If you were out and about this weekend, you may have heard rumors that Maiza Hixson has put in her resignation at the Contemporary Arts Center. Those would be true. Hixson was Associate Curator. Last year, she was the curator for the exhibition American Idyll: Contemporary Art and Karaoke, putting together a set of artists that looked at karaoke and similar real life or amateur approaches to community and singing. It was complex, reflecting her ability to load exhibition projects with strong talent and layered conceptual inquiries. The CAC has a knack for promoting and incubating talent throughout its institution. Many people who work there for a time go on to other great opportunities.
The changes on the local visual art scene just keep coming. Hot on the heels of Scott Boberg leaving the CAC — as well as several staff cuts at the CAC and the Cincinnati Art Museum — the Taft Museum of Art announced today that its director, Eric M. Lee, will be “leaving his post in March 2009 to assume the directorship of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.”
I've been seeing theatrical productions aboard the Showboat Majestic for at least 25 years. Like the Ohio River adjacent to the "Boat" at the Public Landing, they're up and down, sometimes beautiful and sometimes a bit stinky. But I can offer you an unqualified recommendation for the current production, The Musical of Musicals: The Musical. The title itself is entertaining, but the material is even better — and then there's the cast that's been assembled. This is, in fact, a show that anyone who loves musicals needs to see. It's probably the best production I've seen on the Showboat ever. It's being performed through July 26.
You know it’s going to be a good Gala when you get chills down your spine within the first five minutes — the first act, no less. Marshall Davis, Jr.’s “Summertime in Cincinnati” kicked off a stellar show with his knock-em-dead tap dancing to the sounds of Lonia Lyle’s lovely vocals and Christopher Lyle’s electric bass. Gershwin’s “Summertime” has seldom sounded so good.
And the thrills kept coming. Aim cincinnati — aim stands for arts innovation movement, the organization formerly known as ballet tech Cincinnati — presented its 10th annual Gala of International Dance Stars at the Aronoff Center Aug. 13.
Broadway Across American announced its Cincinnati presentations of six touring broadway shows for 2009-2010 today.
I’ve often written in CityBeat about the Humana Festival of New American Plays that happens annually at Actors Theatre of Louisville. I look forward to this annual collection of new works, regarded by many as the premier opportunity in the to see fully staged works by contemporary playwrights. (This year is the Humana Festival’s 33rd iteration, and it opens March 1.)
But Actors Theatre isn't the only place for new work in the United States. I recently spent time at the Colorado New Play Summit, presented in its fourth year by the Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC), which takes a different approach.
Want to get a big dose of new theater? You’ll want to spend some time in Louisville next March and April, when Actors Theatre of Louisville presents its 33rd consecutive Humana Festival of New American Plays. Productions begin on March 1, 2009, and continue through April 11. The 2009 festival will present six full-length plays, a comic anthology showcasing the Actors Theatre Acting Apprentice Company and three 10-minute plays.
Critic's PickAs I ate dinner on Tuesday evening before attending a performance at Dayton’s Victoria Theatre, my server asked, “Did you hear that Green Day is performing next door?” I had to set her straight. “Well, not exactly. Green Day’s music is being performed next door — it’s a Broadway show that uses the tunes from their American Idiot recording.” I caught the opening night of a three-day gig (through Thursday, March 14) by an energetic touring company that’s recreating the Tony Award-nominated American Idiot: The Musical. If you have time to make an hour north on I-75, you won’t be disappointed.
Green Day’s powerful Punk score — their 2004 album was conceived as a “Punk Rock Opera” — is the perfect soundtrack for the story of three disaffected guys who take different downward spirals when confronted with the numbing boredom of everyday life, “alien nation,” as they sing in the opening number. Johnny is the central character, a wannabe musician who yearns to make it in the city; he convinces his buddies Will and Tunny to join him in escaping suburbia.
Their paths diverge quickly: Will’s girlfriend is pregnant, so he stays to sort things out; Tunny is quickly disaffected by urban life and captivated by dreams of military success; and Johnny, not quite willing to admit his loneliness, dreams about a girl he sees and gets caught by a drug dealer — who’s probably a figment of his imagination. Things don’t turn out well for any of them, and by show’s end they’re back home, chastened by the experience — Tunny’s leg lost in combat, Johnny’s ego shattered and Will’s relationship in ruins. But they seem to be more accepting of their fates. The curtain call features the entire company playing guitars and performing “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” a number that reflects their disillusion, reminiscence and (maybe) forward motion.
The current tour has a young cast (it’s a non-Equity tour) without a ton of experience, but that’s perfect for this show, which demands a stage full of angry energy. They hurtle through the 100-minute performance, diving right into the title tune with thrashing energy demanded by Green Day’s music. (For theater fans, it’s worth noting that Green Day’s music has been orchestrated and arranged by Tom Kitt, composer of the Tony Award-winning next to normal, a show that has a score with similar power.) Steven Hoggett’s pounding choreography captures the physicality of Rock stage performance, rendered rapidly and rhythmically with tons of repetitive angular motion.
Alex Nee, Casey O’Farrell and Thomas Hettrick, as Johnny, Will and Tunny, turn in credible performances of roles that don’t have a lot of depth — and that’s OK. American Idiot is more about emotions than storytelling, and they each capture that: Nee’s hallucinatory attraction to destructive behavior is convincing, O’Farrell’s frustration with being trapped and left behind is believable, and Hettrick’s dreams of heroism and his wake-up call to a damaged life are rendered credibly. Female roles are more stereotyped — two of them don’t even have names: Whatsername and The Extraordinary Girl — but Alyssa DiPalma, Jenna Rubah and Kennedy Caughell (as Heather, the mother of Will’s kid) have fine voices. DiPalma and Rubah have featured choreography (Rubah does an aerial ballet with Hettrick as he recovers in a military hospital) that is effective.
The touring production retains Christine Jones’s scenic design and Kevin Adams’s lighting design, both of which landed 2010 Tony Awards. The set has a floor-to-ceiling rear wall sporting two dozen video screens that support the action — from an opening barrage of mind-numbing, multi-channel news coverage to scene-to-scene punctuation with wry titles. Additionally, the screens are sometimes fed live imagery from an onstage camera, especially when St. Jimmy (Trent Saunders) entices Johnny into the world of addiction, but also during “Favorite Son,” Tunny’s late-night infomercial of military recruitment (performed with muscle-bound humor by Jared Young, backed up by four dancers in sparkling short dresses).
The grunge of American Idiot is made all the more vivid by the green velvet and gilt trim of the Victoria Theatre in downtown Dayton (138 North Main St.). While the nihilistic young men sing, “I don’t care if you don’t care,” I suspect that a lot of people will care about this show, one that reaches out and grabs audiences by the scruff of their necks and never lets up. But bear in mind: Only two more performances — Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets ($46-$67, half-off student rush, day of show): 937-228-3630 or victoriatheatre.com.
BuzzFeed, the viral video and pop culture aggregate, loves lists. And Cincinnati has been mentioned in at least two of their “random number funny sentence” list posts this past week.
First, it’s always best to start with dessert … and chili. BuzzFeed contributor and former Cincinnatian Donna Dickens makes a list of all of her favorite Cincinnati foods that are better than food from other cities, claiming, “The worst part about moving away from Cincy is leaving behind this regional feast.”
Included on the list? Graeter’s ice cream, Skyline chili (sorry, Gold Star), Izzy’s giant rueben, Busken cookies, Glier’s Goetta, LaRosa’s, Montgomery Inn sauce and the unnaturally blue, unnaturally delicious, formerly Smurffy blueberry soft serve from King’s Island.
For those of us less interested in praising our meat products (although perhaps we should since they aren’t full of horse), can praise the beautiful history of our public library.
Listed at #28 on the 30 best places to be if you love books list, which includes Shakespeare and Company in Paris as well as the Oxford Union Library, is an image of the Cincinnati Public Library looking as most of us have never seen it — in black and white, yes, but also from its original location, “Old Main,” at 629 Vine Street. With stories and stories of shelves and shelves of books, each with a small catwalk, the expanse and whimsy of this literary wonderland is fantastic. (And really makes you wish it was still there.)
According the Main Library’s flickr page (where you can find more images of the original library location):
“The Main Library has occupied a prominent position in downtown Cincinnati since 1874, when a new building was constructed at 629 Vine Street. Considered the most magnificent public library building in the country at the time, ‘Old Main’ featured one element similar to today’s library: a towering atrium with a skylight ceiling. Of the dramatic atrium, Harpers Weekly said, ‘The first impression made upon the mind on entering this hall is the immense capacity for storing books in its five tiers of alcoves, and then the eye is attracted and gratified by its graceful and carefully studied architecture.’ The building closed in 1955, when the ‘New Main Library,’ located at 800 Vine Street, opened.”
Find more historic
photos of Cincinnati and learn more about the history of our library on the
virtual library Facebook page.
On Friday evening, I hiked down to U.S. Bank Arena for
the World Choir Games awards ceremony. It was bustling at The Banks,
since the Reds are back in town and playing the Cardinals. It was fun to
see the WCG participants, many dressed in colorful team T-shirts,
mingling with the crowds around Great American Ball Park in their Reds
gear. Lots of folks from other nations had a chance to peer into the
stadium and see American fans revving up.
But there was no lack of revving — or revelry — inside the arena for the program. This was not a musical event, but a ceremony in which choirs in eight categories were recognized for their performances and champions crowned. For 20 minutes before the event began, there was a ton of merriment going on as teams did the "wave" around the arena and cheered whenever their own choir showed up on the big video monitors.
Lots of awards are handed out at WCG, some simply for participating. Choirs can choose to compete in an open category, in which they are evaluated but not competing for medals (although they are ranked and can receive gold, silver or brionze "diplomas") or in the head-to-head competitions. By scoring within certain point ranges, singing groups are awarded bronze, silver or gold medals. The ultimate designation, "Champion," is bestowed on the choir that scores the highest point total among the gold medalists in each category. Other medalists send forward their director and one singer to receive the medal and a certificate. When the champions are named, the entire choir races jubilantly to the stage, hugging, screaming and celebrating. Once assembled there and the medal bestowed, the choir's national flag is raised and its national anthem sung, often with tear-streamed faces on the video screens.
Champions were named eight categories. Three were from the United States, including in two largely American categories included in the games for the first time, Barbershop and Show Choirs. Gospel was also broken out from Music of Religions. The most wildly celebrated champion was surely the Choraliers, from Fairfield, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati, which was named the champion Show Choir (amid choirs from other nations and several from universities). Also from Ohio, the Jeremy Winston Choir from Wilberforce University was named the champion Gospel group. The other American champion was a barbershop chorus from Pennsylvania, the Greater Harrisburg Chapter of Sweet Adelines.
The remaining five champions were: Female Chamber Choir: Latvian Voices from Riga, Latvia (where the 2014 World Choir Games will be held); Male Chamber Choir: Newman Sound (Canada); Music of Religions: Stellenberg Girls Choir (South Africa); and Young Children's Choir's: Wenzhou Children Art School Boys Choir (China). The latter category's winners of gold medals were all youth choirs from China, where it's clear such ensembles are prized and emphasized.
More champions are being announced on Saturday morning, and a selection of champions will perform in a concert at Music Hall on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. That concert, as well as the Closing Ceremony at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m., are both sold out.