Shinji Turner-Yamamoto's 2012 Global Tree Project: Hanging Garden — two trees suspended by wire inside Mt. Adams' deconsecrated (and crumbling) Holy Cross Church — is now generally recognized as one of the high points of public art in Cincinnati in recent years.
In addition to proving inspirational for us in terms of what large-scale, site-specific art can be and what local artists can accomplish, it also has attracted ongoing international attention for him.
The latest development is his inclusion in an exhibition, About Trees, opening this fall at the Zentrum Paul Klee museum in Bern, Switzerland. For his site-specific work in the museum's main hall, he will work with a dying linden tree on the museum grounds.
The exhibit — part of a trilogy of related shows that continues into 2017 — is dedicated to the tree as a motif in international contemporary art. Turner-Yamamoto finds himself in some very impressive company. Others with work in the show include Paul Klee, Carlos Amorales, Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, Ana Mendieta and Shirin Neshat.
Meanwhile, a large-scale photograph of the Hanging Garden installation was commissioned by Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, for the ambassadorial residence in Tokyo as part of the Art in Embassies Program.
Also, he will have a show at the Weston Gallery here next year.
Morning y’all. Let’s talk about the news real quick. I think winter is getting to me, because this update got pretty opinionated pretty quickly.
Can you think of anything useful, even vital, on which the county could spend $7.5 million? Maybe chipping in a bit more toward the Union Terminal renovation, or giving a bit to the effort to shape up Music Hall? Maybe addiction treatment or some other human services funding? More sheriff’s deputies on the streets? Or, you know, maybe they could put that cash toward a new crime lab and morgue, both of which are critically crowded and out of date. Or etc. I ask because $7.5 million is the recently-announced amount county taxpayers will pay for new Bengals scoreboards as part of some $12 million overall the county will cough up from its sales tax fund for stadium improvements. Is there any estimate on return on investment for the county on this? Will the new high-definition scoreboards create at least $7.5 million in sales taxes for the county somehow? In return for this outpouring of county largess tied to the 15-year-old albatross of a stadium deal, the Bengals made an exception for projects at The Banks to a provision in their lease that stipulates the height of buildings around the stadium. That’s nice of them. These are all things I will receive exactly zero benefit from in my lifetime.
• Anyway. Speaking of the county, it has settled with the families of three women whose corpses were abused by a former morgue employee from the 1970s to the 1990s. The county will pay $800,000 to the families to end a lawsuit centered around the behavior of Kenneth Douglass, who is believed to have abused more than 100 bodies in the years he worked for the morgue.
• This is pretty cool, I think. The University of Cincinnati will redevelop the old Sears building on Reading Road and Lincoln Avenue in Corryville into an innovation hub for UC-related startups. The university will spend about $16 million to turn the 130,000-square-foot structure, which has a distinct Art Deco vibe, into a business and tech incubator. The building was the first Sears store in the city when it was built in 1929. I’ve always really liked this building, and recently, with the fencing that has surrounded it, I’ve been afraid they would tear it down. UC bought the building in 1981 and it housed the university’s campus services until last year. When I was an Americorps member a few years ago, the UC-affiliated nonprofit I worked for had storage space in the building. I know its creepy, dimly-lit hallways well and I’m excited to see it restored.
• It’s official. Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has entered the 2016 Senate race. Strickland, who will be 75 by that time, could face off against Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, creating a high-profile battle between two of the biggest names in state politics. Portman is popular, with millions in the bank for his next campaign, but Strickland is a formidable opponent and perhaps Democrats’ best shot. However, at the moment, Strickland’s got some competition for the Democratic nomination in the form of Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld, 30, announced his intentions to run last month and has raised $500,000 for his campaign thus far. He’s a dynamic young candidate who has done a great deal in a short time and looks to still be on the rise. Some within the party believe he’ll bow out to the higher-profile and more experienced Strickland, but some of Sittenfeld’s own funders have indicated they’re backing him no matter who else is in the game. Will P.G. keep running, or will the state party convince him to sit this one out?
• Speaking of state politics, Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State address last night. During the hour-and-a-quarter long speech, Kasich tacked rightward, mostly emphasizing his plan to cut income taxes as a way to encourage economic growth. The speech is an important moment for Kasich as he seeks a larger spotlight. Kasich’s been traveling and fundraising in connection with his bid for the Republican Party nomination for the 2016 presidential election. Kasich’s recent budget proposals, which he again touted in his speech, suggest he’s trying to balance the demands of the Republican party’s right wing — cut taxes to the bone, ease regulations on businesses — with a need to stay viable in a general election by appearing to be a compassionate conservative who cares about the plight of the poor, education funding and so forth. It makes sense that Kasich would emphasize the more conservative elements of his plan in his address last night — the yearly oratory is traditionally aimed at the state legislature, which is dominated by rightward-leaning Republicans. Those lawmakers don’t seem super-enthused by Kasich’s plans, however, balking at tax increases on cigarettes and oil drilling, for instance. One last note on Kasich’s big speech — he awarded the Governor’s Courage Award to Cincinnatian Lauren Hill, the Mt. Saint Joseph student and basketball player who is fighting an inoperable brain tumor.
• Finally, I generally like the New York Times. They often do fantastic work. But this piece today about downtown Cincinnati’s resurgence following the 2001 civil unrest is mystifying to me. First, there are about a million things that made Cincinnati sluggish and grim before and after the unrest, including many systemic issues that haunted and continue to haunt the city specifically and others endemic to a lot of other urban areas. There are about a million other things that have happened since the unrest that have made the city’s center, and many other downtowns, take off. Tying the two things together while saying that memories of the unrest are “fading” (probably not true) seems to miss a number of things. The article doesn’t mention the city’s pervasive poverty problem, the fact we’re at the bottom of the list in America for infant mortality, the fact that its police force (30 percent black) still doesn’t match the demographics of the city (which is 45 percent black). It barely glances at the issue of gentrification, a problem many say is accelerating in the urban core and a subject that has been hugely divisive over the past decade. Anyway. That’s my media criticism for the day.
Tweet at me (@nswartsell) or give me an e-mail (email@example.com) if I bummed you out hating on the Bengals, or if you feel the way I do about the team's blinging new big screens.
While Jess Lamb’s American Idol journey may be over, the show is still very much a part of her everyday life. Fans of the show know that the performers often leverage their appearances into work on other projects, such as backup singing or working with national acts in collaborations. It is a process that takes a great deal of time and effort but there is another aspect of being an Idol contestant (current and former) that many fans may not consider — namely, keeping up with the social media explosion that coincides with debuting on the show. It’s a deluge of activity that, initially, can’t be adequately prepared for and it’s one that Lamb experienced firsthand.
“At first, after my audition aired, my sites couldn’t keep up. My stuff was literally shut down,” Lamb explains.
As a local artist, Lamb was used to receiving a friend request on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram fairly often. She relied (and still does rely) on social media for the majority of her publicity regarding upcoming shows and releases. But after her premiere, the number and frequency ballooned in a very short period of time. Furthermore, friend requests from friends of friends or local fans morphed into a nationwide fan base that searched Lamb out on her social media outlets.
“It’s crazy that I can make a post about a song and get 90 likes and in two days see hundreds of streams,” Lamb says. “It’s actually reaching people who are friends of mine because they want to hear the music, not because they’re interested in the scene. They’re literally curious about what I’m doing — they want to hear more.”
But this influx of attention has heightened Lamb’s time on said social media, simply so she can keep up with all of the activity across her accounts, while still trying to maintain a public presence and keeping her fans up to date with her myriad projects. In fact, Lamb has had to cut back on the time she spends at her 9-5 job so she can answer fan requests and emails in between interviews, studio work and live performances.
It’s been a dramatic transition for Lamb who, before Idol, rarely used her social media for any personal or professional purpose. In fact, it was her fiancé who initially showed her the value of using social media to self-promote. Social media activity actually lines up with Lamb’s well established indie sensibilities. She takes pride in having a control over her public output, whether that be an Instagram photo or uploading a new song onto iTunes.
“I still own all the songs, I’m not going to get slapped on the wrist for releasing songs because I’m not releasing for a label —it’s still mine, it’s on me. If I fail, I’m the one filing bankruptcy. If I succeed, I get to hire more people,” Lamb says.
She also leverages her public output to help other artists that she works with as well. For example, many of her fans have seen clips of Lamb’s work with local Electronica act Black Signal or marveled at her unique jewelry and clothing, much of which comes from local boutique Lulu White. Lamb has been repeatedly asked about her collaborations and takes great pains to make sure that her partners get the recognition they deserve. In doing so, she is able to shine a light on not just projects that she is personally a part of, but also projects that she is a personal fan of, showing her fans another aspect of her personality and artistic output.
In many ways, keeping up with her social media has become another job for Lamb, requiring large amounts of time and thought to be put into its upkeep. But it’s a job she enjoys doing and one that she has no intention of passing off to anyone else.
“I would prefer to spend my time doing the social media stuff, I really do enjoy it. It helps me to come out of my shell when I’m sitting behind the computer,” Lamb says.
For her fans this is great news, because they can be assured that anything they see coming from Lamb online is actually coming from her and not a hired gun. It’s a genuine correspondence, which in today’s pop music world is a rarity.
Last year, Cincinnati Hip Hop artist MC Till (aka Adam Hayden) did the unexpected and released The Neighborhood, an amazing album that brilliantly fused Jazz with Hip Hop rhymes. This year, Hayden is working on another delightful musical curveball — a Hip Hop-centric album (available on vinyl) and book project for children titled The Corner.
The seeds of the project were planted several years ago when his friend, graphic designer/videographer/rapper Vernard Fields, who has worked over a decade with special needs children in the Cincinnati Public Schools system, mentioned to Hayden that he wanted to make a Hip Hop album for kids. In 2012, while Hayden was working as an assistant CPS teacher, he discovered that by rapping some children’s poetry, he quickly and easily captured the attention of the first grade class in which he was in charge. Recalling Fields orginal suggestion, Hayden got back in touch with him and the pair worked out some material and presented it to an even younger audience (pre-schoolers), where they were again a big hit. Hayden and Fields then teamed up with illustrator Charlie Padgett to create the visuals for The Corner.
The high-quality book and album will be made available as hard copies and digitally (an app and website are also in the works) and the trio hopes that schools will be interested in using their project in the classroom. The Kickstarter perks offered for the campaign for The Corner include having bundles sent to specific teachers and schools (there’s even an accompanying study guide for teachers).
The ambitious project won’t be cheap to produce; the three artists are currently aiming for more than $48,000 in their Kickstarter campaign. If you’d like to contribute and/or check out the project, click here or on the video below.
Hey all, here’s the news this morning.
Have you ever thought there should be more bars downtown? I hadn’t really thought about it before, but then I’m not a huge bar person. 3CDC, on the other hand, has and would like the city to take steps to increase the number of liquor licenses in two specific areas downtown. One, which would be called the Downtown West Community Entertainment District, would be near the convention center and Fountain Square, and another, called Downtown East, would encompass the rest of downtown. Designating an area a community entertainment district makes it eligible for more liquor licenses from the state.
Currently, Cincinnati is maxed out, but the proposed scheme would add up to 21 new licenses in the two districts. Ten other neighborhoods in the city have this designation, including Over-the-Rhine, Price Hill and CUF. 3CDC would control all liquor licenses granted to the western district under the plan, which has the support of a majority of council and Mayor John Cranley. Supporters of the plan say it will attract more residents to the districts as well as increase tax revenue. Council looks to vote on the measure soon.
• A local man has filed a lawsuit against LA Fitness after he claims he was prohibited from praying in the locker room of the chain’s Oakley location. Mohamed Fall, a Muslim, worked out at the gym on a regular basis for more than a year. After his workouts, he would stand with his eyes closed in an empty corner of the locker room and pray without speaking. Recently, three LA Fitness employees approached him while he was praying and told him he had to stop and that he should not pray in the locker room again. Fall says he was afraid he would be kicked out if he did not comply.
• Hamilton County Commissioners have officially signaled they will not be pursuing a plan to move the Hamilton County morgue and crime lab to a currently vacant hospital in Mount Airy that Mercy Health offered to donate to the county. While the building would be cost-free, the build out necessary to move the morgue, crime lab and other offices there is cost-prohibitive, commissioners have said. They’ve estimated it could cost as much as $100 million to retrofit the building. The decision comes as the county’s morgue and crime lab continue to sound alarms about their current cramped and outdated workspace.
• Legislation that would move the embattled Brent Spence Bridge replacement project another step toward reality is expected to pass in the Kentucky State House today. The bill would allow the state to use a public-private partnership to fund the project, specifically through tolling on the bridge. Officials in both states have struggled to find the necessary $2.6 billion to fund the bridge replacement project. Opponents of the current plan proposed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear say the project doesn’t need to cost that much, and that tolling will represent a huge burden on businesses and workers in both states. Northern Kentucky politicians and activists have been especially adamant about preventing tolling on the bridge.
• A petition drive to get legal weed on the November ballot in Ohio suffered a blow yesterday when Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected summary language for the petition. DeWine had several quibbles with the details, and lack thereof, in a summary of the proposed ballot language filed with his office by ResponsibleOhio. That group wants to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would create 10 marijuana grow sites in the state controlled by the group’s investors. The proposal would make marijuana legal to sell with a license, and anyone over the age of 21 could purchase it. Ohioans would also be allowed to grow a small amount of the drug at home, a change in position from the group’s original proposal. The group has until July to collect 300,000 signatures and file the petition with the secretary of state. DeWine and other statewide Republican officials have been vocal opponents of the idea, saying that it will increase drug use and that it constitutes a state-run monopoly. Ohio voters passed a similar constitutional amendment allowing four casinos in the state in 2009.
• On a somewhat related note, recreational weed became legal in Alaska today. I used to think I would never move to Alaska because IT GETS BELOW ZERO there, but, well... It’s also legal in Colorado and Washington state and will become legal in Oregon in July and in Washington D.C. later this week.
• Veterans Affairs head and former P&G president Bob McDonald is drawing some criticism after he made a claim that he once served in special forces. McDonald is a veteran who attained the rank of captain in the U.S. Army and attended Ranger training school. But he did not actually serve with the elite force. He told a homeless veteran in L.A. during a point-in-time count of that city's homeless population last month that he did serve in the special forces, however, a claim that has caused controversy. McDonald has apologized for the statement, saying it was a mistake.
That does it for your news wrap-up today. Tweet at your boy (@nswartsell) or send me a good old fashioned email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Things I'm keen to get your thoughts on this week: news tips (of course), interesting parts of the city for an urban photography buff (me) and recommendations on cool sneakers (I'm due for a new pair).
Neil Patrick Harris hosted the 87th Oscars Sunday night. Let’s talk about it!
Having hosted multiple Emmy and Tony award shows in the past, quadruple-threat NPH (he sings, dances, acts and does magic) was well suited — cue Barney Stinson high-five — to the task. He did in fact sing, dance, act and do magic all while poking fun at the nominees, recreating significant movie moments and ad-libbing on the fly. Great job, NPH!
As far as the night’s trends, there were a few:
Using the acceptance speech as a bigger platform
While some folks stick to the traditional “Thank God, the Academy and my manager” speech, others used the time in the spotlight to address other issues. This is nothing new — Marlon Brando famously boycotted the 1973 Academy Awards for Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans, arranging for Sacheen Littlefeather to attend in his behalf and decline the Best Actor award (for The Godfather).
This year’s acceptance speech shout-outs ranged from appreciating parents (J.K. Simmons) and supporting ecological sanitation and women’s rights (Patricia Arquette) to empowering the LGBTQ community (Graham Moore) and discussing immigration (Alejandro González Iñarritu).
Play someone with a disease, win awards
Again, this trend is far from new. The Academy — and audiences — love to see an actor transform, and portraying someone with a mental or physical condition can certainly do the trick. It’s not a surefire way to win an Oscar — just ask poor Leonardo DiCaprio (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator) — but the Oscars have looked favorably on roles like this in the past. And present: Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything; Julianne Moore was awarded Best Actress for her role as a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice.
Ladies in White
Whiteness wasn’t just the hilarious subject of NPH’s first joke in the monologue (see below), it was also a prominent dress color for many attendees, nominees and performers. Patricia Arquette, Reese Witherspoon, Carmen Ejogo, Marion Cotillard, Lupita Nyong’o, Julianne Moore, Lady Gaga, Kerry Washington, Nicole Kidman and others all rocked white, channeling the snow that many of those not in L.A. were knee-deep in.
Now for a play-by-play recap of the event.
Neil Patrick Harris opened the show with a theatrical song, but not before making a joke about celebrating the “best and the whitest” – err, brightest film stars.
I like how the Oscars always start with the supporting
actor award to get people excited, only to spend the following hour busting
out all the technical awards and best picture nominee previews.
Best Supporting Actor
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Yay! Simmons has been in the acting game a long time and killed it in Whiplash. Totally deserved.He used the time to thoughtfully and thoroughly thank his wife, kids and parents and urged viewers to do the same. “Call your mom. Call your dad.”
Adam Levine continues to take over the world/every television program. He performed a song from a movie he was in (???).
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
Makeup, hair and costume design awards went to the visually delightful The Grand Budapest Hotel. Costume designers always wear the best stuff, obviously Exhibit A: Milena Canonero’s sequined pants.
Oscar lobby boys officially became weird when they
held Channing Tatum's hand down the stairs.
Best Foreign Film
I love director Pawel Pawlikowski’s style — he just talked though the Oscars’ STFU Music Cue until it finally stopped playing! All bets are off now that we know the truth: Just. Keep. Talking.
The (not nominated) Lego Movie had its moment in the sun with an over-the-top performance of “Everything is Awesome.”
Best Live Action Short
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp (La Lamp au Beurre de Yak)
The Phone Call
Best Documentary Short
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
The Reaper (La Parka)
NPH recreated Birdman undies scene:
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Jared Leto showed up in Dumb and Dumber cosplay to present Best Supporting Actress; he also had a heavenly moment.
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Laura Dern, Wild
Yay again! The Boyhood actress had this one in the bag. During her speech, Arquette promoted the organization GiveLove and gave a call to action to all the country’s mothers.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-men: Days of Future Past
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life
Feast director Patrick Osborne is a Cincinnati native and gave us a little shout-out.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Big Hero 6
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Star T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) was literally in the last row of the theater, but still managed to get the camera's attention as he celebrated in the nosebleed seats.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
finally got her revenge on
Glom Gazingo John Travolta.
Yet he still managed to act like a fucking weirdo.
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
“Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)
“Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me)
“Lost Stars” (Begin Again)
John Legend and Common won this right after giving a powerful performance of the song.
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
Lady Gaga gave the most “normal” — for lack of a better word — performance of her career with a tribute to The Sound of Music, proving that beyond the meat dresses and famous fiancés and 9-inch heelless platform monstrosities, Gaga is a talented entertainer.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
In his acceptance speech, director Graham Moore revealed he tried to kill himself as a teen because he felt different. “Stay weird. Stay different,” he encouraged.
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Alejandro González Iñarritu, Birdman
Bennet Miller, Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Iñarritu dedicated the award to, among others, Mexicans and immigrants.
While I was rooting for Boyhood (a movie I will probably never stop talking about and encouraging people to see), I’d be remiss not to say Birdman deserved all the accolades it received. Overall, many of the year’s best films got some deserved recognition on a night that was entertaining for movie makers and lovers alike. Also, did this year's show break the record for tighty whitie references?
The FotoFocus Lecture and Visiting Artist Series at Cincinnati Art Museum will feature photographer Roe Ethridge on March 25 at 7 p.m.
According to FotoFocus, Ethridge — who works in both commercial and fine art photography — draws upon the descriptive power of photography and the ease with which it can be accessed, duplicated and recombined. He is considered a post-Modernist.
His work has been shown in such venues as MOMA/PS1, London's Barbican Center, Carnegie Museum of Art Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, the 2008 Whitney Biennial (2008); and the Museum of Modern Art. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.
presentation at the museum is free and reservations are not required, though
parking for non-museum members is $4. More info here.
I don’t pay much attention to Groundhog Day for signs of spring, and Reds Opening Day is way too late to celebrate the promise of warmer weather. My key indicator for when spring is just around the corner is when Cincinnati-area theaters start announcing their upcoming seasons. (In fact, Cincinnati Landmark Productions was the first out of the gate a few weeks back; more about that in a moment.) But this evening’s big news is rundown of shows to be presented on the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s two stages, the Robert S. Marx Theater and the Shelterhouse.
As Blake Robison enters his fourth season as the Playhouse’s artistic director, he says he does not approach a season in a thematic way. “Our priorities continue to be new works, culturally diverse works and family-friendly works.” He’s include several of each in the Playhouse’s 2015-2016 season, the Tony Award-winning regional theater’s 56th.
In particular, Robison has slated two world-premiere comedies, Native Gardens, a hilarious tale of clashing neighbors by Karen Zacarías, whose Book Club Play was a big hit for the Mount Adams theater two seasons ago, and The Revolutionists, an irreverent, girl-powered fantasia set during the French Revolution and written by one of America’s best emerging playwrights, Lauren Gunderson. (Know Theatre staged Toil and Trouble in 2013, and her 2014 script I and You won the American Theatre Critics Association’s 2014 Steinberg Prize.) In fact, girl-power has clearly arrived at the Playhouse: Half of the season’s productions are works by women.
In the family-friendly category, Robison has selected two shows based on classic novels: the musical version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and a stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel that’s been much in the news recently with the announcement that a prior version of the story will be published later this year. The creators of the memorable show Fly — about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen — will return with Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing, their new Jazz-infused drama focused on African-American sports legend. Robison will also stage a captivating drama, Mad River Rising, set on an Ohio farm at the time of the horrendous floods of 1936.
Here’s a chronological rundown of what’s in store, with dates a few more details.
THE SECRET GARDEN, with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon. The show features Norman’s Tony Award-winning script, adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel. It’s the story of Mary Lennox, orphaned at age 10, and sent from India to live with her aloof uncle in his foreboding English manor. There she discovers the locked-away secrets of an abandoned garden. It’s going to be staged by Marcia Millgrom Dodge, a Tony Award winner who staged Cabaret for the Playhouse in 2013. Robison says that this is the kind of musically complex show that is “what the Playhouse does.” Sept. 5-Oct. 3, 2015 on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage.
SEX WITH STRANGERS by Laura Eason. Playwright Eason has been one of the writers behind Netflix’s engaging series, House of Cards, staring Kevin Spacey. Robison tells me he’s wanted to stage this provocative, sexy and funny show since its 2011 debut at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre because of its “intergenerational appeal,” but he had to wait until it had its Broadway debut last year. Associate Artist KJ Sanchez will stage this show that explores what happens when private lives become public domain as a famous blogger finds himself snowbound with a talented but unknown novelist. They’re attracted to each other, but envious, too. Sept. 26-Oct. 25, 2015 in the Thompson Shelterhouse.
MAD RIVER RISING by Dana Yeaton. The playwright is an acquaintance of Robison’s, and this 1998 work debuted in Vermont when Robison worked at a theater there. An 85-year-old man escapes from a nursing home and hides out in his family’s barn. As a boy, he saw his family’s home wash away and now “progress” is threatening to destroy the farm again. The story slips back and forth between past and present, and the production, which Robison will stage features music by a singer/songwriter also from Vermont. Robison calls the drama “poetic, poignant and utterly captivating.” Oct. 17-Nov. 14, 2015 on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage.
LOW DOWN DIRTY BLUES by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman. For the holiday season on the Thompson Shelterhouse stage, the Playhouse will present a revue with musicians gathered for an after-hours jam session where they swap stories and play nearly two dozen tunes they love by Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker, Howlin’ Wolf, Pearl Bailey and more. Myler was the creative force behind the Playhouse’s popular production of Love, Janis (about Janis Joplin) in 2005 as well as Hank Williams: Lost Highway in 2012, and he’ll be in town to stage this one, too. Nov. 7-Dec. 20, 2015.
For the 25th consecutive season, the Playhouse will present A CHRISTMAS CAROL Nov. 25-Dec. 30, 2015 on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage. I’ve seen it for most all of those years, and I never grow tired of Howard Dallin’s excellent adaptation. It uses 29 actors, many of them local professionals, and features veteran Bruce Cromer as the miserly Scrooge (it’s his 11th year in the role). Michael Evan Haney, who has staged the production every year since 1992 will return, too. The show, by the way is not part of any subscription package, but subscribers are eligible for discounts and early buying opportunities.
NATIVE GARDENS by Karen Zacarías. 2016 kicks off with a world premiere by the playwright whose Book Club Play charmed Playhouse audiences in 2013. Her new script is about how friendly neighbors become feuding enemies when their gardens and fences don’t quite align. One couple is Hispanic while the other is Anglo, and their disagreements escalate into an all-out war of taste, class, privilege and entitlement with hilarious results. Robison will stage this one, as he did her previous Playhouse show. Jan. 23-Feb. 21, 2016 on the Roberts S. Marx Mainstage.
THE REVOLUTIONISTS by Lauren Gunderson. As noted, Gunderson is a rising star in the theater world — and Robison has scheduled her new script to overlap for a few weeks with Zacarías’s show, resulting in simultaneous world premieres by women playwrights. In Gunderson’s new script, at the height of the French Revolution, four historic characters — playwright Olympe De Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, activist Angelle Ogé and former queen Marie Antoinette — conspire to escape the extremist forces swirling around them. Eleanor Holdridge from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., who has been working closely with Gunderson to develop the script, will stage this fantasy about how we change the world. Feb. 6-March 6, 2016, in the Thompson Shelterhouse.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee (adapted by Christopher Sergel). Set in Depression-era Alabama, it’s about precocious tomboy Scout and her brother Jem during a life-changing summer when their father, Atticus, a small-town lawyer, defends a black man accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The Playhouse was one of the first theaters to stage Sergel’s adaptation in 1993; it’s a slightly different version (with more roles and a different narrator) than the one, also by Sergel, presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in 2012. The Playhouse’s newest artistic associate, Eric Ting, is slated to direct this one. March 5-April 3, 2016, on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage.
MOTHERS AND SONS by Terrence McNally. Another artistic associate, Timothy Douglas, will stage this show, which was a 2014 Tony nominee the year’s best play on Broadway. McNally, who has written more than 30 plays and musicals (including the Tony Award-winning Love! Valour! Compassion!) has created a drama about change, reconciliation and what it means to be a family. A gay couple have a happy life with their 6-year-old child until the mother of a former lover makes a surprise visit to their Manhattan home, two decades years after her son’s untimely death. No play by McNally has been presented at the Playhouse since 1990, so this exploration of the complexities of life that gay men face is a welcome addition to the Playhouse’s repertoire. March 19-April 17, 2016, in the Thompson Shelterhouse.
SATCHEL PAIGE AND THE KANSAS CITY SWING by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan. This new play focuses on the 1947 Negro Leagues when pitcher Satchel Paige was the king of baseball, despite his advancing age. But Jackie Robinson’s meteoric rise to fame overshadowed Paige who found himself hemmed in by many barriers. Ellis and Khan’s story of the Tuskegee Airmen, Fly!, used a tap dancer as part of the storytelling, and this one will use a Jazz musician who interacts with the characters in a similar vein. April 23-May 21, 2016, on the Robert S. Marx Mainstage.
BAD DATES by Theresa Rebeck. In 2005 and 2006 this play by Cincinnati born-and-bred playwright Rebeck was a big hit locally and nationally; the comedy was, in fact, one of the most produced plays in America for two years. A middle-aged woman and single mom who manages a restaurant and loves shoes, decides to start dating again. She talks and we listen while she gets ready for one dreadful date after another. Then a turn of events makes life all the more interesting. Originally presented on the Marx stage, this revival will happen in the Thompson Shelterhouse; Michael Haney, who staged it a decade ago, will return to make Cincinnatians laugh again. April 30-June 12, 2016.
For subscription information: 513-421-3888 or http://www.cincyplay.com.
Cincinnati Landmark Productions has a lot to offer, too
Cincinnati Landmark Productions is growing, complementing its productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts with a new venue, the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater. A month or so ago artistic director Tim Perrino laid out more than a dozen productions that will be happening during 2015-2016.
“We’ve created distinct seasons of exciting show titles that our audiences will absolutely love,” he said at the time. “The Covedale season will represent the legacy of our company, while the Incline will be an expansion of our programming. Together, they deepen the impact of Cincinnati Landmark Productions in the communities we call home.” Audiences have flocked to the Covedale (4990 Glenway Avenue) in recent years, leading to an expansion of runs from three to four weeks as annual attendance grew from less than 14,000 in 2003 to more than 37,000 in 2014. Perrino hopes for similar success at the Incline Theater (801 Matson Place, East Price Hill).
This summer the Incline will offer three “summer classics” — somewhat in the vein of shows that Cincinnati Landmark once presented on the Showboat Majestic. They are Mel Brooks’ hilarious showbiz spoof, The Producers (June 3-21); 1776 (July 8-26), the story of America’s patriotic heritage by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone; and Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 (August 12-30), the story of women in an office who take administration into their own hands.
The Covedale will offer a “Marquee Series,” a half-dozen productions between September and May. On the schedule are classically entertaining musicals and comedies — A Chorus Line (Sept. 3-27), the story of a dance audition process for a Broadway show; Fox on the Fairway, a comedy by Ken Ludwig (author of Lend Me a Tenor); Mary Poppins (Nov. 27-Dec. 20), a perfect storybook musical for the holidays; Neil Simon’s Chapter Two (Jan. 21-Feb. 14, 2016), a laugh-infused tale about getting back into the dating game; She Loves Me (March 10-April 3, 2016), f