaves be emancipated? If slaves were to be freed, where should they go? Some supported sending freed slaves to Africa, while others thought they should be allowed to stay in the U.S. Enrollment at the seminary dropped after the school’s board of trustees dismissed these so-called “Lane Rebels.”

Living in Cincinnati also gave Stowe a stark look at the tension between the anti-slavery movement and those opposed to it. During the Cincinnati riots of 1836, the press that printed The Philanthropist, an abolitionist newspaper published by James Birney, was twice destroyed and thrown into the Ohio River. This sparked Stowe to find her own abolitionist voice and write her first remarks about slavery, in which she defended free speech and denounced mob rule. Her work was published in her brother Henry’s newspaper.

When the cholera epidemic swept through Cincinnati and Stowe’s one-year-old son Samuel Charles died, the personal tragedy caused Stowe to empathize with slave mothers who were often separated from their children. Her son’s death was the catalyst that caused Stowe to begin writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

While it is a work of fiction, Stowe’s novel depicts what American slavery was like at the time. Her visit to a Kentucky plantation allowed her to see how slaves lived. However, many argued that the book’s depiction of slavery couldn’t be accurate. Stowe responded with A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which provides factual evidence from her experience in Cincinnati to defend her claims. (Copies of the key just arrived in the Stowe House’s gift shop; Higginson says they were on backorder for six weeks).

The Ohio Historical Society plans to renovate the house this summer. The renovations will restore the house to what it would have looked like when Stowe’s family lived there. The house will also host Stowe’s 205th birthday celebration (with cake and ice cream, of course) on June 14.

The house is open for tours from noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is also the site of many field trips, lectures, film screenings, history portrayals and more. More information at stowehousecincy.org.

 
 
by Katherine Newman 04.15.2016 15 days ago
Posted In: COMMUNITY at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Nonprofit Spotlight: Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones was founded in 1963 as a nonprofit organization to increase independence, improve lives and promote inclusion for children and adults with disabilities. There are four campuses in the Greater Cincinnati area serving close to 1,000 children and adults every year.

The organization offers programs for people of all ages with many different abilities. The Summer Day Camp, Saturday Clubs, Overnight Staycations and Respites and the Sensory Needs Respite and Support Program are all ways for Stepping Stones to provide support, opportunity and education and to increase independence for participants and their families.

Volunteer:

Our participants love to meet new people and the attention they receive from a volunteer makes them feel important and valued,” says Moira Grainger, marketing, board and community liaison at Stepping Stones.Volunteers enhance our activities and programs by providing an added layer of respect, care, concern and enthusiasm for the daily goals our participants strive for.”

All year there are opportunities for volunteers to work on special maintenance projects, like landscaping and painting. Stepping Stones can use volunteers on the weekends for the Saturday Kids Club and during Weekend Respites. There are also frequent fundraising events where a helping hand is always welcome.

The Summer Day Camp is a program for children with a range of disabilities; it is also where the most volunteers are needed. In 2015 the camp served 455 children and utilized more than 800 volunteers. Summer camp runs Monday-Friday, June 6-Aug. 5. It is not required to be at camp every day of the week, but volunteers must commit to being there from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on the days they choose. This opportunity is open to people as young as 13. We are fortunate to have compassionate and caring individuals who simply love the involvement with our participants, regardless of age,” Grainger says.

Saturday Clubs are a time to celebrate the abilities of children and young adults that participate in the program. This weekend activity encourages friendships and social interaction and is a good opportunity for volunteering. Weekends Respites are for children with severe sensory needs. Since 2013, Stepping Stones along with its volunteers has been providing one-on-one attention for participants helping them learn social skills to take home with them.

Volunteers that have experience working with people with disabilities or a background in special education are often placed in leadership roles, where they can share their experience with less experienced volunteers.

Community groups are encouraged to volunteer at Stepping Stones. Business groups, boy and girl scout groups and school leadership programs are just a few types of groups that have already used the organization to engage in community service. “These groups will usually tackle a project such as landscaping or building something needed, sometimes a maintenance project, or setting up for a special event such as a group dance,” Grainger says.  When corporations visit, a lot of times they will host a special event, like a picnic, for the participants at Stepping Stones.

To become a volunteer, start by filling out the online application. After a receiving a clean background check there is a training program. “The goal of the training is to ensure that all events ranging from needing a band aid to responding to a weather alert can be addressed in a safe and orderly manner,” Grainger says. During training new volunteers learn how to work with people who have disabilities, the appropriate terminology to use when communicate about disabilities and safety procedures.

Stepping Stones hopes that all volunteers are willing to make a long-term commitment. “It makes the experience more rewarding for the participants and the volunteers,” Grainger says.

Donate:

Stepping Stones relies on financial donations to support their programs and activities. The materials they use change depending on the needs of the programs and participants. If you can’t donate time to Stepping Stones, the gift of money can provide financial aid for participants that can’t afford the programs.

Register a Kroger Plus Card to earn cash rewards for Stepping Stones by enrolling in the Community Rewards Program, which gives a portion of every purchase to the chosen organization. Amazon Smile is a similar program that can be used to make donations.


For more information on STEPPING STONES and access to the online volunteer application, visit steppingstonesohio.org.

 
 
by Rick Pender 04.15.2016 16 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door 4-15 - brent vimtrup as brutus in julius caesar @ cincy shakes - mikki schaffner photography

Stage Door

Emperors, assassins, a whole lotta Shakespeare and a feisty mongoose

We’re closing in on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and today is the Ides of April (that means the 15th of the month), so let’s start with several notes about the Bard.

Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar continues this weekend (it’s onstage through May 7). You might recall that the emperor’s assassination happened on the Ides of March. We’re a month late, but it’s worth noting since that historic event was the impetus for one of Shakespeare’s great plays of Roman history. Caesar is the focal point, but the play’s most interesting characters are Brutus, the morally conflicted conspirator, and the ambitious Marc Antony, who has his own designs on the throne. It’s also worth noting this production, since it will be followed in May by Shakespeare’s other Roman story, Antony and Cleopatra. Many of the actors playing key roles in Julius Caesar will return in the second production. It’s a rare pairing of these two works, made possible by Cincy Shakes depth of talent in its resident acting company. I wrote about this project in a recent Curtain Call column. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

If a history play isn’t enough, then you might want to head to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where Cincy Shakes is continuing its education initiative, Project 38 Festival, working with more than 1,600 students at 45+ different area schools to bring each of Shakespeare’s 38 plays to life in creative ways. The celebration is already underway (performances continue through Monday) in Washington Park and the Woodward Theatre (1404 Main St.) — 43 free performances in all. Eighteen performances feature exclusively Shakespearean text, while others interpret the plays with music, dance, filmmaking and visual arts. One is even told with computer animation. For the festival’s full schedule, go here.

Know Theatre opens Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson this weekend. The Cincinnati Playhouse recently presented Gunderson’s intriguing show, The Revolutionists, a fantasy set during the French Revolution. The show at Know is rooted in real events, too, focusing on a group of brilliant women hired by the Harvard Observatory to catalog the stars. Directed by Tamara Winters, the production features a cast of excellent local professionals — Maggie Lou Rader, Justin McCombs and Miranda McGee (from Cincy Shakes) and Annie Fitzpatrick and Miranda McGee (regularly seen at Ensemble Theatre). It’s a fascinating story as well as a chance to experience another work by an award-winning young playwright. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

New Edgecliff Theatre opened the final production of its 2015-2016 season this week, Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things. It’s an emotional drama about relationships and love and what you can believe. Performances are at The Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside). Read my recent column for more about NET’s search for a home. For NET tickets here.

A production with young audiences in mind kicks off this weekend with the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s “Off the Hill” staging of The Garden of Rikki Tikki Tavi adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book by playwright Y York. It’s about a fierce mongoose and his enemy the cobra Nag. The show, directed by the Playhouse’s new director of education, Daunielle Rasmussen, debuts at the theater on Saturday (10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.); tickets are $5 at the box office. The show then tours throughout Greater Cincinnati, starting Sunday at 2 p.m. at Cedar Village Retirement Community in Mason. Full schedule here.


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
 
 
by Cassie Lipp 04.08.2016 22 days ago
Posted In: Visual Art at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Slice of Cincinnati

The Art Academy of Cincinnati's Senior Thesis Exhibitions

With both the Contemporary Arts Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum now offering free admission, and more galleries popping up in Over-the-Rhine and Camp Washington, there’s never been more opportunities to see fine art (for free) in Cincinnati. However, the best-kept secret of Cincinnati art lies in the Art Academy of Cincinnati. That’s right — let’s go back to where many artists get their start: art school.

From the complex layers surrounding everything around us to the concepts on concealing, revealing and everything in between, students at the Art Academy are exploring many realms this spring in their senior thesis shows.

The thesis shows are the final requirement for students of all majors to graduate from the Art Academy, exhibiting the culmination of their work completed over their academic career there. What makes the students’ exhibitions interesting is their creative freedom to center them on any theme or subject they choose.

For many students, it is their first exhibition and introduction into the professional art world. For many gallery visitors, it is a look at the youngest and newest talent in the art world. In addition to displaying their work, students are responsible for all other aspects of the exhibitions, such as lighting and publicizing their event.

“The thesis show is crucial to every student,” says Aaron Broughton, whose work is featured in the thesis show THIS/THAT. “It's that instance at the end of education that says, ‘Look out world, I'm here to fuck shit up!’ ”

THIS/THAT, which closed tonight with a reception from 5-8 p.m., has no prevailing theme; instead, it is a combination of solo shows for the six students represented. The eclectic sample features fashion design, photography, painting, sculpture, video and more.

“The school teaches us a bunch of tools, figuratively and literally, then gives us a bunch of opportunities,” Broughton says. “Then we learn to put in the hard work to make them worthwhile. It's prepared me to seek what I want and grab any opportunity I can.”

Art Academy Professor Jimmy Baker says it is important not only that the students create work, but also for them to learn to put their work into the world for criticism and public engagement.

As each exhibition remains on display for only one week, visitors can see the Art Academy transformed into a new world to explore each week from March through April. The rich curry of mediums and topics explored give viewers a little bit of everything, such as Katie Barnett’s fusion of plant displays into sculpture, Leslie Hacker’s series of pillows printed with images of nudes or Morgan Greer’s exploration of hair with braids forming into intricate designs and sculptures.

“I feel like our seniors have a real interesting interdisciplinary senior year,” Baker says. “Sometimes we have people who may be majoring in sculpture but making video, we have people who are designers but might end up doing performance.”

While you will probably never be disappointed with a visit to any art exhibit in Cincinnati, be sure to make your way to the Art Academy this month to catch some innovative and thought provoking art from Cincinnati’s freshest up-and-coming talent. The last senior thesis show, Zenith, runs until April 29.

 
 
by Rick Pender 04.08.2016 23 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door

Onstage this weekend

I’m heading to Louisville this weekend for the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre. (You’ll find a report online and in CityBeat later this month.) For those of you staying in town, there are several interesting shows to catch locally. 

If you’ve been a Fringe Festival regular for the past three years, it’s likely that you’ve enjoyed one of Paul Strickland’s musical monologues about the Big Fib Trailer Park Cul-de-Sac. If you missed them (or if you simply want to be outrageously entertained by them again), they’re being reprised this weekend at Falcon Theater (636 Monmouth St., Newport). Papa Squat’s Store of Sorts happens on Friday at 8 p.m.; Ain’t True and Uncle False shows up on Saturday at 8 p.m. Both evenings you can catch Tales Too Tall for Trailers at 9:15 p.m., the latter featuring Strickland with Erika Kate MacDonald, shadow puppets … and clothespins. Advance tickets: 513-300-5669

Incline Theater continues to produce adult drama, this time with David Mamet’s hard-hitting (and foul-mouthed) Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s about a group of unprincipled real estate guys competing to be the top dog in a slimy sales contest, selling worthless Florida property and homes to unsuspecting buyers. Their jockeying for position knows no ethical bounds. That might sound like a story that’s tough to watch, but the play — which won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for drama — uses a kind of word-jazz with Mamet’s rat-a-tat-tat dialogue that makes it both fascinating and darkly humorous. The Incline’s production, which opened Wednesday, features seven actors directed by stage veteran Greg Procaccino. They wrestle with this gristly verbiage, some with more success than others, but Mike Dennis (as the hard-selling No. 1 guy, Ricky Roma) has just the right amount of oiliness and superficial arrogance, and David A. Levy (as nervous George Aaronow) is especially convincing as a schlub who can’t catch a break. Nik Pajic (as brash young Dave Moss) has a lot of fire, and Joel Lind (as over-the-hill Shelly “The Machine” Levine) is sympathetic playing a character who talks way too much as he revels in past success. Mike Hall portrays the trying-to-be-tough sales manager; Tom Peters is a gruff cop investigating the very suspicious burglary in the show’s second act; and Scott Unes has a brief scene as a hapless client trying to get out of a bad deal. Through April 24. Tickets: 513-241-6550.

Perhaps you read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in high school. Maybe it’s time to revisit it during a presidential election year where the draw of power and the charisma of men who want to govern is top of mind. This production, opening tonight and running through May 7, will be followed by Antony and Cleopatra (May 13-June 4), in which Shakespeare returned to several of the earlier play’s central characters. Cincinnati Shakespeare is producing the two works in sequence with the actors playing the overlapping roles in both shows. It will be an interesting chance to see how the plays relate and diverge, and how young generals become old politicians. Read more about Cincy Shakes’ productions in my Curtain Call column. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

Jason Robert Brown’s musical exploration of a marriage that comes apart, The Last Five Years, is told in an unusual way, with parallel stories, one running from start to finish and the other in the opposite direction, from the final sad moments to the joyous beginning. The retelling of Jamie and Cathy’s marriage in a series of solo songs overlaps at only one moment — their wedding day. It’s a fascinating way to track the course of love … and loss. Brown’s gorgeous score makes it all the more poignant. Weekends through April 24. Tickets: 859-957-1940.

OK, the final four for men and women are now over and done, both with exciting finishes. If you’re in need of one more weekend of basketball action — featuring men and women — check out Lysistrata Jones, a musical performed in the Cohen Family Studio at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. It’s an amusing retelling of the ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes, updated to a story of women withholding their “favors” to get the men of the Athens University basketball team on the winning track. The show had a quick Broadway run in 2011-2012. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, but you need to call ahead for tickets: 513-556-4183.

Wrapping up and continuing: Annapurna, about the reunion of a colorful and dysfunctional couple, wraps up on Sunday at Ensemble Theatre. At the Cincinnati Playhouse, an excellent stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird finishes its run on Sunday, while the contemporary drama Mothers and Sons, about gay marriage and parenting, is on the Shelterhouse stage for another week.


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
 
 
by Katherine Newman 04.05.2016 25 days ago
Posted In: COMMUNITY at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Nonprofit Spotlight: Women Helping Women

Women Helping Women is a nonprofit agency serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The organization was founded in 1973 to provide advocacy, support and safety to survivors. WHW serves around 12,000 people yearly between the two offices in Hamilton County and Butler County.

One-on-one counseling, court advocacy, support groups and hospital accompaniment are just a few of the free services that are available. The education and prevention team gives presentations to business and community service agencies that focus on recognizing sexual assault and domestic violence along with how to access resources. 

Volunteer:

“We rely so much on our volunteers,” says Ellen Newman, Hamilton County volunteer coordinator. And for good reason: There are about 40 volunteers right now covering a range of survivor services from the 24-hour hotline to court room accompaniment.

The 24-hour hotline is mostly operated by volunteers. This is a daytime opportunity to answer calls from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the office on East Ninth Street. The hotline is an anonymous support system for survivors who might need someone to talk to or advice on how to move forward.

Hospital advocates are on call anywhere from 11-13 hours per day. If a survivor is at the hospital and asks for someone to talk to, the on-call volunteer will be contacted to answer questions and provide support.

Court advocates attend arraignment court with, and sometimes without, survivors. “They are there to answer questions and help them in the initial first step,” Newman says. If a survivor can’t attend the arraignment, the volunteer advocate will make notes of what happened there. As the trial progresses, advocates continue to attend and support the survivor.

Education advocates help with community awareness. Volunteers travel to businesses, churches, schools and events around the Greater Cincinnati area to provide information on recognizing and surviving sexual assault and domestic violence. There is also a Teen Dating Violence Prevention curriculum the travels to area high schools focusing on preventing violence before it starts. The program helps teens identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors in relationships and encourages them to challenge the social norms that encourage dating violence.

Women Helping Women will often need volunteers to work a table at an event, talk about the programs and hand out information. They are also looking for people to help with Light Up The Night, their annual fundraising event on April 28.

“We are survivor-centric — that is the first and foremost quality you have to have,” Newman says. To become a volunteer, you first need to fill out the online application; after it’s reviewed, there will be an interview to determine if you are a good fit for WHW.

“Our name is a little misleading — we are really searching to add more male volunteers,” Newman says. The organization is nondiscriminatory and they are hoping to grow in the number of male volunteers they have available to work with survivors.

The training program is 40 hours and includes an overview of the programs and services along with the ethics of the organization. There is information about what to report and how to work with survivors. They also focus on how to work with specific populations of people to ensure all survivors feel safe.

All volunteers must be 18 and have a clean background check. Women Helping Women asks that volunteers stay with them for at least a year and complete two sessions a month in any of the programs.

Donations:

Donations are always evolving with the needs of each survivor. Feel free to contact the organization to find out what is in immediate need. Some things that can always be used are feminine hygiene products, new clothes and bus passes for survivors to get home, to court and to the doctor’s office.


For more information on WOMEN HELPING WOMEN and to access the volunteer application visit womenhelpingwomen.org.


 
 
 
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