I recently spent three days in Louisville at the 34th annual Humana Festival of New American Plays. Actors Theatre of Louisville annually assembles a lineup of productions that offers a fascinating cross-section of contemporary American theater.
I found this year’s array to be an especially pleasing collection of works: It included two excellent comedies, a thoughtful drama, two experimental performance pieces from creative ensembles and an inventive piece to showcase interns (and a Louisville hotel/museum showplace). A bill of 10-minute plays was clever and creative, and only a musical play was a disappointment.
New Stage Collective has announced it's shutting down operations after presenting Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music April 30-May 8. Producing Artistic Director Alan Patrick Kenny says the musical will be staged at Know Theatre of Cincinnati instead of the company's Main Street space.
Taft Museum of Art has named its new director/CEO to replace Eric Lee, who left in the spring to head the Kimbal Art Museum in Fort Worth. She is Deborah Emont Scott, recently chief curator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and before that the museum's Sanders Sosland curator of 20th Century. She becomes the sixth director in the Taft's 77-year-history.
It was sad news to hear that Thom Shaw, a well-known local printmaker and artist, passed away July 6 from complications due to diabetes. Unfortunately, I heard the news too late to write something in time for the memorial service that took place July 17.
Cincinnati's visual arts community is rallying around the seriously ill artist Brian Joiner to raise money for his medical expenses. This Friday from 5-10 p.m., a retrospective of his work — everything from note cards to a 30-foot work, featuring subjects like running women, a school of fish and his portraits, florals and landscapes — will be on display at the studio of Mary Barr Rhodes
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, sporting a slightly abbreviated name and a half-painted façade, today announced most of its 2012-2013 season. As usual at ETC, it’s a work in progress: That how things are when you’re on the cutting edge of contemporary theater. But Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers knows how to juggle lots of moving parts, and that includes a nod to another local theater great: She’s engaged Ed Stern, about to retire from his 20-year tenure as artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, to stage a show that will feature the city’s most respected professional actor, Dale Hodges. Meyers has also designated five shows (the season will have six, one is still to be determined) for her schedule.
Meyers says, “Next season promises to be a selection of smart, contemporary, and compelling theater. The ETC experience is unique and intimate, unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else, along with the excellence you’ve come to expect.” She points out that the season features several strong female voices, too.
In 2007, ETC presented Rabbit Hole by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire. He’ll be back for the theater’s 27th season with a humor-laced drama Good People (Sept. 5-23). The recent script (its Broadway production was a Tony nominee a year ago) explores the struggles, shifting loyalties and unshakeable hopes that come with having next to nothing in America. It focuses on a woman unable to catch a break who flees from urban Boston to the suburbs, where she’s totally out of her element. It’s a look at the haves and the have-nots, the kind of tale that Meyers loves to present to ETC audiences.
Up next will be Ed Stern’s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s irreverent but poignant comedy Mrs. Mannerly (Oct. 10-28). Dale Hodges will play a demanding etiquette teacher in 1967; she’s bedeviled by a boy trying pulling out all the stops to get a perfect score, an unprecedented feat. The boy’s name Jeffrey Hatcher, so he bears a close resemblance to the playwright. (Amusingly, we are warned that this play about proper behavior contains strong language.)
For the holidays, ETC will reprise one of its family-friendly musicals: Alice in Wonderland (Nov. 28-Dec. 30) by playwright Joseph McDonough and composer-lyricist David Kisor.
Meyers is still angling for the show she’ll present in late January.
It will be followed by the regional premiere of Frank Higgins’ Black Pearl Sings! (March 13-31, 2013). I saw a production of this show in Sarasota in 2008, and I’m convinced it’s the kind of play that ETC audiences warm to, similar to this season’s The Whipping Man. It’s set during the Great Depression focusing on a researcher collecting traditional music for the Library of Congress. She finds Pearl Johnson in a Texas prison, a woman with a head and heart full of spiritual songs and a voice to perform them. Black Pearl Sings! is about being a woman in a man’s world, being black in a white world and fighting for one’s soul in a world where anyone can be a commodity.
ETC’s season will end on a familiar and definitely lighter note with another sequel to the best-selling production from 2009, The Marvelous Wonderettes. This time it’s The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns (May 1-19, 2013). We return to 1958 at Springfield High School for graduation and high hopes including a gymnasium full of pop tunes from the era — “River Deep, Mountain High,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “Rockin’ Robin.”
Subscriptions are already on sale ($156-$186); you can purchase a FlexPass ($196), which gives you six flexible tickets to use for any show and in any combination. Single tickets for season go on sale to the general public on August 13, 2012.
It was reported today that the Ohio Arts Council will be facing a budget reduction of 47 percent, one the largest percentage cuts in the new state budget.
From the OAC web site:
As the state’s budget heads to Governor Strickland’s desk for his signature, Ohio Arts Council staff is diligently working with final budget numbers to calculate fiscal year 2010 grant awards. Because the state arts budget was not finalized until July 10, 2009, grant award announcements will not be available until around July 24.
At the June OAC Board meeting, the Board voted to provisionally approve all grants for one year, instead of two years for some programs, until a special emergency session of the Board can be held in August to determine the best course of action for agency programs and operations.
The final version of the FY2010/2011 budget ($13,188,578 for the biennium) will reduce OAC grants by 38 percent from the final FY2009 budget and 47 percent from the original FY2008/2009 appropriation ($24.9 million). This will have a significant impact on FY2010/2011 grant amounts, although actual percentage reductions will vary by program. Some programs will be put on hiatus. This drastically reduced budget severely limits the ability of the OAC to provide financial assistance to artists, arts organizations, schools and other entities engaged in cultural programming throughout the state.
"Ohio’s cultural sector is critically important to the economic recovery of our state. The OAC will continue to do its best to help support the arts and cultural organizations that are reeling from the effects of the economic downturn,” said OAC Executive Director Julie Henahan. “Even at this dramatically reduced level, OAC funding will help maintain jobs, support education programs and drive tourism in Ohio.”
Headquartered in Columbus, the OAC was founded in 1965 to "foster and encourage the development of the arts and assist the preservation of Ohio's cultural heritage."
For fiscal year 2009, the OAC granted $1,498,651 to Cincinnati-based artists and organizations.
Most of the large arts organizations in Cincinnati received some funding from the OAC for 2009, including Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati Arts Association, Children's Theater of Cincinnati, Contemporary Arts Center, Urban Appalachian Council, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Kennedy Heights Arts Center, Media Bridges, Madcap Productions, Know Theatre of Cincinnati, Women Writing For (a) Change, Taft Museum, Cincinnati Boychoir and many more.
A total of 65 grants were awarded in Cincinnati for 2009. The five largest grants were:
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra: $404,986
Playhouse in the Park: $144,817
Cincinnati Museum Association: $167,512
Cincinnati Opera: $100,142
Cincinnati Ballet: $91,966
To see all the grants awarded in Cincinnati, click here.
To learn more about the Ohio Arts Council, visit www.oac.state.oh.us.
The Carol Ann’s Carousel was named to honor the life and philanthropy of Carol Ann Haile, according to the information page at mysmaleriverfrontpark.org, and is being funded by a $5 million donation from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.
It will sit in a tree-lined plaza amongst a two-story staircase, water cascade and a series of water curtains. The plaza’s lower level will hold a conference center and offices, which will open up to Mehring Way and overlook the lower area of the park. The riverfront carousel is slated to open May 2015.
There will be 44 animals and characters featured on the carousel’s platform, and community engagement sessions are currently being hosted in order to gather as many ideas as possible. The public is invited to share their ideas until June 9, when later the park design team will decide on the final designs based on the city’s suggestions.
Carousel Works of Mansfield, Ohio, the world’s largest wooden carousel manufacturer, will hand carve and paint each animal and character chosen. Ideas are also being gathered for several mural scenes to be painted on the carousel. Jonathan Queen, a local artist, will paint based on what citizens deem what makes Cincinnati unique — its parks, traditions, landmarks.
This riverfront icon will offer a standard two-minute ride and operate year-round.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern today announced that he will leave the esteemed regional theater after two more seasons, following the 2011-12 season, his 20th. Ed’s tenure at the Playhouse predates CityBeat’s coming into existence: He began in 1992, two years before CityBeat began publishing. I had the pleasure of writing about the recovery of the theater under Stern for EveryBody’s News and then for CityBeat; the Playhouse was in desperate financial straits when Stern and Executive Director Buzz Ward took over — a $1.25 million accumulated deficit.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has two stages: The Robert S. Marx Theatre is the mainstage with 626 seats; the Thompson Shelterhouse (which is in fact a one-time park shelter) can accommodate an audience of 225. Both have thrust-style stages surrounded by audience seating on three sides, making the action is close and intimate in both theaters.
On the Marx Stage:
· Fly by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan (Sept. 7-Oct. 5, 2013). The story of World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen is told using live action, video projections and tap dancing. This new work will be directed by Khan, its co-creator.
· Cabaret by John Kander and Fred Ebb (Oct. 19-Nov. 16, 2013). Set in Berlin in the 1930s, and especially in the decadent Kit Kat Club, it’s a musical love story with lots of choreography. Marcia Milgrom Dodge, a Broadway veteran, will direct.
· A Christmas Carol, adapted by Howard Dallin (Nov. 27-Dec. 29, 2013). Michael Evan Haney will direct the holiday show with a cast of 30 for the 21st time.
· Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris (Jan.18-Feb. 16, 2014). This one won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for best play. Inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play, A Raisin in the Sun, the play is explores racial attitudes in a Chicago neighborhood in 1959 and 2009. Artistic Associate Timothy Douglas (who staged the current production of A Trip to Bountiful) is the director.
· Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Joseph Hanreddy and J. R. Sullivan (March 8-April 5, 2014). Robison will direct this lavish, full-scale production of Jane Austen’s classic romance.
· Venus in Fur by David Ives (April 19-May 17, 2014). Maybe you know Ives’ very funny collection of skits, All in the Timing. This is a full-length comedy about a director seeking the right actress who gets more than he bargained for. Artistic Associate KJ Sanchez is staging this one.
On the Shelterhouse Stage:
· Seven Spots on the Sun by Martín Zimmerman (Sept. 28-Oct. 27, 2013). The first of several world premieres for the season, this one is a fable of revenge and redemption set in a Latin American village just after a brutal civil war. Sanchez is directing this one.
· The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company (Nov. 9-Dec. 29, 2013). The same guys who abbreviated Shakespeare, the Bible and American history are at it again, premiering their latest abridgment right here in River City.
· 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog (Feb. 8-March 9, 2014). Robison will stage this tale of a pair of unlikely roommates, a 91-year-old grandmother and her 21-year-old grandson.
· A Delicate Ship by Anna Ziegler (March 22-April 20, 2014). Another world premiere production, this one by an impressive young playwright who offers a humorous and heartbreaking look at love, memory and decisions that change lives. Michael Haney will direct. (Haney, perhaps Cincinnati’s best local director, was the Playhouse’s Associate Artistic Director from 2001 to 2013; starting in the fall, he joins Douglas and Sanchez in a trio of “artistic associates” who each will direct two shows.)
· The North Pool by Rajiv Joseph (May 3-June 1, 2014). Rajiv Joseph’s riveting psychological drama is the story of a transfer student from the Middle East whose life quickly becomes complicated. Douglas is the director.