There were diamonds everywhere at Bogart’s this past Friday (May 29), about 1,500 of them. Marina and the Diamonds is not a band, but the artistic umbrella for Welsh singer/songwriter Marina Diamandis. She says she created the solo-guise “band” moniker because she didn’t want to be seen as a solo Pop star, and wanted to “involve people” with a name that didn't make anyone feel excluded. So, you see, we are all diamonds. Most of the diamonds at her Cincinnati show were teenage to college-age girls with a smattering of parents in tow. Many had travelled a few hours to see their hero. It was a sadly homogenous audience, given the scope and talent of Diamandis and her three-album catalog, but an enthusiastic lot nonetheless.
Her set started with “Bubblegum Bitch,” the power cut from her second album Electra Heart, and from there the party never stopped. The latest single, “Forget,” followed before she and her touring backing band launched into “Mowgli’s Road.” After that trio of songs, Diamandis chatted with the crowd telling them how happy she was to finally make it to Cincinnati. Though she was preaching to the converted, Diamandis proved to be no-less charming and engaging.
“I am Not a Robot,” a U.K. Top 40 hit from 2010, followed and, as with the entire set, Diamandis’ voice soared effortlessly as she glided across the stage. About half way through, an additional keyboard was brought on stage. Diamandis proceeded to take a seat at it and play “Happy,” whilst her backing Diamonds looked on. It was a nice respite before the title track from her current album, Froot.
While every song received a loud cheer, it was the two biggest hits that really got the diamonds in attendance particularly fired up. “Hollywood” (a No. 12 hit in the U.K.) was her breakthrough single in the in 2010 and is based on her observations of the U.S. “I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America,” she sings, though it’s not meant to be a criticism. (“It was written way before I got signed," she told me in an interview a few years ago. "It's funny because I wouldn't describe my relationship with America as love or hate. Anything that has an element of illusion naturally fascinates people. I absolutely love America.”) Live, the song was keyboarded-up nicely, though the album version echoes the synth sound of the ’80s effectively. Her guitar player strummed an acoustic guitar, providing a nice counterbalance.
“Primadonna,” her other big single came next, and it too had a brighter and livelier sound on stage, sounding a little like an EDM track in spots, but not too heavily. Sadly, “Teen Idle,” a stand-out track from Electra Heart was left off the set list. “How to be a Heartbreaker,” finished the encore-less set, but the crowd seemed quite satisfied with the performance as Marina bade farewell to her diamonds to thunderous applause.
Oddly, professional photographers were not allowed to take pictures of Diamandis (as is customary for just about any concert review), something that wasn’t revealed until just before the doors opened. It is unclear who made that decision. (Primadonna indeed?)
Hey y’all. Oh boy, did some news happen since last time we talked.
First, as I told you about on Friday, the city has finalized a deal to purchase right of way along the Wasson Way rail line from Norfolk Southern. If council approves the deal, the city will pay $11. 75 million for the right of way need to build a 7.5 mile bike path from Mariemont to Evanston. The city is currently applying for millions in federal grants to help pay for the path.
• Did the city make moves to sack the police chief? Or was he thinking about quitting? The City of Cincinnati recently drew up resignation documents for Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. Both Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black, who has the power to dismiss the chief, have said that the documents were drawn up after Blackwell inquired about resigning. Blackwell didn’t sign those documents, and has since said he’s not planning on going anywhere. Some, including Councilman Wendell Young, a former police officer, have said they think the papers are a sign that Blackwell was about to be pushed out. Cranley and Black, however, both say they didn’t want Blackwell to leave. The resignation letter comes to light as the city receives accolades from across the country for its community-based policing practices, but also struggles with a recent wave of gun violence that has shootings at a ten-year high.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is still hustling to make the case that he, not former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, is best Democrat to challenge U.S. Sen Rob Portman in 2016. Yesterday, both were in Mason speaking at the Warren County Democratic Party’s annual dinner. There, Sittenfeld found he’s still got his work cut out for him, according to an Enquirer story today. The crowd seemed much warmer to Strickland, the story says, and many weren’t that familiar with Sittenfeld. The 30-year-old has gotten some support for his run, raising a respectable amount of money for his campaign this year, mostly from Cincinnati donors. But 71-year-old Strickland has statewide name recognition and the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton on his side. Top Dems have called for Sittenfeld to step aside, and some at the Warren County dinner last night agreed, but Sittenfeld has said he’s in the race to stay.
• If your bike was stolen from downtown or OTR recently, here’s a quick hit of potentially good news: The Cincinnati Police Department says it located several stolen bikes in the West End this weekend. If you’re missing your ride, you could get a call from the cops soon about that.
• The Ohio Department of Education has finished part of its investigation into Chicago-based Concept Schools in the state, specifically the organization’s Dayton-based location, where former teachers and administrators say employees allowed sex games between students, tampered with testing attendance data and committed other crimes. The 106 complaints lodged against the school could not be proven, ODE says, though the organization isn’t ruling out action in the future if more evidence comes to light. Other charges of test tampering, including at Horizon Academy in Bond Hill, another Concept school, are still under investigation. Concept says the department’s findings prove that the allegations against the schools were nothing more than a “witch hunt” against charters. Concept is also under a separate white collar crime investigation by the FBI for other business misconduct charges at some of its 18 Ohio schools.
• If you’re really into buying stuff off the internet, here’s a small bit of bad news for you: Amazon will begin charging Ohio sales tax on items it sells online. The company estimates that the move, which comes as Congress works to expand taxes on internet commerce, will put between $150 million to $200 million into the state’s coffers.
• Ohio State University has created a committee to study whether the school’s top administrators make too much money. OSU’s former president Gordon Gee was the highest paid public university president in the country, a fact that has created some controversy as college becomes more and more unaffordable for students. Gee’s replacement, Michael Drake, has pledged to work toward a more affordable college experience for students. The school says it would like its executives — people like Drake as well as athletic coaches and high-profile physicians employed by OSU — to be paid the same as the average position at comparable universities.
• Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, died over the weekend of brain cancer. The younger Biden was the former attorney general of Delaware and a figure many Democrats had once looked to as a rising political star. Biden passed up a chance to run for his father’s Senate seat when the elder Biden became VP in 2008, instead staying in Delaware to continue serving as AG. He had been a favorite to run for governor there in 2016 before his health deteriorated.
• How big a deal is Sen. Bernie Sander’s presidential run? Many have written off the self-professed socialist as a long shot contender for the Democratic nomination against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and that’s probably accurate. But Sanders has still been receiving a surprising amount of support and excitement from left-leaning Democrats. As the above New York Times story about the race makes clear, Sanders could at least make things interesting in the primary.
• As we talked about a couple days ago, a key tenet of the U.S. Patriot Act expired yesterday after U.S. Senator Rand Paul led resistance to its renewal. The program allowed the federal government to collect massive amounts of cell phone call data from American citizens, something Paul calls a violation of constitutional rights. The lapse is almost certainly temporary — a compromise bill looks likely to pass the Senate in a few days — but the stand allowed Paul to make a political point and score a few among his libertarian base for his presidential bid.
Fringe is hot and heavy right now. If you’re planning to attend and want to get
the scoop on some shows you might enjoy over the weekend, head to the CityBeat's Fringe hub, where
reviews are being posted by a team of writers that I’m managing. We go to see
the opening performance of each show, write about it overnight and post it the
next day. You won’t find more timely coverage anywhere else. There are several
“Critic’s Picks” so far including METH: a love story, Moonlight After
Midnight and Edgar Allan. With more than 40 productions
available over the course of 12 days, there’s lots of choices. About two-thirds
are up and running already. What are you waiting for?
Speaking of the Fringe, there’s a special event on Sunday evening in Washington Park that’s free and open to the public. It’s a staged concert reading of Cincinnati King, a new work by Playhouse Associate Artist KJ Sanchez. It’s about the history of Cincinnati music, racial equality, music pioneer Syd Nathan and his recording label King Records. The evening starts at 5 p.m. with music and theater activities for kids. At 5:30 the Philip Paul Quartet plays some of King Records’ greatest hits; Paul was a drummer at King Records. The concert reading happens on the stage at the Public Lawn at the north end of the park. All you have to do is show up! More info here.
There are shows elsewhere to be seen, depending on your preferences. Showbiz Players is offering a production of The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy at The Carnegie in Covington. It opens tonight and continues through June 7. All your favorite characters from the wacky cartoons of Charles Addams (which inspired the cult TV series that ran from 1964 to 1966) are onstage, singing and dancing: Gomez and Morticia, Wednesday and Pugsley, Uncle Fester and Lurch. Tickets: 859-957-1940
If you want something a little more serious, you might check out Falcon Theater’s production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins at the Monmouth Theater in Newport. Believe it or not, it features many of the men and women who thought their path to the American dream was to shoot a president. It’s a powerful show about values and motivations, and it features some fascinating melodies by Sondheim, perhaps the greatest musical theater composer of our time. It’s onstage through June 13. Tickets: 513-479-6783
You can still catch Ensemble Theatre’s charming production of Outside Mullingar this weekend (it has to wrap up on Saturday to make way for ETC’s Fringe production, Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, performed by the theater’s intern company on June 4, 5 and 6). Mullingar features four outstanding actors — Joneal Joplin, Dale Hodges, Brian Isaac Phillips and Jenn Joplin — in a story about spirited Irish parents and children, about love and longing, and about finding a place in the world. Definitely worth seeing. Tickets: 513-421-3555
One other production still running that I recommend you make an effort to see is Circle Mirror Transformation at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It features five excellent actors playing everyday people in an acting class at a community center. Their efforts to find their talent lead to revelations more profound than any of them initially imagine. Great fun and thoughtful at the same time. Tickets: 512-421-3888
This weekly series discusses the cultural and artistic implications of a selected foreign film.
In many ways, Forough Farrokhzad’s The House Is Black is more of a poem than a film. This may not be particularly surprising, as Farrokhzad today is mostly remembered, if at all in the West, for her modernist poetry, which was controversial, evocative and banned to post-revolution Iran. Yet despite the film’s censorship and Farrokhzad’s tragic death at age 30, she managed to be immensely influential to Iranian cinema, and helped lead the way for the Iranian New Wave that flourished in the late ’60s.
The House Is Black — Farrokhzad’s sole film — is probably a masterpiece. The 21-minute film essay depicts the everyday lives of men, women and children who inhabit a leprosarium in northern Iran. Shot in black and white in a cinema vérité style, a collage of jarring cuts and narrations that often sound like prayer imbue meaning to the film, which shares the same lyrical language and open-ended symbolism as her verse. Farrokhzad seems to write with her camera; she rhymes her visuals and sounds, trading a cohesive narrative for an abstraction of imagery.
Lines culled from
the Koran, the Old Testament and Farrokhzad’s own unforgettable poetry are
stitched together in voiceover to add or subtract context from the onscreen
happenings. An artist whose work relies somewhat on juxtapositions, Farrokhzad
films the sublime moments — children at play, villagers creating music, a woman
brushing a girl’s hair — along with the uncomfortable: bandages being unwrapped,
needles being injected, the blind intuiting their unsure movements.
What emerges is an interrogation of beauty and ugliness, and how those two things coexist in the world. There is, perhaps surprisingly, a lot one can learn by observing the empathy and gratitude that occurs in this Iranian leper colony. In just 20 minutes, The House Is Black is a documentary, a poem and most importantly, a portrait. Of what — a leprosarium or something larger — you decide. The final seconds of the film occur in complete blackness, as Farrokhzad says in a near-whisper: “O overrunning river driven by the force of love, flow to us, flow to us.” It is a plea, both for them and for us.
THE HOUSE IS BLACK is currently screening on YouTube.
Summerfair, NKY Pride 2015!, used book sales, the Fringe Festival, lots of concerts, craft beer parties and more.
Get weird with the CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL
The Cincinnati Fringe Festival — running through June 6 — is celebrating 13 years of theater, creativity and fun. A total of 40 shows (selected by 24 jurors) will be presented during the 12 days of the 2015 Fringe, split almost exactly between shows generated by local creators and productions from elsewhere in the U.S., plus four international acts representing South Africa, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom. Through June 6. cincyfringe.com. Read reviews here.
Hit the Square for MIDPOINT INDIE SUMMER
Fountain Square’s popular, free concert series kicks off this week — a true sign that summer is upon us. The first event in the MidPoint Indie Summer series (held Fridays through early September) is indicative of the strong roster of shows on the Square this year, showcasing a mix of quality touring headliners and some of local music’s finest. Headlining Indie Summer’s opening night is Surfer Blood, the superb, Florida-spawned Indie Pop Rock group that began drawing major attention with its 2010 debut album, Astro Coast. The band has since split with Warner Bros. Records and returned to its DIY roots with the just-released, hyper-melodic 1000 Palms, Surfer Blood’s finest work yet and, fittingly, a perfect melancholic summer album. Three superb local acts round out Friday’s bill: Harbour, Automagik and The Yugos. September’s MidPoint Music Festival sponsors the Indie Summer series, and there will be opportunities to purchase (or win) passes for the 2015 event each week. 7 p.m. Friday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.
Show your pride at NKY PRIDE 2015!
Let your pride flag fly with this year’s Northern Kentucky Pride festival, which starts on Thursday and goes through Sunday. The fest will kick off with an ally training and fairness reception for participants to learn about specific LGBTQ issues in the community. Throughout the weekend, you can show your pride with scheduled activities from a pride bike ride with flamingos through MainStrasse’s Goebel Park to a pub crawl and live music headlined by acoustic duo Linda and Taryn. During Saturday’s official Pridefest, chill in the NKY Pride Beer Garden on Sixth Street with local brews, bring your pet to the PetZone (complete with photo booth), attend the pair of afternoon drag shows and, most importantly, help support social equality. Thursday-Sunday. Free. Search NKY Pride 2015! on Facebook for a full event schedule.
Grab a beer and a Filipino snack at CRAFTS AND CRAFTS at Krohn
Take a tropical vacation without leaving town by visiting Krohn Conservatory’s Crafts and Crafts event, bringing together their Butterflies of the Philippines exhibit, a handful of craft vendors and local craft beer. It’s a perfect evening to enjoy the colorful butterfly show while imbibing some adult beverages, including Filipino cocktails and food like roasted pork, chicharrón and fried peanuts. Must be 21. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. $12; $15 door. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, 513-421-4086.
Blend light and sound with OSCILLATORS at Harvest Art Gallery
Intermedio, an ongoing sound-light collaboration between multi-disciplinary designer Eric Blyth and composers/installation artists Sam Ferris-Morris and Justin West, will present a one-night-only exhibition Friday at Harvest Gallery. Together, the three create immersive environments, such as last year’s “Radiate” installation in ParProject’s MakersMobile traveling exhibition, by incorporating digitally processed sound and video to engage their audiences in temporary interactive experiences. 6-10 p.m. Friday. Free. 216 W. 15th St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/intermediodesign.
Get slightly melancholy with MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS at Bogart's
It’s oddly wonderful how sometimes two songwriters will interpret the same concept in diametrically opposed fashions. For example, consider Pharrell Williams and Marina Diamandis, both of whom have very powerful songs called “Happy.” Of course, Williams’ composition is the musical manifestation of exuberance and joy, a bouncy sing-along that almost dares you to remain passive while it jukes and swings. Diamandis’ “Happy,” the opening track on Froot, the third Marina and the Diamonds album, couldn’t be more different. A quietly moving, slightly melancholy reflection on the subject of finding the title emotion in making music, “Happy” — and much of Froot — hovers in the vicinity of Florence + the Machine and Aimee Mann, with wisps of Kate Bush’s ephemeral eccentricity and Annie Lennox’s arty populism creating an Electropop shimmer that could easily appeal to fans of Sara Bareilles or Lady Gaga. See Marina and the Diamonds 7 p.m. Friday at Bogart's. Get more information and purchase tickets here.
Get crafty at SUMMERFAIR
Here in the Queen City, the reopening of Coney Island — the pool, the rides, the food — means one thing: the start of summer. And the annual Summerfair clinches the deal. A Cincinnati tradition since 1967, Summerfair consistently ranks among the top 100 art shows nationally and features more than 300 artists from all around the United States in 12 categories, including painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking and mixed media. There will also be regional performers, including belly dancers, Celtic dancers, musicians and cloggers(!) on stages across the park, plus gourmet food. 2-8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. $10 cash at the gate. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, summerfair.org.
Take your dog to Washington Park for the FURRY FRIENDS FESTIVAL
If dogs are man’s best friend, shouldn’t they be able to have as much fun as we do during the weekend? Washington Park thinks so. Your furry friends are invited to spend a day in the park with other pups of all shapes and sizes, surrounded by tasty grub from Eli’s BBQ and Mazunte, as well as free, live music performed by Bluegrass artists Casey Campbell, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, The Tillers and more. Water will be available for the pups as well as locally brewed beer for the humans. 3-9 p.m. Free. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.
Buy some local wares at the OAKLEY FANCY FLEA MARKET
Oakley Fancy Flea is a low-key, curated market with high-end locally made wares in the heart of Oakley. Featuring vendors like Alien Pets, which makes knitted felt animals in all manner of shapes and sizes, Loveworn, upcycled clothing made from recycled T-shirts and even treats from Brown Bear Bakery, the Fancy Flea has almost doubled the space they’ll use for the market this year, meaning almost double the amount of stuff to peruse and double the fun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. 3047 Madison Road, Oakley, theoffmarket.org.
Check out Stephen Sondheim's dark musical ASSASSINS
Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical about presidential assassins has become a classic since it was first staged in 1990. That was the same year that Falcon Theatre began producing shows in Greater Cincinnati. In 1998, Falcon’s staging of Assassins put the company on local theatergoers’ radar. You know the names: John Wilkes Booth, Squeaky Fromme, Lee Harvey Oswald and more — all disgruntled, unbalanced people whose twisted path to the American Dream involved shooting a president. In this fascinating show they converge, commiserate and conspire, each with music from his or her moment in American history. It’s a strange tour de force. Through June 13. $18-$20. 636 Monmouth St., Newport, 513-479-6783, falcontheater.net.
Catch BUTCH WALKER at Bogart's
No one can accuse Butch Walker of not living up to his potential. For the past three decades, Walker has blazed a unique trail as a member of renowned bands, a critically acclaimed solo artist, a highly regarded producer and a prolific songwriter whose compositions for some of the industry’s biggest names have hit the upper reaches of the charts.Walker’s last three albums — 2010’s I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, 2011’s The Spade and the just-released and patently excellent Afraid of Ghosts — all hit the top spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. As a producer, Walker has worked with an almost schizophrenic range of musical talent, from Pete Yorn, Sevendust and Weezer to Lindsay Lohan, Avril Lavigne, Pink and Taylor Swift. If the music industry is looking to coronate a new man for all seasons, surely the crown would fit comfortably on Butch Walker’s hit-crammed head. See Butch Walker with Jonathan Tyler and The Dove and the Wolf 7 p.m. Saturday at Bogart's. Get more information and purchase tickets here.
Celebrate King Records with a reading of CINCINNATI KING in the park
Washington Park hosts a free staged reading of Cincinnati King, a new play that shares the history of King Records, Cincinnati music and racial equality by Playhouse in the Park Associate Artist KJ Sanchez. The play, meant to ignite dialogue and preserve unique local history, will be read at 7 p.m. A special performance from King Records’ legendary drummer Philip Paul kicks off the evening with a performance and behind-the-scenes stories. 5 p.m. Sunday. Free. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincyplay.com.
Head to the Cincinnati Art Museum for a screening of AMERICA'S POP COLLECTOR
The Cincinnati Art Museum’s ongoing “Moving Pictures” series of film screenings presents the highly regarded and prescient America’s Pop Collector: Robert C. Scull - Contemporary Art at Auction. The verity-style documentary by John Scott and E. J. Vaughn chronicles the 1973 auction of work collected by Scull, a taxi-company tycoon, which netted more than $2.2 million and forever established the marketplace value of contemporary art. Today, when pieces by contemporary masters routinely bring in millions, the amount raised at the Scull auction may seem small, but it was a watershed moment at the time. 2 p.m. Sunday. Free. Cincinnati Art Museum Fath Auditorium, 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiartmuseum.org.
Stock up on summer reading material at the FRIENDS OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARY USED BOOK SALE
The Friends of the Public Library Main Library Book Sale returns Saturday for its 43rd annual event (through June 5), offering more than 50,000 used books from every category imaginable, with most prices between $1 and $4. Feel free to casually browse or go on a book-buying spree — there will most likely be something for everybody, whether you’re looking for Alice or Zhivago. On Friday, June 5, indulge your bibliomania by filling up an entire Friends’ bag for only $10 (that’s not a typo). It’s time to hit the books. Begins 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Free. Main Library, 800 Vine St., Downtown, friends.cincinnatilibrary.org.
See more things To Do here.
Each week CityBeat staffers share their weekend plans: from dinner and drinks or special events to out-of-town concerts and stories we're working on. And some of us just watch TV.
Jesse Fox: This weekend I am shooting my first weekend of many summer music festivals. I will be traveling with former CityBeat intern, Catie Viox, to Nelsonville Music Festival to photograph a variety of amazing acts including Built to Spill, Black Lips and St. Vincent. Sunday, when I return, I plan to go by Riverbend to catch my friend Ben playing drums for this little band he's in called Dashboard Confessional.
Jac Kern: Tonight I will be living out my dream of being a hair model while volunteering for the May Festival. With a big, flower-filled 'do courtesy of Parlour, I’ll be greeting patrons as they arrive at the longstanding choral festival beginning at 6:30 p.m. If you see me, say hi! The May Festival closes this weekend with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Other than that, I'll be keeping it 100 percent chill (Read: boring), playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and watching the season premiere of Halt and Catch Fire Sunday.
Emily Begley: I’m heading up to Dayton on Saturday night to check out Wine & Canvas, which advertises itself as “the painting class with cocktails.” Each class lets you try your hand at a different portrait, and this weekend’s project is “Colorful Elephant,” a close-up of a wistful-looking elephant rendered in blues and greens. I’m not the best painter in the world — especially when alcohol is thrown into the mix — so I’ll probably be figuring out where to hang a portrait of an elephantine blob Sunday morning.
Hey all! News time.
First, a couple Cincinnati City Council things. Council yesterday voted to apply for up to $33 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants for the proposed Elmore Street Connector project. The bridge, which would connect Cincinnati State to the West Side after the current I-74 exit there is removed, is expected to cost up to $44 million. Currently, the city and the state would split that cost, but the federal money could lower the burden for both significantly.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is undertaking a years-long reworking of the I-75 corridor, which includes changing interchanges that connect the highway and I-74 to uptown. ODOT’s original plans remove the I-74 exit onto Central Parkway, which carries traffic to Cincinnati State’s doorstep, but wouldn’t replace that exit. That led to proposals for an overpass over I-75 to relink the area with Beekman Street, which runs through South Cumminsville and other neighborhoods on the other side of the Mill Creek Valley. Despite the backing of area employers in the Uptown Consortium, the project has been controversial.
But the bridge won’t cause delays to other parts of the project as previously expected, ODOT now says. Last month, officials said that constructing the bridge, which Cincinnati State President O’Dell Owens has championed, could delay the construction of the Hopple Street ramp until as late as 2020. After the potential delay was revealed and business owners in Camp Washington raised objections, Owens wrote a letter to ODOT requesting that the Hopple project not be delayed by the I-74 bridge. In an email response to that letter yesterday, Ohio Department of Transportation Acting District Deputy Director Gary L. Middleton said that removing the current I-74 interchange and constructing the new bridge would not affect the construction time frame for the Hopple exit.
Owens has said the bridge would provide Cincinnati State students living on the West Side a vital direct link to the school. Economic impact studies touted by Mayor John Cranley’s office and undertaken by the Greater Cincinnati Economics Center for Education & Research in 2014 suggest that the bridge could have an economic impact worth millions, as well as reconnecting neglected neighborhoods like Millvale and South Cumminsville, which were cut off from the rest of the city by construction of the interstates.
Now, if we could just get some of those millions for more public transit options in Cincinnati….
• A major bike trail on Cincinnati’s East Side could soon be one step closer to reality. The city of Cincinnati hopes to have a deal to present City Council for purchasing the right of way along the mostly unused Wasson Way rail line by Monday, City Manager Harry Black revealed in yesterday’s City Council meeting. The right of way, currently owned by Norfolk Southern, is needed for a proposed 7.5-mile bike path stretching from Mariemont to Xavier University in Evanston. Plans for an extension into Avondale have also been floated. Securing right of way for the trail is a crucial step and one that needs to be taken soon, Black said. The city is in the final stages of applying for a share of $500 million in TIGER grants the U.S. Department of Transportation has made available this year, and owning right of way is an important part of winning those funds.
• The Greater Cincinnati YMCA released big renovation plans for its downtown location yesterday. The building was built in 1917 and is an iconic presence along Central Parkway. The branch closed in December for the work, and now the YMCA is rolling out its detailed plans for what it will look like when finished. Among the big changes: much more natural light in the facility’s two-story fitness center, lounges with 50-inch TVs, new weight-lifting equipment and preservation of the site’s running track. That last one is huge for me. Sign me up when they reopen. I hate treadmills and it’s very difficult to find a good indoor track these days. City Council yesterday voted to approve a tax exemption for the entirety of the improvements made to the property. The project will revamp the entire building and add up to 65 units of affordable housing for seniors. The work is expected to cost $27 million. The facility is expected to be open to the public again around this time next year. In the meantime, 12 other branches are open in the West End, Walnut Hills, Northern Kentucky and elsewhere around the area.
• A group of about 50 people gathered at Ziegler Park in Over-the-Rhine yesterday for a rally organized by Cincinnati Black Lives Matter in remembrance of unarmed women and trans people of color killed recently in police-related incidents around the country. Among those remembered was Rekia Boyd, who died in 2012 after off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin fired into a dark alley and shot her. Boyd was not involved in an earlier confrontation that led officer Servin to give chase to the group of people he fired at, and a Chicago judge found his actions “beyond reckless.” Servin, who says one of the group pulled something from their waistband and that he feared for his life at the time, was not punished for Boyd’s death. Organizers of yesterday’s rally in OTR said they wanted to highlight Boyd’s story and others as continued attention is paid to the shooting of unarmed men of color like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III.
• Finally, Cincinnati isn’t the only Ohio city grabbing on to the tiny house trend. People’s Liberty grant recipient Brad Cooper has gotten a lot of attention lately for his project, which looks to build two 200-square foot houses in Over-the-Rhine. Cooper got $100,000 from People's Liberty to carry out that plan, but Cincy isn't the only city where enthusiasm is growing for the concept. This Cleveland Plain Dealer article details how the small, simple house movement is gathering steam in Cleveland and Toledo, where folks are making big plans to build similar tiny houses in urban areas.
That’s it for me. Tweet or email me with any story tips or just to say hey.
Good morning Cincy. Here’s your news today.
While we’ve all heard the good news that is going down in Cincinnati, there’s one big exception. Some recent serious but mostly non-fatal shootings in Walnut Hills, CUF, West End and other neighborhoods (including a few right outside my house in Mount Auburn) have put gun crimes in Cincinnati at a 10-year high. That’s caused some to call into question the effectiveness of the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, or CIRV. The program has produced good results in the past, though its funding has been uneven. But with gun violence on the rise, detractors like Councilman Charlie Winburn say it might be time to try something else. Winburn suggested getting rid of CIRV during a presentation of crime data at Tuesday’s Cincinnati City Council Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. Others, however, say the program, which relies on a number of methods including civilian peacekeepers, law enforcement home visits to repeat offenders and social service referrals, is doing its job and needs more support. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson suggested at the Tuesday meeting that more emphasis on social services and anti-poverty measures like neighborhood redevelopment might be part of the answer.
• Greater Cincinnati’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 14 years, according to figures released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Companies in the region added nearly 20,000 new jobs in April, the data shows, the biggest increase in the past three years. But the area hasn’t avoided a major pitfall that has accompanied economic recovery around the country — while the overall unemployment rate is down, economists say, so are wages in the region. Meanwhile, underemployment, or people working part-time when they want to be working full time, is up in the Greater Cincinnati area. That dynamic could keep the economy sluggish, experts say.
• A plan to renovate 13 buildings in Covington’s MainStrasse neighborhood for 50 units of low-income housing we told you about in March has run into opposition from some in the community, who are vowing to fight the development. Cincinnati-based Model Group and women’s shelter Welcome House have partnered on the project, which is slated to receive federal low-income housing tax credits through the Kentucky Housing Corp. About half of the buildings have already been green-lighted for those credits, and applications for the rest will be filed later this year. But neighboring property owners are upset about the fact those tax credits require the currently crumbling buildings on Pike Street to remain low-income housing for 30 years after they’re renovated. They say that will dampen private investment in the area and lower the value of their properties, and they’re asking the city to fight the state’s decision to award the credits. However, it’s unclear that Covington officials have any power to challenge the state’s decision.
• Yikes. A sheriff’s deputy in Clark County Ohio, where Springfield is, has been fired after he took to Twitter with some seriously racist thoughts about protests in Baltimore. That city experienced civil unrest last month after a man named Freddie Gray died in police custody under questionable circumstances. “Baltimore the last few days = real life Planet of the Apes,” Clark County Deputy Zachary Davis tweeted April 28. Another tweet that day suggested: “It’s time to start using deadly force in Baltimore. When they start slaying these ignorant young people it’ll send a message.” After the tweets were brought to the attention of Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly yesterday, Davis was immediately fired. “If you’re posting these type of statements then I don’t feel you can serve this community,” Kelly told the Springfield News-Sun yesterday evening. Good for him.
• Two of the most powerful Republicans in Kentucky, and really in the whole country, have been butting heads big time in the Senate. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who as you probably already know is running for president, has been digging in his heals on a portion of the Patriot Act that allows the National Security Administration to collect so-called meta data on Americans’ cell phone calls. Congress has just days to renew that particular program, as well as other parts of the Patriot Act. Paul and other Senators on both sides of the aisle have refused to allow cloture in the Senate for a bill that would do that unless NSA cell phone surveillance programs are nixed or significantly reformed. Paul and other Senators have used procedural maneuvers to keep that from happening.
That, of course, hasn’t been great for Kentucky’s other Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is charged with getting things passed through the chamber. This is especially awkward since McConnell has endorsed Paul for president. It’s yet another example of the complicated, fractious relationships that the GOP must navigate as it tries to take back the White House in 2016. Paul is playing the NSA card to appeal both to his grassroots, anti-government libertarian base as well as more civil-liberty minded independents. Meanwhile, rank and file Republicans want to see the Patriot Act renewal passed. Politics is awkward and complicated, y’all.
After almost seven successful seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag has been infused into mainstream popular culture more than ever before. Drag, once thought taboo by many, is now becoming widely accepted as an art form. The show produces an ensemble of drag queens, each with their own fan base, that go out and tour all over the world post-show. The RuPaul’s Drag Race queens, unofficially coined “Ru Girls” by season five runner-up Alaska 5000, fill up queer night clubs and bars with fans of all ages dying for a picture or even just acknowledgement from their favorite star. It has even been suggested that Drag Race and Ru Girls have saved or rejuvenated the queer club scene after a stagnant period of time. The show has given a group of historically unappreciated performers a platform to make music, act, promote philanthropic issues, make a living and share their art with the world.
But, of course, not everyone is cast in the 14-member ensemble — and some do not want to be. Some queens cite Drag Race as a misrepresentation of drag and reject even a conversation about the show. Others, mostly younger queens known as the “Drag Race Generation,” swear by it so religiously that their concept of drag is considered unrealistic or naïve.
Whether performing on TV or in local clubs, drag queens have become queer Rock stars. Being a hardcore Drag Race fan and drag culture enthusiast, I am left wondering why I have to travel to Louisville, Ky., or Columbus, Ohio to see my favorite Ru Girl and experience the best venues. What needs to happen to make the scene more engaging? Was Cincinnati ever a destination for queer nightlife? Will more big-name Ru Girls come to the local clubs or bars in the future? I asked Cincinnati alternative-camp queen Judith Iscariot to weigh in on the current state of the queer nightlife scene, the queer movement and drag culture in Cincinnati.
CityBeat: How did you create the name Judith Iscariot?
Judith Iscariot: Judas [from the Bible] is
considered the number one traitor — the worst person in history. But if you
delve into other stuff like in the gospel of Judas — which a lot of Christians
ignore but a lot of scholars say there is just as much merit as in the other
books of the Bible — Judas actually volunteered to be the betrayer. Jesus
approached the apostles and said, “I am going to be betrayed by one of you,”
and Judas was like, “I’ll do it,” knowing full well that he would take the
blame and he would be scorned and possibly go to hell. I think he gets a bad
rep because everyone sees him as this villain when in reality he’s kind of this
tragic hero, and I think he is ostracized, villainized for all the wrong
things. He’s misunderstood, and — not to sound like some grand character —
that’s how I felt at the time in my relationship. That my ex-boyfriend and his
friends and stuff made me out to be the bad guy but, in reality, I was just
trying to do the best I could. I felt completely betrayed in the way I feel Judas
was betrayed by his own God, rather than the way Jesus was betrayed by Judas.
You have to get both sides of the story to see who the real monster is. I then
came up with the character of Judith Iscariot, and I was like, “That’s genius.”
Judith Iscariot performing at The Cabaret
CB: Could you survey Cincinnati’s drag scene?
JI: The drag is very Midwestern. They all want to do the big hair, big padding, the outfits made by fellow queens of stretch fabric and spandex materials. Most people glue down their brows and draw them on and do really hardcore shading. It’s of course very different in the big cities like New York. New York definitely celebrates the club kid scene [NYC club personalities who wore elaborate and outrageous costumes in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s] where things are just really wild — bearded drag and all that stuff. L.A. is about glamour and — I hate the term — “fishy” queens [a widely used but recently controversial term describing a drag queen that looks extremely feminine or could pass as a cisgender woman]. In Cincinnati, it’s just kind of stagnant here, and the scene itself is very separated. It’s ruled by two different entities — The Cabaret [in Below Zero Lounge on Walnut Street] and The Dock [a dance club downtown]. The Dock is more of a young, hip scene and The Cabaret is more older clientele. I love The Cabaret because the demographic is more open to appreciate camp [an over-the-top, exaggerated style usually meant to be comedic] and not just glamour.
CB: It seems like the drag scenes in Louisville and Columbus have better opportunities for queens and clubgoers. Why do I have to travel to another city — that isn’t much different from Cincy — to see a Ru Girl, for example? What kind of club or change would you like to see in Cincinnati?
JI: We used to have Adonis the Nightclub, which was like our Play or Axis [popular dance clubs in Louisville and Columbus] — huge front video bar, huge dance floor, separate room with a big stage. The only reason it didn’t dominate the scene is because it was kind of a far drive away. It was a 15-minute drive east [from downtown], which isn’t bad, but a lot of people want to stay right in the city. I would love to see something like Adonis transplanted right into the city. We still don’t really have that in Cincinnati, but it would really thrive from a large, accessible dance club that features drag. That would be amazing.
CB: These days you cannot talk about drag culture without talking about RuPaul’s Drag Race. What are your thoughts about the show and how it translates from television to everyday drag scenes on a local level?
JI: I think it’s been both good and bad because the queens that really look up to Drag Race really kind of have to check themselves and realize that it’s just a television show. It’s meant to be entertaining. It’s not the 13 best drag queens in the country; it’s 13 different characters that they think would make an interesting cast. A lot of the older queens complain about Drag Race because they say it makes, you know, drag look awful, and it’s not what drag is really like. I would argue that because it kind of is [what drag is like] because it’s this fake, campy, larger-than-life mockery of, you know, womankind and reality television. A lot of bitterness just comes from queens who know they could never get on Drag Race. That doesn’t mean that they are any less talented than [the queens on the show] are. It just depends on what [RuPaul is] looking for in terms of creating a cast. I think everyone is just trying to jump on board right now when it’s really popular, but they don’t realize that the fact that Drag Race is on television — that’s revolutionizing drag, and drag will only continue to get more recognized.
CB: Do you think the success of Drag Race and Ru Girls touring has saved or improved the queer club scene? If so, what can be done or is being done to get more Drag Race girls to make a stop in Cincinnati?
JI: When I saw Raven [a fan favorite Ru Girl] at The Cabaret, I saw people there that I have never seen out before. It’s all these people that pay their $15+ to see Raven — I was just like, “Oh, cool!” It’s definitely filling up the clubs because when these Ru Girls come to clubs like during their season and right after, people go crazy for them. And they will pay whatever it takes to get in there and it’s just madness. Every time [a Ru Girl] comes to a club, that club is guaranteed to do well. Cincinnati isn’t a major destination for them. It’s Penny [Traition, a Ru Girl from Cincinnati who was a contestant on Season Five] at The Cabaret and, obviously, she knows a lot of the queens. She’s kind of the one who will bring them in most times … Cincinnati is not really on the radar or on the map. It’s Penny who [will use her connections] since they are already in Louisville or Columbus. Cincinnati is like a side project right now.
Until Cincinnati goes from side project to recognized city with a strong drag presence and scene, go see a show. Being on RuPaul’s Drag Race does not make you the best queen. Cincinnati has numerous talented queens at The Cabaret, (Ru Girl Detox performs June 24 during Cincinnati Pride), The Dock Complex and Club Glitter. Check them out and support your local queens! Bring dollar bills!
Rupaul’s Drag Race crowns the winner of Season Seven Monday night at 9 p.m. on Logo.
Deters had harsh words for Tensing, calling his shooting of Dubose “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make” and stating that Tensing should never have been a cop in the first place.
Deters repeatedly told members of the media that he could not speak candidly about his feelings, at one point calling the traffic stop itself “chicken crap.” Deters said he was shocked by the video and sad for the community.
“I couldn't believe it,” Deters said of the body cam footage. “I just could not believe it.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC FOOTAGE
Officials played a portion of Tensing’s body cam video at the press conference. The entire video will be made available, Deters said.
Deters’ description of the encounter sharply contradicts Tensing’s story.
"This does not happen in the United States," Deters said. "People don't get shot for a traffic stop. ... He was simply rolling away."
During the press conference, Deters referenced a latter portion of the video showing officers after Tensing shot Dubose discussing what had happened. Deters expressed skepticism toward some of Tensing’s comments after the incident, including his arm being caught in the car. Police will investigate collusion with other officers, Deters said.
“He said he got his arm stuck in the steering wheel,” Deters said. “You just have to watch it.”
“I think he was making an excuse for a purposeful killing of another person,” Deters added. “That’s what I think.”
Tensing’s initial explanation was that Dubose started to drive off during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn over a missing license plate, nearly running him over. Tensing says he was then forced to shoot Dubose in the head because he was being dragged by the car and his life was in danger. Tensing said he suffered minor injuries when he fell to the ground as Dubose’s car rolled away.
Dubose's family said they were thankful for the grand jury's decision.
"I thank God that everything is being uncovered," said Audrey Dubose, Samuel's mother. "This one did not go unsolved and hidden."
Audrey Dubose pledged to continue fighting against police injustice, calling for body cameras for all police departments. She said many others have died at the hands of police unnecessarily.
"My son was killed by cop unjustly," she said. "I gotta know many more are killed unjustly. I'm going to be on the battlefield for them."
City leaders delayed a scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m. in order to let the Dubose family speak after Deters. Officials praised the grand jury's decision, saying that the city simply wanted truth about the incident to come out. Mayor John Cranley called for demonstrators to remain peaceful if they took to the streets. City Manager Harry Black said the Cincinnati Police Department will soon get body cameras similar to the one that played a pivotal role in the Dubose shooting investigation. University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono, meanwhile, revealed that Tensing had been fired from the University of Cincinnati Police Department. He also responded to an earlier suggestion from Deters, who said the school should disband its police force and let CPD patrol campus. Ono said the school has not yet considered that option.
More than 500 people including Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black and State Sen. Cecil Thomas attended Dubose’s funeral services at Church of the Living God in Avondale yesterday, where the father, musician and entrepreneur was laid to rest. His mother and other family members remembered him as a kind and loving man who nevertheless had a deep, sometimes complicated independent streak. Dubose was buried at Landmark Memorial Gardens in Evendale.
Until today, Deters had declined to release video footage, a decision that caused protests. Deters said the protests did not affect his decision to finally release the footage. He lauded the protesters for being peaceful and praised the Dubose family.
City Manager Black had been briefed on the video and called it “a bad situation,” saying, “someone has died who did not necessarily have to die.” Mayor Cranley met with the Dubose family this morning.
Tensing, 25, hasn’t had major disciplinary actions on his record and his superiors have spoken highly of him. He started at UC last year after serving with the Green Hills Police Department, where he started as a part-time officer in 2011. Tensing has retained Stew Matthews, a Cincinnati attorney, for his defense.
During the press conference, Deters called for the disbanding of the University of Cincinnati police department. He said he has spoken with UC’s president and Cincinnati police about disbanding the unit, replacing it with CPD.
“I just don’t think a university should be in a policing business,” Deters said. “I just don’t. I think CPD should be doing the entire campus.”
Black Lives Matter has scheduled a rally for 6:30 p.m. at the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today. The biggest story is the possible release of a grand jury decision and/or body camera footage in the case of Samuel Dubose.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference about the death of Dubose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing July 19. Deters has confirmed he will release the body camera footage of the shooting today, and may announce the results of a grand jury probe into that shooting. The University of Cincinnati will shut down at 11 a.m. in preparation for Deter’s announcement, suggesting something major will be divulged at the event. City leaders have scheduled a response news conference at 2 p.m.
""The University of Cincinnati will cancel all classes on the Uptown and Medical campuses at 11:00 a.m. today including all classes in session at that time," a UC e-mail to employees and students said. "Offices on these campuses also will close at 11:00 a.m. This decision is made with an abundance of caution in anticipation of today’s announcement of the Hamilton County grand jury’s decision regarding the July 19 officer-involved shooting of Samuel Dubose and the release of the officer’s body camera video. We realize this is a challenging time for our university community."
Questions continue over Dubose’s death. Tensing’s story is that Dubose started to drive off during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn over a missing license plate, nearly running him over. Tensing says he was then forced to shoot Dubose in the head because he was being dragged by the car and his life was in danger. Tensing suffered minor injuries when he fell to the ground as Dubose’s car rolled away. But Dubose’s family and some activists have expressed skepticism about that chain of events.
Yesterday was the funeral for Dubose. More than 500 people including Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black and State Sen Cecil Thomas attended the services at Church of the Living God in Avondale where the father, musician and entrepreneur was laid to rest. His mother Audrey Dubose and other family members remembered him as a kind and loving man who nevertheless had a deep, sometimes complicated independent streak. Some friends knew him as the man who started the Ruthless Riders, a black motorcycle club, and as a talented rapper and producer. The service and its immediate aftermath were at times somber, but devoid of anger. Family, friends and faith leaders called for answers to Dubose’s death, but also stressed they did not want to see violence or unrest in the wake of his killing. Dubose was buried at Landmark Memorial Gardens in Evendale.
Thus far, the prosecutor has declined to release video footage for the time being as his office presents evidence to a grand jury, causing protests. The grand jury could decide to indict Tensing on charges ranging from aggravated murder, which carries a potential death sentence, to negligent homicide, a misdemeanor. City Manager Harry Black has been briefed on that video and has called it “a bad situation,” saying that, “someone has been died who did not necessarily have to die.” Tensing, 25, hasn’t had major disciplinary actions on his record and his superiors have spoken highly of him. He started at UC last year after serving with the Green Hills Police Department, where he started as a part-time officer in 2011. Tensing has retained Stew Matthews, a Cincinnati attorney, for his defense in the event he is indicted.
Most classes and events require registration; classes frequently sell out.
Hey Cincinnati! I'm Natalie, a new staff writer here at CityBeat covering news. You may have already seen a byline or two of mine. Expect to see more! I'm giving Nick a little break today and taking on my first morning round-up of headlines. Here's what's happening.
The family of Samuel Dubose, the man who was shot a week ago by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, has hired the former attorney of controversial neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who shot unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in 2012. Attorney Mark O'Mara has already begun to question officials on the release ofTensing's body camera footage. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has declined to release the footage at this time, saying it could jeopardize a fair trial for the officer. O'Mara says he plans to join the lawsuit filed by the Associated Press, the Enquirer and four local television stations, but could file his own suit as well. Dubose was shot by Tensing on July 19 in Mount Auburn when he was stopped for missing the front license place on his car.
• Cincinnati has a new Assistant Police Chief. Police Captain Eliot Isaac was sworn in to his position Monday afternoon. Isaac has 26 years experience with the Cincinnati Police Department and was chosen unanimously. He was promoted to captain in 2004 and his other previous positions include District 4 commander, criminal investigation commander, internal investigations commander and night chief. He's replacing Paul Humpheries, who left the department in June to head security at Coca Cola Beverages in Florida after nearly 30 years on the force.
• You’ll have to get your home fries and bacon elsewhere for a bit. Over-the-Rhine greasy spoon and 70-year-old community institution Tucker’s was damaged July 27 by a fire and is currently closed. The fire did extensive damage to the Vine Street fixture’s kitchen, and owner Joe Tucker says it’s unclear when it will reopen. Tucker’s parents opened the restaurant in 1946.
• After missing out on a huge political convention, Cincy's U.S. Bank Arena will be getting a huge renovation that could make the city more competitive in vying for major events. Arena owners Nederlander Entertainment and AEG Facilities announced today that the renovation will increase the stadium's capacity by 500 to 18,500. It will also have up to 1,750 club seats — a vast improvement over current numbers — and add a new suite level closer to the stage. The lack of available suites was one of the major reasons that Cincinnati its bid lost the Republican National Convention to Cleveland. In addition to its increased capacity, the arena will also sport a new glass facade and other improvements. Cost for the renovations were not released by the owners.
• Covington is once again struggling to find ways to pay for its police and fire departments. Over the last 10 years, the city has reduced staffing for police and fire, and now some residents are worried there aren't enough to properly look after the city, which has a relatively small population for some of the challenges it struggles with including poverty and higher crime rates. The city's woes are long-running in this regard: Covington has been struggling to fully pay for basic services like law enforcement since the 1970s for a variety of social and economic reasons. Some there say it's time to raise taxes to make sure there are enough cops on the beat, while others have pushed back against proposed tax increases.
Hey all! Hope your weekend was grand. Here’s the news today.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are a number of events going on downtown to commemorate the historic federal law, which works to guarantee equal rights for those with disabilities. A rally and presentations about the history and impact of the law kicked off at City Hall at 9 a.m. this morning, followed by a march to Fountain Square, where ADA-related events will take place through this afternoon. We’ll have more on the events and the ADA’s legacy later.
• On the one-week anniversary of the University of Cincinnati Police shooting death of Samuel Dubose in Mount Auburn, protesters gathered yesterday outside UC’s Public Safety office to demand answers about the incident. More than 100 people showed up for the protest, many of whom later marched down Vine Street to the site of Dubose’s death half a mile away. Driving rain didn’t keep family members, friends and activists from gathering and remembering Dubose, calling for the release of tapes showing the incident, and the removal of UC Police Officer Ray Tensing, who shot Dubose. Officials say Dubose was stopped due to a missing front license plate on his car. His license was suspended at the time, and Tensing ordered Dubose to leave his vehicle. Dubose refused, according to police, and a struggle ensued. Police say Dubose started his car and began driving away, dragging Tensing with him. Tensing then shot Dubose in the head and fell away from the car. Family, friends and police-accountability activists, however, question this version of events. They say footage from Tensing’s body camera and possible security footage from a nearby building could tell a different story. At least some of that footage is now in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has said he will not release it at this time. City Manager Harry Black made comments today about the shooting, saying he's been briefed about the video and that "someone has died who did not necessarily have to die." Black refused to elaborate further on the situation.
• The head of Ohio’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, one of the nation’s oldest and highest-profile marijuana legalization groups, was ousted in June, and he says his removal is due to his support of another legalization effort. Rob Ryan, who lives in Blue Ash, was removed as president of Ohio NORML after he came out in support of ResponsibleOhio, a ballot initiative that is seeking to legalize marijuana use for anyone above 21 and establish 10 legal marijuana grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors. Now Ryan says he was dismissed due to his support for that group. But NORML officials say his removal had more to do with his personality, charging that he has been rude and even abusive to NORML members who don’t support ResponsibleOhio. The ballot initiative to create a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana has deep Cincinnati ties and has been very controversial due to its limitations on who can grow the drug commercially. The group is now also in a frantic, last-minute scramble to get more than 30,000 valid signatures from voters across the state after a past petition drive fell short of the 300,000 signatures required to land a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The group has until next month to collect those signatures.
• Northside is getting a new spot for cold, sweet treats. Dojo Gelato, a Findlay Market fixture for years, will move to its first stand-alone store at the old J.F. Dairy Corner on Blue Rock Avenue right around the time it starts getting warm again next year. Owner Michael Cristner lives in the neighborhood, and has been looking to set up permanent shop there for some time. I do really love Dojo’s affogato with the Mexican vanilla and Dutch chocolate, but I’m also a big adherent of Putz’s Creamy Whip down the street. Blue ice cream with a cherry dip, y’all. I guess I’ll just have to double my ice cream/gelato intake.
• Gov. John Kasich, it seems, can be downright postmodern in his view on today’s big policy questions as he tries to convince Republicans he’s their man to run for president. At recent campaign stops, Kasich has shrugged off the tyranny of the solid, sure answer for an acknowledgement that the world is absolutely insane, knowledge is illusory and none of us can really know anything. OK, so that’s a pretty big exaggeration on my part. But the guv has been uttering the phrase “I don’t know” a lot on the trail in response to policy questions. Does it show he’s honest? Still formulating his positions carefully and with intellectual rigor? Or is he just kind of a wimp who won’t commit to an answer? Time will tell. In the meantime, John, can I suggest some real page-turners by this guy Baudrillard? There is more and more information in the world, Mr. Kasich, and less and less meaning, and we both know it.
• Speaking of the complete shattering of the fallacy that the world is a rational place, new polls continue to show real-estate magnate and hairpiece-addiction spokesman Donald Trump leading the field of GOP hopefuls. He’s sitting at 18 percent in the crowded contest, three points above next-best contender, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and eight points ahead of the third-place contestant in this wacky gameshow, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Do I need to give another rundown of recent Trump events? He said former POW and Republican Arizona Senator John McCain isn’t a hero because he got caught by the enemy. He equated Mexican immigrants with criminals and rapists and received a death threat from notorious cartel leader El Chapo. Via Twitter. Give him this: the guy knows how to get attention and has never met a question he wants to answer with “I don’t know.”
Cincinnati Opera winds up its 95th season in truly grand operatic
fashion with an opulent production of Puccini’s Turandot. The singing is (mostly) sublime, the spectacle is lavish
and all the production elements are executed with stylish precision.
The opera is a fantasy based on a play by the Venetian Carlo Gozzi. Turandot is
a Chinese princess bent on revenge for the rape and murder of an ancient
ancestor. If a prospective suitor fails to answer three riddles, off with his
head. That doesn’t discourage Prince Calaf, who manages to solve the riddles
and melt the ice princess’s reserve. Oh yes indeed, this is a fairy tale.
It’s also Puccini’s grandest opera with fabulous music incorporating romance,
drama and Chinese folk melodies. The score was unfinished when Puccini died in
1924; composer Franco Alfano composed the final section using Puccini’s
sketches. Despite Calaf’s signature aria “Nessun Dorma,” the best music belongs
to the chorus and the two female leads.
Biggest ups to the chorus. They sing with power, precision and a remarkable dynamic
control thanks to Chorusmaster Henri Venanzi, who celebrates his 41st year with
the CO. Unlike most other operas that feature one big choral number and that’s
it, Turandot’s chorus is onstage for
almost the entire piece.
Marcy Stonikas is a formidable Turandot, physically and vocally. Her voice has
the cold, steely edge for an ice princess but there’s a hint of warmth that
fully emerged in the final scene to convey a sense of humanity. “In questa
reggia” is Turandot’s big aria and Stonikas did not disappoint. Hers is one of
the most exciting voices I’ve heard in a long time and I hope she’ll be back.
The role of the slave Liu usually steals the shows and this was no exception.
French soprano Norah Amsellem sings with haunting delicacy and tremendous
power. It’s a performance to savor, and she garnered the evening’s loudest
ovations. And her limping on the stage was no act — she injured an ankle
earlier in the week and was using a brace.
Frank Porretta’s Calaf was barely audible in the first act. He may have been
having vocal problems because he powered up in the second act, but “Nessun
Dorma” was under pitch and lagged behind the orchestra. Let’s hope he recovers
for the remaining performances.
As the court officials Ping, Pang and Pong, Jonathan Beyer, Julius Ahn and
Joseph Hu were genuinely responsive Puccini’s score, offering characters
ironically comic and human as they sing of returning home. They also executed a
vaudeville soft shoe routine with panache.
Bass Andrea Mastroni made an impressive debut as Calaf’s father, Timur. Tenor
Chris Merritt sang the Emperor Altoum with poignant beauty.
Under the baton of Ramón Tebar, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra gave a
stunning performance of this magnificent score. There are so many gorgeous
subtleties, from the loudest of gongs to shimmering woodwinds and strings, and
they were heard to wonderful effect.
Red is the operative color for André Barbe’s sets and costumes, with black and
white running close seconds. A huge red lacquer arch is the main set piece,
punctuated by huge white heads on pikes, reminders of the executed princes. The
chorus, mandarins and dancers are swathed in black and red. Ping, Pang and Pong
sport sky-blue robes, and Turandot and Emperor Altoum are garbed in white. It’s
opulent but never excessive.
Most impressive are Renaud Doucet’s staging and choreography. The huge cast of
choristers, supernumeraries and dancers move with confidence and precision. Fortunately
for us all, the leads are equally graceful and they respond to each other with
more than outstretched arms. Doucet creates stage pictures that, for all their
scope, never lose focus on the performers. The dancers are a special pleasure.
Their costumes with multiple flags projecting from the back don’t make for easy
movement, but they make it look effortless.
Go see it. And go hear it. There aren’t many opportunities to see spectacle like this, unless it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber, who mined Puccini’s melodies for inspiration. Puccini did it way better.
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Hey all. Here’s what’s happening in Cincy today.
University of Cincinnati officials yesterday released the police incident report and dispatch recordings related to the July 19 shooting of Samuel Dubose by officer Ray Tensing. Tensing shot Dubose after a traffic stop over the fact Dubose didn’t have a front license plate on his Honda Accord. The incident report claims that Tensing was dragged by Dubose’s car and says another UC officer witnessed the incident. You can read the report here and listen to the audio of the dispatch here. Dubose’s family has demanded that police body camera video and security footage from a nearby building be released to substantiate that claim. That footage is currently in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has said he will not release it yet because that could bias a potential grand jury. Family and friends of Dubose gathered yesterday outside Deters’ office to protest that decision.
• Meanwhile, UC police will no longer patrol areas off-campus, according to university officials. Starting Monday, the university police force’s patrol policies will be amended in light of the shooting. Questions were raised about why Dubose’s traffic stop took place at the corner of Rice and Thill streets in Mount Auburn, which is half a mile away from the university. According to university police, Tensing initiated the stop much closer to campus and followed Dubose to the location where the stop, and eventual shooting, took place.
• Remember those hilariously fraught public meetings in Parks and Recreation? I attended one last night. A meeting held by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation and architects Glaserworks to discuss proposed changes to Ziegler Park, a popular space on Sycamore Street across from the former SCPA building, got a little heated as neighborhood residents and advocates questioned the need for an underground parking garage and the efficacy of 3CDC’s outreach efforts to the park’s current users, who are predominantly low-income. The meeting took place a block from the park at the Woodward Theater, a move that raised eyebrows for some activists at the meeting, including Josh Spring from the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Spring questioned why the meeting wasn’t taking place in the park itself so that it could more easily engage the park’s current users. At the meeting, 3CDC presented tentative plans for the park’s facelift, which will be funded in part by $20 million in Ohio new market tax credits. Those plans come from two past public input sessions, 3CDC says, as well as outreach to park users. Among the proposals: moving the existing pool to another location in the park, adding a splash pad, updating green space within the park, and tying the existing park facilities to green space across the street next to the SCPA. 3CDC’s concept includes putting a parking garage underneath this greenspace in order to free up land currently occupied by other lots. Also on the drawing board: maintaining a popular set of basketball hoops across the street from the park. Removal of hoops and the pool at renovated Washington Park on the otherside of OTR proved very controversial when that park underwent renovation in 2011. Some in attendance expressed concerns that two past meetings were not well-publicized. Other concerns were also raised about the green space neighboring the former SCPA building, which will soon be the site of luxury condos. That space once held structures used by Harriet Beecher Stowe as part of the underground railroad, and some at the meeting voiced wishes that the history there be commemorated and expressed anxiety about disrupting possible historic materials there. 3CDC anticipates holding another meeting to unveil more finished plans later this summer.
• The Ohio Democratic Party is still struggling with infighting, some say, despite new chairman David Pepper’s efforts to unify it following big losses in statewide campaigns in the last election. Democrats in Ohio lost major statewide races, including the race for the governor’s seat, by big margins last year. After that rout, former party chairman Chris Redfern resigned and was replaced by Pepper. Some of the internal tension that has hobbled the party has reemerged, critics say, in the party’s treatment of Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld, who is running against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland for the Democratic nomination to oppose current Senator Republican Rob Portman. Former Ohio Democratic Party Chair Jim Ruvolo, who served in that role from 1982 to 1991, has blasted Pepper for “sidelining” Sittenfeld in favor of the more well-known Strickland. Ruvolo, who is a consultant for Sittenfeld’s campaign, says it does the party no good to push down young talent like the 30-year-old councilman. Pepper has made statements some have read as demeaning to Sittenfeld, including a suggestion that local officials focus on the jobs in front of them and “put in the time.” Pepper says those statements weren’t meant to malign Sittenfeld or discourage him from running. Pepper says he’s working hard to unify the party in time for 2016, when a major battle between Dems and the GOP will take place over Ohio, which looks to be a decisive state in the presidential election and the scramble for control of the U.S. Senate.
That’s it for your truncated, Friday morning news today. As always, e-mail or tweet with news tips.
Did you attend the Cincy Fringe back in 2011? If so, maybe you saw Abigail and Shaun Bengson perform a musical work in progress then called “Songs from the Proof.” They came back in 2012 to present a one-night concert of some of the songs. The work evolved into a show called Hundred Days, which had a staging in San Francisco in early 2014. It’s continued to evolve — and its next incarnation will be onstage at Know Theatre for the next month, opening on Friday and running through Aug. 22. It’s about a young couple who fall in love, only to have their time together cut short by a fatal illness. They decide to live the 100 days they have left as though it were 60 years they had hoped for. Lots of music and creativity have gone into this one, and it promises to be a powerful performance with some great tunes. (Read more in my Curtain Call column in this week’s edition of CityBeat.) Tickets: $25 in advance; rush tickets at the door ($10, if available). Free performances on Wednesdays, but reservations required: 513-300-5669.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s 2015-2016 season is beginning as it has for several years with a light-hearted abridgement — but this time it’s The Complete History of America (abridged), opening Friday night and continuing through Aug. 15. The show is the creation of the same nuts responsible for the hilarious Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). It’s the same format: Veteran comic actors Miranda McGee and Justin McCombs, along with newcomer Geoffrey Barnes, will take audiences on a whirlwind tour that sends up America’s greatest hits … and misses. It’s the kind of delirious summer entertainment we’ve come to expect the from our often-more-serious classical theater folks. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273Last weekend I went to Stanberry Park in Mt. Washington to see The Complete Tom: 3. Abroad, presented by Queen City Flash, Cincinnati’s flash-mob theater company. It’s the third installment of its four-part play cycle of Mark Twain’s tales of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Jim, the runaway slave. It was charmingly performed by Dave Powell, Rico Reid and Trey Tatum — plus some amusing puppets (aka wooden spoons) and a few sheets for ghost stories. This charming episode features the threesome on a trans-Atlantic voyage in a Jules Verne-like airship, meeting a number of interesting characters along the way — played in quick-change manner by the three actors. Free performances begin at 8 p.m. but don’t go to Stanberry Park — they’ll be elsewhere this weekend. In fact, the outdoor locations remain secret until 4 p.m. the day of performance when an email is sent to ticket holders with a map and parking instructions. The show is a lot of fun and great entertainment for kids, and part of the adventure is figuring out where you’re headed. Take a chance! Tickets — no charge — can be reserved at QueenCityFlash.com