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by John Hamilton 03.26.2015 63 days ago
at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Reel Redux: Top 10 Good Remakes

Today, whenever the terms “remake,” “reboot” or anything like that pop up in terms of film or TV, people automatically assume the worst thing imaginable. While I won’t deny the fact that there have been several remakes that have been pointless, there have been a lot of remakes that have been very good and, in a lot of cases, have improved on a few aspects.

Now, I’m not claiming that the 10 I’m listing off are “better” than the original. Instead, these films (listed by release date in chronological order) are evidence that a remake is not an automatic seal of sucking.

The Magnificent Seven (1960, John Sturges)

I’m sure some of you saw this coming given what my first "Reel Redux" was about, but none the less this is still a pretty good film. A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, this version doesn’t do too much different from the original film but it is still holds up through its fine acting, amazing music score and story.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964, Sergio Leone)

Another remake of a Kurosawa film, this time a remake of his film Yojimbo. In this film you see the foundations of Eastwood’s most famous screen persona, many of Leone’s trademarks and an awesome final duel. A good stepping stone for anyone wanting to get into Spaghetti Westerns.

The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)

Yes, believe it or not there are some good horror remakes, and this was one. John Carpenter’s remake of the Howard Hawks-produced The Thing from Another World ups the ante with the suspense and gore. This is not for the faint of heart. But it’s more than just a gore-fest — it’s a film with amazing suspense and atmosphere.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Frank Oz)

This music adaptation of the Roger Corman B-movie is a genuine delight and definitely improves on a few aspects of the original, mainly the special effects. That glorious Audrey II puppet is a testament to how great practical effects can be. Also, Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops is a perfect voice for Audrey II.

Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)

This classic Disney animated musical actually has a lot in common with the 1946 French surrealist adaptation by Jean Cocteau. Both beasts have a similar design, both feature a castle of human servants that are also appliances, and both have a Gaston equivalent. But of course the animated version does do a few things differently, mainly musical numbers, funny side characters and, of course, being a cartoon.

Homeward Bound – The Incredible Journey (1993, Duwayne Dunham)

Here’s another Disney remake that proved its worth. A remake of the 1963 movie just called The Incredible Journey, this renditions seems to hold up for anyone because of the animals. All three have distinct voices and personas that make us love and root for them.

The Birdcage (1996, Mike Nichols)

A film by the late Mike Nichols and starring the late Robin Williams is a remake of a French-Italian film called La Cage aux Folle. With the combined comedic charm and brilliance of Williams and Nathan Lane, it’s no wonder why Nichols had a hard time holding his laughter during some of the scenes. My words won’t do it justice — you just have to watch.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003, Peter Jackson)

If we’re loosely defining the term remake, Jackson’s fantasy trilogy is technically a remake of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (1978) and Rankin/Bass’ Return of the King. If you’ve seen those animated films then you can see why Jackson’s are usually the preferred versions. Jackson's films create an epic fantasy environment, they have an amazing film score and feature some awesome battle sequences.

3:10 to Yuma (2007, James Mangold)

Many hold the original 1957 film as a classic and it is, but Mangold’s version doesn’t try to duplicate it. Instead he goes the action route, and it does not disappoint. The gunfights are stunning throughout the film. Also, the chemistry between Christian Bale and Russell Crowe is stunning, and it also has a great villain performance from Ben Foster.

True Grit (2010, Ethan & Joel Coen)

My first two listed were westerns and so we end with two westerns. The Coen Brother’s version of the manhunt of Tom Chaney is truly phenomenal. The Coens stay close to the tone and style of Charles Portis’ original book by sticking to the dryer tone, keeping it less romanticized and “Hollywood.” And it features some trying fantastic performances from everyone.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 03.26.2015 63 days ago
Posted In: Visual Art at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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FotoFocus Sponsors Upcoming Robert Mapplethorpe Symposium

Symposium will be co-presented by the Contemporary Arts Center in October

Last night before photographer Roe Ethridge's FotoFocus Lecture at Cincinnati Art Museum, FotoFocus' Artistic Director Kevin Moore announced the organization is co-presenting a two-day symposium on photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's work with the Contemporary Arts Center on Oct. 23-24.

It will mark the 25th anniversary of CAC's presentation of The Perfect Moment, the retrospective of Mapplethorpe's work that prompted conservative elements — led by then-Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. — to pursue criminal charges for alleged obscenity. (Some of Maplethorpe's work in the show was sexually graphic.) A Hamilton County jury cleared the museum of all charges.

Specifics for the symposium have yet to be announced, although indications are speakers from around the country will be invited. Also not yet announced is what, if any, works by Mapplethorpe will be shown and in what context.

Information should go on on the FotoFocus site when firm.

 
 
by Jac Kern 03.26.2015 63 days ago
Posted In: Humor, TV/Celebrity, Movies at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

A terrified-looking local 2-year-old has become something of an Internet sensation over the past week. In a funny photo with a cute story-turned-viral image, Quincy Kroner posed with two friendly looking garbage men in front of their truck (as he held his own mini garbage truck toy).

 

Pictured: Internet gold.

Dad and Northside resident Ollie Kroner, who’s no stranger to CityBeat, posted the photo on Facebook, saying, “Quincy's been waiting all week to show the garbage men his garbage truck. But, in the moment, he was overwhelmed in the presence of his heroes.” The photo was shared by friends and family, then their friends and so on until the image appeared prominently on Tumblr, Imgur, Awkward Family Photos, Huffington Post and ABC News.

Despite the sudden fame, Quincy continues to live a low-profile, tiny human life. Read more here. (Worth noting is the writer’s choice to drive home the point that “it started with a sticker chart” and to include the comment "Garbage men get swole as hell and are generally the greatest people around.")

Stock footage provider Dissolve created a “faux” TV trailer using only stock video, and it appears only slightly more generic that a CBS fall lineup.

Just in time for Mad Men’s final season premiere, AMC paid tribute to the show with a bench resembling the Don Draper silhouette logo that has become so iconic. The bench — which I really need them to mass-produce — was unveiled in front of the Time-Life building, which Sterling Cooper & Partners has called home in Mad Men universe since Season Four. Jon Hamm was profiled in GQ’s April issue, and the show’s leading man shared some advice given to him from a guy who knows what it’s like to portray an iconic TV character and then, suddenly, not — Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston.

"It's hard, man," Cranston told him. "It's hard to let it go. It'll hit you a couple of different ways at different times."

But before you get depressed thinking about all of Mad Men joining Walter White and the other characters in the big TV set in the sky, there’s still a whole (OK, half) season of Mad Men to obsess and drink over, starting April 5.

Serena Williams made her own 7/11 video a la Beyoncé.

Almost as good as the original and how cute is it when she stops dancing to let that old man walk by? Definitely needed more azz, though.

Goodbye Zuckerberg, hello Luthor! Jesse Eisenberg lost his curly locks to embody his upcoming role as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Check out his TRANSFORMATION (he just shaved his head) here.

The cast of Pretty Woman the movie’s 25th anniversary with a reunion on the Today Show. While it has been quite a few years since the last good hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold movie, don’t count on a sequel. They say there will never be a Pretty Woman 2. At least some things are sacred.

With that being said, of course there’s new remake news this week.

Fox announced that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will return as Mulder and Scully in the network’s limited-series reboot of The X-Files.

The John Candy classic Uncle Buck is also getting a TV remake. Mike Epps and Nia Long are set to star in the ABC comedy. (This isn’t the first time Uncle Buck is getting the TV treatment — there was a short-lived series of the same name in 1990). Until then, go downtown and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face.

Some movies are getting turned into TV shows while some television series are getting reworked for the big screen. Finally, the Entourage movie trailer is here.

Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? Reddit user Euchrid_Eucrow posted an in-depth analysis on the Barenaked Ladies song “One Week” (yes, you’re reading all of this correctly) in the Fan Theories subreddit. S/He argues that that song — an upbeat Pop-Rock earworm full of random bits of early-Millennium pop culture — is about a man who killed his girlfriend and is slowly going mad as he stays in a room with the corpse. Internet!

Here’s Sarah Jessica Parker throwing fifty shades of shade at Tom Hanks at a hockey game.

Forget Resting Bitchface — Carrie Bradshaw’s got a very active bitchface.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.26.2015 63 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Council passes resolution supporting same-sex marriage; street named in honor of Camp Washington Chili owner; anti-abortion activists target Boehner

Morning all. Are you as disappointed with the soggy gray awfulness outside as I am? Over the past few days I’ve been tuning up my bike, getting ready for spring. My plan was to get it out today and ride to work instead of walking. But this morning has been more kayak commuting weather, and since I don’t own a kayak, I’m working from home. Bummer. Anyway, let’s move on to news. This is the weekly City Council update edition, where I tell you about all the zany stuff our council members got up to yesterday.

First, council passed a resolution supporting marriage equality in the state of Ohio authored by Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay elected official.

“The protection and equality we want is no different than what everyone wants," Seelbach said, highlighting the ways in which his life with his partner are the same as any married couple’s. Seelbach also drew attention to the continued court battles being waged by Cincinnatians against Ohio’s gay marriage ban. Among them is Jim Obergefell, whose case against Ohio’s gay marriage ban will be tried in the U.S. Supreme Court next month. Obergefell is seeking to be listed on his late husband John Arthur’s death certificate. The two were legally married in Maryland.

“Our city could have fought us, as our state continued to do, but instead our city stood on the side of love with a message that is resoundingly clear: We welcome, accept and love everyone,” Obergefell said in a written statement read by a representative from LGBT rights group Why Marriage Matters.

Six council members voted for the resolution, with Councilman Charlie Winburn voting against it and two, P.G. Sittenfeld and Amy Murray, absent from the meeting for unrelated reasons. Winburn applauded Seelbach’s advocacy for the issue, but said he didn’t agree with its premise. Winburn has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage. Cincinnati joins several other Ohio cities, including Dayton and Columbus, in supporting marriage equality.

• More council stuff: our esteemed deliberative body yesterday rejected another stab at a parking plan for Over-the-Rhine that would have created 400 permitted spots around the neighborhood. The plan would have cost residents in the area $109 a year, plus $5 each for guest permits. Some council members, including Seelbach, said the price is still a bit too high and probably not necessary to generate the revenue needed. “I think we’re close,” Seelbach said. “This is close to what we would support. But the annual permit at $109 is the highest in America.”

Vice Mayor David Mann said he expected the plan to pass.

“This continues to be a work in progress,” Mann said. “We’re very open to changes as we implement and see how it works … but I think it’s time to do something. It’s been in and out of committee for three months.”

• Council also named a whole block of Colerain Avenue in Camp Washington after John "Johnny" Johnson, who has been working at Camp Washington Chili in the neighborhood for a mind-boggling 64 years. That's pretty cool. The restaurant, which I have patronized many a late night after various shows, has received national accolades for its chili, which is awesome. Johnson's uncle started the restaurant in 1940, and he began working there in 1951after coming here from Greece.

• The road is long and difficult and every step is studded with obstacles. No, I’m not talking about an underdog team in the NCAA tournament, nor the plot of a Tolkien novel. I speak of the streetcar, which is facing yet another round of drama this week involving contracts for who will operate the transit system. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, tasked with finding employees to operate the streetcar, must choose between two types of bids: those from companies that will manage SORTA’s union employees and those that will hire their own. Democrats on council want SORTA to go the former route and consider only bids that rely on employees from the Amalgamated Transit Union, of which most of SORTA’s employees are members. A past effort by council to get more details about the bids in relation to this wish drew sharp rebuke from the Federal Transit Authority, however, which said that any attempt to change SORTA’s bid process could result in loss of federal funds for the streetcar. The feds provided more than $45 million for the nearly $150 million project.

"If confidentiality is not maintained,” wrote FTA attorney John Lynch in a Monday letter to SORTA, “that presents risks to the process and increases potential exposure to protests and legal action from the proposers. The council's proposed changes to the procurement process could be perceived as giving preferential treatment to one contractor over another."

Now a new motion proposed yesterday by most of council’s Democrats would direct SORTA to only consider bids in which SORTA employees are used to run the streetcar. That motion needs two more votes and isn’t binding — it’s asking, not telling, SORTA to hire ATU employees. That motion also leaves maintenance personnel out of the equation, which is important because that’s a sticking point in negotiations between SORTA and the ATU on what using union workers would look like. The two are tangling over a few specialized maintenance positions that require particular electrical engineering training. The ATU says whoever does those jobs should be union members; SORTA says it has the right to hire outside workers for those positions. Phew. So there you have it. Bids for operating the streetcar are due at the end of the month, and SORTA’s board will vote to award the contract in July.

• Here’s a completely unsubstantiated, unscientific observation: People named “Woody” seem much more apt to support legalization efforts for marijuana. First there was Woody Harrelson, and now we have Taft Broadcasting Co. Development Director Woody Taft. Taft and his brother Dudley are among the funders of an ongoing effort by ResponsibleOhio to get an Ohio constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana on the November ballot. The Tafts are just a couple of the big names in town who have invested in the legalization scheme, which would legalize production and sale of marijuana but limit commercial cultivation to 10 legal growers. That dimension of the provision has raised ire from other pot legalization advocates. ResponsibleOhio has modified its proposal to allow for home growth of small amounts of weed, but those growers would not be allowed to sell their products.

The Tafts would be part owners of a marijuana cultivation farm proposed in Butler County should the ballot initiative pass.

“Our current laws are archaic and cruel to the people in Ohio who need medical marijuana,” Woody Taft said in a statement sent out by the pro-marijuana group.

• Finally, eight protesters were arrested outside House Speaker John Boehner’s Washington office yesterday. No, they weren’t up in arms about his continued efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or his moves to stymie Democrats’ immigration reform agenda. Nor were they there staging an intervention for Boehner’s all-too-evident tanning bed addiction.

Instead, they were all riled up about the fact that Boehner and other congressional Republicans haven’t moved fast enough on a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The House was set to vote on the bill way back at the beginning of the year, but some moderate GOPers balked at the ban because it required a woman to report her rape or incest to law enforcement in order to qualify for an exception to the proposed law. Members of the Christian Defense Coalition, who were the protesters praying outside of Boehner’s office, say his failure to push that bill through is a “betrayal” of the pro-life cause. Boehner’s office shot back that he’s the most pro-life speaker in history, which seems a hard claim to fact-check considering abortion was illegal for much of our country’s history.

That’s it for me. Tweet me. Email me. You know the drill. 

 
 
by Mike Breen 03.25.2015 64 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music News at 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Heartless Bastards Announce New Album, Two Cincy Shows

Cincinnati-spawned band to release fifth album, play Woodward Theater in June

Former Cincinnati-based (now Austin, Texas headquartered) band Heartless Bastards have announced the release of its fifth album, Restless Ones, on the Partisan Records imprint on June 16. It’s the band’s first new full-length since 2012’s acclaimed Arrow, the group’s debut for Partisan. (The band took local group Wussy on tour after Arrow's release.)


The Bastards, who recently opened some arena concert dates for Rock music legend Bob Seger, also announced a string of tour dates beginning in June that will bring them back to Cincinnati for a two-night stand at Woodward Theater.  The band plays the newly remodeled/reopened Over-the-Rhine venue June 25-26 with opener Craig Finn (frontman for The Hold Steady).

A limited number of tickets for the Woodward shows are available starting today at noon through a special songkick.com presale. Click here for details


 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.25.2015 64 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

3CDC moves ahead with huge 15th and Race development; Ohio transportation budget includes obstacle for student voters; House to hear fetal heartbeat abortion restriction bill

Hey all, here’s the news today.

After some reconfiguration, 3CDC has announced it is moving ahead with its plans for development on the corner of 15th and Race Street. The development is set to include 27 affordable units of housing and 63 units total, along with more than 37,000 square feet of commercial space. It’s unclear what level of affordability the subsidized units will be, but 3CDC is applying for federal low-income housing tax credits and partnering with Model Group and Cornerstone Renter Equity on those units. The project will be 3CDC’s second-largest in OTR at 2.2 acres, just slightly smaller than Mercer Commons on Vine Street. The nonprofit developer had floated earlier plans that included a parking garage, but has nixed that idea after outcry from some neighborhood groups and historic preservation advocates. Instead, the project will include a surface lot behind buildings on Race Street.

• Suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter was back in court today on a reprisal of sorts from her trial last  year, when she was tried on nine felony charges and convicted of one. She’s being tried again on charges that she misused a court credit card. The jury couldn’t consider that charge last time due to a legal technicality dealing with the language of the charge, then-Hamilton County Court Judge Norbert Nadel ruled. Hunter also faces retrial on the other charges in June after the last jury couldn’t reach a verdict. Hunter pleaded not guilty to the credit card charge. She faces a year in prison if convicted.

• If you attend City Council meetings as much as I do, you hear the name Jeff McElravy pretty often. He’s been a big part of the city’s Department of Trade and Development, a post the city recently announced he’ll be leaving next month. McElravy had been interim head of the department during the city’s negotiations to bring General Electric to The Banks before he was replaced by current permanent trade and development head Oscar Bedolla. McElravy currently serves as the city’s downtown development manager. He’ll leave that job, and working for the city, on April 20.

• Though I’m sometimes pretty critical of our hometown grocery giant, I’ll give Kroger this: They do pretty well when it comes to beer selection. Just last night I scored Rivertown Brewery’s Vanilla Espresso Porter there, one of my favorites. And apparently, it’s just going to get better. The grocery chain has announced it is increasing its stock of local craft beers by 30 percent, giving more shelf space to Cincinnati names like Rhinegiest, Madtree and Christian Moerlein. I usually prefer to hit up Party Source for my beer (worker owned, what’s up) because they carry some of the best crazy dark beers, but hey, I’ll go Krogering in an emergency.

• A proposed transportation budget the Ohio General Assembly is mulling includes a provision that could make it much harder for college students from out of state to vote. The provision requires residents to register their cars in Ohio, if they have one, and get an Ohio driver’s license in order to vote here. Conservatives who are pushing the measure say it’s designed to keep non-residents from voting in state elections. If you register to vote from a campus address, you have to re-register your car in Ohio, the new provision stipulates. If you don’t, your out-of-state license becomes invalid.

Some Democratic lawmakers have cried foul, saying it amounts to voter suppression and intimidation of college students, who tend to vote more progressively. Some Democrats have shot back with a counter-proposal. If students must register their cars to register to vote, it only makes sense they get in-state tuition as well, right? State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat from Portage County, is pushing that exact logic in response to the Republican voter registration idea. She says the fees associated with car registration and license changes would be a deterrent for students and amount to suppressing their votes. Clyde and other Democrats have signaled they may not vote for the transportation budget if the provision isn’t removed.

• In other State House news, another abortion restriction bill will be up for a floor vote today in the Ohio House of Representatives. The bill would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Republicans there say they have enough votes to get the bill on to the state Senate, but GOP leaders there are worried the law could cause federal court challenges that might undermine other abortion restrictions passed in Ohio.

That’s it for me. Hit me up on Twitter or email me with your news tips.

 
 
by Katie Holocher 03.25.2015 64 days ago
Posted In: Recipes, local restaurant at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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From Otto's Kitchen: Smoked Tomato Aioli

Chef Paul Weckman, owner of Covington mainstay Otto's, is getting ready to launch his second restaurant, Frida, in MainStrasse this May. Frida, named after Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, will be the first and only mezcal bar in town. Mezcal, of which tequila is a specific type, is really a community-oriented beverage, in both style and process. “Mexican moonshine, they call it,” Weckman says. The restaurant will also offer Latin-inspired street food, boasting tortas, empanadas, tacos and lime-zested wings. 

While you wait for Frida, recreate some of Otto's magic at home with the restaurant's popular smoked tomato aioli, which is served with seared scallops. It is also a great “go-to” condiment when looking to add a smoky hint. 

Smoked Tomato Aioli 
Recipe provided by Paul Weckman 

Ingredients: 
4 large ripe tomatoes 
3 cloves garlic 
6 cups mayonnaise (Hellmann’s) 
Salt and fresh ground pepper 
Hickory chips 

Instructions: On the grill, smoke tomatoes over soaked hickory chips until skins turn dark brown. Remove and add remaining ingredients with tomatoes to blender or food processor. Blend on high until all ingredients are mixed and aioli has smooth consistency.

Read more about Weckman's journey here.
 
 
by Mike Breen 03.24.2015 65 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Ray’s Music Exchange Returns, "Rays" Stick Around

Popular late ’90s/early ’00s band reunites and announces off-shoot group, Rays

One of Cincinnati’s best groups from the late ’90s/early ’00s, Ray’s Music Exchange, is returning to the stage this weekend for its fourth annual reunion show. The band, which crafted a wide-ranging sound that incorporated everything from Jazz and Rock to Electronic, World music and beyond, performs at Over-the-Rhine's Woodward Theater this Saturday at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance here and $18 at the door. Local video artists Big Bang Productions are providing visual backdrops for the concert.


Saturday’s show will feature most of the members that performed with the group throughout its run, many of whom now live out of town. Guitarist Brad Myers (who is set to release his own Jazz album on June 2) says that after the reunion the “local core” of the band — which will debut new material at the show — will continue to perform locally and regionally, carrying on under the name Rays. Joining Myers in Rays are Mike Darrah (keyboards), Michael Mavridoglou (trumpet), Nick Blasky (bass) and Jason Smart (drums). 


For those that may have missed out on Ray’s Music Exchange the first time around (or those who might want to complete their Ray’s collection), the group’s entire back catalog — including the live double album A Live Rayunion, which was recorded at the band’s first reunion show (and also filmed and released on DVD) — is available through most major digital music retailers. (Click here to check out the releases on CDBaby.)

For more on Ray’s Music Exchange, visit the group's Facebook page here


 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.24.2015 65 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Historic Covington buildings get renovation; Kasich courts New Hampshire; Gannett and Starbucks mocked on Twitter for race initiative

Hey all. News has happened. Here it is.

First, let’s get this out of the way. I don’t watch football. Ever. But that doesn’t mean YOU don’t watch football. Or maybe someone you know? And heck, maybe you want to watch games that take place in the stadium you are paying for as a Hamilton County resident from the comfort of your own couch or favorite bar without having to pay the high ticket prices to see the game in person. That’s a perfectly understandable ambition, given that so many millions of our tax dollars are paying for the Bengals’ home. The good news is that almost every NFL team owner voted recently to end, at least for the coming season, the league’s policy of not televising games that don’t sell out. In fact, the only owner who didn’t vote to end the blackout policy is Bengals owner Mike Brown. Now, Brown says he supports televising every Bengals home game. But he’s concerned about the way revenue is split between home and away teams under the new agreement, which basically stipulates the home team will have to pay the away team if the game doesn’t reach 85 percent capacity. That does sound like a raw deal for small markets like Cincy, but so does voting to keep fans from watching games in the stadium they paid for. Glad I don’t care about football.

• Cincinnati developer Model Group will renovate 13 historic buildings containing affordable housing in Covington’s Mainstrasse district. The group will work in partnership with Welcome House, a social service agency based in the city, and use $700,000 in federal low-income housing tax credits for the project’s first phase. The project could also be eligible for historic preservation tax credits. The renovations will reduce the number of units available in the buildings from 51 to 43 but will result in larger living spaces aimed at single parents who need affordable housing. The project is expected to be complete in 2016. One building, 801 Main St., is a commercial space and will remain so after renovations wrap up.

• Yes, yes, we all complain about how crazy Cincinnati’s weather patterns are. I thought this was a tic common to many areas of the country, with nearly everyone thinking they have the craziest weather around. Turns out, however, that we have some scientific, or at least quasi-scientific, backing for our whining. Nate Silver’s data journalism project Five Thirty Eight ran some climate data on cities across the country and came up with the top places in the country with unpredictable weather. Guess what? Cincinnati is number four on the list. The analysis takes into account temperature, precipitation and a number of other meteorological phenomena. So yeah, next time you want to complain about the fact that it was 70 degrees yesterday and will be snowing tomorrow, go for it. Math is on your side.

• I’m a little late on this one, but in case you missed it, the push to get daily rail between Cincinnati and Chicago has some new supporters. The city of Norwood has signaled it is supporting those efforts, which are led by pro-transit group All Aboard Ohio. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana, has also pitched in on the cause in a way, telling state and federal agencies they should keep current rail lines open between cities in Indiana and Chicago so service can someday be expanded.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in New Hampshire today in what is his most straightforward presidential campaign trip yet. Kasich hasn’t officially announced he’s running for the GOP nomination for president (only U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has made that commitment) but there is simply no other reason for Kasich’s trip. He’s testing the waters in important primary states now, trying to boost his stature among Republicans who will have to decide who to nominate next summer at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Recent polls show Kasich doing well in Ohio but drawing mostly a blank in other parts of the country. If the gov is able to make news in New Hampshire, or New York and Maine, where he travels next, it could boost his profile and put him in league with figures like Cruz and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have been in the national spotlight by virtue of their offices and high-profile stances (some would say antics) against Democrats and President Barack Obama. Kasich at times tacks more moderate (at least when it comes to things like Ohio’s Medicaid expansion and Common Core education standards) and has been active mainly in Ohio, so he has some catching up to do. But, heck, saying one crazy thing about how climate change isn’t real or about how we should abolish a couple federal agencies could get him some big attention.

• Hey, did you know that testing giant Pearson, which designs and administers the Common Core tests Ohio students are currently taking, collects student data — name, gender, race, scores — even though the state of Ohio, to which the company reports, doesn’t? And also, did you know that the company has been monitoring students’ social media profiles for leaked test questions? Well, now you know.

• Finally, oof. Reaction to “Race Together,” a new initiative in which two of the nation’s big corporations team up to “tackle the issue of race in America” has been predictably brutal, with many taking to Twitter to mock the idea. Starbucks and Gannett announced March 19 that they were partnering on the project, the first phase of which involved baristas writing #racetogether on customers’ cups and engaging them in conversations about our society’s race issues. Because that’s what baristas want to do first thing in the morning when they’re facing a line of grumpy, caffeine-starved customers.

Starbucks has also been distributing a special edition of USA Today featuring stories about race, which Gannett guarantees is mostly typo-free because race is a very important issue. A few critiques come to mind, one of which is that hashtags don’t work outside the Internet. Also, maybe when your leadership teams look like this and this, it’s better to listen, do some corporate self-reflection and seek feedback instead of trying to “tackle” an issue.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.23.2015 66 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Red Bike to expand to NKY; did Mason break open meetings laws?; study: sprawl costs U.S. $1 trillion a year

Hey all. Hope you had a good weekend and are recovering from whatever NCAA tournament festivities you may have attended. Yeah, yeah, Xavier won. UC lost. The Dayton Flyers pulled out an upset over Providence Friday only to lose to the Sooners last night. Depending on who you were rooting for, you’re probably either nursing some slight heartache, the waning throes of a post-celebratory hangover, or both.

Anyway. Here’s what’s up in the news today.

Cincinnati's Red Bike is heading south. The city of Covington announced it has found funding for up to six Red Bike stations and will be working with the nonprofit to bring bike sharing to Northern Kentucky. The city has said it’s looking at locations near the Roebling suspension bridge, in Mainstrasse Village and other key places. The stations cost about $50,000 each. Cincinnati has 30 throughout downtown and uptown, spurred by a $1 million grant approved by Cincinnati City Council last year.

• A one-time 3CDC mover and shaker will now work for another big developer in Cincinnati. Former 3CDC Executive Vice President Chad Munitz, who left the developer in December, will soon start work with Mount Adams-based Towne Properties. Munitz played a big role in a number of 3CDC’s signature projects over his nine-year tenure there, including the redevelopment of OTR’s Washington Park. He’ll work to help Towne Properties identify new development opportunities in Cincinnati and beyond.

• Did Mason’s City Council violate the city’s charter and Ohio law when it held a last-minute special session to approve a tax deal with P&G last week? Some residents there think so. Mason’s council called the last-minute session Tuesday to pass a $34 million dollar deal that put the finishing touches on a $300 million plan by the company to expand a business center there. The trouble is, council gave only a day’s notice and scheduled the meeting mid-day during working hours, which could violate Ohio’s open meetings laws. Those laws require that the public business is done in a public manner with ample notice beforehand. The notice sent out by council about the meeting also didn’t stipulate a reason or agenda. Council immediately went into private executive session when it convened, then came out and approved the P&G deal. Critics, including some Mason residents, say it all seems secretive and not very public. Seems like they have a good point.

• ResponsibleOhio’s effort to make marijuana legal in Ohio took another step forward as the Ohio Ballot Board approved the group’s language for a proposed law it hopes to put on the ballot in November. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would allow anyone over 21 to purchase and smoke weed, but would limit commercial cultivation of marijuana to 10 state-sanctioned growers. That detail has caused controversy from other marijuana legalization advocates. The group still needs to collect more than 300,000 valid signatures from Ohio voters in 44 of the state’s 88 counties by July to get the amendment on the ballot.

• Ohio is the 47th worst state in terms of its tax structure’s fairness to low-income people, a study by personal finance website Wallethub.com says. The report found that low-income Ohioans making $25,000 a year or less pay nearly 11.5 percent of their income in taxes, compared to 9.5 percent for high-income earners. By the way, Ohio didn’t do so great when it came to those top-tier workers, either. The state ranks the 41st best place for people making $150,000 a year or more.

• Here's a pretty interesting study that says urban sprawl costs America more than $1 trillion a year. Wait, so are they saying building highways on top of highways and more McMansions a 45-minute drive from major urban employment centers was an inefficient use of resources? Say it ain't so. Anyway, ignore my editorializing and check out the study. This seems like such a difficult and huge thing to calculate, and I wonder if any readers see things they've missed or other ways to frame the question of how sprawl impacts our economy.

• Finally, I think we all knew this was coming. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced this morning he’s running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. On Twitter. The simple tweet read, “I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support!” It also included a video of Cruz’s first campaign ad, a dramatic 30-second piece that shows people America-ing all over the place, riding motorcycles through the desert, welding things, playing baseball of course and generally holding small American flags in verdant parks the way we Americans are wont to do.

Notably missing: bald eagles dropping apple pies on our confused and cowering enemies. Otherwise, though, very American. Cruz is perhaps the most conservative of the many names that have been bandied about as a Republican nominee. The freshman Senator has been one of the most vocal opponents of President Barack Obama, especially the Affordable Care Act. Cruz played a big role in last October’s government shutdown when he engineered a bizarre faux-filibuster and other obstructive measures designed to block passage of a budget that allowed the ACA to remain funded. So he has that on his resume. He’s also a loud climate change denier, or at least skeptic, and generally opposes things that liberals and moderates are into.

 
 

 

 

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by Nick Swartsell 05.28.2015 5 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Shootings in Cincy at 10-year-high; Covington low-income housing causes controversy; Ohio sheriff deputy fired for racist tweets

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.

 
 
by Staff 05.27.2015 27 hours ago
at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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This Week's Dining Events

Cooking classes, wine festivals, pig roasts, Park + Vine turns 8 and more

This week's dining events, cooking classes and more for the culinary enthusiast.

WEDNESDAY 27
Sunset Salons: Bourbon — Head to the Clifton Cultural Arts Center for barrel-aged wisdom from New Riff distilling’s Jay Erisman, The Littlefield’s John Ford and Molly Wellman. Includes samples. 6:30-9 p.m. $15; $20 door. 3711 Clifton Ave., Clifton, cliftonculturalarts.org.

Dinner & Dance: Texas Two-Step — Start with a quick 30-minute Texas Two-Step dance lesson. Menu includes Jamaican jerk baby back ribs, Texas jalapeno hush puppies, watermelon salad and more. 6:30-9 p.m. $140. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Early Summer Pasta — In this class, prepare two summer pasta dishes: orzo with smoked paprika shrimp and pesto vinaigrette, and soba noodles with asparagus and prosciutto. 6-8 p.m. $70. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

Grilling Cedar-Planked Salmon with Ellen — Learn to grill salmon on a cedar plank. Also on the menu: sangria, spicy red lentil dip, brown rice and barley pilaf, snow peas and deep dish brownies. 6-8:30 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

THURSDAY 28
Hone your Knife Skills — This class is all about building confidence in the kitchen, learning how to properly care for and hold a knife, then chopping, dicing, julienning and more. 6-8 p.m. $60. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox lane, West Chester, 513-847-4474, thelearningkitchen.com.

Bacchanalian Society Spring Gathering — Bring three same-brand Malbecs for tasting. Includes hors d’oeuvres from Keystone Bar & Grill. Benefits Cancer Family Care. 7-10 p.m. $15; $20 day of. Ault Park, 3600 Observatory Ave., Mount Lookout, bacchanaliansociety.com.

Healthy Smoothie Making Class — Learn how to make delicious health-smart smoothies. Registered dietitian/nutritionist answers questions regarding health/nutrition, disease prevention and cooking. Taste various flavored smoothies and meet other health-minded people. 5:30-7 p.m. Peachy’s Health Smart, 7400 Montgomery Road, Silverton, peachyshealthsmart.com.

All About Avocados — Beth Leah, certified holistic health coach, leads a cooking class centered on avocados. 7-8 p.m. Free. Whole Foods, 2693 Edmondson Road, Norwood, bethleahnutrition.com.

FRIDAY 29
Longevity Celebration: Park + Vine Turns 8 — Park + Vine celebrates its eighth anniversary on Final Friday with live music, food, a photo booth and an ’80s-themed DJ. 6-10 p.m. Free. Park + Vine, 1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, parkandvine.com.

Indian Rice Workshop — Chef Madhu Sinha leads a class to learn to prepare chicken biryani, lemon rice and coconut rice. 6-8 p.m. $75. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox lane, West Chester, 513-847-4474, thelearningkitchen.com.

Friday Night Grillouts at Lake Isabella — Great Parks of Hamilton County hosts this weekly grillout at Lake Isabella. Items available a la carte. Dine on the outdoor covered patio by the lake, or in the air-conditioned chart room. Features live music. 5-8 p.m. Prices vary. 10174 Loveland-Madeira Road, Loveland, 513-521-7275.

Crafts and Crafts — 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.

SATURDAY 30
Oxford Wine Festival — The eighth annual Oxford Wine Festival features fine wines, craft beer and area artisans. Guests will receive five tasting tickets to same wines (or beers) from around the world. 2-10 p.m. $20; $25 at the gate. Oxford Uptown Parks, Oxford, Ohio, oxfordchamber.org

Tapas! The Wine and Food of Spain — On the menu: skewered food on toothpicks, grilled tomato bread, shrimp and mushrooms, Basque-style meatballs with asparagus, stuffed mushrooms, honeyed figs with Serrano ham, eggplant salad and crème de Catalan. Noon-3 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Swine, Wine & Shine Pig Roast — Anderson Pub & Grill is throwing a pig roast, complete with beer, wine and moonshine specials, plus a barbecue sauce contest judged by area chefs and food celebrities. Sauces must be submitted by 1 p.m. 1 p.m.-2 a.m. Prices vary. Anderson Pub & Grill, 8060 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, 513-474-4400, andersonpubandgrill.com. 

Great Parks Dinner Series — Celebrate Broadway at this dinner and a show, complete with classic Broadway tunes performed on stage. Menu includes chef-carved prime rib, chicken breast, lasagna, salad and more. 7 p.m. $29.95 adult; $14.95 child. Mill Race Banquet Center, 1515 W. Sharon Road, Winton Woods, 513-521-7275.

Mt. Adams Pavilion White Party — Dress in all white for the Mt. Adams Pavilion White Party. Features live music from steel drum band The SunBurners, DJs, a Caribbean-style buffet, frozen drinks and more. 7 p.m. No cover. 949 Pavilion St., Mount Adams, facebook.com/mountadamspavilion.

SUNDAY 31
Bugs to Munch — Head to Sharon Woods to eat some bugs. Bring an appetite and open mind for an afternoon class on how to cook with bugs, including tastings. 2 p.m. $2; valid park pass. Sharon Woods Sharon Centre, 11459 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, 513-521-7275, greatparks.org.

TUESDAY 02
Way Beyond Rice — Explore the versatility of rice cookers with dishes like steamed halibut with lemon dill rice, lemon chicken soup with orzo and more. 6:30-8:30 p.m. $70. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Cincinnati Favorites: Recipes & Stories from The Findlay Market Cookbook — Explore recipes from the cookbook, including seasonal favorites from chefs like Jose Salazar and Fresh Table at Findlay Market. 6-8:30 p.m. $50. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

WEDNESDAY 03
French Bistro Classics — Escargot Bourguignon, French onion soup, steak frites and tarte tatin. 6:30-9 p.m. $55. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Quarterly Chef’s Table Event — Seven-course meal exploring the chemistry between food and wine. 6-8:30 p.m. $58. The Art of Entertaining, O’Bryonville, cincyartofentertaining.com.

 
 
by David Watkins 05.27.2015 28 hours ago
at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Queer City Spotlight: Judith Iscariot on Cincinnati's Drag Scene

Local LGBTQ news and views

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.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.27.2015 28 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rand_paul,_official_portrait,_112th_congress_alternate

Morning News and Stuff

New nonprofit will seek to boost streetcar; is Kasich getting soft on unions?; Rand Paul courts NYC hipsters

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Streetcar advocates are forming a new nonprofit to help raise funds, encourage ridership and help sell advertising on the downtown and Over-the-Rhine transit project. The group will be called Cincinnati Street Railway, a nod to the city’s original streetcar transit authority. CSR will be a “non-political” and “fun” booster for rail in the basin, Haile U.S. Bank Foundation Vice President Eric Avner said yesterday at a Believe in Cincinnati townhall meeting at the Mercantile Library. The group will stay out of the fray on some of the car’s thornier issues, such as the push for an uptown extension, and will be focused on making Phase 1 of the project “as successful as possible.”

• Other key advocates for the transit project, including longtime streetcar booster John Schneider, who has led efforts to make the project a reality, Believe in Cincinnati Chairman Ryan Messer and Vice Mayor David Mann also spoke about the streetcar at the townhall meeting. Mann touched on the continued debate between the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which will operate the streetcar, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which staffs SORTA’s Metro buses. ATU is bidding to staff the streetcar as well, and Democratic members of council have insisted that the operating contract be awarded to union workers. However, five highly specialized jobs involving streetcar maintenance might have to be given to non-union workers, SORTA says. That’s tripped up talks between the transit authority and the union, and SORTA says it might have to go with a non-union streetcar operator, as the Business Courier reported yesterday. The transit authority is set to release the bids it has received to operate the streetcar on June 5. Testing on the streetcar begins in October. Mann says it would be “foolish” for ATU to lose the opportunity to run the streetcar based on those jobs, which he says ATU doesn’t have employees trained to do at this point anyway. ATU has proposed to SORTA that union employees be trained to do the specialized jobs, but SORTA has said that the training isn’t available in the tight timeframe in question.

• Over-the-Rhine-based Rhinegeist is expanding, opening a so-called “nanobrewery” at its distribution site in Columbus. That small brewery will only do experimental batches of possible new beers, and there are no current plans for a location like the one in OTR. The Columbus location won’t be open to the public and won’t sell beer. But Rhinegeist’s Bryant Goulding told the Akron Beacon Journal that he’s not ruling out a more public presence in Columbus in the future and that the Columbus brewery could supply some Columbus-exclusive brews down the road.

• The city of Cincinnati today official opens its Office of Performance and Data Analytics, as well as its CityStat and Innovation Lab initiatives. The efforts, which are City Manager Harry Black's first big initiative since coming to Cincinnati last year, are designed to bring a data-driven approach to city government. The programs are patterned after similar initiatives in Baltimore, where Black served in a number of roles. Black hopes to use data collected by the office to set performance goals for departments and zero in on problems in city services. The office has been given $400,000 in the coming biannual budget.

• Let’s go back to the Mercantile Library for a minute. Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Faherty will become its new executive director, the Cincinnati institution said yesterday. The Mercantile is a membership library located downtown on Walnut Street. Founded in 1835 and headquartered in the historic Mercantile Building since 1909, the library boasts more than 200,000 volumes. The library hosts a number of high-profile literary events and public functions. Faherty has worked for the Enquirer for three years after relocating from fellow Gannett paper the Arizona Republic. He’ll leave the paper in June to take the reigns of the historic library.

• Is John Kasich getting soft on unions? The Ohio guv and GOP presidential hopeful was on the campaign trail yesterday when he said that Ohio doesn’t need a right to work law. A number of other conservative states have such laws, which forbid labor contracts between employers and workers which require all employees to be union members. Kasich has said outlawing that practice isn’t necessary in Ohio because the state doesn’t have a lot of contentious labor issues. That’s a strikingly moderate stance for the governor, who shortly after taking office in 2011 moved to eliminate public employees’ collective bargaining rights. That move was reversed by a statewide referendum in which voters overwhelmingly chose to preserve public employees’ union rights. Kasich’s statement on right to work comes a day after the governor eliminated collective bargaining rights for 15,000 home healthcare and childcare workers who contract with the state. So, you know, he’s still not that into unions.

• It’s official. Rand Paul is courting the hipster vote. The U.S. Senator from Kentucky and Republican presidential hopeful yesterday made a campaign stop at The Strand bookstore in Manhattan. It’s an amazing bookstore, but yeah. Also very hip. Anyway, Paul drew a big crowd to the store after he was invited to speak by co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden, who is married to Oregon Democrat U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. You can read more about the appearance, and Paul’s efforts to win over young voters, in this New York Times story. The Strand has become a customary stopover for Democratic politicians hawking their newest books. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently dropped by promoting her new tome, though the Democrats’ likely presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has declined to appear there. Instead, she opted for a nearby Barnes & Noble to premier her latest book. Oof.

 
 
by Staff 05.26.2015 51 hours ago
Posted In: Leftovers at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
urbana airport cafe

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

Pie, burgers, bacon, corn on the cob and lots of Skyline

Each week CityBeat staffers, dining writers and the occasional intern tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 


Ilene Ross: So in my never-ending search for the perfect pie, the BF flew me to the Grimes Field Municipal Airport on Sunday. Apparently this is a thing private pilots do: fly their planes to small regional airports for sport and a tasty meal. Since there was pie involved, I quickly overcame my lifelong fear of small planes and hopped on board. After about half an hour we arrived in Urbana, Ohio, and, no kidding, the housemade pies at the airport cafe are totally worth it! We had the coconut cream, but there are berry, apple, butterscotch and more. FYI, you can get there by car as well, and the town of Urbana would make a lovely day trip — although we never made it out of the airport.

Danny Cross: When in doubt during a weekend afternoon when the Reds are playing, I go to Zip's Cafe for a burger, beer and baseball. I'm kind of tired of watching the Reds lose, but I wanted a burger and to dip french fries in cheese sauce. The food was great and, as expected, the Reds disappointed by 1) losing and 2) allowing Cleveland to go ahead by four runs in the ninth inning, thereby removing the chance of my fantasy pitcher earning a save against them. And I think the Reds scored on my guy too, which was another negative. 

Nick Swartsell: In part to celebrate the long weekend and in part because my girlfriend and I both have miserable colds, we decided to go full Tom Haverford and treat ourselves. So we pan fried a giant piece of salmon in bacon grease and George Remus rye whiskey with just a little bit of chili powder. Yes, we did in fact crumble the bacon on top of the salmon as well. Actually, it was a bit more of a Ron Swanson type meal. We had some buttered asparagus and curried couscous with currants and dried apricots on the side. Very good; would do again. 

Casey Arnold: Being that Saturday had such perfect weather, my boyfriend and I were really hoping to find a place to eat outside. We talked over the list of usual spots when I remembered that we still hadn't checked out Incline Public House in Price Hill. Brian was ecstatic to discover that they had gluten-free beer, burgers and pizza. He quickly settled on a burger with a salad topped with their housemade maple vinaigrette dressing. I snacked on a few truffle Parmesan tater tots, which were as wonderful as they sounded, and landed on a delicious lemony pasta dish with shrimp and mushrooms. I think this might be our new favorite spot. 

Maija Zummo: Because we didn't have work Monday and I spent the rest of my weekend watching Hot Tub Time Machine 2, I wasted a bunch of money on Sunday and had a progressive dinner throughout most of OTR and some of Clifton. I started off by meeting my friend for a bloody mary and kale dip at The Eagle. Then we went to 1215 Wine Bar and had a great rosé flight. Nice big pours and you can play a game where you guess which wine is which based on menu descriptions. I only got one correct, but everyone wins because you can drink all the wines no matter what. Then we went to Kaze for their Tokio Happy Hour. Everything is cheap! Bottles of wine are half price, so we got one of those, and then their edamame (which they served uniquely chilled) is only $2 and veggie hand rolls are $3. It also overlaps with their daily 4-7 p.m. happy hour, so you can order from that food menu, too. And eat everything outside on their giant patio. Then we went to Neons (more patios!) and had some nice tequila strawberry (or raspberry) cocktails and tacos from Mazunte, which was manning the grill. Maybe only I had tacos. Then I petted some dogs, drank a little too much and ended up at Skyline. Had some bean and rice chili cheese sandwiches there and then grabbed some things to go for my husband who was at home — but also ordered myself some more chili cheese sandwiches. Shredded Skyline cheese is just really good.

Sarah Urmston: Since Memorial Day weekend is all about celebrating the good ol' USA, it was only logical to fire up the grill and throw down the most cliché items guaranteed to fill you in the most satisfying way possible. After my sweet man friend Bryan and I hit a Wiffle ball around the yard with an old plastic bat and swung around in his new hammock, we spent the rest of our day cooking steaks, corn on the cob, asparagus and roasted potatoes. He used all kinds of filet seasonings on the steaks while I loaded up the potato slices with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, oregano, parsley and Parmesan cheese. The asparagus wrapped in tin foil sat on the grill, covered in butter and more Parmesan cheese (you really can't go wrong with the stuff). The steaks were cooked medium-rare because chef Bryan knows exactly what he's doing. Since we ran out of plates for ourselves, we threw everything together and picked at it until it was gone. It was the best way to end a long weekend, and never have I felt more American. 
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.26.2015 53 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
annman_otr_washingtonparkmusichall_jf01

Morning News and Stuff

OTR home prices head toward $1 million; Kasich cuts bargaining rights for home health and childcare workers; DOJ settlement with Cleveland police imminent

Good morning y’all. I’m back from vacation and ready to give you all the news and stuff you can handle. In case you’re wondering, my time off involved a jaunt to Chicago for a concert where audience members were encouraged to divide into two huge groups and run at each other high-fiving, trips to five Pilsen Mexican restaurants and a long night/early morning in a private karaoke room where they keep up the bootleg music videos, Red Bull, beer and Drake tracks until you die (I abstained from the beer and the Drake, but did drink way too much Red Bull). Then I came back to Cincinnati and promptly got sicker than I’ve been in a long time. Fun stuff.

Anyway, let’s do this news thing. Home prices in Over-the-Rhine are getting higher and higher, but you probably already knew that. What you maybe didn’t know is how close the neighborhood is getting to million-dollar homes. Recently, a condo on Central Parkway sold for $850,000, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. That’s roughly 4,250 nights in a private karaoke room in Chicago’s Chinatown, or, you know, 2,125 months (177 years) in an affordable apartment that costs $400 a month. While that huge figure is something of an outlier, the neighborhood is certainly heating up. The average sale price for single family homes in the neighborhood was hovering around $220,000 in 2010. These days, it’s nearly twice that at $427,000. Those developing high-selling properties in the neighborhood say that there’s more to the story than the big numbers and that they’ve put in tons of investment to bring the properties up to their current condition. Of course, the rise in values also raises questions about affordability in the historically low-income neighborhood. The amount of affordable housing in OTR has dwindled in recent years, though new additions could help that situation. Over the Rhine Community Housing, for example, just finished its Beasley Place building on Republic Street, which will provide 13 new units of subsidized housing in the neighborhood.

• Will a major federal lab end up in uptown Cincinnati? It’s a good possibility. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health is looking to consolidate two labs it currently runs in the city and is at least considering the possibility of building its new $110 million facility near the University of Cincinnati. NIOSH Director John Howard told the Cincinnati Business Courier recently that proximity to UC is a big consideration. Should NIOSH decide to build uptown, the development could play into a bigger push by area leaders to create an “innovation corridor” near the site of the new I-71 interchange along Reading Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Avondale and Walnut Hills. Uptown or no, NIOSH would like to keep the proposed 350,000-square-foot building within the I-275 loop, it says, in part because of public transit considerations.

• Speaking of public transit, don’t look to Ohio to start spending more on it anytime soon. The state legislature has dismissed suggestions that the state spend more on public transportation as it crafts the next two-year budget. Legislators in the GOP-dominated state house have brushed aside a $1 million study by the Ohio Department of Transportation calling for more spending on buses, rail and other forms of public transit. That study highlighted the growing need for public transit among the state’s low income and elderly, as well as the increasing popularity of a less car-dependent lifestyle among young professionals Ohio would like to attract. Currently, Ohio ranks 37th in per-capita spending on transit, despite being the nation’s 7th most populous state. The study recommended a $2.5 million boost in transit spending in the next year alone, part of a much larger boost over time. Even Gov. John Kasich, a vocal opponent of most transit spending, put an extra $1 million in his suggested budget for transit next year. But no go, the legislature says.

• While we’re talking about Kasich, let’s touch on his recent move cutting collective bargaining rights for home health care workers and in-home childcare workers. These workers aren’t state employees but contract with the state for some work. In 2007, then-Gov. Ted Strickland handed down an executive order giving those workers collective bargaining rights, which allowed them to receive health insurance from state worker unions among other benefits. Kasich promised to rescind that executive order during his successful run for governor against Strickland, but has held off until now, he says, to preserve the workers’ access to insurance. Now, the governor says the Affordable Care Act means that the workers don’t need unions to get health care, and that as contractors they shouldn’t be given bargaining rights. Kasich has long been a foe of collective bargaining — after taking office in 2008, he worked to end collective bargaining rights for all state employees. Voters later struck down his efforts in a state-wide referendum. Democrats and union representatives have cried foul at Kasich’s latest move.

“It’s a sad day when those who care for our children, our seniors and Ohioans with disabilities — and who simply want to be able to make ends meet while providing that invaluable service — become the target of a cynical political attack," Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper said in a statement.

• Finally, the big story today is happening in Cleveland, where questions about police use of force are swirling. Just days after courts dismissed manslaughter charges against Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo, a settlement between the city and the federal government looks imminent. In 2010, Brelo, who is white, fired 15 rounds into the windshield of a car, killing unarmed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both black, after a police chase that started when a backfire from the car was mistaken for a gunshot. That incident, as well as many others, were highlighted in a nearly two-year investigation by the DOJ into the department’s use of force. That investigation found what the DOJ calls systemic problems with the department’s use of force and the way it reports and disciplines officers who may have used force improperly.

U.S. attorneys are holding meetings with various stakeholders in the city today and are expected to soon announce a settlement between the city’s police department and the U.S. Department of Justice. The expected consent decree would put CPD under federal oversight and bring about big reforms for the department, which continues to draw controversy. Last year, an officer with the department shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice while the child played with a toy pistol. Charges against that officer are pending.

 
 
by Zack Hatfield 05.22.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: Film at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
the joke

Foreign Film Friday: The Joke (1969)

This weekly series discusses the cultural and artistic implications of a selected foreign film.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a new Milan Kundera short story in The New Yorker. One of my favorite authors, I was intrigued to learn Kundera was releasing his tenth novel — the first in 15 years — later this year (in English; it was previously released in French). Though I enjoy reading Kundera’s work, the Czech author is known for taking umbrage at his books’ English translations. I began to wonder how he felt about his novels that have been translated onscreen, to film. 

Some quick Googling revealed he had served as either screenwriter or consultant on the only adaptations of his works, 1988's Unbearable Lightness of Being and 1969's The Joke, films that bookend the communist regime in the Czech Republic. Disappointed with Unbearable Lightness of Being, an American film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, I turned to The Joke. A film by auteur Jaromil Jireš at the crest of the Czech New Wave movement, its political tides swept the country during the end of the Prague Spring, a brief elision in the Soviet regime where democracy seemed attainable for a fleeting moment. 

I wasn’t disappointed. Not surprisingly, The Joke is inherently political, but its lofty themes of freedom thinly veil a more nuanced, personal narrative of intimacy and revenge. Told in effective jumps from the past and present, the film follows Ludvík, a man who sends a sarcastic jest in the mail to his romantic interest, Markéta, mocking Trotsky. The letter is read by his university comrades in the Party and they sentence him to six years in prison and the army, where he becomes the butt of his own joke. 

Jump to the present: Ludvík attempts to get revenge by seducing Helena, the wife of one of his betrayers from the Party years ago. The film unsnarls with an arid humor as Ludvík’s pessimistic outlook is upended by revelatory moments, often soundtracked by the film’s traditional music. The polyphonic chapters of Kundera’s novel are traded here for colliding tonalities between now and then, as the helixing of the visual tenses instill a sense of upheaval, of never truly being able to escape the past.

Cinematographer Jan Curík frames the imagery with a monochrome staccato to complement the frenetic visual grammar, and Jireš intercuts archival footage with the action to suggest the reality of the atmosphere. Voiceovers are capitalized on frequently, and add a dimension of helplessness that was shown in the book through multiple points of view. As Ludvík narrates his fruitless schemes, there’s a false sense of omniscience, even though it becomes clear that he has no control over his destiny. Jirês captures Kundera’s inimitable brand of existential romance, and Josef Somr plays the protagonist with an understated brilliance and ennui. Trying to convince Helena of his love, the godless Ludvík tells her, “It’s as strong as fate.” 

Kundera has suggested in interviews that all of his novels could have been titled The Joke or Unbearable Lightness of Being, and I found that true in this case, even though there is a clear heaviness to the causes and effects, in and outside the screen. Jireš was exiled after the movie was banned, and was pressured to erase The Joke from his filmography, a film whose weightlessnesses arrive in the form of old Folk songs, a practice that allows the characters to never forget their heritage. Cinema was Jireš’s way to remember, and his second film survives, thankfully, for us. 

It was alleged, in 2009, that Kundera was an informant for the Chezch secret police as a student, and turned over a Western spy who served 14 years after almost facing a death sentence. Whether or not this is true, it intensifies the texture of sin and ambiguity within the film, which Kundera co-wrote. Maybe it was a type of catharsis, a way to cope with his guilt. Or maybe it is the film’s final joke, leaving no one to have the last laugh. 


THE JOKE is currently screening on hulu plus as part of their Criterion Collection. hulu.com.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 05.22.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: Visual Art at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
peggy crawford candid with raphaela-2

CAC Announces the Death of Founding Member Peggy Crawford

The Contemporary Art Center today announced that founding member Peggy Crawford died on April 18 in Santa Fe, N.M., where she had been living. She was one of three women who founded the CAC's precursor, the Modern Art Society, in 1939. She was able to come to the CAC last September to celebrate its 75th anniversary — an exhibition of her photography was part of the observance.

Here are excerpts from the CAC press release:

Contemporary Arts Center Director Raphaela Platow fondly recalled the impact that Peggy Crawford made on so many: "Mrs. Crawford’s life is an inspiration to me. As a young woman she was one of the three women founders of the Contemporary Arts Center (called Modern Art Society at the time), an institution she initiated, against all odds, in a moment in time when the Great Depression was still shaking the world and the second World War was about to erupt. It is so easy not to do something, to shy away from a great idea because of the many obstacles and hurdles in the way, a lack of resources, or fear of failure. But Peggy Crawford and her two companion co-founders created the Modern Art Society in 1939 because their lives urged them to do it. Mrs. Crawford applied the same passion, tenacity, and energy to her different life pursuits and I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to meet her and to spend time in her presence."

Born in 1917, Peggy Frank graduated from Smith College. In 1939, along with Betty Rauh and Rita Rentschler, she founded the Modern Art Society in Cincinnati, Ohio, which would become the Contemporary Arts Center.

The three founders had little  or no formal museum experience. For a year, their "office" consisted of a portable typewriter set up in a living room. At the start, the society had staunch backers and hard workers, but they had very little money and had only a borrowed gallery space in the basement of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

During the first year, the founders raised $5,000 to produce six exhibitions, each with a catalogue. Their first exhibition, Modern Paintings from Cincinnati (Nov.-Dec. 1939) showed their early commitment to showcasing up-and-coming local artists. 

The fledgling Modern Art Society mounted new and often controversial exhibitions, published catalogues, encouraged local artists and helped promote contemporary art collections and education. Between 1940 and 1951, the Modern Art Society exhibited such artists as Pablo Picasso (1940), George Grosz, Paul Klee and Alexander Calder (1942), Fernand Leger (1944), Rufino Tamayo (1947), Jean Arp (1949) and other new artists in abstraction, Surrealism, modern architecture and contemporary design. One of the highlights of this time was the Cincinnati showing of Picasso’s "Guernica" in 1940 because it represented the first and only time the important work was shown in the Midwest.

Peggy Frank married Ralston Crawford, a painter and photographer, who preceded her in death.

She is survived by two sons, Neelon (Susan Hill), and John, along with a stepson, Robert (Eldrid Crawford).

A memorial service was held at Kingston Retirement Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. April 30, 2015.

 
 
by Staff 05.22.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: Drinking, Events, Fun, Comedy, Culture, Concerts, Holidays, Life, Movies, Music at 09:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Your Weekend To Do List (5/22-5/25)

Taste of Cincinnati. The May Festival. Memorial Day Weekend.

The big party this weekend is Taste of Cincinnati, but there are plenty of other options if you don't want to spend your entire weekend gorging. Check out the May Festival, Memorial Day Weekend at Spring Grove cemetery, plenty of live music, live theater and more.

FRIDAY
Celebrate the power of the voice with THE MAY FESTIVAL
The May Festival, one of the oldest and most prestigious choral festivals in the Western Hemisphere, kicks off its 2015 showcase at Music Hall with Haydn’s “The Creation” on Friday and works by Handel and Vaughn Williams on Saturday. A special May Festival Youth Chorus/May Festival Chorus performance takes place Sunday at Covington, Ky.’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. Renowned guest vocalists will be joining each performance, with pre-concert festivities before Music Hall performances, including al fresco food trucks, lobby recitals, drink specials and more. The May Festival continues through May 30. $12-$125; subscriptions available. More details at mayfestival.com.


Mamma Mia!
Photo: Universal Pictures
Bring a blanket for MOVIES IN THE VINEYARD
You can pop corks or corn at Vinoklet Winery’s vineyard, which is hosting three outdoor movie nights this summer. On Friday, get your Streep on when they show Mamma Mia! on the silver screen amid the sprawling acres of the award-winning vineyard. And hey, if ABBA isn’t your thing, you can catch later flicks in June and July with Under the Tuscan Sun and Phantom of the Opera, respectively. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair, but no outside coolers, drinks or food; picnic snacks, beer and wine will be for sale. 7 p.m. Friday; film starts at dusk. Free. 11069 Colerain Ave., Colerain, vinokletwines.com.

The Cavalcaders
Photo: Pat Conley
Erin go Bragh with the ACTING IRISH INTERNATIONAL THEATRE FESTIVAL
Irish theater is top of mind locally, what with the warm-hearted Outside Mullingar continuing at Ensemble Theatre and this week an international festival of Irish acting. Catch daily performances of full-length Irish plays produced by companies from the U.S., Canada and Ireland — including our own Irish American Theater Company of Cincinnati, which is hosting the 22nd annual festival at its 200-seat theater. George Heslin, founder and artistic director of New York City’s Origin Theatre Company, critiques each day’s production and presents awards for directing, acting and production during a brunch on Sunday morning at downtown’s Millennium Hotel. Through May 23. $17-$22. Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati, 3905 Eastern Ave., East End, 513-533-0100, irishcenterofcincinnati.com.

Circle Mirror Transformation
Photo: Sandy Underwood
Learn and laugh with CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION 
Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation is a deceptively simple play — on the surface, it’s a comedy about five people enrolled in a community center class about learning how to act. They work their way through six weeks of exercises intended to reduce their inhibitions and open them to being more expressive and comfortable onstage. None seem bound for onstage careers, although one says she’s worked as an actress and another, a high school student, aspires to be one. But they do learn a lot — about themselves and each other. In fact, they learn how to act on the broader stage of life in this award-winning play that’s closing the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s current season. Circle Mirror Transformation, presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, is onstage through June 7. cincyplay.com

Steve Katz
Rock with Blood, Sweat & Tears' STEVE KATZ at the Southgate House Revival
According to Publishers Weekly, Steve Katz’s new memoir Blood, Sweat, and My Rock ’n’ Roll Years: Is Steve Katz a Rock Star? has maybe the most spectacular revelation yet of any Rock memoir. Katz was a guitarist with two successful Rock bands in the 1960s, The Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, and he went on in the 1970s to produce Lou Reed’s classic live album, Rock n Roll Animal. Katz says one of the stereo feeds of the audience track for Reed’s Animal concert at New York’s Academy of Music was lost, so there was only mono sound. That wouldn’t work, so the engineer went through his archives and found an audience track from a concert by the ultra-square John Denver. (Both were RCA recording artists at the time.) Steve Katz plays Newport's Southgate House Revival on Friday. Tickets/more info here.

SATURDAY
Taste of Cincinnati
Photo: Provided
Gorge yourself at TASTE OF CINCINNATI
It’s no secret the food scene in the Queen City rivals that of major U.S. metropolises — a few OpenTable award winners, some James Beard Award semifinalists and even a AAA Five-Diamond restaurant call Cincinnati home. And from Saturday to Monday, your favorite Cincy foodstuffs will be in one location at the Taste of Cincinnati, the nation’s longest running culinary arts fest in the heart of downtown. Want to chase LaRosa’s with a donut grilled cheese from Tom+Chee? And then follow that up with a Thai basil/lime ice pop from streetpops? At Taste, you can, and you should. This year there will even be a Food Truck Alley on North Broadway off of Sixth. I recommend fasting until then. 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday. Free. Fifth Street, between Vine and Sentinel streets, Downtown, tasteofcincinnati.com.

Outside Mullingar at Playhouse in the Park
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Catch the extended OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at the Ensemble Theatre 
Count on John Patrick Shanley for compelling storytelling: His Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Doubt explored the power of innuendo; his Academy Award-winning movie Moonstruck was a romantic comedy. His play Outside Mullingar lands squarely between those extremes, connecting with his family’s roots in rural Ireland for a tale of identity, heritage and love. It’s sure to be a winning production with a cast featuring Dale Hodges, Joneal and Jen Joplin (yes, they’re father and daughter) and Brian Isaac Phillips, directed by former Playhouse artistic director Ed Stern. This show is likely to be a hot ticket: It’s already been extended by a week. Through May 30. $40-$44 adult; $25 student; $18 senior/children. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-3555, ensemblecincinnati.org.

Ian Bagg
Photo: Provided
Laugh with IAN BAGG
Ian Bagg had dreams of playing pro hockey, but switched to comedy because he grew tired of getting knocked around the ice by players he describes as decidedly more talented than him. Fortunately, he had a knack for humor. “It’s so much fun being on a [hockey] team and hanging out,” he says. “I think that’s where I got my comedy chops: chirping at everyone from the bench and in the locker room and having a great time.” Fellow hockey fan Dave Coulier told CityBeat a very similar story a few months back. Oddly, Bagg and Coulier have never met. “You’d think if there’s anyone I would know, it’s a guy that does comedy and plays hockey,” he says. Thursday-Sunday. $10-$20. Funny Bone on the Levee, Newport, Ky., funnyboneonthelevee.com.

The Cincinnati Boxing Story
Watch the premiere THE CINCINNATI BOXING STORY
The world premiere of The Cincinnati Boxing Story screens at Taft Information Technology High School on Ezzard Charles Drive in the West End on Saturday. Mark Sweeney’s film explores how Cincinnati is a boxing town that has long produced great fighters — most notably Ezzard Charles himself — and examines our boxing history with past and present champions and their supporters. 6 p.m. Saturday. $15. 420 Ezzard Charles Drive, West End, facebook.com/sweeneynowvideo.

Celebrate art all day with the ART SPACE IS YOUR SPACE artist in residence at Wave Pool gallery
Wave Pool gallery’s first artist in residence, Georgia-based artist and filmmaker Erin Colleen Johnson, organized several events Saturday that seek to investigate the intersection of race, class, migration, agriculture and environmental justice, all through the lens of soil. A groundbreaking ceremony for Camp Washington’s Urban Farm (3220 Colerain Ave.) involves setting personal intentions with a ceremonial shovel. Later at the gallery, David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, will talk about his work to eliminate racism within the criminal justice system, and Johnson herself will give a live performative video lecture called Providence Canyon. Groundbreaking 11 a.m.; Gallery events start at 6 p.m. Saturday. Free. 2940 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, wavepoolgallery.org.

SUNDAY
Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later
Photo: CHHE Collection
Remember history with UNLOCKING THE GATES OF AUSCHWITZ
The Freedom Center’s current Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later exhibit weaves together rare artifacts, photographs and the personal stories of Holocaust survivors Werner Coppel and Bella Ouziel to explore their journey and how life and the power of the human spirit continued in the face of the horrors of Auschwitz. Also on view are artifacts on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew Union College and more. A closing reception May 27 features a conversation with Coppel and Ouziel, as well as special recognition of area liberators and veterans to commemorate the end of World War II. Through May 27. $14 adults; $12 seniors; $10 children. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 E. Freedom Way, The Banks, Downtown, freedomcenter.org.

Ohhh and ahhh over ZOO BABIES
Celebrate the newest arrivals at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden during the entire month of May, where you'll find the cutest baby faces from all over the globe. Follow the six-foot-tall pink and blue stork statues displayed throughout the zoo to lead you to baby African lions, penguin chicks, bonobo monkeys, a whole litter of African painted dogs and more, as their big eyes, miniature sizes and playful personalities melt your heart. Through May. Park admission $18 adults; $12 children and seniors. 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.

MONDAY
Memorial Day Weekend at Spring Grove
Photo: Provided
Celebrate MEMORIAL DAY AT SPRING GROVE
Between kicking off Memorial Day weekend with the Ohio Military band performing in the Rose Garden Gazebo, a veterans tribute and a historical Patriots and Pioneers walking tour of the cemetery, Spring Grove has the entire weekend jam-packed with activities. On Monday, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry will perform an 1860s Grand Army of the Republic ritual and shower flower petals on the graves of union soldiers interred in Spring Grove, followed by a living history presentation by President Abraham Lincoln (or a man dressed like him) and a Civil War walking tour. Thursday-Monday. Free. 4521 Spring Grove Ave., Spring Grove Village, 513-681-7526, springgrove.org.

Over the Rhine
Photo: Provided
Raise a barn with OVER THE RHINE
Barns and farms have played an important role in the history of Over the Rhine, married couple Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist’s internationally acclaimed, 25-year-old Cincinnati band. The couple met in a restored barn while in college in Canton, Ohio. For the past decade, the twosome has lived in and worked out of a brick farmhouse in Highland County on land they’ve dubbed “Nowhere Farm.” And now Detweiler and Bergquist are restoring a 140-year-old barn in Clinton County (in the village of Martinsville) and transforming it into a performing arts center with a recording studio called Nowhere Else.  As with Over the Rhine’s past two albums, Detweiler and Bergquist are turning to their loyal fanbase to help fund the new facility. The band is offering a variety of perks for donations. Among the perks (starting at the $100 level) are tickets to special preview concerts at Nowhere Else this weekend (the couple is hoping to have the facility fully ready to open by early October). The full six-piece band is performing special “Barn Raising Concerts” on Saturday (which is sold out), Sunday (7 p.m.) and Monday (3 p.m.). Over the Rhine will be debuting new songs at the concerts, which will be filmed and recorded for a forthcoming live album and DVD project. The release can be pre-ordered as part of the fundraising campaign. Visit at overtherhine.com/barnraising for full details.

Veterans and military get in free at BUTTERFLIES OF THE PHILIPPINES
As Cincinnati welcomes spring, the Krohn Conservatory welcomes the colorful and exotic butterflies of the Philippines. For 12 weeks, Krohn will transform into a majestic tribute to the Southeast Asian island country, capturing its stunning natural beauty and Filipino culture. The showroom will be a tropical paradise of free-flying butterflies soaring among waterfalls and bold volcanic murals. A rainforest under glass, the conservatory will be filled with more than 3,500 beautiful plant species, such as ornate orchids, brilliant bromeliads, delicate anthuriums and dramatic dracaenas, providing a backdrop close to home for the native butterflies to flutter. Free for active military and veterans on Memorial Day. Through June 21. $7 adult; $4 children; free ages 4 and younger. 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiparks.com.



 
 
by Rick Pender 05.22.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cappies recipients

Stage Door: Theater Critics of the Future?

There’s lots happening on Cincinnati stages this weekend — including excellent productions of Circle Mirror Transformation at the Cincinnati Playhouse and Outside Mullingar at Ensemble Theatre. The Cincinnati Fringe Festival is right around the corner. But I want to use this week’s Stage Door to highlight a glimpse of the future. Tonight the CAPPIE AWARDS will celebrate productions and performers from area high schools with a festive event at the Aronoff Center’s Procter & Gamble Hall.

Among the students being recognized are critics. That’s right: As part of the Cappies, teens from high schools visit other schools to critique performances. I have the privilege of handing out awards to the outstanding team of students from one particular high school. Starting last year, another recognition was added, sponsored by CityBeat, identifying the outstanding single critique written over the course of the year.

I received a half-dozen essays deemed by Cappies organizers to be the best pieces written during the 2014-2015 school year. (I did not know the names of the critics or their high schools when I was picking the winner.) At tonight’s ceremony, I’ll announce one I believe to be the best. You can read all of the reviews I considered in today’s blog, below. In addition to taking home a dandy trophy, the winner is invited to review a FringeNext show, one of three high school productions presented at the Cincy Fringe next week.

I urge you to read what these insightful young people have written about productions at other schools. It’s possible that someday one of these promising writers will be writing about shows and helping theater fans decide what to see onstage in Greater Cincinnati.


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



West Side Story at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy

REVIEWED BY COLE HANKINS, Loveland High School

Amidst a fearsome gang war, two lovers are forever torn apart by the pull of a pistol’s trigger. And as a girl mourns her horrible loss, she extends two hands, one to each side. In the left hand, a Jet; in the right, a Shark, two groups sworn enemies, now holding hands united under common loss. It is with this heart-wrenching image of solidarity that Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s production of West Side Story leaves its audience, and with this image that its excellence finally hits home.

An American theatrical classic, West Side Story takes place in New York City, where two local teenage gangs — the Caucasian “Jets” and Puerto Rican “Sharks” — are amidst a territorial dispute. Jets leader Riff plans to challenge the Sharks and leader Bernardo to a rumble in order to settle the issue. However, the plot thickens when fellow Jet Tony meets Bernardo’s sister Maria, and the two quickly fall in love. The result is ultimately a situation spun far out of control, a vengeful gunshot separating the lovers forever, and grave consequences to a merciless feud.

Fittingly, CHCA’s production started with a bang in “Prologue,” where the Jets’ and Sharks’ choreographic and combat execution splendidly set the tone for the action to come. The Jets were particularly sharp in songs such as “Jet Song” and the lighthearted character number “Gee, Officer Krupke.” Other show highlights included the upbeat, toe-tapping song “America,” and “Tonight,” where both Jets and Sharks alike came together for a powerful prelude to the action-packed “The Rumble.”

As headliner Tony, actor Will Ellis’s performance was defined by pristine tenor vocals and a captivating vibrato, mastering his character’s higher range. In solo songs like “Maria,” Ellis never shied away from the spotlight, boldly owning critical character moments. Opposite of Ellis, Allie Kuroff’s operatic soprano was equally impressive as the lovely Maria, clearly acting her finest in the show’s riveting finale. Both Ellis and Kuroff played their roles with a unique tenderness, providing an interesting presentation of two classic characters.

Likewise, actress Merrie Drees brought a thrilling flair to the flashy, spunky Anita. Drees’s powerfully sassy vocals proved phenomenal, and her ability to balance great comedic timing in earlier scenes with compelling emotion later on was marvelous, a dynamic lacking in other characters. As the charismatic Riff, Gabe Hoyer also crafted an extraordinary performance. Hoyer featured a mesmerizing gravity to his presence that added an unmistakable charm to Riff, making his Act I death one of the musical’s most tragic moments.

Tasked with a very challenging musical score, the CHCA Orchestra played fabulously. Despite drowning out certain vocalists at times, the pit kept accompaniment clean, crisp, and well polished throughout. Equally crisp and well polished was manager Kaitlyn Nickol’s stage crew, making scene changes promptly and effortlessly and contributing to the show’s timely pacing.

Doing justice to one of the most beloved musicals of all time is undoubtedly a daunting task. Yet as the lights faded on that aforementioned scene of unity, the cast of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s recent production of West Side Story had accomplished exactly this. In a wildly successful effort, these talented performers honored not only the endearing charm of this theatrical legend, but also its strikingly poignant message.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Larry A. Ryle High School

REVIEWED BY ELEANOR CONNIFF, Highlands High School

Although written nearly 400 years ago, the works of William Shakespeare are still revered today as some of the most influential in all of Western literature. The Bard's plays are usually an essential component of any English course. The classic tales are still performed often by actors and theatre companies alike. It is difficult to imagine something as old as the publication of Shakespeare's First Folio in 1623 continuing to remain relevant and entertaining to audiences. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by Larry A. Ryle High School, students brought life to the timeless classic and gave a performance that stayed true to the tradition of Shakespeare with unique and original twists.

The story of A Midsummer Night's Dream centers around a love triangle, or rather, rectangle, between Hermia and Lysander, two star-crossed lovers; Demetrius, who loves Hermia, although unrequited; and Helena, who loves Demetrius. When Puck, a mischievous fairy from the woods, accidentally casts a spell on the two young men, he reverses their affections, causing both to fall in love with Helena. Chaos ensues as Puck attempts to reverse the mistaken spell and keep peace within both the fairy and the lovers' world.

In Larry A. Ryle's production of this classic story, the students met the challenge of Shakespeare with eagerness and understanding of the style, far beyond the years of most high school students. The production also paired the original Shakespearean text with 1950s style costumes, props, and characters in order to portray a commentary on the time period's stratified nature and to modernize the theme of unrequited love.

Under the pressures of a four-way love triangle, Willow Davis's portrayal of Helena stood out among the leading roles of the show as her characterization and poise set her apart. Helena’s nagging but endearing nature allowed the audience to laugh at her melodramatic soliloquies while also sympathizing with her broken heart. Samuel Greenhill stood out in his portrayal of Demetrius as well, creating a character that was both likable and antagonistic and keeping him true to the attitudes of the time period.

Of course, it is impossible to forget Macy Bates’s performance as the mischievous Puck. The youthful energy that she brought to the role was extremely refreshing and played well into her comedic timing, keeping the audience laughing again and again.

From a technical aspect, the show was extremely fine-tuned. Albert Harris's lighting was absolutely stunning, with a purposeful contrast in the lighting of the fairy world versus that of the real world. This choice, while subtle, was extremely impactful, as the set's minimalist style made the setting of the story extremely ambiguous and versatile, with the shift in lighting as the main indicator of shifting worlds.

Love and mischief are the same now as they were in the 1950s, and the same in the 1950s as they were in Shakespeare's time. Larry A. Ryle High School's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream portrayed these themes in a fresh and unique way, while also paying homage to the tradition of William Shakespeare.

 

Beauty and the Beast at McAuley High School

REVIEWED BY SAMANTHA TIMMERS, Scott High School

It’s not every day you see a humanoid clock charging at foes with a silver fork. Nor is it every day that an audience finds themselves yet again floored by a performance they've seen on the screen a hundred times before. Yet in this heartwarming rendition of Beauty and the Beast, McAuley High School charmed both adult and child once again through their humor and talent.

This stage rendition, written by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Linda Wolverton, is actually an adaptation of an adaptation. The Oscar-winning movie version with which the world is familiar came out in 1991, the inspiration stemming from the 1756 fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. In this third version, a beautiful and bookish Belle becomes the only hope for a long-forgotten castle staff and Prince, who are slowly becoming inanimate objects as a result of a spell caused by the Prince’s vanity. But can Belle learn to love a Beast who can barely learn to love anyone else?

Overall, McAuley created a magnificent performance that was filled with magic and surprises. The cast was bouncing with energy from start to finish, and their vocal quality was solid amongst all actors. The technical crew skillfully created a lively atmosphere that resonated with audience members, phenomenally recreating classic scenes. With glittering costumes and whimsical choreography, Beauty and the Beast did not disappoint.

Danielle Mouch was extraordinary in her performance as Belle. Her vocal quality was pristine and clear, effortlessly reaching every note as well as maintaining her character’s spunky yet thoughtful personality. Gregory Miller, a well-established actor in Cincinnati high school theater, outdid expectations in his performance as the Beast. Though he might have had hair and tusks masking his face, his powerful yet perfectly controlled voice said more than facial expressions ever could.

Audience favorites included the actors playing Lumière and Cogsworth. AJ Keith’s (Cogsworth) dry humor was expertly delivered and well received, his deadpans flawless and his mannerisms appropriate for the endearing yet bossy character. Benjamin Burton seemed to be made for the role of Lumière: his French accent was spot-on (and maintained throughout the length of the show), and his eye for comedy was terrific—all it took was a few suggestive hip movements to send the audience into uncontrollable laughter.

The crew provided dazzling effects for the show. The lighting was of almost professional quality, with a highlight being the mystical, Northern Lights-sequel brilliance that occurred during the Beast’s transformation. While the costumes seemed to closely follow the movie adaptation, they were of high quality and were well constructed and designed. The choreography flowed seamlessly, from the Mob’s parade around the auditorium to the Wolves’ deathly yet entrancing dance. Overall, McAuley’s crew was a force to be reckoned with, achieving seemingly magical transitions and mirages.

In this tale as old as time, McAuley High School enchanted youth and elderly alike with its whimsy personality and spellbinding characters, reminding everyone not to be deceived by appearances; there “may be something there that wasn't there before.”


The Mourner’s Bench at the School for Creative and Performing Arts

REVIEWED BY SARAH MORGAN, Mariemont High School

A single gunshot can end a life, create irreversible emotional damage, and shatter even the closest of relationships in an instant. The School for Creative and Performing Arts’ dark, poignant, and haunting performance of The Mourners’ Bench explored the crippling emotional aftermath of a deplorable tragedy.

The first act opened up to an intense argument between siblings Bobby (Bradley Mingo) and Melissa (Nina Walker). Twenty years after they witnessed their father shoot their mother, Evelyn, in a murder-suicide, Bobby and Melissa have still not healed. While Melissa has attempted to move on with her life, marrying a nice man and bearing two children, Bobby is trapped in a state of perpetual dependency, turning to alcohol and eventually buying the childhood house in which the tragedy occurred. Mingo and Walker perfectly captured the essence of a tumultuous sibling relationship, from emotionally depleting shouting matches to interrupting one another mid-sentence. The two were able to adroitly deal with dark themes, including murder, rape, and suicide, by presenting an air of deep gravity and maturity to their lines.

Act Two, set immediately after Evelyn’s funeral, featured her sisters Caroline (Mallory Kraus) and Wilma (Danielle Brockmann) bickering about the future of their niece and nephew. Kraus and Brockmann both give performances rife with emotion, utilizing familiar body language to heighten the intimacy of their conversation. The timing of their dialogue was natural and seemed completely organic, inviting the viewer into their quarrel. Brockmann approached her role as Wilma with a gentle softness, providing a foil for Kraus’s seemingly callous, unemotional Caroline. The scene ended touchingly, with Kraus playing the piano while Brockmann watched, a testament to the boundless power of redemption.

Act Three centered around elderly, married couple Joe (Cameron Baker) and Sarah (Maggie Hoffecker). They moved into Bobby and Melissa’s childhood home immediately after the tragedy and become inextricably tangled in the history of the house they have purchased. The tenderness between Hoffecker and Baker truly reflected that of a couple on the brink of death; while just sitting next to each other on a couch, they seem comfortable and at ease, with no trace of awkwardness. By the end of the scene, sniffling could be heard throughout the theater as the pair gazed out of a window, contemplating life’s transience.

SCPA’s theater was a room with seating on all four sides, providing an intimate view of the stage and connecting the audience to the characters. The set was sparse: a living room furnished with an unadorned couch and a dilapidated piano. The simpleness of the set allowed the raw emotion of the actors to shine through, creating a memorable performance.

All in all, SCPA’s production of The Mourners’ Bench was an evocative and haunting testament to the power of loss, recovery, and redemption.

 

Sweeney Todd at Taylor High School

REVIEWED BY MADISON LUKEN, St. Ursula Academy 

A trip to the barber never seemed so dangerous than in Taylor High School’s production of Sweeney Todd, where deceit leads to a menagerie of questionable pies, ineffective Italian barbers and a tempest of revenge, violence and tragedy.

An ordinary barber, husband and young father, Benjamin Barker has his world turned upside down when he is thrown in jail on a trumped-up charge that costs him his wife and daughter. Escaping prison, Barker renames himself Sweeney Todd and moves back into his shop on Fleet Street when he discovers the suicide of his wife Lucy. Out for blood, he teams up with the pie baker below his flat, Mrs. Lovett, to take revenge on the ones responsible — Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford. Leaving a trail of deception, misery and gore in his wake, Sweeney Todd becomes the demon barber of Fleet Street in this haunting musical thriller.

From the smoke that billowed from Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop to the synchronization of the company in “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir,” the unwavering commitment of both the cast and crew of this show did not go unnoticed in both details and central events. Every aspect of the show came together to create a product of suspense, drama, and overall beauty as an elaborate set, apt lighting and emotional vocals blended with the energy of everyone on and off stage.

Despite the incredible amount of music and its difficulty, the leads of the show, Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, performed by Antonio Ortiz and Annie Gerth respectively, conquered the tumultuous trials of Steven Sondheim almost flawlessly. In addition to this vocal aptitude, Gerth was able to portray the comedic elements of Lovett through her accent and equally strong acting propensity. Reciprocated by Ortiz, the two radiated a brilliant, psychotic chemistry that was always present, especially in songs such as “A Little Priest.”

A buttress to the leading couple, the ensemble floated eerily onto the stage relentlessly, booming out “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and “City on Fire” without wavering. Additionally appearing repeatedly, the Beggar Woman, played by Eliana Batsakis, brought further skill to light both vocally and in her physical acting as she drifted across the stage, crawling in the shadows of London, cackling manically and uttering desperate warnings until she met her demise.

Behind the scenes, this show demanded both sets and costumes reflective of the dark, dirty setting of 19th-century London. In both areas, demands were met, as buildings faded into darkness under a smoky pall and windows appeared cracked in places like Fogg’s Asylum while their inhabitants skulked about in ripped clothes with faces scorched with the grime of the streets. The crew was also able to create credible deaths with their use of stage blood.

Altogether, Taylor’s production was consistent and energetic in every scene of the show, creating a thrilling and gripping story through its performers and behind-the-scenes crew. It was ultimately well deserving of the standing ovation it received.


Once Upon a Mattress at Ursuline Academy

REVIEWED BY CARISSA SAFFIRO, Cincinnati Christian Schools

From childhood one is taught that princesses are the immaculately beautiful creatures that epitomize all that is grace and beauty. Who could imagine that the next princess of a medieval land would be an uncouth and unruly woman from the swamps? Ursuline Academy’s recent production of Once Upon a Mattress explores what happens when an ill-mannered yet charming woman steps — or rather swims — into court looking for a prince.

Written in the 1950s, Once Upon a Mattress is a musical comedy adapted from Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” The musical was written by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer, and Dean Fuller with lyrics and music by Marshall Barer and Mary Rodgers, respectively. The show features Princess Winnifred of the swamplands who comes to marry Dauntless the Drab, despite all the women before her who have been turned down by his tyrannical mother. Following the classic tale, the queen puts a pea under twenty mattresses to determine whether Winnifred is a true princess.

With intricate music and challenging characters, the leads of Once Upon a Mattress certainly had their work cut out for them. The ludicrously uncouth yet lovable Princess Winnifred was played by Kennedy Carstens. From the moment she stepped on the stage the audience was in the palm of her hand and her vocal performance was unequalled by any cast member in the show. CJ Allen had the challenge of playing the role of Dauntless the Drab and chose to play this arguably flat character with a charming and comedic twist. The audience’s narrator and another lead actor in the show was the Minstrel, played by Arjun Sheth. Sheth not only brought the audience through the show with a confidence and charisma, but also had the vocal range required for the role.

King Sextimus the Silent, played by Michael Viox, was another leading force in the show, although because of an old curse he was unable to speak for most of the musical. However, his inability to communicate with words in no way inhibited his connection with the audience or his stage presence. His counterpart and friend, the Jester, played by Claire Westover, played alongside Viox with excellent chemistry but also showed a deeper side of her character as well as impressive tapping ability in her song “Very Soft Shoes.” Carmen Carigan must also be commended for her performance as the Wizard. Although in a smaller part, Carigan has the ability to leave the audience clapping and laughing hysterically every time she stepped off stage.

The most unique thing about Ursuline, however, is the wealth of talent in their dancers. The dancing chorus was always together whether they were doing ballet or tap. With dancers such as Keely Wissel on point and other incredible soloists such as Caroline Nymberg, the dancers stood out as one of the highlights of the show.

The technical aspects of the show seemed to move effortlessly. There were few to no microphone errors, although the cast was working with fifteen wireless mikes, and the lighting was flawless. Arguably the most unique and ingenious part of the show was the costuming. Almost completely student-made, the costumes were imaginative and well put together. In the chorus, each lady’s costume had a corresponding knight’s costume, just one example of the color and brightness of the show.

The costumes, actors, and dancers certainly mirrored the fun, bright, and slightly unconventional style of this production and brought the audience for an enjoyable ride.

 
 
 
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