While other Cincinnati theaters hustle to get their seasons announced in order to ramp up subscription sales, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has built enough faith with its audiences that they'll start signing up sight unseen. Artistic Director Lynn Meyers tells regulars that they'll be pleased, and they take her at her word; she adds that if they aren't happy with the shows she picks, they can have their money back. No one asks for it.
Of course, ETC presents shows that haven't appeared elsewhere in our region yet, typically premieres that have only recently been onstage in New York City. And they're given productions with great acting and beautiful design so well assembled that many shows have extended runs. (That's happening with the show concluding the current season, John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar, which opens on Wednesday with a stellar cast that includes local stage veteran Dale Hodges and Cincy Shakes Artistic Director Brian Phillips. ETC has announced it will run a week longer than initially indicated, now closing on May 30.)
For its 30th season, ETC has assembled three regional premieres and a revival of a musical it staged to great acclaim in 1999, with a TBA slot (March 22-April 10, 2016) that's likely to bring another show that's been a recent Broadway or off-Broadway hit. Here's the lineup announced over the weekend:
Luna Gale (Sept. 8-27, 2015) by Rebecca Gilman: The show recently received the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, and it was considered by many to be a strong contender for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. It portrays the moral dilemma facing a social worker with a crushing caseload and personal baggage. She must decide whether to leave a child with neglectful drug addict parents or place her with a grandmother who is a religious zealot. It's a complex and disturbing work about faith and forgiveness that doesn't offer easy answers for the lifelong after-effects of abuse. Its first production was in January 2014 at the Chicago's Goodman Theatre. It's slated for productions at Cleveland Playhouse and Actors Theatre of Louisville in the coming season, but ETC's happens first.
Buyer and Cellar (Oct. 13-Nov. 1, 2015) by Jonathan Tollins: The one-many comedy was a big New York hit in 2013, telling the story of an out-of-work actor who takes on the odd job of playing shopkeeper for Barbra Streisand in the basement of her lavish Malibu estate. It's a fanciful imagining of what one does with decades of memories and acres of memorabilia. Performing the piece will be Nick Cearley, a Cincinnati native who has appeared at ETC in next to normal and The Great American Trailer Park Musical.
Cinderella (Dec. 2-Jan. 3, 2016) by Joe McDonough, David Kisor and Fitz Patton: ETC's holiday show is a remount of its contemporary take on the classic fairy tale that demonstrates that being smart can be truly beautiful.
Grounded (Jan. 26-Feb. 14, 2016) by George Brant: It's another solo show, described by one critic as "ardently humane," about a woman who's an ace pilot reassigned to operate a remote-controlled drone from a windowless trailer near Las Vegas. It's a hit at New York City's Public Theater right now featuring Anne Hathaway in a production directed by Julie Taymor. Hunting terrorists by day and returning to her family at night, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert where she lives and the one she patrols half a world away in Iraq.
Violet (May 3-22, 2016). Jeanine Tesori's musical won the Drama Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Award for best musical when it premiered off-Broadway in 1997. It was a local award winner, too, but not seen by many who have come to love ETC's offerings. The score features American Roots tunes as well as Folk and Gospel styles. Violet's story is set in the 1960s; she is a young woman disfigured in a childhood accident who dreams of a miraculous transformation through the power of faith provided by a televangelist. It was one of ETC's best early productions, and it's a great choice to cap off a celebration of three decades of fine theater.
Subscriptions are currently available. Call 513-421-3555 for information.
Christopher Durang's witty comedy Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike opened last night at the Cincinnati Playhouse. If that title makes you think of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, well, that's part of the playwright's comic plan. But his script reassembles some of those wry comic elements with a few modern twists. The three characters with Chekhovian names are siblings with wildly divergent perspectives; "Spike" stirs things up by being more physical than intellectual. You don't have to know any theater history to have a good time with this play, especially when Vanya launches into a 10-minute rant about what's wrong with the modern world — referencing everything from postage stamps and technology to global warming and a lot of TV from the 1950s. It's hilarious. This show is being staged at theaters all over America this season. For more about Durang, read my Curtain Call column. Through May 23. Tickets: 513-421-3888
The Covedale Center has carved our a meaningful niche in the local theater scene with staging Golden Age musicals, and they're opening one of the best this weekend, Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. It was the final show by the pair who created Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel and The King and I. Thanks to the movie featuring Julie Andrews, I don't really have to tell you what it's about. But I should mention that the stage version has a bit more of a socio-political edge to it: Two of my favorite numbers (that didn't make it into the film) are "No Way to Stop It" and "How Can Love Survive?" — pay attention to them for some sassy songwriting. The show is onstage at the West Side theater through May 24; tickets: 513-241-6550
Several worthwhile productions are finishing their runs this weekend with Sunday performances. That includes the searing psychological and political drama Death and the Maiden by Diogenes Theatre Company, featuring Annie Fitzpatrick, Michael G. Bath and Giles Davies at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. Tickets: 513-621-2787 … Cincinnati Shakespeare is winding up its staging of the great comedy of love and combat, The Taming of the Shrew. (Read my review here). Tickets: 513-381-2273 … And if you've ever struggled to connect with a play by the Bard, you might enjoy John Murrell's Taking Shakespeare at Dayton's Human Race Theater Company. The latter is about a disillusioned college professor asked to tutor her dean's son through a freshman class in Shakespeare. The subject is Othello, and their wrangling helps them learn more about one another. It's some fine acting, with Jon Kovach, seen frequently on Cincinnati stages, as the opinionated but drifting young man. Tickets: 937-228-3630
Tribute albums are typically divided into three categories. They’re either a) bankable artists covering high profile subjects (or, infrequently, famously known cult figures); b) cool/respected artists covering cool/respected artists; or c) some weird hybrid of the first two.
Two recently released tributes fall squarely in the second category, with Avett Brothers frontman Seth Avett and rising Americana/Rock vocalist Jessica Lea Mayfield taking a quietly beautiful stroll through a sampling of Elliott Smith's exquisite catalog on Sing Elliott Smith, and Frames frontman and solo artist in his own right Glen Hansard honoring his great hero and friend Jason Molina on It Was Triumph We Once Proposed: Songs of Jason Molina, which was available last month.
There are odd connections between the two projects. In the general point of interest sense, both are posthumous tributes. Smith died in 2003, apparently by his own hand, and Molina succumbed in 2013 after a long battle with alcoholism. And on a more personal level, by the sheerest of coincidences, I've interviewed both of the subjects of these two tributes.
Back in 2000, I spoke with Smith while he was still touring on Figure 8, which had come out earlier that year. And in 2003, I was assigned a feature on Songs: Ohia, fronted and braintrusted by Molina, who had just finished an album he titled The Magnolia Electric Co., which marked the end of Songs: Ohia and the shift to the band named after his new album. Both were fascinating and heartfelt conversations with artists who were amazingly self aware but not at all self absorbed, quietly brilliant songwriters who had an almost pathological need to extract their musical impulses from the dark well of their ultimately troubled souls.
Hansard — who came to prominence as the voice, guitarist and primary songwriter for Irish Rock band The Frames before establishing a side project (Swell Season) and solo career and hitting semi-big with the movie Once and his soundtrack, featuring the Academy Award-winning hit "Falling Slowly" — was so inspired by Molina's deeply emotional and confessional songcraft that the first fan letter he ever sent to a fellow artist was to Molina. Back in 2005, two years after I'd interviewed Molina, I had the rare opportunity to witness the pair's personal and professional bond firsthand.
At my second South by Southwest experience, I followed former The Onion music editor Stephen Thompson to see a Frames appearance at one of Austin's innumerable daytime parties. Stephen was a huge Frames fan and the band knew him well; he had done enough to help expose the band to American audiences that they thanked him in the liner notes to Burn the Maps.
When we arrived at the venue, the band members were wandering through the crowd just prior to their set and Stephen made a beeline for them. He introduced me to The Frames, but there was a dark, diminutive and somewhat familiar presence in the circle who was clearly with the band but not as a member. Glen Hansard spoke up, in his pudding thick Irish brogue, and said, "This is Jason Molina."
I shook his hand and reminded him of our phone conversation and the Rockpile feature two years previous. He greeted me warmly and we talked about what we'd seen at the festival to that point and what we hoped to see going forward. We spent a good 10 minutes in this convivial manner, right up until The Frames took the stage and were announced. After that, his unwavering focus was on the band; he watched and listened as though he was occupying the front pew in church during a sermon he knew for an absolute fact would change his life for the better. He stood in rapt attention, soaking in every word, every note and every nuance and with good reason — The Frames were a mesmerizing live force back then.
At the set's conclusion, Molina immediately swiveled toward me and we exchanged jaw-dropped exclamations of disbelief. Within a few minutes, Hansard made his way to Molina's side and the two began critiquing the performance, Hansard pointing out the flaws and Molina categorically dismissing them. I laughingly thought to myself as I headed to the door and the next party, I'll bet their roles will be diametrically reversed when Magnolia Electric Co., the band that Songs: Ohia had morphed into, plays later this week and Hansard is the fan in the front row. It reminded me of something Molina had said regarding the fact that he was already thinking past the album he had just finished.
"I can do better," he said without hesitation. "My next one, I'm already sweating it. Since the day I walked out of the studio, I've been working on the next one. I don't feel like this one failed, but I'm still looking for the better one."
I thought about Hansard's face as it must have looked while he watched Molina's appearance in Austin, Texas, a decade ago, and imagined the sadder but equally beatific visage he must have exhibited in the studio as he was translating the five tracks that comprise It Was Triumph We Once Proposed. This brief and beautifully executed EP serves a similar purpose as Hansard's distant but never forgotten fan letter, as he pays loving tribute to his long personal friendship with Molina and to the work that first illuminated his immense talents to the world.
Hansard assembled a group of longtime Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. collaborators/friends to record a heartbreaking quintet of Molina compositions, all Songs: Ohia tracks and all lending themselves perfectly to Hansard's passionate and sensitively wrought translation. Molina often worked at the creative intersection of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, and Hansard taps into that shivery vibe with a true fan's boundless devotion and a true friend's immeasurable grief. On the one-two punch of the powerfully poignant "Being in Love" and the achingly beautiful "Hold On, Magnolia," Hansard illuminates the raw, wrenching wisdom of lines like, ”We are proof that the heart is a risky fuel to burn," and the prescient "You might be holding the last light I see before the dark finally gets ahold of me." And just like Molina's life and amazing musical output, Hansard's It Was Triumph We Once Proposed is both immensely satisfying and far too short.
The other contender for Most Amazing and Deserved Tribute of the Year is Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield's Sing Elliott Smith, a (relatively) spare and loving bow to one of this generation's most insightful and contemplative songwriters. After his shredding turn with Portland’s Heatmiser, Smith turned down the volume for his home-recorded solo debut, Roman Candle, which was followed by his equally nuanced eponymous sophomore album and then the jewel in his crown, 1998's Either/Or, which director Gus Van Zant cherry-picked for his soundtrack to his masterpiece Good Will Hunting. Smith scored an Academy Award nomination for his song "Miss Misery," and the success of the soundtrack and his almost uncomfortably vulnerable performance at the Oscars vaulted him into a spotlight that he never actively pursued.
By the time of our 2000 interview, Smith had managed to come to uneasy terms with the maelstrom of fame that resulted from Good Will Hunting and Either/Or's tangential success. It had required him to think about his work in pedestrian ways, to explain it in a fashion that would be understandable to people with little understanding.
But through it all, Smith remained true to his own process, trusting that, regardless of outside opinions, expectations or interests, he continued to create the kind of music he wanted to hear in the manner that he wanted to create it. And he knew that, no matter how much anyone involved in his career wanted him to pull Either/Or 2 out of his magician's hat, the only thing that would truly satisfy his artistic nature would be to create what came out of him organically, without being conjured or forced.
"I don't think it was on my mind," Smith said about making the Beatlesque Figure 8 in the wake of major-label debut XO, Either/Or and Good Will Hunting. "I was just making up songs the way I always do. I mean, it was never going to sell millions of copies, so there wasn't that kind of pressure."
That may well be why Sing Elliott Smith is so incredibly successful as a tribute. Smith's songbook is among the most revered in contemporary music and the acclaim that has been lavished on Avett and Mayfield since their debuts is both effusive and deserved. Given all that, there's little risk involved at any level of this project.
The blending of the two principals' voices was the only unknown and that particular question mark is definitely straightened into a boldface exclamation point with Avett and Mayfield's brilliant opening duet on Either/Or's "Between the Bars." Avett's stylistic path from Punk provocateur to rootsy Americana troubadour to genre melding alchemist is a pretty fair match to Smith's own journey, and Mayfield's weary optimism lines up well with Smith's gloomy hopefulness. Together, Avett and Mayfield are the perfect translators for Smith's hushed (and not so hushed) odes to the anguish and bittersweet joy of love and modern life and they coalesce almost effortlessly on brilliant lines like, "Nothing's gonna drag me down/To a death that's not worth cheating."
It's moments like that one from "Baby Britain" that make Sing Elliott Smith resonate so clearly from start to finish. It's particularly poignant when Mayfield takes the lead on "A Fond Farewell" — from the album Smith was working on at the time of his death, released posthumously as From a Basement on the Hill — and she sings words that seem so startlingly prescient coming so close to Smith's sad end; "A little less than a happy heart/A little less than a suicide/The only thing that you really tried/This is not my life, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/It's not what I'm like, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/Who couldn't get things right."
Avett and Mayfield offer a broad core sample of Smith's amazing catalog (only 1995's self-titled sophomore album isn't represented), and the pair's affinity for and love of their subject's work is evident in every trembling note and emotional lyric. At almost 37 minutes, Sing Elliott Smith is a full album but it feels impossibly short and is over well before the listener is ready for it to be done. If ever there was a release that warranted the often-dreaded subtitle of Volume 2, it would be Sing Elliott Smith.
It seems only proper that the final words in this piece should be reserved for the subjects of these two tributes. First, an interesting comment from Jason Molina about his songwriting process led to a philosophical statement about his musical belief system.
"I almost write the music at the same time I'm trying to think of who could best put this onto tape, and that goes right down to the engineer," he noted. "Maybe it's a cowardly way to work because I don't take all of the burden onto myself, but ego should never be part of the music."
And finally, Elliott Smith addressed the media's tendency to label him as "melancholy," which morphed into an explanation of the simple reality that labels have tried to manipulate and contradict throughout their long and checkered histories.
"As soon as someone calls you a songwriter, you automatically get the melancholy tag," Smith admitted. “Also, 'Why aren't you playing dance music?' and 'Why are your songs so sad?' They're just clichés. If it wasn't those, it would be different ones. You can't always expect people to relate. There are all kinds of people, and some people understand each other and some people don't. NSYNC sells nine million records, so there's nine million people that can relate, and I'm not one of them. So even if you sell millions and millions of albums, there's always going to be somebody who doesn't get it. If you want to be creative and do what you do, it's going to be kind of idiosyncratic."
Long live the idiosyncratic artist, and the memories of those who left us way before their creative dreams were fulfilled.
Northside’s Urban Artifact Brewing opened its doors last week, hoping to push the envelope by displaying a finessed brand and aesthetic by reinvigorating old styles of beer and celebrating local artists of all genres. Residing in a renovated church, the brewery is collaborating with restaurant Meatball Kitchen and has big plans for the future as a destination to hear live music.
“We love Northside and we love the neighborhood, so that was at the top of our list from the beginning,” says Scott Hand, who opened the brewery with partners Brett Kollmann Baker, Scott Hunter and Dominic Marino. Hand, a DAAP graduate, was working as an architect in Chicago when he and Marino, a musician and artist, began talking about opening a brewery. Knowing the financial restrictions they would face as a new business in the Windy City, the duo relocated to Cincinnati to begin the project.
Hand was familiar with the process of reconstructing an old space, so when St. Pius X on Blue Rock Street, formerly home to Queen City Cookies’ bakery, became available, the team thought it was the perfect fit for their vision. Originally, Hand and Marino had planned to open Greyscale Cincinnati, a multi-use performing arts facility and craft brewery in the former Jackson Brewery on Mohawk Street in Over-the-Rhine. But plans and funding change, and the Northside church’s sanctuary, gymnasium, next door rectory and other open spaces have now become Urban Artifact, a brewery and event space still focused on blending music (their music label retains the Greyscale Cincinnati name) and unique beer, but with an additional spotlight on good food, design and elevated branding.
“Because of branding, we made a point to reuse a lot of the church and what was already there,” Hand says. “This is a lot harder than just gutting it and starting from scratch. Most breweries are in warehouses or large rooms; our brand and beers come together for a unique experience.” In the final renovation, the team highlighted the church’s historic features, like its stained glass and old columns. They’ve also kept the radiators and reincorporated the 1940s maple floors they plied up from the gymnasium, now home to brewing equipment and fermenters, as finishes in the main church building’s lower-level taproom.
Featuring old things while incorporating contemporary necessities was crucial for Urban Artifact. Most of their beer styles, which utilize wild yeast, bacteria and other captured local cultures, are from the Prohibition days — brewers Hunter and Baker both have backgrounds in chemical engineering. Hand’s favorites are the Maize, a Kentucky Common-style beer, and Harrow Gose, a bready beer of German origin. “The Gose is the most enjoyable for me, and it’s a light beer so I can have two or three without feeling bad about it,” he jokes. The brewery will also focus on experimental wild and tart ales, listing the ale’s pH and other information in the taproom to add an educational element to the experience, and will have local Skinny Pig Kombucha on tap as a non-beer fermented alternative.
The brewery also partnered with Meatball Kitchen, leasing part of rectory’s first floor to become the restaurant’s second location. Food runners will unify the two buildings and make Meatball Kitchen available to everyone. (Currently, Meatball Kitchen is set up in a corner of the taproom until the restaurant renovations are complete.) Hand says the partnership was a natural fit due to their similar aesthetics.
“[Meatball Kitchen’s] Short Vine location has a similar feel — old wood, exposed pipes and things. The menu really identifies with our beers as well,” he says. “I think they are redesigning and making little changes to their menu to make our collaboration more cohesive.”
The brewery’s lower level, which can hold about 200 people, is separated into two parts — the taproom and a listening lounge — in addition to a beer garden outside. Every Wednesday, the listening lounge will feature Cincinnati Jazz institution the Blue Wisp Big Band, which features brewery partner Marino on trombone. The band has been performing every Wednesday night since 1980, but lost their home last year when the Blue Wisp Jazz Club closed. Hand says the “Cincinnati cultural icon” will be at Urban Artifact indefinitely.
In terms of other live music, the brewery scored Soul/R&B/Funk band The Almighty Get Down for their opening night last Friday and World-Fusion band Baoku last Saturday. While powerhouse local bands are flocking to Urban Artifact, they are still looking to book less established, up-and-coming local bands of any genre for other nights. (Hand encourages interested bands to contact Marino at email@example.com.)
The four partners are working hard to have a successful first week of business, but Hand has big plans for the future. The lower level renovation is complete, but the main floor sanctuary is phase two. As a music enthusiast with an architectural background, Hand’s main passion is acoustics. His goal in the next couple of years is to create a “formal but flexible” space for ticketed events, live theater, receptions and eventually big-ticketed performers in the sanctuary.
“I do not want it be your typical standing space,” he says. “It will not be the environment where you blast bands to the loudest decibel and come out with your ears ringing.”
Hand says performers would have the opportunity to record their live shows for personal use or redistribution. He hopes creating the ideal acoustic space will attract larger name performers.
Urban Artifact, whose motto is “Wild culture” for their beers and their brand, focuses on creating a unique product, building promising partnerships and including local artists and culture in their brewery. “We have identified what we’re best at and we do it well, but the best thing is that we come together in the end and figure out how to get things accomplished best as a team,” Hand says. “I think we are pushing the envelope for what a finessed brewing aesthetic is and how that affects the overall experience.”
Urban Artifact is located at 1660 Blue Rock St., Northside. Hours are 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Friday; noon-1:30 a.m. Saturday and noon-midnight Sunday. For more information, visit artifactbeer.com.
Stuff to do for athletes, aesthetes and people who love celebrating spring produce.
Party pre-marathon with the FLYING PIG WEEKEND
On your mark, get set and go to the 17th annual Flying Pig Marathon. Come and see thousands of runners and walkers of all skill levels take part in this beloved race (a Boston Marathon qualifier). Stand on the sidelines and cheer or register and take part in a course that travels along the streets of Cincinnati, Covington, Newport, Mariemont, Fairfax and Columbia Township. Along with the marathon, the Flying Pig weekend features a series of events.
See a full list of events and prices online. Marathon starts 6:30 a.m. Sunday; marathon registration is $115. flyingpigmarathon.com.
Buy some CHEAP AAART
Local artist and curator Paul Coors (an Art Academy of Cincinnati grad and co-founder of former OTR art space Publico) will exhibit and host a silent auction — with assigned low starting figures and minimum raises — of his own artwork made within the past 10 years on Friday and Saturday at his Brighton loft/exhibition space, The Ice Cream Factory. True to Coors’ legacy of engaging musical acts in his art shows, friends of the artist will DJ over the course of both evenings including Bridget Battle (Tweens), Chris Burgan (Platter Party Records), Jordan Bronk and Sebastian Botzow (the DJ duo behind the monthly Fogger set at Rakes End), Floyd From Ohio Johnson (of Ohio Against the World fame) and Yoni Wolf (WHY?). 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Free; all ages. The Ice Cream Factory, 2133 Central Ave., Brighton, paulcoors.co.
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the SOUND OF MUSIC with a live performance
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s great musical theater collaboration — The Sound of Music — has been in the news recently, celebrating the Academy Award-winning movie’s 50th anniversary. If you’d like to dig further into the past (56 years ago it won five Tony Awards in its Broadway debut), you’ll find it onstage at the Covedale Center. It’s the story of a young woman who fails at becoming a nun. But she loves to sing and that wins over a motherless family and their stern father. It’s been a winner since 1959, and it’s sure to please audiences in this production staged by Ed Cohen and Dee Anne Bryll. Through May 24. $21-$24. Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glenway Ave., Western Hills, 513-241-6550, cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.
Get drunk on mint juleps at Neons' DERBY DAY SOIREE
The Kentucky Derby takes a two-minute race and turns it into a weekend of festivities throughout Louisville — drinking signature cocktails, exclusive parties and many out-of-town celebrity guests in elaborate millinery. But why should Louisvillians have all the fun? Neons is gathering Cincinnatians together to craft derby hats, sip on three different kinds of juleps (in 2015 official Kentucky Derby glasses) and watch the race in their second annual Derby Day Soirée. The event also features live music from the OTR Bluegrass Band featuring members of the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars. 2 p.m. Saturday. Free. Neons, 208 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, neons-unplugged.com.
Wear a fancy hat to the WILDER EP release party at the Southgate House
Americana/Country group Wilder was formed last year by singer/songwriters Kelly Thomas and Randy Steffen after their previous projects had come to an end (Thomas’ Fabulous Pickups and Steffen’s Sleepin’ Dogs). Building into a full band and establishing a presence on the local club scene, Wilder is now set to release its debut EP with a special show Saturday at Southgate House Revival. Falling on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, the 9 p.m. show will have a derby theme (Wear wild hats! Drink mint juleps!). Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound, Mad Anthony and Danny Mecher and the Home Demos are also on the bill. Admission is $5 (or $7 if you’d like a copy of the EP on CD). 111 E. Sixth St., Newport, Ky., southgatehouse.com.
Celebrate spring at Gorman Heritage Farm with SAVOR THE SEASON
The phrase “farm-to-table” gets a literal translation at Gorman Heritage Farm’s annual Savor the Season celebration Saturday. This epicurean adventure, in partnership with Slow Food Cincinnati, focuses on reveling in spring’s bounty from the 122-acre working farm and farms around the area. Top local chefs — including Jose Salazar of Salazar, Allison Hines of Butcher Betties, Todd Kelly of Orchids, Ryan Santos of Please and more — will be offering tasting samples of dishes that highlight seasonal produce, and chef Julie Francis of Nectar and Lance Bowman of Japp’s will be creating cocktail and food pairings. Don’t miss the “Raid the Garden” competition (CityBeat dining writer Anne Mitchell will be one of the judges), where chefs enter into a Chopped-style food competition. The event also includes food trucks and vendors, music from DJ Mowgli and garden/farm workshops, like composting 101, chickens in your backyard, beekeeping and more. 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. $25-$35; $10 for Raid the Garden only. 10052 Reading Road, Evendale, 513-563-6663, gormanfarm.org.
Party on Fountain Square for the CINCY-CINCO FIESTA ON FOUNTAIN SQUARE
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Fiesta on Fountain Square. This authentic Latino festival is designed to share all aspects of Latin American culture, values and traditions with the Cincinnati community in a fun, family-oriented event. Live entertainment throughout the weekend includes performances from Latin band Tropicoso, Cincinnati Balia Dance Academy, Mariachi Zelaya and more, plus food from the likes of La Mexicana, Cuban Pete and Empanadas Caribe. A special children's area will provide free games, crafts, prizes and other activities. All proceeds benefit Tristate charities in support of the Hispanic population. Noon-11 p.m. Saturday; Noon-7 p.m. Sunday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, cincicinco.com.
Buy some rocks at the GEOFAIR
The 50th annual GeoFair is Cincinnati’s largest gem, mineral, fossil and jewelry show. This year’s theme is “American Mineral and Fossil Treasures,” with displays containing private, university and museum-quality specimens, along with vendors and wholesalers, a swap area and free fossil, meteorite, mineral and gemstone identification. Demonstrations include gold panning, geode cracking and gemstone polishing. Children younger than 12 will receive free mineral and fossil specimens upon entry. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. $9 adults; $3 kids; free for uniformed scouts. Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Road, Sharonville, geofair.com.
Make cooing noises at ZOO BABIES
Celebrate the newest arrivals at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden during the entire month of May, where you'll find the cutest baby faces from all over the globe. Follow the six-foot-tall pink and blue stork statues displayed throughout the zoo to lead you to baby African lions, penguin chicks, bonobo monkeys, a whole litter of African painted dogs and more, as their big eyes, miniature sizes and playful personalities melt your heart. Through May. Park admission $18 adults; $12 children and seniors. 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.
Take in a lightly staged matinee of THE MUSIC MAN
As Hugh Jackman declared in his 2009 Oscars performance, “The musical is back!” Musicals and movie-musicals have lodged themselves in the mainstream consciousness though film productions like Les Miserables (in which the aforementioned Jackman starred) and Into The Woods (an Oscar-nominated adaptation of the Sondheim classic) and various frequent Broadway touring productions, like those at the Aronoff Center. Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conductor John Morris Russell is giving us another angle through which to experience a classic musical, resurrected this weekend. The Pops’ semi-staged performance of 1957’s The Music Man features Broadway veterans Will Chase and Betsy Wolfe in leading roles, plus hundreds of local artists from Playhouse in the Park, CCM’s musical theater department, May Festival Chorus and more. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $20-$103. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatisymphony.org.
Laugh at VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE
Vanya, Sonia and Masha are mismatched siblings, named by academic parents who had a yen for community theater. Now late in middle age, Vanya and Sonia continue to live in rural eastern Pennsylvania on the family’s farm with a few cherry trees. (Durang constantly drops reminders of Chekhov, dollops of amusement for anyone who recognizes them.) Their lives have some angst and ennui, but they aren’t doing anything about it. Through May 23. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Mount Adams, cincyplay.com.
Grab a coffee at the CAC's new lobby and check out REMEMBER THE FUTURE
Blah concrete no longer dominates the Contemporary Arts Center lobby. A mere decade after its opening, the harsh environment needed a change. “We wanted the lobby to be the movie trailer for what’s upstairs,” says CAC curator Steven Matijcio. Architect Zaha Hadid’s vision of an “urban carpet” that draws visitors from the sidewalk has been realized with a colorful mural blanketing the walls, lights on the concrete pillars and the welcome desk front and center. A neon sign over the entrance reads “Contagious,” reflecting the vibe enjoyed at the café and in conversations on comfortable couches. Even though they resemble thunderclouds, chandeliers by Cincinnati sculptor Matt Kotlarczyk perk up an overcast day. The CAC needed to seize control of space, time and light.
Upstairs Daniel Arsham’s Remember the Future is anchored by a gray mountain of hundreds upon hundreds of pop culture artifacts cast from volcanic ash, obsidian, quartz and glacial rock. Yet colorful, not-so-distant memories stir as the viewer circles the heap and notices boom boxes, video game controllers, keyboards, cameras, turntables, guitars, film reels and videotapes. 10-4 p.m. $7.50 adults; $5.50 educators/students/seniors. 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, contemporaryartscenter.org.
Good morning y’all. Like yesterday, I’m once again groggy this morning, but for different reasons that have everything to do with the news. So let’s talk about that.
Last night a group of about 300 gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse to protest inequities in the nation’s justice system and to express solidarity with Baltimore, where civil unrest has broken out after the April 18 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Gray died from injuries he sustained while in police custody. The rally and subsequent march through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, which drew more than 100, were peaceful and lasted about four hours. No one was arrested, though there were a few tense moments as protesters tried to enter a highway on-ramp and the Horseshoe Casino. Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell was present at the protest last night, and this morning appeared on CNN touting the city’s protest response protocols, which have been adopted by the U.S. Justice Department as an example of how police should respond to such rallies.
Update: Gray's death has been ruled a homicide and the six Baltimore police officers involved will be charged. Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver, will be charged with second-degree murder, Baltimore State Attorney Marylin Mosby announced today. Other officers involved in Gray's arrest will face lesser charges.
“I heard your call for 'No justice, no peace,' ” Mosby said at a news conference. “Your peace is severely needed as I work to deliver justice for this young man.”
• Drug overdose deaths in Ohio have hit record numbers, according to a report released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Health. In 2013, 2,210 people died of overdoses in the state, a 10 percent increase in a year. It’s especially grim here in the Greater Cincinnati area: About 440, or 20 percent, of those deaths happened in Southwestern Ohio’s Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren Counties. Here in Hamilton County, deaths have increased 30 percent since last year, according to the report. More than 40 percent of those deaths statewide were caused by heroin overdoses, by far the biggest single cause of drug overdoses in the state. Heroin overdose deaths have spike sharply in the last four years, overtaking cocaine overdoses in 2012 as the leading cause of overdose death.
• Yesterday I told you about how the Cincinnati Enquirer swapped out a headline on a news article about a murder in OTR while taking criticism for its handling of that story. Several high-profile Cincinnatians have since called out the Enquirer for coverage they call sensationalist. You can read more about that, and CityBeat editor Danny Cross’ analysis, here.
• We all have needs. I maybe need to get around to buying a car eventually. Cincinnati needs better public transit. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other top officials need $9.6 million worth of small aircraft to hop around the state in. The state has purchased two Beechcraft airplanes for officials to use on state business. State officials say the planes are needed replacements for older aircraft with rising maintenance costs. One of the shiny new planes holds nine passengers, the other six, and in case you’re wondering, yes, they do have all the necessary modern avionics equipment on board, including an entertainment center and the oh-so-vital wine bottle chillers because god knows you can’t drink room-temperature white wine while you’re floating somewhere above Youngstown on official state business.
• Speaking of Kasich, his profile is rising as he continues to kinda sorta run for president. I read this pretty long Atlantic article about him yesterday. The piece literally calls him a jerk and make him sound a little like he has attention deficit disorder. But the in-depth Atlantic piece also talks about his strengths, including his energy and his sometimes-gruff but sometimes-endearing plainspoken ways. Some other magazines and national publications have taken a closer look at Kasich over the past week or so, including conservative mag the National Review, which thinks his bid is a no-go. I’d tell you more about their article, but talking about the National Review makes my soul hurt so let’s just stop there, shall we?
• Speaking of the 2016 presidential race, Cincinnati’s uh, favorite (?) son Larry Flynt has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Good thing for Clinton? Bad thing for Clinton? Unclear. Flynt says he’s mostly behind Clinton because she has the best chance of winning and she’ll be able to appoint two or three Supreme Court justices, bringing the nation’s highest court under a decidedly liberal sway. Flynt was an ardent supporter of Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton. He doesn’t have any illusions that Hillary is about to take him on the campaign trail with her, though.
“I’m sure that Hillary doesn’t necessarily approve of everything I do,” he told Bloomberg Politics.
More than 300 gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse today
to protest racial disparities in the justice system and express
solidarity with Baltimore. More than a week of unrest has gripped
that city after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died in police custody there April 18. Gray
sustained severe spinal injuries while riding in a police van, slipped into a coma and died from his injuries.
The Cincinnati rally was the latest of several that have taken place downtown in the last year after the shooting death of unarmed teen Mike Brown by white officer Darren Wilson brought national attention to the issue of racially-charged police-involved deaths.
After the rally, a crowd of more than 100 marched down Central Parkway,
through Over-the-Rhine, and to the Cincinnati Police Department District
1 headquarters on Ezzard Charles Drive. From there, a smaller group of
about 40 took a zig-zagging route past City Hall and Fountain Square.
That group had a couple tense standoffs with police at the eastern end
of Fifth Street near a highway onramp and in front of the Horseshoe
Casino. All told, the protest lasted about four hours, winding down
about 10 pm.
The protests were peaceful and did not result in any arrests, police said, though one protester was briefly detained on Vine Street and issued a citation for jaywalking.
Activist group Black Lives Matter Cincinnati organized the rally. Among
attendees were long-time activist Iris Roley, who was a key participant
in forging Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement which arose from civil
unrest here14 years ago. That unrest was sparked by the 2001 shooting
death of unarmed black man Timothy Thomas, the 16th person of color shot
by Cincinnati Police over the course of a few years. Also in attendance
were State Senator Cecil Thomas, police officer and Over-the-Rhine
transit activist Derek Bauman, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell
and others active in the community.
Many attendees said they were concerned about wider disparities in the justice system beyond police actions.
“We’re to remember,” said co-organizer Rashida
Manuel. “We’re here to remember Freddie Gray. We’re here to remember
Maya Hall, the black trans woman who was killed in Baltimore last month.
We’re here to remember Mike Brown, we’re here to remember John
Crawford, and so many others I can’t possibly name. We’re here to
remember Timothy Thomas. We’re here because we’re tired.”
Documentaries about photographers have the difficulty of making still photographs hold our interest in a medium that is about — obviously — moving pictures. The contemplation and meditation that successful still photographs elicit tend to get lost when your eyes and brain are trying to keep up with something traveling at 35 frames per second. It's like trying to admire an elegant home from a speeding train.
A recent (and very good) film about a photographer, Finding Vivian Maier, solved that problem by turning the story of why she was so overlooked in her lifetime into a mystery.
The current film The Salt of the Earth, about the questing, humanistic Brazilian-born photographer Sebastiao Salgado and directed by Wim Wenders with Salgado's son, Juliano, may be the best documentary about a photographer ever.
Salgado deserves it, too — his years-long, book-length projects chronicling the hardships humans endure in their search for work (Workers) and safety from war and famine (Migrations), as well as his elegiac images of the earth itself (Genesis), mark him as one of history's most important photographers. And he's still active at age 71.
Mariemont Theatre has just announced the film will be held over for a second week, starting tomorrow (Friday).
The Salt of the Earth accomplishes its profundity by beautifully melding the best traits of film — tracking shots, close-ups, essayist commentary and interviews presented as monologues, color cinematography, music — with deep feeling for the subject and his work. Wenders presents Salgado's monumental black-and-white photographs superbly. He slowly shifts between them and his own filmmaking. It deserved the recent Academy Award nomination it received.
Wenders is the German director of some classic narrative films (Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas) who, with his documentaries Pina and Buena Vista Social Club, showed he could find inventive and life-affirming ways to depict on film the work of other artists he respects.
Wenders in The Salt of the Earth can be solemn when it's called for — Salgado's work at times makes you wonder if the human race is doomed to cruelty to hardship. But it's also optimistic, as when chronicling how Salgado has restored to health his parched, dying family farm in Brazil.
We're fortunate that the Mariemont has elected to hold this film for a second week. I saw it last Monday and the crowd was small, so many of its intended audience might not yet be aware of it. It really deserves to be seen on a big screen. and it's rewarding for all those who take film and photography seriously.
Just before we turned the corner from 12th onto Main, gunshots popped off behind us. We turned around and saw some dude running south on Sycamore. We bolted onto Main and jumped into a storefront doorway until things calmed down, called the police and then continued on our way. I followed up and found out that the man we saw running away neither died nor killed anyone.
It was a scene that has grown less common in recent years in the area, as the push of development has moved much of the drug dealing and related violence outward into other neighborhoods. In January WCPO reported that violent crime in OTR was down 74 percent since 2004, in part due to development and evolving policing tactics.
Such facts didn't deter The Enquirer from freaking the hell out yesterday when one of its reporters witnessed a shooting in front of a bunch of popular OTR restaurants. Reporter Emilie Eaton was on the same block when 30-year-old Gregory Douglas was shot around 9 a.m. near Vine and Mercer streets, fled a short distance then collapsed and died. Police today issued a warrant for the arrest of Darnell Higgins for the murder.
It's been a sad day for a lot of people: families and friends of the deceased and the accused; those who witnessed such violence up close.
It’s also a sad day to consider the
state of local media, considering the response we've seen so far to The Enquirer's collection of coverage. It started with the reporter's first-person account of witnessing the shooting. Then came a news story questioning the neighborhood's safety, for some reason quoting the Hamilton County Republican chairman and a lone neighborhood resident saying he didn't feel safe these days. Soon afterward, a more formed version of the story was updated online — this time the headline tried to cleverly play on the word "dead" (“Gunfire in OTR brings
morning to a dead stop”). The headline was later changed, “After fatal shooting, no easy answer in OTR," though the insensitive quip lives on in the story's URL.
decision to frame Douglas’ death as a question of whether or not OTR is
safe for those of us unaccustomed to witnessing violence is generating the type of
online debate (/clicks) the "newsroom of the future" was meant to induce. It has also been heavily criticized.
Here’s former Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken on Facebook:
Here’s Derek Bauman, an OTR and mass transit advocate/suburban police officer, who wondered on Twitter why the first source in an early version of the “Is OTR safe yet” story quoted the county GOP chair before anyone else. Alex Triantafilou’s take? “There is more work to be done to make our city as safe as the suburbs."
Eaton's first-person story was published just hours after the shooting occurred. "A stray bullet could have easily missed the victim and hit me," she wrote. "The gunman could have come around the corner for me. I'm lucky to be writing this story right now."
The story elicited strong response from readers, but perhaps not the kind the Enquirer was picturing. About 20 wrote comments questioning the appropriateness of the piece, many along the lines of this:
As writers molded dispatches from the
scene into The Enquirer’s larger
collection of reporting on the incident, debate continued on social
media. Enquirer writer John Faherty took to the comment section of Eaton's article to defend her.
Those of us in the media don’t enjoy criticizing each others' work, and we realize most people in the industry are dedicated and passionate. We respect colleagues at other media companies, especially when their dedication to the craft is evident.
Eaton clearly had a shitty morning. Her decision to immediately get back to doing her job is admirable.
Unfortunately, the collection of work to which she contributed was misguided, made worse by the classlessness with which Enquirer editors showed along the way. Publishing right-wing digs at inner-city neighborhoods has been a longstanding tradition at The Enquirer. Using a play on the word "dead" in a news story about a murder is the type of move that would get a college newspaper in trouble. It shouldn't be OK at any self-respecting daily.
There's no way to tell which “content coach” might have shaped yesterday’s coverage. Any number of web editors could have written such an offensive headline — the newsroom of the future isn't set up to catch these things. Newsroom morale has been known to be low at Gannett papers across the country, and many of us actually feel bad for the many talented people struggling to produce quality work under such restrictive guidelines.
Ultimately, reporting that might have culminated in an articulation of how opposite worlds intertwine in front of our eyes every day instead became a question of whether it's smart to eat and shop near poor people.
Later versions of the story noted that the lunch rush on Vine Street continued as usual just hours later, suggesting that maybe the question of whether or not Vine Street is safe had already been answered.
"I'm not worried about it," said Mike Georgitan, a general manager at Pontiac BBQ on Vine Street. "It might affect lunch today – maybe," he shrugged. "But then it will pick back up."A person is dead, and the cycle of poverty, crime, drugs and violence that gripped Over-the-Rhine long before a Japanese gastropub opened at 15th and Vine is still occurring all over this city. The Enquirer would be wise to demonstrate an understanding of these forces rather than following the path of least resistance to Internet debate.
James Franco is coming to Cincinnati two shoot not one but two films this May. The actor/filmmaker, who will always be Daniel Desario to me, will be working on two movies simultaneously: Goat, a frat hazing film based on the memoir King Kelly by Brad Land, and The Long Home, about bootlegger Dallas Harden, adapted from William Gay’s novel of the same name. Franco is on to produce Goat, which stars Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer; he’ll produce and direct The Long Home. The latter film’s cast has not been announced yet, but a recent Facebook post by Franco mentioned the movie along with Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games series, Union, Ky., native), Timothy Hutton (a bunch of TV dramas I've never seen + Ordinary People), Keegan Allen (not to be confused with Andrew Keegan), Ashley Green (all the Twilights), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Jim Parrack (True Blood) and Scott Haze (lots o' Franco flicks). Let’s ponder while looking at a topless Franco:
In a Salon article about HBO's Silicon Valley that called out the show’s “woman problem,” the writer mistakenly reported that Silicon’s Kumail Nanjiani is the same person as Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar. OOF.
The Full House sequel show you’ve been wishing for is finally coming, and the cherry on top of this nostalgic cake has to be the fact that Kimmy Gibbler will return! Fuller House is set to premiere on Netflix sometime next year and will focus on D.J. (Candace Cameron-Bure), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and Kimmy (Andrea Barber). Adult D.J. is a vet, she has two boys and is pregnant with another, and the show picks up with her being recently widowed (R.I.P. Steve?!). Aspiring musician Stephanie moves in along with single mom Kimmy and her teenage daughter. It sounds like a pretty fucked up plot until you realize it is exactly the same as the original, but with ladies. Remake ALL THE THINGS with ALL THE LADIES!
John Stamos is producing and will pop in from time to time as Uncle Jesse, but the rest of the original cast is still up in the air. This could be a big pile of awful, but one thing gives me hope: Stephanie is still pursuing her entertaining dreams!
A masked hero in the UK is
going around spray painting penises around potholes to try to get them filled
faster. Best part: they’re going by the name Wanksy.
Inside Amy Schumer’s third season just started, and already there have been some epic musical moments. She pays tribute to the It Girl of body parts, the butt — watch out, eyebrows are comin’ for that title — in “Milk Milk Lemonade” and gives One Direction a realistic makeover with “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup.”
David Ayer revealed Jared
Leto’s Joker look for the upcoming Suicide
Squad movie. Let the mockery begin!
Cecily Strong hosted “nerd prom,” which is the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and not Comic-Con. See the SNL star’s full speech here.
Obama addressed the crowd beforehand and, thankfully, Luther the anger translator was on hand.
Apparently any time more than two stars of a past TV show/movie are in the same room, that constitutes a reunion. So I guess there was a Lizzie McGuire “reunion” with Hilary Duff, Lalaine (Miranda) and Jake Thomas (Lizzie’s little brother whose name I can’t remember and won’t look up). Considering Gordo, Lenny and animated Lizzie weren’t there, this is truly a weak reunion. Sorry. Read more in this TIME article (seriously).
If you need a massive dose of Beyoncé in a short amount of time: