CityBeat - Blogs http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs.engine.php <![CDATA[Foreign Film Friday: <i>The House Is Black</i> (1962)]]>

This weekly series discusses the cultural and artistic implications of a selected foreign film.

In many ways, Forough Farrokhzad’s The House Is Black is more of a poem than a film. This may not be particularly surprising, as Farrokhzad today is mostly remembered, if at all in the West, for her modernist poetry, which was controversial, evocative and banned to post-revolution Iran. Yet despite the film’s censorship and Farrokhzad’s tragic death at age 30, she managed to be immensely influential to Iranian cinema, and helped lead the way for the Iranian New Wave that flourished in the late ’60s.

The House Is Black — Farrokhzad’s sole filmis probably a masterpiece. The 21-minute film essay depicts the everyday lives of men, women and children who inhabit a leprosarium in northern Iran. Shot in black and white in a cinema vérité style, a collage of jarring cuts and narrations that often sound like prayer imbue meaning to the film, which shares the same lyrical language and open-ended symbolism as her verse. Farrokhzad seems to write with her camera; she rhymes her visuals and sounds, trading a cohesive narrative for an abstraction of imagery.

Lines culled from the Koran, the Old Testament and Farrokhzad’s own unforgettable poetry are stitched together in voiceover to add or subtract context from the onscreen happenings. An artist whose work relies somewhat on juxtapositions, Farrokhzad films the sublime moments — children at play, villagers creating music, a woman brushing a girl’s hair — along with the uncomfortable: bandages being unwrapped, needles being injected, the blind intuiting their unsure movements.

What emerges is an interrogation of beauty and ugliness, and how those two things coexist in the world. There is, perhaps surprisingly, a lot one can learn by observing the empathy and gratitude that occurs in this Iranian leper colony. In just 20 minutes, The House Is Black is a documentary, a poem and most importantly, a portrait. Of what — a leprosarium or something larger — you decide. The final seconds of the film occur in complete blackness, as Farrokhzad says in a near-whisper: “O overrunning river driven by the force of love, flow to us, flow to us.” It is a plea, both for them and for us.


THE HOUSE IS BLACK is currently screening on YouTube.


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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (5/29-5/31)]]>

Summerfair, NKY Pride 2015!, used book sales, the Fringe Festival, lots of concerts, craft beer parties and more.


FRIDAY

Get weird with the CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival — running through June 6 — is celebrating 13 years of theater, creativity and fun. A total of 40 shows (selected by 24 jurors) will be presented during the 12 days of the 2015 Fringe, split almost exactly between shows generated by local creators and productions from elsewhere in the U.S., plus four international acts representing South Africa, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom. Through June 6. cincyfringe.com. Read reviews here.



Hit the Square for MIDPOINT INDIE SUMMER

Fountain Square’s popular, free concert series kicks off this week — a true sign that summer is upon us. The first event in the MidPoint Indie Summer series (held Fridays through early September) is indicative of the strong roster of shows on the Square this year, showcasing a mix of quality touring headliners and some of local music’s finest. Headlining Indie Summer’s opening night is Surfer Blood, the superb, Florida-spawned Indie Pop Rock group that began drawing major attention with its 2010 debut album, Astro Coast. The band has since split with Warner Bros. Records and returned to its DIY roots with the just-released, hyper-melodic 1000 Palms, Surfer Blood’s finest work yet and, fittingly, a perfect melancholic summer album. Three superb local acts round out Friday’s bill: Harbour, Automagik and The Yugos. September’s MidPoint Music Festival sponsors the Indie Summer series, and there will be opportunities to purchase (or win) passes for the 2015 event each week. 7 p.m. Friday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.


Show your pride at NKY PRIDE 2015!

Let your pride flag fly with this year’s Northern Kentucky Pride festival, which starts on Thursday and goes through Sunday. The fest will kick off with an ally training and fairness reception for participants to learn about specific LGBTQ issues in the community. Throughout the weekend, you can show your pride with scheduled activities from a pride bike ride with flamingos through MainStrasse’s Goebel Park to a pub crawl and live music headlined by acoustic duo Linda and Taryn. During Saturday’s official Pridefest, chill in the NKY Pride Beer Garden on Sixth Street with local brews, bring your pet to the PetZone (complete with photo booth), attend the pair of afternoon drag shows and, most importantly, help support social equality. Thursday-Sunday. Free. Search NKY Pride 2015! on Facebook for a full event schedule.


Butterflies of the Philippines
Photo: Krohn Conservatory

Grab a beer and a Filipino snack at CRAFTS AND CRAFTS at Krohn

Take a tropical vacation without leaving town by visiting Krohn Conservatory’s Crafts and Crafts event, bringing together their Butterflies of the Philippines exhibit, a handful of craft vendors and local craft beer. It’s a perfect evening to enjoy the colorful butterfly show while imbibing some adult beverages, including Filipino cocktails and food like roasted pork, chicharrón and fried peanuts. Must be 21. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. $12; $15 door. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, 513-421-4086.


Blend light and sound with OSCILLATORS at Harvest Art Gallery

Intermedio, an ongoing sound-light collaboration between multi-disciplinary designer Eric Blyth and composers/installation artists Sam Ferris-Morris and Justin West, will present a one-night-only exhibition Friday at Harvest Gallery. Together, the three create immersive environments, such as last year’s “Radiate” installation in ParProject’s MakersMobile traveling exhibition, by incorporating digitally processed sound and video to engage their audiences in temporary interactive experiences. 6-10 p.m. Friday. Free. 216 W. 15th St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/intermediodesign.


Marina and The Diamonds
Photo: Charlotte Rutherford 

Get slightly melancholy with MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS at Bogart's

It’s oddly wonderful how sometimes two songwriters will interpret the same concept in diametrically opposed fashions. For example, consider Pharrell Williams and Marina Diamandis, both of whom have very powerful songs called “Happy.” Of course, Williams’ composition is the musical manifestation of exuberance and joy, a bouncy sing-along that almost dares you to remain passive while it jukes and swings. Diamandis’ “Happy,” the opening track on Froot, the third Marina and the Diamonds album, couldn’t be more different. A quietly moving, slightly melancholy reflection on the subject of finding the title emotion in making music, “Happy” — and much of Froot — hovers in the vicinity of Florence + the Machine and Aimee Mann, with wisps of Kate Bush’s ephemeral eccentricity and Annie Lennox’s arty populism creating an Electropop shimmer that could easily appeal to fans of Sara Bareilles or Lady Gaga. See Marina and the Diamonds 7 p.m. Friday at Bogart's. Get more information and purchase tickets here


SATURDAY

Get crafty at SUMMERFAIR

Here in the Queen City, the reopening of Coney Island — the pool, the rides, the food — means one thing: the start of summer. And the annual Summerfair clinches the deal. A Cincinnati tradition since 1967, Summerfair consistently ranks among the top 100 art shows nationally and features more than 300 artists from all around the United States in 12 categories, including painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking and mixed media. There will also be regional performers, including belly dancers, Celtic dancers, musicians and cloggers(!) on stages across the park, plus gourmet food. 2-8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. $10 cash at the gate. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, summerfair.org.


Washington Park
Photo: 3CDC

Take your dog to Washington Park for the FURRY FRIENDS FESTIVAL

If dogs are man’s best friend, shouldn’t they be able to have as much fun as we do during the weekend? Washington Park thinks so. Your furry friends are invited to spend a day in the park with other pups of all shapes and sizes, surrounded by tasty grub from Eli’s BBQ and Mazunte, as well as free, live music performed by Bluegrass artists Casey Campbell, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, The Tillers and more. Water will be available for the pups as well as locally brewed beer for the humans. 3-9 p.m. Free. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.


Oakley Fancy Flea Market
Photo: Provided

Buy some local wares at the OAKLEY FANCY FLEA MARKET

Oakley Fancy Flea is a low-key, curated market with high-end locally made wares in the heart of Oakley. Featuring vendors like Alien Pets, which makes knitted felt animals in all manner of shapes and sizes, Loveworn, upcycled clothing made from recycled T-shirts and even treats from Brown Bear Bakery, the Fancy Flea has almost doubled the space they’ll use for the market this year, meaning almost double the amount of stuff to peruse and double the fun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. 3047 Madison Road, Oakley, theoffmarket.org.


Assassins
Photo: Mikki Schaffner

Check out Stephen Sondheim's dark musical ASSASSINS

Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical about presidential assassins has become a classic since it was first staged in 1990. That was the same year that Falcon Theatre began producing shows in Greater Cincinnati. In 1998, Falcon’s staging of Assassins put the company on local theatergoers’ radar. You know the names: John Wilkes Booth, Squeaky Fromme, Lee Harvey Oswald and more — all disgruntled, unbalanced people whose twisted path to the American Dream involved shooting a president. In this fascinating show they converge, commiserate and conspire, each with music from his or her moment in American history. It’s a strange tour de force. Through June 13. $18-$20. 636 Monmouth St., Newport, 513-479-6783, falcontheater.net.


Butch Walker
Photo: Noah Abrams

Catch BUTCH WALKER at Bogart's

No one can accuse Butch Walker of not living up to his potential. For the past three decades, Walker has blazed a unique trail as a member of renowned bands, a critically acclaimed solo artist, a highly regarded producer and a prolific songwriter whose compositions for some of the industry’s biggest names have hit the upper reaches of the charts.Walker’s last three albums — 2010’s I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, 2011’s The Spade and the just-released and patently excellent Afraid of Ghosts — all hit the top spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. As a producer, Walker has worked with an almost schizophrenic range of musical talent, from Pete Yorn, Sevendust and Weezer to Lindsay Lohan, Avril Lavigne, Pink and Taylor Swift. If the music industry is looking to coronate a new man for all seasons, surely the crown would fit comfortably on Butch Walker’s hit-crammed head. See Butch Walker with Jonathan Tyler and The Dove and the Wolf 7 p.m. Saturday at Bogart's. Get more information and purchase tickets here

SUNDAY

Celebrate King Records with a reading of CINCINNATI KING in the park

Washington Park hosts a free staged reading of Cincinnati King, a new play that shares the history of King Records, Cincinnati music and racial equality by Playhouse in the Park Associate Artist KJ Sanchez. The play, meant to ignite dialogue and preserve unique local history, will be read at 7 p.m. A special performance from King Records’ legendary drummer Philip Paul kicks off the evening with a performance and behind-the-scenes stories. 5 p.m. Sunday. Free. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincyplay.com.


America's Pop Collector
Photo: Provided

Head to the Cincinnati Art Museum for a screening of AMERICA'S POP COLLECTOR

The Cincinnati Art Museum’s ongoing “Moving Pictures” series of film screenings presents the highly regarded and prescient America’s Pop Collector: Robert C. Scull - Contemporary Art at Auction. The verity-style documentary by John Scott and E. J. Vaughn chronicles the 1973 auction of work collected by Scull, a taxi-company tycoon, which netted more than $2.2 million and forever established the marketplace value of contemporary art. Today, when pieces by contemporary masters routinely bring in millions, the amount raised at the Scull auction may seem small, but it was a watershed moment at the time. 2 p.m. Sunday. Free. Cincinnati Art Museum Fath Auditorium, 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiartmuseum.org.


Friends of the Public Library Used Book Sale
Photo: Provided

Stock up on summer reading material at the FRIENDS OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARY USED BOOK SALE

The Friends of the Public Library Main Library Book Sale returns Saturday for its 43rd annual event (through June 5), offering more than 50,000 used books from every category imaginable, with most prices between $1 and $4. Feel free to casually browse or go on a book-buying spree — there will most likely be something for everybody, whether you’re looking for Alice or Zhivago. On Friday, June 5, indulge your bibliomania by filling up an entire Friends’ bag for only $10 (that’s not a typo). It’s time to hit the books. Begins 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Free. Main Library, 800 Vine St., Downtown, friends.cincinnatilibrary.org.


See more things To Do here.












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<![CDATA[Weekenders: What We're Doing This Weekend]]>

Each week CityBeat staffers share their weekend plans: from dinner and drinks or special events to out-of-town concerts and stories we're working on. And some of us just watch TV.

Jesse Fox: This weekend I am shooting my first weekend of many summer music festivals. I will be traveling with former CityBeat intern, Catie Viox, to Nelsonville Music Festival to photograph a variety of amazing acts including Built to Spill, Black Lips and St. Vincent. Sunday, when I return, I plan to go by Riverbend to catch my friend Ben playing drums for this little band he's in called Dashboard Confessional

Jac Kern: Tonight I will be living out my dream of being a hair model while volunteering for the May Festival. With a big, flower-filled 'do courtesy of Parlour, I’ll be greeting patrons as they arrive at the longstanding choral festival beginning at 6:30 p.m. If you see me, say hi! The May Festival closes this weekend with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Other than that, I'll be keeping it 100 percent chill (Read: boring), playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and watching the season premiere of Halt and Catch Fire Sunday.

Emily Begley: I’m heading up to Dayton on Saturday night to check out Wine & Canvas, which advertises itself as “the painting class with cocktails.” Each class lets you try your hand at a different portrait, and this weekend’s project is “Colorful Elephant,” a close-up of a wistful-looking elephant rendered in blues and greens. I’m not the best painter in the world — especially when alcohol is thrown into the mix — so I’ll probably be figuring out where to hang a portrait of an elephantine blob Sunday morning.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all! News time.

First, a couple Cincinnati City Council things. Council yesterday voted to apply for up to $33 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants for the proposed Elmore Street Connector project. The bridge, which would connect Cincinnati State to the West Side after the current I-74 exit there is removed, is expected to cost up to $44 million. Currently, the city and the state would split that cost, but the federal money could lower the burden for both significantly.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is undertaking a years-long reworking of the I-75 corridor, which includes changing interchanges that connect the highway and I-74 to uptown. ODOT’s original plans remove the I-74 exit onto Central Parkway, which carries traffic to Cincinnati State’s doorstep, but wouldn’t replace that exit. That led to proposals for an overpass over I-75 to relink the area with Beekman Street, which runs through South Cumminsville and other neighborhoods on the other side of the Mill Creek Valley. Despite the backing of area employers in the Uptown Consortium, the project has been controversial.

But the bridge won’t cause delays to other parts of the project as previously expected, ODOT now says. Last month, officials said that constructing the bridge, which Cincinnati State President O’Dell Owens has championed, could delay the construction of the Hopple Street ramp until as late as 2020. After the potential delay was revealed and business owners in Camp Washington raised objections, Owens wrote a letter to ODOT requesting that the Hopple project not be delayed by the I-74 bridge. In an email response to that letter yesterday, Ohio Department of Transportation Acting District Deputy Director Gary L. Middleton said that removing the current I-74 interchange and constructing the new bridge would not affect the construction time frame for the Hopple exit.

Owens has said the bridge would provide Cincinnati State students living on the West Side a vital direct link to the school. Economic impact studies touted by Mayor John Cranley’s office and undertaken by the Greater Cincinnati Economics Center for Education & Research in 2014 suggest that the bridge could have an economic impact worth millions, as well as reconnecting neglected neighborhoods like Millvale and South Cumminsville, which were cut off from the rest of the city by construction of the interstates.

Now, if we could just get some of those millions for more public transit options in Cincinnati….

• A major bike trail on Cincinnati’s East Side could soon be one step closer to reality. The city of Cincinnati hopes to have a deal to present City Council for purchasing the right of way along the mostly unused Wasson Way rail line by Monday, City Manager Harry Black revealed in yesterday’s City Council meeting. The right of way, currently owned by Norfolk Southern, is needed for a proposed 6.5-mile bike path stretching from Mariemont to Xavier University in Evanston. Plans for an extension into Avondale have also been floated. Securing right of way for the trail is a crucial step and one that needs to be taken soon, Black said. The city is in the final stages of applying for a share of $500 million in TIGER grants the U.S. Department of Transportation has made available this year, and owning right of way is an important part of winning those funds.

• The Greater Cincinnati YMCA released big renovation plans for its downtown location yesterday. The building was built in 1917 and is an iconic presence along Central Parkway. The branch closed in December for the work, and now the YMCA is rolling out its detailed plans for what it will look like when finished. Among the big changes: much more natural light in the facility’s two-story fitness center, lounges with 50-inch TVs, new weight-lifting equipment and preservation of the site’s running track. That last one is huge for me. Sign me up when they reopen. I hate treadmills and it’s very difficult to find a good indoor track these days. City Council yesterday voted to approve a tax exemption for the entirety of the improvements made to the property. The project will revamp the entire building and add up to 65 units of affordable housing for seniors. The work is expected to cost $27 million. The facility is expected to be open to the public again around this time next year. In the meantime, 12 other branches are open in the West End, Walnut Hills, Northern Kentucky and elsewhere around the area.

• A group of about 50 people gathered at Ziegler Park in Over-the-Rhine yesterday for a rally organized by Cincinnati Black Lives Matter in remembrance of unarmed women and trans people of color killed recently in police-related incidents around the country. Among those remembered was Rekia Boyd, who died in 2012 after off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin fired into a dark alley and shot her. Boyd was not involved in an earlier confrontation that led officer Servin to give chase to the group of people he fired at, and a Chicago judge found his actions “beyond reckless.” Servin, who says one of the group pulled something from their waistband and that he feared for his life at the time, was not punished for Boyd’s death. Organizers of yesterday’s rally in OTR said they wanted to highlight Boyd’s story and others as continued attention is paid to the shooting of unarmed men of color like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III.

• Finally, Cincinnati isn’t the only Ohio city grabbing on to the tiny house trend. People’s Liberty grant recipient Brad Cooper has gotten a lot of attention lately for his project, which looks to build two 200-square foot houses in Over-the-Rhine. Cooper got $100,000 from People's Liberty to carry out that plan, but Cincy isn't the only city where enthusiasm is growing for the concept. This Cleveland Plain Dealer article details how the small, simple house movement is gathering steam in Cleveland and Toledo, where folks are making big plans to build similar tiny houses in urban areas.

That’s it for me. Tweet or email me with any story tips or just to say hey.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning Cincy. Here’s your news today.

While we’ve all heard the good news that is going down in Cincinnati, there’s one big exception. Some recent serious but mostly non-fatal shootings in Walnut Hills, CUF, West End and other neighborhoods (including a few right outside my house in Mount Auburn) have put gun crimes in Cincinnati at a 10-year high. That’s caused some to call into question the effectiveness of the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, or CIRV. The program has produced good results in the past, though its funding has been uneven. But with gun violence on the rise, detractors like Councilman Charlie Winburn say it might be time to try something else. Winburn suggested getting rid of CIRV during a presentation of crime data at Tuesday’s Cincinnati City Council Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. Others, however, say the program, which relies on a number of methods including civilian peacekeepers, law enforcement home visits to repeat offenders and social service referrals, is doing its job and needs more support. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson suggested at the Tuesday meeting that more emphasis on social services and anti-poverty measures like neighborhood redevelopment might be part of the answer.

• Greater Cincinnati’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 14 years, according to figures released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Companies in the region added nearly 20,000 new jobs in April, the data shows, the biggest increase in the past three years. But the area hasn’t avoided a major pitfall that has accompanied economic recovery around the country — while the overall unemployment rate is down, economists say, so are wages in the region. Meanwhile, underemployment, or people working part-time when they want to be working full time, is up in the Greater Cincinnati area. That dynamic could keep the economy sluggish, experts say.

• A plan to renovate 13 buildings in Covington’s MainStrasse neighborhood for 50 units of low-income housing we told you about in March has run into opposition from some in the community, who are vowing to fight the development. Cincinnati-based Model Group and women’s shelter Welcome House have partnered on the project, which is slated to receive federal low-income housing tax credits through the Kentucky Housing Corp. About half of the buildings have already been green-lighted for those credits, and applications for the rest will be filed later this year. But neighboring property owners are upset about the fact those tax credits require the currently crumbling buildings on Pike Street to remain low-income housing for 30 years after they’re renovated. They say that will dampen private investment in the area and lower the value of their properties, and they’re asking the city to fight the state’s decision to award the credits. However, it’s unclear that Covington officials have any power to challenge the state’s decision.

• Yikes. A sheriff’s deputy in Clark County Ohio, where Springfield is, has been fired after he took to Twitter with some seriously racist thoughts about protests in Baltimore. That city experienced civil unrest last month after a man named Freddie Gray died in police custody under questionable circumstances. “Baltimore the last few days = real life Planet of the Apes,” Clark County Deputy Zachary Davis tweeted April 28. Another tweet that day suggested: “It’s time to start using deadly force in Baltimore. When they start slaying these ignorant young people it’ll send a message.” After the tweets were brought to the attention of Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly yesterday, Davis was immediately fired. “If you’re posting these type of statements then I don’t feel you can serve this community,” Kelly told the Springfield News-Sun yesterday evening. Good for him.

• Two of the most powerful Republicans in Kentucky, and really in the whole country, have been butting heads big time in the Senate. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who as you probably already know is running for president, has been digging in his heals on a portion of the Patriot Act that allows the National Security Administration to collect so-called meta data on Americans’ cell phone calls. Congress has just days to renew that particular program, as well as other parts of the Patriot Act. Paul and other Senators on both sides of the aisle have refused to allow cloture in the Senate for a bill that would do that unless NSA cell phone surveillance programs are nixed or significantly reformed. Paul and other Senators have used procedural maneuvers to keep that from happening.

That, of course, hasn’t been great for Kentucky’s other Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is charged with getting things passed through the chamber. This is especially awkward since McConnell has endorsed Paul for president. It’s yet another example of the complicated, fractious relationships that the GOP must navigate as it tries to take back the White House in 2016. Paul is playing the NSA card to appeal both to his grassroots, anti-government libertarian base as well as more civil-liberty minded independents. Meanwhile, rank and file Republicans want to see the Patriot Act renewal passed. Politics is awkward and complicated, y’all.

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<![CDATA[This Week's Dining Events]]>
This week's dining events, cooking classes and more for the culinary enthusiast.

WEDNESDAY 27
Sunset Salons: Bourbon — Head to the Clifton Cultural Arts Center for barrel-aged wisdom from New Riff distilling’s Jay Erisman, The Littlefield’s John Ford and Molly Wellman. Includes samples. 6:30-9 p.m. $15; $20 door. 3711 Clifton Ave., Clifton, cliftonculturalarts.org.

Dinner & Dance: Texas Two-Step — Start with a quick 30-minute Texas Two-Step dance lesson. Menu includes Jamaican jerk baby back ribs, Texas jalapeno hush puppies, watermelon salad and more. 6:30-9 p.m. $140. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Early Summer Pasta — In this class, prepare two summer pasta dishes: orzo with smoked paprika shrimp and pesto vinaigrette, and soba noodles with asparagus and prosciutto. 6-8 p.m. $70. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

Grilling Cedar-Planked Salmon with Ellen — Learn to grill salmon on a cedar plank. Also on the menu: sangria, spicy red lentil dip, brown rice and barley pilaf, snow peas and deep dish brownies. 6-8:30 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

THURSDAY 28
Hone your Knife Skills — This class is all about building confidence in the kitchen, learning how to properly care for and hold a knife, then chopping, dicing, julienning and more. 6-8 p.m. $60. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox lane, West Chester, 513-847-4474, thelearningkitchen.com.

Bacchanalian Society Spring Gathering — Bring three same-brand Malbecs for tasting. Includes hors d’oeuvres from Keystone Bar & Grill. Benefits Cancer Family Care. 7-10 p.m. $15; $20 day of. Ault Park, 3600 Observatory Ave., Mount Lookout, bacchanaliansociety.com.

Healthy Smoothie Making Class — Learn how to make delicious health-smart smoothies. Registered dietitian/nutritionist answers questions regarding health/nutrition, disease prevention and cooking. Taste various flavored smoothies and meet other health-minded people. 5:30-7 p.m. Peachy’s Health Smart, 7400 Montgomery Road, Silverton, peachyshealthsmart.com.

All About Avocados — Beth Leah, certified holistic health coach, leads a cooking class centered on avocados. 7-8 p.m. Free. Whole Foods, 2693 Edmondson Road, Norwood, bethleahnutrition.com.

FRIDAY 29
Longevity Celebration: Park + Vine Turns 8 — Park + Vine celebrates its eighth anniversary on Final Friday with live music, food, a photo booth and an ’80s-themed DJ. 6-10 p.m. Free. Park + Vine, 1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, parkandvine.com.

Indian Rice Workshop — Chef Madhu Sinha leads a class to learn to prepare chicken biryani, lemon rice and coconut rice. 6-8 p.m. $75. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox lane, West Chester, 513-847-4474, thelearningkitchen.com.

Friday Night Grillouts at Lake Isabella — Great Parks of Hamilton County hosts this weekly grillout at Lake Isabella. Items available a la carte. Dine on the outdoor covered patio by the lake, or in the air-conditioned chart room. Features live music. 5-8 p.m. Prices vary. 10174 Loveland-Madeira Road, Loveland, 513-521-7275.

Crafts and Crafts — Take a tropical vacation without leaving town by visiting Krohn Conservatory’s Crafts and Crafts event, bringing together their Butterflies of the Philippines exhibit, a handful of craft vendors and local craft beer. It’s a perfect evening to enjoy the colorful butterfly show while imbibing some adult beverages, including Filipino cocktails and food like roasted pork, chicharrón and fried peanuts. Must be 21.  5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. $12; $15 door. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, 513-421-4086.

SATURDAY 30
Oxford Wine Festival — The eighth annual Oxford Wine Festival features fine wines, craft beer and area artisans. Guests will receive five tasting tickets to same wines (or beers) from around the world. 2-10 p.m. $20; $25 at the gate. Oxford Uptown Parks, Oxford, Ohio, oxfordchamber.org

Tapas! The Wine and Food of Spain — On the menu: skewered food on toothpicks, grilled tomato bread, shrimp and mushrooms, Basque-style meatballs with asparagus, stuffed mushrooms, honeyed figs with Serrano ham, eggplant salad and crème de Catalan. Noon-3 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Swine, Wine & Shine Pig Roast — Anderson Pub & Grill is throwing a pig roast, complete with beer, wine and moonshine specials, plus a barbecue sauce contest judged by area chefs and food celebrities. Sauces must be submitted by 1 p.m. 1 p.m.-2 a.m. Prices vary. Anderson Pub & Grill, 8060 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, 513-474-4400, andersonpubandgrill.com. 

Great Parks Dinner Series — Celebrate Broadway at this dinner and a show, complete with classic Broadway tunes performed on stage. Menu includes chef-carved prime rib, chicken breast, lasagna, salad and more. 7 p.m. $29.95 adult; $14.95 child. Mill Race Banquet Center, 1515 W. Sharon Road, Winton Woods, 513-521-7275.

Mt. Adams Pavilion White Party — Dress in all white for the Mt. Adams Pavilion White Party. Features live music from steel drum band The SunBurners, DJs, a Caribbean-style buffet, frozen drinks and more. 7 p.m. No cover. 949 Pavilion St., Mount Adams, facebook.com/mountadamspavilion.

SUNDAY 31
Bugs to Munch — Head to Sharon Woods to eat some bugs. Bring an appetite and open mind for an afternoon class on how to cook with bugs, including tastings. 2 p.m. $2; valid park pass. Sharon Woods Sharon Centre, 11459 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, 513-521-7275, greatparks.org.

TUESDAY 02
Way Beyond Rice — Explore the versatility of rice cookers with dishes like steamed halibut with lemon dill rice, lemon chicken soup with orzo and more. 6:30-8:30 p.m. $70. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Cincinnati Favorites: Recipes & Stories from The Findlay Market Cookbook — Explore recipes from the cookbook, including seasonal favorites from chefs like Jose Salazar and Fresh Table at Findlay Market. 6-8:30 p.m. $50. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

WEDNESDAY 03
French Bistro Classics — Escargot Bourguignon, French onion soup, steak frites and tarte tatin. 6:30-9 p.m. $55. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Quarterly Chef’s Table Event — Seven-course meal exploring the chemistry between food and wine. 6-8:30 p.m. $58. The Art of Entertaining, O’Bryonville, cincyartofentertaining.com.

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<![CDATA[Queer City Spotlight: Judith Iscariot on Cincinnati's Drag Scene]]>

After almost seven successful seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag has been infused into mainstream popular culture more than ever before. Drag, once thought taboo by many, is now becoming widely accepted as an art form. The show produces an ensemble of drag queens, each with their own fan base, that go out and tour all over the world post-show. The RuPaul’s Drag Race queens, unofficially coined “Ru Girls” by season five runner-up Alaska 5000, fill up queer night clubs and bars with fans of all ages dying for a picture or even just acknowledgement from their favorite star. It has even been suggested that Drag Race and Ru Girls have saved or rejuvenated the queer club scene after a stagnant period of time. The show has given a group of historically unappreciated performers a platform to make music, act, promote philanthropic issues, make a living and share their art with the world.

But, of course, not everyone is cast in the 14-member ensemble — and some do not want to be. Some queens cite Drag Race as a misrepresentation of drag and reject even a conversation about the show. Others, mostly younger queens known as the “Drag Race Generation,” swear by it so religiously that their concept of drag is considered unrealistic or naïve.

Whether performing on TV or in local clubs, drag queens have become queer Rock stars. Being a hardcore Drag Race fan and drag culture enthusiast, I am left wondering why I have to travel to Louisville, Ky., or Columbus, Ohio to see my favorite Ru Girl and experience the best venues. What needs to happen to make the scene more engaging? Was Cincinnati ever a destination for queer nightlife? Will more big-name Ru Girls come to the local clubs or bars in the future? I asked Cincinnati alternative-camp queen Judith Iscariot to weigh in on the current state of the queer nightlife scene, the queer movement and drag culture in Cincinnati.

 

CityBeat: How did you create the name Judith Iscariot?

Judith Iscariot: Judas [from the Bible] is considered the number one traitor — the worst person in history. But if you delve into other stuff like in the gospel of Judas — which a lot of Christians ignore but a lot of scholars say there is just as much merit as in the other books of the Bible — Judas actually volunteered to be the betrayer. Jesus approached the apostles and said, “I am going to be betrayed by one of you,” and Judas was like, “I’ll do it,” knowing full well that he would take the blame and he would be scorned and possibly go to hell. I think he gets a bad rep because everyone sees him as this villain when in reality he’s kind of this tragic hero, and I think he is ostracized, villainized for all the wrong things. He’s misunderstood, and — not to sound like some grand character — that’s how I felt at the time in my relationship. That my ex-boyfriend and his friends and stuff made me out to be the bad guy but, in reality, I was just trying to do the best I could. I felt completely betrayed in the way I feel Judas was betrayed by his own God, rather than the way Jesus was betrayed by Judas. You have to get both sides of the story to see who the real monster is. I then came up with the character of Judith Iscariot, and I was like, “That’s genius.”

Judith Iscariot performing at The Cabaret

CB: Could you survey Cincinnati’s drag scene?

JI: The drag is very Midwestern. They all want to do the big hair, big padding, the outfits made by fellow queens of stretch fabric and spandex materials. Most people glue down their brows and draw them on and do really hardcore shading. It’s of course very different in the big cities like New York. New York definitely celebrates the club kid scene [NYC club personalities who wore elaborate and outrageous costumes in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s] where things are just really wild — bearded drag and all that stuff. L.A. is about glamour and — I hate the term — “fishy” queens [a widely used but recently controversial term describing a drag queen that looks extremely feminine or could pass as a cisgender woman]. In Cincinnati, it’s just kind of stagnant here, and the scene itself is very separated. It’s ruled by two different entities — The Cabaret [in Below Zero Lounge on Walnut Street] and The Dock [a dance club downtown]. The Dock is more of a young, hip scene and The Cabaret is more older clientele. I love The Cabaret because the demographic is more open to appreciate camp [an over-the-top, exaggerated style usually meant to be comedic] and not just glamour.

CB: It seems like the drag scenes in Louisville and Columbus have better opportunities for queens and clubgoers. Why do I have to travel to another city — that isn’t much different from Cincy — to see a Ru Girl, for example? What kind of club or change would you like to see in Cincinnati?

JI: We used to have Adonis the Nightclub, which was like our Play or Axis [popular dance clubs in Louisville and Columbus] — huge front video bar, huge dance floor, separate room with a big stage. The only reason it didn’t dominate the scene is because it was kind of a far drive away. It was a 15-minute drive east [from downtown], which isn’t bad, but a lot of people want to stay right in the city. I would love to see something like Adonis transplanted right into the city. We still don’t really have that in Cincinnati, but it would really thrive from a large, accessible dance club that features drag. That would be amazing.

CB: These days you cannot talk about drag culture without talking about RuPaul’s Drag Race. What are your thoughts about the show and how it translates from television to everyday drag scenes on a local level?

JI: I think it’s been both good and bad because the queens that really look up to Drag Race really kind of have to check themselves and realize that it’s just a television show. It’s meant to be entertaining. It’s not the 13 best drag queens in the country; it’s 13 different characters that they think would make an interesting cast. A lot of the older queens complain about Drag Race because they say it makes, you know, drag look awful, and it’s not what drag is really like. I would argue that because it kind of is [what drag is like] because it’s this fake, campy, larger-than-life mockery of, you know, womankind and reality television. A lot of bitterness just comes from queens who know they could never get on Drag Race. That doesn’t mean that they are any less talented than [the queens on the show] are. It just depends on what [RuPaul is] looking for in terms of creating a cast. I think everyone is just trying to jump on board right now when it’s really popular, but they don’t realize that the fact that Drag Race is on television — that’s revolutionizing drag, and drag will only continue to get more recognized.

CB: Do you think the success of Drag Race and Ru Girls touring has saved or improved the queer club scene? If so, what can be done or is being done to get more Drag Race girls to make a stop in Cincinnati?

JI: When I saw Raven [a fan favorite Ru Girl] at The Cabaret, I saw people there that I have never seen out before. It’s all these people that pay their $15+ to see Raven — I was just like, “Oh, cool!” It’s definitely filling up the clubs because when these Ru Girls come to clubs like during their season and right after, people go crazy for them. And they will pay whatever it takes to get in there and it’s just madness. Every time [a Ru Girl] comes to a club, that club is guaranteed to do well. Cincinnati isn’t a major destination for them. It’s Penny [Traition, a Ru Girl from Cincinnati who was a contestant on Season Five] at The Cabaret and, obviously, she knows a lot of the queens. She’s kind of the one who will bring them in most times … Cincinnati is not really on the radar or on the map. It’s Penny who [will use her connections] since they are already in Louisville or Columbus. Cincinnati is like a side project right now.


Until Cincinnati goes from side project to recognized city with a strong drag presence and scene, go see a show. Being on RuPaul’s Drag Race does not make you the best queen. Cincinnati has numerous talented queens at The Cabaret, (Ru Girl Detox performs June 24 during Cincinnati Pride), The Dock Complex and Club Glitter. Check them out and support your local queens! Bring dollar bills!

Rupaul’s Drag Race crowns the winner of Season Seven Monday night at 9 p.m. on Logo.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Streetcar advocates are forming a new nonprofit to help raise funds, encourage ridership and help sell advertising on the downtown and Over-the-Rhine transit project. The group will be called Cincinnati Street Railway, a nod to the city’s original streetcar transit authority. CSR will be a “non-political” and “fun” booster for rail in the basin, Haile U.S. Bank Foundation Vice President Eric Avner said yesterday at a Believe in Cincinnati townhall meeting at the Mercantile Library. The group will stay out of the fray on some of the car’s thornier issues, such as the push for an uptown extension, and will be focused on making Phase 1 of the project “as successful as possible.”

• Other key advocates for the transit project, including longtime streetcar booster John Schneider, who has led efforts to make the project a reality, Believe in Cincinnati Chairman Ryan Messer and Vice Mayor David Mann also spoke about the streetcar at the townhall meeting. Mann touched on the continued debate between the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which will operate the streetcar, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which staffs SORTA’s Metro buses. ATU is bidding to staff the streetcar as well, and Democratic members of council have insisted that the operating contract be awarded to union workers. However, five highly specialized jobs involving streetcar maintenance might have to be given to non-union workers, SORTA says. That’s tripped up talks between the transit authority and the union, and SORTA says it might have to go with a non-union streetcar operator, as the Business Courier reported yesterday. The transit authority is set to release the bids it has received to operate the streetcar on June 5. Testing on the streetcar begins in October. Mann says it would be “foolish” for ATU to lose the opportunity to run the streetcar based on those jobs, which he says ATU doesn’t have employees trained to do at this point anyway. ATU has proposed to SORTA that union employees be trained to do the specialized jobs, but SORTA has said that the training isn’t available in the tight timeframe in question.

• Over-the-Rhine-based Rhinegeist is expanding, opening a so-called “nanobrewery” at its distribution site in Columbus. That small brewery will only do experimental batches of possible new beers, and there are no current plans for a location like the one in OTR. The Columbus location won’t be open to the public and won’t sell beer. But Rhinegeist’s Bryant Goulding told the Akron Beacon Journal that he’s not ruling out a more public presence in Columbus in the future and that the Columbus brewery could supply some Columbus-exclusive brews down the road.

• The city of Cincinnati today official opens its Office of Performance and Data Analytics, as well as its CityStat and Innovation Lab initiatives. The efforts, which are City Manager Harry Black's first big initiative since coming to Cincinnati last year, are designed to bring a data-driven approach to city government. The programs are patterned after similar initiatives in Baltimore, where Black served in a number of roles. Black hopes to use data collected by the office to set performance goals for departments and zero in on problems in city services. The office has been given $400,000 in the coming biannual budget.

• Let’s go back to the Mercantile Library for a minute. Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Faherty will become its new executive director, the Cincinnati institution said yesterday. The Mercantile is a membership library located downtown on Walnut Street. Founded in 1835 and headquartered in the historic Mercantile Building since 1909, the library boasts more than 200,000 volumes. The library hosts a number of high-profile literary events and public functions. Faherty has worked for the Enquirer for three years after relocating from fellow Gannett paper the Arizona Republic. He’ll leave the paper in June to take the reigns of the historic library.

• Is John Kasich getting soft on unions? The Ohio guv and GOP presidential hopeful was on the campaign trail yesterday when he said that Ohio doesn’t need a right to work law. A number of other conservative states have such laws, which forbid labor contracts between employers and workers which require all employees to be union members. Kasich has said outlawing that practice isn’t necessary in Ohio because the state doesn’t have a lot of contentious labor issues. That’s a strikingly moderate stance for the governor, who shortly after taking office in 2011 moved to eliminate public employees’ collective bargaining rights. That move was reversed by a statewide referendum in which voters overwhelmingly chose to preserve public employees’ union rights. Kasich’s statement on right to work comes a day after the governor eliminated collective bargaining rights for 15,000 home healthcare and childcare workers who contract with the state. So, you know, he’s still not that into unions.

• It’s official. Rand Paul is courting the hipster vote. The U.S. Senator from Kentucky and Republican presidential hopeful yesterday made a campaign stop at The Strand bookstore in Manhattan. It’s an amazing bookstore, but yeah. Also very hip. Anyway, Paul drew a big crowd to the store after he was invited to speak by co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden, who is married to Oregon Democrat U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. You can read more about the appearance, and Paul’s efforts to win over young voters, in this New York Times story. The Strand has become a customary stopover for Democratic politicians hawking their newest books. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently dropped by promoting her new tome, though the Democrats’ likely presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has declined to appear there. Instead, she opted for a nearby Barnes & Noble to premier her latest book. Oof.

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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]>
Each week CityBeat staffers, dining writers and the occasional intern tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 


Ilene Ross: So in my never-ending search for the perfect pie, the BF flew me to the Grimes Field Municipal Airport on Sunday. Apparently this is a thing private pilots do: fly their planes to small regional airports for sport and a tasty meal. Since there was pie involved, I quickly overcame my lifelong fear of small planes and hopped on board. After about half an hour we arrived in Urbana, Ohio, and, no kidding, the housemade pies at the airport cafe are totally worth it! We had the coconut cream, but there are berry, apple, butterscotch and more. FYI, you can get there by car as well, and the town of Urbana would make a lovely day trip — although we never made it out of the airport.

Danny Cross: When in doubt during a weekend afternoon when the Reds are playing, I go to Zip's Cafe for a burger, beer and baseball. I'm kind of tired of watching the Reds lose, but I wanted a burger and to dip french fries in cheese sauce. The food was great and, as expected, the Reds disappointed by 1) losing and 2) allowing Cleveland to go ahead by four runs in the ninth inning, thereby removing the chance of my fantasy pitcher earning a save against them. And I think the Reds scored on my guy too, which was another negative. 

Nick Swartsell: In part to celebrate the long weekend and in part because my girlfriend and I both have miserable colds, we decided to go full Tom Haverford and treat ourselves. So we pan fried a giant piece of salmon in bacon grease and George Remus rye whiskey with just a little bit of chili powder. Yes, we did in fact crumble the bacon on top of the salmon as well. Actually, it was a bit more of a Ron Swanson type meal. We had some buttered asparagus and curried couscous with currants and dried apricots on the side. Very good; would do again. 

Casey Arnold: Being that Saturday had such perfect weather, my boyfriend and I were really hoping to find a place to eat outside. We talked over the list of usual spots when I remembered that we still hadn't checked out Incline Public House in Price Hill. Brian was ecstatic to discover that they had gluten-free beer, burgers and pizza. He quickly settled on a burger with a salad topped with their housemade maple vinaigrette dressing. I snacked on a few truffle Parmesan tater tots, which were as wonderful as they sounded, and landed on a delicious lemony pasta dish with shrimp and mushrooms. I think this might be our new favorite spot. 

Maija Zummo: Because we didn't have work Monday and I spent the rest of my weekend watching Hot Tub Time Machine 2, I wasted a bunch of money on Sunday and had a progressive dinner throughout most of OTR and some of Clifton. I started off by meeting my friend for a bloody mary and kale dip at The Eagle. Then we went to 1215 Wine Bar and had a great rosé flight. Nice big pours and you can play a game where you guess which wine is which based on menu descriptions. I only got one correct, but everyone wins because you can drink all the wines no matter what. Then we went to Kaze for their Tokio Happy Hour. Everything is cheap! Bottles of wine are half price, so we got one of those, and then their edamame (which they served uniquely chilled) is only $2 and veggie hand rolls are $3. It also overlaps with their daily 4-7 p.m. happy hour, so you can order from that food menu, too. And eat everything outside on their giant patio. Then we went to Neons (more patios!) and had some nice tequila strawberry (or raspberry) cocktails and tacos from Mazunte, which was manning the grill. Maybe only I had tacos. Then I petted some dogs, drank a little too much and ended up at Skyline. Had some bean and rice chili cheese sandwiches there and then grabbed some things to go for my husband who was at home — but also ordered myself some more chili cheese sandwiches. Shredded Skyline cheese is just really good.

Sarah Urmston: Since Memorial Day weekend is all about celebrating the good ol' USA, it was only logical to fire up the grill and throw down the most cliché items guaranteed to fill you in the most satisfying way possible. After my sweet man friend Bryan and I hit a Wiffle ball around the yard with an old plastic bat and swung around in his new hammock, we spent the rest of our day cooking steaks, corn on the cob, asparagus and roasted potatoes. He used all kinds of filet seasonings on the steaks while I loaded up the potato slices with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, oregano, parsley and Parmesan cheese. The asparagus wrapped in tin foil sat on the grill, covered in butter and more Parmesan cheese (you really can't go wrong with the stuff). The steaks were cooked medium-rare because chef Bryan knows exactly what he's doing. Since we ran out of plates for ourselves, we threw everything together and picked at it until it was gone. It was the best way to end a long weekend, and never have I felt more American. ]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning y’all. I’m back from vacation and ready to give you all the news and stuff you can handle. In case you’re wondering, my time off involved a jaunt to Chicago for a concert where audience members were encouraged to divide into two huge groups and run at each other high-fiving, trips to five Pilsen Mexican restaurants and a long night/early morning in a private karaoke room where they keep up the bootleg music videos, Red Bull, beer and Drake tracks until you die (I abstained from the beer and the Drake, but did drink way too much Red Bull). Then I came back to Cincinnati and promptly got sicker than I’ve been in a long time. Fun stuff.

Anyway, let’s do this news thing. Home prices in Over-the-Rhine are getting higher and higher, but you probably already knew that. What you maybe didn’t know is how close the neighborhood is getting to million-dollar homes. Recently, a condo on Central Parkway sold for $850,000, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. That’s roughly 4,250 nights in a private karaoke room in Chicago’s Chinatown, or, you know, 2,125 months (177 years) in an affordable apartment that costs $400 a month. While that huge figure is something of an outlier, the neighborhood is certainly heating up. The average sale price for single family homes in the neighborhood was hovering around $220,000 in 2010. These days, it’s nearly twice that at $427,000. Those developing high-selling properties in the neighborhood say that there’s more to the story than the big numbers and that they’ve put in tons of investment to bring the properties up to their current condition. Of course, the rise in values also raises questions about affordability in the historically low-income neighborhood. The amount of affordable housing in OTR has dwindled in recent years, though new additions could help that situation. Over the Rhine Community Housing, for example, just finished its Beasley Place building on Republic Street, which will provide 13 new units of subsidized housing in the neighborhood.

• Will a major federal lab end up in uptown Cincinnati? It’s a good possibility. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health is looking to consolidate two labs it currently runs in the city and is at least considering the possibility of building its new $110 million facility near the University of Cincinnati. NIOSH Director John Howard told the Cincinnati Business Courier recently that proximity to UC is a big consideration. Should NIOSH decide to build uptown, the development could play into a bigger push by area leaders to create an “innovation corridor” near the site of the new I-71 interchange along Reading Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Avondale and Walnut Hills. Uptown or no, NIOSH would like to keep the proposed 350,000-square-foot building within the I-275 loop, it says, in part because of public transit considerations.

• Speaking of public transit, don’t look to Ohio to start spending more on it anytime soon. The state legislature has dismissed suggestions that the state spend more on public transportation as it crafts the next two-year budget. Legislators in the GOP-dominated state house have brushed aside a $1 million study by the Ohio Department of Transportation calling for more spending on buses, rail and other forms of public transit. That study highlighted the growing need for public transit among the state’s low income and elderly, as well as the increasing popularity of a less car-dependent lifestyle among young professionals Ohio would like to attract. Currently, Ohio ranks 37th in per-capita spending on transit, despite being the nation’s 7th most populous state. The study recommended a $2.5 million boost in transit spending in the next year alone, part of a much larger boost over time. Even Gov. John Kasich, a vocal opponent of most transit spending, put an extra $1 million in his suggested budget for transit next year. But no go, the legislature says.

• While we’re talking about Kasich, let’s touch on his recent move cutting collective bargaining rights for home health care workers and in-home childcare workers. These workers aren’t state employees but contract with the state for some work. In 2007, then-Gov. Ted Strickland handed down an executive order giving those workers collective bargaining rights, which allowed them to receive health insurance from state worker unions among other benefits. Kasich promised to rescind that executive order during his successful run for governor against Strickland, but has held off until now, he says, to preserve the workers’ access to insurance. Now, the governor says the Affordable Care Act means that the workers don’t need unions to get health care, and that as contractors they shouldn’t be given bargaining rights. Kasich has long been a foe of collective bargaining — after taking office in 2008, he worked to end collective bargaining rights for all state employees. Voters later struck down his efforts in a state-wide referendum. Democrats and union representatives have cried foul at Kasich’s latest move.

“It’s a sad day when those who care for our children, our seniors and Ohioans with disabilities — and who simply want to be able to make ends meet while providing that invaluable service — become the target of a cynical political attack," Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper said in a statement.

• Finally, the big story today is happening in Cleveland, where questions about police use of force are swirling. Just days after courts dismissed manslaughter charges against Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo, a settlement between the city and the federal government looks imminent. In 2010, Brelo, who is white, fired 15 rounds into the windshield of a car, killing unarmed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both black, after a police chase that started when a backfire from the car was mistaken for a gunshot. That incident, as well as many others, were highlighted in a nearly two-year investigation by the DOJ into the department’s use of force. That investigation found what the DOJ calls systemic problems with the department’s use of force and the way it reports and disciplines officers who may have used force improperly.

U.S. attorneys are holding meetings with various stakeholders in the city today and are expected to soon announce a settlement between the city’s police department and the U.S. Department of Justice. The expected consent decree would put CPD under federal oversight and bring about big reforms for the department, which continues to draw controversy. Last year, an officer with the department shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice while the child played with a toy pistol. Charges against that officer are pending.

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<![CDATA[Foreign Film Friday: <i>The Joke</i> (1969)]]> This weekly series discusses the cultural and artistic implications of a selected foreign film.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a new Milan Kundera short story in The New Yorker. One of my favorite authors, I was intrigued to learn Kundera was releasing his tenth novel — the first in 15 years — later this year (in English; it was previously released in French). Though I enjoy reading Kundera’s work, the Czech author is known for taking umbrage at his books’ English translations. I began to wonder how he felt about his novels that have been translated onscreen, to film. 

Some quick Googling revealed he had served as either screenwriter or consultant on the only adaptations of his works, 1988's Unbearable Lightness of Being and 1969's The Joke, films that bookend the communist regime in the Czech Republic. Disappointed with Unbearable Lightness of Being, an American film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, I turned to The Joke. A film by auteur Jaromil Jireš at the crest of the Czech New Wave movement, its political tides swept the country during the end of the Prague Spring, a brief elision in the Soviet regime where democracy seemed attainable for a fleeting moment. 

I wasn’t disappointed. Not surprisingly, The Joke is inherently political, but its lofty themes of freedom thinly veil a more nuanced, personal narrative of intimacy and revenge. Told in effective jumps from the past and present, the film follows Ludvík, a man who sends a sarcastic jest in the mail to his romantic interest, Markéta, mocking Trotsky. The letter is read by his university comrades in the Party and they sentence him to six years in prison and the army, where he becomes the butt of his own joke. 

Jump to the present: Ludvík attempts to get revenge by seducing Helena, the wife of one of his betrayers from the Party years ago. The film unsnarls with an arid humor as Ludvík’s pessimistic outlook is upended by revelatory moments, often soundtracked by the film’s traditional music. The polyphonic chapters of Kundera’s novel are traded here for colliding tonalities between now and then, as the helixing of the visual tenses instill a sense of upheaval, of never truly being able to escape the past.

Cinematographer Jan Curík frames the imagery with a monochrome staccato to complement the frenetic visual grammar, and Jireš intercuts archival footage with the action to suggest the reality of the atmosphere. Voiceovers are capitalized on frequently, and add a dimension of helplessness that was shown in the book through multiple points of view. As Ludvík narrates his fruitless schemes, there’s a false sense of omniscience, even though it becomes clear that he has no control over his destiny. Jirês captures Kundera’s inimitable brand of existential romance, and Josef Somr plays the protagonist with an understated brilliance and ennui. Trying to convince Helena of his love, the godless Ludvík tells her, “It’s as strong as fate.” 

Kundera has suggested in interviews that all of his novels could have been titled The Joke or Unbearable Lightness of Being, and I found that true in this case, even though there is a clear heaviness to the causes and effects, in and outside the screen. Jireš was exiled after the movie was banned, and was pressured to erase The Joke from his filmography, a film whose weightlessnesses arrive in the form of old Folk songs, a practice that allows the characters to never forget their heritage. Cinema was Jireš’s way to remember, and his second film survives, thankfully, for us. 

It was alleged, in 2009, that Kundera was an informant for the Chezch secret police as a student, and turned over a Western spy who served 14 years after almost facing a death sentence. Whether or not this is true, it intensifies the texture of sin and ambiguity within the film, which Kundera co-wrote. Maybe it was a type of catharsis, a way to cope with his guilt. Or maybe it is the film’s final joke, leaving no one to have the last laugh. 


THE JOKE is currently screening on hulu plus as part of their Criterion Collection. hulu.com.

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<![CDATA[CAC Announces the Death of Founding Member Peggy Crawford]]>

The Contemporary Art Center today announced that founding member Peggy Crawford died on April 18 in Santa Fe, N.M., where she had been living. She was one of three women who founded the CAC's precursor, the Modern Art Society, in 1939. She was able to come to the CAC last September to celebrate its 75th anniversary — an exhibition of her photography was part of the observance.

Here are excerpts from the CAC press release:

Contemporary Arts Center Director Raphaela Platow fondly recalled the impact that Peggy Crawford made on so many: "Mrs. Crawford’s life is an inspiration to me. As a young woman she was one of the three women founders of the Contemporary Arts Center (called Modern Art Society at the time), an institution she initiated, against all odds, in a moment in time when the Great Depression was still shaking the world and the second World War was about to erupt. It is so easy not to do something, to shy away from a great idea because of the many obstacles and hurdles in the way, a lack of resources, or fear of failure. But Peggy Crawford and her two companion co-founders created the Modern Art Society in 1939 because their lives urged them to do it. Mrs. Crawford applied the same passion, tenacity, and energy to her different life pursuits and I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to meet her and to spend time in her presence."

Born in 1917, Peggy Frank graduated from Smith College. In 1939, along with Betty Rauh and Rita Rentschler, she founded the Modern Art Society in Cincinnati, Ohio, which would become the Contemporary Arts Center.

The three founders had little  or no formal museum experience. For a year, their "office" consisted of a portable typewriter set up in a living room. At the start, the society had staunch backers and hard workers, but they had very little money and had only a borrowed gallery space in the basement of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

During the first year, the founders raised $5,000 to produce six exhibitions, each with a catalogue. Their first exhibition, Modern Paintings from Cincinnati (Nov.-Dec. 1939) showed their early commitment to showcasing up-and-coming local artists. 

The fledgling Modern Art Society mounted new and often controversial exhibitions, published catalogues, encouraged local artists and helped promote contemporary art collections and education. Between 1940 and 1951, the Modern Art Society exhibited such artists as Pablo Picasso (1940), George Grosz, Paul Klee and Alexander Calder (1942), Fernand Leger (1944), Rufino Tamayo (1947), Jean Arp (1949) and other new artists in abstraction, Surrealism, modern architecture and contemporary design. One of the highlights of this time was the Cincinnati showing of Picasso’s "Guernica" in 1940 because it represented the first and only time the important work was shown in the Midwest.

Peggy Frank married Ralston Crawford, a painter and photographer, who preceded her in death.

She is survived by two sons, Neelon (Susan Hill), and John, along with a stepson, Robert (Eldrid Crawford).

A memorial service was held at Kingston Retirement Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. April 30, 2015.

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (5/22-5/25)]]>
The big party this weekend is Taste of Cincinnati, but there are plenty of other options if you don't want to spend your entire weekend gorging. Check out the May Festival, Memorial Day Weekend at Spring Grove cemetery, plenty of live music, live theater and more.

FRIDAY
Celebrate the power of the voice with THE MAY FESTIVAL
The May Festival, one of the oldest and most prestigious choral festivals in the Western Hemisphere, kicks off its 2015 showcase at Music Hall with Haydn’s “The Creation” on Friday and works by Handel and Vaughn Williams on Saturday. A special May Festival Youth Chorus/May Festival Chorus performance takes place Sunday at Covington, Ky.’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. Renowned guest vocalists will be joining each performance, with pre-concert festivities before Music Hall performances, including al fresco food trucks, lobby recitals, drink specials and more. The May Festival continues through May 30. $12-$125; subscriptions available. More details at mayfestival.com.


Mamma Mia!
Photo: Universal Pictures
Bring a blanket for MOVIES IN THE VINEYARD
You can pop corks or corn at Vinoklet Winery’s vineyard, which is hosting three outdoor movie nights this summer. On Friday, get your Streep on when they show Mamma Mia! on the silver screen amid the sprawling acres of the award-winning vineyard. And hey, if ABBA isn’t your thing, you can catch later flicks in June and July with Under the Tuscan Sun and Phantom of the Opera, respectively. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair, but no outside coolers, drinks or food; picnic snacks, beer and wine will be for sale. 7 p.m. Friday; film starts at dusk. Free. 11069 Colerain Ave., Colerain, vinokletwines.com.

The Cavalcaders
Photo: Pat Conley
Erin go Bragh with the ACTING IRISH INTERNATIONAL THEATRE FESTIVAL
Irish theater is top of mind locally, what with the warm-hearted Outside Mullingar continuing at Ensemble Theatre and this week an international festival of Irish acting. Catch daily performances of full-length Irish plays produced by companies from the U.S., Canada and Ireland — including our own Irish American Theater Company of Cincinnati, which is hosting the 22nd annual festival at its 200-seat theater. George Heslin, founder and artistic director of New York City’s Origin Theatre Company, critiques each day’s production and presents awards for directing, acting and production during a brunch on Sunday morning at downtown’s Millennium Hotel. Through May 23. $17-$22. Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati, 3905 Eastern Ave., East End, 513-533-0100, irishcenterofcincinnati.com.

Circle Mirror Transformation
Photo: Sandy Underwood
Learn and laugh with CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION 
Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation is a deceptively simple play — on the surface, it’s a comedy about five people enrolled in a community center class about learning how to act. They work their way through six weeks of exercises intended to reduce their inhibitions and open them to being more expressive and comfortable onstage. None seem bound for onstage careers, although one says she’s worked as an actress and another, a high school student, aspires to be one. But they do learn a lot — about themselves and each other. In fact, they learn how to act on the broader stage of life in this award-winning play that’s closing the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s current season. Circle Mirror Transformation, presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, is onstage through June 7. cincyplay.com

Steve Katz
Rock with Blood, Sweat & Tears' STEVE KATZ at the Southgate House Revival
According to Publishers Weekly, Steve Katz’s new memoir Blood, Sweat, and My Rock ’n’ Roll Years: Is Steve Katz a Rock Star? has maybe the most spectacular revelation yet of any Rock memoir. Katz was a guitarist with two successful Rock bands in the 1960s, The Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, and he went on in the 1970s to produce Lou Reed’s classic live album, Rock n Roll Animal. Katz says one of the stereo feeds of the audience track for Reed’s Animal concert at New York’s Academy of Music was lost, so there was only mono sound. That wouldn’t work, so the engineer went through his archives and found an audience track from a concert by the ultra-square John Denver. (Both were RCA recording artists at the time.) Steve Katz plays Newport's Southgate House Revival on Friday. Tickets/more info here.

SATURDAY
Taste of Cincinnati
Photo: Provided
Gorge yourself at TASTE OF CINCINNATI
It’s no secret the food scene in the Queen City rivals that of major U.S. metropolises — a few OpenTable award winners, some James Beard Award semifinalists and even a AAA Five-Diamond restaurant call Cincinnati home. And from Saturday to Monday, your favorite Cincy foodstuffs will be in one location at the Taste of Cincinnati, the nation’s longest running culinary arts fest in the heart of downtown. Want to chase LaRosa’s with a donut grilled cheese from Tom+Chee? And then follow that up with a Thai basil/lime ice pop from streetpops? At Taste, you can, and you should. This year there will even be a Food Truck Alley on North Broadway off of Sixth. I recommend fasting until then. 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday. Free. Fifth Street, between Vine and Sentinel streets, Downtown, tasteofcincinnati.com.

Outside Mullingar at Playhouse in the Park
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Catch the extended OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at the Ensemble Theatre 
Count on John Patrick Shanley for compelling storytelling: His Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Doubt explored the power of innuendo; his Academy Award-winning movie Moonstruck was a romantic comedy. His play Outside Mullingar lands squarely between those extremes, connecting with his family’s roots in rural Ireland for a tale of identity, heritage and love. It’s sure to be a winning production with a cast featuring Dale Hodges, Joneal and Jen Joplin (yes, they’re father and daughter) and Brian Isaac Phillips, directed by former Playhouse artistic director Ed Stern. This show is likely to be a hot ticket: It’s already been extended by a week. Through May 30. $40-$44 adult; $25 student; $18 senior/children. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-3555, ensemblecincinnati.org.

Ian Bagg
Photo: Provided
Laugh with IAN BAGG
Ian Bagg had dreams of playing pro hockey, but switched to comedy because he grew tired of getting knocked around the ice by players he describes as decidedly more talented than him. Fortunately, he had a knack for humor. “It’s so much fun being on a [hockey] team and hanging out,” he says. “I think that’s where I got my comedy chops: chirping at everyone from the bench and in the locker room and having a great time.” Fellow hockey fan Dave Coulier told CityBeat a very similar story a few months back. Oddly, Bagg and Coulier have never met. “You’d think if there’s anyone I would know, it’s a guy that does comedy and plays hockey,” he says. Thursday-Sunday. $10-$20. Funny Bone on the Levee, Newport, Ky., funnyboneonthelevee.com.

The Cincinnati Boxing Story
Watch the premiere THE CINCINNATI BOXING STORY
The world premiere of The Cincinnati Boxing Story screens at Taft Information Technology High School on Ezzard Charles Drive in the West End on Saturday. Mark Sweeney’s film explores how Cincinnati is a boxing town that has long produced great fighters — most notably Ezzard Charles himself — and examines our boxing history with past and present champions and their supporters. 6 p.m. Saturday. $15. 420 Ezzard Charles Drive, West End, facebook.com/sweeneynowvideo.

Celebrate art all day with the ART SPACE IS YOUR SPACE artist in residence at Wave Pool gallery
Wave Pool gallery’s first artist in residence, Georgia-based artist and filmmaker Erin Colleen Johnson, organized several events Saturday that seek to investigate the intersection of race, class, migration, agriculture and environmental justice, all through the lens of soil. A groundbreaking ceremony for Camp Washington’s Urban Farm (3220 Colerain Ave.) involves setting personal intentions with a ceremonial shovel. Later at the gallery, David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, will talk about his work to eliminate racism within the criminal justice system, and Johnson herself will give a live performative video lecture called Providence Canyon. Groundbreaking 11 a.m.; Gallery events start at 6 p.m. Saturday. Free. 2940 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, wavepoolgallery.org.

SUNDAY
Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later
Photo: CHHE Collection
Remember history with UNLOCKING THE GATES OF AUSCHWITZ
The Freedom Center’s current Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later exhibit weaves together rare artifacts, photographs and the personal stories of Holocaust survivors Werner Coppel and Bella Ouziel to explore their journey and how life and the power of the human spirit continued in the face of the horrors of Auschwitz. Also on view are artifacts on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew Union College and more. A closing reception May 27 features a conversation with Coppel and Ouziel, as well as special recognition of area liberators and veterans to commemorate the end of World War II. Through May 27. $14 adults; $12 seniors; $10 children. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 E. Freedom Way, The Banks, Downtown, freedomcenter.org.

Ohhh and ahhh over ZOO BABIES
Celebrate the newest arrivals at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden during the entire month of May, where you'll find the cutest baby faces from all over the globe. Follow the six-foot-tall pink and blue stork statues displayed throughout the zoo to lead you to baby African lions, penguin chicks, bonobo monkeys, a whole litter of African painted dogs and more, as their big eyes, miniature sizes and playful personalities melt your heart. Through May. Park admission $18 adults; $12 children and seniors. 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.

MONDAY
Memorial Day Weekend at Spring Grove
Photo: Provided
Celebrate MEMORIAL DAY AT SPRING GROVE
Between kicking off Memorial Day weekend with the Ohio Military band performing in the Rose Garden Gazebo, a veterans tribute and a historical Patriots and Pioneers walking tour of the cemetery, Spring Grove has the entire weekend jam-packed with activities. On Monday, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry will perform an 1860s Grand Army of the Republic ritual and shower flower petals on the graves of union soldiers interred in Spring Grove, followed by a living history presentation by President Abraham Lincoln (or a man dressed like him) and a Civil War walking tour. Thursday-Monday. Free. 4521 Spring Grove Ave., Spring Grove Village, 513-681-7526, springgrove.org.

Over the Rhine
Photo: Provided
Raise a barn with OVER THE RHINE
Barns and farms have played an important role in the history of Over the Rhine, married couple Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist’s internationally acclaimed, 25-year-old Cincinnati band. The couple met in a restored barn while in college in Canton, Ohio. For the past decade, the twosome has lived in and worked out of a brick farmhouse in Highland County on land they’ve dubbed “Nowhere Farm.” And now Detweiler and Bergquist are restoring a 140-year-old barn in Clinton County (in the village of Martinsville) and transforming it into a performing arts center with a recording studio called Nowhere Else.  As with Over the Rhine’s past two albums, Detweiler and Bergquist are turning to their loyal fanbase to help fund the new facility. The band is offering a variety of perks for donations. Among the perks (starting at the $100 level) are tickets to special preview concerts at Nowhere Else this weekend (the couple is hoping to have the facility fully ready to open by early October). The full six-piece band is performing special “Barn Raising Concerts” on Saturday (which is sold out), Sunday (7 p.m.) and Monday (3 p.m.). Over the Rhine will be debuting new songs at the concerts, which will be filmed and recorded for a forthcoming live album and DVD project. The release can be pre-ordered as part of the fundraising campaign. Visit at overtherhine.com/barnraising for full details.

Veterans and military get in free at BUTTERFLIES OF THE PHILIPPINES
As Cincinnati welcomes spring, the Krohn Conservatory welcomes the colorful and exotic butterflies of the Philippines. For 12 weeks, Krohn will transform into a majestic tribute to the Southeast Asian island country, capturing its stunning natural beauty and Filipino culture. The showroom will be a tropical paradise of free-flying butterflies soaring among waterfalls and bold volcanic murals. A rainforest under glass, the conservatory will be filled with more than 3,500 beautiful plant species, such as ornate orchids, brilliant bromeliads, delicate anthuriums and dramatic dracaenas, providing a backdrop close to home for the native butterflies to flutter. Free for active military and veterans on Memorial Day. Through June 21. $7 adult; $4 children; free ages 4 and younger. 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiparks.com.



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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Theater Critics of the Future?]]> There’s lots happening on Cincinnati stages this weekend — including excellent productions of Circle Mirror Transformation at the Cincinnati Playhouse and Outside Mullingar at Ensemble Theatre. The Cincinnati Fringe Festival is right around the corner. But I want to use this week’s Stage Door to highlight a glimpse of the future. Tonight the CAPPIE AWARDS will celebrate productions and performers from area high schools with a festive event at the Aronoff Center’s Procter & Gamble Hall.

Among the students being recognized are critics. That’s right: As part of the Cappies, teens from high schools visit other schools to critique performances. I have the privilege of handing out awards to the outstanding team of students from one particular high school. Starting last year, another recognition was added, sponsored by CityBeat, identifying the outstanding single critique written over the course of the year.

I received a half-dozen essays deemed by Cappies organizers to be the best pieces written during the 2014-2015 school year. (I did not know the names of the critics or their high schools when I was picking the winner.) At tonight’s ceremony, I’ll announce one I believe to be the best. You can read all of the reviews I considered in today’s blog, below. In addition to taking home a dandy trophy, the winner is invited to review a FringeNext show, one of three high school productions presented at the Cincy Fringe next week.

I urge you to read what these insightful young people have written about productions at other schools. It’s possible that someday one of these promising writers will be writing about shows and helping theater fans decide what to see onstage in Greater Cincinnati.


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.



West Side Story at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy

REVIEWED BY COLE HANKINS, Loveland High School

Amidst a fearsome gang war, two lovers are forever torn apart by the pull of a pistol’s trigger. And as a girl mourns her horrible loss, she extends two hands, one to each side. In the left hand, a Jet; in the right, a Shark, two groups sworn enemies, now holding hands united under common loss. It is with this heart-wrenching image of solidarity that Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s production of West Side Story leaves its audience, and with this image that its excellence finally hits home.

An American theatrical classic, West Side Story takes place in New York City, where two local teenage gangs — the Caucasian “Jets” and Puerto Rican “Sharks” — are amidst a territorial dispute. Jets leader Riff plans to challenge the Sharks and leader Bernardo to a rumble in order to settle the issue. However, the plot thickens when fellow Jet Tony meets Bernardo’s sister Maria, and the two quickly fall in love. The result is ultimately a situation spun far out of control, a vengeful gunshot separating the lovers forever, and grave consequences to a merciless feud.

Fittingly, CHCA’s production started with a bang in “Prologue,” where the Jets’ and Sharks’ choreographic and combat execution splendidly set the tone for the action to come. The Jets were particularly sharp in songs such as “Jet Song” and the lighthearted character number “Gee, Officer Krupke.” Other show highlights included the upbeat, toe-tapping song “America,” and “Tonight,” where both Jets and Sharks alike came together for a powerful prelude to the action-packed “The Rumble.”

As headliner Tony, actor Will Ellis’s performance was defined by pristine tenor vocals and a captivating vibrato, mastering his character’s higher range. In solo songs like “Maria,” Ellis never shied away from the spotlight, boldly owning critical character moments. Opposite of Ellis, Allie Kuroff’s operatic soprano was equally impressive as the lovely Maria, clearly acting her finest in the show’s riveting finale. Both Ellis and Kuroff played their roles with a unique tenderness, providing an interesting presentation of two classic characters.

Likewise, actress Merrie Drees brought a thrilling flair to the flashy, spunky Anita. Drees’s powerfully sassy vocals proved phenomenal, and her ability to balance great comedic timing in earlier scenes with compelling emotion later on was marvelous, a dynamic lacking in other characters. As the charismatic Riff, Gabe Hoyer also crafted an extraordinary performance. Hoyer featured a mesmerizing gravity to his presence that added an unmistakable charm to Riff, making his Act I death one of the musical’s most tragic moments.

Tasked with a very challenging musical score, the CHCA Orchestra played fabulously. Despite drowning out certain vocalists at times, the pit kept accompaniment clean, crisp, and well polished throughout. Equally crisp and well polished was manager Kaitlyn Nickol’s stage crew, making scene changes promptly and effortlessly and contributing to the show’s timely pacing.

Doing justice to one of the most beloved musicals of all time is undoubtedly a daunting task. Yet as the lights faded on that aforementioned scene of unity, the cast of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s recent production of West Side Story had accomplished exactly this. In a wildly successful effort, these talented performers honored not only the endearing charm of this theatrical legend, but also its strikingly poignant message.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Larry A. Ryle High School

REVIEWED BY ELEANOR CONNIFF, Highlands High School

Although written nearly 400 years ago, the works of William Shakespeare are still revered today as some of the most influential in all of Western literature. The Bard's plays are usually an essential component of any English course. The classic tales are still performed often by actors and theatre companies alike. It is difficult to imagine something as old as the publication of Shakespeare's First Folio in 1623 continuing to remain relevant and entertaining to audiences. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by Larry A. Ryle High School, students brought life to the timeless classic and gave a performance that stayed true to the tradition of Shakespeare with unique and original twists.

The story of A Midsummer Night's Dream centers around a love triangle, or rather, rectangle, between Hermia and Lysander, two star-crossed lovers; Demetrius, who loves Hermia, although unrequited; and Helena, who loves Demetrius. When Puck, a mischievous fairy from the woods, accidentally casts a spell on the two young men, he reverses their affections, causing both to fall in love with Helena. Chaos ensues as Puck attempts to reverse the mistaken spell and keep peace within both the fairy and the lovers' world.

In Larry A. Ryle's production of this classic story, the students met the challenge of Shakespeare with eagerness and understanding of the style, far beyond the years of most high school students. The production also paired the original Shakespearean text with 1950s style costumes, props, and characters in order to portray a commentary on the time period's stratified nature and to modernize the theme of unrequited love.

Under the pressures of a four-way love triangle, Willow Davis's portrayal of Helena stood out among the leading roles of the show as her characterization and poise set her apart. Helena’s nagging but endearing nature allowed the audience to laugh at her melodramatic soliloquies while also sympathizing with her broken heart. Samuel Greenhill stood out in his portrayal of Demetrius as well, creating a character that was both likable and antagonistic and keeping him true to the attitudes of the time period.

Of course, it is impossible to forget Macy Bates’s performance as the mischievous Puck. The youthful energy that she brought to the role was extremely refreshing and played well into her comedic timing, keeping the audience laughing again and again.

From a technical aspect, the show was extremely fine-tuned. Albert Harris's lighting was absolutely stunning, with a purposeful contrast in the lighting of the fairy world versus that of the real world. This choice, while subtle, was extremely impactful, as the set's minimalist style made the setting of the story extremely ambiguous and versatile, with the shift in lighting as the main indicator of shifting worlds.

Love and mischief are the same now as they were in the 1950s, and the same in the 1950s as they were in Shakespeare's time. Larry A. Ryle High School's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream portrayed these themes in a fresh and unique way, while also paying homage to the tradition of William Shakespeare.

 

Beauty and the Beast at McAuley High School

REVIEWED BY SAMANTHA TIMMERS, Scott High School

It’s not every day you see a humanoid clock charging at foes with a silver fork. Nor is it every day that an audience finds themselves yet again floored by a performance they've seen on the screen a hundred times before. Yet in this heartwarming rendition of Beauty and the Beast, McAuley High School charmed both adult and child once again through their humor and talent.

This stage rendition, written by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Linda Wolverton, is actually an adaptation of an adaptation. The Oscar-winning movie version with which the world is familiar came out in 1991, the inspiration stemming from the 1756 fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. In this third version, a beautiful and bookish Belle becomes the only hope for a long-forgotten castle staff and Prince, who are slowly becoming inanimate objects as a result of a spell caused by the Prince’s vanity. But can Belle learn to love a Beast who can barely learn to love anyone else?

Overall, McAuley created a magnificent performance that was filled with magic and surprises. The cast was bouncing with energy from start to finish, and their vocal quality was solid amongst all actors. The technical crew skillfully created a lively atmosphere that resonated with audience members, phenomenally recreating classic scenes. With glittering costumes and whimsical choreography, Beauty and the Beast did not disappoint.

Danielle Mouch was extraordinary in her performance as Belle. Her vocal quality was pristine and clear, effortlessly reaching every note as well as maintaining her character’s spunky yet thoughtful personality. Gregory Miller, a well-established actor in Cincinnati high school theater, outdid expectations in his performance as the Beast. Though he might have had hair and tusks masking his face, his powerful yet perfectly controlled voice said more than facial expressions ever could.

Audience favorites included the actors playing Lumière and Cogsworth. AJ Keith’s (Cogsworth) dry humor was expertly delivered and well received, his deadpans flawless and his mannerisms appropriate for the endearing yet bossy character. Benjamin Burton seemed to be made for the role of Lumière: his French accent was spot-on (and maintained throughout the length of the show), and his eye for comedy was terrific—all it took was a few suggestive hip movements to send the audience into uncontrollable laughter.

The crew provided dazzling effects for the show. The lighting was of almost professional quality, with a highlight being the mystical, Northern Lights-sequel brilliance that occurred during the Beast’s transformation. While the costumes seemed to closely follow the movie adaptation, they were of high quality and were well constructed and designed. The choreography flowed seamlessly, from the Mob’s parade around the auditorium to the Wolves’ deathly yet entrancing dance. Overall, McAuley’s crew was a force to be reckoned with, achieving seemingly magical transitions and mirages.

In this tale as old as time, McAuley High School enchanted youth and elderly alike with its whimsy personality and spellbinding characters, reminding everyone not to be deceived by appearances; there “may be something there that wasn't there before.”


The Mourner’s Bench at the School for Creative and Performing Arts

REVIEWED BY SARAH MORGAN, Mariemont High School

A single gunshot can end a life, create irreversible emotional damage, and shatter even the closest of relationships in an instant. The School for Creative and Performing Arts’ dark, poignant, and haunting performance of The Mourners’ Bench explored the crippling emotional aftermath of a deplorable tragedy.

The first act opened up to an intense argument between siblings Bobby (Bradley Mingo) and Melissa (Nina Walker). Twenty years after they witnessed their father shoot their mother, Evelyn, in a murder-suicide, Bobby and Melissa have still not healed. While Melissa has attempted to move on with her life, marrying a nice man and bearing two children, Bobby is trapped in a state of perpetual dependency, turning to alcohol and eventually buying the childhood house in which the tragedy occurred. Mingo and Walker perfectly captured the essence of a tumultuous sibling relationship, from emotionally depleting shouting matches to interrupting one another mid-sentence. The two were able to adroitly deal with dark themes, including murder, rape, and suicide, by presenting an air of deep gravity and maturity to their lines.

Act Two, set immediately after Evelyn’s funeral, featured her sisters Caroline (Mallory Kraus) and Wilma (Danielle Brockmann) bickering about the future of their niece and nephew. Kraus and Brockmann both give performances rife with emotion, utilizing familiar body language to heighten the intimacy of their conversation. The timing of their dialogue was natural and seemed completely organic, inviting the viewer into their quarrel. Brockmann approached her role as Wilma with a gentle softness, providing a foil for Kraus’s seemingly callous, unemotional Caroline. The scene ended touchingly, with Kraus playing the piano while Brockmann watched, a testament to the boundless power of redemption.

Act Three centered around elderly, married couple Joe (Cameron Baker) and Sarah (Maggie Hoffecker). They moved into Bobby and Melissa’s childhood home immediately after the tragedy and become inextricably tangled in the history of the house they have purchased. The tenderness between Hoffecker and Baker truly reflected that of a couple on the brink of death; while just sitting next to each other on a couch, they seem comfortable and at ease, with no trace of awkwardness. By the end of the scene, sniffling could be heard throughout the theater as the pair gazed out of a window, contemplating life’s transience.

SCPA’s theater was a room with seating on all four sides, providing an intimate view of the stage and connecting the audience to the characters. The set was sparse: a living room furnished with an unadorned couch and a dilapidated piano. The simpleness of the set allowed the raw emotion of the actors to shine through, creating a memorable performance.

All in all, SCPA’s production of The Mourners’ Bench was an evocative and haunting testament to the power of loss, recovery, and redemption.

 

Sweeney Todd at Taylor High School

REVIEWED BY MADISON LUKEN, St. Ursula Academy 

A trip to the barber never seemed so dangerous than in Taylor High School’s production of Sweeney Todd, where deceit leads to a menagerie of questionable pies, ineffective Italian barbers and a tempest of revenge, violence and tragedy.

An ordinary barber, husband and young father, Benjamin Barker has his world turned upside down when he is thrown in jail on a trumped-up charge that costs him his wife and daughter. Escaping prison, Barker renames himself Sweeney Todd and moves back into his shop on Fleet Street when he discovers the suicide of his wife Lucy. Out for blood, he teams up with the pie baker below his flat, Mrs. Lovett, to take revenge on the ones responsible — Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford. Leaving a trail of deception, misery and gore in his wake, Sweeney Todd becomes the demon barber of Fleet Street in this haunting musical thriller.

From the smoke that billowed from Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop to the synchronization of the company in “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir,” the unwavering commitment of both the cast and crew of this show did not go unnoticed in both details and central events. Every aspect of the show came together to create a product of suspense, drama, and overall beauty as an elaborate set, apt lighting and emotional vocals blended with the energy of everyone on and off stage.

Despite the incredible amount of music and its difficulty, the leads of the show, Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, performed by Antonio Ortiz and Annie Gerth respectively, conquered the tumultuous trials of Steven Sondheim almost flawlessly. In addition to this vocal aptitude, Gerth was able to portray the comedic elements of Lovett through her accent and equally strong acting propensity. Reciprocated by Ortiz, the two radiated a brilliant, psychotic chemistry that was always present, especially in songs such as “A Little Priest.”

A buttress to the leading couple, the ensemble floated eerily onto the stage relentlessly, booming out “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and “City on Fire” without wavering. Additionally appearing repeatedly, the Beggar Woman, played by Eliana Batsakis, brought further skill to light both vocally and in her physical acting as she drifted across the stage, crawling in the shadows of London, cackling manically and uttering desperate warnings until she met her demise.

Behind the scenes, this show demanded both sets and costumes reflective of the dark, dirty setting of 19th-century London. In both areas, demands were met, as buildings faded into darkness under a smoky pall and windows appeared cracked in places like Fogg’s Asylum while their inhabitants skulked about in ripped clothes with faces scorched with the grime of the streets. The crew was also able to create credible deaths with their use of stage blood.

Altogether, Taylor’s production was consistent and energetic in every scene of the show, creating a thrilling and gripping story through its performers and behind-the-scenes crew. It was ultimately well deserving of the standing ovation it received.


Once Upon a Mattress at Ursuline Academy

REVIEWED BY CARISSA SAFFIRO, Cincinnati Christian Schools

From childhood one is taught that princesses are the immaculately beautiful creatures that epitomize all that is grace and beauty. Who could imagine that the next princess of a medieval land would be an uncouth and unruly woman from the swamps? Ursuline Academy’s recent production of Once Upon a Mattress explores what happens when an ill-mannered yet charming woman steps — or rather swims — into court looking for a prince.

Written in the 1950s, Once Upon a Mattress is a musical comedy adapted from Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” The musical was written by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer, and Dean Fuller with lyrics and music by Marshall Barer and Mary Rodgers, respectively. The show features Princess Winnifred of the swamplands who comes to marry Dauntless the Drab, despite all the women before her who have been turned down by his tyrannical mother. Following the classic tale, the queen puts a pea under twenty mattresses to determine whether Winnifred is a true princess.

With intricate music and challenging characters, the leads of Once Upon a Mattress certainly had their work cut out for them. The ludicrously uncouth yet lovable Princess Winnifred was played by Kennedy Carstens. From the moment she stepped on the stage the audience was in the palm of her hand and her vocal performance was unequalled by any cast member in the show. CJ Allen had the challenge of playing the role of Dauntless the Drab and chose to play this arguably flat character with a charming and comedic twist. The audience’s narrator and another lead actor in the show was the Minstrel, played by Arjun Sheth. Sheth not only brought the audience through the show with a confidence and charisma, but also had the vocal range required for the role.

King Sextimus the Silent, played by Michael Viox, was another leading force in the show, although because of an old curse he was unable to speak for most of the musical. However, his inability to communicate with words in no way inhibited his connection with the audience or his stage presence. His counterpart and friend, the Jester, played by Claire Westover, played alongside Viox with excellent chemistry but also showed a deeper side of her character as well as impressive tapping ability in her song “Very Soft Shoes.” Carmen Carigan must also be commended for her performance as the Wizard. Although in a smaller part, Carigan has the ability to leave the audience clapping and laughing hysterically every time she stepped off stage.

The most unique thing about Ursuline, however, is the wealth of talent in their dancers. The dancing chorus was always together whether they were doing ballet or tap. With dancers such as Keely Wissel on point and other incredible soloists such as Caroline Nymberg, the dancers stood out as one of the highlights of the show.

The technical aspects of the show seemed to move effortlessly. There were few to no microphone errors, although the cast was working with fifteen wireless mikes, and the lighting was flawless. Arguably the most unique and ingenious part of the show was the costuming. Almost completely student-made, the costumes were imaginative and well put together. In the chorus, each lady’s costume had a corresponding knight’s costume, just one example of the color and brightness of the show.

The costumes, actors, and dancers certainly mirrored the fun, bright, and slightly unconventional style of this production and brought the audience for an enjoyable ride.

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<![CDATA[Shaky Knees Festival: No Puns Necessary]]>

I'm swirling a 24 oz. PBR tall-boy around 2 a.m. at a bar fashioned from an old church in a neighborhood I can't quite figure out. Is it up-and-coming like our own Over-the-Rhine? Or are we "on the wrong side of the tracks"? I don't really care at this point. I've already gotten drunk once today and spent 12 hours in the burning southern sun. I just want a bed.

There are 20-somethings in rompers, board shorts and woven sandals hunting for a festival after-party lined up around the block waiting for over an hour to sit on picnic benches and drink crummy beers together at a 300% markup over buying them at a gas station. We are only inside because someone among some newly found friends has sweet-talked the back door guy. Point is, I'm bored and ready for bed. I engage a fellow Cincinnatian at this bar after awkwardly sitting in silence for the past 30 minutes. Someone points to an open garage door leading to an abandoned courtyard where a bonfire is burning and shadowy figures have been shuffling in and out of all night. Oh man … I've been to these parties back home. They often end in way more cocaine than I'm comfortable being around or racially tense fights. But it’s the path I have to take to find out where I can sleep, so I throw my hood up to go as unnoticed as possible and dive in.

"If you high as fuck and you having a good time say yeah!"


"YEAH!!"


"If you drunk as fuck and you having a good time say yeah!”

"YEAH!!"

A track starts playing a familiar synth line. Everyone in the rundown rock yard throws their hands up in unison and screams, "I DONT FUCK WIT' YOU!!" Big Sean's breakup anthem blares over the PA. Yes! I'm so down with this. The fact that I'm in dirty soccer shorts and an Against Me! hoodie doesn't matter. The fact that I'm not from here doesn't matter. My age doesn't matter. My race doesn't matter. We all dance and sing along together until the cops show up. Forget the kids waiting in line to drink bad beer on park benches hoping to get laid; this is the most live party I've been to in a long while and nothing like it has ever happened back home.

But this isn't home, it's Atlanta. And it's the best part of Shaky Knees festival. I had headed to the unofficial
capital of the South two days
earlier with wildly different expectations. I was nervous, expecting an endlessly
expansive metropolis like
Chicago or New York where you
could get lost for days just
searching for a legal parking spot
and shouldn’t expect to find a place to rest your head for less than $100 per night.

Instead I was greeted by a uniquely diverse, affordable and welcoming city that didn’t feel much more overbearing than Nashville or our own city. A welcoming attitude of southern charm and hospitality was the cherry on top of every restaurant and bar we’d visit.

Before I go on I feel it should be pointed out that while fully qualified to review a music festival, I fall into a not so primary target demo for festival promoters. Yes I’m white and middle class, but, more importantly, I’m 29. Not young enough to save up my graduation money and go on a road trip with my gal pals for the “party of the summer.” Not late enough in my 30s, with kids of my own old enough to either stay home alone or come with as I check out whatever ’80s Alt band has dusted themselves off to play in the twilight hours of each day in the name of collecting a paycheck. Most of my demographic is too busy being spit up on at all hours of the night by their newborns to afford spending three days drinking in the sun and being blasted by unhealthy decibel levels. But, alas, here I am.

That all being said, my only real complaint with Shaky Knees was its lack of diversity. It is in the Hip Hop capital of the south (several jokes were made asking locals if Outkast are the “presidents of Atlanta”), but it failed to feature a single Hip Hop or R&B act. There was a small representation of Delta music with Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Trombone Shorty dotting the schedule early Sunday afternoon (which I unfortunately missed as my attendance was unplanned and last minute, so I had to spend Sunday driving home for work). Every band I saw was just white guys with guitars. Not that there’s anything wrong with some of that, but I didn’t see a single other act that had more than one token female or person of color (the exception being Tennis, which had one extra woman on keys tucked in the back of the stage).

Atlanta’s location provides for an amazing opportunity to unite a wide array of music lovers from all over the country. I met travelers from places as far as New York, Miami, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn. It has a stronger African-American middle class than most of the Midwest, as I experienced amongst its nightlife and food scene, and yet the culture of the festival was still focused primarily on a white, suburban, Indie Rock or Folk crowd, which is a shame. Some minor lineup tweaks could make all the difference for an otherwise amazing festival.

Enough of that. We’re here to talk about performances, so let’s party …

DAY 1
Jukebox the Ghost While assessing the lay of the land we settled into our first full set with the Piano Rock trio. My friend, who knows my taste well enough to know I’d instantly
want to judge
them, insisted I
give it a chance. It took a minute,
but with interlude
banter like, "This
is a party song
about breaking
up," or "This is the
dumbest song
ever written,"
these guys are
just having too
much fun to not
want to join in. I
mean, come on
— they closed with
a cover of
Queen’s "Don’t Stop Me Now" (yeah, they really had the balls to do that!) knowing full well their younger fan base would be totally lost and they didn’t give a single fuck. Kudos guys. You will do just fine in this world so long as your hairlines stay in tact.

Tennis I was merely nodding appreciatively through most of their set. Then lead singer Alaina Moore, whose neckline plunged all the way to the top of her high-waisted jeans with nothing but some hard working gravity protecting her from indecent exposure charges, introduced the song “Marathon.” One of the band’s older songs, it’s a solid straight up Doo Wop tune. (Now we’re talkin’!) I was pulled in for just a moment. But then all I could do is re-Imagine them as the opening band in the dance in Back to the Future with this same look and style. Marty never even gets the chance to rip through “Johnny B Goode.” The scene would already be too wild for Hill Valley circa 1955 to handle. There are riots in the streets! Marty disappears from the family photo and his existence fades into obscurity. Fin.

Wavves “Finally ‘the youths’ are partying!” I spent a good chunk of this set under the bright sun on searing black top thinking, “There’s gonna be some seriously dehydrated kids in sweaty ironic tees later.” Wavves’ first record was the only thing that swayed me to let my guard down and learn to accept the lo-fi revolution. Plus, “King of the Beach” is a total jam. But something just isn’t right about the energy of this young crowd. It’s like the Warped Tour of my youth for a new generation that doesn't have a George Bush to rally against and vent their angst toward. There’s a wave of aggressive indulgence in the pile of sweaty bodies that’s directed at nothing in particular and I’m too old or out of touch to understand it. Mostly I was thinking Hedonismbot from Futurama would fit right in crowd surfing over this pit. “Oh my!” Wavves new song was on point, though, perhaps suggesting a move away from the low-fi fuzz that covered up the simplicity of their previous work to something a little more richly melodic.

Manchester Orchestra I had to give this band a chance as my roommate texted me from back home insisting I check it out. I trust her. So I go. And, yeah, it’s heavy and I like that, but I’m not sure I get it yet. There are these glimmers of sing-along anthem glory, but in my 30-45 minute blind taste test of them I didn’t get enough of that flavor to crave seconds. Maybe some more research before they visit us for Bunbury next month will bring me around.

The Mountain Goats “AND HARD TIMES ARE WHEN A MAN HAS WORKED AT A JOB 30 YEARS AND THEY KICK HIM IN THE BUTT AND SAY: HEY, A COMPUTER HAS TOOK YOUR PLACE, DADDY. THAT’S HARD TIMES!” This is part of the epic, booming three-minute intro that sets the stage for The Mountain Goats’ show, a voiceover shouting a challenge to the Macho Man Randy Savage daring him to a fight in the ring across an empty stage. It gets you properly amped for what’s to follow. You can feel John Darnielle and his gang carry that energy right onto the stage with them as it ends and the crowd erupts. Don’t make the mistake of lumping these guys in with the dusters “just out for a paycheck” I mentioned earlier based on their age. You will rarely see someone look so happy to sing songs he wrote 20 years ago with as much conviction as Darnielle. His stage presence oozes “I’m a professional, but I’m having a blast!” And the crowd responds, “Alright John. Then I am too!” That presence is so strong he still wins over crowds with brand new songs despite already having a discography over 15 full-lengths deep. What's that streaming down my face as they close out with “No Children,” the hauntingly triumphant ode to the end of the ugliest relationship you’ve ever heard? It’s … it’s just a really heavy bead of sweat! It's hot out here damn it! Leave me alone!

Mastodon At this point in the day I just can’t take standing up anymore. Another minor issue with Shaky Knees overall was the food options. The ratio of local food trucks to festivalgoers yielded unbearably long lines for anyone hoping to catch some of the later acts of the day. Beer however was in ample supply, so I grabbed one to sip on while catching the most Metal moment of the weekend from a hill a hundred or so yards out from the main stage. Metalheads I trust recommend Mastodon and, yeah, they were fine with me too. Only problem is they fell just short of what I’m looking
for in their songwriting, a craft often overlooked
by Metal bands in my opinion. And so I spent
most of their set wishing I was watching Ghost
instead and checking my phone for any news of
their next release. We should expect that in
August.

Pixies Kim Deal purists be damned. Her current replacement did just fine and sounded spot-on like the records to me. While expecting those aging rockers coming out to collect a paycheck I’ve been talking about, there was still a dash of magic left. Or maybe it’s just that little flutter I get when a song starts up that I’ve been listening to for 15 or so years, like “Here Comes Your Man,” with no expectation of ever hearing live because, to be honest, it was a little loose at times. Okay. Really loose. Like, Frank Black stopped in the middle of a song and said, “That was my fault. I went to the chorus too soon,” and went on to the next one loose. Makes you feel a little bummed for folks who shelled out full price for a pass just because they’re so stoked to see their favorite band. So yeah, maybe my nostalgia high is wearing off now that I’m reflecting back and realizing Kim’s replacement was honestly the most engaging part of the set.

The Strokes Lead singer Julian Casablancas isn’t exactly the king of charisma. Hell, he’s not even the dunce in the corner of Charisma 101, which makes it really hard to accept this band as a headliner. His attempts at on-stage banter made for some of the most uncomfortable moments of the weekend. Tie that in with his cracking voice straining to push out the words “How long must I wait” before it just gave out during the first song of their encore, “Vision of Division.” Their set became downright unbearable at times. Unfortunately, on top of this, “Reptilia” is the only song I really care for and they opened with it. So I was over it quick. The crowd didn’t seem to care though. They all still went nuts when the song that sounds exactly like “Last Night” but isn’t it came on halfway through their set.

And so, in my constant battle of jaded cynicism vs. the fact that I do genuinely love live music, I’d say day one ended in a draw. On to round two!

Day 2
Kevin Devine We raced back to the festival grounds to catch this set, but I wasn’t quite awake enough yet and needed to finish my coconut water to get things going. But Kevin didn’t care. His high energy set was better than anticipated and got me back in the game. He’s got the Indie/Emo “slow burn, build and release” pattern down and I’m totally ready to go up and down for the ride. Definitely keep an ear out for him.

Mariachi El Bronx Exactly what it sounds like. It’s Los Angeles hardcore band The Bronx … playing mariachi. I honestly resisted them for years as my friends raved and I assumed it was just another silly novelty crossover band. But they’re such great players that they managed to transcend the novelty and throw one hell of a party. Unfortunately, The Bronx gang seemed to draw the short end of the stick for the entire festival as this set was early on the main stage where the bass in the mix was for a much larger headlining crowd and it ruined the whole balance of the band. I had to leave halfway through as my body couldn’t handle the blasting waves of low end. But their bass player sure sounded great!

Speedy Ortiz “I think Squidbillies is here right?” lead singer Sadie Dupuis says between songs with minimal irony or facetiousness in her voice. And it’s this feeling of off beat intimacy the band tries to interject into the mid-afternoon, sun-drenched crowd that draws me in. It helps me understand why others are drawn to them, while my aging ears struggle to get hip to it. Dupuis voice and melodies, along with everyone else’s performances, are great, their style of off-the-beaten-path harmonic and chord structure however have never really set in for me. It kind of killed off my mariachi buzz and I stepped out halfway through to plan the rest of my day in some shade.

Viet Cong I went into this thinking the tough as nails name meant I was about to see a bratty and loud Punk band, which I was kind of stoked about. But the droning bass and synth is all good too! Makes me want to get in the world’s angriest space shuttle and fly to the moon. As they droned the last two chords of their final song back and forth for nearly three minutes I found myself wanting to shout, “Just take off damn it!” These guys would be equally good for when you're drunk alone at 4 a.m. again and your Joy Division records are just too far out of reach, plus you need a little extra edge to encourage you to break a few things!

Metz If you wish The Hives were still a hard touring band, these guys will get you half way there. Plus they’re a lil’ heavier to boot. That being said, the riffs could be a little catchier for my taste, but they still deliver enough to keep me hanging on and start snooping around for their records next time I’m out. Plus, you’ve got to love a band that you know is making somebody in Canada say, "You know that quiet guy in accounting? Yeah he TOTALLY shreds on the weekends!" Probably also worth mentioning here that these guys will be tearing up the Woodward Theater with Viet Cong on July 21st and it’s definitely going to be worth being there.

FIDLAR Plain and simple: This is why I love Punk. Just look at the dumb, unbridled joy on the faces of this sea of kids bouncing up and down in unison. There’s a certain “it” factor that the best live acts have regardless of technical difficulty or skill required to accurately perform their songs which I’ve never been able to put my finger. (FIDLAR said it best during their own set: “That’s right guys, all you need is three chords!”) This band definitely has it. The fact that I’m getting too old and responsible to honestly relate to their lyrics doesn’t matter. I think cocaine is childish and immature and I think drinking cheap beer is a waste of calories … but goddamn. I just can’t help but scream along in unison with these kids and share their same dumb, shit-eating grin. They are rescheduling their recently cancelled show at Thompson House. Keep an eye out for the new date and be prepared to lose your goddamn mind.

The Bronx And this is why I love hardcore! This is one of the tightest performances I saw up to this point despite unfortunately having the smallest crowd. No frills, just solid playing and tight execution. I had tried getting into them on record a few years back and something didn't click. Now it does. Time to go back and start working on picking up some change on the dance floor again.

Neutral Milk Hotel Yep. There's still too much ex-girlfriend attachment to this band for me to really enjoy it. Plus, they played at the time of day where no matter how close you want to get, you bottleneck at a point in the crowd that’s too far away to really feel a part of the set. “Maybe I should see if the Bronx is still playing? Why did I leave!? If one more person near me gushes over how cool using a saw as instrument is heads might roll …” Also the flock of blond college-age girls flocking out of the crowd after “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” was played early in the set was amazing. Am I being too cynical? Whatever. Jeff Mangum’s voice is still on point after all these years. Still worth it.

Wilco At this point that bottleneck was just too far away to really get into what was happening on stage, which bummed me out because I had to miss Wilco’s show in Cincy a few days earlier. The drunk people next to me were almost as loud as the reverberations distantly ringing on the stage. But hey — they’re still cranking out the hits and they're still Wilco, so you gotta love it. But I was a little too buzzed and nervous about not getting a good spot and running into this same situation for the Avetts, so I dipped out a little early.

The Avett Brothers “Effortless.” People challenge me all the time to explain why I believe these guys are objectively one of the best live musical acts in music right now and this is the only word I can ever seem to muster. The level of focus, mastery and attention to
detail that goes into the
performance this crew puts on
night after night should be
obvious to anyone who’s so
much as taken a single guitar or
voice lesson. The love, passion, joy, and energy they
infuse into every song, whether
it’s a sing-along anthem like
“Kick Drum Heart” or a soft
ballad like “The Ballad of Love
and Hate,” makes the whole act
seem more effortless every time
I see them. Whether it’s Seth’s
improvisational riffing on their
already perfect vocal lines or
Scott’s conviction and sincerity
when telling the crowd he needs their help singing along with something, I truly believe they would win over any true music fan who is willing to let go and be taken by the power of one of their sets. No other band refracts as much love for what they’re doing on stage back to an audience quite like the Avetts. Their headlining set at Bunbury will be their first performance in Cincinnati since 2008. Do not miss it.

Whoa. What a ride. The fact that I’m having trouble wrapping this up despite the fact that I missed a whole day of the festival is a testament to just how much Shaky Knees has to offer music lovers. I’m having trouble keeping the two-day experience I had from unraveling into a full novella and am now forcing myself to shut up. Despite its limitations, there is still enough diversity to keep most fans of semi-independent Rock or Alternative on their toes. (No. It was not hard to resist a “shaky knees” pun here.) But when you attend next year, don’t let your time adjusting to the southern sun tap all of your energy for experiencing the city’s culture and nightlife. As much as I love Cincinnati, I think we have much to learn from this gem down South and I look forward to returning soon.

— Josh Elstro

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<![CDATA[Morning News & Stuff]]> U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Cincinnati yesterday on a tour of cities implementing innovative police practices. During a roundtable event at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Lynch said Cincinnati’s approach is a model for other cities to follow.

Via The Enquirer:

"This is a place that has been through difficult times," Lynch said, referring to the city's riots 14 years ago, which led to a lawsuit and accusations of racial profiling by police. "Cincinnati exemplifies the fact that a city is a living thing — and it is comprised of all residents of a community."

 Cincinnati has long underfunded human services, at least according to its own goal of using 1.5 percent of the city budget for things like programs to end homelessness, provide job training and offer support for victims of crime. It doesn’t look like the city will get back to that rate any time soon, and City Councilman Chris Seelbach yesterday questioned why City Manager Harry Black’s budget doesn’t include $3 million council unanimously agreed in November to use to reduce homelessness and help boost gainful employment.

Here’s some context via the Business Courier:

It has been longstanding city council practice to direct the city manager what to put in the budget by a motion backed by a majority of council members, so Black's statement appears to permanently alter a standing way of doing business at City Hall. It also increases the tension between Black, Cranley and City Council, particularly majority Democrats, over their governing relationship.

With funding allocated for a mayoral priority but not one supported by all council members, Seelbach said it raised concerns over Black’s independence and whether he reports to Cranley or Cranley and all nine council members.

“It strikes me as very strange,” Seelbach said. “It seems like a symptom of that.”

“So noted,” Black said. 

 City pools are set to open this week, but six out of the city’s 25 might not open on time because they’re facing a shortage of 65 lifeguards. The Enquirer today noted why the pools are important to low-income children, many of whom receive free lunch and take advantage of having something to do other than the bad stuff kids get into when they’re bored (my words). 

 Social justice activists planned to call on Major League Baseball this morning to speak out on racial injustice, specifically police brutality and what the group calls “blatant disrespect of African Americans in Ohio’s justice system.” The press conference scheduled for 11 a.m. today will include Bishop Bobby Hilton of Word of Deliverance, Pastor Damon Lynch III of New Prospect Baptist Church, Pastor Chris Beard of Peoples Church and Rev. Alan Dicken of Carthage Christian Church.

 WCPO Digital’s series on marijuana continued today looks at what Ohio can expect business-wise if and when the state legalizes pot. WCPO sent two reporters who probably can’t pass a drug test anymore to Colorado to report on the industry and a family who moved there from the Cincinnati area so their daughter who suffers from seizures would have access to medical marijuana.

 The Reds say the stadium smoke stack that caught on fire last weekend will be fully operable by the time the team returns from its current road trip. Firefighters climbed two ladders to put out the fire in one of the “PNC Power Stacks” during a game against the San Francisco Giants last weekend. A few sections of fans were evacuated but the game was never delayed. The Reds got whooped all weekend so the fire was actually a pleasant distraction and ended up on Sportscenter and stuff.

 Apparently there are lines out the door at a new chicken finger restaurant in West Chester called Raising Cane’s and its owners are going to open more stores, potentially one downtown.

 The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit yesterday against a collection of cancer charities it says misused millions of dollars in donations. Sounds like someone’s going to be in serious trouble for it. Worth a read from the Los Angeles Times to hear about the various members of the James Reynolds Sr. allegedly involved.  

In reality, officials say, millions of dollars raised by four “sham charities” lined the pockets of the groups’ founders and their family members, paying for cars, luxury cruises, and all-expense paid trips to Disney World for charity board members.

The 148-page fraud lawsuit accuses the charities of ripping off donors nationwide to the tune of $187 million from 2008 to 2012 in a scheme one federal official called “egregious” and “appalling.”

 Twenty-one-thousand gallons of oil is now sitting in the ocean instead of being burned into the air by automobiles. The U.S. Coast Guard says it has formed a four-mile slick along the central California coastline.  

 In good California news, Los Angeles City Council approved raising the city’s minimum wage to a nation-high $15 an hour by 2020.

 Documents recovered during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden? Sure.

 Five global banks to pay $5 billion fine and plead guilty to criminal charges after an investigation into whether traders at the banks “colluded to move foreign currency rates in directions to benefit their own positions.” OK.

 Scientists say a snake ancestor had little toes even though it slithered.

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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]>
Each week CityBeat staffers, dining writers and the occasional intern tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 

Ilene Ross: Friday night’s ReUse-apalooza! at Building Value in Northside gave me the opportunity to do one of my favorite things for dinner: graze. Northside’s proliferation of tasty restaurants is the perfect place for progressive noshing, and an event like this is the perfect way to sample most of them in a compact setting. Some of my favorites were the ceviche from Bistro Grace, the chiles rellenos from Django Western Taco, the kale and white bean dip from Park + Vine and pierogies from Babushka Pierogies (neither from Northside, but I’m not that picky), and then dessert goodies from Happy Chicks Bakery and Grateful Grahams.

Colleen McCroskey: You either wholeheartedly agree with me or think I’m insane, but I am 110 percent convinced that cheese coneys from Great American Ball Park taste LIGHT YEARS better than coneys from a regular Skyline, so I treated myself to two of them this past Friday night when we played (read: lost to) the Giants. The cheese is lighter and fluffier and the flavors of the chili seem more complex and nuanced somehow. I washed down all that deliciousness with a vodka-spiked slushie. I also happened to be sitting right next to the smoke stack that caught fire so the black billowing smoke added some nice ambience to my own personal coney-fest.

Jesse Fox: I've been on a mission to eat better and minimize my portion size the past couple weeks, but this weekend I took a break from that. This started on Saturday when I went out with my friend Erica to use up a gift card I had from Moerlein Lager House. Knowing that we had a whopping $50 of free money we decided to go wild (for two broke girls) and order a couple margaritas, an appetizer (calamari) and an entree that was more than $7. Erica went with the herb-crusted salmon and I chose their crispy balsamic tofu. After that we went up to Clifton where my band was having a house-show and finished the night out with some Bud Light Razberitas and a few PBRs.  

Katie Holocher: I, no joke, literally ate Dewey's all weekend. A calzone Friday night, those leftovers on Saturday and then another pie on Sunday. Same order every time — banana peppers and pepperoni (or BPPep as we call it in our house), with extra sides of their ranch. Furthermore, I had a delicious lemon cake, that was as equally adorably decorated, at a baby shower, made by a local gal named Sara Kenny. She calls herself the Baking Actor but I was talking to my friend who knows her and it sounds like she's getting more away from the acting side so that she can get more into the baking side. 

Sarah Urmston: This past Saturday, OTR was buzzing with action — a 5k, the City Flea, store grand openings and more; every restaurant seemed to be flooded to their very brim. I gratefully remembered The Taste of Belgium (one of my favorite breakfast places in Cincinnati) had another location off of Short Vine, not too far from the one in OTR. Our scheduled 2-hour wait turned into no wait at all as my buddies and I gathered around a high-top for some their famous waffles. Switching it up from the usual chicken and waffles I get, I ordered the Waffogato: a Belgian waffle topped with vanilla bean gelato alongside a shot of rich espresso to dip, pour or do with whatever your heart desires. It was the perfect blend of cold and hot together, with a sweet-meets-bitter taste. It was the best way to wake up and begin a Saturday.  

Casey Arnold: My boyfriend Brian and I were traveling around the suburbs checking out yard sales on Saturday when we both were hit with some painful hunger. We remembered that there was a Mexican restaurant pretty close to where we were in Maderia called Chuy's. Neither of us had ever been there or heard of it. It seemed a little gimmicky at first: hubcaps hanging from the ceiling, T-shirts for sale and general flair on the walls. When the fresh salsa came (where was our red slime?) we were pleasantly surprised. I had the bean and cheese burrito with creamy jalapeno sauce. It was delicious, but we both swore that the sauce was just ranch dressing. Brian had the stacked enchiladas which were blue corn tortillas sandwiching shredded chicken. Everything was fresh, different and so much better than an average Mexican restaurant. I posted about it on my Facebook and my Austin, Texas-transplant friends started commenting about how surprised they were that the chain made it all the way up to Cincinnati and raving about their favorite dishes. I realize I've been spending too much time downtown. 

Garin Pirnia: On Sunday, my friend and I brunched at The Palace restaurant inside The Cincinnatian Hotel. In March, they introduced Saturday and Sunday brunch (11 a.m.-2 p.m.). The restaurant wasn’t crowded or loud, so you could actually carry on a conversation. Besides their brunch menu, you can also order off their breakfast and lunch menus, so there were a lot of options such as challah bread pudding, and chicken and cornbread waffles. I had their eggs Benedict (arugula, grilled tomato, poached egg on English muffin, avocado mousse, hollandaise sauce). The eggs were a little overcooked but otherwise were good. My friend ordered the steak and eggs flatbread, which came with coffee-cured bacon. We also indulged in home fries, which were the right amount of crispy and pillow-y. The best part of their brunch menu is the inventive collection of bloody marys: a spicy lobster and shrimp gazpacho bloody that came with fresh-shaved horseradish mixed in, and chunks of lobster and shrimp on a skewer. I mean, lobster in a bloody! They also offer a Southwestern bloody (avocado, cumin, cilantro), and a Korean (kimchee, soy, ginger). You can order the bloodys singularly ($8-$11) or by the pitcher, but we refrained from doing that (maybe next time). They also make blueberry mimosas and housemade strawberry sodas. If you like a fancy (and boozy) brunch with affordable prices and food served atop white table cloths, then you need to go.
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<![CDATA[Cincinnati-Filmed 'Carol' Receives Outstanding Reviews]]> The Cincinnati-filmed Carol premiered over the weekend at the Cannes Film Festival and received sterling, outstanding reviews that called it an instant Oscar contender and the most important high-profile gay drama to come out of American cinema since 2005's Brokeback Mountain. The film is in competition at Cannes.

Based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt and directed by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I'm Not There), it features Cate Blanchett as an socialite who falls in love with a younger department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) in Manhattan. The film was shot here last year, using sites in Over-the-Rhine, Cheviot and other locales as stand-ins for a New York of old.


At Variety, the most important publication chronicling the entertainment business, critic Justin Chang said the film "should have little trouble translating critical plaudits, especially for Cate Blanchett's incandescent lead performance, into significant year-end attention.​" Variety also revealed that the distributor, Weinstein Co., has set a Dec. 18 release date for Carol, a prime opening weekend for any film with Academy Award intentions.

Here is a link to the full Variety review.

Meanwhile, at indieWire — the most influential website for the independent-film industry (Carol was produced independent of the big Hollywood studios), Eric Kohn also gave a strong rave to the film.


"Carol funnels (themes) into a nuanced tale of mutual attraction that reflects a filmmaker and cast operating at the height of their powers, rendering complex circumstances in strikingly personal terms," he said.


Besides Haynes, the only other U.S. director with a new film in competition at Cannes is Gus Van Sant, whose The Sea of Trees stars Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe as two men who meet in Japan's "Suicide Forest."​ Its premiere was no so well-received — it was booed by the audience.]]>
<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (5/15-5/17)]]>
Lots of things to do this weekend, from festivals and craft beer drinking to arts and film screenings. Plus, The City Flea, Carol Ann's Carousel and new OTR shop Idlewild open.

FRIDAY
Head to Bogart's for INTERPOL
Interpol’s 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights seemed to arrive out of nowhere, a visceral, uncommonly mature effort that channeled not only a host of Post Punk staples but also a distinct post-9/11 desolation. It was, in fact, the product of the band’s founder, guitarist and driving force Daniel Kessler’s long-simmering vision, one he formed through years of writing and playing live around New York City with frontman Paul Banks, bassist Carlos Dengler and drummer Sam Fogarino, who was the last (essential ingredient) to join the band in 2000. Thirteen years after that stirring debut, Interpol is still kicking — minus Dengler, who left after recording the band’s self-titled fourth album in 2010; Banks now serves as the group’s bassist — and still delivering its melancholic, angular brand of Indie Rock. Interpol performs at Bogart's Friday. Tickets/more info here

Maifest
Photo: Matthew Andrews Photography
Get your drink on at MAIFEST in MainStrasse
Based on the German tradition of welcoming the first spring wines, the 36th annual Maifest fills six city blocks of historic MainStrasse with food, beer and wine, and works by more than 75 artisans and craftsmen. There will also be entertainment by top local bands — 500 Miles to Memphis, Young Heirlooms, Ricky Nye and more — in the craft beer garden, with a special Kinderplatz area with rides for children and a Braxton Brewery light display at the Clock Tower Friday and Saturday night. Don’t miss the popular street chalk-drawing contest Saturday. 5-11:30 p.m. Friday; Noon-11:30 p.m. Saturday; Noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Free. MainStrasse, Sixth Street, Covington, Ky., mainstrasse.org.

The Breakfast Club
Photo: Universal Pictures
Break out the acid wash and pleated pants for a screening of THE BREAKFAST CLUB
Revisit your favorite brain, athlete, basket case, princess and criminal Friday when The Breakfast Club’s Brat Pack returns to the silver screen at the Esquire Theatre in honor of its 30th birthday. John Hughes’ high school bildungsroman might not be completely timeless, but it’s the movie’s cliché moments that make it so enduring. Forgo popcorn for Pixy Stix and don’t forget to bring your acid wash jeans and “Members Only” jackets — prizes will be given for the best ’80s costume. 10:30 p.m. Friday. $9.75. Esquire Theatre, 320 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, esquiretheatre.com.

CincItalia Festival
Binge on lasagna in a mini piazza the CINCITALIA FESTIVAL
The CincItalia festival celebrates all things Italy. You’ll find main dishes with lots of authentic Italian flavor like stromboli, lasagna, grilled spiedini and more, complete with a wide selection of wine and beer and cooking demonstrations. Visit the ladies of La Societa Fuscaldese Femminile to try their famous cannoli or enjoy lively music and a glass of vino in the mini piazza, with fountain and Tivoli lights. 6 p.m.-midnight Friday; 3 p.m.-midnight Saturday; 1-9 p.m. Sunday. Free. Harvest Home Park Fairgrounds, 3961 North Bend Road, Cheviot, cincitalia.org.

MadTree Brewing Company
Photo: Jillian Tellep
Have some beer on a paint palette at ARTS & CRAFTS
Organized by a handful of sophomore graphic design students at the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP (and with sponsorship from Modern Makers, a multidisciplinary arts collaborative), Arts & Crafts involves the consumption of local craft beer and the exhibition of up-and-coming artists — with accompanying food trucks and live music. With the expressed intent of supporting local breweries and artists in an effort to nurture the arts in the Clifton community, organizers enlisted UC students to participate as well as breweries MadTree, Rhinegeist and more. 7-9 p.m. Friday. Free. Niehoff Urban Studio, 2728 Vine St., Corryville, artsandcrafts.beer.

Put in your pin curls for CINCY SWING FEST
Put in your pin curls and break out the saddle shoes for the second annual Cincy Swing Fest. Can’t Lindy Hop? No problem. Cincy LX/Swingallery will be on hand to provide complementary dance instruction to live music from Swing Band The Makeshifts. Classic cocktails available, plus pin-up makeovers from Retrocentric. 6-10 p.m. Friday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.

SATURDAY
Run the OTR 5K and then head to THE CITY FLEA for an after party
The ninth annual OTR 5k run/walk kicks off summer in the city a little early. The race begins and ends in Washington Park, with a course that takes you through historic Over-the-Rhine. Dogs and strollers welcome. Register online or in person. 10 a.m.; afterparty celebration until 4 p.m. Saturday. $30. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, otrchamber.com

Curated monthly urban flea market The City Flea launches a new season Saturday at Washington Park. Keep your dollars local and support small business by shopping from hundreds of area vendors, selling everything from handmade goods and vintage finds to artisan eats and organic beauty products. Food trucks flank the park and drinks will be available from the concession stand. This month’s flea is also home to the OTR 5k afterparty. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, thecityflea.com.

Ride for free at the CAROL ANN CAROUSEL opening celebration
The public is invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Carol Ann's Carousel at Smale Park on the Riverfront. Following the ceremony, the carousel will open with free rides from 1-7 p.m. Tickets will be handed out on a first come, first serve basis. Other festivities include face painters, jugglers, magicians, food carts, music and more. Ride one of 44 adorable characters — horses, frogs, elephants and more. $2 a ride after Saturday. 11 a.m. Free. North of Mehring Way at the Pichler Fountains, Downtown, cincinnatiparks.com.

Pixies
Photo: Jay Blakesberg
PIXIES play the Horseshoe Casino
History will always chiefly remember Kurt Cobain as a creator of music, not a consumer. But the Nirvana leader was also an avid advocate for his favorite groups and most cherished influences. In the posthumously released Journals, he documented his 50 favorite records. Most telling of all was his inclusion of Pixies’ Surfer Rosa in spot No. 2. That’s significant because Nirvana’s biggest hit owes a great debt to the group. Since reuniting in 2004 to tour and occasionally record (last year’s Indie Cindy was Pixies’ first album since 1991’s Trompe le Monde), the band has evolved into more of an elder statesman outfit (minus original bassist/singer Kim Deal, replaced on the group’s current tour by Paz Lenchantin, who’s worked with acts like A Perfect Circle and Zwan), showing only rare glimpses of the brilliant provocateurs of their youth. But it’s not as if the band has much more to prove; its unimpeachable impact was cemented long ago. Pixies play The Shoe at Horseshoe Casino Saturday. Tickets/more info here.

Dress as a stormtrooper at the LIBRARY COMIC CON
Move over, San Diego. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s third annual Comic Con proves you can immerse yourself in countless comic book universes locally. The five-hour festival has expanded to offer a host of events, including trivia, guest panels from local cartoonists, drawing contests and a superhero training camp for kids. Have a Wonder Woman ensemble, an Iron Man outfit or suit of armor for which you haven’t yet found a socially acceptable occasion? All ages can dress up as their favorite characters to win prizes. Noon-5 p.m. Saturday. Free. Main Library, 800 Vine St., Downtown, cincinnatilibrary.org/news/2015/comiccon.

Shop at IDLEWILD, Article's new women's boutique in OTR
Over-the-Rhine men's shop Article's sister store, Idlewild, opens Saturday. Brands sold at the store include Imogene and Willie, a Nashville, Tenn.-based denim company, and Free People. The shop will also feature garments from New York designers Steven Alan and Emerson Fry, as well as accessories from a pair of Portland, Ore.-based designers Another Feather and Mazama. 11 a.m. Free. 1232 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/articlemenswear.

Three Days of Rain
Photo: Untethered Theater Company
Get immersed in THREE DAYS OF RAIN at the Clifton Performance Theatre
Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain is a mystery that unfolds in reverse. In Act I it’s 1995 as three adult children of two iconic New York City architects ponder the current state of their lives and what motivated their parents three decades earlier. Their conclusions, based on memory and a recently found laconic journal, make sense, but when Act II pushes back to 1960, almost everything they have hypothesized proves to be wrong. As is often the case, life was much more complicated. Continues through May 23. $25. Clifton Performance Theatre, 404 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, cliftonperformancetheatre.com.

Waite’s painting “Old School Boys Pool” is based on a swimming pool at the old School for Creative and Performing Arts. 
Check out paintings of abandoned sites in THE CINCINNATI SERIES
In his The Cincinnati Series of 29 paintings depicting depopulated city sites, Peter Waite — a Connecticut-based artist — neither celebrates nor dismisses what he sees. Rather, he just tells it like it is. His artwork is at Carl Solway Gallery in the West End through Aug. 1. If he finds something architecturally interesting to him that is also conventionally beautiful, like the suspension bridge or Union Terminal or downtown’s Isaac M. Wise Temple, he acknowledges and presents it. But if it’s something that interests him because it’s abandoned and decrepit, or it no longer serves its original use, he presents that, too. The Cincinnati Series continues at Carl Solway Gallery through Aug. 1. More info: solwaygallery.com.

SUNDAY
Price Hill Thrill
Photo: Steven Rosen
Tour the arts in Price Hill with PRICE HILL THRILL
Sunday there will be a tour of art studios and galleries in Price Hill, sponsored by the Weston Gallery. The event begins and ends at the Dunham Arts Center in the Dunham Recreation Complex and includes food, drink and entertainment by Comet Bluegrass All-Stars at a 5-7 p.m. closing reception. 2-7 p.m. Sunday. $35. 1945 Dunham Way, West Price Hill, westonartgallery.com.

Tommy Davidson
Photo: Provided
Laugh at SHAQ'S ALL STAR COMEDY JAM
Shaquille O’Neal’s All Star Comedy Jam is coming to town — get excited. Now lower the bar two notches because Shaq will not actually be there. … But raise the bar up again because comedian and actor DeRay Davis is hosting and he was on an episode of Empire. Other featured comedians include Tommy Davidson (pictured), Tony Roberts, Michael Blackson and Red Grant. Research some of their stuff on YouTube and check out the gig. The comedy franchise has featured some of the top urban comedians in the country and has been televised annually since 2009. 7:30 p.m. Sunday. $45.25-$92.25. Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, cincinnatiarts.org.

Henry V
Photo: J. Sheldon Photo
Catch a matinee of a different Game of Thrones with HENRY V at Cincy Shakes
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you might want to tune in to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, which is working its way through the real thing presenting Shakespeare’s eight history plays in chronological order over the span of five years. Up next is Henry V, in which the profligate Prince Hal has succeeded his bellicose father and sobered up to the bad state of affairs in England. He rallies the troops and his loyal partisans by declaring war on France. Against great resistance, using powerful speeches he pulls the kingdom together. Justin McCombs continues in this fascinating role. Through May 30. $14-$36. 719 Race St., Downtown, 513-381-2273, cincyshakes.com.

Quiet Company
Photo: Leah Muse
Austin, Texas' QUIET COMPANY play the Southgate House
With an instantly, insistently catchy Indie Pop/Rock sound that has drawn comparisons to the likes of Weezer and Death Cab for Cutie, Austin, Texas’ Quiet Company has seen its national profile rise considerably with the release of each new album, including this year’s excellent Transgressor. The group (which features former Cincinnatian and CityBeat employee Matt Parmenter on bass) is already a dominant force in its hometown scene. In its nearly decade-long history, Quiet Company has scored 12 Austin Music Awards, including Best Rock Band at the 2015 ceremony. But the acclaim isn’t limited to Austin — Time, Paste, The New York Times and numerous other national outlets have heaped praise on Quiet Company, and the group’s fanbase continues to grow thanks to regular touring and an explosive live show. 8 p.m. Sunday. $10; $12 day of. Southgate House Revival, 111 E. Sixth St., Newport, Ky., southgatehouse.com.


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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Take a Trip to Ireland?]]>

If you debating which show you might go see this weekend, my strong recommendation is Ensemble Theatre's Outside Mullingar (ETC, 5/6-24). It's a great script by John Patrick Shanley (who wrote the award-winning play Doubt and the award-winning screenplay Moonstruck). It's set in Ireland, so the characters are overflowing with dry wit. And the actors playing them are a quartet of the performers who Cincinnati audiences love: Joneal Joplin (Scrooge for many years at the Playhouse) is a crusty old man who might not pass the family farm on to his more sensitive son, played by Cincinnati Shakespeare's artistic director Brian Phillips. Dale Hodges, a respected local stage veteran, plays Aiofe, the owner of an adjacent farm; Jenn Joplin (Joneal's daughter) is Aoife's grumpy, opinionated daughter. This is a tale of parents and children, but there's a lovely, stumbling love story at the heart of the play, and it's that's emotionally satisfying. The production was staged by Ed Stern, now retired as the Cincinnati Playhouse's artistic director. It's onstage through May 24. Tickets: 513-421-3555.


Brian Phillips did double-duty recently rehearsing to perform inOutside Mullingar while staging  Henry V at Cincy Shakes. As the title suggests, this is one of the Bard's history plays, and it's a chest-thumping one about warfare and England's claim to power. The company is midway through a multi-year project to stage all of Shakespeare's tales of the kings of England in chronological order. That might sound a tad stodgy, but this one is full of fighting and bluster, and there's a thread of comic relief, too. Let's call it the Shakespearean equivalent of an action movie. It's onstage throughMay 30. Tickets: 513-381-2273.


You'll find two plays worth seeing at the Cincinnati Playhouse this weekend. One just opened last night (I haven't seen it yet): It's Annie Baker's award-winner, Circle Mirror Transformation, about some folks taking an acting class at a community center. Their lessons about performing expand to be come life lessons. It's a warm, thoughtful play in the Shelterhouse. On the Marx mainstage, you'll find the very funny Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, inspired by Chekhov but from the zany perspective of Christopher Durang, you don't need any theater history to be laughing out loud as three adult siblings from a dysfunctional family try to keep their balance. Tickets: 513-421-3888.


If you're eagerly awaiting the start of the Cincinnati Fringe (it kicks off on May 26), you should stop by Know Theatre for the American premiere of the Bane Trilogy with performances this weekend and next. It's three monologues about a guy who shoots first and doesn't ask questions in a one-musician film noir comic trilogy. You can experience them sequentially or out of order. Performer Joe Bone is the Guinness world record holder for the most characters portrayed by one actor in a performance; he's accompanied musically by Ben Roe. This show has a heavy-duty buzz: People were telling me about it weeks ago, so I'm sharing the news with you — although I haven't fit it into my schedule yet. It's running for two more weeks. Tickets: 513-300-5669.


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.



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