It took two and a half hours of debate at the transportation committee Tuesday, followed by another half hour of bickering at yesterday's City Council meeting, but they did it. In a vote of 6-2, Council finally approved the sunset ordinance that would allow the organizers of seven events to halt streetcar service. The ordinance would be active through 2018, the first two years of the streetcar's operation, and would allow organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon, Taste of Cincinnati, the Opening Day Parade, Oktoberfest, the Thanksgiving Day 10k, the Heart Mini Marathon and the Health Expo to give the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority a 90 day heads up to stop the streetcar during their event. Mayor John Cranley said at the meeting yesterday that these longstanding events need time to adjust to the streetcar.
• Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden could be in big trouble following the recently uncovered drama surrounding the Smale Park construction. On Tuesday The Enquirer published an article claiming Carden hadn't been entirely honest about the bidding process for the park's construction contracts. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, City Manager Harry Black released a memo saying the park's contracting process was a risky move for the city. So what will happen to Carden? It's up to the Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners to determine whether he will be punished — or even fired from his position — for the deals.
• Last year, the big election issue for Cincinnati (and the rest of Ohio) was marijuana, oligarchies and a weird mascot named Buddy. This year it looks like it will be education — preschool, to be specific. Preschool Promise, the group working on a ballot initiative to fund two years of preschool for Cincinnati children, could be battling alongside Cincinnati Public Schools' own levy for a preschool expansion on the ballot. Preschool Promise has yet to specifically say what kind of tax levy it's planning on asking Cincinnatians to approve to fund its ambitious plan. The current options are a hike in the city's property tax or earnings tax, or a countywide sales tax. CPS will ask for a property tax levy. Preschool Promise director Greg Landman says the group is still in negotiations with CPS to figure out how to make sure kids will get their preschool, politics aside. But as the election draws closer, many details have yet to come out.
• The number of Hamilton County babies who died because of unsafe sleeping conditions doubled in 2015, according to the annual report by nonprofit Cradle Cincinnati. According to its 2015 report, 14 babies died from sleep-related deaths, while just seven did in 2014. Hamilton County struggles with a higher than average infant mortality rate. The county's 2015 infant mortality rate was nine for every 1,000 babies born, while Ohio's was 6.8 and the national average was 5.8, according to the report.
City Council passed an ordinance today that could halt the streetcar's operation during seven downtown heritage events during its first two years of operation.
The sunset ordinance would give the organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon, Taste of Cincinnati, Oktoberfest, Opening Day Parade, Thanksgiving 10K, Health Expo and the Heart Mini Marathon 90 days before their event to alert Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) to stop service. The ordinance is effective through 2018 when City Council will re-evaluate it.
After a two-and-a-half-hour debate in Council's Transportation Committee on Tuesday, the ordinance passed on Wednesday after about a half hour of debate in a vote of 6-2. Council members Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson voted against it; Councilman Chris Seelbach was absent from the meeting.
Mayor John Cranley, who introduced the ordinance, said event organizers had expressed interest in adapting their events to the streetcar but that there needs to be an adjustment period so they are not forced to do something drastic like move the event.
"Some people are out there spinning this as if it's an attempt to hurt the streetcar," Cranley said. "I think it would be very bad for the streetcar if somehow these issues weren't resolved."
Cranley also said the police and fire departments have expressed safety concerns about the streetcar's operation during events, which sometimes serve alcohol and often attract tens of thousands of attendees.
Simpson said she believed Council needed more time to make the decision and to consider all possible options.
"I just requested that we have more time," she said. "This is a very important endeavor for the organizations involved and the streetcar."
Councilman Kevin Flynn responded to Simpson, saying he believed the closures would amount to just 12 hours total, often during off-peak hours like Sundays.
"I think that we had the information we needed," he said.
Councilwoman Amy Murray, who is also the chair of the transportation committee, said it would be closed the minimum amount of time as required by any particular event.
Neither Mayor Cranley nor any council members directly addressed concern over the potential loss of revenue the streetcar could face by closing during heavily attended events. It is currently facing possible budget deficits for its first two years of operation.
“Our mission is to provide artists with professional, creative, and cultural opportunities,” says Hannah Leow, volunteer coordinator at V+V. The artists were creating before they come to V+V so they just keep doing their own thing. “They keep their vision and their style, we just support them,” Leow says.
Visionaries + Voices achieves its mission in three ways, the first being the studio program where artists can come and spend time working on their art. The exhibition program gives opportunities for them to show their work with five exhibits a year in the Northside gallery. The final piece is the Teaching Artist Program, which allows artists to go into the community and teach their style of creativity.
Volunteers are needed Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and occasionally on evenings and weekends. The biggest need is for people in the creative field who are interested in making art and want to work collaboratively with artists. “The biggest need I’ve seen is creative folks, or folks who aren't creative and are interested in learning about creativity, being in the studio working with the artists,” Leow says.
Service learning days at V+V are great for high school groups. They can come in and do organizational tasks for a little while, which is very helpful to the organization. Then they have the chance to work with the artists and combine their creative ideas.
Opportunities outside of creative work include organizational projects, cleaning and providing technical support.
There are volunteers at V+V who come frequently and have been there for a long time, but there are also volunteers who don't come so often. There really isn’t a requirement for the type of commitment you need to make.
Anyone interested in volunteering can reach out online. Before starting as a volunteer, expect a short introductory session with a tour of the studio and general information about the organization and its goals, a questionnaire and background check. “It’s a pretty quick process,” Leow says.
Some of the resources available to volunteers include articles about working with adults with disabilities. This isn’t really focused on during the brief training because Leow believes it’s something you learn as you go. “The biggest thing for me is that it’s an experience based training,” Leow says.
There is no real precursor to being a good fit at V+V. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis “We feel it out with each person,” Leow says. It is about connecting and accepting the artist. They have a wide variety of volunteers from many different creative backgrounds.Donations:
Art supplies are in high demand at V+V. You can find a list online detailing what is needed. Some of the items include permanent markers, ink pads, buttons, sewing needles and glitter.
One unique program promotes giving the gift of stocks. Consider donating stocks that have already been acquired and increased in value. Financial advisors are able to transfer stocks from private parties to Visionaries + Voices. In return, the organization will issue an acknowledgement of the gift.
As the night sky blankets Cincinnati at 3 a.m., a faint glow emanates from the kitchen window of a small apartment. While most University of Cincinnati students who are awake at this hour are up to their eyeballs in tedious lab reports and last-minute reading, James Avant is caught in a frenzy of mixing bowls, whisks and measuring cups. The apartment fills with succulent scents as he blends together lemon zest and raspberry puree. His everyday stress and anxiety pours into the batter, fills the cupcake tin and rises into lemon raspberry cupcakes.
Avant’s cupcakes are more than delicious — they’re the edible gratification of mental health. The 22-year-old began baking to relieve stress after he was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) about four years ago. “I spent a lot of my days just kind of cleaning and counting and repeating, and my mind was kind of clouded with worry all the time, and so one of the ways I was able to overcome that in addition to therapy was through baking,” he says.
After one year of baking to relieve stress, watching YouTube tutorials and a getting little inspiration from an episode of Two Broke Girls, Avant decided that if we going to bake so often, he might as well profit from it, too. So he started a business, OCD Cakes, out of his home.
Obsessive Cake Disorder (OCD) Cakes helps raise mental health awareness through tasty baked goods. “OCD Cakes exists to take a bite out of the stigma surrounding mental health,” Avant says. “Cake is something that is commonplace in our culture and linked with so many different emotions, so why not take something you already use and consume and change the way you look at it in order to start positive conversations about mental health?” he explains. Five percent of the profits are donated to mental health agencies.
Going through high school and college, Avant personally experienced some of the negative stigma surrounding mental health. He recalls feeling the eyes of everyone in his classrooms burning into the back of his neck as he scrubbed desk with Lysol wipes before sitting down or got up out of his seat to clean up stray marks left by the teacher when erasing the board.
“You can’t make people understand what goes on in your head,” Avant says. “You have to do the best you can to find things they can easily identify with to make that conversation more comfortable. That’s why I use cake, because everybody likes cake!”
Avant says he also volunteers for local organizations, such as Su Casa and the psychiatry department of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “I really want people to see that I’m more than just giving away my product,” he says. “I really want people to see that I’m engaged in the wellness of others as well.”
One of the goals of OCD Cakes is to change the way people think about mental health. Avant says one of the reasons for this is that mental illnesses are more common than people think; it is important not to push mental health issues under the table or discourage people from getting help, because our minds should receive the same attention as our bodies. Like he bakes to de-stress, everyone needs to find constructive ways to get their feelings out. That’s why Avant says he wants to be as loud and proactive as possible about mental health issues. “We’re only going to make progress is everyone’s involved,” he says.
Good morning, Cincinnati. With sad news coming out of Belgium and historic news coming out of Cuba, it's a big day for international news. But first, here are your local headlines.
• Cincinnati's Historic Preservation Board has approved a real estate developer's request to tear down two buildings located downtown at the corner of Eighth and Main streets. The request passed Monday in a vote of 5-1 pushing forward Hyde Park-based Greiwe Development Group's $50 million plan to build two new 14-story buildings to house 60 luxury condos. One of the buildings set for demolition is a six-story Italianate building, built as a warehouse in 1875. The other is a not-so-historical two-story building from the last century. The developers told the board that they had determined renovating the structures would result in a loss in their investment.
• Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to be in Cincinnati this morning. Given how President Barack Obama is currently soaking up the Cuban sunshine in Havana, I would say Biden drew the executive short straw for travel this week. Biden will speak to a private fundraising event for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland and has no public appearances scheduled. So if you want to catch a glimpse of the VP, you'll probably have to cough up the $500 entry fee for Strickland's event.
• The Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response team wants to make sure Easter eggs are the only things kids are finding in their yards this upcoming holiday weekend. The group issued a warning Monday for parents to check for syringes before sending their kids out on Easter egg hunts. Health experts say the heroin epidemic sweeping region has led to an increase in discarded, used syringes popping up in public places. If you do happen to find one this weekend (or ever), you can learn about proper disposal here.
• TourismOhio is launching a new campaign to boost tourism in the state. The campaign called "Ohio. Find It Here." will debut today and is targeted at the state's residents between the ages of 25 to 54. Mary Cusick, the director of TourismOhio said Governor John Kasich and the Development Services Agency asked her to "make Ohio look cool," which it is not, according to the tourism group's survey of residents of Ohio and its neighboring states. The new campaign is being released in time for Ohio's longer, sunnier months and will highlight the many fun and diverse activities the state has to offer. The state received more than $40 billion from tourism in 2014, the majority coming from in-state travelers.
• Today voters in both parties in Arizona and Utah go to the polls, while Idaho Democrats hold their caucuses. Some Republicans are sweating the results as many in the party remain uncomfortable with frontrunner Donald Trump's lead. On the other side, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders aims for Utah and Idaho, where he is leading in polls, as tries to catch up to opponent Hillary Clinton's solid lead.
• President Obama made his keynote speech in Havana today. In a major speech that was televised to 11 million Cubans on national television, Obama stood by Cuban leader Raul Castro and called on Congress to lift the trade embargo that has been in place since 1961 and normalize relations with the island nation. The president arrived in Cuba on Sunday with his family and is the first president to visit the country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. You can read a recap here.
Hey all. Hope your weekend was rad. MusicNOW was incredible and I kinda wish I’d learned how to play like, concert piano or violin as a kid instead of boring guitar. Anyway, here’s what’s going on today in news.
You might need a little soundtrack for this first bit, and this weird song by hometown heroes Why? fits perfectly. Does the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District need outside supervision? That’s what environmental advocacy group the Sierra Club says. The group, which filed a lawsuit that sparked a 2004 federal consent decree requiring a $3.4 billion update of the sewer system, is pushing for an outside overseer to make sure that work is being done efficiently and in a timely manner. Sierra Club asked for the outside oversight in the initial decree 12 years ago, but a federal judge ruled at the time that the city and county should be given time to work on the problems themselves. Now, with both governmental bodies feuding and the entire situation turning somewhat chaotic, Sierra Club is again asking for independent oversight.
• Another big mural is coming to Over-the-Rhine, and this time the public will get to help choose whom it will honor. Arts nonprofit Artworks will open voting March 28 to decide which famous Cincinnati woman will be depicted in its next project on the 1600 block of Pleasant Street near Findlay Market. So far, the possibilities include groundbreaking blues singer Mamie Smith, actress and civil rights activist Louise Beavers, Grammy-award winning singer and actress Rosemary Clooney, female professional baseball player Dorothy Kamenshek and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe.
• Here’s just a short blurb about how college basketball is dead to me. University of Cincinnati lost due to a last-second dunk that refs said was TOO last second. Xavier lost in an unbelievable game. March madness is already over for me, and apparently for Bill Murray as well. At least I’m in good company.
• Today, Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board will meet to begin deciding the fate of two Civil War-era downtown buildings that might face demolition. One of those buildings is the Dennison Hotel building on Main Street, and the other, which will likely be considered today, is another significantly sized building across the street. Owners of both buildings are asking for demolition permits to make way for new mixed-use construction project along the upcoming streetcar route. Historic preservation activists, who say the buildings can be redeveloped without demolition, are planning on attending the meetings about the buildings in order to advocate for their preservation. The conservation board’s meetings take place on the fifth floor at the Centennial Plaza II building at 805 Central Ave.
• Well, we’ve told you about the forthcoming Northern Kentucky theme park called the Ark Encounter, which will feature a full-sized Noah’s Ark replica. Well, some folks in the area are apparently pretty skeptical of the $90 million project. The Tri-State Freethinkers, a local group of advocates for the separation of church and state, are raising money to put up billboards criticizing the theme park, which is set after a court battle to receive $18 million in tax incentives from the state of Kentucky. The group was originally turned down for those credits because of its religious nature and the religious questions it asks on some job applications, but a judge ruled the group couldn’t be denied the credits for those reasons. The Freethinkers’ billboards, which could go up as soon as this week, will feature the phrase “Genocide and Incest Park,” a jab at the story of the great flood found in the bible’s Old Testament.
• Finally, it’s all or nothing for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is still a long-shot contender for the GOP presidential nomination. Kasich is banking on a brokered convention at this point and crossing his fingers that frontrunner Donald Trump doesn’t scoop up the 1,237 delegates needed to take the party’s primary outright. Not only is he sticking in the race, he’s saying he’s not in it for a consolation prize. Over the last week, he has ruled out running as vice president behind either Trump or second-place contestant U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Go hard or go home, I guess, but it’s probably going to be “go home” for Kasich. Actually, the convention is in Cleveland this summer, so I guess it’ll be going home for Kasich no matter what. But I digress.
News tips via Twitter or email. Later.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is really getting its act together. Not that they haven’t always been on top of things, but it’s often been deep into springtime before the coming season has been announced. Having recently shared the news about the expansion of its physical plant beginning in 2017, ETC has now shared what will be onstage for its 2016-2017 season — and much earlier than usual. Perhaps that’s because there were some evident artistic choices, as the information below will reveal.
ETC Producing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers has her finger on her subscribers’ pulses. Even before this announcement was released, approximately 80 percent of ETC’s 2,300 regulars had already renewed their seats for the coming season. That’s a demonstration of the confidence ETC subscribers have in Meyers’ judgment. Many of the season’s productions aren’t well known titles, but they have been chosen with specific and sharp insight into the preferences of ETC’s audience.
Here’s what’s in store:
The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez (Sept. 6-25, 2016): The season kicks off with show by Matthew Lopez, but it bears little resemblance to his powerful Civil War drama, The Whipping Man, which ETC staged back in 2012. This time it’s a heartwarming, music-filled comedy about Casey, a young optimist who’s broke, close to being evicted and discovering that he and his wife are pregnant. Oh, and he’s been fired from his gig as an Elvis impersonator in a run-down Florida Panhandle bar. His act is replaced by a B-level drag show, and he decides to go with the flow. It’s a new arena for him as a performer and a man. One review of the New York production called it “an irresistible and deceptively deep crowd pleaser.”
brownsville song (b-side for tray) by Kimber Lee (Oct. 11-30, 2016): I write annually about plays that get started at the Humana Festival in Louisville. (I’ll be headed there for the 38th annual event in April.) Two years ago this play received its world premiere there. Set in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, it moves between past and present to tell a tale about resilience in the face of tragedy. Tray, 18, is committed to making something of himself. He’s working on his college essay, boxing at the gym and holding down a part-time job. But he ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in the blink of an eye his life is tragically over. His family is left to ponder what might have been. This poetic and powerful story jumps between a hopeful future and an uncertain present to show a unique perspective on urban violence. Myers picked this show knowing its run would overlap with August Wilson’s Jitney at the Playhouse, offering theatergoers two moving perspectives on the African-American experience.
Cinderella: After Ever After by Joe McDonough, David Kisor and Fitz Patton (Nov. 30-Dec 30): ETC’s production of Cinderella for the 2015 holiday season was one of the theater’s most attend shows ever. So for the 2016 holidays we get a world-premiere sequel, again created by playwright McDonough, lyricist Kisor and composer Patton. With the same actors who charmed audiences last December, this will be the story about what happens next. What happens when Cinderella and Prince Freddy move into the palace with her diva stepmother and her self-absorbed stepsisters in tow? What becomes of her beloved animal friends? And what’s Gwendolyn, “The Well Wisher,” up to now? All will be revealed in another family-friendly show.
First Date by Austin Winsberg, Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (Jan. 17-Feb 5, 2017): This musical comedy had a Broadway run in 2013; ETC is presenting its regional premiere. It explores one of those treacherous human endeavors: the blind date. When Aaron, a first-time blind-date guy, is set up with serial-dater Casey, their casual drink turns into a high-stakes dinner as other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents — who sing and dance them through the dangerous waters of getting acquainted.
When We Were Young and Unafraid by Sarah Treem (Feb. 21-March 12, 2017): It’s 1972, before Roe v. Wade, before the Violence Against Women Act. Agnes has turned her quiet bed and breakfast into a refuge for young victims of domestic violence. But her latest runaway, Mary Anne, is beginning to influence Agnes’s college-bound daughter Penny. Playwright Treem (who’s been a writer for House of Cards and In Treatment) digs into the early days of feminism from various perspectives. The show debuted in New York in 2014; this is its regional premiere.
Bloomsday by Steven Dietz (April 4-23, 2017): Playwright Dietz’s newest play, a 2016 finalist for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. His work has pleased ETC audiences four times in the past — Private Eyes (2000), Fiction (2007), More Fun than Bowling (2008) and Becky’s New Car (2010). This one is set against the backdrop of James Joyce’s iconic novel Ulysses. It’s about an American searches for the Irish woman who captured his heart 30 years earlier while he led “Bloomsday” walking tour in Dublin. The play bends time and space to explore a love affair that might have been. Meyers recently fell in love with this script; the show just premiered at ACT in Seattle last September; she moved quickly to obtain the rights to present its regional premiere here.
There’s plenty of theater on local stages this weekend. Here’s a round-up for you to consider:
Two shows based on very different classic novels are excellent choices. Emma, adapted from Jane Austen’s 1815 novel about well-intended matchmaking that goes awry, continues at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The production takes advantage of the company’s strong female acting contingent, especially Courtney Lucien as the title character. At the Cincinnati Playhouse you’ll find a truly memorable and creatively staged rendition of Harper Lee’s 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Eric Ting’s production is exceptionally theatrical, using a barren stage to focus on the story’s characters rather than naturalistic settings. The big cast features numerous local professionals, somewhat unusual for the Playhouse, and they’re a pleasure to watch. It’s around until April 3. I gave Critic’s Picks to both Emma and Mockingbird. Cincy Shakes box office: 513-381-2273; Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
Beertown, the show currently onstage at Know Theatre, is as much an exercise in civic engagement as it is a piece of theatrical entertainment. Every five years a small town, perhaps in New England, revisits a time capsule to decide if the contents are still relevant. That leads to debate, and the audience is welcome to chime in during the “quinquennial” celebration, emceed by a self-assured mayor. You’re invited to bring desserts for a pre-show potluck; the townspeople (a cast of eight performers who are very adept at improv) mingle and introduce themselves before things get started and at intermission. This is the final weekend; Saturday evening’s performance at 8 p.m. will feature sign-language interpretation. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
With St. Patrick’s Day just passed, perhaps you’re looking for a piece of great Irish writing, with some trademark dark humor. Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane opens tonight at Falcon Theater in Newport (636 Monmouth St.). It’s about Maureen, a plain, lonely woman in her early 40s, who still lives with Mag, her manipulative, aging mother. Trying to stave off abandonment, Mag ruins what might be Maureen’s last chance at love — and that sets off some pretty bad behavior all around. This is not a show for the faint-hearted, but it’s a terrific script that was nominated for six Tony Awards in 1998. Through April 2. Tickets: 513-479-6783.
There’s a production of the 1963 musical She Loves Me on Broadway right now, and the charming show is getting pretty good reviews there. The same show is onstage at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts locally through April 3. It’s the story of Georg and Amalia, two lonely co-workers in a perfume shop, who get off on the wrong foot and quickly develop a combative relationship. At the same time, they’re having an unwitting pen-pal relationship with one another, quite charmed by the prospects. It’s a sweet, humorous tale, and the Covedale has some able performers — Rodger Pille and Erin Nicole Donahue — in the central roles. But the production, staged by Matt Wilson, feels disjointed, more a showcase for several comic story lines and amusing character roles than a coherent, offbeat tale of love that almost goes wrong before everything is happily resolved. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
The culmination of the excellent musical theater program at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music is the annual Not Yet Famous Showcase that seniors take to New York City. That’s about to happen, so CCM’s Class of 2016 is onstage locally to warm up before heading to Broadway for their debut next week in front of directors and casting agents. Two performances are set for Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m. in Patricia Corbett Theater. Admission is free but reservations are required (513-556-4183) … CCM Drama showcases its talent in both New York (for theater) and Los Angeles (for film and TV), and you can check out the acting talent coming out of that program in free programs on Friday at 2 or 7 p.m., also at Patricia Corbett Theater. Reservations are not necessary for the Drama Showcase.
The Cincinnati Playhouse is offering a series of readings of plays by playwrights whose shows are included in their 2015-2016 season. On Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. the offering is Terrence McNally’s A Perfect Ganesh, about two women from Connecticut on a journey to India as they try to heal from the deaths of their sons. (McNally’s more recent play, Mothers and Sons, is the next production in the Shelterhouse Theater, opening Thursday.) The reading is free, but reservations are required; a previous reading was sold-out, so call right away if you’re interested: 513-421-3888.
Need suggestions for a good theater production to attend this weekend? Here are some good choices on Cincinnati stages.
Last night I attended the opening of Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It’s an inventive recreation of the legendary African-American pitcher who found his fame eclipsed by Jackie Robinson. The changes wrought by events in 1947 affected both black and white Americans, and this play by Ricardo Khan and Trey Ellis explores them. They know their way around storytelling: Their play Fly, about the Tuskegee Airmen, was well received at the Playhouse in 2013. In this one, players from two teams of baseball all-stars, one black and one white, share a boarding house on a rainy night in Kansas City. We get to eavesdrop on what they might have talked about, their dreams, their grudges and their fates. Robert Karma Robinson wholly inhabits the role of Paige as an angular, grumpy philosopher of sports, race and life. It’s onstage through May 21. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Before they wrote My Fair Lady and Camelot, the lyricist-composer team of Lerner and Loewe had a 1949 hit with the musical Brigadoon. It’s about a pair of American tourists who happen upon a mysterious town in Scotland that appears just once every century. Of course, one of the guys falls in love with a resident of the town — and that gets complicated. When I was six years old, I went to see this show with my very British grandfather, my first experience of musical theater. I still love the show, and I’ll be seeing it this weekend at the Covedale Center, where it will be onstage through May 22. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
Don’t shy away from Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar because you read it in high school. Set in ancient Rome, there’s as much political intrigue — and perhaps more danger — that you’d find in your average episode of House of Cards. Several fine acting performances make this production especially watchable: Brent Vimtrup gives a textured performance of the principled but conflicted Brutus; Josh Katawick is the “lean and hungry” Cassius who recruits the assassins who bring down Caesar; and Nick Rose is the wily Mark Antony who finds a way to turn Caesar’s death to his own advantage. Once you’ve seen this production, you should make plans to return for a kind of sequel as Cincy Shakes stages Antony and Cleopatra with several of the actors from Julius Caesar reprising their roles. Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
Playwright Lauren Gunderson presented a quartet of badass women from 18th-century France in The Revolutionists at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in February. Some more strong females — Americans from the early 20th century — are the characters of Silent Sky, the current production at Know Theatre. The central character is Henrietta Leavitt, an aspiring astronomer who had to work doubly hard to earn recognition for her scientific insights. She’s bracketed by a devoted, conservative sister and a pair of “lunatic women” who are her scientific colleagues. Director Tamara Winters has an excellent cast of actors to tell this story — especially Maggie Lou Rader in a luminous portrait of the feisty, persistent Henrietta. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati seldom brings back a show it’s presented in the past, but when it staged Jeanine Tesori’s musical Violet back in 1998, that was long before Over-the-Rhine was a go-to neighborhood for entertainment. So there’s a good rationale for reviving this lovely, heartfelt story. Check out this video preview.
Big things happened at Wednesday's City Council meeting. Council finally voted to approve the streetcar's operating budget for the first year after spending the last month squabbling and kicking it back and forth between council and committee. The budget just barely passed in a vote of 5-3, with council members Kevin Flynn, Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voting against it. Councilwoman Amy Murray was absent from the meeting. Mayor John Cranley, who previously said he would veto any operating budget that didn't get at least six votes, appears to have had enough of this streetcar drama. The mayor decided recently not to veto the budget even if it passed with a mere five votes.
Council also voted to approve a wage hike for city government workers, passing a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for full-time workers and to $10.10 an hour for part-time and seasonal workers. The increase will affect about one out of every five city workers, or about 1,166 workers. Cranley, who introduced the ordinance last month, called council's decision "morally right" and hopes the state will follow suit.
• Students at Northern Kentucky University will see a slight increase in their tuition next year. The NKU Board of Regents voted to pass a 3 percent increase in undergraduate tuition on Wednesday to keep up with rising costs at the university and a decrease in funding from the state. Next year, Kentucky residents can expect to pay an average of $130 more per semester while Cincinnati residents will shell out an extra $200 per semester and nonresidents will pay an extra $260.
• State Rep. Denise Driehaus is upset with the closure of the Little Miami Incinerator. The incinerator was closed temporarily earlier this month after it was determined that it does not meet federal pollution standards. It served as one of two ways that Hamilton County disposes of human waste, and it's unclear when, or if, it will reopen. Driehaus, who is currently running for Hamilton County commissioner in the upcoming November election, released a statement Thursday morning condemning county for allowing the closure that she saw as avoidable and called for new leadership to better address the issue.
"This could have and should have been resolved." Driehaus says in the statement. "We need leadership on the County Commission that will roll up their sleeves and work to resolve challenging issues instead of being content to play the blame game when something goes wrong."
• Since former Speaker of the House John Boehner resigned from his post last October, it seems he feels more free to express his true feelings about the GOP presidential candidates. At an event at Stanford University on Wednesday, Boehner called Texas Sen. Ted Cruz a "miserable son of a bitch." Boehner also disclosed that he and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump are "texting buddies" and that he is also friends with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is currently running way behind Trump and Cruz in the election. However, it seems he and Kasich aren't quite BFFs as he also said that their friendship "requires more effort."
The operating budget for the Cincinnati streetcar again looks likely to move forward in City Council today, barring any major surprises. Of course, that was also the case a couple weeks ago, when the budget stumbled over some last-minute objections by Councilman Kevin Flynn around contingency funding. Flynn’s course reversal left the budget with only five votes, which was not enough to overcome a veto promised by Mayor John Cranley. So back to committee it went, where it passed again yesterday. Cranley has indicated he won’t veto the revised budget, which would move about $550,000 in leftover construction funds into a contingency account, even if it only gets five votes. Flynn thinks leftover construction money should be used for startup costs.
• Hey, this is creepy, though not totally unexpected. Crews working to seal off some asbestos in Music Hall found human remains under the orchestra pit. No, they aren’t what’s left of some unfortunate clarinetists who were a little pitchy in their renditions of Rhapsody in Blue’s opening glissando or timpanists who missed a beat or two in a conductor's favorite Bach piece. The remains, which archeological consultants Gray and Pape say probably belonged to four people, seem to be holdovers from the pit’s 1928 construction. The historic hall, as well as the land around it in Washington Park, spent two decades starting around 1818 as a burial ground for indigent residents. Many of those grave sites were moved in the 1850s, but some lingered, and apparently still do. When Music Hall construction began in 1876, workers were faced with the task of removing the remaining bodies to places like Spring Grove Cemetery. Far be it for me to critique someone else’s work, especially when it’s work that I wouldn’t go anywhere near, but… seems like they missed a few spots. In addition to the remains under the orchestra pit, workers also found a number of grave shafts full of wooden coffins.
• If you’re a frequent flyer, you know the struggle: The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, or CVG, used to be the last resort when you wanted to take a flight on the cheap. Places like Dayton and Louisville — or even Columbus — were cheaper enough to fly from that it made the drive worth it. But not any more, apparently. CVG’s fares are now lower than Dayton and Louisville’s airports, and the lowest they’ve been relative to other airports in more than 20 years. That’s in part due to the increase in airlines flying out of CVG, including low-cost carriers like Allegiant Air. CVG still trails Columbus and Indianapolis in terms of affordability, but not by as much as in the past, when our airport was the third-most expensive in the country. These days, it’s 22nd.
• As you might have guessed, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump came up big winners in yesterday’s GOP primaries. Trump swept every county in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, extending his delegate count to 949 of the 1,237 he needs to clinch the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, Clinton won in all those states except Rhode Island, where her challenger, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, prevailed. Clinton’s victories put the Democratic nomination all but out of reach for Sanders, though he’s vowed to stay in the race. Meanwhile, Trump has also solidified his position as the GOP frontrunner — his second-place opponent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has only 544 delegates. Third-place contender, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has just 153 — fewer than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race weeks ago.
• With an ever-clearer picture of who the nominees for each party are likely to be, the frontrunners’ eyes are turning to the general election. And there are signs it’s gonna be an ugly, ugly race. Perhaps feeling his oats after his decisive victories, Trump yesterday bashed Clinton, saying that she’s only winning primaries because she’s a woman. If you thought Trump might tone it down for the general election in a bid to get more mainstream swing voters, including, you know, women, well… don’t hold your breath for too long on that. Key quote from Trump:
“She is a woman, she is playing the woman card left and right,” Mr. Trump told CNN in a post-primary interview. “Frankly, if she didn’t, she would do very poorly. If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes."
Good morning all. Hope your weekend was as perfect as mine. Let’s talk about news real quick.
Vice Mayor David Mann says the private foundation that raises money for Cincinnati Parks Board should open its books to public scrutiny. The Cincinnati Parks Foundation, a nonprofit group, came under scrutiny last year during a contentious bid for a property tax levy to fund parks improvements put forward by Mayor John Cranley. Voters passed on that proposal, but not before it was revealed that the park board spent money from the foundation on pro-levy campaigns. After the election, further revelations about board spending on travel and perks drew increased scrutiny to the parks board and triggered a city audit. Now, Mann says the foundation should undergo similar scrutiny.
• Speaking of investigations: Are the feds really looking into MSD? Last year, The Enquirer reported that Cincinnati’s metropolitan sewer district was under the microscope of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, presumably over its implementation of a multi-billion-dollar federal order to revamp the city’s sewer system. However, the FBI hasn’t asked for any of the things you’d expect if it was indeed probing the large public department, the Businss Courier reports. No subpoenas have been filed, no hard drives have been seized and no documents have been requested. If there’s truly an investigation happening, it’s very low-key.
• The state of Kentucky could allocate $10 million to revamp a highway exit leading to the religiously-themed Ark Encounter theme park. Watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State has cried foul at that expenditure, saying it amounts to Kentucky using taxpayer dollars to benefit a religious group. The money for the ramp improvements on I-75 and KY 36 made its way into the state’s budget, which is currently in the process of being passed. AUSCS says it doesn’t have any plans as of yet to oppose the money, but says it is continuing to watch the situation. Ark park owners Answers in Genesis say an earlier ruling allowing Kentucky to give tax incentives to the site has answered questions about the legality of such expenditures.
• The mass shooting of eight people in Piketon, Ohio last week has left more questions than answers, and authorities say they’re preparing for a long investigation. All eight victims were related and the shootings happened at three sites close to each other. Authorities say the shootings were expertly planned and executed and noted that two of the three crime scenes contained significant marijuana growing operations. Investigators have not commented on any possible link between the operations and the killings.
• The city of Cleveland has settled a lawsuit with the family of Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed in November 2014 by a Cleveland police officer. The family will get $6 million from the city. A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann in that incident. Loehmann leapt from a police cruiser that had stopped feet away from Rice at a Cleveland playground and almost immediately shot him. Rice, 12, had been playing with a toy pistol on the playground when a neighbor called the police. The caller stipulated the gun was probably fake, but dispatchers did not relay that information to officers.
• Do you ever think, "jeez, more papers should be like The Cincinnati Enquirer?" You may be in luck. Gannett, the national corporation that owns the Enquirer as well as USA Today and a number of other publications, has made an offer to buy Tribune Publishing, another large national newspaper chain. Gannett has offered $815 million for the chain, which includes The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other daily newspapers.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, both GOP presidential primary hopefuls, will collaborate in future primaries to try and trip up frontrunner Donald Trump as he charges toward the party’s nomination. The Kasich campaign has indicated it will focus efforts on New Mexico and Oregon while staying out of Indiana in a move to help Cruz best Trump in that state. In return, Cruz has agreed to stay out of the two western states in a bid to give Kasich the edge over Trump there. The move — which will present Trump with one focused opponent in upcoming contests, instead of the split field he’s faced up to this point — seems calculated toward denying him the 1,137 delegates needed to clinch the nomination outright. Kasich in particular is counting on a contested convention in July, since he badly trails in the delegate count in the current contest.
FRIDAY 22EATS: GREATER CINCINNATI RESTAURANT WEEK Be a culinary tourist in your own city with CityBeat’s inaugural Greater Cincinnati Restaurant Week. Do you like eating? Do you want to try some multi-course meals for cheap? Restaurants throughout the Tristate will be offering $35 three-course meals to delight the palate and impress your date. Participating eateries include Harvest Bistro & Wine Bar, Pompilios, Kaze, The Palace, Parkers Blue Ash Tavern and more. Check out menus and more info online. Through April 24. $35 plus tax and gratuities. Find participating restaurants at greatercincinnatirestaurantweek.com.
Yesterday marked the passing of not only Prince, but another music legend — Lonnie Mack. Mack, who was born in Harrison, Ind., and cut his teeth in Greater Cincinnati’s nightclubs, died Thursday at his home in Tennessee from natural causes. The influential guitarist was 74.
Recording locally and releasing early material on Cincinnati’s Fraternity label, Mack’s guitar playing is said to have been a major influence on many Rock superstar players, including Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The pioneering guitarist was the second artist to receive the Michael W. Bany Lifetime Achievement Award from the Enquirer’s former awards program, the Cammys, accepting the award in 1998. Bootsy Collins, who won the award the year before, has said Mack was a giant influence on the development of his style.
Mack is considered one of Rock & Roll’s first “guitar heroes.” He’s in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the International Guitar Hall of Fame, and should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Here’s the press release sent out by Alligator Records (Mack’s final label) late last night:
You have more theater choices this weekend than time, I suspect, so choose carefully depending on the kind of show you most enjoy.
If it’s a classic, I suggest you check out Julius Caesar at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This tale of one of history’s most memorable political assassinations is one of Shakespeare’s shorter plays, about two hours and 15 minutes. But it’s action-packed with a lot of intrigue, soul-searching and emotions that ebb and flow. Cincy Shakes relies on its acting ensemble to fill these iconic roles, and they bring them to life more vividly than I’ve seen in a long time. Josh Katawick is especially engaging as the leader, “lean and hungry” Cassius, whose motives are not far below his ambitious surface; Brent Vimtrup is Brutus, caught up in the plot for reasons of principle rather than envy, and his subtle performance of this conflicted man is compelling. Veteran Nick Rose is the blustery soldier Marc Antony, who’s actually a subtle manipulator of opinion. (We’ll see more of him next month when Cincy Shakes move on to Shakespeare’s other Roman play, Antony and Cleopatra). Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
An engaging new play, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, is onstage at Know Theatre, the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman of science from a century ago when women were not expected to have meaningful insights. But drawn to the mysteries of astronomy, she tirelessly made advances despite many barriers. Maggie Lou Rader plays the feisty woman, and her moral support from two older women, played by Annie Fitzpatrick and Regina Pugh, has elements of humor. This is a well-acted, well-staged play (direction by Know’s Tamara Winters), worth seeing. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
The 2014 movie of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods featured Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Johnny Depp. A production currently onstage at Northern Kentucky University doesn’t have that kind of star power, but the student cast does an admirable job with a show that places extraordinary vocal demands on singers. Director Jamey Strawn hit upon an imaginative framing device for the legendary fairy tale mash-up, setting it in a library where a young boy (played with a mischievously expressive demeanor by Charlie Klesa, a sixth-grader at Mercy Montessori), hides away for an overnight adventure of reading and fantasizing. As giants threaten the kingdom, books tumble from the library’s two-story-tall shelves. Into the Woods requires a big cast, and more than 20 NKU student actors plus a stylized wooden cow are clearly committed to giving their all to this production. Opening night on Thursday was an enthusiastic full house. Through May 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
Neil LaBute’s plays traffic in complex, often ironic,
manipulative situations, frequently brutal stories of abusive, selfish
behavior. The Shape of Things, presented by New
Edgecliff Theatre at Hoffner Lodge in Northside, is that kind of story —
about Evelyn, an ambitious young woman who makes an art project of
Adam, another student who thinks their relationship is a love affair.
Rebecca Whatley and Matthew Krieg handle these complicated roles
believably, but you’ll walk away wondering about their motives — she’s
cold, he’s clueless. It’s a compelling, disturbing story that makes for
an evening of edgy, psychological theater. Another Critic’s Pick with my
CityBeat review. Through April 30. Tickets here.
There’s a touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast onstage at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. It’s an entertaining, visually captivating production. There’s nothing new about it, to be sure, but the young cast carries off the sprightly songs and choreography with lots of energy. I wish there was a little more heart and a little less clowning, especially by Sam Hartley as the Beast, who’s meant to be a tragic hero. The chemistry between him and Brooke Quintana as Belle is in the script, but it only shows up intermittently onstage. Nevertheless, Wednesday night’s full house with lots of kids dressed for the evening clearly had a good time watching the story unfold. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Quick Notes: True Theater is back for another quarterly evening of storytelling on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. Know Theatre. This time the theme is True Gay, so it will be enlightening to hear the personal reminiscences that get shared. … At UC’s College-Conservatory of Music this weekend, the drama program presents a staged reading of Grace Gardner’s new script, Very Dumb Kids, tonight 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. It’s the beginning of a new play commissioning initiative that will foster new works. … This is the final weekend for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Incline Theater in East Price Hill and for Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years, at The Carnegie in Covington.
Good morning all. Or, well, let's be honest with ourselves: This is a not good morning. Prince is dead. The Reds lost yesterday in what appears to be the highest-scoring no-hitter since the 1880s. There’s some rain in the forecast today. Ouch.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the news if you can bear it.
• Hey, here’s something positive. The population of Cincinnati’s urban core — Over-the-Rhine, downtown, Pendleton and the East End — has increased, according to a new report from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. The Business Courier has the details on that study, but the upshot is that about 400 more people lived in the city’s 45202 ZIP code last year than did in 2014, and the population there is now almost 16,000. There are certainly downsides to this growth, as we explore in this week’s news feature. But the uptick in population signals the continued reversal in a historic trend that saw people leaving the urban core for decades.
• Contenders in the upcoming Hamilton County Commissioners race — Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Republican incumbent Dennis Deters (that’s a lot of Ds) — just released their post-primary fundraising totals. Driehaus brought in $64,000 for the fundraising period, bringing her total take so far up to $308,000, according to her campaign. The campaign says that 65 percent of that take came from donors pledging $100 or less. Deters meanwhile, has raised about $92,000 so far, according to WCPO, but most of that has come since the new year. Many expect the race to be one of the most expensive ever, with Driehaus saying she hopes to raise $1 million before all is said and done. Control of the currently Republican-led county commission hangs in the balance with the unusually competitive race.
• Republic Street in Over-the-Rhine won’t be getting a rooftop deck bar, a city board ruled yesterday. The Lang Thang Group, which runs neighborhood restaurants Quan Hapa and Pho Lang Thang, wanted to build the deck as part of its planned Crown & Key bar at 1332 Republic St. Residents there didn’t oppose the bar, but did take issue with the deck, which they feared would cause unwelcome noise and other detriments to quality of life in the neighborhood. A residents group that pushed back against the deck also cited ways in which the plan violated historic conservation guidelines in the neighborhood. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals agreed with residents. The Lang Thang Group can challenge that decision in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas if it chooses.
• Cincinnati Public Schools will remake seven of its neighborhood schools next year. The remakes are part one of a larger plan called Vision 2020 to make CPS more attractive by adding additional programs to schools. Next year, schools like Chase School in Northside will get expanded arts and culture offerings, while others like Rothenberg Academy in Over-the-Rhine will get student entrepreneurship classes.
• Finally, as the GOP presidential primary continues to get weirder and more chaotic, national media is looking more at Ohio Gov. John Kasich to… well, I guess try to figure out what he’s thinking. Kasich trails primary frontrunner Donald Trump and second-placer U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz badly in the race’s delegate count, and there's no mathematical way for him to win the nomination aside from a contested convention. Party leaders and pundits have been pushing for Kasich to leave the race for months. But he’s still going, and that’s newsworthy, I suppose. Earlier this week, Kasich met with the editorial board of the Washington Post for an extended interview, where he laid out his reasons for staying in the race. I’ll leave you with a key quote from Kasich.
“The last poll that we saw up there I was running five points behind Hillary. Five. Trump was getting slaughtered. I mean, you guys have been watching and girl- women here have been watching the national polls. I win in the fall every time, even in that electoral deal, and Trump gets slaughtered.”
Mark this as the moment you learned that girl-women will help Kasich win that electoral deal. Send your thoughts on that knowledge-nugget, or your news tips, via e-mail or Twitter. I'm out.
APRIL 21Zoo Blooms — The zoo transforms into an explosion of color with one of the largest tulip displays in the Midwest. Through April 30. Free with zoo admission. $18 adult; $13 child/senior. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.