Back in January at Music Hall, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, under the direction of conductor John Morris Russell, presented its unique “American Originals” concerts. During the performances, the orchestra collaborated with several local and national Folk/Americana artists to perform and celebrate the music of Stephen Foster and other early songs that are the foundation of the “Great American Songbook.”
Read CityBeat’s cover story on the project here.
Rosanne Cash, Aoife O’Donovan (who recently returned to join the Pops for its Fourth of July concert at Riverbend; read our interview with her here), Dom Flemons (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Joe Henry joined Cincinnati area artists Over the Rhine's Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, members of the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and others to perform specially arranged versions of Foster compositions like “O! Susannah,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Camptown Races” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” as well as traditional numbers like “Red River Valley,” “Kumbaya” and “Amazing Grace.”
A live recording of the concert featuring 17 songs will be released on Friday, Sept. 11. (You can pre-order it now here from Amazon.)
Here is the detailed track listing for the American Originals release (via cincinnatisymphony.org):
1) “O’ Susannah” (written by Foster, arranged by Chris Walden and with Joe Henry on vocals)
2) “Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair” (written by Foster, arranged by Rob Mounsey and with Aoife O’Donovan and Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine on vocals)
3) “My Old Kentucky Home” (written by Stephen Foster, arranged by Rebecca Pellett and featuring Rosanne Cash on vocals)
4) “Amazing Grace” (traditional, arranged by Pellett and featuring Aoife O’Donovan and the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars)
5) “Rolling River: Sketches On Shenandoah” (composed by Peter Boyer)
6) “Why, No One To Love?” (written by Foster, arranged by Pellett and featuring Over the Rhine’s Bergquist on vocals and her OTR partner Linford Detweiler on Rhodes keyboard)
7) “Old Folks At Home” (by Foster, arranged by Timothy Berens and featuring Dom Flemons on vocals and harmonica, Timothy Berens on banjo and Paul Patterson on fiddle)
8) “Kumbaya” (traditional, arranged by Berens and featuring Timothy Lees, Kathryn Woolley, Gabriel Pegis and Scott Mozlin on violins and Richard Jensen on djembe
9) “Slumber My Darling” (by Foster, arranged by Chris Walden and featuring O’Donovan on vocals and guitar)
10) “Aura Lee” (by Foster, arranged by Pellett and with Henry and Ed Cunningham on vocals)
11) “Foster's Folly” (by Foster, arranged by Berens)
12) “Ring, Ring The Banjo” (by Foster, arranged by Walden and featuring Flemons on banjo and bones
and Cunningham on fiddle)
13) “Red River Valley” (traditional, arranged by Berens and featuring the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars)
14) “The Battle Cry Of Freedom” (composed by George Frederick Root and arranged by Berens)
15) “Beautiful Dreamer” (by Foster, arranged by Mounsey with Cash on vocals)
16) “Hard Times Come Again No More” (by Foster, arranged by Berens and featuring Over the Rhine, with Bergquist on vocals and Detweiler on guitar)
17) “Camptown Races” (by Foster, arranged by Mounsey and featuring the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars, as well as Cash, Flemons, Henry, O’Donovan and Over the Rhine on vocals)
ONSTAGE: CLYBOURNE PARKCommunity theaters often produce tried-and-true shows that keep people laughing and happy. But Sunset Players isn’t afraid to make its audiences think, and that’s what will be happening over the next two weeks with a production of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning script, set in a Chicago neighborhood in 1959 and 2009. In the first act, white community leaders try to prevent the sale of a home to a black family. In Act II, the same house is the focus as the African-American neighborhood struggles to hold its own against redevelopment. It’s an ambitious show that’s important in today’s world. Through July 25. $12-$14. The Arts at Dunham Center, 1945 Dunham Way, Western Hills, 513-588-4988, sunsetplayers.org.
EVENT: DOUBLE TALKLittle-known fact: Northern Kentucky is home to the Vent Haven Museum, the world’s only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism. And Sunday marks their annual fundraiser show, Double Talk, a fun and raucous afternoon of comedy, audience participation and ventriloquist dolls (don’t call them puppets). Featuring performances from around the country, including the No. 1 female ventriloquist in the U.S., Lynn Trefzger; young up-and-comer Peter Dzubay from Connecticut; and Tristate favorite Denny Baker. 3 p.m. Sunday. $20 advance; $25 door. Notre Dame Academy Performing Arts Center, 1699 Hilton Drive, Park Hills, Ky. ventshow.com.
Good morning all. Here’s your news today.
Well, Toby Keith says his favorite bar has winners and losers, but it seems like Mr. Keith himself is on the losing end lately. The country star’s Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill location at The Banks was shuttered suddenly yesterday, reportedly due to being a year behind on its rent. That’s the fifth Toby Keith’s location to close recently; the chain’s Minneapolis, Houston, Mesa, Ariz. and Folsom, CA locations have also shut down. The bar is the fourth closure at Cincinnati’s highly-touted riverfront development, which has taken more than a decade to materialize. Last year, soul food restaurant Mahogany’s closed there with much controversy and original tenant Johnny Rockets has also pulled out of the development. Representatives with Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., which handles leasing for the development, say they’re confident another tenant will fill the space in short order. Mahogany’s location is now filled with Santo Graal, while the Johnny Rocket’s location has yet to be filled.
• If you’re holding your breath that some how, some way, a new morgue and crime lab could still come to the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital, well, you can breathe now because it ain't gonna happen. Crews began tearing down the building yesterday. The hospital group had made efforts to donate the building to Hamilton County after closing the location in 2013. But after paying more than $1 million in upkeep costs for the building, Republican Hamilton County commissioners balked at the cost of retrofitting the facility to house the county’s critically-overcrowded crime lab, morgue and other county offices. Political considerations also played a part — Democrats, including commissioner Todd Portune, were opposed to a proposal that would have put the county’s board of elections at the location, saying it was too far removed from the neighborhoods were many low-income, non-driving voters lived. Mercy will hold onto the vacant land the hospital has occupied for now until it finds a suitable buyer.
• Breaking news: Donald Trump still doesn’t like Macy’s. After the GOP presidential nomination contender last month made some pretty racist comments about Mexicans, equating immigrants to rapists and murderers, Macy’s ceased carrying his line of paisley-infected menswear. Trump at the time said Macy’s didn’t account for much of his sales anyway, and that he wanted to pull out from the store. But that wasn’t enough, apparently. Trump has continued to dump on the Cincinnati-based retailer, saying they “suck and are bad for America.” Trump also revealed he was friends with Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren and felt personally betrayed by the department store’s decision. But wait, didn’t Trump say he decided to leave? Welcome to the wacky world of the Donald, who is currently one of the top-polling picks for the GOP presidential nomination. Pop up some popcorn because I could sit back and watch this feud between the megalomaniacal real estate tycoon and big old corporate entity all day. It’s like Godzilla vs. Mothra, only Godzilla had better hair than Trump does.
• I told you yesterday about the recent controversy over some low-scoring online charter schools left out of a report on the effectiveness of Ohio’s charter school authorization groups, a move that seems to have broken Ohio law. Republican State Auditor Dave Yost has since said he’s “concerned” about that omission and is examining the situation, but is not yet launching an official investigation. The groups measured in the study oversee charter schools across the state. The Ohio Department of Education’s Director of Quality School Choice and Funding David J. Hansen is responsible for the oversight, which left a number of online charter schools with “F” grades on state performance rankings out of a consideration of charter school performance. Hansen, incidentally, used to helm a pro-charter conservative education think tank called Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. He’s also the husband of Kasich’s presidential campaign manager, Beth Hansen. It’s unclear when or if an official state investigation into the omission will begin.
• A new law signed yesterday by Gov. John Kasich takes some restrictions off the drug naloxone, allowing the medicine to be more quickly and easily administered to heroin overdose victims. The new rules allow doctors to give the drug to individuals who can administer it to friends or family having an overdose. It also relaxes rules on pharmacies, who can now distribute it without a prescription in certain cases.
• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced he will investigate Ohio Planned Parenthood clinics after a video came to light earlier this week allegedly showing a high-level member of that organization talking about organs from aborted fetuses. A California-based conservative group says it posed as organ buyers and that the official, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, is shown discussing the sale of organs from fetuses. That’s illegal, though not-for-profit donation of organs with a woman’s permission is allowed in many states.. Planned Parenthood says that’s exactly what is going on in the video. Dr. Nucatola is heard at one point in the video saying, “nobody should be selling tissue. That’s just not the goal here.” Republican lawmakers in D.C. and a number of states have jumped on the video, calling it disgusting and demanding all public funding be stripped from Planned Parenthood. Despite denials of wrongdoing, Planned Parenthood did apologize for Nucatola’s tone and statements in the video, saying they didn’t reflect the organization’s goal of providing compassionate care. The group says Nucatola has been ‘reprimanded” for her statements. Though the video wasn’t filmed in Ohio, DeWine has vowed to investigate Planned Parenthood in the state to make sure they’re following all laws related to handling of fetal tissue.
That’s it for me today. Tweet at me or e-mail with suggestions for the best summer swimming spots. It’s getting hot out there.
Every year, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati brings together a
group of young professionals who spend a season at the Over-the-Rhine
theater understudying roles, working backstage, helping build sets and
run lights and sound — learning the ins and outs of professional
theater. Many of them stick around town continuing their lives in the
theater. Several of them will come together at
Washington Park on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. for a free performance of Still Life with Iris,
a play by Steven Dietz. The 1996 script is an adventure about a little
girl’s search for the simplest of things: home. She lives with her mom
on a magical island where by night workers make things seen in the world
by day. The rulers are determined to have the best of everything on
their island, so they kidnap Iris and bring her to be their daughter,
leaving her with no memory of her home or family. She joins with friends
she meets on her journey as she embarks on a quest to return home. The
family-friendly play, written in 1998, was the first to receive the
Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays Award. The cast is
comprised entirely of former ETC interns, including: Jared D. Doren
(1996), Sara Mackie and Burgess Byrd (2000), Daniel Winters (2005), Lisa
DeRoberts (2011), Ben Raanan and Jared Earland (2014), and Molly Israel
and Patrick Phillips (2015).
The summer theater company, Stone on a Rock, is back for the second production of its second season with a new version of Aristophanes’ ancient comedy Lysistrata. The company focuses on productions that are “short, sweet and cheap.” This one is a time-tested farce about the women of Greece giving their husbands an ultimatum: Stop waging war or no more sex. Maybe they can next bring their strategy to bear on Greece’s current financial crisis? Performances are at Simple Space, 16 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine. Tickets ($10) can be purchased at the door.
Another summer company is presenting the 1998 Tony Award-winning musical Ragtime at Highlands High School’s Performing Arts Center (2400 Memorial Parkway in Ft. Thomas). The Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre (C.A.S.T.) is led by theatre instructor Jason Burgess; his cast includes students from Anderson, Walnut Hills, Newport Central Catholic, Cincinnati Country Day, Seven Hills, Highlands, Scott High Schools and more. Ragtime is a remarkable show with great music (composed by Stephen Flaherty, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music). Set at the dawn of the 20th century, it’s a time of change and possibility in the volatile melting pot New York City. The show tells three interwoven stories — a stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring young Harlem musician — united by courage, compassion and belief in the promise of the future. It’s being presented for two weekends, opening tonight and continuing through a matinee on July 26. Tickets ($10) can be reserved at http://www.showtix4u.com. (Remaining unreserved seats may be purchased at the door one hour prior to each performance.)
Queen City Flash, Cincinnati’s flash-mob theater company, is up to the third installment of its four-part play cycle of Mark Twain’s tales of Tom Sawyer. This part, The Complete Tom: 3. Abroad, is performed by three actors and an array of puppets. For this episode, the characters of Tom, Huck Finn and Jim the runaway slave are on a trans-Atlantic voyage in a Jules Verne-like airship. Free performances begin at 8 p.m. but the outdoor locations remain secret until 4 p.m. when an email is sent to ticket holders with a map and parking instructions. (The fourth installment is set to happen in August.) Tickets — no charge — can be reserved at http://www.QueenCityFlash.com
You can stay at home on Saturday evening, if you prefer, and enjoy a radio theater production of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac by LA Theatre Works, broadcast on WVXU-FM 91.7 at 8 p.m. The story of the brash 17th-century soldier-poet with an oversized nose is also a tale of love and longing. The audio production features Hamish Linklater, Jason Ritter, Devon Sovari and Gregory Itzin. This is your chance to get prepared for Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s season opening production (Sept. 11-Oct. 13).
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Good morning Cincy. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
The city of Cincinnati is instituting new measures to vet minority-owned businesses in the wake of a federal investigation of Evans Landscaping, which is suspected of minority hiring fraud. Evans subcontracted to minority-owned Ergon Site Construction LLC for $1.9 million in demolition contracts with the city and more than $8 million in state contracts meant for minority-owned businesses. Lawsuits between the two companies have drawn scrutiny as to whether Evans was using Ergon as a “front” company to funnel contracts meant for minority-owned businesses to Evans. Ergon was formed in 2010 by an Evans IT consultant. Now, the city says it will better scrutinize the minority contracts it awards to make sure the minority-owned businesses it is awarding contracts to aren’t just fronts for larger companies.
• Kokosing Construction Company has been fined for its role in the fatal overpass collapse near I-75 that took the life of worker Brandon Carl in January. The out-of-service overpass was being demolished when it collapsed, killing Carl. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigated that accident and found that Kokosing didn’t do enough to inspect the overpass before placing heavy machinery on it that it could not support. OSHA has suggested $14,000 in fines against the company, which Kokosing has agreed to pay. The company will also utilize third-party firms to perform inspections over the next five years as part of the deal with OSHA.
• We’ve officially moved beyond adult kickball leagues as the vanguard of urban young professional weirdness. Adults on bigwheels are coming to Pendleton, the neighborhood just north of the Horseshoe Casino and just east of Over-the-Rhine. An event called Danger Wheel will take place this Saturday and involves 45 big wheel teams racing down the neighborhood’s streets. Each team paid $100 to be in the race, money that will be used to put up historical markers and planters around the neighborhood. Local brews, food trucks and music will also be on site for spectators. Question: Are the bigwheels standardized, or like, can someone come in with a souped-up super big wheel that runs on nitrous oxide and just take the whole thing?
• City Hall has a new assistant city manager, and unlike other recent big hires, he’s been promoted from within. John Juech is currently a senior policy advisor for City Manager Harry Black. Before that, he managed Vice Mayor David Mann’s office. The city’s other assistant city manager, Sheila Hill-Christian, is also new. She started in May. The duo replace outgoing Assistant City Manager Scott Stiles, who is departing to become city manager of Garden Grove, California, and Bill Moller, who departed his role for a job with the Uptown Consortium.
• Lawmakers filed a bipartisan bill in the Ohio House today that would abolish Ohio’s death penalty and replace it with a life without parole sentence. Lakewood Democrat Rep. Nickle Antonio and Miamisburg Republican Niraj Antani sponsored the bill. They argue high cost, moral problems and difficulty obtaining execution drugs are reasons why Ohio should stop executing inmates. This is the third time Antonio has filed the bill, and it’s unclear if it has better prospects among other lawmakers this time around. Antani says it’s an issue of limiting big government. “To me there can be no bigger government with no bigger power than the right to execute its own citizens," he said. "Even the chance that an innocent individual can be put to death is reason enough to repeal that."
• Marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio received a final clearance to circulate petitions for a proposed law that would expunge certain drug convictions. The proposal, which needs about 92,000 signatures from Ohioans to come before the state legislature, would be a companion piece to the group’s marijuana legalization constitutional amendment, for which the group has collected more than 700,000 signatures across the state. Should at least 300,000 of those signatures prove valid, ResponsibleOhio’s proposal will go onto the November ballot. The group is proposing legalizing marijuana for anyone 21 and over but limiting commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites around the state controlled by the group’s investors. Should ResponsibleOhio get enough signatures for its companion expungement law, it will go before lawmakers next year.
• A group closely allied with Gov. John Kasich’s campaign has hired Matt David, a leader of a prominent pro-gay GOP group. David will work for New Day for America, a nonprofit supporting Kasich’s bid for president. In the past, David occupied a leadership role with Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, a pro-marriage equality group. Kasich has opposed gay marriage rights, but David’s hire could mean Kasich will attempt to make inroads into the LGBT community. Not that New Day for America’s new hire is a liberal: David worked on George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004 and John McCain’s presidential run in 2008. The staffing decision comes as Kasich gears up for his official campaign launch next week.
The All-Star Game brought thousands of people to Cincinnati this past week — most importantly, celebz! Snoop Dogg, Josh Hutcherson, Ciara and tons more famous types stopped by the city, so it only made sense that hometown Indie Pop crew Walk the Moon joined in on the fun. Watch them love on Cincy:
Walk the Moon has far surpassed local band status, so much so that their tunes are being co-opted for something more sinister than an MLB All-Star Game — pregnancy announcements. This is the year 2015 and people are horrible about shoving every life event down the collective throat of everyone on the Internet, but this really might be the worst one yet. #birthcontrolTrue Detective’s second season has reached its midpoint (yes, already) and that shit can still be hard to follow. At a certain point, all the disheveled men and highway shots and rail project talks just start to blur together. We Get the World We Deserve (a reference to Season One) is a handy little blog with graphic depictions of TD characters and plot points. If that doesn’t help, at least there’s a lot less people to keep track of after last week’s episode…
Big ups to A.V. Club for pointing out that Velcoro’s partner/sloppy detective Teague Dixon is also Warren from There’s Something About Mary. Show off that range, W. Earl Brown!
Amy Schumer’s first major film opens this week, in case you haven’t noticed the comedian's takeover of all media over the past few months. Let’s be clear: Amy Schumer is bae. She’s smart, funny and talented. I love her Comedy Central show and just her in general as a human (in my mind). But if we don’ back off on some of the Amymania, girl is gonna get thrown out to the curb like Lena Dunham. Attention, world: it’s OK to like more than one funny, outspoken non-stick figure at one time!
Anyway, here’s an interview with Schumer with Jon Hamm stepping in as her Trainwreck co-star Bill Hader.
The Comic-Con to end all comic-cons returned to San Diego for the 45th year last weekend, and with it came a treasure trove of celebrity panels, exclusive trailers and epic costumes. What used to be a fest devoted to comic books and sci-fi/fantasy movies has expanded into an overall celebration of all pop culture (Last Man on Earth, Food Network and Gumby all had a presence at this year’s event.)
Peep some of the best
and find trailers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, The
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The Walking Dead and new companion series Fear
the Walking Dead and more here.
Fans of zombie media and those of boy bands have to be some of the most enthusiastic in all of fandom. So, naturally, a zombie movie starring former boy banders would be a huge success, right? That’s what Syfy is banking on with its upcoming flick, Dead 7. The Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter wrote, directed and will star (!!!) in the movie alongside bandmate A.J. McLean and *NSYNC’s Joey Fatone. What more could you ever possibly want?
Japp’s, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, Wiseguy Lounge and Newberry Bros Coffee all made The Bourbon Review’s list of the country’s top 75 bourbon bars. Cheers!
Lachey’s Bar, the A&E reality series about…Lachey’s Bar in Over-the-Rhine,
premieres tonight. Tune in at 10:30 p.m. after Wahlburgers and Donnie Loves
Jenny, as part of what is apparently A&E’s Last Grasp at Fame time
block. Read more about what's on TV this week here.
As if Comic-Con trailers weren’t enough, two more just dropped that look great. And by great, I mean Amy Poehler + Tina Fey; Jennifer Lawrence — 'nough said.
Hey hey all. Our big, extended weekend basking in the MLB All-Star Game spotlight is over, and it seems like the city represented well. Our guy won the home run derby, we’ve got columnists expounding on the virtues of Cincinnati chili (and giving shoutouts to CityBeat) and even though the American League won the game, it was still a pretty fun time. Well done. But now it’s done.
The national media, hungover and chili-bloated, are packing up their gear. Snoop Dogg and the other A-listers have all gone home, or, more likely, to the super-exclusive ASG after party on a small island in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, a group of confused tourists is waking up after an all-night bender on a raft in the Ohio River composed entirely of a flotilla of thousands of discarded Red Bull cans and foam fingers. Someone get them out of there. All that means it’s back to the real world in Cincy. Here’s the news.
• Law enforcement and city officials say they’re pleased with how the ASG went down, with no violent incidents reported during the festivities. There was concern in the city after a July 4 incident on Fountain Square resulted in several arrests and an altercation left a man hospitalized, but city officials say the ASG, which drew an estimated 200,000 people to the city, went off without a hitch. The Cincinnati Police Department credits coordination among more than 25 organizations, including the Coast Guard, which helped patrol the Ohio River.
• Speaking of that July 4 incident, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced yesterday that his office would not be seeking hate crime charges against a group of men who allegedly beat 27-year-old Indiana man Christopher McKnight. McKnight is white, and his assailants were black. But Deters points out that there is no other evidence suggesting the crime was racially motivated. Deters has said he’ll be seeking felony charges against the four men suspected in the beating, calling them “a bunch of lawless thugs.” A video showing the altercation presents an ambiguous and incomplete record of the attack: It starts with one man fighting McKnight, followed by a few others jumping in as well while punching and kicking McKnight. At various times, McKnight is on the ground on the defensive, other times seemingly throwing punches, and at one point up moving around and raising his arms in a confrontational manner. Eventually, the action moves off-camera, where McKnight apparently sustained a broken nose, a concussion and wounds requiring stitches.
• The 19-year-old who turfed internationally recognized historic site and sacred Native American earthwork Serpent Mound will face a fine of about $4,000, community service, and a possible essay assignment about the site’s significance. Daniel Coleman Dargavelli hopped a curb and took a joyride over the site, leaving tire tracks along the ancient mound. Park officials say the damage is repairable but that the act showed serious disrespect for the sacred location.
• Did the Ohio Department of Education break the law by leaving out failing scores from online charter schools in an assessment of Ohio charter school performance? It seems so. The department’s charter school oversight director David Hansen admitted he omitted “F” grades for online charters from a report on charter school oversight. That report then showed charter schools and the organizations charged with overseeing them in a much more positive light. Hansen has said he did so because the failures of those schools “masked successes elsewhere” at more successful charters. But the omission is clearly against Ohio law, says State Sen. Peggy Lehner, who grilled Hansen yesterday on the missing data.
• Finally, President Barack Obama is set today to announce a test program designed to bring broadband Internet to more low-income households throughout the country. Obama will announce the initiative in the Choctaw Nation, a Native American community in Oklahoma, which will be one beneficiary of the pilot program. The initiative will also extend broadband access to about 275,000 households in 27 cities around the U.S. The eventual goal, according to the administration, is to extend high-speed internet access to every part of the country. Currently, a large gap exists in internet access for low-income communities. About 95 percent of households with adults with college degrees have access to internet, while only about 43 percent of households without high school diplomas have that access.
Good morning all. It’s news time, and the biggest news is something you probably already know: The Reds’ Todd Frazier won the MLB Home Run Derby last night in an amazing comeback, sending 14 over the fence in the final round of the tournament against Joc Pederson from the L.A. Dodgers. There were tons of fireworks, followed shortly afterward by a thunderstorm. It was that epic. This is only the second time someone has won the Derby on their home field — the Chicago Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg took the trophy at Wrigley Field in 1990. Frazier's victory is a great run-up to the big All-Star Game today.
Anyway, on to other news. The Atlantic yesterday published a big article on Lincoln Heights, the community just north of Cincinnati that was at one time one of the first primarily black self-governing cities in the country. And for a while, things were good there. Factory jobs assured good middle-class incomes and well-kept neighborhoods and schools. Famed poet Nikki Giovanni, musicians the Isley Brothers and other notable folks hailed from the burb. But systemic forces, including the way the city was incorporated by Hamilton County, conspired to hobble the community, and today it’s a struggling suburb with high poverty, no police force and crumbling schools. I’ve pitched this article to mags before and I’m a little bummed someone beat me to it, but I’m glad it’s being covered.
• Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. today on the July 4 unrest at Fountain Square. Specifically, Deters is expected to address possible hate crime charges against three men accused of beating up Indiana native Christopher McKnight. Three men accused of the crime, who police arrested this week, are black. McKnight is white.
There has been some confusion about whether police believe the incident was racially motivated. An initial report by a responding officer called the altercation “anti-white” though police backpedaled on that assertion the next day. However, they reversed course again late last week when Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell asked the prosecutor’s office to pursue the hate crime charges. Video of part of the fight taken from a Metro bus doesn’t clear up the situation: It shows McKnight struggling with one individual, then shows a few others joining in the fight against him. McKnight is shown on both the defensive and pursuing and throwing punches during the altercation. Later, video shows him getting up and walking back and forth among the crowd with his hands up in an aggressive manner. He then wanders out of frame, where apparently a further fight took place that left him with a concussion and broken nose. It is unclear if police have more evidence that the altercation was racially motivated, or whether Deters will seek the hate crime charges in the case.
• Major hotel company Winegardner and Hammons, Inc, and Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of Cincinnati-based insurance giant Western & Southern, yesterday received permission from the city’s Historic Conservation Board to go ahead with plans to turn the former Anna Louise Inn near Lytle Park downtown into a luxury hotel and restaurant. That approval comes after a number of aesthetic changes to the plans suggested at a conservation board meeting last month. Eagle purchased the Anna Louise Inn after a protracted battle with Cincinnati Union Bethel, which had run a women’s shelter out of the building for more than a century. CUB had applied for state tax credits to help fund a renovation of the building. Western & Southern challenged the shelter’s receipt of those credits in court, arguing that the area wasn’t zoned for the building’s usage as a shelter. After lengthy court battles, CUB agreed to sell the building. The Anna Louise Inn recently relocated to Mount Auburn.
• Do you remember all those storms yesterday? Crazy stuff. All that wind and rain left more than 70,000 people in the region without power temporarily, according to Duke Energy. As of this morning, some 12,00 are still waiting for the lights to come back on. Some residents in North Avondale, Mount Healthy, North College Hill, Madisonville, Winton Woods, Fairfield and many other neighborhoods and suburbs in Ohio and Northern Kentucky remain without electricity. Some might have to wait days to have their power restored.
• GOP presidential politics in Ohio makes for some awkward situations, right? U.S. Sen. Rob Portman knows this all too well right now. Ohio’s Republican senator is currently polling behind his likely Democratic challenger, former governor Ted Strickland, in his battle for re-election in 2016. He needs a bit of help from his party, and, luckily, there’s a bright spot. Ohio will be a total political circus next year as both parties focus in on our state for the presidential election. That could play well for Portman, especially if Ohio Gov. John Kasich becomes the nominee.
Kasich’s presidential run would rally Republican voters around the state, an excitement that is almost sure to travel down-ballot and give Portman much-needed conservative votes. The only snag? Portman can’t really very wisely endorse Kasich. Portman has big ties to another GOP presidential hopeful, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has a much better chance of winning his party’s nomination at this point in the game. Portman needs Kasich, but he also doesn’t want to gamble on a long-shot candidate or burn his bridges with Bush. What’s a guy to do? Well, just stay quiet on the whole matter, it seems. Portman’s not endorsing anyone in the race. That’s tough luck for Kasich, who is having a bit of a hard time grabbing endorsements from some GOP bigwigs in Ohio, including Portman, Speaker of the House John Boehner and outspoken tea party U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. U.S. Rep Steve Chabot, who represents Westwood, is also staying out of the primary endorsement game but puts Kasich’s chances among “the top five or six” GOP presidential nod hopefuls. Ouch.
Hey all! Was your All Star Game weekend rad? I spent the better part of mine far from the mass of ASG-related concerts and VIP invite-only parties, which are weird and a little like hosting a slightly unhip out-of-town guest who throws a party at your house for crusty old celebs on the other side of cultural relevancy (seriously, when was the last time you listened to a new Snoop Dogg track?) only you’re not invited. I’ll take Brighton or the Comet basement any day, though I hope if you hit up downtown you had a great time and got some autographs and free swag for your trouble.
Speaking of the ASG: If you’re trying to get into the actual game tomorrow and didn’t get your tickets a long time ago, it’ll cost ya now. Third-party tickets are running north of $800. That’s 100 $8 beers (is that the cost of a beer at the park? I'm sure it's something like that, right?) or a whole bunch of ballpark cheese coneys, just in case you’re keeping track.
• On to real news. About 30 protesters gathered with Erica Hicks-Woods and Rodriquis Woods, the parents of QuanDavier Hicks, outside Cincinnati Police Department District 1 headquarters in the West End Friday afternoon. Hicks’ parents drove from Atlanta for the rally and to ask questions of Cincinnati police about their son’s death. CPD officer Doris Scott shot the younger Hicks on a second-story stairwell near his Northside apartment after Hicks pointed a rifle at Scott and her partner, according to police. But Hicks-Woods says that version of events doesn’t add up to her, and she’s seeking more information. Hicks-Woods says police have barely spoken to her since the incident and that she’s been brushed off by the case’s lead investigator, who had promised her a meeting that day that was later cancelled. After rallying at the CPD station, Hicks-Woods spoke with Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, who promised a longer meeting over the weekend. She says she was also able to claim some of her son’s belongs which had previously been held, including a cellphone and a ring. An investigation into Hicks’ death is ongoing. CityBeat has requested all available public documents on the incident and will update the story as it unfolds.
• Authorities have arrested three men in connection with a beating that took place on Fountain Square July 4. Indiana resident Christopher McKnight was kicked and punched by a group of men during a period of unrest on the square. A video of the earlier portion of the incident shows McKnight wrestling against one man, then getting into a larger tussle with a few others before getting up, putting one of his shoes back on and walking back and forth in a crowd and raising his arms in an aggressive manner. Later, the altercation apparently continued, and McKnight sustained a concussion and other injuries requiring stitches. McKnight is white, and his assailants are black, which has led to suspicion that the attack was racially motivated. The responding officer on the scene initially described the attack as “anti-white” in police reports. CPD officials first disputed that assertion, but then said the incident may indeed have been a hate-crime. So far, police haven’t presented evidence or witness accounts supporting or disproving the hate crime accusation. Arrest documents for Raeshaun Hand, Antonio Tremble and Steven Montgomery, who were apprehended in connection with the attack, don’t show any indication they are charged with hate crimes at this point. The three face felonious assault charges. Police are looking for a fourth man suspected of participating in the incident as well.
• Here’s police item number three: Documents show the city administration offered CPD Chief Jeffrey Blackwell a year’s salary, or $136,000, a year extension of his health benefits, a $5,000 lump-sum payment and other concessions if he chose to leave the department. In return, Blackwell would have agreed not to sue the city, and both Blackwell and the city would have agreed not to make disparaging comments about each other to the media. Blackwell’s hypothetical departure made news earlier this summer when it was revealed the city had drawn up his walking papers. Blackwell said he wasn’t interested in leaving. City Manager Harry Black, who had the agreement drawn up, as well as Mayor John Cranley, both said they also wanted Blackwell to stay. The documents detailing the terms of the severance were released by the city at 5 p.m. last Friday, just before the city’s All-Star Game festivities kicked off in earnest. A Cincinnati Business Courier story questioned the timing of that release, saying it follows “a longstanding political and government strategy of pushing inconvenient news out at a time when few are paying attention.” Dang.
• The trial for the man accused of making threats to poison Speaker of the House John Boehner begins today. That charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years in prison. Michael Hoyt, 44, was a bartender at Boehner’s West Chester country club when he made threats to shoot Boehner or put something in his drink because he believed Boehner was the devil. Hoyt has a history of mental illness, and his attorneys have filed documents indicating they’ll be entering an insanity plea in the case.
• As Gov. John Kasich continues his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, questions are being raised about his administration’s transparency. Several groups concerned with government accountability have dinged Kasich’s record on the issue, saying Ohio’s government is much less transparent than it was when he took office. Among big red flags critics point to: the governor’s JobsOhio program, a private entity that runs on state liquor receipts in order to provide incentives to private companies looking to create jobs in Ohio. Fellow Republican Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost fought an unsuccessful battle with Kasich to be able to audit that organization last year. The administration, of course, has pushed back on charges that Kasich’s tenure has seen a more opaque state government. You can read more about Kasich’s record with government transparency in this Columbus Dispatch article.
• Two quick things nationally before I go: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, officially announced his candidacy for president today. Walker is among the frontrunners in the throng of guys running for the GOP nod. He’s a conservative darling who has won a bunch of props from far-righters for busting up bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public employees, among other staunchly conservative policy moves.
• Finally, real fast: Here’s a fascinating article about how bike lanes might be able to increase racial and economic equity in communities. True? A bunch of bike-boosting b.s.? Check out the article and decide for yourself. I think it’s a pretty interesting concept and a good way to expand the conversation about alternate means of transportation and the wider economic implications thereof.
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Deters had harsh words for Tensing, calling his shooting of Dubose “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make” and stating that Tensing should never have been a cop in the first place.
Deters repeatedly told members of the media that he could not speak candidly about his feelings, once calling the traffic stop itself “chicken crap.” Deters said he was shocked by the video and sad for the community.
“I couldn't believe it,” Deters said of the body cam footage. “I just could not believe it.”
Officials played a portion of Tensing’s body cam video at the press conference. The entire video will be made available, Deters said.
Deters’ description of the encounter sharply contradicts Tensing’s story.
"This does not happen in the United States," Deters said. "People don't get shot for a traffic stop. ... He was simply rolling away."
During the press conference, Deters referenced a latter portion of the video showing officers after Tensing shot Dubose discussing what had happened. Deters expressed skepticism toward some of Tensing’s comments after the incident, including his arm being caught in the car. Police will investigate collusion with other officers, Deters said.
“He said he got his arm stuck in the steering wheel,” Deters said. “You just have to watch it.”
“I think he was making an excuse for a purposeful killing of another person,” Deters added. “That’s what I think.”
Tensing’s initial explanation was that Dubose started to drive off during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn over a missing license plate, nearly running him over. Tensing says he was then forced to shoot Dubose in the head because he was being dragged by the car and his life was in danger. Tensing suffered minor injuries when he fell to the ground as Dubose’s car rolled away.
City leaders delayed a scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m. in oder to let the Dubose family speak after Deters.
More than 500 people including Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black and State Sen. Cecil Thomas attended Dubose’s funeral services at Church of the Living God in Avondale yesterday, where the father, musician and entrepreneur was laid to rest. His mother, Audrey Dubose, and other family members remembered him as a kind and loving man who nevertheless had a deep, sometimes complicated independent streak. Dubose was buried at Landmark Memorial Gardens in Evendale.
Until today, the Deters had declined to release video footage, a decision that caused protests. Deters said the protests did not affect his decision to finally release the footage. He lauded the protesters for being peaceful and praised the Dubose family.
City Manager Black had been briefed on the video and called it “a bad situation,” saying, “someone has been died who did not necessarily have to die.” Mayor Cranley met with the Dubose family this morning.
Tensing, 25, hasn’t had major disciplinary actions on his record and his superiors have spoken highly of him. He started at UC last year after serving with the Green Hills Police Department, where he started as a part-time officer in 2011. Tensing has retained Stew Matthews, a Cincinnati attorney, for his defense.
During the press conference, Deters called for the disbanding of the University of Cincinnati police department. He said he has spoken with UC’s president and Cincinnati police about disbanding the unit, replacing it with CPD.
“I just don’t think a university should be in a policing business,” Deters said. “I just don’t. I think CPD should be doing the entire campus.”
Black Lives Matter has scheduled a rally for 6:30 p.m. at the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today. The biggest story is the possible release of a grand jury decision and/or body camera footage in the case of Samuel Dubose.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference about the death of Dubose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing July 19. Deters has confirmed he will release the body camera footage of the shooting today, and may announce the results of a grand jury probe into that shooting. The University of Cincinnati will shut down at 11 a.m. in preparation for Deter’s announcement, suggesting something major will be divulged at the event. City leaders have scheduled a response news conference at 2 p.m.
""The University of Cincinnati will cancel all classes on the Uptown and Medical campuses at 11:00 a.m. today including all classes in session at that time," a UC e-mail to employees and students said. "Offices on these campuses also will close at 11:00 a.m. This decision is made with an abundance of caution in anticipation of today’s announcement of the Hamilton County grand jury’s decision regarding the July 19 officer-involved shooting of Samuel Dubose and the release of the officer’s body camera video. We realize this is a challenging time for our university community."
Questions continue over Dubose’s death. Tensing’s story is that Dubose started to drive off during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn over a missing license plate, nearly running him over. Tensing says he was then forced to shoot Dubose in the head because he was being dragged by the car and his life was in danger. Tensing suffered minor injuries when he fell to the ground as Dubose’s car rolled away. But Dubose’s family and some activists have expressed skepticism about that chain of events.
Yesterday was the funeral for Dubose. More than 500 people including Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black and State Sen Cecil Thomas attended the services at Church of the Living God in Avondale where the father, musician and entrepreneur was laid to rest. His mother Audrey Dubose and other family members remembered him as a kind and loving man who nevertheless had a deep, sometimes complicated independent streak. Some friends knew him as the man who started the Ruthless Riders, a black motorcycle club, and as a talented rapper and producer. The service and its immediate aftermath were at times somber, but devoid of anger. Family, friends and faith leaders called for answers to Dubose’s death, but also stressed they did not want to see violence or unrest in the wake of his killing. Dubose was buried at Landmark Memorial Gardens in Evendale.
Thus far, the prosecutor has declined to release video footage for the time being as his office presents evidence to a grand jury, causing protests. The grand jury could decide to indict Tensing on charges ranging from aggravated murder, which carries a potential death sentence, to negligent homicide, a misdemeanor. City Manager Harry Black has been briefed on that video and has called it “a bad situation,” saying that, “someone has been died who did not necessarily have to die.” Tensing, 25, hasn’t had major disciplinary actions on his record and his superiors have spoken highly of him. He started at UC last year after serving with the Green Hills Police Department, where he started as a part-time officer in 2011. Tensing has retained Stew Matthews, a Cincinnati attorney, for his defense in the event he is indicted.
Most classes and events require registration; classes frequently sell out.
Hey Cincinnati! I'm Natalie, a new staff writer here at CityBeat covering news. You may have already seen a byline or two of mine. Expect to see more! I'm giving Nick a little break today and taking on my first morning round-up of headlines. Here's what's happening.
The family of Samuel Dubose, the man who was shot a week ago by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, has hired the former attorney of controversial neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who shot unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in 2012. Attorney Mark O'Mara has already begun to question officials on the release ofTensing's body camera footage. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has declined to release the footage at this time, saying it could jeopardize a fair trial for the officer. O'Mara says he plans to join the lawsuit filed by the Associated Press, the Enquirer and four local television stations, but could file his own suit as well. Dubose was shot by Tensing on July 19 in Mount Auburn when he was stopped for missing the front license place on his car.
• Cincinnati has a new Assistant Police Chief. Police Captain Eliot Isaac was sworn in to his position Monday afternoon. Isaac has 26 years experience with the Cincinnati Police Department and was chosen unanimously. He was promoted to captain in 2004 and his other previous positions include District 4 commander, criminal investigation commander, internal investigations commander and night chief. He's replacing Paul Humpheries, who left the department in June to head security at Coca Cola Beverages in Florida after nearly 30 years on the force.
• You’ll have to get your home fries and bacon elsewhere for a bit. Over-the-Rhine greasy spoon and 70-year-old community institution Tucker’s was damaged July 27 by a fire and is currently closed. The fire did extensive damage to the Vine Street fixture’s kitchen, and owner Joe Tucker says it’s unclear when it will reopen. Tucker’s parents opened the restaurant in 1946.
• After missing out on a huge political convention, Cincy's U.S. Bank Arena will be getting a huge renovation that could make the city more competitive in vying for major events. Arena owners Nederlander Entertainment and AEG Facilities announced today that the renovation will increase the stadium's capacity by 500 to 18,500. It will also have up to 1,750 club seats — a vast improvement over current numbers — and add a new suite level closer to the stage. The lack of available suites was one of the major reasons that Cincinnati its bid lost the Republican National Convention to Cleveland. In addition to its increased capacity, the arena will also sport a new glass facade and other improvements. Cost for the renovations were not released by the owners.
• Covington is once again struggling to find ways to pay for its police and fire departments. Over the last 10 years, the city has reduced staffing for police and fire, and now some residents are worried there aren't enough to properly look after the city, which has a relatively small population for some of the challenges it struggles with including poverty and higher crime rates. The city's woes are long-running in this regard: Covington has been struggling to fully pay for basic services like law enforcement since the 1970s for a variety of social and economic reasons. Some there say it's time to raise taxes to make sure there are enough cops on the beat, while others have pushed back against proposed tax increases.
Hey all! Hope your weekend was grand. Here’s the news today.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are a number of events going on downtown to commemorate the historic federal law, which works to guarantee equal rights for those with disabilities. A rally and presentations about the history and impact of the law kicked off at City Hall at 9 a.m. this morning, followed by a march to Fountain Square, where ADA-related events will take place through this afternoon. We’ll have more on the events and the ADA’s legacy later.
• On the one-week anniversary of the University of Cincinnati Police shooting death of Samuel Dubose in Mount Auburn, protesters gathered yesterday outside UC’s Public Safety office to demand answers about the incident. More than 100 people showed up for the protest, many of whom later marched down Vine Street to the site of Dubose’s death half a mile away. Driving rain didn’t keep family members, friends and activists from gathering and remembering Dubose, calling for the release of tapes showing the incident, and the removal of UC Police Officer Ray Tensing, who shot Dubose. Officials say Dubose was stopped due to a missing front license plate on his car. His license was suspended at the time, and Tensing ordered Dubose to leave his vehicle. Dubose refused, according to police, and a struggle ensued. Police say Dubose started his car and began driving away, dragging Tensing with him. Tensing then shot Dubose in the head and fell away from the car. Family, friends and police-accountability activists, however, question this version of events. They say footage from Tensing’s body camera and possible security footage from a nearby building could tell a different story. At least some of that footage is now in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has said he will not release it at this time. City Manager Harry Black made comments today about the shooting, saying he's been briefed about the video and that "someone has died who did not necessarily have to die." Black refused to elaborate further on the situation.
• The head of Ohio’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, one of the nation’s oldest and highest-profile marijuana legalization groups, was ousted in June, and he says his removal is due to his support of another legalization effort. Rob Ryan, who lives in Blue Ash, was removed as president of Ohio NORML after he came out in support of ResponsibleOhio, a ballot initiative that is seeking to legalize marijuana use for anyone above 21 and establish 10 legal marijuana grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors. Now Ryan says he was dismissed due to his support for that group. But NORML officials say his removal had more to do with his personality, charging that he has been rude and even abusive to NORML members who don’t support ResponsibleOhio. The ballot initiative to create a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana has deep Cincinnati ties and has been very controversial due to its limitations on who can grow the drug commercially. The group is now also in a frantic, last-minute scramble to get more than 30,000 valid signatures from voters across the state after a past petition drive fell short of the 300,000 signatures required to land a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The group has until next month to collect those signatures.
• Northside is getting a new spot for cold, sweet treats. Dojo Gelato, a Findlay Market fixture for years, will move to its first stand-alone store at the old J.F. Dairy Corner on Blue Rock Avenue right around the time it starts getting warm again next year. Owner Michael Cristner lives in the neighborhood, and has been looking to set up permanent shop there for some time. I do really love Dojo’s affogato with the Mexican vanilla and Dutch chocolate, but I’m also a big adherent of Putz’s Creamy Whip down the street. Blue ice cream with a cherry dip, y’all. I guess I’ll just have to double my ice cream/gelato intake.
• Gov. John Kasich, it seems, can be downright postmodern in his view on today’s big policy questions as he tries to convince Republicans he’s their man to run for president. At recent campaign stops, Kasich has shrugged off the tyranny of the solid, sure answer for an acknowledgement that the world is absolutely insane, knowledge is illusory and none of us can really know anything. OK, so that’s a pretty big exaggeration on my part. But the guv has been uttering the phrase “I don’t know” a lot on the trail in response to policy questions. Does it show he’s honest? Still formulating his positions carefully and with intellectual rigor? Or is he just kind of a wimp who won’t commit to an answer? Time will tell. In the meantime, John, can I suggest some real page-turners by this guy Baudrillard? There is more and more information in the world, Mr. Kasich, and less and less meaning, and we both know it.
• Speaking of the complete shattering of the fallacy that the world is a rational place, new polls continue to show real-estate magnate and hairpiece-addiction spokesman Donald Trump leading the field of GOP hopefuls. He’s sitting at 18 percent in the crowded contest, three points above next-best contender, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and eight points ahead of the third-place contestant in this wacky gameshow, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Do I need to give another rundown of recent Trump events? He said former POW and Republican Arizona Senator John McCain isn’t a hero because he got caught by the enemy. He equated Mexican immigrants with criminals and rapists and received a death threat from notorious cartel leader El Chapo. Via Twitter. Give him this: the guy knows how to get attention and has never met a question he wants to answer with “I don’t know.”
Cincinnati Opera winds up its 95th season in truly grand operatic
fashion with an opulent production of Puccini’s Turandot. The singing is (mostly) sublime, the spectacle is lavish
and all the production elements are executed with stylish precision.
The opera is a fantasy based on a play by the Venetian Carlo Gozzi. Turandot is
a Chinese princess bent on revenge for the rape and murder of an ancient
ancestor. If a prospective suitor fails to answer three riddles, off with his
head. That doesn’t discourage Prince Calaf, who manages to solve the riddles
and melt the ice princess’s reserve. Oh yes indeed, this is a fairy tale.
It’s also Puccini’s grandest opera with fabulous music incorporating romance,
drama and Chinese folk melodies. The score was unfinished when Puccini died in
1924; composer Franco Alfano composed the final section using Puccini’s
sketches. Despite Calaf’s signature aria “Nessun Dorma,” the best music belongs
to the chorus and the two female leads.
Biggest ups to the chorus. They sing with power, precision and a remarkable dynamic
control thanks to Chorusmaster Henri Venanzi, who celebrates his 41st year with
the CO. Unlike most other operas that feature one big choral number and that’s
it, Turandot’s chorus is onstage for
almost the entire piece.
Marcy Stonikas is a formidable Turandot, physically and vocally. Her voice has
the cold, steely edge for an ice princess but there’s a hint of warmth that
fully emerged in the final scene to convey a sense of humanity. “In questa
reggia” is Turandot’s big aria and Stonikas did not disappoint. Hers is one of
the most exciting voices I’ve heard in a long time and I hope she’ll be back.
The role of the slave Liu usually steals the shows and this was no exception.
French soprano Norah Amsellem sings with haunting delicacy and tremendous
power. It’s a performance to savor, and she garnered the evening’s loudest
ovations. And her limping on the stage was no act — she injured an ankle
earlier in the week and was using a brace.
Frank Porretta’s Calaf was barely audible in the first act. He may have been
having vocal problems because he powered up in the second act, but “Nessun
Dorma” was under pitch and lagged behind the orchestra. Let’s hope he recovers
for the remaining performances.
As the court officials Ping, Pang and Pong, Jonathan Beyer, Julius Ahn and
Joseph Hu were genuinely responsive Puccini’s score, offering characters
ironically comic and human as they sing of returning home. They also executed a
vaudeville soft shoe routine with panache.
Bass Andrea Mastroni made an impressive debut as Calaf’s father, Timur. Tenor
Chris Merritt sang the Emperor Altoum with poignant beauty.
Under the baton of Ramón Tebar, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra gave a
stunning performance of this magnificent score. There are so many gorgeous
subtleties, from the loudest of gongs to shimmering woodwinds and strings, and
they were heard to wonderful effect.
Red is the operative color for André Barbe’s sets and costumes, with black and
white running close seconds. A huge red lacquer arch is the main set piece,
punctuated by huge white heads on pikes, reminders of the executed princes. The
chorus, mandarins and dancers are swathed in black and red. Ping, Pang and Pong
sport sky-blue robes, and Turandot and Emperor Altoum are garbed in white. It’s
opulent but never excessive.
Most impressive are Renaud Doucet’s staging and choreography. The huge cast of
choristers, supernumeraries and dancers move with confidence and precision. Fortunately
for us all, the leads are equally graceful and they respond to each other with
more than outstretched arms. Doucet creates stage pictures that, for all their
scope, never lose focus on the performers. The dancers are a special pleasure.
Their costumes with multiple flags projecting from the back don’t make for easy
movement, but they make it look effortless.
Go see it. And go hear it. There aren’t many opportunities to see spectacle like this, unless it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber, who mined Puccini’s melodies for inspiration. Puccini did it way better.
MORE STUFF TO DO:
Hey all. Here’s what’s happening in Cincy today.
University of Cincinnati officials yesterday released the police incident report and dispatch recordings related to the July 19 shooting of Samuel Dubose by officer Ray Tensing. Tensing shot Dubose after a traffic stop over the fact Dubose didn’t have a front license plate on his Honda Accord. The incident report claims that Tensing was dragged by Dubose’s car and says another UC officer witnessed the incident. You can read the report here and listen to the audio of the dispatch here. Dubose’s family has demanded that police body camera video and security footage from a nearby building be released to substantiate that claim. That footage is currently in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has said he will not release it yet because that could bias a potential grand jury. Family and friends of Dubose gathered yesterday outside Deters’ office to protest that decision.
• Meanwhile, UC police will no longer patrol areas off-campus, according to university officials. Starting Monday, the university police force’s patrol policies will be amended in light of the shooting. Questions were raised about why Dubose’s traffic stop took place at the corner of Rice and Thill streets in Mount Auburn, which is half a mile away from the university. According to university police, Tensing initiated the stop much closer to campus and followed Dubose to the location where the stop, and eventual shooting, took place.
• Remember those hilariously fraught public meetings in Parks and Recreation? I attended one last night. A meeting held by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation and architects Glaserworks to discuss proposed changes to Ziegler Park, a popular space on Sycamore Street across from the former SCPA building, got a little heated as neighborhood residents and advocates questioned the need for an underground parking garage and the efficacy of 3CDC’s outreach efforts to the park’s current users, who are predominantly low-income. The meeting took place a block from the park at the Woodward Theater, a move that raised eyebrows for some activists at the meeting, including Josh Spring from the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Spring questioned why the meeting wasn’t taking place in the park itself so that it could more easily engage the park’s current users. At the meeting, 3CDC presented tentative plans for the park’s facelift, which will be funded in part by $20 million in Ohio new market tax credits. Those plans come from two past public input sessions, 3CDC says, as well as outreach to park users. Among the proposals: moving the existing pool to another location in the park, adding a splash pad, updating green space within the park, and tying the existing park facilities to green space across the street next to the SCPA. 3CDC’s concept includes putting a parking garage underneath this greenspace in order to free up land currently occupied by other lots. Also on the drawing board: maintaining a popular set of basketball hoops across the street from the park. Removal of hoops and the pool at renovated Washington Park on the otherside of OTR proved very controversial when that park underwent renovation in 2011. Some in attendance expressed concerns that two past meetings were not well-publicized. Other concerns were also raised about the green space neighboring the former SCPA building, which will soon be the site of luxury condos. That space once held structures used by Harriet Beecher Stowe as part of the underground railroad, and some at the meeting voiced wishes that the history there be commemorated and expressed anxiety about disrupting possible historic materials there. 3CDC anticipates holding another meeting to unveil more finished plans later this summer.
• The Ohio Democratic Party is still struggling with infighting, some say, despite new chairman David Pepper’s efforts to unify it following big losses in statewide campaigns in the last election. Democrats in Ohio lost major statewide races, including the race for the governor’s seat, by big margins last year. After that rout, former party chairman Chris Redfern resigned and was replaced by Pepper. Some of the internal tension that has hobbled the party has reemerged, critics say, in the party’s treatment of Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld, who is running against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland for the Democratic nomination to oppose current Senator Republican Rob Portman. Former Ohio Democratic Party Chair Jim Ruvolo, who served in that role from 1982 to 1991, has blasted Pepper for “sidelining” Sittenfeld in favor of the more well-known Strickland. Ruvolo, who is a consultant for Sittenfeld’s campaign, says it does the party no good to push down young talent like the 30-year-old councilman. Pepper has made statements some have read as demeaning to Sittenfeld, including a suggestion that local officials focus on the jobs in front of them and “put in the time.” Pepper says those statements weren’t meant to malign Sittenfeld or discourage him from running. Pepper says he’s working hard to unify the party in time for 2016, when a major battle between Dems and the GOP will take place over Ohio, which looks to be a decisive state in the presidential election and the scramble for control of the U.S. Senate.
That’s it for your truncated, Friday morning news today. As always, e-mail or tweet with news tips.
Did you attend the Cincy Fringe back in 2011? If so, maybe you saw Abigail and Shaun Bengson perform a musical work in progress then called “Songs from the Proof.” They came back in 2012 to present a one-night concert of some of the songs. The work evolved into a show called Hundred Days, which had a staging in San Francisco in early 2014. It’s continued to evolve — and its next incarnation will be onstage at Know Theatre for the next month, opening on Friday and running through Aug. 22. It’s about a young couple who fall in love, only to have their time together cut short by a fatal illness. They decide to live the 100 days they have left as though it were 60 years they had hoped for. Lots of music and creativity have gone into this one, and it promises to be a powerful performance with some great tunes. (Read more in my Curtain Call column in this week’s edition of CityBeat.) Tickets: $25 in advance; rush tickets at the door ($10, if available). Free performances on Wednesdays, but reservations required: 513-300-5669.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s 2015-2016 season is beginning as it has for several years with a light-hearted abridgement — but this time it’s The Complete History of America (abridged), opening Friday night and continuing through Aug. 15. The show is the creation of the same nuts responsible for the hilarious Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). It’s the same format: Veteran comic actors Miranda McGee and Justin McCombs, along with newcomer Geoffrey Barnes, will take audiences on a whirlwind tour that sends up America’s greatest hits … and misses. It’s the kind of delirious summer entertainment we’ve come to expect the from our often-more-serious classical theater folks. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273Last weekend I went to Stanberry Park in Mt. Washington to see The Complete Tom: 3. Abroad, presented by Queen City Flash, Cincinnati’s flash-mob theater company. It’s the third installment of its four-part play cycle of Mark Twain’s tales of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Jim, the runaway slave. It was charmingly performed by Dave Powell, Rico Reid and Trey Tatum — plus some amusing puppets (aka wooden spoons) and a few sheets for ghost stories. This charming episode features the threesome on a trans-Atlantic voyage in a Jules Verne-like airship, meeting a number of interesting characters along the way — played in quick-change manner by the three actors. Free performances begin at 8 p.m. but don’t go to Stanberry Park — they’ll be elsewhere this weekend. In fact, the outdoor locations remain secret until 4 p.m. the day of performance when an email is sent to ticket holders with a map and parking instructions. The show is a lot of fun and great entertainment for kids, and part of the adventure is figuring out where you’re headed. Take a chance! Tickets — no charge — can be reserved at QueenCityFlash.com