The 2016-2017 season for Broadway in Cincinnati was announced over the weekend. We’ll be seeing several time-tested titles, as well as a number of brand-new works and a couple of certifiable hits. Here’s the rundown:
The Sound of Music (Sept. 27-Oct. 9): It’s a new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved hit about Maria and the von Trapp Family. It’s a sure bet that audiences will love this one, the show that became the most successful movie musical in history.
The Phantom of the Opera (Nov. 15-27): I’ve lost track of how many times a tour of Phantom has come to Cincinnati, but I can tell you that the Aronoff Center’s Procter & Gamble Hall, which opened in 1995, was designed with the appropriate infrastructure to support the show’s crashing chandelier. This tour is a new production by Cameron Mackintosh that’s described as “bigger and better than ever before,” featuring many exciting special effects — including that legendary chandelier. It’s one of the largest productions currently touring. This one is what the Broadway Series calls a “Season Extra,” not part of the package of shows that subscribers can purchase — it’s an over-and-above choice that a lot of people will be making, I’m sure.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (Jan. 3-8, 2017): The one-week run suggests low audience expectations, but this show earned rave reviews in 2014 and won the year’s Tony Award for the season’s best musical. It’s the story of a distant heir to a family fortune who sets out to move to the top of the list by eliminating eight relatives in the way — all played by one actor. It’s a very funny farce.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Jan. 17-29, 2017): Based on the Disney animated film, this one will draw families by the droves, I’m sure. It’s the story of Ariel, weary of flipping her fins and longing to be on dry land. All the characters from the film are all onstage — Sebastian, her crabby sidekick; handsome Prince Eric; and most memorably, Ursula, the evil sea witch. I bet you know some of these songs.
Something Rotten! (February 21-March 5, 2017): Weary of competing with Rock star playwright Shakespeare, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s first musical, based on questionable advice from a soothsayer who suggests that the future of theater is about singing, dancing and acting — all at once! Great fun for those who pick up on the Elizabethan gags and musical theater parodies, as well as anyone else who simply loves over-the-top comedy. I saw this show on Broadway back in November, and pretty much laughed from start to finish.
Mamma Mia! (March 10-12, 2017): This is another “Season Extra,” presented outside the subscription package for just a three-day stop. It’s the ultimate feel-good show with ABBA’s greatest hits, including “Dancing Queen,” “Take A Chance on Me” and “The Winner Takes It All,” and a story of love, laughter and friendship.
The Illusionists – Live from Broadway (March 21-26, 2017): OK, it’s not exactly a Broadway musical or play, but it is a spectacular showcase performed by seven of today’s most entertaining illusionists.
Matilda The Musical (April 4-16, 2017): Roald Dahl’s beloved novel became a hit in London when it debuted as a musical in 2011 where it’s still running; it’s been a Broadway attraction since 2013, when it picked up a bushel basketful of Tony nominations. Time magazine named it 2013’s No. 1 show, and the story of a spunky girl who, using her imagination and her sharp mind, takes a stand and changes her destiny, is a worldwide hit. It should be popular with Cincinnati families.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical (May 2-14, 2017): Everyone I know who’s seen this show in NYC has loved it. King’s songs (many of them written with her husband Gerry Goffin and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann) became hits for the biggest acts in Rock & Roll. But when her personal life began to disintegrate she found her true voice and became one of the most successful solo acts in Pop music. Her tunes were a soundtrack for the late ’60s and early ’70s — “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “You’ve Got A Friend.” The show won two 2014 Tony Awards and its cast recording earned a 2015 Grammy; it’s still playing to sold-out houses on Broadway. Nostalgia is the key and it’s unlocking a lot of warm feelings.
WordPlay is a space in Northside where children can come for free tutoring services and creative encouragement. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by improving the quality of life, education and opportunities for kids in Cincinnati.
In just more than three years, WordPlay has gone from seeing two to four students a day to somewhere around 160 kids a week. The growing organization provides academic after-school programs, creative writing workshops and summer programs for grades K-12. “WordPlay Scholars” is their academic after-school program reserved for children who meet the low-income criteria. “WordUP” is a creative program offered to students at Aiken High School and Hughes High School. “Happy Hour” is a creative workshop and is open to all, low-income or not. It is a time where children can collaborate in a creative format and learn from each other.
Volunteer: “Volunteers are just as valuable as money,” says Libby Hunter, co-founder of WordPlay. It is a goal for the organization to match each child with a tutor for a special one-on-one experience. This means that at any given time, WordPlay needs a volunteer team of at least 150 people. To begin volunteering as a tutor, first contact WordPlay through e-mail and schedule a training session (you’ll also need to pass a background check). During the school year, tutors must be 18 or older. Tutors should be able to make a commitment of two sessions per month, each two hours long. Literacy skill work, creative reading and homework time happens 3-5 p.m. Monday- Thursday — this is when tutors are needed the most.
Proficiency in school subjects is not a requirement for volunteers, but a genuine interest to be part of WordPlay is. During training, a lot of time is spent talking about the culture and the environment that is being created at WordPlay. “Having that one-on-one time with a kid makes a difference, even if you have to ask your neighbor for help with a homework problem,” Hunter says.
Behind the scenes, volunteers make up an advisory board to review and evaluate every program at WordPlay. Anyone with expertise in developing and assessing creative curriculum is encouraged to reach out and offer their skills.
“The Change Makers” is a working concept at the moment. The goal is to cultivate a group of young creatives willing to tap into their existing social networks and organize outreach events. “It will raise a little money but really focus on outreach and awareness of the issues WordPlay is addressing,” Hunter says. This is a unique opportunity to get on the ground level of WordPlay’s outreach program.
Donate: “Close the Gap” is a fundraising initiative created to benefit summer learning programs specifically. “Children from low-income households tend to not have equal access to summer enrichment programs,” Hunter says. “That is where they lose a lot of ground in terms of reading proficiency and other academic skills.” WordPlay provides free summer enrichment programs to help kids keep their skills up and stay on track.
WordPlay can never have enough school supplies, specifically copy paper, lined paper and composition notebooks. Donating gently used or new books is a cheap and easy way to help WordPlay succeed. Free books are offered for kids all year long. Check the attic for old typewriters to donate. A WordPlay volunteer works to recondition them for resale. The money from typewriter sales and repairs goes directly back into their programs.
This May, WordPlay is partnering with Spun Bicycles to host Ride for Reading, during which a parade of 60-70 cyclists will fill their bags and baskets full of donated books and ride them to Parker Woods Montessori. Volunteers will be waiting with tables set up to distribute the books to students. This means they will need a lot of book donations ahead of time. The organization is collecting books from now until the ride. “The kids are out in the parking lot and you would think it’s a Rock concert the way that they scream and cheer when the bike parade pulls in,” Hunter says. This is the fourth year WordPlay has done this, and Parker Woods is the biggest school so far, with 500 students. In the past, they have been able to give 10 books to each student.
Hello all. Here’s what’s going on around Cincy and beyond today.
The sewer drama continues. Hamilton County yesterday asked a federal court to intervene in recent disputes between the county and the city of Cincinnati over the Metropolitan Sewer District. County commissioners cite a 2014 court order which they say requires the city to follow the county’s directives when it comes to MSD. The county is also asking that the U.S. District Court weigh in on the upcoming expiration of a 1968 agreement casting the county as the owner of MSD and the city as its chief operator. Republican County Commissioner Chris Monzel said the city has shown “flagrant” disregard for its duties in running MSD.
“We respectfully ask the court to enforce its previous order and allow Hamilton County to bring accountability and transparency which are so badly needed in MSD operations,” he said in a statement.
The suit is the latest bit of drama for the sewer district following revelations that millions in city contracts paid out through the agency were awarded without a competitive bidding process under former MSD director Tony Parrott. Under a since-changed city policy, Parrott had near total control over the district’s spending.
Most of the problematic expenditures involved a $3.2 billion, federal court-ordered renovation of MSD infrastructure. Parrott left MSD last summer. City officials say policy has changed since that time and are calling for a complete audit of MSD. Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost is also launching a large-scale investigation into the sewer district.
• Meanwhile, another set of allegations regarding corruption and mismanagement is unfolding here in Cincinnati, this one around the city’s Veterans Administration hospital. Last week we told you about those allegations made by a number of whistleblowers in the hospital against its leadership, which was first reported by WCPO. Now, the big national bosses at the VA say an intensive investigation is underway into issues around understaffing, poor service to veterans as well as issues around Cincinnati VA leadership salaries and allegations that the hospital’s head unlawfully prescribed pain medication to a superior’s wife. As I type, VA head Bob McDonald, a former Procter & Gamble exec, is testifying before the Senate VA oversight committee, where senators like Ohio’s Sherrod Brown have indicated they’ll ask tough questions about what’s going on in Cincinnati.
• It’s been a rough year for Ohio’s $1 billion charter school system. You can read all about why in this week’s feature story, which comes out tomorrow. In the meantime, there’s this: Ohio lawmakers are considering delaying yet again a rating system for the state’s charter school sponsoring organizations. The legislature first voted in 2012 to give those organizations, which oversee the publicly funded but privately operated schools, grades based on schools’ performance. But those ratings have been delayed after data rigging was discovered, skewing the ratings. Now, it could be another two years before those ratings go live. Those ratings are part of a three-year process that could shut down low-performing charter schools whose sponsoring organizations don’t measure up. The rating scale was a big part of the Kasich administration’s pitch to the U.S. Department of Education, which awarded Ohio $71 million last year before catching wind of the data rigging scandal. That grant is now delayed and could be in jeopardy of being revoked if Ohio pushes back its oversight system again.
• Speaking of Kasich, he’s having one hell of a terrible week. Part of that is fellow Republican presidential primary contender Donald Trump’s fault. The real estate mogul is now polling ahead of Kasich in Ohio, even though Kasich is like, the governor here. But Kasich isn’t helping himself. A recent clip of him saying that women “left the kitchen” in the 1970s to help put him in office has been racing around the internet, causing much-deserved scorn. Really, man?
• And speaking of Kasich and women… well, it’s just getting worse and worse so let’s stop being cute and just come out with it. Kasich Sunday signed a bill that strips Ohio Planned Parenthood of all state and some federal funding totaling more than $1 million a year. That bill arose after controversy over a now-debunked video purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue was released by an anti-abortion group. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine investigated Ohio Planned Parenthood following that video. He discovered no fetal tissue sales, though he did allege that Planned Parenthood was contracting tissue disposal to a company that was dumping babies in landfills in Kentucky. Then Kentucky officials contested that claim and it was revealed that Ohio contracts with the same company. Meanwhile, none of the funds lawmakers have voted to strip from Planned Parenthood Ohio go toward abortions. Instead they’re used for things like cancer screenings and sexual health education. What a world, what a world.
I’m out. Twitter. E-mail. Etc.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope you enjoyed the warm weather this weekend! Here are your morning headlines.
The hacking group Anonymous says it is targeting the Cincinnati Police Department. In a video announcement released Sunday, the group claimed it will release the personal information of 52 CPD employees, including Police Chief Eliot Isaac. The group said the information dump is in response to the shooting of Paul Gaston, who was killed by CPD officers on Feb. 17 while reaching for a pellet gun in his waistband. CPD released two videos of the incident taken by witnesses the following day. Information released by Anonymous includes the names, ages, street addresses, email addresses and social media account information of two officers seen in the videos. Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders said the department is investigating the situation to see if there was any breach of security in CPD's system.
• Hundreds showed up in front of Cincinnati's City Hall on Saturday to march in support of Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders. The rally was organized by local groups supporting the Vermont Senator's bid for the White House. Sanders has been gaining on opponent Hillary Clinton's lead for the Democratic nomination. Later in the day, however, Sanders lost in the Nevada Democratic caucus to Clinton.
• Officials have lowered the standards required to pass the GED, the high school diploma equivalency exam. Both states lowered the number of pointed required to pass the GED after GED testing officials recommended it on Jan. 26. CityBeat reported last year on the test's major overhaul that caused the passing rate to plummet by 90 percent from 2013 to 2014.
• A national $10 billion reform program implemented by Cincinnati's Veteran Affairs Medical Clinic has left many veterans claiming they're struggling with bureaucracy and a reduction in services. The congressionally mandated Veterans Choice Program is supposed to aid accessibility issues some veterans have experienced with their local VA clinics by allowing them to choose their own doctors if the wait time is more than 30 days or they live more than 40 miles away from the clinic. But a WCPO investigation found that some are claiming the Cincinnati VA has cut some medical services because of the new program, forcing veterans to use the choice program — all to make the clinic's budget look better.
A crowd of hundreds gathered at Cincinnati City Hall today to show support for Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders.
The rally, organized by local supporters, featured speeches from several labor leaders, activists and political candidates followed by a brief march through downtown.
"The political revolution is coming to Cincinnati now,” said Jordan Angelo Opst, a University of Cincinnati student and organizer with the group Cincinnati for Bernie Sanders, which helped set up the rally. “We're ready to stand up in unity against injustice, unfairness and corruption. You'll notice that we've got white people. We've got black people. We have brown people. We have Christians. We have atheists. We have Muslims.”
Sadie Hughes, registered nurse and local director of National Nurses United, told the crowd the group was endorsing Sanders “because he cares for the same things we care about."
"He is leading the fight for Medicare for all,” she said. “Too many Americans, even with the Affordable Care Act, remain priced out of access to necessary health care. Too many of our seniors are still working at McDonalds and Wendy's and places like that. Bernie believes that everyone should be able to earn a living wage."
Sanders, currently a U.S. Senator for Vermont, identifies as a democratic socialist and was, until his primary campaign, an independent who caucused with Democrats. His candidacy began as a long shot against Democratic favorite and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, mostly due to the perceived baggage of his self-professed socialism and his low name recognition outside his home state.
Over the past few months, however, Sanders’ growing national popularity has many political pundits taking him more seriously as primary voters expressing fatigue over an increasingly divided political system line up to support him. He came in a close second behind Clinton in the Iowa caucus earlier this month and outright beat her in the New Hampshire primary by a large margin.
As he's run, Sanders has shifted policy debates with Clinton to the left. In recent debates, the two largely agree on broad-based policy ideas, instead debating on the feasibility of their respective progressive plans. Clinton has hit Sanders on statements from liberal (often Democratic Party-affiliated) economists saying that his proposals for a single-payer health care system don't add up, and by bringing up his past record voting against certain gun control measures, a big issue for many Democrats. Other progressives, though, have leaped to Sanders' defense. The Vermont Senator, meanwhile, has hit Clinton for the large financial institutions that have given her campaign and PACs millions, and from which she has taken large, six-figure speaking fees.
Now, his supporters are looking to South Carolina and Nevada, the next two states to weigh in on the primary race. Democrats caucus today in Nevada, where Sanders has been chipping away at a large Clinton lead. The most recent polls out of South Carolina, where Democrats will have primary voting next week, show Clinton with a commanding 18-point lead, however.
Here in Cincinnati, things are heating up ahead of Ohio’s March 15 primary. Last week, former president Bill Clinton spoke at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center to a capacity crowd of 200. There, he touted his wife’s ability to be “a change maker.”
But some Cincinnatians see Sanders as a better fit for that role.
Some attendees at today’s rally expressed frustration with the current political system and say they see Sanders, with his calls for campaign finance and financial industry reform, as a catalyst for bigger changes.
“It’s not just Democrats, it’s not just Republicans. It’s institutional politics on both sides,” said rally-goer Jim Applebee, who lives in the Cincinnati area. But electing Sanders could be a tipping point, he says. “I don’t think he can change things, but we can. We need a leader for that movement. It can’t be one person. But it can happen. And if it doesn’t, we see the trend that we’re on.”
Some cited Sanders’ populist proposals around cost-free college education, expanding Medicare to the entire U.S. population, and other issues as the way to systemic change, and as signs of his principles.
“He has a concise platform about what he believes in, and he comes across as the most honest and ethical candidate,” Lou Ebstein of Cincinnati said. “My kids both have college loans, and they’re paying them back, and it’s an increasing burden. We’re not going to get anywhere if that continues to be the case for people.
Ebstein didn’t have negative words about Sanders’ primary opponent Hillary Clinton, but said he saw Sanders as a candidate more likely to proactively push progress beyond the Obama era.
“There are so many things that need to get done, and we need to go about them in a different way. Sanders really put a big challenge out there. He came out of nowhere, and now we’re going to see what Nevada does.”
British playwright George Bernard Shaw was one of the great writers for the stage a century ago, and his most popular play, Saint Joan, is a choice available for theatergoers this weekend, thanks to the Diogenes Theatre Company. It’s the story of the rise and fall of one of history’s most fascinating characters, a young country girl in the early 15th century who claimed that God told her to drive the invading English army out of France. Of course, her fate turns and she’s burned at the stake before her 20th birthday. Cincinnati Shakespeare veteran Sara Clark is taking on the title role, and Lindsey August Mercer, who has assisted with many Cincy Shakes productions, is the director. She says, “The beautiful effect of Shaw’s account is the way his language encapsulates Joan’s strength, conviction and unshakable positivity.” Three actors — Billy Chace and Geoffrey Barnes from the Shakespeare company and Patrick Phillips, a regular with Ensemble Theatre —portray a large cast of additional characters. Diogenes is presenting Saint Joan at the Aronoff’s Fifth Third Bank Theater through March 5. Tickets: cincinnatiarts.org
The smart-alecky Avenue Q just opened at Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ Incline Theater in Price Hill. A Tony winner in 2004, the show is a darkly funny knock-off from Sesame Street, Muppet-like puppets and all, with a strong off-color dose of contemporary sarcasm. Kids who watched the educational PBS show were told they could do anything if they tried hard; Avenue Q turns that notion inside out, working from the premise that life sucks. (The song “It Sucks to Be Me” takes most of the air out of any optimist’s balloon.) The production, staged by local state veteran Elizabeth Harris, has a cast of able singers and actors who have learned they way around making puppets laugh-out-loud funny, especially Allyson Snyder as nice girl Kate Monster and neighborhood bad girl Lucy the Slut. A fine and varied singer, Snyder ably flips the switch between Kate’s naïve innocence and Lucy’s lascivious come-hither ways, often in the same scene. It’s an evening of giggles and guffaws, but not for the kids. Through March 6.
Some good things happening starting this weekend on campus at Xavier and Northern Kentucky universities. At XU’s Gallagher Student Center Theater you’ll find three shows in repertory — a classic by August Strindberg, Miss Julie; a heady drama by Harold Pinter, Betrayal; and Begotten, a world premiere by senior theater major Tatum Hunter. They’ll be in a rotating schedule through Feb. 28. Tickets: 513-745-3939 … At NKU, it’s a classic comedy, Kaufman and Hart’s Once in a Lifetime, a wickedly funny script from 1929 about some vaudeville troupers trying to make a comeback in Hollywood. Tickets: 859-572-5464 … Want to know a bit more about local university theater programs? Read my Curtain Call column from Feb. 17.
Once you make it past the weekend it will be time for the second installment of Serials! at Know Theatre, the “episodic theater party” offering 15-minutes from five works in progress — three that began on Feb. 8, and two new works starting this week. Audience members get to vote for their favorites to keep them alive for the next session on March 7. Watch theater being made on the fly. Tickets: 513-300-5669
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
will take home a bubbling jar of probiotics. Includes seven hours of instructions, tasting samples, hands-on practice, printed resources, access to live phone support and a healthy lunch. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. $299. Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center, University of Cincinnati, 151 Goodman Drive, Clifton, 907-694-2284, store.probioticjar.com.
Hey all. Here’s the news today.
A deal to equip Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies with body cameras will be delayed, Sheriff Jim Neil announced yesterday. Hamilton County commissioners approved a deal between the Sheriff’s office and Taser, International for $1.3 million over five years, which would have provided body cameras as well as new Tasers for the department. However, contracts that big must be opened up to public bidding, so the county’s deal with Taser is on hold until other bids are solicited. The department has been looking into body cameras at a time when many law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Cincinnati Police Department, have taken steps to adopt the technology following controversial police shootings of civilians.
• In case you missed our update yesterday, Cincinnati police released the name of the man shot by officers in Cheviot. Officers Eric Kohler, Zachary Sterbling and Scott McManis of the Cincinnati Police Department shot Paul Gaston, 37, Wednesday, after they say he pulled a gun. Those officers fired a total of nine shots at Gaston, who they say was pulling what turned out to be a realistic-looking Airsoft bb gun from his waistband.
Video of the incident taken by bystanders shows Gaston initially complying with orders to get on his knees. The video, taken from behind, shows Gaston make a motion toward his mid-section with his right arm, but does not show a gun. He was originally reported waiving a gun in Westwood in a 911 call by his girlfriend, who was not at the scene, but who says she was receiving texts from her sister, who was. Police followed several other calls to find Gaston after he wrecked his truck and walked to neighboring Cheviot. Gatson was the second person shot by CPD this year. The first, Robert Tenbrick, was also shot while he had a toy gun.
City officials, including Mayor John Cranley, said they’re standing behind the officers, who have been placed on procedural administrative leave as the shooting is investigated. Sterbling and Kohler have been flagged for receiving multiple complaints through the Citizen’s Complaint Authority in the past, but officials say they acted appropriately Wednesday.
• This is kind of lame. MadTree will be temporarily pulling production of my favorite of theirs, Gnarly Brown, due to conflicts with a California wine maker over the use of the word “gnarly.” Delicato Vineyard has filed a complaint with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over MadTree’s use of the word, which the vineyard uses in its Gnarly Head wine. While this seems a little ridiculous on it face — it’s beer vs. wine, after all, and it’s not even the same exact phrase — far be it from me to contest California’s ownership of the word “gnarly.” MadTree will retool the beer’s branding slightly and begin production again.
• Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has signaled he’ll sign a controversial bill passed by the state’s legislature outlawing tolls as a way to fund the looming $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project. Tolls have been forwarded as one possible way to fund the prohibitively high cost of replacing the bridge, which is functionally obsolete but structurally sound for now. The span, which carries I-75 across the Ohio River, is on one of the busiest shipping routes in the country. The bill stipulates that tolling cannot be part of any project connecting Kentucky to Ohio without the approval of the state’s legislature, which will not approve the funding method as a way to pay for the bridge.
• Will the fight over a replacement for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia affect Ohio’s U.S. Senate race? It could. Incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, has sided with other conservative senators who have signaled they will refuse to have confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s replacement nominations. They argue that Obama should wait until after the next election to let voters have a say on the pivotal placement. Currently, the court is divided evenly between four liberal and four conservative judges. Scalia was ultra-conservative, and Republicans would like nothing more than to replace him with someone ideologically similar. Portman has sided with most, but not all, Republicans in the chamber signaling they won’t give any confirmation hearings.
The question is, will that help or hurt him in a close race with Democrats, who look somewhat likely to nominate former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the March 15 primary? Ohio is a purple state, but Portman could rally his staunchly conservative base with the highly partisan move. On the other hand, it may not endear him to moderates and fence-sitters, who Strickland looks able to scoop up in November.
Portman’s taken some heat for the move from the Toledo Blade, among other editorial boards. While Democrats in the Senate, including Obama during his term, have opposed Republican presidents’ judicial nominees, they have done so through more traditional means — by voting no, by filibustering to avoid procedural votes on cloture, or closing debate on a nominee so a final vote can be taken during a confirmation hearing. Republicans are proposing something different and unprecedented: refusing to hold a hearing at all.
sour beers and live music with state-of-the-art audio quality, Urban Artifact
brings people together for “wild culture” — its tagline — all housed within a
historic Northside church.
“We like to combine the activity of getting together with great beer,” Hand says.
Urban Artifact beer is complemented with live music nearly every night of the
week. With a different band playing each night, Urban Artifact’s crowd also changes
nightly. The venue invites all different types of artists to play there, but
the strongest emphasis is on local and regional acts.
The brewery’s taproom and listening lounge are located in the old church basement,
unique for its high quality acoustics. Artists who play there are left
remarking on how great the sound is. This excellent sound comes thanks to Hand,
who used his expertise in designing theater spaces to craft the music venue.
Urban Artifact plans to move into the sanctuary part of the church after
renovations are complete. Converting this space into the ideal music venue will
be the most difficult part of the process, but Hand says he is ready and
excited for the challenge. He is currently in the planning phase for this project.
The idea for Urban Artifact sprung from Hand’s interest in music. In fact, he
started an independent music label while in college at the University of
Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning. His label,
Grayscale Records, was meant to represent all music in the indie spectrum.
After writing a plan about the future of the music business, Hand decided to
focus on connecting an audience directly to musicians instead. Beer was added
to the mix in order to create the Urban Artifact brand.
While Hand moved to Chicago after graduating from UC, he returned to Cincinnati
almost five years ago for his family. Here, he met the right business partners
to bring his vision to life. He remarks on how Cincinnati is the ideal city for
a project to sprout.
“You can do everything here,” he says. “You can come here with a dream and good
business plan and make it happen.”
Urban Artifact’s location within the city is also ideal. The old church was
chosen because it was in the middle of a neighborhood, which Hand says has been
fantastically receptive to the new venue.
“While I would love to be a tourist attraction, it’s great to be appreciated by
the locals,” he says.
At first, Hand was apprehensive about housing Urban Artifact in an old church.
“I thought the church thing was going to be a deal breaker, but almost everyone
who comes here thinks it’s hilarious,” he says. This includes a group of 18
priests who came into Urban Artifact dressed in their full traditional garbs to
drink one day.
Need suggestions for a good theater production to attend this weekend? Here are some good choices on Cincinnati stages.
Last night I attended the opening of Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It’s an inventive recreation of the legendary African-American pitcher who found his fame eclipsed by Jackie Robinson. The changes wrought by events in 1947 affected both black and white Americans, and this play by Ricardo Khan and Trey Ellis explores them. They know their way around storytelling: Their play Fly, about the Tuskegee Airmen, was well received at the Playhouse in 2013. In this one, players from two teams of baseball all-stars, one black and one white, share a boarding house on a rainy night in Kansas City. We get to eavesdrop on what they might have talked about, their dreams, their grudges and their fates. Robert Karma Robinson wholly inhabits the role of Paige as an angular, grumpy philosopher of sports, race and life. It’s onstage through May 21. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Before they wrote My Fair Lady and Camelot, the lyricist-composer team of Lerner and Loewe had a 1949 hit with the musical Brigadoon. It’s about a pair of American tourists who happen upon a mysterious town in Scotland that appears just once every century. Of course, one of the guys falls in love with a resident of the town — and that gets complicated. When I was six years old, I went to see this show with my very British grandfather, my first experience of musical theater. I still love the show, and I’ll be seeing it this weekend at the Covedale Center, where it will be onstage through May 22. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
Don’t shy away from Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar because you read it in high school. Set in ancient Rome, there’s as much political intrigue — and perhaps more danger — that you’d find in your average episode of House of Cards. Several fine acting performances make this production especially watchable: Brent Vimtrup gives a textured performance of the principled but conflicted Brutus; Josh Katawick is the “lean and hungry” Cassius who recruits the assassins who bring down Caesar; and Nick Rose is the wily Mark Antony who finds a way to turn Caesar’s death to his own advantage. Once you’ve seen this production, you should make plans to return for a kind of sequel as Cincy Shakes stages Antony and Cleopatra with several of the actors from Julius Caesar reprising their roles. Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
Playwright Lauren Gunderson presented a quartet of badass women from 18th-century France in The Revolutionists at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in February. Some more strong females — Americans from the early 20th century — are the characters of Silent Sky, the current production at Know Theatre. The central character is Henrietta Leavitt, an aspiring astronomer who had to work doubly hard to earn recognition for her scientific insights. She’s bracketed by a devoted, conservative sister and a pair of “lunatic women” who are her scientific colleagues. Director Tamara Winters has an excellent cast of actors to tell this story — especially Maggie Lou Rader in a luminous portrait of the feisty, persistent Henrietta. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati seldom brings back a show it’s presented in the past, but when it staged Jeanine Tesori’s musical Violet back in 1998, that was long before Over-the-Rhine was a go-to neighborhood for entertainment. So there’s a good rationale for reviving this lovely, heartfelt story. Check out this video preview.
Big things happened at Wednesday's City Council meeting. Council finally voted to approve the streetcar's operating budget for the first year after spending the last month squabbling and kicking it back and forth between council and committee. The budget just barely passed in a vote of 5-3, with council members Kevin Flynn, Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voting against it. Councilwoman Amy Murray was absent from the meeting. Mayor John Cranley, who previously said he would veto any operating budget that didn't get at least six votes, appears to have had enough of this streetcar drama. The mayor decided recently not to veto the budget even if it passed with a mere five votes.
Council also voted to approve a wage hike for city government workers, passing a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for full-time workers and to $10.10 an hour for part-time and seasonal workers. The increase will affect about one out of every five city workers, or about 1,166 workers. Cranley, who introduced the ordinance last month, called council's decision "morally right" and hopes the state will follow suit.
• Students at Northern Kentucky University will see a slight increase in their tuition next year. The NKU Board of Regents voted to pass a 3 percent increase in undergraduate tuition on Wednesday to keep up with rising costs at the university and a decrease in funding from the state. Next year, Kentucky residents can expect to pay an average of $130 more per semester while Cincinnati residents will shell out an extra $200 per semester and nonresidents will pay an extra $260.
• State Rep. Denise Driehaus is upset with the closure of the Little Miami Incinerator. The incinerator was closed temporarily earlier this month after it was determined that it does not meet federal pollution standards. It served as one of two ways that Hamilton County disposes of human waste, and it's unclear when, or if, it will reopen. Driehaus, who is currently running for Hamilton County commissioner in the upcoming November election, released a statement Thursday morning condemning county for allowing the closure that she saw as avoidable and called for new leadership to better address the issue.
"This could have and should have been resolved." Driehaus says in the statement. "We need leadership on the County Commission that will roll up their sleeves and work to resolve challenging issues instead of being content to play the blame game when something goes wrong."
• Since former Speaker of the House John Boehner resigned from his post last October, it seems he feels more free to express his true feelings about the GOP presidential candidates. At an event at Stanford University on Wednesday, Boehner called Texas Sen. Ted Cruz a "miserable son of a bitch." Boehner also disclosed that he and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump are "texting buddies" and that he is also friends with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is currently running way behind Trump and Cruz in the election. However, it seems he and Kasich aren't quite BFFs as he also said that their friendship "requires more effort."
The operating budget for the Cincinnati streetcar again looks likely to move forward in City Council today, barring any major surprises. Of course, that was also the case a couple weeks ago, when the budget stumbled over some last-minute objections by Councilman Kevin Flynn around contingency funding. Flynn’s course reversal left the budget with only five votes, which was not enough to overcome a veto promised by Mayor John Cranley. So back to committee it went, where it passed again yesterday. Cranley has indicated he won’t veto the revised budget, which would move about $550,000 in leftover construction funds into a contingency account, even if it only gets five votes. Flynn thinks leftover construction money should be used for startup costs.
• Hey, this is creepy, though not totally unexpected. Crews working to seal off some asbestos in Music Hall found human remains under the orchestra pit. No, they aren’t what’s left of some unfortunate clarinetists who were a little pitchy in their renditions of Rhapsody in Blue’s opening glissando or timpanists who missed a beat or two in a conductor's favorite Bach piece. The remains, which archeological consultants Gray and Pape say probably belonged to four people, seem to be holdovers from the pit’s 1928 construction. The historic hall, as well as the land around it in Washington Park, spent two decades starting around 1818 as a burial ground for indigent residents. Many of those grave sites were moved in the 1850s, but some lingered, and apparently still do. When Music Hall construction began in 1876, workers were faced with the task of removing the remaining bodies to places like Spring Grove Cemetery. Far be it for me to critique someone else’s work, especially when it’s work that I wouldn’t go anywhere near, but… seems like they missed a few spots. In addition to the remains under the orchestra pit, workers also found a number of grave shafts full of wooden coffins.
• If you’re a frequent flyer, you know the struggle: The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, or CVG, used to be the last resort when you wanted to take a flight on the cheap. Places like Dayton and Louisville — or even Columbus — were cheaper enough to fly from that it made the drive worth it. But not any more, apparently. CVG’s fares are now lower than Dayton and Louisville’s airports, and the lowest they’ve been relative to other airports in more than 20 years. That’s in part due to the increase in airlines flying out of CVG, including low-cost carriers like Allegiant Air. CVG still trails Columbus and Indianapolis in terms of affordability, but not by as much as in the past, when our airport was the third-most expensive in the country. These days, it’s 22nd.
• As you might have guessed, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump came up big winners in yesterday’s GOP primaries. Trump swept every county in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, extending his delegate count to 949 of the 1,237 he needs to clinch the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, Clinton won in all those states except Rhode Island, where her challenger, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, prevailed. Clinton’s victories put the Democratic nomination all but out of reach for Sanders, though he’s vowed to stay in the race. Meanwhile, Trump has also solidified his position as the GOP frontrunner — his second-place opponent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has only 544 delegates. Third-place contender, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has just 153 — fewer than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race weeks ago.
• With an ever-clearer picture of who the nominees for each party are likely to be, the frontrunners’ eyes are turning to the general election. And there are signs it’s gonna be an ugly, ugly race. Perhaps feeling his oats after his decisive victories, Trump yesterday bashed Clinton, saying that she’s only winning primaries because she’s a woman. If you thought Trump might tone it down for the general election in a bid to get more mainstream swing voters, including, you know, women, well… don’t hold your breath for too long on that. Key quote from Trump:
“She is a woman, she is playing the woman card left and right,” Mr. Trump told CNN in a post-primary interview. “Frankly, if she didn’t, she would do very poorly. If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes."
Good morning all. Hope your weekend was as perfect as mine. Let’s talk about news real quick.
Vice Mayor David Mann says the private foundation that raises money for Cincinnati Parks Board should open its books to public scrutiny. The Cincinnati Parks Foundation, a nonprofit group, came under scrutiny last year during a contentious bid for a property tax levy to fund parks improvements put forward by Mayor John Cranley. Voters passed on that proposal, but not before it was revealed that the park board spent money from the foundation on pro-levy campaigns. After the election, further revelations about board spending on travel and perks drew increased scrutiny to the parks board and triggered a city audit. Now, Mann says the foundation should undergo similar scrutiny.
• Speaking of investigations: Are the feds really looking into MSD? Last year, The Enquirer reported that Cincinnati’s metropolitan sewer district was under the microscope of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, presumably over its implementation of a multi-billion-dollar federal order to revamp the city’s sewer system. However, the FBI hasn’t asked for any of the things you’d expect if it was indeed probing the large public department, the Businss Courier reports. No subpoenas have been filed, no hard drives have been seized and no documents have been requested. If there’s truly an investigation happening, it’s very low-key.
• The state of Kentucky could allocate $10 million to revamp a highway exit leading to the religiously-themed Ark Encounter theme park. Watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State has cried foul at that expenditure, saying it amounts to Kentucky using taxpayer dollars to benefit a religious group. The money for the ramp improvements on I-75 and KY 36 made its way into the state’s budget, which is currently in the process of being passed. AUSCS says it doesn’t have any plans as of yet to oppose the money, but says it is continuing to watch the situation. Ark park owners Answers in Genesis say an earlier ruling allowing Kentucky to give tax incentives to the site has answered questions about the legality of such expenditures.
• The mass shooting of eight people in Piketon, Ohio last week has left more questions than answers, and authorities say they’re preparing for a long investigation. All eight victims were related and the shootings happened at three sites close to each other. Authorities say the shootings were expertly planned and executed and noted that two of the three crime scenes contained significant marijuana growing operations. Investigators have not commented on any possible link between the operations and the killings.
• The city of Cleveland has settled a lawsuit with the family of Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed in November 2014 by a Cleveland police officer. The family will get $6 million from the city. A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann in that incident. Loehmann leapt from a police cruiser that had stopped feet away from Rice at a Cleveland playground and almost immediately shot him. Rice, 12, had been playing with a toy pistol on the playground when a neighbor called the police. The caller stipulated the gun was probably fake, but dispatchers did not relay that information to officers.
• Do you ever think, "jeez, more papers should be like The Cincinnati Enquirer?" You may be in luck. Gannett, the national corporation that owns the Enquirer as well as USA Today and a number of other publications, has made an offer to buy Tribune Publishing, another large national newspaper chain. Gannett has offered $815 million for the chain, which includes The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other daily newspapers.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, both GOP presidential primary hopefuls, will collaborate in future primaries to try and trip up frontrunner Donald Trump as he charges toward the party’s nomination. The Kasich campaign has indicated it will focus efforts on New Mexico and Oregon while staying out of Indiana in a move to help Cruz best Trump in that state. In return, Cruz has agreed to stay out of the two western states in a bid to give Kasich the edge over Trump there. The move — which will present Trump with one focused opponent in upcoming contests, instead of the split field he’s faced up to this point — seems calculated toward denying him the 1,137 delegates needed to clinch the nomination outright. Kasich in particular is counting on a contested convention in July, since he badly trails in the delegate count in the current contest.
FRIDAY 22EATS: GREATER CINCINNATI RESTAURANT WEEK Be a culinary tourist in your own city with CityBeat’s inaugural Greater Cincinnati Restaurant Week. Do you like eating? Do you want to try some multi-course meals for cheap? Restaurants throughout the Tristate will be offering $35 three-course meals to delight the palate and impress your date. Participating eateries include Harvest Bistro & Wine Bar, Pompilios, Kaze, The Palace, Parkers Blue Ash Tavern and more. Check out menus and more info online. Through April 24. $35 plus tax and gratuities. Find participating restaurants at greatercincinnatirestaurantweek.com.
Yesterday marked the passing of not only Prince, but another music legend — Lonnie Mack. Mack, who was born in Harrison, Ind., and cut his teeth in Greater Cincinnati’s nightclubs, died Thursday at his home in Tennessee from natural causes. The influential guitarist was 74.
Recording locally and releasing early material on Cincinnati’s Fraternity label, Mack’s guitar playing is said to have been a major influence on many Rock superstar players, including Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The pioneering guitarist was the second artist to receive the Michael W. Bany Lifetime Achievement Award from the Enquirer’s former awards program, the Cammys, accepting the award in 1998. Bootsy Collins, who won the award the year before, has said Mack was a giant influence on the development of his style.
Mack is considered one of Rock & Roll’s first “guitar heroes.” He’s in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the International Guitar Hall of Fame, and should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Here’s the press release sent out by Alligator Records (Mack’s final label) late last night:
You have more theater choices this weekend than time, I suspect, so choose carefully depending on the kind of show you most enjoy.
If it’s a classic, I suggest you check out Julius Caesar at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This tale of one of history’s most memorable political assassinations is one of Shakespeare’s shorter plays, about two hours and 15 minutes. But it’s action-packed with a lot of intrigue, soul-searching and emotions that ebb and flow. Cincy Shakes relies on its acting ensemble to fill these iconic roles, and they bring them to life more vividly than I’ve seen in a long time. Josh Katawick is especially engaging as the leader, “lean and hungry” Cassius, whose motives are not far below his ambitious surface; Brent Vimtrup is Brutus, caught up in the plot for reasons of principle rather than envy, and his subtle performance of this conflicted man is compelling. Veteran Nick Rose is the blustery soldier Marc Antony, who’s actually a subtle manipulator of opinion. (We’ll see more of him next month when Cincy Shakes move on to Shakespeare’s other Roman play, Antony and Cleopatra). Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
An engaging new play, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, is onstage at Know Theatre, the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman of science from a century ago when women were not expected to have meaningful insights. But drawn to the mysteries of astronomy, she tirelessly made advances despite many barriers. Maggie Lou Rader plays the feisty woman, and her moral support from two older women, played by Annie Fitzpatrick and Regina Pugh, has elements of humor. This is a well-acted, well-staged play (direction by Know’s Tamara Winters), worth seeing. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
The 2014 movie of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods featured Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Johnny Depp. A production currently onstage at Northern Kentucky University doesn’t have that kind of star power, but the student cast does an admirable job with a show that places extraordinary vocal demands on singers. Director Jamey Strawn hit upon an imaginative framing device for the legendary fairy tale mash-up, setting it in a library where a young boy (played with a mischievously expressive demeanor by Charlie Klesa, a sixth-grader at Mercy Montessori), hides away for an overnight adventure of reading and fantasizing. As giants threaten the kingdom, books tumble from the library’s two-story-tall shelves. Into the Woods requires a big cast, and more than 20 NKU student actors plus a stylized wooden cow are clearly committed to giving their all to this production. Opening night on Thursday was an enthusiastic full house. Through May 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
Neil LaBute’s plays traffic in complex, often ironic,
manipulative situations, frequently brutal stories of abusive, selfish
behavior. The Shape of Things, presented by New
Edgecliff Theatre at Hoffner Lodge in Northside, is that kind of story —
about Evelyn, an ambitious young woman who makes an art project of
Adam, another student who thinks their relationship is a love affair.
Rebecca Whatley and Matthew Krieg handle these complicated roles
believably, but you’ll walk away wondering about their motives — she’s
cold, he’s clueless. It’s a compelling, disturbing story that makes for
an evening of edgy, psychological theater. Another Critic’s Pick with my
CityBeat review. Through April 30. Tickets here.
There’s a touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast onstage at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. It’s an entertaining, visually captivating production. There’s nothing new about it, to be sure, but the young cast carries off the sprightly songs and choreography with lots of energy. I wish there was a little more heart and a little less clowning, especially by Sam Hartley as the Beast, who’s meant to be a tragic hero. The chemistry between him and Brooke Quintana as Belle is in the script, but it only shows up intermittently onstage. Nevertheless, Wednesday night’s full house with lots of kids dressed for the evening clearly had a good time watching the story unfold. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Quick Notes: True Theater is back for another quarterly evening of storytelling on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. Know Theatre. This time the theme is True Gay, so it will be enlightening to hear the personal reminiscences that get shared. … At UC’s College-Conservatory of Music this weekend, the drama program presents a staged reading of Grace Gardner’s new script, Very Dumb Kids, tonight 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. It’s the beginning of a new play commissioning initiative that will foster new works. … This is the final weekend for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Incline Theater in East Price Hill and for Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years, at The Carnegie in Covington.
Good morning all. Or, well, let's be honest with ourselves: This is a not good morning. Prince is dead. The Reds lost yesterday in what appears to be the highest-scoring no-hitter since the 1880s. There’s some rain in the forecast today. Ouch.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the news if you can bear it.
• Hey, here’s something positive. The population of Cincinnati’s urban core — Over-the-Rhine, downtown, Pendleton and the East End — has increased, according to a new report from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. The Business Courier has the details on that study, but the upshot is that about 400 more people lived in the city’s 45202 ZIP code last year than did in 2014, and the population there is now almost 16,000. There are certainly downsides to this growth, as we explore in this week’s news feature. But the uptick in population signals the continued reversal in a historic trend that saw people leaving the urban core for decades.
• Contenders in the upcoming Hamilton County Commissioners race — Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Republican incumbent Dennis Deters (that’s a lot of Ds) — just released their post-primary fundraising totals. Driehaus brought in $64,000 for the fundraising period, bringing her total take so far up to $308,000, according to her campaign. The campaign says that 65 percent of that take came from donors pledging $100 or less. Deters meanwhile, has raised about $92,000 so far, according to WCPO, but most of that has come since the new year. Many expect the race to be one of the most expensive ever, with Driehaus saying she hopes to raise $1 million before all is said and done. Control of the currently Republican-led county commission hangs in the balance with the unusually competitive race.
• Republic Street in Over-the-Rhine won’t be getting a rooftop deck bar, a city board ruled yesterday. The Lang Thang Group, which runs neighborhood restaurants Quan Hapa and Pho Lang Thang, wanted to build the deck as part of its planned Crown & Key bar at 1332 Republic St. Residents there didn’t oppose the bar, but did take issue with the deck, which they feared would cause unwelcome noise and other detriments to quality of life in the neighborhood. A residents group that pushed back against the deck also cited ways in which the plan violated historic conservation guidelines in the neighborhood. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals agreed with residents. The Lang Thang Group can challenge that decision in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas if it chooses.
• Cincinnati Public Schools will remake seven of its neighborhood schools next year. The remakes are part one of a larger plan called Vision 2020 to make CPS more attractive by adding additional programs to schools. Next year, schools like Chase School in Northside will get expanded arts and culture offerings, while others like Rothenberg Academy in Over-the-Rhine will get student entrepreneurship classes.
• Finally, as the GOP presidential primary continues to get weirder and more chaotic, national media is looking more at Ohio Gov. John Kasich to… well, I guess try to figure out what he’s thinking. Kasich trails primary frontrunner Donald Trump and second-placer U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz badly in the race’s delegate count, and there's no mathematical way for him to win the nomination aside from a contested convention. Party leaders and pundits have been pushing for Kasich to leave the race for months. But he’s still going, and that’s newsworthy, I suppose. Earlier this week, Kasich met with the editorial board of the Washington Post for an extended interview, where he laid out his reasons for staying in the race. I’ll leave you with a key quote from Kasich.
“The last poll that we saw up there I was running five points behind Hillary. Five. Trump was getting slaughtered. I mean, you guys have been watching and girl- women here have been watching the national polls. I win in the fall every time, even in that electoral deal, and Trump gets slaughtered.”
Mark this as the moment you learned that girl-women will help Kasich win that electoral deal. Send your thoughts on that knowledge-nugget, or your news tips, via e-mail or Twitter. I'm out.
APRIL 21Zoo Blooms — The zoo transforms into an explosion of color with one of the largest tulip displays in the Midwest. Through April 30. Free with zoo admission. $18 adult; $13 child/senior. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.