Jens Lekman, the acclaimed Swedish singer-songwriter whose weeklong residency at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center is now in its third day, has finished and posted the first five songs in his Ghostwriting project.
You can hear them here.
Through Thursday, Lekman will be meeting with 11 people (it was supposed to be 12, but one had to cancel) whose written entries about their experiences were selected by him for song adaptations.
He will be discussing their stories with them, creating lyrics and then recording — with a small combo — songs that he posts for the world to hear. The participants receive a USB copy in a gift box. Read more information about the project here.
Listening to the five songs posted so far, one can hear that his knack for melody is up for this challenge. “What Was Worth Saving,” “Cartwheels” and “The Love It Takes to Get By” are particularly memorable. Because of an issue with one song on Monday night, Lekman compensated by recording two versions of another, “Northeastern Ascent.” Three more songs are scheduled to be finished and posted online tonight and another three on Thursday evening.
On Friday at 8 p.m. at the Woodward Theater, Lekman will perform in concert with the MYCincinnati Ambassador Ensemble, a string section of Price Hill youth under the direction of local musician/composer Eddy Kwon, who also adapted the arrangements. Some of the Cincinnati-composed songs will be included.
Tickets are available at contemporaryartscenter.org for $20 (or $15 for CAC members) now and should still be available at the door.
I’m in New York City this week to check out some Broadway shows, so I’m missing the opening night of the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Low Down Dirty Blues. It’s the holiday “alternative” to A Christmas Carol, and alternative it is. It’s set in a nameless Blues club on Chicago’s South Side that’s closing for the night. But that’s just when the party heats up as a group of musicians assembles for an after-hours jam session to swap stories and perform favorite tunes, especially numbers from the bawdier side of the Blues, tunes by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Mama Thornton and more. “It is a spicier kind of Blues, specifically one that has two sides to it," says Dan Wheetman, the production’s co-creator and music director. "On one hand, it is a more intimate look, it is a smaller group and a smaller palate… It’s a story about the people, these people in this club and their stories, which includes the music but it is more of a personal talk about what brought them to where they are.” I’m eager to see it. Onstage through Dec. 20. Tickets: 513-421-3555
It’s that time of year when families begin thinking about going to the theater together. Getting an early start are musical productions for the entire family. Once choice is Seussical, based on the works of Dr. Seuss, at Northern Kentucky University. It opened on Thursday and continues through Nov. 22. Tickets: 859-572-5464 … The other is a production of the musical Mary Poppins by Cincinnati Music Theatre at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. This is perhaps the city’s most ambitious community theater company, typically undertaking big musicals and doing a good job with them. It opens tonight and continues through Nov. 21. Tickets: 513-621-2787 … If you miss the latter, you’ll have a chance to see a different production: The Covedale Center will be presenting it Nov. 27-Dec. 27.
Continuing and finishing: A keep-’em-guessing murder mystery with just two characters, Sleuth, continues its run at the Carnegie through Nov. 22. (Tickets: 859-957-1940)… This is the final weekend for Mad River Rising at the Cincinnati Playhouse (final performance is Saturday; tickets: 513-421-3888); Andy’s House of [BLANK], an original musical at Know Theater (also winding up on Saturday; tickets: 513-300-5669); and an old-fashioned farce, Fox on the Fairway, at the Covedale (Sunday’s matinee is your last chance; tickets: 513-241-6550).
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Every piece of art has a story, but what we don’t often remember is that
the story of the artist can be even more enthralling. Donna King of River’s
Edge Pottery Studio shared not only her trade but her history with a group
during a pottery demonstration at the Covington branch of the Kenton County
Public Library. The demonstration, which was scheduled for only two hours,
stretched out as King engaged her audience in a series of stories.
She begian by slamming the clay on the wheel, making a large thump. “You’ve
gotta get really really tough with it,” she explained. After centering the blob
of clay on the wheel, King went to work on what she tells us is going to be a
bowl. “With my students, the first thing I have them do is make a bowl,” she said.
As we watched, King masterfully poked a hole in the middle of the clay lump,
eventually widening it out to form a discernable bowl shape. Once she was
finished with it, King set it aside and grabbed a larger lump of clay, which
she again threw on the wheel. This one was to become a vase, and King eagerly
shared her technique for designing her pieces, which includes using a variety
of objects to create patterns. Leaves, feathers and lace are a few of her
standard tools, but she’s also used Hot Wheels cars, plastic placemats and
pages from adult coloring books. “Sometimes I use a feather, sometimes I use
sugar, and one time I actually used cat’s whiskers,” she said, laughing.
The library demonstration was King’s second at the Kenton County Public
Library. The artist, who has been creating pottery for nine years, originally asked
to display pottery for the Clay Alliance of Cincinnati, but when the library
reached out requesting her to come give a presentation last fall, she gladly
accepted. “It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s
just been an adventure.” The artist says she’s traveled all over the community
doing demonstrations and classes and has worked with several Girl Scout troops
and taught classes at Christian schools in the area, as well as teaching
private or group classes. “I’ve had them as young as two years old, and up to
86 years old,” she said “People who say, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to try
that,’ and I say, ‘Well, now’s your chance.’ ”
Find this interesting? Check out similar events at the Kenton County Public Library:
Nov. 12: Scarf
It Up: Learn to knit from a local hobbyist. (Durr Branch)
Nov. 17: Coloring for Adults: Unwind at the Erlanger branch with this creative past time. (Erlanger Branch)
Nov. 19: Holiday Sewing: Machines and fabric are available for you to come make a holiday gift. (Covington Branch)
“Florala.” That’s where you are when you head down the ramp to see Know Theatre’s production of Andy’s House of [Blank]. It’s set on the state line between Florida and Alabama, but it’s recreated in two-dimensional cardboard props (telephones and ice cream cones) and decorations (comically taxidermied animals, including the backside of a dog) imaginatively designed and executed by Sarah Beth Hall. The tale is filtered through the often-divergent memories of two guys who were 16 in 1998, holding down their first jobs in roadside oddity shop and museum of “unmailed love letters.” The “guys” are Paul Strickland and Trey Tatum (truly from Florida and Alabama). They serve as the narrators — or perhaps the “recollectors” — of the oddball musical tale of Andy (Christopher Michael Richardson), the proprietor, and Sadie (Erika Kate MacDonald), the girl he had a crush on as a kid. The show was a well-received entry in Know’s “Serials” earlier this year, a story told in five 15-minute episodes. Strickland and Tatum have stitched those pieces together, and director Bridget Leak has given the piece continuity and flow. Their ebullient enthusiasm is obvious from start to finish — Tatum pounds away on an electric keyboard, Strickland (who composed the 20 or so songs) plays guitar and sings almost operatically, and Richardson and MacDonald (both with gorgeous voices) affectingly play two people caught in a looping time warp. In fact, all four characters are living out the theme repeatedly spoken and sung: “Every day is just a variation on a theme.” The music is great, and there are lots of laughs along the way, but the story is a serious, poignant rumination about love, longing and how to move forward by looking back. At two-plus hours (including an intermission) it feels a tad long, but every moment is a treat to watch. Onstage through Nov. 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669
Opening this week: Anthony Schaffer’s Sleuth, a humorous but taut murder mystery is at The Carnegie in Covington. It’s a two-man show about a famous mystery writer who’s out to murder a man having an affair with his wife. There are a lot of twists and turns in this tale, so it’s fun to watch if you pay close attention. Through Nov. 14. Tickets: 859-957-1840 … Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa fascinated Cincinnati Playhouse audiences back in 2013 with his “sequel” to The Crucible, Abigail/1702. Falcon Theatre is offering two related one-acts by him, The Mystery Plays, inspired by the tradition of medieval theater that dealt with the imponderables of death, the afterlife, religion, faith and forgiveness — but from a thoroughly American perspective. In the first piece, a horror film director survives a train wreck only to be haunted by someone who didn’t make it; in the second, a woman travels to a rural Oregon town to make peace with the man who murdered her parents and her sister: He’s her older brother. Through Nov. 21 at the Monmouth Theatre in Newport. Tickets: 513-479-6783
Continuing: Cincinnati Shakespeare’s excellent production of Arthur Miller’s classic drama Death of a Salesman has its final performance on Saturday evening. It’s worth seeing, but tickets might be scarce. Tickets: 513-381-2273 … Mad River Rising at the Cincinnati Playhouse is a compelling study of place and aging, an old man trying to forestall the sale of his family farm. It continues through Nov. 14. Tickets: 513-421-3888 … Covedale Center’s staging of the comedy Fox on the Fairway, a tribute to cinematic farces from the 1930s and 1940s, is onstage until Nov. 15. Tickets: 513-241-6550
Tune in to WVXU (FM 91.7) on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. to catch LA Theater Works’ production of Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man. This show, about a young Jewish Confederate soldier marking Passover 1865 with his family’s newly freed slaves in a crumbling mansion in Richmond, Va., at the end of the Civil War, is a powerful work. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati staged this show very effectively in 2012.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
After a successful symposium here last month, FotoFocus is taking its Robert Mapplethorpe presentation, The Perfect Moment: 25 Years Later, on the road. (The Cincinnati symposium was called Mapplethorpe +25.)
In observance of the 25th anniversary of the unsuccessful obscenity trial in Cincinnati of the Contemporary Arts Center following the exhibition of The Perfect Moment there in 1990, FotoFocus will sponsor a panel discussion at 7 p.m. at New York’s cutting-edge New Museum, 235 Bowery.
It will be moderated by Kevin Moore, FotoFocus’ New York-based artistic director, and feature Amy Adler, law professor at New York University School of Law; Jennifer Blessing, senior photography curator at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; and Britt Salvesen, curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at Los Angeles County Museum. The latter three were on a panel in Cincinnati.
Mark Lewisohn, the internationally recognized Beatles historian who is working on his epic All These Years biography of the Fab Four’s story, will discuss the first book completed and published in the planned trilogy — Tune In — at 7 p.m. next Tuesday in the Main Library's Reading Garden Lounge, 800 Vine St., Downtown Cincinnati.
Lewisohn’s talk is free. No registration is required, and a book signing will follow his appearance. Books will be available for purchase courtesy of Joseph-Beth Booksellers.
Ten years in the making and consisting of hundreds of new interviews and information learned from access to archives, Tune In follows the Beatles from their childhoods through 1962 when their first hit record, “Love Me Do,” gives indication of the greatness ahead.
The English author began writing about the Beatles in 1983, and had previously published The Beatles Live!, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, The Beatles Day by Day and the Complete Beatles Chronicle before turning to this project.
He is now busily at work on the second volume and has come to Cincinnati to do research at the Main Library.
Know Theatre opens Andy’s House of [BLANK] tonight at 8 p.m. The show is the spawn of the second round of Know’s Serials, a happily creative two-month program of five 15-minute episodes. This one, a musical about a shop full of oddities and a story of love, regret and time travel, was a crowd favorite early in 2015. It struck Know’s artistic team as warranting further development, so they invited creators/storytellers Trey Tatum and Paul Strickland to turn it into a full-fledged work. As in Serials, it’s staged by director Bridget Leak. It’s being produced in Know’s Underground Bar, cleverly transmuted into the interior of Andy’s oddity shop with a set drawn on cardboard. Strickland (who’s also a singer and songwriter) has created a bunch of musical numbers; he and playwright Tatum are in the show, as if they were teens working at Andy’s back in the day and now retelling what went on. Read my Curtain Call column here to learn more. It’s happening through Nov. 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, with a short run at UC’s College-Conservatory of music this weekend, is a classic from the Golden Age of Broadway musicals. It’s a darker story than you might expect from Rodgers and Hammerstein: Billy Bigelow, a good-looking bad boy who runs the merry-go-round at the carnival is love-’em-and-leave-’em kind of guy until he meets Julie Jordan. He tries to live a better life once they’re married and she’s pregnant, but it’s not really his thing. He dies after a bungled robbery and then has a chance to come back and make things right with his teenage daughter. There’ a lot of great music in this show — “If I Loved You” is one of several classic numbers — and with faculty member Diane Lala staging it (and choreographing it, too), it’s sure to be extremely watchable. Final performance is the Sunday matinee. Tickets: 513-556-4183.
Floodwaters are threatening life and limb in the past and the present at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where Dana Yeaton’s Mad River Rising is on the big stage. Set in an abandoned barn, it’s the story of Angus Stewart (played with dry humor and stubborn attitudes by 82-year-old actor Robert Hogan) who witnessed a devastating flood in 1937 that all but destroyed his family’s farm. In old age he’s trying to stave off waves of newfangled innovation and life choices that have abandoned the traditional values of farming and owning land. Hogan is a fine performer, and the story has intriguing moments as he tangles with family members trying to accommodate him, help him or navigate around him. It’s a fine portrait of the challenges of aging. Here’s a to my CityBeat review. It’s onstage through Nov. 14. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Elsewhere: Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati finishes its run of the very funny one-man show Buyer and Cellar, about an actor hired to manage a faux shopping mall in the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate. (CityBeat review here.) Actor Nick Cearley turns in winning performances as the actor, as Streisand and a handful of others as he retells the ups-and-downs of “selling” to one tough customer. The run ends on Sunday. Tickets: 513-421-3555. … Cincinnati Shakespeare’s fine production of the prize-winning American drama Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller continues through Nov. 7. (CityBeat review here.) One of our region’s great professional actors, Bruce Cromer, turns in a heart-rending performance as Willy Loman, whose aspirations have come to a grinding halt; Annie Fitzpatrick’s powerful portrait of Willy’s devoted, weary wife Linda makes the sad story all the more compelling. Tickets: 513-381-2273. … Covedale Center is presenting a frothy farce by Ken Ludwig in the tradition of Marx Brothers’ comedies. Fox on the Fairway is a madcap story set at a private country club. Onstage through Nov. 15. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
One more thing: Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is presenting a series of behind-the-scenes events that will enhance your appreciation of how theater productions are put together. This month’s Caffeinated Conversation on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. explores how ETC’s season is put together, how local actors are found and what it’s like to direct plays and musicals that deal with mental illness, economic disparity and racial tension. One of Cincinnati’s most admired directors, D. Lynn Meyers, will speak and answer questions. Tickets ($15): 513-421-3555.
You’ll find a lot of good theater choices this weekend — Death of a Salesman at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is fine, moving production of a classic drama, while Ensemble Theatre has a hit with its one-man comedy, Buyer and Cellar, about a guy managing a shopping mall in Barbra Streisand’s basement. Here’s a review that provides my comments on both. If you enjoy Nick Cearley’s performance at ETC, you might want to come back for a late-night performance (Friday and Saturday at 11 p.m.) by The Skivvies, his musical duet in underwear with another New Yorker, Lauren Molina. They’ll feature special guests — Drew Lachey tonight and Beth Harris of The Hiders on Saturday. (No info on what they’ll wear … or not wear.) He’s doing B&C through Nov. 1, but the Skivvies happen only this weekend.
This weekend is your last chance to see the romantic comedy Sex with Strangers at the Cincinnati Playhouse (it closes Sunday). It’s a very entertaining and contemporary piece about two very different writers who are strongly attracted to one another. Last evening I attended the opening of the Playhouse’s production of Mad River Rising. Set in an abandoned barn that’s seen better days, it’s the story of Angus Stewart, a man who’s seen better — and worse — days. As a 7-year-old in 1937, he witnessed a tragic flood that washed away most his family’s farm. He was part of rebuilding it, but in 2015 Angus, now 85, is seeing a flood of modernity threatening his world. Stubborn, cantankerous and sharper than he appears at first glance, he escapes from a nursing home and hides out in the barn, where family members — past and present — swirl around him. And in the hands of actor Robert Hogan, the portrait of Angus is memorable. It’s onstage through Nov. 14.
New Edgecliff Theatre offers an imaginative fundraiser every year around Halloween. They call it “Sweet Suspense,” and it’s a production in the form of a radio drama, often of a familiar noir thriller. It happens on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at The Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave. in Northside). Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, a psychological crime thriller from 1951, is the material this year, a classic mystery about two people who meet on a train and conjure a twisted plot for a perfect murder. The evening’s “sweetness” is a complimentary dessert buffet at intermission with desserts from local restaurants and bakeries. Tickets are $35 (888-428-7311).
I dropped by Clifton Performance Theatre last week to see The Norwegians. C. Denby Swanson’s bitter comedy is about women scorned in Minnesota and a pair of nice hit men they hire to whack their former boyfriends. The production has a cast of excellent local actors — Miranda McGee, Carol Brammer, Michael Bath and Sean Dillon — but it’s an odd piece of writing. Director Cathy Springfield has done her best to make this distant cousin of Fargo both entertaining and coherent; but she’s only partially succeeded. There are moments of sardonic humor, but I never really got the point.
Opening this week: Ken Ludwig’s tribute to the comic farces of the 1930s and 1940s, The Fox on the Fairway is up and running at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets: 513-241-6550. … Two university productions to check out this weekend: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Xavier (7:30 p.m., plus a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.) Tickets: 513-745-3939. … Shakespeare’s seldom-produced The Winter’s Tale opened this week at Northern Kentucky University; it’s onstage through Sunday. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
Closing: WIT – Women in Theatre is offering the second and final weekend of David Ives’ sexy and provocative Venus in Fur, which was well received at the Playhouse when it was staged there in April 2014. WIT presents its shows as the St. John United Church of Christ in Bellevue, Ky. Tickets can be purchased at the door for performances at 8 p.m. tonight or Saturday. … The Hunchback of Seville, an irreverent comedy co-produced by CCM drama at Know Theatre has its final performance on Saturday. You should be able to buy tickets at the door.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Photographers Laurie Simmons and Matthew Rolston have both previously done series based on its collection of dummies, and Simmons even used them in a 40-minute film, The Music of Regret, that also starred Meryl Streep.
Now Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is hosting a new theater work, The Ventriloquists Convention, that is based on the annual event here that Vent Haven sponsors. According to the MCA, “the piece imagines meetings among the convention delegates and their dummies, who each maintain distinct voices and identities.”
European director/choreographer Gisèle Vienne is working with American novelist Dennis Cooper on this project, joined by German puppet-theater company Puppentheater Halle.
The MCA also says that Vienne and Cooper “developed their approach for this show from documentary and fictional sources, building it into a group of quirky portraits of ventriloquists celebrating their shared interests and friendship. The show explores why ventriloquists do what they do, and what lies behind the relationships that they have with their dummies.
“Performed by nine ventriloquists-puppeteers, the piece hinges on the use of multiple layered dialogues, including the ghostly, non-physical ventriloquists' voices. These portraits enable Gisèle Vienne to continue her ongoing research into the interplay between physical presence and dissociation that she had developed in prior projects.”
If you want to attend (no word yet on Cincinnati performances), The Ventriloquists Convention takes place Nov. 12-14 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $30 and available at the MCA Box Office at 312-397-4010 or mcachicago.org.
The Ventriloquists Convention is supported by the French-American Fund for Contemporary Theater, an initiative of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. and the Institut Français, It is also funded by the Florence Gould Foundation and the Catherine Popesco Foundation for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Goethe-Institut and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.
There are almost too many good shows for you to enjoy this weekend, but depending on what you like, you’ll probably find it somewhere.
Cincy Shakes production of Death of a Salesman doesn’t open until tonight, but all sings point to a strong production, headlined by one of our region’s best actors, Bruce Cromer, as beaten-down Willie Loman, who I interviewed for my CityBeat column this week. He’s matched with another fine local stage performer Annie Fitzpatrick as Willie’s faithful but worried wife; two of the Shakespeare team’s excellent company of actors, Jared Joplin and Justin McCombs, play Willie’s sons who can’t quite bear up to the weight of his expectations. Arthur Miller’s play is one of the greatest, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award. So if it’s serious drama, get tickets for this one, onstage through Nov. 7: 513-381-2273.
Want something more frivolous and entertaining, but still a great performance? Show up at Ensemble Theatre for Buyer and Cellar, a one-man show about a guy pretending to be a shopkeeper in a vast basement treasure trove of acquisitions on Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate. It’s 90 minutes of non-stop storytelling, rooted in a real place — but with a fantasized chain of events. Actor Nick Cearley is a comic gem, performing in a smartly written script that requires him to conjure up not just Alex, the actor hired to wait on Barbra, “the customer” (one and only), but the singer herself and a handful of others. Great fun to watch. Here’s my review. Through Nov. 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
If you love a good Broadway musical, you need to show up at the Aronoff and score a seat for the touring production of Pippin. (CityBeat review here.) It’s a show from 40 years ago (by Stephen Schwartz, the creator of Wicked more recently), but this version of an award-winning Broadway revival from two years ago is full of Cirque du Soleil-styled acrobatics, as well as some great songs and performers. It’s a sort of fairytale embroidered from a real historical character from the 9th century, the son of the monarch who launched the Holy Roman Empire. It’s about the young Pippin’s arduous search for a meaningful life. The “Leading Player,” a kind of emcee/storyteller, is Gabrielle McClinton, who handled the role on Broadway for part of its two-year run there, and Charlemagne, Pippin’s father, is played by veteran actor John Rubinstein — who originated the title role back in 1972. (He’s 68 now, but still an energetic, animated performer.) Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Shows previous opened that are also worth seeing include the very serious drama Extremities at the Incline Theater in E. Price Hill (tickets: 513-241-6550), onstage through Sunday; and Sex with Strangers, a very modern romance about writers who envy one another’s careers and lust after one another’s bodies, has another week and a half at the Cincinnati Playhouse (tickets: 513-421-3888).