CityBeat - Blogs http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs.engine.php <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning y’all. Here’s the news today. There are a ton of things happening, so I’m just going to give you a brief rundown of them all.

A controversial Ohio marijuana legalization effort has a new booster. Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President Dr. O’dell Owens announced yesterday that he supports a ballot initiative by ResponsibleOhio that would create 10 state-sanctioned marijuana grow sites owned by the group’s investors and legalize the purchase of marijuana for people over the age of 21. Could future Cincinnati State students study marijuana agriculture? Could be.

“ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization amendment will allow thousands of Ohioans to own and operate their own businesses and will create over 10,000 new jobs for Ohioans,” said Owens in a statement. “It will encourage new training programs at our state’s community colleges, which already play a vital role in developing talent for emerging industries.”

ResponsibleOhio says that Owens is not an investor in the $20 million effort, which will need to gain 300,000 signatures by this summer to get the proposed law on the November ballot.

• Does Cincinnati need more police on the streets? That’s what the city’s police union says. Police Union President Kathy Harrell told Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee yesterday that the group would like to see 134 more officers join the 1,001 currently serving. Harrell says the department frequently experiences “Code Zeroes,” or situations in which no officer is immediately available to respond to a call. Harrell said some of the problem lies with the fact that nearly 300 officers are currently assigned to special units. Those units do good work, she said, but pull police away from general duties like responding to calls. City Manager Harry Black has said he will be adding money for more new recruits in next year’s budget. One question that comes up from this: If crime is at historic lows and Mayor John Cranley touts the fact that he’s added police, how many officers specifically do we need? Cincinnati’s police force is currently proportional to other comparable cities. Before Cranley’s boost, the city already had 3.3 officers per 1,000 people, which is the same as cities like Pittsburgh and higher than cities like Columbus.

• Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld hasn’t raised nearly as much money since former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland entered the race to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Their story asks if Strickland’s entrance into the race has slowed Sittenfeld’s campaign fundraising. Sittenfeld’s campaign says that’s not the case and that it has had some of its best fundraising days recently. The 30-year-old councilman was raising $10,000 a day starting in January, but after Strickland announced his candidacy that rate fell by half. Sittenfeld still bested Strickland in fundraising, netting more than $750,000 to Strickland’s $670,000 in the last fundraising reporting period. Despite that slim and perhaps receding  monetary edge, Sittenfeld is a big underdog in the race against Strickland, who has statewide name recognition and endorsements from Democratic bigwigs.

• One of the big arguments against shuttering poorly performing schools in Ohio, including controversial charter schools, is that doing so disrupts students’ education and cuts into their academic performance. But that’s not true, according to a study released today by think tank and charter school sponsors the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The institute, with the help of researchers from the Ohio State University and the University of Oklahoma, looked at 198 school closures across the state of Ohio from 2006 to 2012. What they found was that students at those schools actually performed far better when the moved on to other schools after their poorly performing charter and public schools shut down.

“The results of this study shatter popular myth that closing schools hurts kids academically,” said Fordham’s Ohio Research Director Aaron Churchill in a statement. “Students usually make a soft landing. After closure, children typically end up in higher-quality schools, and they make strong academic progress.”

• Today is the day. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in what is potentially the biggest same-sex marriage case in history. Their decision could decide whether states are allowed to ban same-sex marriages and whether they can refuse to recognize such marriage performed in other states. The case features several plaintiffs from Cincinnati, as well as others from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. Amazingly, folks who want to witness the arguments started lining up as early as last Friday outside the Supreme Court. A ruling in favor of marriage equality seems likely, given that the Supreme Court has already struck down a federal same-sex marriage ban. Even opponents of such marriages are expecting a ruling in favor of marriage equality, both here in Cincinnati and nationally.

• The other big national story is the unrest in Baltimore over the past couple days in response to the police-related death of Freddie Gray. Tens of thousands of protesters have swarmed the streets of the city decrying the unarmed 28-year-old’s death while in police custody. Gray, a black man, was arrested two weeks ago by Baltimore police and dragged to a police van. At some point before he arrived at the police station, Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury. He slipped into a coma and subsequently died. Unrest around his death has often been peaceful but at times has lapsed into violence — more than a dozen fires have been reported in the city, a number of police have been injured by rocks and other thrown items and some vandalism and looting have occurred. Fans at a Baltimore Orioles game Sunday night were kept in the stadium for a time as protests intensified around the stadium. Despite this, Orioles’ Chief Operating Officer John P. Angelos sided with the protesters who were peaceful, making some very cogent points during a Twitter argument with a sportscaster who criticized the protests. You can read his tweets here.

Angelos tied the unrest to the deep economic and racial divisions in Baltimore. The mostly black population where the riots broke out suffers from a 19-percent unemployment rate. The city’s black population suffers an infant mortality rate nine times that of its white population. These systemic conditions, folks like Angelos say, along with the unequal treatment of blacks in the justice system, are reasons why police killings of unarmed black men continue to elicit such anger in places like Baltimore, New York City, North Charleston, S.C., and elsewhere. As we explored in a feature last month on Cincinnati and police shootings, it will very likely take more than police reform to heal those wounds.

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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]>
Ilene Ross: Thursday night is one of the best nights to head to The Anchor-OTR — not that there’s a bad night — but on Thursday, it’s "Oyster Mania," when oysters are a buck a piece. So a friend and I split a dozen oysters, some grilled octopus and a whole branzino with salt-roasted potatoes. On Saturday night, in my never-ending quest for home food-delivery perfection, I gave the delivery service Cincybite a first-time go. I was super excited to see that they offered BrewRiver GastroPub as one of the options, so I ordered a wedge salad — I know, old fashioned, but I’m a sucker for a wedge slathered in blue cheese and bacon — and the fish of the day. The food took a really long time, over an hour, but who the hell cares. The fish was perfectly cooked, which is practically impossible for delivery, and it was served with a delicious cauliflower puree, Sheltowee farm mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes and a super spicy chimichurri sauce. Thumbs up to Cincybite. On Sunday night I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I opted for Suzie Wong’s to bring me dinner: grilled eggplant and mushroom salad, crispy vegetarian rib, and seafood supreme udon. And watched four episodes from Season 6 of Sons of Anarchy.

Jesse Fox: Saturday I was sick all day so I didn't eat at all. Sunday I think I ate a whole box of the generic version of the Captain Crunch Oops! All Berries cereal and some pita chips and hummus.

Jac Kern: My fiancé's birthday was over the weekend, so we kicked off the celebration at Gordo's Pub & Grill in Norwood. There are a lot of fine burger joints in town, and Gordo's gets overlooked too often. We split some tasty pork belly nachos, which includes both bacon and belly for optimum pig consumption. For my burger, I ordered the French, topped with brie, sweet onion jam, bacon and greens. Our entire group, including several out-of-towners, left stuffed and happy. Saturday was a popcorn for dinner kind of night. We saw Ex Machina at Cinemark Oakley Station. It was so good! Go see it. I'm loving the whole bar-in-a-theater trend, but now that I've had a frozen margarita at a movie theater, there is no turning back. They also serve wine and craft beer, if you're not a total trash monster like me. 
The partying continued Sunday at Moerlein Lager House. I've always had pretty good experiences here, but Sunday afternoon's Reds game had clearly taken its toll when we arrived for dinner later that night. They were completely out of french fries and the entree I originally ordered. We probably should have planned better in regards to the game, but our server was really friendly despite probably having a really stressful, busy shift. We ended with their s'mores, which weren't actually s'mores but a chocolate lava cake with charred, melty marshmallow and graham cracker garnish — which is to say, delicious.

Danny Cross: On Friday night, the girlfriend and I hit up the new-ish Mexican restaurant in Clifton, Los Potrillos. The Reds game was on and we didn't feel like cooking/driving far. We parked back in the Gaslight District and I showed her the weird giant house I used to live in with my friend Arty. Back then, the world seemed like a simpler place and Arty and I assumed everything was going to be OK. Anyway, Katie and I scored a booth against a wall with a TV mounted on it, sat side-by-side opposite the TV and pretty much had an excellent experience drinking margaritas and eating just a little too much. Like many Mexican restaurants, Los Potrillos (the Internet says "potrillo" means "colt") has a big menu that makes it hard to order even though most people typically get the same thing time after time. For me, it's tacos carne asada. It did not disappoint. 

Mike Breen: My favorite kind of food is the kind that people make and bring to me, so I order delivery fairly often. I also have limited delivery places near me, so that means — especially because I can just use an app on my phone to order — I get LaRosa’s quite a bit (like, two to three times a month. Is that a lot?). I’m also not very adventurous with my order — unless one considers ordering either a hoagy or pizza “switching things up.” Saturday night I kept it pretty straightforward again and just had some breadsticks and a chicken hoagy (with all the toppings and Italian dressing, which is “off menu,” because I’m super difficult). My go-to desert (I’ll get the big, fresh chocolate cookies sometimes and very occasionally the super-rich hot fudge brownie) is the “Smashed Cannoli.” This was added to the menu fairly recently, unfortunately at the expense of the Italian Wedding Cake, which was also really good (the raspberry sauce was the secret weapon). The Smashed Cannoli is basically a cup of cannoli filling, with the cannoli shell “smashed” up and mixed in with chocolate chips, chopped (relatively flavorless) cherries and powdered sugar. It’s a kind of small portion (like, say, compared to some of the restaurant’s pasta portions), but it’s only $4. For Italian food connoisseurs/snobs, Smashed Cannoli is probably the equivalent of a Speedway “cappuccino.” But they make it and BRING IT TO MY HOUSE. What’s not to like?

Maija Zummo: Saturday night I made vegetarian three-ways at home; not like Skyline's beans and rice three-way, but like actually three-way flavored three-way. I know it's super irritating when vegetarians try to make dishes that look and taste like their meat equivalent, but this is a fantastic recipe that uses lentils instead of beef, and then you throw in all these spices: paprika, cinnamon, cumin, unsweetened cocoa powder, allspice, cloves, yadda yadda yadda. It tastes to me like Skyline smells, and the lentils get all mushy, kind of like what I imagine to be the consistency of crumbled chili. I even got my husband to try it and admit it tastes good, which is a relative miracle because he's extremely suspicious of lentils. 

Amanda Gratsch: One of my biggest weaknesses is Vietnamese food, and I always find time to make a special trip to Cilantro in Clifton Heights. I had a meal-sized Pho, with a hearty beef-flavored stock, egg noodles and rare, thin slices of beef — all for $7.50. The rich combination of scallions, cinnamon, ginger and, of course, cilantro sent my taste buds soaring. I have tried to make a similar recipe at home, but it lacks the tasteful tradition that the restaurant instills in its cooking, so I just keep going back for more.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all. Looks like a good number of folks out there have read our big feature on a group of refugees struggling and building community in the often-forgotten Millvale and North Fairmount area. If you haven’t gone and checked it out, you should. The folks we talked to for this story are brave, kind and all-around amazing. Their stories are at turns heartbreaking and inspiring — they’ve survived gunshot wounds, break-ins and many other hardships since arriving here looking for the American dream. That all sounds grim, but I promise there are some incredible bright spots as well. Please: Fead and pass along this story so more people are aware of their struggles and they can get help.

On to the news. A report from the Cincinnati Enquirer today asks if Hamilton County’s Department of Job and Family Services is critically underfunded. Three recent fatal cases of child abuse occurred under the department’s watch. JFS has suffered a 1- percent decrease in its budget over the past 10 years. That means fewer caseworkers with fewer resources to help kids in poverty and dangerous parenting situations. The department says the blame rests with the parents of the children who died this year, but JFS’ shrinking staff (they’ve lost 39 percent of their workers in the last decade) isn’t helping the agency do its job keeping kids safe. Declining federal dollars to the department, as well as the fact Ohio spends the least of any state on child welfare, have contributed to the declining funding for JFS.

• 3CDC’s website was hacked over the weekend by a group expressing solidarity with Islamic militant group ISIS. A number of sites controlled by 3CDC were hacked Saturday night to read “I am Muslim and I love jihad. I love isis.” The sites were taken down within a couple hours of the attack and stayed down most of Sunday. It’s not the first time a local organization’s website has been hacked to bear a similar message. Last month, websites for Montgomery Inn and Moerlein Lager House were also hacked by someone claiming to represent ISIS.

• As a decisive Supreme Court case over same-sex marriage involving Cincinnatians looms, how do local religious groups stand when it comes to the issue? It’s an important question with a fairly predictable answer. Most of your more conservative religious organizations around the Cincinnati area, including a number of Catholic and Baptist churches, are against it. Some Jewish synagogues support it, some don’t. The most interesting part is that a  few churches seem to be breaking with tradition and coming out for marriage equality. Anyway, read more about the divide among faith groups here.

• Porch-less Cincinnatians can rejoice, because Washington Park is about to get a $400,000 deck for you sit on and tan yourself this summer. Well, at least when it’s not being rented for private events (hmm lame). The deck will have food and beverage vendors and chairs that are much comfier than the benches all around the park. The Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, which led a multi-million renovation of the park in 2011, will build the deck.

• In other park news, University of Cincinnati Urban Planning students have come up with a number of prospective visions for the future of Burnet Woods, my favorite place in Cincinnati (well, it’s in the top five at least). The results are pretty interesting. My favorite project, and one that the Business Courier spends a good deal of time on, is a proposed land bridge between the Woods and UC. I used to walk from Clifton to UC through the park every day, and I would have paid a significant toll to use that land bridge. Most of these projects are probably too expensive or wild to see the light of day in their current form, but hopefully the ideas will spark conversation about how to make the park better.

• As mentioned above, tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in what may be the biggest case in the history of the struggle for marriage equality. Here’s a great New York Times story about how lawyers on both sides of the argument are preparing for the showdown and what’s at stake. Marriage equality advocates hope for a big win: that is, a ruling that overturns states’ bans on gay marriages entirely, effectively making same-sex marriage legal across the country. But there is a possibility that SCOTUS will hand activists a more incremental victory, ruling that states like Ohio have to recognize gay marriages performed in other states but don’t have to make the practice legal themselves. Attorneys representing Ohio and other states, on the other hand, hope that the court upholds the decision of the Federal Sixth Circuit Court and rules that voters, not judges, should decide who is allowed to marry whom. That result seems unlikely, since a number of other circuit courts have decided otherwise and since SCOTUS overturned a federal gay marriage ban. Either way, it seems like the arguments, and the court’s expected June decision, will be historic.

 

• Oh boy. The above ad(?)/celebration of all things Gannett, which owns USA Today, the Cincinnati Enquirer and about 80 other daily papers across the country, ran last week during a company-wide "town hall" to announce structural changes. The video features Gannett execs lip-synching a song that admonishes folks that "everything is awesome when you're part of the team." That's a bit ironic considering Gannett made many of its employees re-apply for their jobs over the last number of months. I'm just going to stop talking and let you watch it. It's incredible.

• Finally, today is the funeral for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man arrested by Baltimore police two weeks ago for running away from officers. Video shows Gray screaming as police dragged him to a van. Gray received a severe spinal cord injury while in the police van and subsequently died from that injury. His death has sparked large and ongoing protests in Baltimore, an echo of similar protests over police-related deaths in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere around the country. Officials say they are investigating Gray’s death.

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<![CDATA[Call Board: Coming Attractions for Cincinnati Theatergoers]]> Get your calendars read for another avalanche of shows from local theaters. Know Theatre just announced its 2015-2016 season, and several others have done the same recently, so you’ll find everything rounded up in this “Call Board” blog for CityBeat theater fans. Nearly two dozen full-scale shows and a handful of other events are headed your way.

Know Theatre of Cincinnati

Andrew Hungerford, Know Theatre’s artistic director, has pointed out that the coming season is the company’s 18th, and that at years of age, “We’re ready to do everything that entails: step into a wider world, fall in love, confront loss, get a crazy summer job, have a history lesson, party with some college kids, give up our childhood toys, obsess over Star Wars again, rail against poverty and injustice, engage in civic discourse, major in the sciences and then, maybe, take a trip to the beach.” Know is planning a lot of shows including works that are entertaining and socially conscious and that offer lots of opportunities for local artists.

“As we near the 10th anniversary of moving into our home at 1120 Jackson St., I think we’re getting ever closer to the vision that Know Theatre’s leadership has always had for this space,” says Producing Artistic Andrew Hungerford. “From our mainstage to Serials to Fringe, there is so much happening on our stages. It really is a theatrical playground here. And seeing the Underground filled with an audience eager to be a part of the next crazy thing we make reminds me exactly why I took this job.” Hungerford is completing his first season of artistic leadership. Here’s what’s in store for his second:

Serials 3: Roundhouse (Late June) will be another stab at short-form theater. This time out there will be five playwrights involved in creating five episodic plays. Each week they’ll trade who’s writing which story.

One-Minute Play Festival (July 10-12, 2015) This event will invite writers to consider the world around them, their cities and communities and the ways they view the world, then write topical moments that say something about what’s happening here and now. The results, probably 70 to 90 of them, will be put together into three evenings of performance.

Hundred Days (July 24-Aug. 22, 2015). This is a show conceived by the Bengsons, a singer-musician couple who have been Cincinnati Fringe festival favorites, and they workshopped it here in 2011. It’s about a couple whose time together is cut short by a fatal illness. They decide to live the 100 days left as if it were the 60 years they had hoped for.

The Hunchback of Seville by Charise Castro Smith (Oct. 9-24, 2015) with CCM drama students, will be staged by CCM drama faculty member Brant Russell. Set in 1504 in Spain, it’s an irreverent comedy that turns historical atrocities on their heads.

Andy’s House of [blank] by Paul Strickland and Trey Tatum (Oct. 30-Nov. 14, 2015). This will be a fully staged version of the show that was presented in 15-minute increments across the five evenings of Serials 2: Thunderdome. (It’s the only show that made it through five weeks.) It’s a small-town, mystery-spot, time travel musical about an unusual man who runs a store that’s an every changing emporium of oddities. Strickland and Tatum are Fringe Festival veterans.

All Childish Things by Joseph Zettelmaier (Nov. 20-Dec. 19, 2015) is about three guys who still have Star Wars on the brain, despite being 30 years old. It’s set in Norwood, and the fact that Kenner, designer of Star Wars toys was headquartered in Cincinnati, is important to this story. This production happens right around the time that Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will be in movie theaters. The playwright has been recognized several times by the American Theatre Critics Association, including this play in 2006.

The Naughty List by OTR Improv at Arnold’s Bar & Grill (December 2015) picks up on the Star Wars theme, too. This holiday iteration is subtitled, “The Jolly Awakens.”

Serials 4! (January 2016). Another round of episodic storytelling.

BlackTop Sky by Christina Anderson (Jan. 29-Feb. 20, 2016) is a story about love, violence, community, mental illness and the line between poverty and true homelessness. Kimberly Faith Hickman, the New York City-based director who staged Know’s thought-provoking production of The Twentieth-Century Way in April 2014, will stage it.

Beertown by dog & pony DC (March 2-19, 2016) is another crossover by a Fringe Festival act: dog & Pony performed A Killing Game here in 2013. For this show, they’ll present alternative tales about our town’s history and we get to choose which version we like — a mash-up of choose your own adventure and maybe a murder mystery dinner party. Every performance begins with a dessert potluck; audiences are encouraged to bring a dessert to share.

Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson (April 15-May 14, 2016), one of America’s hottest young playwrights. Know presented her Macbeth-themed script, Toil and Trouble back in 2014, and the Cincinnati Playhouse is giving her new play The Revolutionists its world premiere in February 2016. Silent Sky is the true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt and a group of revolutionary women who found a way to measure the universe.

The thirteenth annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival happens in late May and early June 2016. Followed by one more (June 24-July 16, 2016) show that’s still TBA (June 24-July 16), but Hungerford hints that it could be by Steve Yockey, whose surreal Pluto was staged by Know early in 2014.

New Edgecliff Theatre

New Edgecliff Theatre has announced three shows for its 2015-2016 season, planned for a new Northside venue at St. Patrick’s Church. “These are plays that challenge the way the characters view their lives and the circumstances they find themselves in,” says Producing Artistic Director Jim Stump. “They are stories of how much can change when you change how you look at things.”

Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune by Terrence McNally (Sept. 17-Oct. 3, 2015). Jared Doren staged an excellent production of William Inge’s Bus Stop for NET in 2013, and he’ll be back to put together this show about a pair of lonely, middle-aged people whose first date ends with their tumbling into bed. Things head in different directions from there. This show, which debuted in 1987, had a sterling production at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in 1989; the Playhouse presents a new play by McNally, Mothers and Sons, in the spring of 2016.

The Santaland Diaries (Dec. 3-19, 2015) is a reprise of David Sedaris’s very funny monologue about working as an elf in Macy’s Santaland in New York City. This holiday staple has been missing from local stages for two seasons; it will be fun to see it again.

The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute (April 14-30, 2016). Former NET artistic director Elizabeth Harris will direct LaBute’s 2001 play about a man who thinks a woman is romantically interested in him when she’s actually using him as the subject of her MFA thesis project.

The Carnegie

Under the management of new artistic director Maggie Perrino, Covington’s Carnegie will present four productions of well-known theater titles in the Otto M. Budig Theater.

Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth (Aug. 15-30, 2015) is about a single man and his married friends. The show, which won a dozen Tony Awards in 1971, has some of Sondheim’s greatest musical numbers, including “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Getting Married Today” and “Being Alive.”

Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer (Nov. 7-22, 2015) is about playing games, but in this tale, the games are deadly serious. Veteran director Greg Procaccino will stage this famous Tony Award winner, a whodunit that will keep audiences guessing from start to finish.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg (Jan. 21-31, 2016) will be the Carnegie’s “lightly staged” musical for the coming season — a production that puts music and storytelling over physical staging. The production will feature the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, led by J. R. Cassidy, performing all the tunes from the classic 1939 movie.

The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown (April 9-24, 2016) is an excellent contemporary musical (from 2001) about Jamie and Cathy, a young couple going through a divorce. His story and hers travel in opposite directions through time. Brown is one of the best of Broadway’s next generation of composers.

Commonwealth Dinner Theater

This company offers professional productions with dinner at Northern Kentucky University during the summer months. Productions are often sold out, so be sure to call early to reserve tickets (859-572-5464). This summer’s shows have characters from opposite ends of the age spectrum.

The Sunshine Boys (June 3-21, 2015) is Neil Simon’s 1971 comedy about two aging vaudevillian comics who have grown to hate each other after 40 years of working together. They’re reuniting for a special about the history of comedy, but keeping them on the same page is no easy task.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin (July 8-26, 2015) is about a contest featuring six quirky adolescents, overseen by three oddball adults. Its 2005 Broadway production was a surprise winner of several Tony Awards. Brush up on your spelling and you could be one of several audience members invited onstage to test your skills against the “kids.”

Xavier University

In its second year as a degree program, Xavier University Theatre is undertaking an ambitious season that features two Broadway musicals, a world premiere and a contemporary drama, staged by former Cincinnati Playhouse artistic director Ed Stern.

The undergraduate actors at Xavier will give Cincinnati audiences a second chance to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Oct. 22-24, 2015).

Stern will direct Kenney Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth (Dec. 3-6, 2015), the story of three wayward young people navigating New York in 1982 as they try to thread their way into adulthood.

In an especially challenging endeavor, the theatre program will present three plays in repertory during a two-week stretch (Feb. 17-28, 2016): Miss Julie by August Strindberg will be staged by veteran actress Torie Wiggins; Betrayal by Harold Pinter will be staged by another stage veteran, Bruce Cromer; and a new play by student playwright Tatum Hunter, Eve, will be staged by Bridget Leak.

Jonathan Larson’s rock musical Rent (April 21-24, 2016) will round out the season. It’s another Tony Award winner — and it landed a Pulitzer Prize, not often bestowed on a musical. Set in New York’s East Village, it follows a story about bohemian artists struggling to get by, inspired by Puccini’s opera, La Bohème

Actors Theatre of Louisville

In 2016 the Humana Festival of New American Plays marks its 40th anniversary at Actors Theatre of Louisville. The theater has commissioned Sarah Ruhl, one of America’s most respected current playwrights, to create a new work, Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, for the occasion. The play, a moving look at growing up and growing old within a family, will be presented from March 10 to April 10, 2016. Ruhl’s works have been offered by many of Cincinnati’s theatres — The Clean House by the Cincinnati Playhouse, Eurydice by Know Theatre, Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Ensemble Theatre and In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) by CCM Drama at the Carnegie in Covington.

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<![CDATA[People’s Liberty Announces 2015 Spring Project Grants]]>

People’s Liberty, a local group that describes itself as a “philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati,” has announced eight new grantees who will receive help and funding from the organization for their various project proposals. 

The group previously announced two 2015 Haile Fellows to receive funding and other support from People’s Liberty. Brad Cooper’s Start Small project involves building two efficient, low-cost “tiny houses” and engaging residents about the benefits of “tiny living” (the small, affordable homes will be powered by solar panels). Local musician Brad Schnittger was also named a Haile Fellow and is working on a music publishing platform called MusicLi, which will feature a library of original music by artists in Greater Cincinnati that can be licensed for commercial use (and provide income for the artists). Schnittger is currently surveying area businesses interested in using music in advertising to get a sense of their needs (click here if you’re involved in a business that would like to participate). There will be an event on May 7 at Over-the-Rhine’s Woodward Theater (6-8 p.m.) to discuss the new venture (Cincy’s Buffalo Killers will provide live music). Click here for details.


The just-announced Spring Project Grantees were chosen by a panel of creative types, business people and others from the community. This round of grantees includes CityBeat editor Maija Zummo, along with partner Colleen Sullivan, whose project Made in Cincinnati is a planned “curated online marketplace that simplifies shopping locally by offering goods directly from Cincinnati’s best craftspeople, creatives and artisans in one centralized location.”


Others chosen by the panel include Daniel Schleith, Nate Wessel and Brad Thomas’s Metro*Now project, which will provide signs with real-time Metro bus information; Nancy Sunnenberg’s Welcome to Cincinnati tool, to help newcomers connect with “local organizations, businesses and civic opportunities”; Mark Mussman’s Creative App Project, which will certify several Cincinnati residents via an Android App Developers educational series; Alyssa McClanahan & John Blatchford’s Kunst: Build Art, a print magazine focused on redevelopment projects for local historic buildings; Quiera Levy-Smith’s Black Dance is Beautiful, described as a “cultural event … designed to showcase diversity in Cincinnati dance, as well as encourage youth to pursue their passions and break down barriers”; Anne Delano Steinert’s Look Here!, a history exhibition to take place in Over-the-Rhine and feature 50 historic photos to help people connect that neighborhood’s past and present; and Giancomo Ciminello’s Spaced Invaders, an interactive installation featuring “a projection mapped video game that will activate the abandoned spaces once occupied by buildings.” 


For more information on People’s Liberty’s work in the community (including information about how to apply if you have a good idea), click here

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<![CDATA[Moby Dick Symposium Starts Today at CAM]]>

Tonight at 6:30 p.m., Cincinnati Art Museum will host a symposium on Moby-Dick: How a 19th Century Novel Speaks to the 21st Century. This free event features Elizabeth Schultz, author of Unpainted to the Last; Samuel Otter, editor of Leviathan; Matt Kish, author of Moby-Dick in Pictures, and Emma Rose Thompson of Northern Kentucky University. The moderator will be Robert K. Wallace, an English professor at Northern Kentucky University who has taught a course on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick since 1972. You can RSVP at moby-dick-symposium.eventbrite.com

This is the opening event to a Moby-Dick Arts Festival, co-organized by Thompson and Wallace, that then takes place at the Covington branch of the Kenton County Public Library​ and NKU from Saturday through Monday. From 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, there will be a marathon reading of the novel at the library. You can sign up for a 10-minute slot at mobydick.nku.edu. There is also a Moby-Dick-related art exhibition at the library. 

On Monday, there is an all-day symposium on the book at NKU, beginning at 9 a.m. in the Budig Theater. More information is available at mobydick.nku.edu.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Searing Drama and Silly Comedy]]> A group you might not have heard of, Diogenes Theatre Company, is establishing a solid reputation with its recent production of Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 and its current staging of Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden, featuring three professional actors you will know if you're a regular Cincinnati theatergoer. It's an award-winning moral thriller that explores the aftermath of violence and the uncertainties of truth and justice. Set in a Latin American country, perhaps Chile, it's about a woman who was once the prisoner of a cruel dictatorship. Years later, a man visits her home who she's convinced was her torturer. She turns the table on him. Annie Fitzpatrick is the woman; Giles Davies is the man she believes to be her captor; Michael G. Bath plays her government official husband who is caught in the middle. Diogenes has strong ties with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and the connections are evident. This production is staged by Lindsay Augusta Mercer, CSC's resident assistant director, and Brian Phillips, CSC's producing artistic director, is an artistic consultant. This taut drama, presented at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater, is definitely worth seeing. Tickets: 513-621-2787.

If you're into works that are hot off the press, you have this weekend to still catch productions at Northern Kentucky University's Y.E.S. Festival, onstage through Sunday. The best of them is Colin Speers Crowley's Encore, Encore, making its final performances on Saturday at 8 p.m. It's about the caustic drama critic Dorothy Parker and her sad, failed marriage; well-written and sparklingly performed by a student cast, directed by Ed Cohen. Read my review here. Tickets: 859-572-5464.

Another student production is onstage at UC's Cohen Family Studio Theater at CCM: You're Welcome (a cycle of bad plays).  It's a set of five small plays — intentionally silly and misshapen, with directors and stage managers wandering on and off and cutting things short or addressing malfunctions — that's as silly as it is amusing. In a bit more than an hour it covers love, death, desire, tragedy, comedy, drunk driving, sexiness, beauty, loss and the battle between good an evil. There's also a fog machine that works (occasionally) and a T-shirt cannon. Give yourself into the madness and you'll have fun; don't look for a lot of close meaning. But the student actors are great fun to watch, especially Bartley Booz's start-and-stop curtain speech at the beginning, which gives away (intentionally) most of what's to follow. Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are required: 513-556-4183.

If you're an adventurer who likes unusual performance experiences, you should look into getting a ticket from the Contemporary Arts Center for the bus to Batavia tonight or Saturday evening. That's where you'll take a walk in the woods to see a piece of performance art imported from Norway: Ingrid Fiksdal's Night Tripper. No spoken words, but intriguing and mystical dance and music elements, combined with the natural environment. It sounds fascinating; read more about it here. Tickets via the CAC's website.

Queen City Flash, the flash-mob styled theater company that took off last fall is back with The Complete Tom: 2. Huckleberry, based on Mark Twain's stories about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, adapted by Trey Tatum. It gets underway on Monday and continues through May 9. Here's the catch: free tickets are reserved at QueenCityFlash.com for the date and time of your choice; at 4 p.m. on the day of the show, you'll receive an email with a map and parking instructions to a secret outdoor location. Unusual, but intriguing.

Two productions are wrapping up this weekend: The very funny farce by Steve Martin, The Underpants, at The Carnegie in Covington [read my review here] and David Mamet's very taut drama Race, presented by New Edgecliff Theatre at the Hoffner Lodge on Hamilton Avenue in Northside.

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
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<![CDATA[Early-Bird MidPoint Music Festival Tickets Now On Sale]]>

A limited amount of early-bird passes to the 2015 MidPoint Music Festival are on sale now. Tickets good for all three days of the fest are available for $69, while V.I.P. passes are only $149. Once this first batch of passes is gone, weekend passes will be $79 (and $179 for V.I.P.s) through Labor Day, when another $10 price increase kicks in. The tickets are available for purchase at mpmf.cincyticket.com

MPMF has also announced a new date shift. After 14 years of running Thursday-Saturday, MidPoint 2015 will take place Friday, Sept. 25-Sunday, Sept. 27. Organizers say the move was to make things easier for out-of-town guests (who previously might not have been able to make the Thursday shows) and also allow for more daytime programming opportunities, including in Washington Park, which is expected to see an increase in attractions and music showcases. 


Stay tuned here and at MPMF.com (where artists can also submit for showcase consideration through May 17) for the latest MidPoint developments. You can also follow MPMF on Twitter here and Facebook here for more up-to-date info.


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<![CDATA[Forgotten Classics: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier]]>

We all have that one Disney movie that we love dearly. The one film that, despite whatever age we are, we can watch and enjoy. For me there are several that meet that criteria: The Three Caballeros (1945), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and countless others. But the one film that takes the No. 1 spot on my list is Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, Disney’s take on the adventures of famed frontiersman and one-time congressman. The movie’s plot ranges from his time in the Creek Wars to his congress years to his final stand at the Alamo.

If I may get personal for a moment: I was obsessed with this movie when I was kid. I couldn’t get enough Crockett related stuff. I even dressed up as Crockett for Halloween one year. I was heartbroken when the film’s lead actor, Fess Parker, passed away in 2010. So, yes, this movie meant a lot to me. In a way, it set me on the path to my love of films and shaped me in a lot of ways.

I’m sure to some people the biggest flaw with the movie is that the plot is a rather romanticized telling of Crockett’s adventures. There’s very rarely a moment where he isn’t an upstanding guy, but to me that kind of works for the film. Walt Disney had no pretentions about this film (originally a mini-series) — he wasn’t planning on making this a super deep movie with complex characters and themes. What Disney wanted to do was take an iconic American folk hero and give the intended audience a person to look up to and root for. To me, you couldn’t anyone more perfect than actor and future wine maker Fess Parker.

Now as I stated before, Crockett’s portrayal in the film is a romanticized, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some powerful moments — outside of the heroic times — with him. For me, one of the best emotional moments in the film is when Crockett receives word about his wife’s death. His sidekick throughout the film Georgie Russell (Buddy Ebsen) reads a letter delivering the unfortunate news and you can see the news slowly sinking into him. Russell consoles him and asks him if there’s something he can do, and all Crockett says is, “Just give me some time to think.” He then slowly and quietly walks into the woods to try and figure out what to do without his other half. Without any dialogue or music playing, we get a true sense how deeply this has affected him.

The film doesn’t shy away from all the historical facts; the most obvious example is that in the end he and his comrades die at the Alamo. Granted, they don’t show Crockett’s death onscreen but, then again, given how nobody knows how Crockett actually died it makes sense that we don’t see it. The movie ends with him swinging his rifle like a club at the overwhelming forces without a hint of fear.

Like a lot of classic Disney films, it features many great qualities: It has a memorable soundtrack that will have you humming its songs for hours on end; a great sense of adventure and excitement; and a terrific cavalcade of characters performed by great character actors. I mentioned earlier Parker and Ebsen who have amazing chemistry together. There’s also stunt-man Nick Cravat as the mute Comanche Indian named Busted Luck who shows that not only does he have bravery but he's also very witty and smart. There’s a great scene where he foils a trickster’s attempt at swindling him out of food. Speaking of which, there’s the dandy riverboat gambler Thimblerig played by Hans Conried who is a delight in every scene. Some of you know him best as the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) and as Thorin in Rankin/Bass’ version of The Hobbit (1977).

If you haven’t seen this Disney gem, do yourself a favor and check it out, especially if you have youngsters. Then check out the prequel Davy Crockett and the River Pirates featuring the fun and bombastic character actor Jeff York as Mike Fink, King of the River.


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

Hello Cincy. You know what time it is. Yep, news time.

It’s become a dependable, even comforting, routine. On Thursday mornings, I sit down and tell you all about the ways in which City Council bickered over the streetcar in its Wednesday meeting. The tradition continues.  A discussion yesterday about proposed Over-the-Rhine parking plans, which have been bandied back and forth for months, quickly devolved into a debate over the streetcar’s operating budget gap. Mayor John Cranley has been using that gap, which could be as high as $600,000 a year because of shortfalls in revenue and advertising receipts, as a reason council should pass his version of the OTR parking plan.

Cranley, who formerly proposed $300-a-year parking passes for residents in the neighborhood, now wants the passes to be valued at a market rate determined by the city manager. Meanwhile, Councilman Chris Seelbach has another idea: Cap the costs of the permits at $108. Seelbach’s plan calls for 450 permits, plus 50 non-metered, non-permitted flex spots for bartenders, waiters and the like who work in the neighborhood. Cranley’s plan calls for more flex spots. Either proposal would likely yield the highest-cost neighborhood parking permit in the country.

At issue is a philosophical debate: Cranley wants OTR residents to shoulder more of the cost of the streetcar. He also says the city has done enough to subsidize residents in OTR, citing tax abatements on many properties in the neighborhood and the fact that metered spots on the public streets around them would bring in more money than the permits do. Streetcar supporters like Seelbach and Councilwoman Yvette Simspon, however, say the streetcar is about economic development and that it will benefit the entire city, not just OTR residents. They say it isn’t fair to place its financial burden so much on those living in the neighborhood. Seelbach also points to residential parking permits in other neighborhoods, which are priced much more affordably than Cranley’s OTR plan.

• There was also a big hubbub about whether or not the streetcar will get in the way of major downtown events on Fifth Street like Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati. Mayor John Cranley yesterday railed against, as he said, “the idea that the city was secretly trying to discourage these events from maintaining their historic location,” and touted measures by city administration to make sure it doesn’t happen.

The backstory: In 2014, then-City Manager Scott Stiles released a memo stating that no special events could disrupt the streetcar’s operation. Depending on what you take “special events” to mean (i.e. is something that has been scheduled every year for at least a decade a special event?) that could mean the streetcar would take precedence over some beloved Cincinnati traditions. However, an agreement between streetcar operators SORTA and the city also signed later in 2014 allows streetcar operations to be disrupted for events up to four times a year. Sooo, yeah. Were those events ever actually in danger of being moved for the streetcar? Unclear.

• Citizens for Community Values President Phil Burress thinks defeat may be at hand, at least in the short term, when it comes to the looming Supreme Court case around same-sex marriage. Springdale-based right-wing CCV has pushed a number of anti-gay rights measures over the years, and Burress was instrumental in engineering Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. That law is part of the current SCOTUS case. Burress told the Cincinnati Enquirer he’s “not very optimistic” about Ohio’s ban withstanding the court challenge, mostly because he says some of the justices are biased and don’t respect state sovereignty. But Burress also promised that the issue “won’t go away” anytime soon. You can read our story about case, and the local folks who are making history as the plaintiffs, here.

• The Ohio House of Representatives last night passed a record-breaking two-year budget for the state that looks much different than the one Gov. John Kasich suggested. The proposed budget spends more than the state ever has, while taxing top-tier earners less than it has in the past three decades. The proposal would put Ohio’s top income tax rate below 5 percent for the first time since 1982 but forgoes Kasich’s more regressive plan to lower income taxes by 23 percent and use a sales tax hike to pay for the cuts. The $131.6 billion spending package, the largest in state history, also zeroes out much of Kasich’s proposed reform to education spending. Kasich is not exactly stoked by the budget.

“After the fiscal crisis subsides people think it's OK to slip back to old habits,” Kasich’s office said in a statement to press. “The governor will do everything possible to prevent that from happening."

The budget isn’t a done deal. Next it heads to the state Senate, which is cooking up its own budget anyway. 

• After those long-winded updates, here's a quickie or two: Is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush really the cuddly moderate he's been made out to be, and, if not, does that open up a window of opportunity for Ohio Gov. Kasich in the GOP 2016 presidential sweepstakes? Despite being a proponent of Common Core and having some less-than-hardline views on immigration, ol' Jeb does have some harder right tendencies as well that make him more complicated to consider. This article gives some good examples.

• Finally, as a person who recently transitioned to Microsoft Office 365 for all my workaholic email needs, I really appreciate this hilarious Washington Post article about the company's new ad campaign. I really do love working while I'm also sleeping face down in my bed.

That is all. Tweet me. Email me. Or don’t. Actually, just go outside and enjoy the sun. But bring your smart phone just in case.

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<![CDATA[This Week's Dining and Food Events]]>
A beer festival at Listermann Brewing Company, a wine festival in Milford, a food truck competition and the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State's annual 1 Night 12 Kitchens bash. Plus, Northside's new Urban Artifact brewery opens Monday.

WEDNESDAY APRIL 22
Rhinegeist Beer Dinner at Moerlein — The Moerlein Lager House presents a paired beer dinner with Rhinegeist. This monthly craft beer celebrating features a special dinner menu. 6 p.m. $55 (plus tax and gratuity). Moerlein Lager House, 115 Joe Nuxhall Way, The Banks, Downtown, moerleinlagerhouse.com.

Burger and Beer Wednesdays — A burger and a pint for $10. 9:30 p.m.-midnight. Fifty West Brewing Company, 7668 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, fiftywestbrew.com.

Oyster Festival — Washington Platform’s Oyster Festival features more than 40 different oyster menu items. Through May 2. Prices vary. Washington Platform Saloon and Restaurant, 1000 Elm St., Downtown, washingtonplatform.com.

THURSDAY APRIL 23
Freedom to Balance: Eating for Alignment — Plant-based chef and food coach Trinidad prepares a Middle Eastern-inspired menu with a high raw, vegan and gluten-free twist. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. $50. New Riff, 24 Distillery Way, Newport, Ky., newriffdistilling.com.

Tap That Thursday — Tapping new rare kegs every week. Chef Michael Shields creates specialty hot dogs to pair with the latest brew. 5 p.m. BrewRiver GastroPub, 2062 Riverside Drive, East End, brewrivergastropub.com.

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.

FRIDAY APRIL 24
Urban Artifact brewery opening — The latest Cincinnati brewery opens its doors in Northside 4:30 p.m. Friday. Located in a former church, the brewery celebrates "wild culture," in both their beers and their taproom experience, with a performance venue, beer garden and in-house music label, Grayscale Cincinati. Their beer portfolio, which all utilizes locally caught wild yeast or bacteria, features Harrow, a Gose; Maize, a Kentucky common; and Finn, a Berliner pale ale. The kick-off week will feature a handful of special events. 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Friday; noon-1:30 a.m. Saturday; noon-midnight Sunday. 1660 Blue Rock St., Northside, artifactbeer.com.

Bourbon & Boots — Get your boot stomping to Country band The Dan Varner Band and wet your whistle with some of Kentucky’s best bourbon. Molly Wellmann emcees the evening. 6:30 p.m. $47. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatimemorialhall.com.

StarkBier Fest — Starkbier means “strong beer” in German. The fest features handcrafted beers from 19 breweries, food, music and more. Family- and pet-friendly. 5 p.m.-midnight Friday; noon-11 p.m. Saturday. Listermann Brewing Company, 1621 Dana Ave., Evanston, listermannbrewing.com.

SATURDAY APRIL 25
Cincy Brew Bus Eastside Tour — You don’t have to drink and drive with this tour. Visit Old Firehouse Brewing, Fifty West, Mt. Carmel and Bad Tom Smith. Leaves from the Growler House. 12:10-5:30 p.m. $55-$65. The Growler House, 1526 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills, cincybrewbus.com.

Taste of the World Food Tour — Take a guided foodie tour of Ohio’s oldest public market, Findlay Market. Includes stops and tastings at six merchants. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 3-4:30 p.m. Saturdays. $20. Meets at Daisy Mae’s Market at Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatifoodtours.com.

Quick & Easy: Fried Rice and Stir Fries — Learn to make these classic and quick dishes at home. Noon-1 p.m. $20. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

North Avondale Montessori Food Truck Competition — Hosts their third annual food truck competition. Competitors include Lyric, Waffo, U-Luck Dawg, streetpops, Bistro de Mohr and Mobile Cold Stone. Each truck must create a rocket-themed dish. 4-7 p.m. Free. 615 Clinton Springs, North Avondale, namrockets.org.

SUNDAY APRIL 26
1 Night, 12 Kitchens — The 11th annual 1 Night, 12 Kitchens event at the Midwest Culinary Institute features more than 20 of the regions best restaurants in one evening. Mingle with top chefs, sample gourmet fare, explore the culinary institute’s kitchen, peruse a silent auction and more. Raises funds for the Midwest Culinary Institute’s student scholarships. 6-9 p.m. $125-$200. The Midwest Culinary Institute, 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton, culinary.cincinnatistate.edu.

National Pretzel Day — Celebrate the twisty treat with $1 Bavarian soft pretzels at Servatii locations. servatti.com.

Dewey’s Pizza School — Dewey’s philanthropic arm, the DewMore Initiative, partners with the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio for a pizza-making class. All proceeds will benefit the Girl Scouts. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $25. 11338 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, deweyspizza.com.

20 Brix Wine Festival — Immerse yourself in the culture of wine with seminars, tastings, food, music and amazing deals on retail wine. 1-5 p.m. $25. 20 Brix, 101 Main St., Milford, 513-831-2749, 20brix.com.

TUESDAY APRIL 28
Pones Inc. Benefit Dinner at Bouquet — MainStrasse eatery Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar hosts a dinner party to benefit dance troupe Pones Inc. The five-course meal will include wine pairings. 6:30 p.m. $125. 519 Main St., Covington, Ky., bouquetrestaurant.com.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Good morning! News time.

Here’s a juicy story involving alleged sabotage, political intrigue and weed. A marijuana legalization group called Ohio Rights Group filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission last week alleging that ResponsibleOhio, another legalization effort, sabotaged its campaign to get a pro-marijuana law on Ohio’s ballot. The filing says that ResponsibleOhio’s Ian James and David Bruno infiltrated ORG last year in order to gain information about the group’s efforts, which they later used to dissuade potential ORG donors. James and Bruno are now involved in ResponsibleOhio’s effort to get a measure on the November ballot legalizing marijuana but restricting commercial growth to 10 sites around the state. They’ll need 300,000 signatures from Ohioans by this summer to do so. The group claims they’ve already collected more than 160,000. ResponsibleOhio called ORG’s complaint “bogus.”

• Good news on Earth Day here: The Cincinnati Zoo has saved a mind-boggling one billion gallons of water and millions of dollars with conservation practices it has been using over the last decade. That’s a year’s worth of water for 10,000 households. The zoo says it saved all that water through some rather mundane fixes: sealing up leaky pools, installing more water-efficient faucets and other fixtures, beefing up water filtration systems and other steps. The impact was huge, cutting water usage by more than three quarters. The zoo went from using 220 million gallons of water in 2005 to just over 50 million in 2014.  Very neat.

• Will the streetcar run later into the night? Some pro-streetcar activists hope so. A group of a few dozen that attended Monday’s Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority public hearing on the streetcar voiced concerns about the transit project’s hours of operation, saying they’d like to see it run later into the evening. Currently, it’s slated to start running at 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, it would stop running at 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday it would run until midnight. But SORTA has said it could push that operating window up, having it start later in the morning and end later in the evening.

• The game is up for a planned challenge to Ohio’s Medicaid expansion, which Gov. John Kasich controversially pushed through the conservative-dominated state house in 2013. Kasich was at odds with much of the state’s GOP on the expansion, which accepted federal funds to increase eligibility for the federal government’s health care program as part of the Affordable Care Act. Federal funds for the expansion will begin to taper off in 2017 and the state will have to foot some of the bill. A plan by State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, would have created a stipulation forbidding use of Ohio taxpayer funds to pay for the gap in the state budget state lawmakers are currently crafting. Butler, however, has since backed off of this idea and it looks as though the expansion, which gave 500,000 more Ohioans health coverage, is safe for now. That’s important for Kasich. The expansion is a key achievement in his time as governor and a talking point when it comes to the no-nonsense, get things done appeal he’s attempting to create as he mulls a presidential run.

• This investigative piece by left-leaning magazine Mother Jones is fascinating. According to 2012 gun crime data, gun violence in Ohio cost taxpayers more than $7.8 billion or $660 per capita per year. That’s chump change compared to some states like California, where it cost more than $25 billion a year. The state with the lowest per-capita cost was Hawaii at $234 a year; the state with the highest was Wyoming, which clocked in at $1,300 a year per capita. The per-capita data closely tracks with gun laws in states — places like Texas and Louisiana with permissive gun laws have much higher per-capita costs than tightly-regulated states. I can see some counter-arguments or questions about this, but it’s an interesting place to start a conversation about taxpayer costs and gun laws.

• Finally, the ultimate time-waster: Google has done its Google Maps thang in Scotland’s Loch Ness so you can search for the Loch Ness Monster.  I’ve been searching for the past two hours and I haven’t seen anything, but feel free to search the lake’s 263,162 million cubic feet of water yourself in search of the elusive prehistoric reptilian creature.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Hey all. News time.

Last night the League of Women Voters held a panel discussion in Clifton about Ohio’s charter schools, especially those in Cincinnati. The panel, titled “Charter Schools: Are They Accountable?," featured Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan, Aaron Churchill of charter school sponsoring organization the Thomas Fordham Institute, Steve Dyer of progressive think tank Innovation Ohio and Republican state Sen. Bill Seitz.

The answer to the titular question posed to the panel: No, charters aren’t being held accountable in Ohio, and that’s bad. Ronan said CPS loses about 8,000 students a year to charter schools in the city and that many of those schools aren’t prepared to educate them (see: the late VLT Academy, any number of other charters in the city). But some panelists argued that the oversight problems, which state lawmakers are working to fix with bills in the House and Senate, isn’t a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They point to other charters that have succeeded and say that with reform and increased oversight, the privately run but publicly-funded schools will deliver on their promise. But there are probably going to have to be big changes: Charters in Ohio, most agree, are a big mess.

• At the same time a reasoned debate occurred on charter schools and the serious questions around educating Cincinnati’s next generation, elsewhere a highly paid grown man dropped numerous F-bombs about a game, reporters spilled much digital ink on the meaningless spectacle and we all clicked and clicked, spurring on the inane prattling of both. Well done, all of us.

• More changes to the Lytle Park area downtown are in the works, according to this Enquirer article. A few days ago, I linked you to a story in the Business Courier about the luxury hotel concept that will be moving into the Anna Louise Inn site, which has been occupied by a 104-year-old women’s shelter that is moving to Mount Auburn in June after a protracted legal battle. There’s way more happening in the neighborhood, including a $5 million-plus remake of Lytle Park, a $32 million ODOT rehab of the tunnel that carries I-71 underneath the park and other housing and commercial space in the area. Much of the change is being driven by Western & Southern, the insurance giant headquartered in the neighborhood, and its real estate arm Eagle Realty. I smell a new reality show called Extreme Corporate Makeover in the works here.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign registered a non-profit called A New Day for America with the IRS Monday, officially setting up a fundraising structure for the Republican’s nascent presidential bid. The group has some heavy hitters on its board, including former advertising executive and big-time GOP donor Philip Geier. A U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, a former state lawmaker and some Columbus businessmen round out the board of the group. It’s all a big sign that Kasich is more or less set on running for the Republican nomination, though he has yet to formally announce that intention. So far, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have all officially announced their campaigns. Others, including frontrunners former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, are expected to announce their bids as well.

Right now, Kasich lags behind all of them, but a big primary win in one of the early states like New Hampshire could boost his profile. He’ll have to somehow convince GOP primary delegates that he’s moderate enough to win a general election but also conservative enough to uphold strong conservative values. He has competition on that front: Both Bush and Rubio exhibit some combination of staunch conservative policy positions and more moderate and practical beliefs, and both are already national players. But both also have vulnerabilities: Rubio is on the outs with much of the party after he attempted to launch an effort at comprehensive immigration reform. That’s sunk him with the party’s far-right faction. Bush, meanwhile, struggles with the general bad aftertaste the public remembers from Dubya’s presidency. Kasich’s chances may come down to the GOP’s estimation of how toxic the Bush name still is. We’ll see.

• I’m going to be brief with this because it’s maddening, but newsworthy: There could be an end in sight to the big fight going on in Washington over Loretta Lynch. No, not Appalachian songstress Loretta Lynn. I'm talking about the woman President Barack Obama has nominated to replace outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Lynch would be the first female African American A.G., and her nomination has been pending for five months as the Senate battles over voting on her. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has signaled he won’t put Lynch’s nomination vote through until another matter is settled: a Senate vote on a bill that would fight human trafficking. Sounds simple and like something everyone can get behind, right? Except that Republicans have tacked on an anti-abortion provision in that bill, and Democrats are refusing to pass it as it stands. But, according to this story, negotiations are underway to push the Lynch nomination to a vote after several high-profile Republicans have publicly criticized the hold up on her nomination. Phew. Everything is a mess. Everything sucks.

• Finally, let’s read this really quickly and dream: Japan’s maglev bullet train just set a new speed record of 375 miles an hour. At that speed, it would take you about 48 minutes to get to Chicago from Cincinnati. So if the United States was more forward-thinking in its transit policy, you could hop on the train after work, grab some deep-dish pizza and a can of Old Style (or if you like the taste of burning tires, a bottle of Malort), and be back before bedtime. (This is a slight exaggeration, of course, and it would be insanely complicated and expensive if not impossible to build such a train here, but still. We can dream, right?)

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<![CDATA[A British Foodie in the Queen City]]>
I moved from England last August to spend 10 months in the land of the free — I’m studying at the University of Cincinnati and exploring as much of the country as I can squeeze in. I’d been looking forward to the iconic American foods that the world knows about: deep-dish Chicago pizzas, stacks of fluffy pancakes drowning in syrup, apple pies topped with whipped cream. I chose to come to Cincinnati because I wanted to be in Midwestern America. Before I arrived, when people said Cincinnati to me I thought, “Bengals.” I didn’t once consider the city to be a food town — not everyone knows about Cincinnati’s chili! So I was thrilled to find Cincinnati’s exciting and expanding foodie scene, host to a wide number of delicious and vibrant eats with food so good I warmly welcomed the inevitable weight gain.

From my time here so far, I’ve noticed some differences between my food culture and yours.

Your portions are almost as big as your mountains, your national parks and your prairies. A meal at the Incline Public house in the West Side gave me delicious leftovers for two consecutive nights. The portion sizes at The Cheesecake Factory are immensely appreciated but borderline ridiculous.

The service. I feel like I’m being ushered out the door almost as soon as I arrive. Being a Brit, I am used to a slower-paced meal with a docile waiter reservedly keeping their distance. If there’s something wrong with our food we don’t say anything because, as a nation, we are too awkward to deal with that sort of thing. Over here I am given the bill along with my food and asked how I want to pay. In England this would be seen as rude, but the waiters are always so smiley and chirpy it’s refreshing. English table service really could learn a thing or two here. 

Upon my arrival I was so excited by American culture I consumed so many Pop-Tarts in 48 hours that I haven’t touched one since. I have since learned from my mistake and didn’t want to sabotage my Cincinnati scoffing (British slang for "scarfing") experience. But after coming face to face with Skyline, any attempts to monitor my chili allowance were fruitless. The thin beef chili is smooth and tender, with hints of cinnamon and cloves. Served over a hotdog and for only $2, coneys became the ultimate “drunk food” for me — especially as I lived so close to the Clifton branch. Back home we know this type of food as “chili con carne,” and it’s heavily laden with tomatoes, cumin and garlic, and served over rice. I much prefer Cincinnati’s pairing with hot dogs, a mound of shredded cheddar and a bag of oyster crackers.

Talking of cheddar, I’m sorry to say my entrenched European prejudices meant I was quick to judge the cheese you have to offer. With England so close to the cheesy nation of France, I have developed a taste for oozing Camembert, crumbly yet creamy goat cheeses and blue and salty Saint Agur. America’s painfully mild, processed and bright orange “cheese” that you find melted on burgers or stirred into bowls of mac and cheese should not share the same name. The square singles of “Swiss cheddar” taste more like the convenient plastic they are wrapped in, and are not remotely Swiss. I don’t have the words to describe the monstrosity that is cheese in a can. I was readily accepting of not being able to taste any real cheese for 10 months until I stumbled across the delight that is Findlay Market and its J.E. Gibbs cheese vendor. My predisposed scorn of cheese in America vanished along with my dollars, but the investment in Brie was worth it.

On the subject of delicious dairy, Oprah was absolutely right about Cincinnati’s Graeter’s ice cream. Its black raspberry and chocolate chip flavor is on the same standard as ice cream and gelato I’ve sampled in Florence, Italy. 

The Midwest’s booming corn supply means there are a lot of corn-involved foods to be eaten around here. In the UK you only consume this staple in the form of canned sweet corn, but here it is baked into corn puddings, corn breads or creamed up to make “creamed corn” — none of which I’m convinced by. The freshly grilled ears of corn dripping in butter I bought at the state fair were delicious, but the “corndog,” however, is just obscene.

I am now obsessed with American barbecue. Pulled pork, ribs and beef brisket with heaps of finely shredded, creamy coleslaw has changed my perception of this type of cuisine. You Americans love your contemporary backyard barbecues and you know how to do them well. In England, we associate the British summertime barbecue with a much more high-strung experience, and less delicious food. I’m used to supermarket-bought bangers slid between cheap baps (a sort of soft bread roll, like a bun) and cooked on a tiny disposable charcoal barbecue. There is no sense of patience with a British summertime barbecue — we always want to get it done as quickly as possible as you never know when it might start pouring rain. So we bite into a hastily cooked burger and the blackened, charred outside crumbles away to reveal pinkish, undercooked disappointment. In America, however, you have much more patience and respect for this kind of cooking. You slowly smoke meats at low temperatures to get the perfect tenderness; you incorporate “wet” rubs and “dry” rubs to add even more flavor. A pulled pork sandwich at Eli’s BBQ entailed a toasted bun stuffed with hickory-smoked pork, which had a tender interior, caramelized exterior and was slapped with a vinegar mop. Thank you, America, for showing me a real barbecue; I will think of you during my father’s next annual soggy barbecue disaster. 

I do miss the classic British biscuit tin. Graham crackers and cookies don’t suffice for the Jammie Dodgers, shortbreads and chocolate digestives that we love to dunk in our tea. I miss the chocolate. In a sibling rivalry between American and British chocolate, Cadbury will always win over Hershey's. 

The American obsession with peanut butter is something I’ve learned to love as well. Your peanut butter is arguably much better, smoother and creamier. I understand the appeal of a classic PB&J sandwich. I have still yet to try a Buckeye though.


In my first few weeks in America the only beer I was exposed to was grim Bud Light served in red Solo cups at student parties. Pre-departure to the states I was warned, “American beer sucks!” It took me until Oktoberfest, when I discovered the plethora of craft beer and breweries that Cincinnati has to offer, that I learned this was absolutely not the case. My favorite Cincinnati beer is MadTree’s seasonal Sprye, which manages to be spicy, citrusy, piney and earthy. Cincinnati brewing veteran Christian Moerlein and the Moerlein brewery also makes a great watering hole; with so many beer options to choose from I felt like I was back in my local pub.

The morning after a night of craft beer, my first thought goes to a full English breakfast. A plate of fried eggs, tomatoes, sausages, toast, baked beans and black pudding has been curing British hangovers since the invention of the frying pan. But I’m in America now, where baked beans are for barbecues only and black pudding is unheard of. My next thought is for bagels: the classic beloved breakfast bread that has become iconic to New York and American food culture. An egg and cheese bagel with bacon and sausage from Bruegger’s bagels is everything I want but more. A freshly made bagel topped by most of the commodities of a full English breakfast, but with less calories. If I can, I drag myself to quirky breakfast joint Hangover Easy in Clifton that also does an excellent brunch and breakfast fix.

With only a few more weeks left here, I am sad to leave Cincinnati's eclectic options of places to eat and drink. I'll certainly be returning to the UK a couple pounds heavier but I'll have a coney shaped hole missing from my life. 

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<![CDATA[UC's Trove of Fashion Designer Bonnie Cashin's Clothing]]>

The Cincinnati Art  Museum's wonderful current exhibition The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration Between Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt and William Claxton mentions that one early influence on the visionary fashion designer Gernreich was Bonnie Cashin, who created quietly avant-garde women's sportswear and whose reputation has only grown since her death in 2000.

It turns out that University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning has a collection of almost 200 pieces by Cashin, a gift from Ohio State University. The pieces were among a larger donation given to OSU by Phil Sills, whose Sills & Co. produced Cashin-designed fashions from 1952 until the late 1970s.

On Tuesday, DAAP students put together a one-night exhibit of a dozen pieces from its collection in the Total Look gallery, so attendees could see how her tweed with leather and suede fashions look alongside Gernreich's far more radical designs. They hold up well — the earthy colors, the bold use of plaid, the turn-lock brass closures, a jacket with a built-in coin purse in a front pocket.

UC has put information about the collection online here. Meanwhile, The Total Look is on display through May 24 and deserves to be seen by all.

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

Good morning all. Hope your weekend was rad. Let’s get down to business on this news thing.

The city of Cincinnati plans to ask the federal government for some cash for a network of bike trails branching off the proposed Wasson Way route between Avondale and Mount Lookout. The city is preparing to apply for Transit Investment Generating Economic Recover, or TIGER grants, that would help finance the network of commuter bike paths. The city applied with a narrower plan that only encompassed Wasson Way itself in 2014, but didn’t win one of the highly competitive grants. A lone bike trail doesn’t stand much of a chance in the application process, which favors transportation projects that provide a bigger impact over a wider area. The city hopes it can win some of the billions of dollars the federal government has awarded for such projects with its new plan, which will spread out through a number of Cincinnati neighborhoods. Mayor John Cranley has made bike trails a priority during his time as mayor, often over on-street bike lanes, which Cincinnati’s last city council preferred and which some bike advocates say are better for commuters.

• Let’s keep talking about transit projects for a second, shall we, because we never talk about transit and it’s an incredibly benign topic that no one could ever get upset over. (That is sarcasm, by the way.) Anyway, if you want to hear some, let us say, spirited civic debate, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is hosting the first of two public hearings about Cincinnati’s streetcar operating procedures and fare structure tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the main branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library. See you there! If you can’t make that one, there’s another one next Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Over-the-Rhine Community Recreation Center on Republic Street.

• Here’s the latest on the planned redevelopments around Findlay Market in northern Over-the-Rhine. Developer Model Group has announced it will forgo 35 of the apartments it originally planned for the area and will instead build nine condos. Seven of those have already sold. Model’s plans still include 23 apartment units. The shift signals a new turn for the northern part of OTR, which hasn’t seen as much condo development as the neighborhood’s southern portion. The move seems likely to fuel fears about gentrification in OTR as the neighborhood’s property values continue to skyrocket.

• Speaking of gentrification, it’s a serious topic, right? We’ve covered it a bunch here at CityBeat, and think it’s always worth discussion. However, this story is a bit mystifying. It seems to suggest that the spike in poverty in Covington is at least in part caused by development in Cincinnati neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine. Sounds fascinating. The only problem is, there’s absolutely no evidence presented that supports that. 

Here’s one of the many puzzling questions that comes from assuming poor from OTR are heading to Covington en masse: Poverty has been rising across the region, including in Cincinnati, which saw a 5.1 percent increase in its poverty rate since 2009. Covington saw about the same boost. What’s more, the increases have been happening since at least 2000, well before much of the city’s current development boom. If both cities’ poverty rates are rising at the same rate and have been since before development started in earnest, doesn’t it seem like Cincinnati isn’t just pumping all its poor and displaced into Covington, and that a larger systemic issue is at play?

A much more likely scenario: Specific factors like the heroin crisis (which is mentioned in the article) and a general widening of income inequality nationally (which is not mentioned) are creating a greater divide between the middle class and the poor. Meanwhile, poor folks displaced by high prices in center-city places like OTR are heading off to an array of areas, some in the more obscure and distant parts of the city limits, some outside of it, creating small, incremental ticks in those neighborhoods’ and municipalities’ poverty rates.

• Briefly, in case you didn’t hear about it: A group of Muslim students in Mason wanted to have a (voluntary) day where other, non-Muslim students were encouraged to wear hijabs (head scarves) as a way to foster a broader cultural understanding and build bridges between students. Instead, that event, called “the Covered Girl Challenge” has been cancelled after an outside group called Jihad Watch raised a huge fuss about it. The group seems to be claiming that the student group has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a militant Islamic group. Jihad Watch says hijabs are oppressive to women and that Mason’s public schools shouldn’t be promoting them. The main trouble, according to the school, is that an invitation to the student-organized and led event was sent out in an official school email, something that comes across as promotion of a religion. That’s why the event was cancelled, school officials say. Jihad Watch has cheered the cancellation, because there’s clearly nothing scarier going on in America today than a young woman in a public school choosing of her own free will to wear a scarf on her head for a day in an attempt to understand the experiences of other young women at the same school.

• If a provision recently included by state lawmakers in Ohio’s budget passes, many of the state’s college professors will lose the ability to bargain collectively over salaries and benefits. The law would reclassify any professor who is involved in planning curriculum or other decisions as management, making them ineligible for band together and negotiate their terms of employment. As you might guess, a number of college faculty are up in arms over the sneak attack, which smacks very much of the state’s attempt several years ago to eliminate public employee collective bargaining rights with HB 5. That bill was defeated after statewide protests. 

• Gov. John Kasich was hanging out with powerful Republican groups in New Hampshire last week, where he made his strongest signals yet that he's running for president. He hasn't announced yet, but he's told big GOPers to "think of me" as they mull their choices.

• Finally, got a hot tip about Democratic presidential possibility Hillary Clinton? U.S. Sen. And Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul wants to know. You can send tips about fundraising activities at the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Hillary’s charitable organization, from a form on Paul’s website. The outspoken libertarian-leaning Republican has been hinting for a while now that some big bombshell about the Clinton Foundation is about to fall and hobble Hillary’s campaign. Those bombshells are supposedly contained in a new book due out next month by author Peter Schweizer. The New York Times, Washington Post and Fox News all have exclusives ready based on information in the book, apparently, but Paul’s casting about for tips on the Internet does not inspire great confidence that he’s sitting on big info. A suggestion: Have you tried the Craigslist missed connections section? I can see the listing now:

“You were at a fundraiser for my presidential campaign. You whispered something vague but titillating in my ear about foreign donors and Hillary. Please contact me via my website, where you can also buy an awesome T-shirt.”

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: The Kids Are All Right]]>

This is a busy time of year on local stages, and that's especially true at colleges and universities where the academic year is winding down.

At Northern Kentucky University, the 17th biennial Year End Series (Y.E.S.) Festival is underway, presenting three world premiere productions in rotating repertory. It's a Grand Night for Murder opened on Thursday; The Divine Visitor, a Restoration Comedy through a sci-fi filter (figure that one out) starts tonight; and Encore, Encore, about witty and caustic New York writer Dorothy Parker, gets underway on Saturday. There will be multiple performances through April 26. Tickets: 859-572-5464

At Xavier University this weekend you can find a production of the Rock musical Spring Awakening, the winner of eight Tony Awards in 2007. It's about a group of students struggling through adolescence to adulthood — with a lot of rebellion along the way. It's being presented in XU's Gallagher Student Center Theater. Tickets: 513-745-3939

A lot of high school students have been recruited by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for more than 38 free art events based on the works of Shakespeare. You might recall that CSC "completed the canon" (produced all 38 of Shakespeare's plays) a year ago. The celebrate that accomplishment, the company devised Project 38 to work with numerous area schools. Each one was assigned and worked with some of the company's artists to be inspired in productions, art, writing — whatever moved them. The initiative is culminating in an eight-day festival of free performances and exhibitions in Over-the-Rhine's Washington Park. School performances are all free. Since performances of The Taming of the Shrew are sold out on CSC's mainstage, Project 38 gives you the chance to see Shakespeare you might have missed otherwise. Schedule here.

There's another take on a student coming to terms with the Bard at Dayton's Human Race Theatre Company: Taking Shakespeare is the story of a disillusioned college professor asked to tutor her dean's son through his freshman Shakespeare class. It's got its humorous moments, but the show delivers a serious message about living up to expectations. Playing the student is Cincinnati actor Jon Kovach, who's performed on numerous local stages. Through May 3. Tickets: 937-228-3630

The farcical show by Steve Martin, The Underpants, is evoking laughs at the Otto M. Budig Theatre in the Carnegie in Covington. It's a bit risqué, but the humor is very gentle. Tickets: 859-957-1940 … Not so gentle is the production of Death and the Maiden by Diogenes Theatre Company at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theatre. This three-character thriller is set in an unnamed Latin American country where a woman gets control of a man she believes once tortured her under a brutal dictatorship. It's a powerful piece, magnificently acted by three top-notch professionals familiar to Cincinnati theatergoers — Annie Fitzpatrick, Michael G. Bath and Giles Davies. Not for the faint-hearted or those who are squeamish about violence, but this is production that deserves to be seen. Through May 2. Tickets: 513-621-2787

One last note, for anyone interested in playing a supernumerary for Cincinnati Opera (that's like being an extra in a movie): Open casting for the upcoming summer season happens on Monday at 6 p.m. at Music Hall. You don't have to be a singer. In fact, no experience is necessary; positions are filled on a voluntary basis. Details here.


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

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (4/17-4/19)]]>
FRIDAY
See some world premiere theater at NKU's Y.E.S. FESTIVAL
Every two years Northern Kentucky University’s Department of Theatre and Dance offers audiences several theatrical adventures when it presents the world premieres of three plays. This year’s 17th biennial “Year End Series” productions are Joe Starzyk’s antic murder mystery and love story, It’s a Grand Night for Murder; David L. Williams’ The Divine Visitor, a tale of a ghostly Casanova inspired by British comedies from the 17th century; and Colin Speer Crowley’s Encore, Encore, a portrait of acerbic wisecracker and drama critic Dorothy Parker. Since 1983, NKU has undertaken this ambitious program, debuting more that 50 new works. Through April 26. $11-$14. Northern Kentucky University, Corbett Theatre/Rose Stauss Theatre, Fine Arts Center, Nunn Drive, Highland Heights, Ky., 859-572-5464, theatre.nku.edu.

Check out an EP release for COCONUT MILK
Local Indie Pop/Rock quintet Coconut Milk hosts a free release party in honor of its second EP, We’re Sorry, Friday at Northside Tavern. The band will be joined by fellow Cincinnati band Founding Fathers, as well as Columbus, Ohio’s Fine Animal and Dayton, Ohio’s Forage. On its Facebook page, Coconut Milk describes its sound as “Beach Rock,” which is one of the more precise self-descriptions by a band you’ll ever see. Like the best oceanfront-linked music (going back to The Beach Boys, but think more “Warmth of the Sun” than “Surfin’ USA”), there is a compelling blend of airy contentment and wistful melancholy to Coconut Milk’s sound. If Belle and Sebastian and Nada Surf went on a writing retreat to some small beach town on the West Coast, they’d probably come up with something similar to what Coconut Milk lays down on We’re Sorry. Free. Northside Tavern, 4163 Hamilton Ave., Northside, northsidetav.com.

Mark Normand
Laugh with MARK NORMAND
Mark Normand may become your favorite new comedian. “I was incredibly hungover today,” he tells an audience. “Had another beer. Hangover went away. Isn’t that the amazing thing about booze? The thing that causes the problem is also the solution. I wish other problems were like that. You have sex with a girl, she gets pregnant, have sex with her again, no more baby. Then you’re guaranteed to get laid at least twice.” The New Orleans native, now based in New York City, has appeared on Conan, Showtime’s Live at SXSW, Inside Amy Schumer, Last Comic Standing and the hit Chris Hardwick game show @Midnight. Showtimes Thursday-Sunday. $8-$14. Go Bananas, 8410 Market Place Lane, Montgomery, gobananascomedy.com.

The Taming of the Shrew at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Photo: Mikki Schaffner Photography
Take a jolly romp through the TAMING OF THE SHREW
If you’ve ever seen The Taming of the Shrew, you might remember it as the tale of an ill-tempered woman brought into line by an abusive, gold-digging suitor. In that simple summary, Shakespeare’s early comedy understandably doesn’t sit well with most modern audiences. But contemporary presenters of the show have a variety options to make it more palatable. In its current staging at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, guest director Kevin Hammond has utilized more than one of them. Framed in this way, the story of the combative courtship feels more like a funny skit than a real recommendation for a happy marriage. In fact, Petruchio invites anyone in the audience who “knows better how to tame a shrew, now let him speak.” Nick Rose, a delight to watch in this rambunctious role, delivers the line straight to the audience and waits for a response. mond, the artistic director of Humber River Shakespeare in Toronto, uses 15 members of Cincinnati Shakespeare’s company to their full comedic potential. The Taming of the Shrew, presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, continues through April 25. Read a review here.

Prep for Earth Day by checking out the recycled sculptures at ECOSCULPT
In celebration of Earth Day, recyclables meet innovation during this three-week installation. Produced by 3CDC, EcoSculpt gives artists a chance to design and display large-scale, eco-friendly sculptures using recycled and recyclable materials in Washington Park. Judges will choose first-, second- and third-prize winners based on concept, execution and construction. All art is displayed during park hours. Awards ceremony 5 p.m. April 22 (Earth Day). Free. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.

Belle Histoire 
Photo: Taylor Foiles
Belle Histoire's JANE DECKER celebrates an album release at Rohs Street
Cincinnati Indie Pop artist Jane Decker, who found some national acclaim with her former band Belle Histoire and with an appearance on the popular singing competition TV show The Voice, recently had her new single/video “Stonewallin’ ” premiered internationally on yahoo.com. This Friday, Decker will be celebrating the release of her new three-track EP of the same name with a performance at Rohs Street Café. Decker joins local up-and-coming AltRock band Harbour for its first headlining show, which also features Columbus, Ohio’s Indigo Wild. The all-ages show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance (through cincyticket.com) or $10 day of show. More information on Decker can be found at jane-decker.com. 245 W McMillan St., Clifton Heights, rohsstreetcafe.com.

SATURDAY
Braxton Brewing Company
Get a couple brews on the BARON BREW BUS TOUR
American Legacy Tours’ Barons Brew Bus returns for your drinking pleasure. The four-hour tour visits five Greater Cincinnati breweries: Christian Moerlein, Braxton Brewing Company, Rhinegeist, Hofbrauhaus and the new Taft’s Ale House (which recently opened on Race Street). As the tour guide entertains you with tales of Cincinnati’s brewing history, you will retain less and less after tasting more than 14 different beers. The party starts at Taft’s, with a bottle of water and soft pretzel sticks. Noon Saturdays. $65. Taft’s Ale House, 1429 Race St., Over-The-Rhine, americanlegacytours.com

Go green at the CINCINNATI EARTH DAY celebration
This annual Earth Day bash features a drum circle from the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans, a kid’s zones, live music, recycled costume contest, lecture series, parade with mascots, an animal showcase and more. Lecture topics include Red Bike, the streetcar and benefits of hemp. World Peace Yoga will be offering free yoga classes during the event at 1 and 3 p.m. Rain or shine. Noon-5 p.m. Free. Sawyer Point, 700 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, cincinnatiearthday.com.

Asian Culture Fest
Photo: Provided
Buy some blossom-scented soap at the ASIAN CULTURE FEST
The Cincinnati Museum Center is whisking you abroad to the Far East, where you’ll explore the rich histories, arts, culture and traditions of China, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Nepal at Cincinnati’s one-day Asian Culture Fest. Peruse the Asian marketplace, where you can shop for authentic Asian-themed merchandise, including Japanese blossom-scented soaps and artisan glass bonsai trees. Cultural activities and performances include a Henna-adorned candle workshop, Taiwanese Lion Dance, Shadow Puppet Theater, traditional Japanese drum performances and much more. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Activities in the Rotunda and surrounding areas are free. 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, cincymuseum.org.

Hug a puppy at the BOONE COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER BABY SHOWER
Along with the many colors spring brings are the many new animal babies brought into the world and in need of a home. Around this time of year the Boone County Animal Shelter sees a sharp increase in animal intake, so they’re hosting a spring “baby shower” to raise donations for kitten and puppy food, potty pads, milk replacement and other items. Of course, there will also be a host of adorable adoptable kittens and puppies looking for a forever family during the shower. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Free. 5643 Idlewild Road, Burlington, Ky., 859-586-5285, bountycountyshelter.org.

Everybody's Records
Photo: Eamon Queeney
Check out exclusives at RECORD STORE DAY
International Record Store Day is this Saturday and pretty much every independent record store in the area will be participating, offering RSD’s exclusive, limited-edition releases from hundreds of artists and other fun throughout the day. Many of those local stores will also be carrying a unique local exclusive, Bootleggers & Hustlers Volume One, a vinyl compilation album put together by Chris Breeden (manager of legendary local bar Arnold’s) and local graphic designer Keith Neltner of Neltner Small Batch (neltnersmallbatch.com). Limited to just 300 signed and numbered copies, the album features tracks by local (mostly Roots/Americana) artists who have performed at Arnold’s over the years: Cincinnati Dancing Pigs, The Part-Time Gentlemen, Jake Speed and the Freddies, The Tillers, The Kentucky Struts, River City Roustabout, The Goodle Boys, Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle and The Sundresses (St. Louis band ClusterPluck also contributes a track). So get out there Saturday and support both local independent businesses and local music. More info and venus here

Zoo Blooms
Photo: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Enjoy some blooms at the CINCINNATI FLOWER SHOW
The Cincinnati Horticultural Society presents the 2015 Cincinnati Flower Show. See beautiful floral and garden displays created by the region’s most talented professional and amateur landscapers and designers. The show also includes lectures from the Cincinnati Zoo staff, dramatic table setting displays, container gardens, a marketplace, picnics in the park and more. Through Sunday. $20; special events ticketed separately. Yeatman’s Cove, Sawyer Point, 700 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, cincinnatihorticulturalsociety.com.

Orphan Black
Photo: BBC America
Watch the season premiere of ORPHAN BLACK
The phrase “best TV show you’re not watching” is overused, but Orphan Black is one of the few shows that’s definitely deserving of the title. The BBC America drama follows Sarah Manning, a British single mom living in Toronto. Shaken by witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her, Sarah discovers she was conceived as an experiment and is actually one of many clones. The concept is undeniably intriguing — what would you do if you discovered there was another you (let alone several)? The sci-fi concept might draw you in, but it’s Tatiana Maslany’s performance as a dozen different clones that keeps audiences coming back for more. If you aren’t caught up for the new third season, IFC will run an Orphan Black marathon starting at midnight Friday night with all episodes airing up until the season three premiere Saturday. Clear some space in the DVR! Orphan Black Season Premiere, 9 p.m. Saturday, AMC/BBC America/IFC/Sundance/WE.

The Happy Maladies
Photo: Michael Wilson 
Mix Folk and Classical with CONSTELLA LATE WITH HAPPY MALADIES
Local quartet the Happy Maladies will be performing a late-night set as part of the Constella Festival at Ivy Lounge (formerly Obscura). The band — which brings together violin, guitar, mandolin, double bass and vocals — will play two short sets, showcasing new works and original music. The first set at 9 p.m. will feature selections from their most recent project, Must Love Cats, an album of commissioned compositions from American composers. The second set will feature music from their unreleased full-length. 9 p.m. $15 at the door; includes one drink. 645 Walnut St., Downtown, constellafestival.org

John Aulabaugh
Support NKY Hates Heroin at JOHN AULABAUGH's album release show
Alt Country/Roots Rock singer-songwriter John Aulabaugh is the dictionary definition of a musical late bloomer. Though he says he’d never written (let alone recorded) a song until he was 50, the Washington D.C.-based Aulabaugh released an incredibly accomplished debut album this year, Of Sins Present and Past, which sounds like the work of a veteran artist. Beautifully arranged and produced, Aulabaugh writes soulfully on his debut about the people he’s encountered in his life, with many songs dealing with the topic of substance abuse’s ravages. As such, Aulabaugh’s album release show in Covington this weekend will serve as a benefit for the treatment programs of Northern Kentucky’s Transitions, Inc. The NKY Hates Heroin organization is also an official sponsor. 9 p.m. Saturday. $10; $15 day of. Madison Theater, 730 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., madisontheateronline.com

Listen to the songs of women at HERE AND NOW with MUSE, Cincinnati Women's Choir
Rachel DeVore Fogarty, Gwyneth Walker, Sarah Hopkins and Elizabeth Alexander are acclaimed composers whose music you may have never heard. MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, provides an opportunity to do so Saturday with two concerts titled Here and Aware, featuring the music of female composers at Saint Francis Seraph Church in Over-the-Rhine. The concert’s opener puts it right out there with Dianne Reeves’ “Endangered Species,” a defiant chant about a woman’s place in the world, followed by “Let Us Now Hold Hands,” a piece MUSE commissioned in 1995 from Dr. Jennifer Stasack with a text by Cincinnati poet Pat Mora. Another powerful piece is Elizabeth Alexander’s “Reasons for the Perpetuation of Slavery,” a three-part meditation on human complicity in “the price of keeping the prices low.” MUSE presents Here and Aware at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Saint Francis Seraph Church in Over-the-Rhine. Tickets: musechoir.org.


SUNDAY
Photo: highroadtouring.com
Hang out with the INDIGO GIRLS and the CINCINNATI POPS
This one-night-only Cincinnati Pops concert features the Grammy-winning Folk duo, The Indigo Girls. The girls — Amy Ray and Emily Saliers — will be performing their chart toppers, like "Closer," "Galileo" and "Power of Two," backed by the Pops. 6 p.m. doors. $20-$85. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatisymphony.org.

Asian small-clawed otter
Photo: Newport Aquarium
Meet new Asian otters at CANYON FALLS AT THE NEWPORT AQUARIUM
Canyon Falls at the Newport Aquarium is the new home of some unique species of otters and reptiles, including two Asian small-clawed otters, the smallest and most social otter species in the world. You’ll also find a yellow monitor lizard and colorful panther chameleons from Madagascar. Say hello to Thunder, a more than 100-year-old snapping turtle, and spend some time at the Turtle Corral. Additionally, aquarium staff will host interactive otter talks focusing on survival adaptations and how humans impact the environment of otters. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. $23 adults; $15 children; free for children under 2. Newport Aquarium, 1 Aquarium Way, Newport, Ky., newportaquarium.com

Buy some vintage stuff at the BURLINGTON ANTIQUE MALL
The Midwest’s premier antiques and vintage collectibles-only show is back, with 200 vendors spread over the Boone County Fairgrounds offering vintage jewelry, memorabilia and Midcentury Modern, as well as some wonderfully awful kitsch. It’s so good the History Channel’s American Pickers chose the fair as the location to film their spinoff, Top Collectors. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. third Sundays. Through October. $3. 5819 Idlewild Road, Burlington, Ky., burlingtonantiqueshow.com

Oxford Kinetics Festival
Build machines at the OXFORD KINETICS FESTIVAL
This celebration of all things kinetic — that is, relating to energy in motion — takes over Millet Hall in Oxford, Ohio. The family-friendly event is themed "Flight of the Flyer." Build your own moving contraption and then race it in either a bike-based "scramble" course (open to 18 and younger and families) or an alley-cat race for adults on human-powered machines. The fest also includes live music, a film festival and more. Noon-5 p.m. Free. Millet Hall at Miami University, 500 E. Sycamore St., Oxford, oxfordkineticsfestival.org.

See more stuff to do here.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning, y’all. Before we get to the news this morning, I want to plug a cover story we have coming up in a couple weeks. I've been working on it since February, and I really hope you all will take a look when it goes up April 29. It deals with one of the city's forgotten neighborhoods, a group of people fleeing incredibly difficult circumstances and a place where cultures from around the world mix in an incredible way. The folks in the story deserve your attention for their courage and patience. That's all I'm going to say for now. I hope you'll check it out.

There is a lot to talk about today, so I'll stop promoting and get to the news.

Let’s start with the positive stuff first. Cincinnati City Council yesterday declared April 28 John Arthur day in honor of the late Over-the-Rhine resident and gay rights activist who passed away in 2013 from ALS. Arthur’s husband Jim Obergefell has since fought the state of Ohio to get his name listed on Arthur’s death certificate, a battle that will find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court April 28. The case will almost assuredly be a history-making event. Look out next week for our feature story on the battle that could determine the future of same sex marriage.

• Council also locked horns, once again, on the streetcar yesterday. Councilman Chris Seelbach proposed a motion that would direct the city administration to prepare a report on possible funding for Phase 1B of the transit project. Sound like a small step? It is. But oh, what a fuss it raised. The next hour was dominated by arguments over the project, including recent revelations that revenue won’t be as high as anticipated, Mayor John Cranley again touting a residential parking permit plan as a way to make up some of the difference and calls from at least one council member to can the project entirely. After all the fireworks, the motion passed 5-4. You can read all about it in our coverage here.

• What else is new around town? Well, our own Nick Lachey, of 98 Degrees fame, wants to turn over a new leaf (heh see what I did there?) as a marijuana farmer. Lachey has invested in a ballot initiative by marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio. In return for putting up money for the effort, which needs to collect more than 300,000 signatures by this summer to get its proposal on the November ballot, Lachey will become part owner of a marijuana farm in the city of Hudson, which is in northeastern Ohio. That farm will be one of 10 under ResponsibleOhio’s plan, which would restrict commercial cultivation to a select number of sites. The group also tweaked its proposal after some criticism, and the current plan would also allow home growers to grow a small amount for personal use. Critics, however, including other legalization efforts, still say the plan amounts to a monopoly.

• Representatives from some area school districts, including Princeton City Schools, are lobbying in Columbus today in protest over state budgetary moves that would cut millions from their budgets. Princeton serves Lincoln Heights, Glendale, Woodlawn and much of Springdale and Sharonville in addition to other areas. Some school employees have taken personal days off from work to protest the proposed elimination of a state offset for the so-called Tangible Personal Property Tax. TPP was a big part of funding for many schools like Princeton. It was eliminated by lawmakers in 2007, but the state continued to funnel funds to schools to make up for the loss. Now, with Ohio’s new proposed budget, that offset will gradually be eliminated. Princeton receives nearly a quarter of its budget from the payments. It’s one of a number of schools on the chopping block from the new budget, which is a milder form of Gov. Kasich’s proposed financial blueprint for the state’s next two years. Kasich’s plan would have cut half of the districts in Ohio while increasing funding for the other half, mostly low-income rural and urban districts. State lawmakers have eased some of those cuts, but the prospect of losing money has caused ire among schools like Princeton, Lakota and others.

• There are a lot of other things happening in the state house today. Lawmakers are mulling whether to eliminate funding for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests. The state’s GOP legislators would like to eliminate the $33 million used to administer the tests, effectively killing them off. Part of the reason lawmakers want to eliminate them is that they’re tied to so-called federal Common Core standards. State Republicans are generally opposed to the standards, though Gov. John Kasich supports them. The tests’ roll-out this year has also been rocky, marked by complaints about glitches and difficulty. But there could be a big price tag for the political statement being made by eliminating the tests:  the loss of more than $750 million in federal money for education in Ohio, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

• Elsewhere in the state house, the GOP is raising ire among its own with other measures in the state budget. Republican State Auditor David Yost has cried foul at an attempt to remove oversight of disputes about public records requests from his bailiwick. State lawmakers say that the auditor’s office is responsible for financial accountability of state offices, not their public records. They want to remove the auditor’s power to receive complaints about public records requests and issue information and citations about such requests. Yost says removing his office’s power to oversee public records request issues weakens his ability to hold other public offices accountable and is unconstitutional. The Ohio Newspaper Association has also come out against the move. Reporters file a lot of public records requests, after all, and I for one don't want to have to sue someone every time I want some information that YOU should be able to know.

• What’s going on in national news, you ask? Stories about Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s Chipotle trip continue, revealing little other than the utter intellectual bankruptcy of some of the national political press. The initial story about the stop in the Maumee, Ohio, Chipotle earlier this week was a bit of a campaign stunt in and of itself (Hillary’s campaign staff tipped off the New York Times about the stop, leading to this incredibly important breaking news) and now we’ve just spun down into the dregs of mindless chatter about a burrito bowl. Not even a real burrito! Burritos are for eating, not for think-piecing. Why do you folks get paid to do this, again?

Meanwhile, Kasich is getting some interesting press that could boost his chances in the Republican 2016 primary contest for the presidential nomination. National publications are calling him everything from the "GOP's Strongest Candidate" to the "GOP's Moderate Backstop." Ah, national media. Gotta love it.

I'm out. Tweet at me, email me, hit me up on Livejournal. Just kidding. I haven't logged into Livejournal in forever. Weeks, at least.

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<![CDATA['Carol' Will Be in Competition at Cannes]]>

It's official.

Carol, the 1950s-set drama about an affair between two women that was filmed last year in Cincinnati, will compete for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. That will be its long-awaited premiere.

It is one of only two films by U.S. directors in the much-vaunted competition, according to Variety. The announcement was made at a press conference in Cannes today.

Directed by Todd Haynes (I'm Not There, Far From Heaven) with Christine Vachon as one of its producers, the film stars Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Sarah Paulson and is based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. Variety succinctly describes Carol's story as "about a lonely young department-store clerk who falls for an elegant older woman in 1950s New York."

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."

However, because financing of movies is often international, Carol is actually listed as a U.S.-U.K. co-production. And another film in competition by a non-U.S. director, the French-Canadian Denis Villeneuve's Sicario, is listed as solely a U.S. production.

Because the 14 films announced for competition are lower than in past years, Variety suggests several more may be added. This will be the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival, the world's most prestigious, and occurs May 13-24.

To read the full Variety story, go here.

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