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by Rick Pender 08.19.2011
Posted In: Theater at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stage Door: 'Pippin' Steps Out at Carnegie

Stephen Schwartz is well known in the world of musical theater as the composer of Wicked, the mega-hit Broadway musical that’s been running since 2003 (more than 3,200 performances to date). But he started his career a long time ago, composing the music for Godspell way back in 1971. At the age of 24, he followed Godspell with another hit, the 1972 musical Pippin (which ran for five years, nearly 2,000 performances). It’s the season opener in a three-weekend run at Covington’s Carnegie Center beginning Friday.

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by Rick Pender 08.22.2009
Posted In: Theater at 11:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bruffy to Leave Know Theatre

Jason Bruffy will leave his position as artistic director of Know Theatre of Cincinnati on Sept. 4 to lead the Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC) in Utah. 

He became Know's artistic leader in 2004 and oversaw the company's 2006 move from a church basement in Over-the-Rhine to a remodeled, two-story building on Jackson Street in another part of the neighborhood that has become a focal point for Cincinnati's performing arts scene. His departure coincides with that of Know founder, Jay Kalagayan, who announced earlier in the summer his intention to relinquish his responsibilities as the 11-year-old company's development director. Managing Director Eric Vosmeier will be Know's interim leader while a search is conducted for Know's next artistic director.

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by Rick Pender 06.07.2009
Posted In: Theater, Dance at 07:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fringe Festival: That's a Wrap

At last evening’s finale party for the 2009 Cincy Fringe Festival, three “Pick of the Fringe” awards were presented:

The Audience Pick, voted by theatergoers, went to Gravesongs (pictured), Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s intern showcase, a piece by local playwright Sarah Underwood written for the five actresses who spent this season at ETC (Rachel Christianson, Emily Eaton, Lauren Shiveley, Rebecca Whatley and Elizabeth L. Worley). It was directed by another ETC intern, Elizabeth Maxwell. The script is about death from the perspective of women in their early twenties.

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by Rick Pender 03.04.2012
Posted In: Theater at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Cincy Shakes

Familiar Faces and Fantastic Tales at Cincy Shakes

A bunch of classic characters will be showing up at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to entertain us for the 2012-2013 theater season, announced today: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson; Atticus Finch; Romeo and Juliet; Lady Bracknell; Nick Bottom and Puck. Oh, and a few kings and generals — Richard II and the bloody Titus Andronicus — plus a hearty dose of laughs with reprises of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Here’s the rundown:

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (July 20-Aug. 12, 2012). A regional premiere of a three-actor adaptation by Steve Canny of this memorable Sherlock Holmes mystery.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Sept. 7-30, 2012). A reminder that all classics need not be British. One of our region’s best professionals, Bruce Cromer, will play Atticus Finch in this adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel about prejudice, violence and hypocrisy in 1932 Alabama.
  • Romeo & Juliet (Oct. 12-Nov. 11, 2012). You probably know the details of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy of star-crossed lovers. The cast features Sara Clark, Billy Chace, Annie Fitzpatrick and Sherman Fracher.
  • Titus Andronicus (Oct. 20-Nov. 11, 2012). Cincy Shakes enjoys providing a bloodbath every year for Halloween, and Shakespeare’s play about a tyrannical Roman military leader is the perfect vehicle — revenge, murder, betrayal and gruesome murders.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (Nov. 23-Dec. 16, 2012). The smile-inducing production for the holidays will be Oscar Wilde’s delirious 1895 comedy of manners and intentionally mistaken identities, with Jim Hopkins in the cross-dressed role of the imperious grand-dame, Lady Bracknell.
  • Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) (Dec. 16-30, 2012). An added holiday treat from Cincy Shakes — for the grown-ups — back for its seventh season.
  • Richard II (Jan. 11-Feb. 3, 2013). As the company marches toward the completion of Shakespeare’s canon in 2014, this one notches the final history play in the repertoire.
  • Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) (Feb. 15-March 10, 2013). This 1985 play (and a 1988 Oscar-nominated movie) was adapted by Christopher Hampton from a 1782 novel about French courtiers who used sex as a weapon to manipulate and degrade. It’s a cynical, dark comedy, directed by Drew Fracher and starring Giles Davies, Sherman Fracher and Corinne Mohlenhoff.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (March 22-April 21, 2013). Shakespeare’s most popular comedy — four young lovers lost in a magical forest and a troupe of amateur actors rehearsing a silly play. Nick Rose plays Bottom the Weaver, he of the donkey’s head.
  • Measure for Measure (May 3-26, 2013). Shakespeare’s play about the virtuous Isabella, played by Kelly Mengelkoch, one of Cincy Shakes’ best actresses, who must contend with hypocritical, religious double standards. 
  • Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (June 7-30, 2013). A final bit of summer fun.
That’s a very ambitious 11 productions in 12 months. Three shows (Titus Andronicus, Every Christmas Story and Complete Works) are outside the subscription series, but available at a discount to subscribers. Adult subscriptions (eight tickets which can be used in any combination) are $195; seniors ($165) and students ($130) are also available. A special bargain is a “preview” subscription ($105), offering admission to performances on the day or two before a show opens. Info: www.cincyshakes.com or 513-381-2273, x1.
by Rick Pender 04.19.2012
Posted In: Theater at 08:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

2012 Fringe Cranks Up its Engine

Twenty-nine shows in two weeks, commencing May 29

Know Theatre has announced the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, kicking off May 29 and continuing through June 9. Festivities begin with the official CityBeat Fringe Kick-Off Party on May 29 at 6 p.m. (A suggested donation of $5 gets you in.) During the Festivals’ two-week run, 29 productions will receive multiple performances. Some shows are locally originated (14) and others are by touring artists (15) who travel to festivals around the United States. If everything selected actually happens (that’s seldom the case), there will be 10 plays, nine solo shows, four dance works and six multimedia/variety pieces.

Several award-winning groups popular with past Fringe audiences are set to return. One of the most popular performers from 2011, Kevin J. Thornton — his I Love You (We’re Fucked) had a sold-out run and returned for another stint last October — is back with Strange Dreamz. Thornton has appeared in the Capital Fringe, Indy Fringe, NYC Frigid Festival, Tucson Fringe Festival, Phoenix Fringe Festival, Orlando Fringe Festival, Kansas City Fringe Festival, and the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

 Four Humors Theater from the Twin Cities is back for the fifth consecutive year, this time presenting Bombus and Berrylinne, or the Bumblebee and the Hummingbird. The group has previously produced Mortem Capiendum (Producer’s Pick of the Fringe, 2008), April Fools (2009), and Harold (Critic’s Pick of the Fringe, 2010) and the hilarious James Bond-inspired puppet show You Only Live Forever Once (2011).

The longevity honors will continue to be held by Cincinnati Fringe veteran group Performance Gallery, returning for their ninth year with Rodney Rumple's Random Reality. Past Cincinnati Fringe appearances include Images of a Beating Heart (2004), The Killer Whispers and Prays (2005), Godsplay (2006), Girlfight (2007), Fricative (2008), KAZ/m (2009), The Council (2010) and The Body Speaks (2011). Brad Cupples, the playwright for Performance Gallery’s 2010 entry, returns with Third Quarter Moon: A Complex Derivative Love Story.

We’ll see shows from established local companies, including Quake: A Love Story from New Edgecliff Theatre (they presented Darker in 2011) and Don't Cross The Streams: The Cease and Desist Musical, a stage musical from Covington’s Carnegie Visual & Performing Arts Center.

Two new local companies will present for the first time. Homegrown Theatre, led by local actress Leah Strasser will present an absurdist piece, The Doppelganger Cometh and Overtaketh, while Essex Theatre Arts Studio, founded by actors Bob Allen and Elizabeth Harris, will stage Love Knots, a series of shorts plays about love and romance by local playwright Phil Paradis.

There will be plenty of new acts, including Grim & Fisher (the award-winning A deathly comedy in full-face mask) from Portland, Ore., and Rebecca King (Storms Beneath Her Skin), a transgender artist from Chicago. New York artist Tanya O’Debra’s Radio Star has won awards in San Francisco, Montreal and New York City.

There will be dance performances by Houston-based dance company Psophonia (Delicious) and two local groups, MamLuft&Co.’s (Latitude) and Pones, Inc. (Project Activate). The latter is a collaborative and participatory performance that asks “How do you activate Cincinnati?” It’s the product of five local service organizations with 12 professional artists from a variety of disciplines.

Each evening after performances, artists, audience members, staff, and volunteers gather at Know Theatre’s Underground bar for the Fringe Bar Series featuring the “Channel Fringe Hard Hitting Action News Update.” Events there include Fringe previews, Fringe Olympics, Fringe-e-Oke, Fringe Prom, and the 22.5 hour play project.

This year marks the second year of FringeNext, offering three shows created and performed by high school students. Two are originating from the School for Creative and Performing Arts; the third is from Lakota West High School.

Individual tickets to shows are still $12. “Full Frontal” passes are $200, providing access to every event in the festival. “Flexible Voyeur” six-show passes are on sale for $60, the price equivalent of five tickets. “One Night Stand” passes are $35; that’s good for one weeknight (as many as three shows) and a drink at Know Theatre's Bar. Pre-sale single tickets will go on sale mid-May.

For more information about the performances or to purchase passes, check out www.cincyfringe.com or call (513) 300-KNOW (5669).

by Rick Pender 07.13.2011
Posted In: Theater at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

True Theatre Will Be Back at Know

Monday night I attended the fourth of four sold-out evenings of True Theatre, an innovative spoken word program that's been happening at Know Theatre since last October. Organizers Dave Levy and Jeff Groh have found considerable success inviting people (usually five per evening) to speak at these quarter gatherings about some real, personal event — usually on a theme, such as Monday night's "True Independence," inspired by last week's holiday.

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by Rick Pender 04.13.2010
Posted In: Theater, Television at 07:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Communal 'Glee'

I admit that I occasionally watch the popular TV series Glee with some mixed feelings: The musical theater side of me loves it, the serious theater nut thinks it's too shallow for words. But the world seems more in the former camp than the latter, and that's led to a new social phenomena — "Glee Parties," which are popping up around the country, including one right here in Cincinnati.

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by Rick Pender 03.06.2011
Posted In: Theater at 06:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Sondheim at Cincinnati Playhouse

For the ninth time during Ed Stern’s tenure at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, a show by Stephen Sondheim will be presented. Stern, the Playhouse’ Producing Artistic Director, has a soft spot for the great American composer and lyricist who turned 80 a year ago. He will bring back Tony Award-winning director John Doyle (pictured) to stage Merrily We Roll Along in a production that uses actors who also provide the musical accompaniment. The show will be presented next year in March.

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by Rick Pender 10.19.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
onstage - blue man group - balls - photo paul kolnik

Stage Door: Blue Man Group

My first and foremost recommendation for the weekend is  Blue Man Group. (Review here.)  It's a performance experience unlike much of anything else you've probably ever experienced in a theater — raucous music, zany humor, eye-popping technology and infectiously fun engagement with the audience. Amazingly, it's done without spoken words — the guys mime (well, kind of, it's actually more like they're mute in the style of Harpo Marx, with a lot of staring and double-takes), although they're backed up by awesome video that does offer some instruction (and laughs) for the literate. As I've said before, it's hard to describe but easy to enjoy. This is Blue Man Group's first time in Cincinnati, presented by Broadway Across America; the Aronoff Center might never be the same. (Through Oct. 28) Box office: 800-982-2787.

Last night I enjoyed opening night for the thoroughly authentic and charming production of Neil Simon's
Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. It's the story of a Jewish family in Brooklyn in the 1930s, but thanks to Simon's witty, heartfelt recollections of his own youth, it has a feeling of universality. The narrator is Eugene Morris Jerome (who's a stand-in for Simon himself), and actor Ryan DeLuca conveys the joys and pangs of adolescence and puberty with feeling and hilarity. He frequently addresses the audience about his interactions with his grouchy parents and his woebegon aunt, his worldly brother, his pampered cousins — he's documenting them for something he'll write when he's older, a novel or perhaps a play! And that play is the one onstage at the Playhouse, the first Neil Simon script ever presented there in more than 50 seasons. (Through Nov. 10.) Box office: 513-421-3888.

Continuing productions of the comedy
Mrs. Mannerly at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (513-421-3555) and Shakespeare's romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (513-381-2273, x1) have been positively reviewed and appreciated by audiences. This weekend also marks the opening of Cincy Shakes' staging of Shakespeare's bloody history of the Roman emperor Titus Andronicus, staged with tongue in cheek (and in a pie) for the Halloween season. It happens on the nights when the R&J cast takes a breather.

You might also consider two special events: New Edgecliff Theatre's annual one-night fundraiser,
Sweet Suspense Theatre, a presentation in the style of a radio play, happens on Saturday evening. This year the production, a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde's story of The Canterville Ghost, is being presented at the Cincinnati Art Museum — and includes an extended intermission with lots of goodies from local bakeries and restaurants. (Tickets: 888-588-0177). You might also want to check in with the Playhouse about ticket availability for Post Secret on Monday evening; the one-night presentation of  a piece based on an anonymous "true confessions" website is rumored to be sold out, but there might be a waiting list if you call the box office. (513-421-3888)

by Rick Pender 04.23.2010
Posted In: Theater at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cincy Shakes Goes Wilde, More 'Angels'

I wish I could point you to a good production of a Shakespearean play today, since it's the Bard's 446th birthday. But Cincy Shakes is presenting Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband in a delightfully enacted production that ranges from witty humor to heartfelt emotion. It's definitely worth seeing.

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