Actors are a big reason we go to see specific performances, and there are a couple of excellent choices onstage right now as several theaters are kicking off their 2015-2016 seasons. Of particular note is Annie Fitzpatrick, a familiar performer to audiences frequenting productions at Ensemble Theatre. She’s playing Caroline, an over-burdened social worker in Luna Gale. Her character is caught in a custody tug of war involving a baby, the title character. Her immature parents are on one side, caught up in drugs and angry behavior; on the other side is Luna Gale’s well-intentioned grandmother who’s religiously conservative. Fitzpatrick portrays a beleaguered woman trying to do what’s right, but constantly thwarted by the system in which she works. You feel this desperation deep down inside Caroline’s character, in her physical presence, in her exasperated stares and sighs. Fitzpatrick is a marvel to watch. She’s a major factor in my giving this production a Critic’s Pick. (Note for the future: She’ll be onstage next at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Oct. 16-Nov. 7, playing Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman.) Luna Gale continues through Sept. 27. Tickets: 512-421-3555
Another veteran actor is shining at Cincinnati Shakespeare this month. Jeremy Dubin, a member of CSC’s acting company for 16 seasons, is playing the swashbuckling poet Cyrano de Bergerac. The show is sometimes called a heroic comedy, and Dubin handles both parts of that phrase with aplomb. He makes Cyrano larger than life in his generosity and faithfulness, but he plays him with the requisite sense of humor — especially in scenes involving Cyrano’s oversized nose, a convincing prosthetic created for Dubin’s performance. He has excelled in roles both comic and serious; Cyrano draws on both. Read more about this play and Cincy Shakes’ production in my recent column. Tickets: 513-621
One more excellent acting performance worth catching: Caitlin Cohn as 10-year-old Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden at the Cincinnati Playhouse. She’s actually a college student (New York University), but the petite actress is wholly convincing as the ornery, bright and eventually loving orphan who finds the warmth of nature and shares it with her grieving uncle. Cohn is doing an audacious job with a challenging role. Tickets: 513-421-3888
If you were planning to see New Edgecliff Theatre’s production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune this weekend, you need to put it in neutral. Due to some technical delays with NET’s new home at Urban Artifact (1622 Blue Rock Road, Northside) the company is moving the production to a different venue and delaying performances for a week. It’s not scheduled to be presented at Essex Studios (2511 Essex Place, Walnut Hills) opening Sept. 24 and continuing through Oct. 3. NET is contacting people who already had reservations. If you don’t have tickets yet, call now: 888-421-7311
A few quick notes: Showbiz Players, a dependable community theater company that likes satirical shows, is presenting The Rocky Horror Show at the Carnegie in Covington, through Sept. 26. Tickets: 859-957-1940 … Performance Gallery, an avant-garde troupe of performers that’s been a steady contributor to the Cincinnati Fringe, is reprising its production from the 2015 Fringe, Shirtzencockle, at Know Theatre on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. It’s a surreal, magical, ridiculous blind of folk and fairy tales. Tickets: 513-300-5669 … Kate Tombaugh, who studied opera at UC’s CCM (and trained in numerous other places) is presenting her one-woman show, It Just Takes One. It portrays the roller-coaster story of a young woman in her 20s seeking a career in opera while struggling to find a social life. A benefit for the Charitable Care Fund at Children’s Hospital, it’s being presented at St. Thomas Episcopal Church (100 Miami Ave., Terrace Park) on Friday evening at 8 p.m. and in 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Heya! Here’s a quick rundown of the news this morning. Just a few links as you head into your Oktoberfest weekend.Think of it as morning news lite. Goes down easy with no bitter aftertaste.
An armed, off-duty officer was asked to leave Over-the-Rhine’s 16-Bit Bar because he was drinking while carrying a concealed weapon, a violation of Ohio law. The officer complied with no drama, but a fellow officer with him has raised a fuss about the incident, and now there's a bit of a battle going on in social media circles about it. Read more here.
• Uh, maybe don’t jump in the Ohio River right now. Bummer. Toxic algae blooms first found upriver in West Virginia in August have caused local nonprofit Green Umbrella to postpone its annual Ohio River Swim due to health concerns. Since last month, more blooms have been discovered all along the river. The algae can cause everything from nausea to liver damage in humans and animals, so don’t let the dog in the river either. Double bummer. It’s great swimming weather right now, too.
• If you’re like me, you probably have watched a mind-boggling amount of C-SPAN in your life and this next bit of news about Cincinnati being in the spotlight on that channel seems awesome. But you’re probably not like me because I’m super weird and used to watch the nation’s premier outlet for catching Senate hearings, House of Representatives procedural votes and other thrilling events on the regular. (It was for my job, but still, this is probably why I’m single bee-tee-dubs). Anyway, C-SPAN 2 has oh so much more than that thrilling governmental programming and will be featuring multiple programs about Cincinnati’s history as part of the channel’s Cities Tour. The programs air Saturday at noon and Sunday at 2 p.m., perfectly timed to give you an excuse not to go to Oktoberfest. Who needs the city’s biggest drinking and eating event downtown when you can watch a documentary on William Henry Harrison, am I right?
• Good news from the U.S. Census about bicycling. Data released yesterday in the Census’ American Community Survey shows that bike commuters are up in Cincinnati. Though they still only made up less 1 percent of all commutes in 2014, cyclists riding to work have increased by a half percentage point over 2013. We also climbed to 39th from 46th out of 70 cities in terms of percentage of bicycle commuters. Welcome to the club, new folks! See you in the streets.
• Now some bad news from the Census. Data shows that more than 1.7 million Ohioans live in poverty, despite gains in the unemployment rate. That’s 16 percent of the state’s population. This poverty disproportionately affects people of color. Nearly 35 percent of Ohio’s black population and 28 percent of its Latino population lives in poverty, according to the Census’ American Community Survey. Just 12 percent of whites do. Read more about the recent Census data here.
And I’m out. Look for me at Oktoberfest. I’ll be the one double fisting dark beers and brats all weekend.
As technology advances, we constantly revisit our old resources to determine their relevance. Perhaps one of the most common debates is if libraries are a thing of the past. Sure, the quiet atmosphere with thousands of books is soothing, but is it really necessary when most, if not all, of its services can be found in a Google search?
I, and many others like me, say yes. To be clear, I’m a young twentysomething who’s as tied to her smartphone as anyone else, but I believe libraries are an essential and irreplaceable community establishment. Books aside, libraries offer so many services that it would take 10 community organizations to equal.
“The library is here for [the community] and literally does a little bit of everything,” says Jill Liebisch, adult/teen services programmer for the Newport branch of the Campbell County Public Library. “We do everything from job fairs to learning how to knit and crochet to the YART [Art Yardsale] to one-on-one computer and technology training.”
To explore just how relevant public libraries really are in this digital age, I’m exploring one service or program each week and evaluating its impact on me as a resident and on the community at large.
My first event was YART: The Art Yardsale, hosted by the Newport library. YART showcased artists from around the Cincinnati community in a creative yard sale, where jewelry makers, sketch artists, painters, photographers, glass blowers, sculptors and scrapbookers sold their goods at affordable prices.
Liebisch has organized the event for the last two years. “We kind of came up with the idea that we wanted it to be students and people who had never had a chance to sell their artwork before,” she says. “We had so many students and first-timers come and display and sell their artwork…they got to make contacts and kind of have a little art show of their own.”
During my time there, YART kept up a steady stream of traffic, despite the constant dark clouds hinting at rain. I joined the handful weaving through the aisles of jewelry, paintings, photography, sketches and paper arts, taking time to chat with the artists.
Nancy Howes told me about her fantasy-inspired jewelry made from copper, poly clay and paper. She’s been making jewelry off and on for the last 20 years and used to have a shop in Bellevue. “I do these craft fairs every once in a while,” she says. “It’s fun to get out and hear the people and visit with them.”
Howes’ son, Chris, sat next to her, behind a table of ceramic faces. A professional sculptor, Howes designs The Grotesquerie, his collection of hand-sculpted faces and figures. “I make grotesques, in the classic sense of caricatures and grotesque faces,” he says, looking over his table of odd expressions.
The wind spread around the constant aroma of his incense burners, shaped like fish and funny gnomes. “They just sort of happened, whatever comes out comes out,” he says, joking about the figures. “It surprises me sometimes.”
After several passes among the tables, I ended up with a personalized picture album, small watercolor painting, a pair of earrings and an assortment of paper tags, not to mention the fun of chatting with local creatives. Melissa Huber, who sold me the earrings, remarked on how useful she’s found the public library. Huber said she and her mother attend the Friday night movies, and Huber herself has learned to knit and intends to learn fly fishing, all through their local branch.
After a few hours at the YART sale, I walked away with great gifts for family at prices a broke twentysomething can afford. It was probably one of the most satisfying shopping trips I’ve ever made, and I can’t think of a better way to invest in a community.
Good morning y’all. Here’s the news today.
First off, you should check out this week's CityBeat news feature about how the feds are working with a Cincinnati neighborhood to help preserve diversity and affordability there. I think you'll find it fascinating. As more and more folks discover how cool it is to live in the urban parts of Cincinnati, demand has increased for housing and services in some of the city's coolest neighborhoods. Northside is no stranger to that dynamic, and with new apartment buildings and businesses going in there, the community risks some of the downsides of all that development — a loss of diversity and waning affordability for low- and moderate-income residents. But the Northside Community Council is taking steps to combat those problems with some consulting help from the EPA, of all agencies. Why the EPA? Read more here.
• Cincinnati-based consumer products giant Procter & Gamble yesterday announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next half decade. The company will do so, according to P&G Vice President of Global Sustainability Len Sauers, by focusing more on renewable energy and taking innovative steps like generating steam with nutshells and sawdust. The new target is an increase over the company’s previous goal of cutting emissions by 20 percent. The company has cited concern for the environment as one driver for the goal, but, of course, it will also be good for business, they say, cutting costs and making production more efficient. Seems like business stuff can only really be green one way if it’s green the other, if you catch my drift.
• A group pushing to recall Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley will meet later this month in Clifton. The group, started sometime around Sept. 10, currently has about 230 followers on Facebook and about 40 people confirmed to attend its Sept. 29 event at the Clifton branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library. “With the most recent firing of Cincinnati Police Chief Blackwell citizens have had enough of a mayor who has put major corporations above citizen interests,” the group’s Facebook page reads. “Since John Cranley has taken office he has disregarded the public and forced his agenda on the public with no regard for the Democratic process.”
It’s unclear if a mayoral recall is even possible under municipal law. State laws allow for recall elections, but Cranley’s office claims that Ohio Supreme Court decision means that recalls can only happen if city laws expressly make them possible. But the city’s charter is mum on recalls and the matter would probably have to be decided in court. If a court decided that recalls are not permitted under the charter, supporters of a recall effort would have to pass a ballot initiative allowing them first.
• Marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio won a legal battle yesterday after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that ballot language about the group’s proposed amendment to the state’s constitution was misleading. That language was submitted by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, an opponent of marijuana legalization in the state. The court says sections describing how marijuana can be sold, how much marijuana a person can grow privately and the possibility for additional commercial grow sites must be amended to be more accurate. However, the win wasn’t total. ResponsibleOhio supporters were also challenging the title of the ballot initiative put forward by Husted, which contained the word “monopoly.” The court ruled that word can stay. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal has been controversial. It would allow anyone over 21 to purchase marijuana from a licensed distributor, but would limit commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors.
• While Ohio’s job market is edging back toward its pre-recession levels, wages have remained stagnant, a new report by think tank Policy Matters Ohio says. The state has 0.7 percent fewer jobs than it did in 2007 in contrast to the nation’s 2.5-percent increase in jobs during that time. But the real worry is that the state’s median wage adjusted for inflation, $16.05 an hour, is at one of the lowest levels it’s been in more than three decades. That’s 5 percent less than the national rate. The study highlights a number of continuing problems for Ohio’s economy and says the state’s sluggish economic growth is impacting low-wage earners most heavily.
• Finally, perhaps you watched the reality TV event of the season last night and have some thoughts. Or maybe you skipped the second GOP primary debate in order to preserve your sanity and faith in our fine country. Either way, I’ma tell you about it. A brief rundown: Donald Trump trumped it up and looks to stay in the lead among GOP hopefuls. Former corporate exec Carly Fiorina took the Donald to the mat a few times over Trump’s comments about her face, though, and that was kind of awesome. Dr. Ben Carson continued talking very quietly, entrancing primary voters who like a quiet conservative who says little of substance. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush continued to illustrate why he’s a mystifyingly stubborn presence near the top of the polls, saying his brother GW kept America safe somehow.
And where were our local guys? U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky did manage to stop bickering with the Donald long enough to offer up some substantive thoughts about foreign policy and the U.S. war on drugs, probably scoring some points with the nation’s not-insubstantial libertarian base. Ohio Gov. John Kasich stayed the slow and steady course he’s charted, presenting himself as the pragmatic moderate in a room full of loony ideologues. That might come in handy later, but it makes for boring reality TV at the moment. Anyway, here are some links to articles fact-checking candidates’ statements (that’s cute… as if their statements were in some way designed to be factual at all) and some pundits who said some things about the debate that probably don’t matter at all because the debates are farce and pundits like Dave Weigel’s thoughts on the debates are a farce about a farce. But it’s all a fun game to watch, right? Right.
I’m out! Later. Catch me on Twitter or send me emails about how awesomely surreal our political system is, and your reactions to this horrifying fashion development.
The Visit is a change-up for M. Night Shyamalan. Kind of. The man notorious for refusing to make a movie that doesn’t have a massive twist, usually in the final few moments of the film, has brought us Academy Award-nominated The Sixth Sense, but he has also brought us Razzie-nominated films like The Happening and (gulp) After Earth. So when he decided to try to get back to his roots of suspense and horror and away from his misadventures in big budget nonsense, I decided I would take a flier.
The premise surrounding The Visit is as straightforward and crisp as vintage Shaymalan could get. Two grandchildren, Becca and Tyler, armed with digital cameras, go to visit their never-met grandparents and things get a little… spooky. Grandpa is wildly paranoid. Grandma wanders around at night, sometimes on all fours, sometimes scratching the wall the way a housecat would a scratching post. Grandma gets a kick out of having Becca climb in the oven — “all the way in” — to clean it.
Of course with Shyamalan, it can’t be all that simple. That would be too fun to watch. There’s a Shyamalan-trademark family drama needlessly bubbling underneath the otherwise self-explanatory event. Becca and Tyler’s mother, played by Kathryn Hahn, eloped against her parents’ will only to be ditched by her husband once Tyler, the younger of the siblings, was born. It feels like a cheap way to get us to fear for the kids’ fates, and feels even more like a waste of my time in the theater. Shyamalan really lays the family-love on thick throughout, doing his damnedest to get us to pray to whatever we believe in that the grandparents are only very strange, somewhat sick elderly folk and not the perhaps murderous plotters looking to claim vengeance on their daughter’s rebellious days that we can’t help but suspect.
Speaking of trying to get us to like the characters, I really have to wonder what in the world I was supposed to like about Tyler, the tween-ish boy counterpart to his much more likable older sister, Becca. Tyler is annoying. I don’t like his voice, I don’t like how clever he thinks he is and I don’t like that he raps about cake. He drives me nuts. I really can’t understate how obnoxious this freaking kid is, and I remember thinking to myself very honestly, “Please, if only one of these kids makes it out of the visit alive, take Tyler.”
While I imagine Shyamalan was trying to make the kids a sort of duality in the sense that one is female and modest while the other is male and blurts whatever is on his immature mind, M. Night really just makes one kid seem like an angel and the other seem like that accumulation of snot you get in your nose (sometimes only one nostril, now that’s the worst) overnight when you have the flu. To all you Louis C.K. fans out there, Tyler is essentially my Jizanthapus. He’s a kid, and I shouldn’t despise him, but… I totally despise and I won’t lose a second of sleep over it. For all I know, young Australian actor Ed Oxenbould — unfortunate enough to be cast as Tyler — has a bright career ahead of him. If he does, this performance will be that embarrassing moment he doesn’t want brought up in interviews. The worst part is, this isn’t his fault. Shyamalan really went to great lengths to create one of the lamest characters of the year, and perhaps of his career (and that is really saying something).
But after we get past the fact that the movie is split three-quarters the way of solid horror flick, one-quarter sappy family drama and after we put up with Tyler’s painful inclination to rap about nonsense off-beat in random moments, we are still forced to come to grips with the found-footage direction style of the film. No longer a fresh way to frame a horror flick, the found-footage approach is honestly executed with a surprising volume of youthful energy from the veteran filmmaker behind the cameras (all two of them). The Blair Witch Project may have popularized (and perhaps immediately perfected) the style for scare-tactics all the way back in 1999 (ironically the same year Shyamalan popularized himself with The Sixth Sense) but the method seems to still have something to offer the world of horror films.
The “jump scares” are tastefully sparse and truly give audiences the surprised shouts we crave heading into a theater for a scary movie like The Visit. I tend to be more impressed with the “slow-burn” scares that push horror films into the realm of classics, and while The Visit offers enough paranoia to keep us in the theater, it also falls flat on its face often enough to be make us raise an eyebrow. I found myself laughing every three or four times I was supposed to be shaking in my seat. That’s not a good formula for a good horror film. While I’m on the subject, let me just be clear: This is not a good any-kind-of film, and it basically derails its own formula.
When a film has one half of a protagonist duo of grandkids that is utterly unlikable and one half of an antagonistic duo of grandparents makes you chuckle when you know you’re supposed to be screaming, the movie doesn’t come out on top. It comes out low (but not the lowest) on the Shayamalan scale, but with a much more bitter taste than most of his failures. There’s a good movie somewhere in The Visit. Perhaps this one is on the editor, but I’ve been too disappointed too many times by M. Night to believe anyone but the writer/director deserves most of my negative feelings toward the horror flick. While The Happening and After Earth were downright disastrous implosions, The Visit has just enough redeeming qualities to keep us generally on board, somewhat intrigued and mostly entertained. But that’s not what Shyamalan wants us to feel. It’s not what I want either, but it’s what we got. If you’ve been holding out for a Shyamalan comeback, this may not be the trip you want to take a chance on.
Good morning, Cincy! Hang in there: We're halfway through the week and crawling closer and closer to Oktoberfest this weekend. Here are some headlines to help pass some of the time until your next beer.
City Manager Harry Black, who fired Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell last Wednesday, said he will look high and low, near and far, and leave no stone unturned to find Cincinnati's new chief. Ok, well,
he actually said that he will do a national search as well as post the
position internally within the next two weeks to find the replacement. Mayor John Cranley has said that he supports the interim Police Chief and former Assistant Chief Eliot Isaac for the job. But the call goes to the city manager, who was given the power to hire and fire the police chief in 2001.
• Better late than never--the
streetcars are finally coming. CAF USA, the Elmira, N.Y. company
building the cars has said the first car will arrive by Oct. 30. The
rest are arriving between the end of this year and early next year. The
cars were supposed to arrive mid-September for the opening day, but the
company pushed back the date due to manufacturing issues.
• ResponsibleOhio's executive director Ian James and Secretary of State Jon Husted are still going head to head over the Nov. 3 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Ohio. Husted has now claimed that ResponsibleOhio knew about the fraudulent signatures on its initial petition to get the measure on the ballot. James denies this. But Responsible Ohio charging full speed ahead to get the initiative passed. They've recently unveiled "Buddy the Marijuana mascot" at college campus to get the youth vote--a move so wild that they've attracted the attention of Late Show host Stephen Colbert. You can watch his segment here.
• Gov. John Kasich will take the stage again tonight for the second GOP debate on CNN. Things have changed since the first Fox News debate a few weeks ago. Then, Kasich barely made it into the top eight contenders to debate with front runners Donald Trump, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. This time around, Kasich didn't have to sneak into the debate. According to recent polls, Kasich has moved from the tail end to the middle. He's still way behind leaders Donald Trump and Ben Carson, but he's ahead of Walker, who has taken a rough tumble from the top to Kasich's former position. Some speculate that Walker, who turned Wisconsin into a right-to-work state, might launch some attacks at Kasich for backing off an anti-union movement, but the main target will still probably be Trump.
• Trump isn't just the target of fellow GOP contenders. Tuesday morning, conservative
group the Club for Growth launched a series of advertisements attacking
Trump calling him "the worst kind of politician." It seems the group has
some issues with statements Trump has made on supporting higher taxes
on capital gains, healthcare and rejecting cuts to Social Security and Medicaid, which could ultimately be helping Kasich climb the polls.
According to a Politico story on Monday, some Wall Street executives
are afraid of a Trump presidency and have instead shoveled money towards
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kasich.
My email is email@example.com, and I'd love to hear from you!
Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the news on this amazing fall day. No, seriously, it’s pretty much ideal outside right now so take a minute to go outside for a smoke break or to get some coffee or do some jumping jacks or pull ups on a street sign or something. I’ll wait.
OK. Back? Here we go. Maybe you’ve heard about the fact that our fair city was a’courtin one heck of a catch recently, but came away heartbroken. The object of our affection is really, really rich, into engineering and science stuff and already has a pretty close relationship with us. But when we tried to take that relationship to the next level, we were spurned because our elders have some conflicting political viewpoints.
I’m talking about the fact that General Electric won’t be locating its corporate headquarters in Ohio at least in part because four high-level GOP politicians in the state oppose renewing the authority of the federal Export-Import Bank, which underwrites loans for companies that do lots of exporting. GE, which already has more employees in Ohio than any other state, does more exporting than any other company here. U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, both hailing from the Cincinnati area, as well as Ohio Gov. John Kasich and tea party firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan from Urbana all oppose the so-called Ex-Im Bank, saying that the private market could do a better job financing the corporate export game.
It’s a little like having your crush over to your house when you’re a teenager and then your dad starts talking about the constitution while wearing a Gadsen flag T-shirt, only there are like, four dads and your crush employs thousands upon thousands of people. Hard to know who to root for here. On the one hand, I feel like corporations should get federal money exactly never and shouldn’t be throwing their political weight around. On the other hand, well, tea party nuttiness. Other politicians, including most Democrats in the state, support the Ex-Im bank, which is the flip side ideologically of what you’d think it would be. Kind of a lame situation all around.
• Western & Southern Financial Group President and CEO John Barrett discussed the company’s plans for a whole corner of downtown Cincinnati yesterday at a gathering for real-estate professionals. Barrett outlined plans for new restaurants, rooftop bars and other attractions in the area around Lytle Park in downtown’s southeastern corner, near where the company’s headquarters are located. Among the attractions will be a luxury hotel in the building that formerly housed the Anna Louise Inn, a women’s shelter, for more than 100 years. Western & Southern’s real estate arm, Eagle Realty, purchased that building after protracted legal wrangling with Cincinnati Union Bethel, which runs the shelter now located in Mount Auburn. I could tell you more about the awesome swanky rooftop bars and glitzy restaurants planned for the area, but I’d rather just pose a question: Since when does the CEO of a corporation, even one who’s been in the neighborhood since 1901, get to plan what a big chunk of the city looks like? I could go further but I’m just going to leave that right there because I’m a reporter and we don’t actually have opinions.
• Will the media be allowed to continue covering a trial involving a racially charged confrontation in June between police and pool-goers in Fairfield? That’s up for debate. A 12-year-old and 15-year-old are charged in Butler County Courts with resisting arrest in connection with that incident. The 12-year-old is also charged with assaulting an officer, and the 15-year-old with disorderly conduct. Attorneys for the juveniles have requested that press be barred from the ongoing court proceedings. The incident caught national attention after cell phone video emerged of the family in question being asked to leave the pool and subsequently being arrested. They and their supporters say police used inappropriate force during that incident and that their removal stems from the fact they are black. They’ve asked that charges against the children be dropped. Fairfield Police, however, say they were justified in their use of force and will be proceeding with the charges against the children.
• A meeting yesterday of Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police yielded a vote of confidence in CPD’s interim chief Eliot Isaacs. That’s a big turnaround from the meeting's original purpose, which was to express no confidence in now-ousted chief Jeffrey Blackwell. Isaac is an insider with the department, having spent more than 25 years with CPD. Officers within the department had said morale was at a very low point due to communication issues, outdated equipment and low staffing. Those complaints came as controversy swirled around Blackwell, who garnered praise for his approach to community relations but criticism for his handling of internal affairs within the department. Blackwell’s supporters maintain he was fighting impossible headwinds within CPD as a chief hired from the outside against the wishes of incoming mayor John Cranley.
• Local families of those killed in police shootings will rally this Saturday at the University of Cincinnati, then march to the spot in Mount Auburn where Samuel Dubose was shot and killed earlier this summer. That rally will start at 6 p.m. in front of the UC police center at 51 W. Corry St. The families of Samuel Dubose, Samantha Ramsey, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III are expected to attend and address the crowd before marching.
• Finally, are you happy right now? Like, actually happy? According to a new study released by finance website WalletHub.com, the chances you answered yes to that question are much lower here in Ohio or Kentucky than in many other states. Wallethub’s recent ranking of happiest and least-happy states did not look favorably on the Tri-state. Ohio ranked 43 out of the 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Kentucky ranked 49. Ouch. At least Indiana ranked a little higher at 38. The study took into account depression rates, sleep surveys, suicide rates, average work hours, income growth, unemployment rates and other factors to give a rough indication of the happiest places in the U.S. Number one? Utah, of all places. Number two was Minnesota, somehow, which you’ll have to ask CityBeat reporter Natalie Krebs about, since she hails from the land of cold-ass winters and weird accents. Just kidding Natalie, I’m sure it’s great up there.
Happy Monday, Cincy! Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are your morning headlines.
• The Cincinnati Red Bike program celebrates its one-year anniversary tomorrow, and it's had a great start. In the past 12 months, the bike share program has blown the lid off of initial first year projections. It has logged more than 87,000 rides, 69-percent more than initial predictions, and membership is at 1,330, 42-percent more than predicted. Stations were expanded out to Northside and northern Kentucky earlier than planned due to its popularity, and it now has 50 stations, 20 more than when the program launched. Best yet, the Red Bike hasn't lost a single bike! Red Bike officials say this kind of growth into the second and third year isn't expected, and some stations — like the ones in Northside and Uptown — aren't being used as much as they'd like. But that's not stopping the program from celebrating. In addition to throwing itself a birthday bash at Taft's Ale House in OTR, bike rentals will be only a dollar on its anniversary tomorrow.
• Officials from the city and the arts community this afternoon will reveal the group that will be renovating Music Hall. The 2 p.m. press conference will include details about the crew that will help with the $125 million project. The historic building is in dire need of repairs and updates, as duct tape holds the carpet in place in some areas, old hemp rope is still used behind the scenes, buckets are set up to catch leaks and narrow passageways and doors make staging difficult to get through the 137-year-old structure, officials say.
• The Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police is expected to issue a vote of confidence for Interim Police Chief Eliot Isaac today. Isaac was promoted to assistant police chief in July and received this quick bump up in ranks after City Manager Harry Black fired former Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell last Wednesday. Isaac is a 26-year veteran of the CPD and had been serving as captain since 2004 before being promoted to assistant chief this summer.
• City Manager Harry Black's memo released last Wednesday, the day Blackwell was fired, cited low morale, frequent absences and described Blackwell as too self-promotional, among the reasons why the police chief was fired for cause, but the Enquirer is questioning whether his community-focused policing approach played a part in his dismissal. Blackwell's approach to working with kids in the community through programs like the Right to Read program and a recently launched pilot program that would extend hours in community centers has been cited as a model for police stations by some outside of Cincinnati but possibly shook the city's confidence in him during a recent spike in shootings.
CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.
Good morning all. Hope you had a great holiday weekend. Here’s the news today.
Cincinnati’s last remaining women’s clinic that provides abortions will remain open until at least May following a last-minute decision by the Ohio Department of Health to grant it a license. Back in September, the ODH denied Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn its first request for a variance to state laws requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals. That move could have shut the clinic down, but an ensuing court injunction kept it open. Now, the ODH has approved the clinic’s second request for a variance on the last day of a 60-day deadline stipulated by new state laws. That request listed four doctors with individual admitting privileges at local hospitals. The clinic’s previous request listed three.
• Three of Cincinnati City Council’s most conservative members have been pretty good buds up to this point, even tapping each other to pick their successors should one of them leave council early. But the cozy coalition between council members Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn, both Republicans, and Christopher Smitherman, an independent, could change rapidly as the race for a Hamilton County commissioner seat heat up. None of the three are officially running yet, but Smitherman and Winburn have at least grabbed petitions that would enable them to appear on the ballot, and Murray said she’s considering her options in terms of the race. If two or all three jump into the race for departing commissioner Greg Hartmann’s seat, things could get less friendly. As the Business Courier points out, party primaries can be brutal, no-holds-barred affairs.
• Meanwhile, The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a story yesterday on City Council’s accomplishments two years into its newly extended four-year terms. It also, strangely, both lauds council for getting a lot done while at the same time criticizing it for being “rife with feuding, dysfunction and for some members, missed meetings.” The piece takes a negative view of council Democrats’ disagreements with Mayor John Cranley and dings council overall for its lack of “one voting bloc” and “one agenda among members.” Which, to editorialize, seems like a very weird critique of a democratic body. Don’t we have nine council members so we can have different viewpoints and different goals? Anyway, take a look at the article, which does have some good tidbits of information in it about what council has been up to.
• About 60 protesters with Black Lives Matter Cincinnati took to the streets downtown Friday. The group says the rally through downtown and Over-the-Rhine was held in solidarity with activists in Chicago, where hundreds have decried recently released video of the Chicago Police Department shooting of Laquan McDonald. McDonald was shot 16 times by a CPD officer last year as he was walking away from police. Though McDonald was armed with a three-inch knife, the officer who shot him had arrived on the scene just seconds before and was a safe distance away from McDonald. The officer was subsequently charged with murder. The rally in Cincinnati follows a similar event last weekend to remember Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by police in Cleveland last year.
• Does Over-the-Rhine need more liquor licenses? As we explored this spring in our feature on neighborhood entertainment districts, many people are pushing for ways to expand the number of licenses available in some Cincinnati neighborhoods. A new plan being proposed would do just that for OTR, doubling the number of licenses available in the neighborhood by splitting up its current neighborhood entertainment district into two parts and extending its boundaries north. While advocates of the plan say it would aid economic development in the area, especially around Findlay Market, others are asking for balance and caution, saying that too many bars could make the area less livable for residents.
• Hamilton County commissioners are set to approve the county’s upcoming budget this week. As they prepare to do that, though, there’s a hubub going on over the county sheriff’s office. The department, headed by Democrat Sheriff Jim Neil, makes up by far the largest single expenditure in the fiscal plan: $59 million of the county’s $200 million general fund expenditures go to the office. But the hard part has been that the department doesn’t stay within the lines on that budget and is expected to be about $5 million over the $54 million spending mark stipulated by the current budget. That has caused some pushback from county commissioners, who have said Neil needs to be more strategic about his spending. So what’s responsible for the overruns? Officials say lack of communication has played a role, but also needed staff increases and modernization efforts within the department have contributed to the cost overruns.
I'm out! Send me news tips.
Good morning Cincy! With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, people are ducking out of office early today (if they even show up at all), including journalists. Here are some headlines to hold you over this holiday weekend.
• University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono requested that the Facebook page of the supposed UC White Student Union be shut down. The page has been linked to a white supremacy group, and nearly identical Facebook pages have been popping up in universities across the country. Ono said in an email sent out to students and staff that while he supports the freedom of speech, that the group was polarizing and distracting attention away from important racial issues that need to be discussed.
• What's crazier than buying a $500,000 condo in Over-The-Rhine? Well, many, many things, but one of those things may be buying a $1 million townhouse in Over-The-Rhine. Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board approved plans Monday for the construction of nine single-family townhomes near 15th and Elm, which will include two bedrooms, a two-car garage and a covered second floor deck. The $10 million project by Daniel Homes also includes renovating an old fire station on 15th street for residential and possibly commercial use.
• The greater Cincinnati area's jobless rate continues to fall. In the 15 counties in the region, which includes Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana, the percent of unemployed workers fell nearly 17 percent. Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties all have jobless rates at 4.2 percent than the national average hangs a bit higher at 4.8 percent. The drop might not be as drastic as all those prices during those terrible Black Friday sales, but it is the area's lowest jobless rate since March 2001.
• U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat representing Ohio, said last Thursday that not all terrorists are abroad--or even foreigners. While Republicans have ganged up on Syrian refugees in the past week and a half, Sherrod said that "generally white males" are responsible for terrorist attacks. He's calling the mass shootings in public areas like schools and movie theaters that the U.S. has experienced in the last decad, terror attacks as well--just by another kind of terrorist. He pointed out that a major terrorist attack hasn't happen on U.S. soil since September 11, but plenty of shooting have happened by people that "look more like me than they look like Middle Easterners"--a viewpoint that appears unlikely to be adopted by any Republicans pushing for the halt of Syrian refugees any time soon.
• Chicago police released the dash camera footage of the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by police officers while running down a street in October 2014. Officer Jason Van Dyke, who opened fire on the teen, is being held without bond for first degree murder. Hundred of protesters marched peacefully in the streets of Chicago last night after the release of the video, and with many were angry about the long delay in the release of the video to the public.
Send me story tips. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
There’s nothing like being greeted by the bright echoes of music as you step inside from the pouring rain. On this particular day I was visiting the main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for the monthly Jazz of the Month Club performance, featuring the Jamey Aebersold Quartet. It wasn’t hard to find the musicians, since their tunes bounced all around the library atrium, and as I slipped into my seat I settled down and let the warm jazz beats warm my cold body.
The Jamey Aebersold Quartet, the third performer in the Jazz of the Month Club, featured an extremely talented group of musicians, led by an award-winning Jazz master and educator. Jamey Aebersold, who led the group on the alto sax, received the 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, the highest jazz honor in America. A native of New Albany, Ind., Aebersold has been playing Jazz for more than 50 years, and has gained international recognition as a Jazz musician and educator. It was perhaps the educator in him that couldn’t resist adding tidbits of the pieces and artists they performed.
The quartet played several Jazz tunes, including “Lament” by J.J. Johnson, “Hi-Fly” by Randy Weston and “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington, one of the most famous Jazz compositions. As I listened to the lively beats I couldn’t help but look around at the rest of the audience. While a couple people slept in the back row, most were intently focused on the performers, nodding their heads, tapping their toes or even dancing in their seats. Peeking out at passersby, I noticed a few that were even dancing as they walked, and I saw more than one librarian sneak a peek between tasks.
At one point, Aebersold pulled a Jamaican pianist into the performance and gave him a rehearsal for their next song in “be-dos,” singing the melody in gibberish. As strange as that seemed, Aebersold’s next instruction confused me further: “There’s a two-bar break on bar…something. You’ll hear it.” While we all laughed, I couldn’t help but wonder how the pianist could follow those instructions, but to my amazement he jumped right in without missing a beat, improvising as if he’d known the tune all along.
As a Jazz enthusiast, it was wonderful to hear the different styles of Jazz played in a way that drew crowds from all sections of the library. Older adults sat patiently through the program while younger audiences slipped in and out. But no matter how long they stayed, all seemed to leave with an expression of peace and pleasure at the simple but beautiful tunes wafting through the building. It was evidence of what Aebersold described by saying, “The world’s a mess. But we can make it better by playing some music.”Did this event sound interesting? Check out similar programs at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Main Branch:
Hey Cincy. Hope you’re winding down your work week. It’s T-minus two days 'til turkey time, which also happens to be my birthday this year. I’m hyped for both. Oh, and if you want to get your favorite reporter a b-day gift, I’ll take a pair of these in size 8.5 thx. Huh. Now you know my shoe size, which is kind of creepy.
But here’s something awesome: There will be tons of political fodder for you to argue awkwardly about around the dinner table with your family this Thanksgiving. Consider this news update your guide to all the best terrible conversations you’ll be having soon.
• You can start with something mild, like debating whether or not Mayor John Cranley should have gotten off the hook for his election-day outburst at a polling location in Avondale. OK, “outburst” is a little harsh. The Cran-man just got a bit over-enthusiastic about Issue 22, the parks tax proposal, and shouted out that people should vote yes on it a couple times. Who doesn’t like to see enthusiasm for the democratic process? But uh, campaigning and telling people how to vote in a polling place is pretty firmly against the rules, especially when you’re a political figure. Despite that, the Hamilton County Board of Elections yesterday announced that it will not be seeking any penalties against the mayor for his breach of the rules. Pollworker Mary Siegel argued that the BOE should start cracking down on such electioneering infractions in the future, because the rules are rarely enforced now.
• If the ensuing argument about that doesn’t heat things up while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, try talking with your conservative Uncle Jeff about the University of Cincinnati white student union that was set up on Facebook a few days ago. The group’s posts feature prognosticating on how “European Americans” face special challenges on campus and in society in general and other nonsensical claptrap designed to draw people into useless race-related Internet debates. Anyway, the page is almost certainly fake, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a plan hatched on a national white supremacist message board. The UC-themed page uses language almost identical to similar sites across the country, many of the likes on the page’s posts come from out of town Facebook accounts and the whole thing comes across as a reminder not to feed the trolls. So, uh, don’t feed the trolls. Meanwhile, there are more serious and terrifying anti-Black Lives Matter incidents happening of late.
• Just a couple days after Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, dropped a bombshell by revealing he’s decided not to run for reelection, three Cincinnati City Council members are saying they’re considering running for his seat. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn have both expressed some interest, with Winburn saying he could switch from a planned run for county recorder to the commission race if the party wants him to. Murray has said she’ll take the Thanksgiving holiday to think it over before deciding, but is intrigued. Meanwhile, independent Christopher Smitherman has said he might run as a Republican for the seat. Whoever the Hamilton County GOP taps will face Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton, who is leaving the state House due to term limits.
• The second Cincinnati streetcar arrives today and will soon be making test trips around the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This argument pretty much scripts itself, so just say "streetcar" to your public transit-hating dad and watch the holiday magic unfold.
• Black leaders from across the state met yesterday at The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale to discuss the state of black Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes local politicians State Sen. Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Alicia Reece, held the public meeting in part to discuss the wide disparities facing the black community here and across the state. Ohio ranks second-to-last in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to the caucus. Closer to home, the group singled out continued issues at the University of Cincinnati, which has been the site of serious racial dialogue around disparities in higher education. The group also discussed efforts toward police reform, which have been slow in coming even after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black citizens here and a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich. You can read more about how activists are continuing to fight for those reforms in this week’s news feature.
• GOP presidential primary contender Donald Trump came to Ohio yesterday. He didn’t talk as much shit about Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he has in the past. Per usual, his speech was light on policy proposals and heavy on bombast. What else really needs to be said? His remarks to a crowd of 10,000 mostly focused on how the U.S. has become “soft and weak” (despite spending more on its military than all other countries combined) and about how he’s leading in all major polls (sadly, this claim is actually true). He also gave a shout out to waterboarding, the controversial torture technique once used by the U.S. to extract intelligence from terrorism suspects. Trump’s all for bringing it back. Another thing Trump likes, according to his hour-long remarks: lists. As in, lists of people who are Muslim, which Trump thinks should be compiled by the federal government. Thanksgiving family debate difficulty level: black diamond.
• Finally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over his refusal to take in Syrian refugees. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis nonprofit that handles refugee resettlement for the state. Pence pressured that organization to turn away Syrian refugees earlier this month. The ACLU says in doing so, he violated both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. This would be a great topic to discuss with your cousin Tami, who has that Gadsen flag bumper sticker on her Hummer.
That’s it for me. Later!
That old trope about doers doing and non-doers teaching holds no currency with saxophonist Dave McDonnell. The Chicago native relocated to Cincinnati six years ago to complete his doctorate Jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which ultimately led to positions at UC and the University of Dayton, teaching both music and music technology.
At the same time, McDonnell never abandoned his love for performance, composition and recording. Early in his Jazz career, McDonnell divided his time between waiting tables, teaching private music lessons and playing in an impossible number of bands; he even worked with Elephant 6 icons Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control (studio sessions with the former, touring with the latter).
Family life and academic rigors forced McDonnell to dial down his band participation — he currently works with Michael Columbia, Diving Bell and Herculaneum — but his reduced roles also provided him the impetus to resume exploring his own work, leading him to assemble a coterie of friends and bandmates from his Chicago experience (guitarist Chris Welcome, bassist Joshua Abrams, drummer Frank Rosaly, vibraphonist Jason Adaiewicz and cellist Tomeka Reid) and form the Dave McDonnell Group.
Utilizing a blend of crafted and precise composition and free-form improvisation, McDonnell created a masterful and acclaimed debut album, last year's the dragon and the griffin. The album was by turns contemplative and explosive, but always guided by the spirit of Ornette Coleman's similarly constructed pieces, where the tunes' purposefully written passages set the tone and established a foundation and framework for the band's circuitously invigorating spontaneity.
Just a little over a year and a half later, McDonnell and his Group (a version of which features Cincinnati players for area live shows) have returned, once again eschewing upper-case titling and stodgy tradition on the appropriately christened the time inside a year, his debut for esteemed Chicago Jazz label Delmark. While McDonnell adheres to his winning compositional-vs.-improvisational strategy on the time inside a year, he also adds a new wrinkle with a slightly older piece from his canon, namely his three-movement suite "AEpse," which grew out of his doctorate studies at CCM and which he debuted in Chicago two years ago.
"AEpse" stands in contrast to the grooves, shifting rhythms and dazzlingly intricate harmonics of the rest of the time inside a year. "AEpse," as a three-part, 11-minute piece of music, explores a chilly soundscape of electronic expanse, appointed by Reid's mesmerizing cello incantations, which drift through McDonnell's constructed atmosphere like smoke in a virtual opium den. But rather than present this sonorously beautiful piece as a whole, McDonnell chose to intersperse the three "AEpse" movements within his gyrational Bop tracklist, allowing them to serve as way stations along the album's journey.
And what an impressive journey it proves to be. Opening with the quietly propulsive "Bullitt," moving into the slinkily engaging and sensual "Vox Orion" and on to the jaunty "The Contract with Bees," McDonnell displays his considerable skills as both a powerful frontman and a generous bandleader, jumping to the fore with appropriately frenetic flurries of notes or delicately woven passages, or yielding the floor to Adasiewicz's fluid and enchanting vibraphone runs or Welcome's always brilliant guitar contributions, all of it made possible by the gymnastics of Abrams and Rosaly's limber and diverse rhythm section.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the swinging, shattering "Baker's Man," which begins and ends with the band in unison on the song's loping theme and fills its center with a dissonant Sun Ra/Zappa/Beefheart explosion of sounds and ideas. As atypical as it is sonically to the rest of the time inside a year, it perfectly points up McDonnell's incredible compositional skills and DMG's extraordinary ability to go completely off the map and then return to the radar in a fraction of a heartbeat.
Cincinnati has enjoyed a long and storied Jazz tradition, spawning some of the most profoundly talented and inventive players in the country, but even its most revered alumni must be sitting up and taking notice of the jaw-dropping accomplishments of Dave McDonnell and his innovative and musically curious Jazz collective. Clearly McDonnell's depth and breadth of experience informs every second of the Dave McDonnell Group's incredible output, but it is the application of that experience to his own work that is so consistently impressive. Two years and two albums in, and the anticipation of where DMG might head next is palpable and exciting.
THE DAVE MCDONNELL GROUP, with guitarist Brad Myers, bassist Peter Gemus and drummer Dan Dorff, plays Urban Artifact on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope y'all are ready for a short work week followed by some binge eating!
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann is officially not running for re-election next year. Hartmann, who has served as commissioner for the last seven years, announced his decision in an email Saturday. He stated his main motivation was to allow new leadership in the position in what he calls "a self-imposed term limit." Hartmann's decision came as a surprise, as the conservative Republican was already raising money to run against State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Clifton), who chose to run for commissioner upon hitting a real term limit after serving in the state House for eight years. Hartmann told the Enquirer he had been thinking about not running for the past year. Republicans have yet to present another candidate for the position.
• Another federal housing project might be coming to Cincinnati that would give government housing agencies flexibility to test local projects using federal dollars. The arrival of the 19-year-old federal program Moving to Work is pending the U.S. Senate's approval of appropriations bill that would extend the program to 39 different agencies. The program targets programs that reduce the costs of other programs and incentivize families to prepare for work. Some local activists and experts aren't so thrilled with program's possible arrival. Critics of the program say that the local agencies' programs that receive the flexible federal dollars aren't subjected to enough evaluations to prove their effectiveness, therefore letting ineffective, and even damaging programs, slide by.
• A new program looking to get guns off the streets of Cincinnati will launch its second round today. The program, run by the nonprofit Street Rescue, will set up in Brown Chapel AME Church on Alms Place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. allowing community members to trade their unwanted guns for $50 and $100 grocery gift cards, no questions asked. The program was developed by local residents who aim to get illegal guns off the street following the city's recent spike in violent crime. They collected seven guns during their first drive in October.
• Cincinnati City Councilman and Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is still in the race, much to the dismay of political experts. Sittenfeld's campaign against Republican Rob Portman has been largely overshadowed since former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland jumped in the race. The Ohio Democratic Party gave Strickland its endorsement last April. But Sittenfeld held on and has launched recent attacks against both candidates for issues like gun control. Strickland is much better known around the state than Sittenfeld, who isn't recognized much outside of Cincinnati.
• Finally, Brussels is lockdown as authorities sweep the city for terrorism suspects. Authorities have even requested residents refrain from posting messages that expose the whereabouts of police on social media. So rather than give up social media for the extent of the operations, Belgians have banded together by posting pictures of cats, the Internet's favorite animal. Cat memes have popped up all over Belgian's social media accounts poking fun of the tense operation.
There was little reading happening at the Boone County Public Library on Native American Day on Nov. 14. A life-size tipi sat on the lawn of the main branch, and inside the sound of drums carried from the second floor. In a corner of the children’s area sat craft tables where kids could make pinch pots out of clay, and Sioux dancers wandered around in traditional dress and face paint.November, which is Native American Heritage Month, was the perfect time to host this event, although it took library staff several months of planning to get it ready. Adult Programmer Kathy Utz says this was the first-ever Native American Day at the library. “This is totally an experiment for us,” she says. “It’s really turned out to be a good program, and people are interested in it.” Utz added that one of the library’s goals is to expose the community to different cultures. “We always like to broaden the horizon of Boone County and to see something they haven’t seen before,” she said. They certainly achieved the desired effect, for as I wandered through the various stations, I can honestly say I’d never before experienced so much Native American culture in one place.
Chaske Hotain, a group of Sioux drummers, performed with brothers and sisters from around the country, beating the rhythms of their ancestors. Wearing their traditional dress, the dancers presented various Native American styles, at times inviting the audience to join them as they circled gracefully inside the wide perimeter of chairs. “It’s great … I’ve never been to a powwow or anything like that before, so I didn’t know what to expect,” says Kaitlin Barber, public service associate with the library’s local history department and the one who arranged the demonstration. “It’s really surpassed my expectations.” Outside the crowd was just as enthralled, and children could scarcely contain their excitement to enter the life-size tipi. It was surprising how many could fit into what looked like a small space — as I stood there I watched at least 30 people file in and settle comfortably on the floor. As I listened in I heard the owner, Tim Deane of Morristown, Tenn., describe the hand-made, authentic Sioux articles inside.No matter which corner of the library you found yourself, there was something exciting to greet you. Patrons and performers alike took advantage of the vibrant atmosphere, and all around I could see the results of exposure to a different culture. This is what Jordan Padgett, youth services programmer, says the library strives to provide: “That is part of what we do here at the library, is really engage the community and reach them where they’re at. [And] providing stuff that amplifies what they’re already learning is a big key.”
Several of our local theaters produce shows this time of year that are a kind of antidote to the usual fare of A Christmas Carol and other happy, merry tales. Three get under way this weekend:
I went to a rockin’ party earlier this week, and you can, too — if you turn up for the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Low Down Dirty Blues, through Dec. 20. That’s right, a whole month of good times and sad in the intimate Shelterhouse Theater, doubling as Big Mama’s after-hours Blues bar. Every year around this time the Playhouse puts on a show as an alternate holiday choice to A Christmas Carol (which gets underway next week). This year it’s a warm-hearted good time featuring three excellent singers and a couple of very accomplished Jazz musicians (especially local Jazz pianist Steve Schmidt) performing off-color tunes, full of double-entendres and scandalous joking. The first half of the two-hour performance is mostly about lusty interaction via tunes like “Rough and Ready Man,” “I Got My Mojo Workin’ ” and “You Bring Out the Boogie in Me.” After intermission the party continues briefly (including some cute audience interaction to the tune of “I’m Not That Kind of Girl” — but then the tone darkens with passionate songs of grief (“Death Letter”), mourning (“Good Morning Heartache”) and then hope (“Change is ’Gonna Come”). Felicia P. Fields, a Broadway veteran who played a major role in the original staging of The Color Purple, anchors (and I use that word quite literally) the banter and the singing, but she is ably matched by Caron “Sugaray” Rayford, a massive force of energy, perspiration and rhythm. Chic Street Man sings and plays several guitars (especially a steel number with a gorgeous ring), and his sly, sinuous presence is a perfect complement to Fields’ and Rayford’s more ebullient performances. Don’t go if you’re offended by sexual innuendo, but if you’re looking for a “low down dirty” time, call now for a ticket: 513-421-3888
One of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, As You Like It, is the first step of holiday happiness at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The story of tomfoolery and romance in the Forest of Arden kicks off tonight; it’s around until Dec. 12, when it’s followed by the tenth annual staging of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some). In case you missed it, Cincy Shakes announced this week that by mid-2017 it moves to its own spectacular new space in Washington Park, the Otto M. Budig Theatre, with nearly 100 more seats than its Race Street facility. (Read my story in this week's issue for more.) Until then, you need to line up for tickets, since many of the company’s performances sell out quickly. Tickets: 513-381-2273
Another “kind of” holiday show getting started is Know Theatre’s production of All Childish Things, opening tonight and onstage through Dec. 19. In a story set right here in Cincinnati (Norwood, in fact), it’s 2006 and two guys are still yearning for the galactic adventures promised by Star Wars when they were kids. One guy lives in his mom’s basement; the other has a girlfriend who could care less about The Force. They think their big break might be residing in a warehouse full of collectible Star Wars memorabilia. Zany shows rooted in childhood have become a holiday staple at Know Theatre, and this is right up that weird, happy alley. Tickets: 513-300-5669
And if you’re really longing to get the holidays under way, you have the perfect opportunity with a tour stop by a production of White Christmas at the Aronoff (next Tuesday through Dec. 6). It’s a stage version of the popular film; the tour features stage Cincinnati and Broadway veteran Pamela Myers in a cute, outspoken role. She performs a number titled “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” a perfect summary of her illustrious career. Tickets: 513-621-2787
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.