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by Rick Pender 05.23.2013
Posted In: Theater, Visual Art, Arts community at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Rising Stars

LCT singles out great theater productions and performers for 2012-2013

I wrote my Curtain Call column before the League of Cincinnati Theatres held its Monday night awards gala at The Know Theatre. So I thought you might want to learn the results. I'm glad to report that the LCT voters and I agreed about the season's best shows: I thought that Know Theatre's When the Rain Stops Falling was the best theatrical production, and that CCM Musical Theatre's production of Parade at the Carnegie was the most satisfying musical — and those are the productions that LCT cited, too.

LCT employed social media to identify audience favorites: Untethered Theatre's Red Light Winter won as the favored play, NKU's production of the musical Legally Blonde got the nod. I'm sure these were both fine productions, and it's nice to see Untethered, a new company, receive this recognition. But it's also apparent that some theaters lobbied supporters to vote for their productions, which is part of this game. So take such results with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, recognition is recognition, and that's what the awards are ultimately about — bringing good theater to the attention of the theater-going public.

There were some nice touches to LCT's program this year, including an "audience service award" that singled out people who serve audience members — box office managers and bartenders, for instance. Sue Bolger, who runs the ticket operation at NKU was named the winner, but all of these folks make going to the theater a pleasure — Brenda Berger at the Carnegie, Cal Harris at Cincy Shakes, Barb Marino with New Edgecliff and John Simpson, who runs the bar at the Playhouse.

LCT annually recognizes outstanding theater educators: This year's honorees, Mike Sherman from Colerain High School and Chad Weddle from Anderson High School, both gave grateful speeches thanking parents and hard-working kids for making it possible. These guys (and everyone who puts together high school productions) are heroes in my book: They instill a love of theater in kids, some of whom go on to careers, but many more who just come to love theater and enjoy a lifetime of happy audience membership.

Speaking of heroes, Cincinnati Playhouse Associate Artistic Director Michael Evan Haney received a standing ovation from the crowd of 200 or so when he was presented with the Rick Steiner Award for Excellence. Haney is marking his 40th year in professional theater, having spent more than 20 years staging shows for the Playhouse (including 20+ iterations of A Christmas Carol, a show he first appeared in as Bob Cratchit), as well as work at other local theaters including Ensemble Theatre and Cincinnati Shakespeare.

Four Rising Stars were also named, performers under age 25 who are on the front end of promising careers. Ellie Jamison (CCM Drama), Drew Blakeman (NKU), Jon Kovach (Miami) and Sydney Kuhlman (an Ohio Northern grad who has been a stage management intern at the Playhouse) each received a $1,000 check to get them started.

The full list of LCT winners (as well as other nominees), can be found at leagueofcincytheatres.info.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 05.22.2013
Posted In: Visual Art at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Layoffs at the Contemporary Arts Center

CAC lays off four employees representing 16 percent of staff

In order to avoid deficits for fiscal year 2014 and beyond, the Contemporary Arts Center on Monday laid off four employees and Director/Chief Curator Raphaela Platow announced other cost-saving measures.

The four positions were associate curator of education, exhibitions director, development director and director of communications and community engagement. Additionally, Platow herself took a 20 percent salary reduction for the upcoming fiscal year.

Platow said cost-saving decisions were approved by the Board of Trustees in April. The board has mandated that the CAC reduce its dependency on its endowment for operational expenses by roughly $60,000 a year for the next five years. The CAC estimates that cutback, as well as an expected drop in support from major funders, would create an operating-budget deficit for the next fiscal year without these moves. The operating budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in August, is $3.1 million.

She also said there are no plans to raise admission fees or reduce hours of operation.

While the four eliminated positions represent 16% of the institution’s staff, there will be several new hirings of “redefined and reorganized” job descriptions, she said. “By redefining, I mean changing to a different skill set and position, sometimes on a very different salary level. This is what we have to do to move forward,” Platow said.

A previously announced new curatorial hire, Steven Matijcio, arrives from North Carolina in June and will be involved in announcing the 2013-2014 exhibition season on June 26.

(More information will be included in The Big Picture column in the May 29 issue.)

 
 
by Rick Pender 04.12.2013
Posted In: Theater, Visual Art at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Controversy, Conversation and Comedy

Tonight (Friday) Know Theatre opens a new production of a work that's bound to launch a lot of conversations. And let's not beat around the bush: The real title of Mike Bartlett's play is Cock (The Cockfight Play is the substitute title for media that are afraid to offend). It's a tense comedy about sexual identity: John takes a break from his longtime boyfriend and unexpectedly falls in love with a woman. The story is about how he's caught in a tug-of-war between these two lovers, and the play's conflict is John's navigation of his sexuality and his selfhood. It's also told without scenery or props, focusing squarely on the relationships. According to Know's Eric Vosmeier, "It's a kind of pansexual love story that's told very simply without all the trappings of a traditional production." Vosmeier describes this production as "one of the first victories of Know's new scheduling model." The rights for Cock just became available; this is only the second American production of the play that premiered at London's Royal Court Theatre in 2009. The show runs through May 11. Box office: 513-300-5669

This weekend is the opener for Covedale Center's production of Legally Blonde, the show that kicked up controversy in a Loveland High School staging last fall that led to the firing of a dedicated director. I still shake my head over what could offend anyone about this PG rated piece of musical theater, but you can check it out and decide for yourself at the Covedale. It's about a young woman who won't take "no" for an answer and becomes her own woman in the process — outshining everyone at Harvard Law School. It's kind of crazy, but a lot of fun. No one will get fired over this one, I suspect. Box office: 513-241-6550

The Otto M. Budig Theatre at the Carnegie in Covington is in the midst of a run of Jason Robert Brown's Parade. My schedule and the theater's haven't matched up yet, but I'm eager to see it — I'm headed there for the Sunday matinee this weekend. Set in the sweltering intolerance of 1913 Atlanta, Parade is the story of Leo Frank, a northerner and Jewish factory manager, wrongfully accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl in his employment. Despite media frenzy and public outrage, his courageous wife struggles in vain to clear his name. The show won 1999 Tony Awards for best book and best score. This is an off-campus production by the musical theater program at UC's College-Conservatory of Music, and it's been given high marks by the judging panel from the League of Cincinnati Theatres: for the ensemble, for musical direction by Steve Goers, for featured actor Noah Ricketts and for lighting design by Alan Hanson and Wes Richter. It's onstage through April 21. Box office: 859-957-1940

Untethered Theater is midway through it's run of Jeff Daniels' Apartment 3A, presented at the Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow, a few blocks east of the Esquire. It's about a once idealistic young woman who has been disillusioned in just about every aspect of her life. The show is an exploration of faith and hope in today's world, described as "an uncynical play about cynics in cynical times." Through April 27. Tickets: 513-939-0599


 
 
by Steven Rosen 04.03.2013
Posted In: Visual Art at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Patti Smith's CAC Show Will Be a Robert Mapplethorpe Tribute

Although the Patti Smith exhibit that will open at downtown’s Contemporary Art Center on May 17 has been announced for some time, the details are only now becoming known. It will be a tribute to her close friend, the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

He is a subject whose resonance is great for both Smith — whose 2010 National Book Award-winning memoir, Just Kids, recounted their friendship as young people in New York’s art world and is being made into a film and the CAC, which famously faced (and beat) obscenity charges in 1990 for showing the Mapplethorpe retrospective The Perfect Moment.

In a phone call from London where she is studying for a Master’s degree in global art Adjunct Curator Justine Ludwig (the exhibit’s curator) revealed some details of the planned show. It will be called The Coral Sea, after poetry Smith wrote about Mapplethorpe that she later recorded with guitarist Kevin Shields. (She will be performing The Coral Sea on May 18 at Memorial Hall. Go here for ticket information.)

“It’s very much a rumination on the life and death of Robert Mapplethorpe,” Ludwig said of the exhibit. “So there are a lot of objects in the exhibition that very much relate to his life. We’ve received things like Robert’s slippers that have his initials on them, and photographs of Robert from throughout his life. So it really focuses on the relationship between these two artists.

“It comprises of installations, photography and writing,” she said. “We’ll be showing part of the original manuscript of The Coral Sea that Patti wrote about Robert. We’re going to see a connection between the two artists throughout the exhibition. She has this very beautiful handwriting that is an art form within itself.

“There are medals, necklaces that Robert wore,” Ludwig continued. “There is an inkwell. There are small elements that will be presented in cases in the exhibition. It’s presented very much like an art installation. They’re not necessarily presented as historical objects but as elements that are part of Patti’s life.”

There are also photographs Smith took of and about Mapplethorpe. “Patti never took photographs of Robert’s face, she took photographs of his hands,” Ludwig said. “We’ll have a few (of those), and then a few photographic works that are more in reference to Robert but not of him.

“And we have an installation within the show called ‘Infirmary,’ which is all steel beds that are references to the beds Robert spent the end of his life in and that many people who died from AIDS passed away in. They are actual steel beds acquired by her.” (Mapplethorpe died from AIDS in 1989.)

The “Infirmary” portion is an expanded, site-specific adaptation of an exhibit Smith presented at the 2008 Melbourne International Arts Fair. There is also a “Coral Sea Room” in the CAC show that will feature video and music.

The show will have several photographs by Mapplethorpe with text by Smith – of the sea, a boat and a sculpture. (None was in The Perfect Moment.) “They’re very beautiful,” Ludwig said.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 03.07.2013
Posted In: Visual Art at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Another Day, Another Matt Distel Announcement

In this week's Big Picture column, there is an item that Matt Distel — long active on the local contemporary art scene and current executive director of Northside's Visionaries + Voices center for artists with disabilities — had been named adjunct curator of contemporary art at Cincinnati Art Museum. Today comes the announcement he will leave V+V to be exhibitions director at The Carnegie in Covington, effective in June. He replaces Bill Seitz, who announced his retirement last month. His adjunct position at the art museum will continue.

“Matt is the perfect person to build upon the successes we’ve had in the galleries and we are honored to have him join our team,” said Katie Brass, Carnegie executive director, in a press release. “His personality, his connection to local artists, and background all make him the ideal candidate to run the Carnegie Galleries and to grow programming.” 

In that same release, Distel said, “To be part of the legacy the Carnegie has for supporting local and regional artists, it’s very exciting. The Carnegie is one of the premier arts organizations in the region and Bill [Seitz] has established a great framework for me to continue to build an exhibition program that plays a compelling role in the arts community.”

 
 
by Rick Pender 02.24.2013
Posted In: Visual Art, Theater, Arts community at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage_blake robison - photo sarah bradley

Flying High at the Playhouse Next Fall

According to Cincinnati Playhouse's new artistic director, Blake Robison, "I'm thrilled to give everyone a sneak peak at our upcoming 2013-2014 season by announcing our first two Marx productions." Behind this announcement is the fact that the two shows are co-productions with Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, which kind of spilled the beans with an announcement a few weeks back of its two opening shows, which are swapped with the Playhouse. But that's neither here nor there, since they both mean theatrical excitement for audiences here in Cincinnati.

The Playhouse will open the season in September with Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan's Fly, the powerful story of World War II's famed Tuskegee Airmen. The production, staged by Khan, combines live action and video projections with a tap dancer who offers insights into the hopes, fears, angers and triumphs faced by the airmen as they fight two wars — one in Europe and another back home against a rising tide of racism. Following Fly (which will run Sept. 12-Oct. 5), the Playhouse will present Kander & Ebb's classic musical Cabaret (Oct. 24-Nov. 16), a show with iconic choreography and unforgettable songs. It's set in pre-World War II Berlin, where a rising storm of Nazism swirls outside the decadent Kit Kat Club. This one will be staged by Broadway director and choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge, nominated for a Tony and Drama Desk awards in 2010 for her much-praised revival of Ragtime.

Robison says, "Fly is a truly unique play that brings the important and inspirational story of the Tuskegee Airmen alive for adults and young people alike. Cabaret marks the return of the big Broadway musical to the Marx stage. I've always loved Kander and Ebb for their ability to explore characters and stories in depth while entertaining the heck out of you."

 
 
by Steven Rosen 02.12.2013
Posted In: Arts community, Visual Art at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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James Crump Resigns as Cincinnati Art Museum Chief Curator

On Monday, Cincinnati Art Museum announced the resignation of James Crump, its chief curator and photography curator. He arrived at the museum in 2008. A press release said he would "pursue independent projects." The press release also included high praise for Crump from Aaron Betsky, museum director:

"We are so grateful for the great work James has done here in Cincinnati. His exhibitions and acquisitions have made us a center for photography, and we look forward to building on his extraordinary achievements."

One of those achievements, the exhibition James Welling: Monograph, just opened Feb. 2. Crump was also a leader in the organization of last year's multi-venue FotoFocus photography festival, and Cincinnati Art Museum sponsored two of its biggest shows — Herb Ritts: L.A. Style and Doug and Mike Starn's Gravity of Light.

The museum said an interim chief curator will be named soon.

Recently, the Italian art-book publisher Damiani launched a new line of Damiani / Crump books. It begins in March with Empire Falling, photographer Elena Dorfman's study of Midwest rock quarries.

 
 
by Rick Pender 02.08.2013
Posted In: Visual Art, Theater, Arts community at 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Something Old, Something New

A new round of shows comes your way this weekend (while several good ones remain onstage, including Freud's Last Session at Ensemble Theatre and Abigail/1702 at the Cincinnati Playhouse). Here are a few choices that are just opening:

Know Theatre is finally getting around to its first full-fledged production of the season, Andrew Bovell's award-winning drama, When the Rain Stops Falling. (The playwright's Speaking in Tongues was a much admired production at the Cincinnati Playhouse a year ago.) An intricate fabric of overlapping connections, Bovell's 2010 script moves seamlessly through time and across continents between the years of 1959 and 2039. In a world where the rain rarely stops falling, four generations of a family search for truth and hope to mend broken connections. What they discover is the impossibility of escaping the past. The production should be all the more interesting since it's being directed by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's Brian Isaac Phillips and features a cast of nine excellent actors, four of whom are CSC regulars. It will be onstage through March 16. Box office: 513-300-5669.

To see another award winner, you need to head up I-75 to Dayton where the Human Race Theatre Company is offering the regional premiere of Eric Simonson's bio-play, Lombardi. Set in 1965, it's a portrait of the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers through the eyes of a young reporter assigned to follow the sports icon, a man full of passion and drive without equal. The show had a recent run on Broadway, and I expect it will attract an audience not normally drawn to the theater. Through Feb. 24. Box office: 937-228-6830

Falcon Theater, which presents its shows in the tiny Monmouth Theatre in Newport, is staging the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt, a success on Broadway, at the Cincinnati Playhouse, and on movie screens. It's the provocative story of a starchy nun who thinks it's possible that a priest has abused one of her students. Although she's not sure, her accusations have dire ramifications. Through Feb. 23. Box office: 513-479-6783

Finally, a blast from the past at UC's College-Conservatory of Music: William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life. Set in October 1939 in a run-down waterfront dive bar on the docks of San Francisco, the script is full of colorful, eccentric characters and portrays the love and follies of human nature. It's being staged by veteran faculty member Diane Kvapil with a cast of 29. This production has a short run (one weekend, wrapping up with a performance in Patricia Corbett Theatre on Sunday at 2 p.m.) Box office: 513-556-4183


 
 
by Rick Pender 01.18.2013
Posted In: Arts community, Visual Art, Theater at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Options Abound

An avalanche of theater heads our way next week — including the touring Broadway musical Memphis (not Million Dollar Quartet, as mistakenly published in last Sunday's Enquirer), the regional premiere of Freud's Last Session at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (not "Freud's Last Stand" as the same Enquirer piece labeled it — doesn't our daily paper employ copy editors and fact checkers?), the world premiere of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's Abigail/1702 (in previews this weekend; read more here) and a concert staging of Lerner & Loewe's lovely musical Camelot at the Carnegie Center in Covington (with accompaniment by Mischa Santora and members of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra). 

By the way, there's apparently such anticipation for Freud's Last Session, which features local actor Bruce Cromer, that tickets are selling out for some performances. As a result, even before the show opens on Jan. 23, ETC has extended the show's run by a week, to Feb. 16. Box office: 513-421-3555

If you haven't yet caught Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's staging of Richard II, you really should make a point of doing so. In my review, I pointed to Brent Vimtrup's multi-faceted performance. I'll add here that there are strong supporting performances from Jim Hopkins, Nick Rose and Giles Davies (this longtime CSC favorite is back in town for a few productions). This show isn't often produced (it's the first time for Cincy Shakes in its 19-year history), but this staging will make you wonder why. It's bursting with poetry, and there's lots to look at with beautiful 14th-century-styled costumes. An Acclaim Awards panel cited Vimtrup's performance as well as Andrew Hungerford's lighting design; I gave the production a Critic's Pick. Need any more encouragement? Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1

Elsewhere, you'll find a production of Adam Rapp's Red Light Winter by Untethered Theater at Clifton Performance Theatre. This is a chilly drama about a weird love triangle. It's a great piece for three young actors. Look for a review in the next issue of CityBeat. (Tickets: 513-939-0599) If you want something a little lighter, consider Moonlight and Magnolias at Mariemont Players, a very dependable community theater on Cincinnati's east side. The show is an amusing reconstruction of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans involved in writing the script for Gone with the Wind. It's told with a lot of slapstick that will have audiences laughing out loud. (513-684-1236)

 
 
by Rick Pender 01.04.2013
Posted In: Theater, Visual Art at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
end days at etc - richard lowenburg as nelson - photo ryan kurtz

Stage Door: New Year Edition

There's not much onstage locally yet as our theater companies prepare their first productions of 2013, so here's a tip for this weekend. WVXU's airing of Deborah Zoe Laufer's End Days on L.A. Theatre Works on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. (That's FM 91.7 if you're still using a radio or wvxu.org if you prefer to listen online.)

It's the story of a middle-American housewife who has found salvation and her rebellious teenage daughter who wants nothing to do with it. But when a bookish young suitor in an Elvis suit comes calling, the daughter experiences an unexpected revelation of her own. If you're a regular at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, you will remember this show from a darkly funny production in March 2011. (Read my review here.)

And a further note of interest: A world premiere work by Laufer is headed our way in February at the Cincinnati Playhouse: It's called Leveling Up, a show about twentysomethings making the transition from college to a "real" life of video games in a Las Vegas basement. Laufer has a knack for catching the drift of contemporary culture, so tune in for End Days on Saturday and get ready for Leveling Up coming soon.

 
 

 

 

 
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