Perhaps by now you’ve heard that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is building itself a new home at 12th and Elm streets in Over-the-Rhine. (Construction is already under way.) But before the move, there’s one last season of theater to be produced at 719 Race St., Downtown, the space where the group has performed since the late 1990s but has outgrown.
Brian Phillips, Cincy Shakes’ producing artistic director, says, “Before we go, we have one last season here on Race Street. We will present a slate of titles that are as nostalgic as they are timeless and represent the next phase of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This is the perfect chance to join us as we bid a fond farewell to Race Street, because this goodbye is only the beginning.”
The season announced today offers nine productions, commencing with a powerful stage adaption of The Diary of Anne Frank (Sept. 9-Oct. 1) featuring Courtney Lucien — currently playing the title role in the current adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma — as the young Jewish girl who records her harrowing story in her diary. Her family’s experience, hiding from Nazi persecutors in an Amsterdam attic, endures as a condemnation of man’s capacity for cruelty and a celebration of the resilience of the human spirit. It will be followed by Bernard Pomerance’s award-winning American classic, The Elephant Man (Oct. 14-Nov. 5). Longtime favorite actor Giles Davies will play the deformed central character, Joseph Merrick, and Brent Vimtrup portrays the young doctor who finds an intelligent, sensitive man behind his horrifying disfigurement.
The season’s first Shakespearean production at the classic theater is the romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing (Nov. 18-Dec. 10). It’s about Beatrice and Benedick, a perfectly matched couple who can’t stand each other — a formula for great comedy. More Shakespeare comes in January as Cincy Shakes wraps up the History Cycle, a feat undertaken by just one other theater in the U.S. The presentation in chronological order of Shakespeare’s history plays about the reigns of five British kings and a century of turmoil began in 2013. The concluding elements of this series will be the 2017 productions of Henry VI: The Wars of the Roses, Part 2 (Jan. 20-Feb. 11) followed by the cycle’s thrilling conclusion with the story of England’s most murderous monarch, Richard III (Feb. 17-March 11), played by Billy Chace.
Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece of the American stage, A Raisin in the Sun (March 24-April 15) comes next, about a working class African-American family in 1950s Chicago. A financial windfall opens a door to opportunity, but social pressures undermine their dream. The 1959 play is a classic in every sense of the word.
Cincy Shakes’ final production on the Race Street stage, fittingly, will be Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest (May 5-June 3). Longtime company member Nicholas Rose will play the magician Prospero in a sweet story of revenge, love, magic and redemption.
To add several sparks of hilarity to its final season, Cincy Shakes will present two other shows outside the subscription season. They are All the Great Books (abridged) (July 22-Aug. 13, 2016), another script from the deliriously fevered brains that created The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), The Complete History of America and more. They’re calling it a refresher of literature’s greatest hits for “everyone from the illiterate to the literati.” And it wouldn’t be a Cincinnati holiday season without another round of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) (Dec. 14-31). The 90-minute send up of “Beloved Holiday Classics” returns for the 11th year.
It’s a great send-off for the company, the little literary engine that could, which will open the following season in the new facility in Over-the-Rhine in September 2017.
Two Cincinnati police officers accused of covering up a fellow officer’s auto accident while he was allegedly under the influence appeared in Hamilton County court yesterday. You can see the original CityBeat story here, but the main points: In March 2015, Sgt. Andrew Mitchell crashed his car along West McMicken Street while he was off-duty. Instead of investigating that accident, prosecutors allege responding officer Jason Cotterman drove Mitchell to CPD District 5 headquarters, ignoring a witness who said Mitchell appeared to be under the influence. Prosecutors also allege another officer, Sgt. Richard Sulfsted, oversaw Mitchell’s removal from the scene in an attempt to protect the fellow officer. The trial, overseen by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Josh Berkowitz, involves charges of dereliction of duty and obstructing justice for Cotterman and Sulfsted. Berkowitz is expected to spend about a week on the trial and will issue a verdict. We’ll continue to update as the case goes on.
• A crowd of more than 100 showed up to Peaslee Neighborhood Center in Over-the-Rhine last night for a wide-ranging discussion from academics, neighborhood residents, housing advocates and others who have lived in, worked in or studied the quickly changing neighborhood. Presenters provided wider historical and political context for recent heated debates about housing prices, displacement of some residents and cultural change in the neighborhood. Some presenters held an activity around a recent housing study that shows that while the neighborhood’s housing has become more economically diverse between 2000 and 2015, 73 percent of the neighborhood’s most affordable rental units became unavailable to low-income renters during that time. You can hear recordings of all the presenters here.
• Just down the street in OTR, the city of Cincinnati held an event at the Woodward Theater discussing possible changes to Liberty Street, which bisects the neighborhood. The road is wide — some crosswalks across it span 70 feet, double the norm in the neighborhood — and has a high traffic volume. That, some say, is impacting the neighborhood’s walkability and keeping its northern section from experiencing development that has taken off in the southern half. The city last night released results of a survey of neighborhood residents, who seem to prefer either two options that would narrow Liberty significantly as well as adding bike lanes and other changes.
• This is cool. A sustainability group and cooperative in Price Hill has plans to open up a new community center, homesteading store and bar to serve as a spot for community-building in the neighborhood. Enright Eco Village has purchased the former Paradise Lounge at West Eighth Street and Enright Avenue in West Price Hill and is currently rehabbing it for its yet-to-be-named store. Organizers of the store hope to host public events there and foresee opening it this summer.
• Well, this is a big one. Or two. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have thrown their endorsements to former Ohio Governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland in his Democratic primary bid to take on incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman. The big endorsement comes as Strickland tangles with Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld for the party’s nomination. Strickland is definitely the favorite in the race — he polls well above Sittenfeld and fellow contender Kelli Prather, also of Cincinnati — but that hasn’t stopped Sittenfeld from hitting him hard on gun issues and other concerns. Obama and Biden’s endorsement is a sign that Democrats are doubling down on efforts to re-win control of the Senate in 2016 and see known entities like Strickland as the way to do that.
• OK. Super Tuesday. I’m going to be quick. On the GOP side of the presidential primary election fest that went down yesterday across 11 states, Trump won seven states, walloping rivals U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who won three, and U.S. Sen Marco Rubio, who won one. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and surgeon Ben Carson won… zero. That’s sent election-watchers on both sides of the aisle into all sorts of fits as Trump’s path to the nomination becomes more and more likely. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton safely coasted past Bernie Sanders, taking seven primary states to his four. You can see the commanding leads the front runners are taking in the delegate counts here.
• Speaking of The Donald, he was in Ohio briefly yesterday for a rally ahead of the state’s March 15 primary. He talked a lot about immigrants and making America great again, both topics he seems to be fixated upon. He didn’t, however,say much at all about Kasich, a sure sign Trump doesn’t see the Ohio guv as much of a threat. Kasich has polled behind Trump among GOP voters in the state and has just 28 delegates so far to Trump’s 285.
Tyler Wolf and Lily Turner, co-founders of Urban Blooms, recently built the largest living wall in Ohio. The two Walnut Hills High School graduates started the nonprofit two years ago and have been amazed with the outpouring of support and interest they have seen from Cincinnati communities thus far. Urban Blooms specializes the design, installation and maintenance of indoor and outdoor living walls — functional vertical gardens — as a source of income for other community sustainability projects. One of the organization’s goals for the year is to build at least six more. The living walls are not only aesthetically beautiful, but also good for the environment — with air-cleaning abilities, they can filter out particulate matter and volatile organic compounds from the air we breathe. Urban Blooms is responsible for the 18-by-8-foot installation at Hyde Park’s E+O Kitchen, and will be exhibiting a living wall at the Cincinnati Flower Show in April.
What makes this nonprofit really special? It’s still in the startup phase. Wolf and Turner have no paid staff and haven’t pulled a salary for themselves yet.
“We are professional volunteers,” Turner says. “When you remove the money factor, you see what you can do, and that’s when the passion really kicks in — and the ambition. It’s fantastic to see, and that’s part of the energy of the startup community.”
The two are committed to their cause and to the city of Cincinnati. “We are not trying to get rich with this,” Wolf says. “We really want to make our city into a more sustainable and community-oriented place that appreciates art, like these living walls. I believe we can turn Cincinnati into the most sustainable city in the country.”
There is an upcoming opportunity to volunteer with Urban Blooms. During the next few weeks, the team will be working to clean out a space in North Avondale to build a community butterfly garden. Any one wanting to help can contact Urban Blooms for details on time and place.
At the beginning of last year, Wolf got involved with the East End Veterans Memorial Garden, located behind Eli’s BBQ. The vets that tend to the garden are part of the drug and alcohol program at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. “The whole program is based around providing healthy living and learning environments and to teach them sober activities to occupy their time with,” Wolf says. Volunteers are welcome to visit the garden from 9 a.m.-noon Thursday or 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday starting around the first week of April. There is a 52-week curriculum that teaches different gardening techniques that are relevant to the seasons. “In the spring we teach how to get soil ready, starting seeds and transplanting,” Wolf says. “In the summer it’s more about taking care of plants and knowing when its time to pick. In the fall it’s about picking produce, cooking with it and getting the garden ready for the next year.” Urban Blooms is not looking for gardening gurus to get involved with this community project, just volunteers who want to spend some time getting their hands dirty to make a difference in the life of a veteran.
There is another garden near the Cincinnati Zoo where volunteers are welcome to come and help the team prepare the beds to be planted. This community garden has about 12 raised beds and is a traditional community garden where people in the neighborhood take responsibility for their own beds and work through trading with other people utilizing the gardening space. Anyone living in Avondale or Clifton who wants space in the garden can contact Urban Blooms.
Because this organization is so new, they could still use a little help with the business side of things. Anyone willing to contribute time to grant writing, website building or nonprofit administration would be more than appreciated.
Urban Blooms is a young nonprofit, so donations help greatly. Money is always appreciated but there are many other ways to help this growing organization. The team has asked for gardening supplies like soil, seeds and rocks. Donated wood and 55-gallon barrels can be used to make garden beds and planters. One unique donation they are looking for is old jeans — Turner has the interesting idea of turning jeans into cool planters.
Happy Super Tuesday, Cincinnati. Here are your morning headlines.
A shooting at Madison Junior/Senior High School in Butler County yesterday left two teenagers with non-life threatening injuries. According to witnesses, yesterday morning around 11 a.m., freshman James Austin Hancock started firing a gun in the lunchroom. Hancock luckily did not fatally injure anyone and reportedly threw the gun away before deputies arrived and arrested him. He is facing several felony accounts, including attempted murder. The two students who were shot are expected to make a full recovery. The event rocked Madison, a town of 9,000 people where the elementary, middle and high schools are all located next to one another. School officials have cancelled classes for Tuesday.
• As if the chaos in Madison wasn't enough yesterday, another student at nearby Middletown High School was also arrested for bringing a handgun to school. This event was much less dire than the one at Madison. There were no shootings, threats, injuries or big disruptions to the school day, and the student was arrested on unspecified charges. This incident at the high school follows another one earlier this month when a 15-year-old was arrested after officials linked him with a note containing death threats and racial slurs.
• The Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center has named Dr. Ralph Panos as the new acting chief of staff. Panos, who is the center's chief of medicine, replaces Dr. Barbara Temeck, who was outed from the position from by the feds last Thursday following a Feb. 2016 federal investigation that found her guilty of prescribing medication to another VA employee's family member. Her license does not allow her to prescribe medication privately outside the VA. Temeck remains at the clinic until the Department of Veterans Affairs announces what further action it will take, but she has been taken off of patient care duty and has had a her hospital privileges suspended in the meantime. VA network director Jack Hetrick also submitted his notice of retirement on Feb. 25 after the federal government also recommended he be removed from his position. Temeck was reportedly prescribing Hetrick's wife medication.
• Details about the apartments at the former School of Creative and Performing Arts building are finally out. The Alumni Lofts will hold 142 apartments ranging from 550 to 2,200 square feet in size. Rent will cost between $800 and $1,200 a month. The complex will host an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 16 for anyone curious to see what a school-turned-apartment complex looks like. The event's Facebook page already has one commenter wondering what it would be like to live in her old school building. Leasing will start this month, and new residents will be able to move in this September.
• A new study found Cincinnati's residents receiving rental assistance from HUD to help make their cost of living a little more affordable are still facing economic hurdles in terms of access to transit. The study by the University of Texas and the University of Utah that evaluated more than 18,000 households nationwide on HUD rent subsidies found nearly half these recipients are spending more than 15 percent of their household budgets on transit. Among cities with the highest rate of rental properties receiving federal assistance, Cincinnati ranks 11th highest for transit costs--sandwiched between Cleveland at number 10 and Columbus at number 12. Wonder if that has anything to do with the state of Ohio's incredibly low spending on transit? The study found that residents of more sprawling areas like San Antonio, Houston and Pittsburgh tend to be hit harder with transit costs. HUD generally ranks housing as affordable if rent is less than 30 percent of a household's budget. However, it fails to calculate in transportation costs.
• There's still two weeks to go until Ohio's primary, but local political junkies can get their biggest hit yet as they watch the results of Super Tuesday roll in. Voters in 12 states go to the polls today, and soon we'll see just how concrete Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's leads are for their parties' nominations. Political analysts are predicting that Trump is expected to win nearly all of the states, possibly only really having to worry about losing Sen. Ted Cruz's home state of Texas. The race between the Democratic contenders Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders should be a little more interesting. Clinton is expected to fare well in the southern states like Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas with high African-American populations, a group that favors Clinton based on her success in the South Carolina Democratic primary. Sanders will likely have more success in the whiter states of Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont, his home state. Either way, as this race gets more intense, so do our candidates and some of the things flying out of their mouths. So pay attention, Ohio!
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For his fifth season in Cincinnati, six of the 10 productions are by women or artists of color. Robison has included a Pulitzer Prize winner, a work by America’s greatest African-American playwright, a couple of classics, two world premieres and some shows that touch on important contemporary issues.
He’s particularly pleased that the shows he’s programmed for the Robert S. Marx Stage “have some degree of name recognition. But the season is not watered down — we haven’t resorted to ‘cotton-candy’ programming. We’re leaning forward and doing some very challenging work, but it has a popular flair. From the beginning I said that I wanted to be sure that our programming was both artistically challenging and hugely popular. That seems like it should be an easy thing, but it’s actually one of the hardest. I think this season has come the closest to that goal.”
The Marx season opens with an adaptation of John Irving’s popular 1989 novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany (Sept. 3-Oct. 1). A work that explores friendship, destiny and faith, it’s a show that Robison staged with memorable success a decade ago at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Md., where he was artistic director before Cincinnati. “It’s a beautiful, imaginative, resonant story,” he says. “The search for meaning, personal faith and true things, above and beyond organized religion, is interesting to people these days.”
Next will be August Wilson’s Jitney (Oct. 15-Nov. 12), one of the 10 plays in Wilson’s “Century Cycle,” chronicling African-American life during the 20th century. The story of men operating an unlicensed car service in Pittsburgh has never been staged in Cincinnati. Playhouse Associate Artist Timothy Douglas, one of the foremost interpreters of Wilson’s work in America today, will direct it.
Following the 26th annual production of A Christmas Carol, the Playhouse will present Little Shop of Horrors (Jan. 21-Feb. 19), a campy off-Broadway show about a man-eating plant that became a Broadway hit (and a movie) in the 1980s. (The Playhouse produced it in 1987.) “I just love this show.” Robison says. It’s no longer touring, and he promises “a high-level treatment” by guest director Bill Fennelly, who helped make Jersey Boys a hit. “When we did Ring of Fire in 2015,” says Robison, “we discovered that something fun and peppy and innately populist fits in January.”
From populism to the classics is the path he’s taking for the season’s final productions on the mainstage — an adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s romantic novel Jane Eyre (March 11-April 8) and Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (April 22-May 20). The latter is an amusing adaptation in the same vein as the hilarious production of The 39 Steps, using five actors to play numerous roles and hurtle through a familiar tale.
The Playhouse’s Shelterhouse stage is where more adventurous works are offered. The season kicks off with Ayad Akhtar’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Disgraced (Sept. 24-Oct. 23), a dinner party on New York City’s Upper East Side hosted by a Muslim-American attorney with friends and colleagues that melts down around identity, religion and politics. “It’s the Playhouse’s responsibility to ensure that our audiences can enjoy these huge award-winning plays,” Robison explains. “ You don’t have to go to New York or Chicago to see them. It’s going to be fantastic in the Shelterhouse. We’ve intentionally chosen to put this pressure cooker in the Shelterhouse and turn up the heat.”
Every holiday season the Playhouse seeks an alternative to its lovely traditional production of A Christmas Carol. This year’s show should be especially attractive: The Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue (Nov. 5-Dec. 31). It promises to be a hilarious evening of its skits that send up Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and everything in between, performed by talent from the legendary Chicago comedy club.
In the New Year, Robison has lined up two more world premieres, again featuring up-and-coming female playwrights. Arlitia Jones’s Summerland (Feb. 4-March 5) is about a “spirit photographer,” inspired by a man who took haunting images of the dead in the era just after the Civil War. That will be followed by Jen Silverman’s All the Roads Home (March 25-April 23), the story of three generations of women and the legacies they inherit across the latter half of the 20th century.
The Shelterhouse season wraps up with a one-woman show, Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End (May 6-June 4), a portrait of the Dayton, Ohio, housewife whose newspaper columns gave voice to ordinary women everywhere. “This show is just an absolute stitch,” says Robison. “It had a very successful run at Arena Stage in Washington last spring, and we got it immediately because of the Ohio connection. It’s the perfect vehicle to send people into summer with a smile.”
As Robison said, it sounds easy to assemble an
artistically challenging and popular season, but it’s truly a tough
task. It would appear that he’s done it for 2016-2017. “I think this
season has come the closest to that goal,” he says.
The box office is the true gauge, but the season certainly looks promising.
Ted Cruz (Republican)
Whether you agree with Ted Cruz’s policy or not, this Texas senator is highly educated — graduating from two Ivy league schools. Cruz graduated cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in Public Policy, we went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law School with a Juris Doctor degree.
Before setting foot in the political arena, Cruz was an adjunct law professor at the University of Texas from 2004 to 2009, teaching U.S. Supreme Court litigation.
What’s up with the campaign?
Cruz has held his head above water, consistently placed as a top-tier candidate in the GOP field. The Texas senator won his first election in 2012, being in Washington just long enough to have some knowledge in policy, but not long enough to be considered an “establishment” candidate by any reasonable margins.
However, in a political field that’s hungry for someone that isn’t politics as usual, Cruz has struggled to make himself stand out compared to Trump — who is about as outside the beltway as you get. In a Trump-less election, Cruz would have likely been seen as the fringe candidate doing a hostile takeover of the GOP.
His ultra-conservative ideology and political resume put him somewhere between Rubio and Trump. With more than $19 million on-hand and a super PAC, Cruz is running a powerful campaign — but it has been hard for him to stand out or propose any attractive proposals other than he isn’t Trump.
Cruz may have won Iowa, but he looks weak moving forward. The path to the White House is narrow for the Texas senator.
Voters might like:
● Cruz is the most conservative candidate. Period. He has earned a 100 percent score from the Heritage Action Scorecard and the American Conservative Union. Glenn Beck also said Cruz is “more conservative than Reagan.”
● There’s no fear from Cruz in fighting the establishment and standing up for his principles. He consistently advocates abolishing the IRS and the Department of Education. We also cannot forget his 21-hour filibuster against Obamacare. During that same filibuster he gave a phenomenal reading of Green Eggs and Ham.
● He speaks to the evangelical crowd — which is a huge voter base in the GOP primary. Cruz has captured the heart of a lot of religious Americans, speaking as a man that lives Christian values.
...but watch out for
● Many view Cruz as more “dangerous” than Trump. This anti-Washington crusader has made a career out of dismantling the government, thus hasn’t made a lot of friends in Congress. He led the government into a shutdown in 2013. Trump has proven he can get independents and Democrats to vote for him, Cruz seemingly only has support from the far-right.
● Cruz is a loud and proud climate change denier, once saying it’s “not science, it’s a religion.” It is difficult to measure whether that is pandering or the Texas senator is being a honest skeptic of science. But when virtually all scientists and governments take climate change seriously and the pentagon considers it a “security threat,” it’s difficult to take skepticism seriously when some of Cruz’s largest donations come from oil companies.
● Cruz really hates government — of course that is a staple for conservatism these days, but he takes the Ronald Reagan rhetoric of “government is the problem” to the max. Cruz is not talking about the Islamic State when he says, “we are facing what I consider to be the epic battle of our generation” — he is talking about Obamacare. Cruz has a true hatred of the federal government, which makes it hard to understand why he wants the highest position in the federal government.
Biggest policy proposal:
Like a lot of conservatives running for the Oval Office, Cruz has proposed a flat tax — yet his is probably the most dramatic of all.
Cruz would replace the income tax with a 10-percent flat tax, abolish corporate tax and all payroll, estate and gift taxes. Some analytics such as the Tax Policy Center find that plan would cost the U.S. about $1 trillion per year for the next decade and lower the GDP 3.6 percent.
Cruz hasn’t been entirely clear on whether or not he would use conventional ground troops in Iraq or Syria to fight the Islamic State. However, it sounds like boots on ground is an option.
"The mission should be defeating ISIS before they succeed in carrying out more horrific acts of terror, before they succeed in murdering Americans. If need be, we should go that step," Cruz said in an interview on This Week with anchor George Stephanopoulos
Cruz has made it clear that the priority
should be arming those already fighting ISIS on the ground such as the Kurdish
fighters in Iraq.
Hey all! Hope your weekend was a good one. Here’s your news today.
Recent funding shifts by Cincinnati city administration away from a prominent anti-blight organization have caused a rift between the city and the group’s supporters. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black earlier this month informed City Council and Mayor John Cranley that he would be redirecting $100,000 from nonprofit Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to private contracting group Four Evergreen because the latter completes blight mitigation work cheaper and more quickly. But supporters of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful contest that claim, saying that the city’s data is inaccurate and that the group has actually reached its targets at a lower cost per lot.
Keep Cincinnati Beautiful chairman Brad Lindner, CEO of United Dairy Farmers, fired off a strongly worded letter to the city condemning the move and a Cincinnati Enquirer story that reported the city’s data without confirming it with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. Lindner said the purportedly erroneous data was “negligently presented to the public” and called the Enquirer’s reporting “sensationalized and mean spirited.” The paper says the data was presented in a Cincinnati City Council meeting, where representatives from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful were present but did not contest it. Enquirer leaders say the paper will continue to look into the issue.
• At least 40 racial justice advocates gathered yesterday in West Price Hill and Westwood to protest the deaths of Melvin Murray, Jr. and Paul Gaston after encounters with Cincinnati police. Gaston died Feb. 17 after he was shot multiple times by three CPD officers. CPD officials say he was reaching for a realistic-looking pellet gun in his waistband at the time. Murray died in a car accident following a pursuit by police. Murray’s family said officers in that pursuit failed to render aid following the accident and might have rear-ended Murray’s car, which was demolished after the incident.
Protesters at yesterday’s event gathered in West Price Hill, near the site of Murray’s accident, and then marched to Western Hills, near where Gaston died. There, they observed three minutes of silence symbolizing the three hours they say Gaston lay in the street after his shooting. Organizers are pushing for the dismissal and indictment of officers involved in both incidents. City officials say the officers acted appropriately in both situations, though they did condemn dash cam audio of the officers in Murray’s chase calling him a “dumbass” and other insults.
• The Queen City has landed on a dubious list, ranking 10th most distressed city in the country on a new list by The New York Times. The ranking was devised from seven factors, including percentage of adults who are employed, the percentage of adults who have a high school diploma, the city’s poverty rate, housing vacancy rate and other factors. Cleveland was the nation’s most distressed city, and Toledo also made the list at number four.
• With Music Hall’s major renovations just a few months away, the project’s leaders are showing the public just what kind of transformation they’re envisioning for the Cincinnati landmark. Those changes include a new lounge area behind the auditorium, fewer but wider and more comfortable seats, a more luminous lobby area and restoration of windows on the building’s façade that are currently bricked up. Those changes, along with many others, are projected to cost $135 million. State tax credits, the city and private donors have stepped up to cover most of that cost, but $5 million remains to be raised to fully fund the project.
• Finally, U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has picked up a powerful endorsement in his underdog Democratic primary race against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, one of the state’s biggest newspapers, has endorsed Sittenfeld over Strickland, saying the former is more specific about policy proposals and has shown a willingness to engage with important issues that Strickland hasn’t. You can check out the paper’s weird slideshow endorsement here. Earlier this month, Sittenfeld also picked up an endorsement from former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste, a prominent Democrat.
Strickland still leads Sittenfeld by a wide margin in almost all polls and is currently neck and neck with incumbent U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in polling around the general election. But Sittenfeld’s campaign points to the endorsements as signs his campaign is picking up steam ahead of the state’s March 15 primary.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
Two top officials at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center have landed in hot water with the The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. On Thursday, The feds removed Dr. Barbara Temeck, the chief of staff for the medical center, from her position. Officials from the department also proposed that Jack Hetrick, director of the regional Veterans Integrated Service Network, be removed from his position. Hetrick submitted his notice for retirement Thursday after he was informed of the department's proposal. The actions come in response to the results of an investigation by the VA Office of the Medical Inspector and Office of Accountability. The preliminary results found Temeck was referring veterans to clinics outside the VA as a way to cut costs for the clinic. The move resulted in many veterans reporting issues with the quality of care from other clinics and difficulties navigating the bureaucracy that came along with it.
• Ohio's Department of Education released its state report cards for each school district Thursday, and based on its report card results, if Cincinnati Public Schools were a bratty 16-year-old, it'd be grounded for sure. The report cards rank districts based on students' results for state tests, district spending of public money and how well the school addressed achievement gaps for different groups of students. According to the scores, CPS is falling far behind in its graduation rates and how it handles students with disabilities, earning "Fs" in these categories. It is doing well with the gifted kids, however, earning an A in this category. Overall, the district got 2 "As," 1 "B," 1 "C," 1 "D" and 5 "Fs." But even though CPS's scores appear to be very sub-par, some have questioned the relevance of the information, which is based off of a standardized test the state no longer uses.
• The Tracie Hunter saga continues. Supporters behind former Hamilton County are claiming that officials have allowed critical computer evidence in her case to be destroyed. At a press conference Thursday, they claimed that special prosecutors or juvenile court officials allowed one computer with the vital evidence to be erased while mishandling the other computer's hard drive and called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the issue. Hunter was convicted in 2014 on a felony charge of mishandling confidential documents. She recently lost an appeal on the conviction and has asking the state's Supreme Court to review the case.
• Gov. John Kasich has held on tightly to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and he's not giving up any time soon. He told a crowd of his supporters on Wednesday that he will not be dropping out of the race. But political experts are speculating on how long Kasich will actually stay in following poor results in Nevada and South Carolina during the past week. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges says he might do better in Mississippi, Virginia and Vermont, the neighboring state of New Hampshire, where he came in second behind Donald Trump in the state's GOP primary. But it's still going to be a long, difficult and unlikely road for Kasich to actually catch up to frontrunner Trump.
There’s an exciting array of theater on local stages this weekend, a perfect time to check out a live performance before you settle in for the Academy Awards on Sunday night.
It seems that all a theater needs to do these days is mention Jane Austen and fans line up for tickets. I’m sure that’s what Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has in mind with its production of Emma, opening tonight. It’s the story of an amateur matchmaker who loves to meddle in the love lives of others. But when her efforts on behalf of her friend Harriet go awry, Emma Wodehouse has to undo the damage. Cincy Shakes’ productions of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility broke box-office records, and there’s no reason that show adaptation (also by Jon Jory, who led Actors Theatre of Louisville for 32 seasons). Tonight’s the opening, and the show will be onstage at 719 Race St. through March 26. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
Last June, the Audience Pick of the 2015 Cincinnati Fringe was dungeon by the Hit The Lights! Theatre Company from New York City. In fact, the company has roots here in Cincinnati; its co-founder says, “We’re overjoyed to be returning to Cincinnati, our home away from home, to invite audiences into a more fully-formed dungeon than they last encountered.” The show is about a young man who enters the unknown to rescue something he holds dear. The show is inspired by kabuki, video games, horror movies and Pixar shorts, creating a world where darkness speaks louder than light. Two encore performances this weekend at Essex Studios (2511 Essex Place) in Walnut Hills at the Cincinnati Actors Studio and Academy (CASA, Room 282B), tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets: $15 at the door.
It’s the final weekend for three shows on campus at Xavier University, presented in repertory: Miss Julie, a classic by August Strindberg; Betrayal, a heady drama by Harold Pinter; and Begotten, a world premiere by senior theater major Tatum Hunter. At the Gallagher Student Center Theater through Sunday. Tickets: 513-745-3939.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s world premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists (on the Shelterhouse Stage through March 6) has another week to run. It brings together a quartet of badass women, under house arrest during the French Revolution — including Queen Marie Antoinette and assassin Charlotte Corday. Awaiting their likely demise by the guillotine, they encourage, inspire and support one another during the horrific Reign of Terror. Sounds serious but it’s a very funny, irreverent fantasia performed by an excellent cast. I gave this one a resounding Critic’s Pick. Through March 6. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
The characters might express the feeling that “It Sucks to Be Me,” but I don’t think anyone in the audience will feel that way watching Cincinnati Landmark’s production of Avenue Q at the Incline Theater in Price Hill. The darkly funny and very adult parody of Sesame Street has been staged by local stage veteran Elizabeth Harris with a cast of singers and actors who know how to bring puppets to life — politically inappropriate, from start to finish. It’s an evening of gasps, giggles and guffaws. Through March 6. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.