CityBeat Blogs - Arts http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-37.html <![CDATA[REVIEW: Cincinnati Opera's 'La Calisto']]>

Don't walk. Run to the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) to catch the remaining performances of La Calisto, an opera composed in 1653 that's equal parts romance and raunch, performed by a superb cast of singers, instrumentalists and dancers who are all clearly having a wonderful time.

Composer Franceso Cavalli was savvy enough to take opera out of palaces and into public theaters, where he made a fortune. He used the story of virgin Calisto, a follower of the goddess Diana, who is seduced by Jove and transformed into a bear by the vengeful Juno. Diana has her own problems with hormones and so does another of her followers. There's not much sacred and a lot of profane, not to mention profanity.

There's a lot of transformation going on: Jove disguises himself as Diana to get it on with Calisto, meaning that bass baritone Daniel Okulitch puts on a long white robe, dons a wig and sings in convincing falsetto. A horny follower of Diana is sung by a male, a high soprano takes on the role of a frustrated satyr — and just what gender are the rest of Pan's satyrs and Diana's huntresses? Ted Huffman's staging is witty and occasionally wild; the battle between Pan's and Diana's tribes seems to involve more than the six or seven dancers onstage, thanks to the acrobatic choreography of Zack Winokur.

Okulitch sings Jove with the requisite authority and gravitas, which also renders him ridiculous when lust for Calisto overtakes him. Okulitch is equally adept singing in falsetto, which is no easy task when it involves vocal ornamentation. Andrew Garland, a great recitalist with innate comic instincts, is a natural as Jove's gofer Mercury.

Aaron Blake may be diminutive in stature but he has a huge, ringing tenor, and he was a hilarious Pan. Michael Maniaci sang Diana's lover Endymion, his pure male soprano giving the role genuine tenderness. Thomas Michael Allen sang the libidinous nymph Linfea entirely in falsetto.

The women are all excellent, especially soprano Nathalie Paulin, a convincingly innocent Calisto. Mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano was a formidable Diana, singing with authority and melting emotion. Alisa Jordheim's agile soprano easily handled the demands of the frustrated Satirino, and Alexandra Deshorties embodies vengeance and fury as Juno.

The chamber orchestra is joined by the phenomenal Catacoustic Consort and during intermission, a lot of the audience stopped by the orchestra pit to check out the theorbos, Baroque harp, lirone and viola da gamba. Conductor David Bates led a lively, nuanced reading of the score.

The action plays out on a unit set used for last year's Galileo Galilei, with a wonderful star curtain that descends as Calisto ascends to the heavens to become Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper.

La Calisto is Cincinnati Opera's first Baroque opera and they couldn't have made a better choice. It's heavenly.


La Calisto, presented by Cincinnati Opera, continues July 23, 25 and 27 at SCPA's Corbett Theater. More info here.

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<![CDATA[Lois Rosenthal, Cincinnati Arts Patron, Has Died]]>

It is with sadness that we report the death of one of Cincinnati's great art patrons, Lois Rosenthal, at age 75. This notice was in today's issue of The New York Times:

ROSENTHAL--Lois, 75, on July 20, 2014, died peacefully. She is survived by her husband Richard, their children Jennie (Allan) Berliant and David, her grandchildren Elizabeth and Andrew Berliant and Eva and Mae Rosenthal, and her brother Harvey (Mary) Reis. An activist, environmentalist, supporter and participant in organizations that defended the oppressed, the hungry, and the disadvantaged, she initiated many programs and activities. From the Ohio Innocence Project which has exonerated 17 wrongfully convicted people, to the Fresh Produce initiative at the Freestore Foodbank, and the Rosey Reader Program which has provided books to over 30,000 Cincinnati Public School children, grades K-3, to foster a love of reading, to her creation of Uptown Arts which provides free classes in art, music, acting and dance to five-ten year old city kids. During Lois' 28-year tenure on the board of the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, she and her husband established the Rosenthal New Play Prize which produced 15 world premier productions, several nominated both for the Pulitzer Prize and produced in New York. As a member of the Board of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Lois and Dick endowed the museum to allow free admission in perpetuity. Lois was also a member of the Board of The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. There, once again drawing on her compassion for those with little or no voice, she envisioned, championed and funded Invisible: Slavery Today, the world's first museum-quality, permanent exhibition on the subjects of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Along the way, Lois wrote a weekly consumer column for the Cincinnati Enquirer for 10 years, had a call-in radio show, and wrote features for several national magazines. Among her seven books, Living Better was a Book of the Month Club selection. Lois relaunched Story magazine in 1989 with her husband. In five of the 10 years she edited Story, it was nominated for the National Magazine Award for short fiction. In two of those years Story won the prestigious award. Like the founders of Story-- Whit Burnet and Martha Foley-- who first published the works of today's marquis writers, Lois first published stories by Juno Diaz, Elizabeth Graver and Nathan Englander among others. Mother, wife, friend to many, Lois Rosenthal transformed organizations, intellectually and with creative determination. We're all better for her high standards, her dynamic personality, the impact she made on so many lives, and her contagious enthusiasm for doing good.
There will be a memorial service in the Marx Theater at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 15.
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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Kentucky's the Place for Theater this Weekend]]>

The Commonwealth Theatre Company's production of Route 66 continues its dinner-theater run at Northern Kentucky University. It's about a band traveling from Chicago to the West Coast in the 1960s along one of America's most legendary highways. Along the way, they meet a lot of colorful characters and see a lot of America. Wes Carman, Roderick Justice, Dain Alan Paige and Joshua Steele make up "The Chicago Avenue Band," who make stops at juke joints, diners, cheap motels and curio shops in this coming of age story. Through July 27. Dinner and the show ($30): 859-572-5464.

Last Saturday evening I ended up at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas to see teacher Jason Burgess's production of The Addams Family featuring a herd of high school kids from all over Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It's a perfect musical for the program Burgess has created (C.A.S.T, the Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre), bringing together a ton of students who are in love with theater. Surrounding the central characters in The Addams Family, nicely portrayed by Aaron Schilling as Gomez, Lindsey Gwen Franxman as Morticia and Harrison Swayne as Uncle Fester, are 18 ghostly "ancestors." Each one is costumed (designer Laura Martin) from various periods with a clearly evident character; together they sing and dance as a coherent company. (Amy Burgess served as the production's choreographer, and Alex Gartner is the music director — in creepy makeup.) Through Sunday at 2 p.m. General admission ($10) at the door or online via www.showtix4u.com.

Monday evening at 8 p.m. brings the third installment of Serials! at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine). It's a wacky summer-long set of a half-dozen episodic plays by local playwrights. So far we have seen meat falling from the sky, an NSA spook monitoring a contentious couple, a kid refusing to go to a funeral, a philosophical fetus, a suicidal pair competing over techniques and more. Each 10-15 minute episode is preceded by a clever recap to catch you up, even if it's your first time there. Rest assured there are cliffhangers — not to mention Know's well-stocked Underground Bar. Admission is $15. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Opera, Dinner Theater and More]]>

I saw Cincinnati Opera's production of Silent Night on Thursday evening. It's the regional premiere of a work that won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for music, and our local opera is doing a bang-up job of presenting it. And "bang-up" is the operative term: This opera is set during some of the darkest days of World War I, and the opening segment of the production reproduces the violent and deadly combat between troops from England (actually a regiment from Scotland), France and Germany. You're not likely to see a more gripping onstage representation of battle than what's happening at Music Hall. Before Thursday's performance I listened to composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell talk about how to "musicalize" such a scene: Their research included studying the opening sequence of the Saving Private Ryan, the graphic, Academy Award-winning film of the D-Day invasion during World War II. It's a powerfully real scene, a perfect opening to the moving tale of soldiers pitted as enemies who found common ground in one another's humanity on Christmas Eve 1914. You can get good seats for the concluding performance on Saturday evening (7:30 p.m.) for $30-$45 by calling the Opera's box office: 513-241-2742.

Area high school students are the talent in onstage for Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre (C.A.S.T.) at Highlands High School (2400 Memorial Pkwy., Fort Thomas). Starting tonight is a two-week run (July 11-20) of The Addams Family, a Broadway musical based on cartoonist Charles Addams' bizarre and beloved family of characters. The group is headed up by Fort Thomas theater instructor Jason Burgess, who has assembled theater kids from the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky who are eager to develop their skills in performance and production. Tickets: $10 (http://www.showtix4u.com) or at the door.

The Tony Award-winning musical next to normal, about a woman with bipolar disorder, gets not one but two productions by Cincinnati-area community theaters: Sunset Players on the West Side and Paradise Players for East Side siders. You can choose between them tonight. The venerable Sunset Players, which presents shows at the Dunham Arts Center (in the Dunham Recreation Complex, 4320 Guerley Rd., Price Hill), has performances through July 26, mostly at 8 p.m. Tickets ($14-$16): 513-588-4988. Meanwhile, Paradise Players, a newish group offering summer productions at McNicholas High School's Jeanne Spurlock Theatre (6536 Beechmont Ave.), is presenting its rendition of the show this weekend only, tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15 (http://mcnhs.seatyourself.biz).

Tickets tend to be a bit harder to come by at Northern Kentucky University for a dinner-theater production by Commonwealth Theatre Company of Route 66. It's about a band traveling from Chicago to the West Coast in the 1960s along one of America's most legendary highways. Along the way, they meet a lot of colorful characters and see a lot of America. The production features four solid local performers: Wes Carman, Roderick Justice, Dain Alan Paige and Joshua Steele are likely to make this a very entertaining evening. Through July 27. Dinner and the show ($30): 859-572-5464.

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<![CDATA[Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Expands Access to LumenoCity Series]]> The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has announced expanded access to their forthcoming LumenoCity series at Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park after initial tickets sold out in 12 minutes.

At last year’s inaugural LumenoCity, a total of 35,000 spectators were dazzled over the course of two nights as Music Hall was lit up with three-dimensional graphics, bringing OTR to life with a visual and musical spectacle.

When tickets for a trio of concerts on Aug. 1-3 became available to the general public in June, CSO clocked more than 300,000 visits to its website, and the event capacity of 37,500 over three nights was reached in 12 minutes.

CSO has unveiled plans to make the groundbreaking concert experience open to an even larger number of Cincinnatians, streaming each concert live on the web at lumenocity2014.com and broadcasting to nearly 900,000 households throughout the region.

“From day one, LumenoCity has been guided by a spirit and character of equity, access and generosity,” said CSO President Trey Devey. “Demand for the event far exceeds the capacity of the Washington Park viewing area.”

“Now, we’re able to make this free event available on television, radio, live simulcast sites and the worldwide web. It is our goal to reach as many people as possible with LumenoCity and highlight the extraordinary creative energy of our community.”

90.9 WGUC, Cincinnati’s classical public radio station, will broadcast the performance live on Friday, Aug. 1, which will open LumenoCity up to listeners who can eye Music Hall from hilltops or rooftops. Public television station CET will air the event on Saturday, Aug. 2.

In addition to live Internet streams, the third and final performance will be simulcast at Fountain Square and Riverbend Music Center on Sunday, Aug. 3. Additionally, CSO will issue 5,000 free tickets for a dress rehearsal on Thursday, July 31.

CSO is also putting 3,300 newly released tickets for the trio of shows up for grabs, which will be issued for free via a drawing. Patrons may register at lumenocity2014.com, but those who already have reserved tickets will not be eligible.

The 2014 LumenoCity concert performances will begin at 8:30 p.m. each of the three evenings with John Morris Russell conducting the Orchestra as the Cincinnati Pops. After a brief intermission, Music Director Louis Langrée will lead the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

The visual effects will accompany a live 40-minute CSO program featuring works from Copland, John Adams, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Borodin.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Cincinnati Stages Are Waking up This Week ]]>

Cincinnati stages were pretty quiet over the Independence Day weekend, but this week they start waking up and getting ready for more. Tonight at 8 p.m. is the second installment of Serials! at Know Theatre. You can see six fresh, 10-minute episodes of brand-new plays by local playwrights — Trey Tatum, Chris Wesselman, Jon Kovach, Ben Dudley, Michael Hall and the team of Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin — and featuring lots of Cincinnati-area actors. New artistic director Andrew Hungerford calls it a "theater party" offering cold beer, air-conditioning and world-premiere stories in Know's Underground bar (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine). Even if you missed the "pilots" on June 23, you'll get caught up with a recap before each episode. I had a blast watching these tantalizing tidbits two weeks ago, and I suspect tickets will become harder to get as the summer progresses. (Subsequent performances on July 21, Aug. 11 and 25 and Sept. 8.) Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.


Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is assembling a cast for its season opener, Hands on a Hardbody (Sept. 3-21), a recent Tony-nominated musical about 10 people vying to win a truck by outlasting their competitors and keeping their hands touching the vehicle — which will be onstage at the Over-the-Rhine theater (1127 Vine St.). ETC is seeking actors, singers and dancers for the show with an open audition on Wednesday this week (July 9, 5-8 p.m.). All are welcome, but an appointment is required. (Contact bholmes@ensemblecincinnati.com) Ensemble Theatre is an AEA Theatre. Union and non-union actors are encouraged to apply. Rehearsals begin August 11. ETC is seeking a diverse cast, and all ethnicities are encouraged to apply, especially African-American men and Hispanic males and females.

ETC had a big hit on its hands three years ago with the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal about a woman with bipolar disorder. In fact it was such a draw that they revived it in the summer of 2012. Although the Rock musical is a challenging work, this week features not one but two productions by Cincinnati-area community theaters: Sunset Players on the West Side and Paradise Players on the East Side. Both productions open Friday evening. The venerable Sunset Players, which presents shows at the Dunham Arts Center (in the Dunham Recreation Complex, 4320 Guerley Rd., Price Hill), has performances through July 26, mostly at 8 p.m. (July 20 is a 2 p.m. matinee.) Tickets ($14-$16): 513-588-4988. Meanwhile, Paradise Players, a newish group offering summer productions at McNicholas High School's Jeanne Spurlock Theatre (6536 Beechmont Ave.), will offer the show just this week, July 10-11 (7:30 p.m.) and July 12 (2:30 and 7:30 p.m.). Tickets: $15 (http://mcnhs.seatyourself.biz

Area high schoolers now have Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre (C.A.S.T.) as a summer outlet for theatrical opportunities at Highlands High School (2400 Memorial Pkwy., Fort Thomas). Starting Friday is a two-week run (July 11-20) of The Addams Family, a Broadway musical based on the bizarre and beloved family of characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams. C.A.S.T., headed by Fort Thomas Independent Schools' theater instructor Jason Burgess, enables kids from the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky to develop their skills in performance and production beyond their school year and beyond their school population. Tickets: $10 (http://www.showtix4u.com) or at the door.
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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Options Abound]]>

There's a great array of theater this weekend, no matter what you like. That's a good thing, because local theater, like baseball, takes a kind of midsummer break (no All-Star Game onstage anywhere, however). So get out and see something this weekend, then enjoy the fireworks and picnics next. Here are some suggestions:

Traditionally entertaining shows can be found at two professional theaters. At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, it's the closing weekend for Private Lives, a very witty classic comedy about marriage by Nöel Coward. (CityBeat review here.) Two couples are honeymooning in the south of France, in adjacent hotel rooms. Things go awry when one husband and the other wife cross paths by chance. They were once married to one another, and the spark quickly rekindles, despite the fact that they had a very volatile chemistry. It's a great piece for four comic actors, and Cincy Shakes has a great cast to handle it. Staged by Ensemble Theatre's D. Lynn Meyers. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.

A different kind of couple is showcased at Covedale Center, where Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys is in its final weekend. Two guys who were comic partners in the days of vaudeville — and who grew very tired of one another — are brought together for a TV special about the "good old days." They don't much want to do it, but they're coaxed, and the results of their bickering and nastiness makes for a lot of laughter. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.

A new theater company, Stone on a Walk, has its inaugural production this weekend, a low-budget performance of Cain by Lord Byron at the Art Academy's lecture hall, a venue familiar to Fringe Festival mavens. Yes, the playwright is that Romantic poet George Gordon you might recall from lit classes. He also wrote plays, and this one from 1821 focuses on Adam and Eve's first son, resentful that his parents' transgressions have forced them out of Eden and made death a real possibility. He spars with Lucifer, still hanging around to make trouble, and is at odds with his pious brother Abel, as well as his wife Adah. Things don't go well, as you might recall — Cain becomes the first murderer. John Leo Muething has put together a three-show season for his new theater venture, Stone on a Walk, with a one-weekend performance of each work (more to follow in July and August). This one features three actresses: Caitlyn Maurmeier is Cain; Hannah Rahe is Adah, Cain's dutiful wife; and Aiden Sims plays Lucifer and Abel. The casting of females in male roles is unusual, and the doubling of Sims as villain and victim might cause a bit of confusion (although she plays Lucifer with sinister hissing vigor, while Abel is the picture of sincerity). The 70-minute performance is done with no stage lighting or scenery; the final section, with actors on the floor, is hard to see unless you're in the front row or two. Cain is a lot of talking, poetry and high emotions, but Maurmeier powerfully renders Cain's despair, and Sims is very watchable as Lucifer. Tickets ($10) at the door; the Art Academy is at 1212 Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine.

How about a showcase of excerpts from Cincinnati's community theaters? Friday evening and all day Saturday that's what's happening at Parrish Auditorium at Miami University's Hamilton campus (1601 University Blvd., Hamilton). Four 30-minute selections tonight include A Midsummer Night's Dream and Les Misérables, and eight more tomorrow morning and afternoon (GodspellSteel MagnoliasNunsense and Tommy are among them). Each performance will be assessed and a few will be selected for a statewide competition in early September. Cincinnati has a lot of excellent community theater, and this is your opportunity to see some of the best shows that have been offered during the 2013-2014 season. Ticket information: http://bit.ly/1lkw098.

And in the off-week between Cincinnati Opera's opening production of Carmen and the upcoming staging of Silent Night, opera seekers might want to check out two works presented by the North American New Opera Workshop (they shorthand that name as "NANOWorks") at Below Zero's Cabaret Room (1122 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine). It's the midwest premiere of Marie Incontrera's At the Other Side of the Earth, a riot girl opera followed by Eric Knechtges's Last Call (Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m.,Sunday at 2 p.m.). Incontrera's piece combines classical performance with punk sensibilities; the piece by Knechtges (who is head of the musical composition program at Northern Kentucky University) is loosely based on the Cincinnati gay bar scene and includes at "techno/house aria" and a high-energy drag performance. This is definitely not your grandmother's opera. Tickets: $20 at the door. 
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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Keep the Groove Going]]>

Probably the most entertaining thing onstage right now is Private Lives at Cincinnati Shakespeare. It's been selling so well that 2 p.m. matinee performances have been added this Saturday and June 28. (It closes on June 29.) It's the story of honeymoons going bad when a feisty divorced couple decide to reunite rather than stick with their new spouses — when they find themselves coincidentally in adjacent hotel rooms in Southern France. (CityBeat review here.) Cleverly staged by Ensemble Theatre's Lynn Meyers, using four of Cincy Shakes best actors. Of course it's all improbable and overdone, but that's a Noël Coward play for you — witty, silly and lots of fun. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.

You'll find laughs elsewhere with the Covedale Center's just-opened production of The Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon, a master of comedy. It's about a pair of vaudeville partners who spent 40 years working together and ended up not speaking. But they're being coaxed to come together to re-stage one of their old routines for a TV special. Rehearsals don't go well and the actual live broadcast spirals down from there. Simon is a master of one-liners, and this show has a million of them. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.

If Monday leaves you still looking for something onstage, Know Theatre is ready to open its doors for something entertaining: Serials! All summer long at two-week intervals (starting Monday) there will be 15-minute episodes of plays by local writers. This week you'll get to see pilots of Mars vs. The Atom by Trey Tatum, Flesh Descending by Chris Wesselman, The Funeral by Jon Kovach, The Listener by Mike Hall and Fetus and the God by Ben Dudley. These stories are open-ended and audience response will be a factor in where they go. If some of those names sound familiar, it's because most of them are veterans of the Cincy Fringe. If you had a good time there earlier this month, here's a way to keep your groove going. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.]]>
<![CDATA[CAC Offers Extended Thursday Hours for Summer]]>

Fresh off its 2014-2015 season announcement, Downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center adds a new promotion to its calendar of exhibits, performances and special events.

Night Museum gives visitors a chance to check out the CAC during evening hours every Thursday. From 5-9 p.m., guests can view the latest exhibit, shop the CAC Store, enjoy a cash bar and mingle with other art appreciators. Admission is $7.50; $5.50 for seniors, students and educators; and free for children under 5 and all members. Paid visitors can park for free Thursdays in July at the Central Parking Garage (36 E. Seventh Street).

This week's Night Museum coincides with a special event from One Night One Craft, the CAC's DIY workshop series. Chef Trinidad Mac-Auliffe of Raw Intervention will demonstrate cool recipes — literally — highlighting dishes prepared without heat. Munch on raw creations, then try making some of your own fro 6-8 p.m. One Night One Craft continues Mondays through July.

The CAC is typically open until 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and offers free admission from 5-9 p.m. Mondays. Find more info here.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Cincy Shakes]]>

What with the Fringe Festival finished up last weekend, there's not so much to choose from in the world of local theater. But there is a piece of frothy entertainment at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company that is a perfect summer refreshment: It's Noel Coward's Private Lives. The show (created in 1929) is indeed a classic — making it perfect material for Cincy Shakes — but it's a very funny comedy about a pair of lovers who can't stand to be apart and who have problems being together.

They were married for three years, spent too much time fighting and decided to divorce. As the show opens, they're on honeymoons with new spouses, but they end up coincidentally in adjacent rooms at a hotel in the south of France. When the encounter one another on the patio, they old spark is there, which leads them to run off together. As you might imagine, a lot of foolishness ensues -- including them returning to the alternating currents of being in love and throwing things at one another. The couple are played by two Cincy Shakes vets, Jeremy Dubin and Kelly Mengelkoch, who just happen to be married to one another. Their jilted second spouses are also fine actors from the company: the sprightly Sara Clark and the versatile Brent Vimtrup (astonishing as Hamlet earlier this year) now playing a boorish dud. Lots of laughs along the way as this tale unravels, gets tangled and winds up.

Private Lives opened a week ago and has been selling exceptionally well: I saw a performance on Thursday evening that was completely sold-out, and they announced that most of this weekend's tickets have been claimed. But you should call to see what's available. Through June 29. Tickets ($21-$35): 513-381-2273.

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<![CDATA[Matters of our Art: Manifest Gallery's Artists in Residence]]>

There was something magnetic about Manifest Gallery when I walked into it late last Thursday afternoon.

And it wasn’t the space, designed to be charming with its recently opened art shows, the echoes of my slow-moving footsteps and the lost keystrokes of someone at a nearby office desk.

It was the well-curated combination of two resident artists hiding away behind those things — tangled in freshly minted work, upcoming moves and new things to create.

Nicholas Mancini and Jeremy Plunkett were in their neighboring studios sifting through iTunes and working on their prospective projects when I found them in the building’s back half. They were thinking about their past year in Cincinnati, and the artwork that was a result of it.

“Immediately it’s like this last breath and now I’m almost lost as to where I’m going to go,” Mancini says. “Your work is going there up to this point and now it’s out there. You’re done with it, and now it’s up.”

The two resident artists (plural for the first time this year), who are both painters from life (though they both work in other mediums too), opened their end-of-the-residency exhibition MAR Showcase May 30.

Mancini’s portion of the show is made by a compelling collection of moments painted perceptual remnants in his show Vestige, and Plunkett’s by an intimate, meticulously detailed collection of photorealistic light paintings in his show Container.

“I always find myself very attracted to what’s called the sublime feeling, and I try to get there with my work and it’s always been a theme,” Plunkett says. “Can I represent light in the most pure, realistic way?”


Plunkett is the type of artist who will trick you (cause you to triple-take a work until you realize it isn’t a photograph, but a humanly rendered painting), and one whose extraordinary attention to detail made me wish I knew something as preciously as he does his 6-by-4-inch, light-through-plastic-bag paintings.

Also hewn with oil, Mancini’s work balances Plunkett’s beautifully. Emotional abstractions of figures, still life and portraits reminded me first of some sweet melody, without any close look at or step up to. Full of fleeting pleasure and the sunset’s best colors, his work is briefer, shattered, and is able to catch you just in time to fall as you do.

“There’s a painting in the show that I did of my microwave and it’s like this thing, this moment,” Mancini says. “There’s this moment in a day where you go to open it and you go to put your coffee in because it’s been sitting there all day and it’s cold now, and you stop yourself and this thing you look at everyday becomes something else. And actually, I kind of like that way of thinking about it. When something becomes something else.”

After studying in several different art programs, graduating in 2010 and traveling through Norway and Italy for a year and a half, Mancini came to Manifest from his hometown of Swampscott, Mass. Plunkett came from Milwaukee after having earned his MFA at Ohio University, teaching art classes for a couple of years and then breaking from art to focus on cycling, before he again began craving a space that would enable him creatively.

Which is exactly what each of them got.

“They showed a high degree of commitment to a vein of work which showed strong intellect, a relationship to the broader history of the practice without being derivative, and a consistency that promised a trajectory that could be boosted by immersion an intense one-year program like ours,” says Jason Franz, Manifest executive director. “Based on their solo exhibits at the gallery I can say this has proven to be so true, as I am delighted with the results of this first set of MAR showcase exhibitions.”

Just before I left their studios, Plunkett caught me to tell me something I’d forgotten to ask him: that he and Mancini would leave the city with something beyond their new collections and everything that came with delving deeply into themselves during such a precise stretch of time. They’d leave with the memories and results that come from a shared residency, city and companionship that pushed and pondered and grew together as they did.

Leaning in the doorway between their two workspaces, Mancini merely turned up the corners of his mouth, nodded in agreement and then walked back to his blank canvas.

MAR Showcase features an artists' gallery talk at 5 p.m. Saturday and closes June 27. Manifest Creative Research Gallery, 2727 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, manifestgallery.org.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Wrapping up Fringe]]>

Just two more days of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, so here are a few recommendations for great shows you can still catch. (Look for reviews of these performances on CityBeat's Fringe page here.) Many Fringe performances are sold-out, so check in advance to be sure seats are still available: cincyfringe.com.

I was very impressed by Christine Dye's moving performance in Kevin Crowley's one-woman show, Sarge, about a woman whose husband is accused of child molestation. It's final offering is tonight at 7 p.m. Four Humors' An Unauthorized Autobiography of Benny Hill epitomizes the off-kilter nature of the Fringe, a piece that's funny and poignant. Last chance to see it is Saturday at 8:45 p.m. If you like storytelling, you can catch two of those on Saturday evening: Mike Fotis's Fotis Canyon (7 p.m.) and Paul Strickland's Papa Squat's Store of Sorts (9 p.m.) You might also want to check out the intern showcase at Ensemble Theatre, which just opened on Thursday evening; performances Friday (7:45 p.m.) and Saturday (1 and 7 p.m.). It includes some fine acting in some unusual scripts. True Theatre is offers another Fringe iteration featuring its own brand of revelatory truth-telling, featuring several Fringe artists providing back stories about their careers and experiences. That's at 9 p.m. tonight at Coffee Emporium. 

If your taste is for more traditional — but equally entertaining — theater, head to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Noël Coward's Private Lives, a witty comedy classic from 1930. A formerly married couple find themselves on honeymoons with new spouses, but in close proximity to one another. Trouble ensues. Four of Cincy Shakes best actors — Kelly Mengelkoch, Jeremy Dubin, Sara Clark and Brent Vimtrup — constitute the cast. It opens tonight and continues through June 29. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273, x1.

Finally, whether or not you're a fan of garage sales, you might be interested in what's happening on Saturday morning, 8 a.m. to noon, at the Cincinnati Playhouse's Scenery Shop (2827 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills, across from Thomson-MacConnell Cadillac): It's the regional theater's annual sale of props, furniture, dresses and more. If you're a regular at the Playhouse, you might recognize items from productions of A Delicate Ship, The Trip to Bountiful, Thunder Knocking on the Door, As You Like It and more. You'll have your choice of lots of miscellaneous items like china and glassware, dining chairs, tables and desks, area rugs, a bathtub and even a "concrete cherub planter." There's also a collection of 20th-century "day dresses," along with some formal gowns and fabric yardage. Prices are cheap; payment must be by cash or check. All items are sold "as is." 
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<![CDATA[Cincinnati Art Museum Purchases Courttney Cooper Map]]>

Old embraced new in a powerful way when Cincinnati’s oldest art institution, the Cincinnati Art Museum, purchased a new piece from local, contemporary artist Courttney Cooper this week.

"Cincinnati Map" is now part of the museum’s permanent collection and skillfully depicts the buildings, streets, and roadways that make our city one Cooper never tires of drawing. A piecemeal of 8.5-by-11-inch repurposed papers, "Cincinnati Map" is a Bic pen line rendition of downtown Cincinnati that Cooper worked on for a year and brought to life by memory alone.

"Courttney Cooper is one of the most ambitious and compelling artists working in Cincinnati,“ says Matt Distel, CAM adjunct curator of contemporary art. “His work not only speaks to Cincinnati but also addresses more universal concepts about how people experience their environment.”

Grown out of Northside’s Visionaries + Voices studio and gallery, "Cincinnati Map" was shown in Cooper’s first museum show at the Cincinnati Art Museum last year and will now be exhibited there as curatorial opportunities for it emerge.

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<![CDATA[CAC Announces 2014-15 Season]]> The Contemporary Arts Center today announced its upcoming visual arts exhibition season, as well as several events in its performance schedule. Here is the release, edited for length:

Visual Arts Exhibition Season:

Memory Palace (Sept. 12, 2014-Feb.16, 2015)
Curated by Steven Matijcio
On the occasion of the CAC's 75th anniversary, this exhibition will present memory as soft, malleable clay. Rather than renewing the supposed fixity of facts, Memory Palace will revel in remembering as a creative act: highlighting the way our recollections shift actual histories into imperfect, obstructed, quintessentially human legacies.
Confirmed artists for this landmark exhibition include Louise Bourgeois, Spencer Finch, Mike Kelley, William Kentridge, Guillermo Kuitca, Jun Nguyen- Hatsushiba, Hans Op de Beeck, Dennis Oppenheim, Katrin Sigurdardottir and others to be announced. The CAC's extended community will also contribute to this project as we gather your stories in a variety of formats, from video interviews to forensic sketches. In turn, the CAC is commissioning reconfigurations of the organization's unofficial archives by artists like MK Guth, Nina Katchadourian and Kerry Tribe. This effort culminates in the CAC Lobby, where artist Pam Kravetz will orchestrate community-centric projects including a television show, carnivalesque games and a monumental memory quilt. 

Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs: Blockbuster (Sept. 12, 2014-Feb.16, 2015)
Curated by Kevin Moore
The Swiss-born, Berlin-based duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs respond with humor and wit to various traditions of modernist architecture, documentary photography and the heroic travelogue. By pecking at such constructions, the artists reveal a more whimsical, ironic and subjective vision of the structures and technologies that shape the ways we see and live. And while much of their practice is photographic, the artists' engagement with other media — film, sculpture, sound — sheds the artifice of objectivity to celebrate eccentric reconstructions of the world around us. This is the first major museum exhibition for Onorato and Krebs in the United States, presented by FotoFocus.

Duke Riley and Frohawk Two Feathers: Based on a True Story (Oct. 10, 2014-March 22, 2015)
Curated by Steven Matijcio
History's once unquestionable integrity has eroded over time, with as much fiction, interpretation and imagination revealed in the pages of our esteemed libraries as actual facts and events. Twisting fact, fantasy and fabrication into an outsider's view of western civilization, this exhibition brings together two artists who have turned historical fiction into a habitual calling. Boston-born Duke Riley marries what he calls "populist myth" and "reinvented historical obscurities" with field research, participatory craft and museological display. Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based Frohawk Two Feathers is an artist, historian, and self-described "myth-maker" who re-imagines 18th century colonial history through a fictive cast of slaves, revolutionaries, militiamen and aristocrats.

Anne Lindberg and Saskia Olde Wolbers: Unmade (Oct. 10, 2014-March 22, 2015)
Curated by Steven Matijcio
Artists Anne Lindberg and Saskia Olde Wolbers dissolve the familiarity that accumulates with time, habit and space. Lindberg pushes drawing on and off the page, obsessively inscribing lines that evade both resolution and definition. Dutch-born, London-based Wolbers orchestrates a cinematic fantasy with equal enigma. By submerging handmade sets into water and coaxing narratives to masquerade as reality, she melts the seemingly digital polish of her films with painterly contingency. The ensuing dialogue between the artist's works softens the geometry of the gallery space, obscuring hard lines and sharp corners to float towards a mysterious horizon.

Daniel Arsham: Erasing The Present (March 20-Aug. 16, 2015)
Curated by Steven Matijcio
The work of prodigious Cleveland-born artist Daniel Arsham is said to "make architecture do all the things it shouldn't." Blurring the lines between theatre and hallucination, some of his best-known works appear to melt the solidity of gallery walls, such that they appear to be dripping, folding, oozing or absorbing furniture. In more recent years he has begun to cast aging media devices — including cameras, film projectors and microphones — from granulated materials like volcanic ash, sand, crystal and crushed glass. This is the first large-scale Ohio exhibition for Arsham, who became widely known (at the age of 25) when asked to design a stage set for the legendary Merce Cunningham.

Albano Afonso: Self-Portrait As Light (March 20-Aug. 16, 2015)
Co-Curated by Steven Matijcio and Alice Grey Stites
For Brazilian artist Albano Afonso light is the elusive, but no less essential element that makes painting, photography, film and vision itself possible. Through photographs, installations, projections and luminous objects he gives light a sculptural presence, and measures its ability to both elucidate and obscure. Such affect is spoken through the language of art history, as Afonso reformulates time-honored traditions of portraiture, still life, vanitas and landscape. This will be Afonso's first major exhibition in the United States, and it will extend across the CAC and 21c Museum Hotel.

James Lee Byars and Matt Morris: the perfect kiss (QQ)* (April 17-Sept. 13, 2015)
Curated by Matt Morris
Throughout his life, American artist James Lee Byars (1932-97) framed his work with elusive notions of questioning and perfection. Both his enduring marriage and his flirtatiousness with German artist Josef Beuys (whom he sent lyrical letters and objects) serve as fodder for an exhibition that is both art and exchange. the perfect kiss (QQ)* is both a curatorial and creative undertaking for Morris, who will develop an installation of works by Byars in conjunction with a number of his own artistic interventions. The exhibition's title references a 1974 artwork by Byars, while also speaking to the 25th anniversary of Robert Mapplethorpe's exhibition The Perfect Moment

Titus Kaphar: The Vesper Project (April 17 – Sept. 13, 2015)
Co-Curated by Titus Kaphar and Steven Matijcio
Marrying appropriation, archaeology and iconoclasm, Kaphar's work sifts through the racial politics of art history. The Vesper Project is a massive sculptural statement in which his paintings are woven into the walls of a 19th century American house. It is the culmination of a five-year engagement with the lost storylines of the Vespers, a 19th century family who "passed" as a white family in New England even as their mixed heritage made them "Negro" in the eyes of the law. In this project, the members of this family and their histories are intertwined with Kaphar's autobiographical details, posing broader cultural questions of identity and truth.

Performance Season:

Taylor Mac: An Abridged Concert of The History of Political Popular Music (1939 – now) (September 2014)
Taylor Mac (who prefers the pronoun ‘judy’) is a “ragingly original and bracingly radical [and] best cabaret performer” from New York (TimeOut). The Obie Award-winning playwright, actor, and singer-songwriter transforms into a bedazzled creature who leads us into a decidedly personal history of music, ideas, and ways of being — in a hilarious and healing performance ritual. Mac delves deep into the history of political music for this performance, the latest in judy’s series of concerts exploring the last 240 years of popular songs in America. Funny and moving with a sweet, powerful voice, judy has the bantering skills of a veteran drag artist.

Ben Frost: A U R O R A live (October, 2014)
Ben Frost’s music is about contrast, influenced as much by classical minimalism as by punk rock and metal. It has a visceral presence, felt as much as heard. Muscular yet cerebral, ambient yet urgent, Frost’s compositions merge guitar-based textures, musique concrète samples, and building-shaking amplified electronics into sweeping digital soundscapes. A U R O R A is the Australian producer’s fifth album. The music leads the audience towards a bleak place filled with synthetic forms, decaying objects and metals devoid of emotion, exploring blinding luminescent alchemy; not with benign heavenly beauty but through decimating magnetic force. In 2010 he was awarded the music protégé in The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative and spent two years learning from and working with music producer, theorist, and composer, Brian Eno. Last year Frost debuted his first opera, The Wasp Factory, based on the Iain Banks novel and produced “The Enclave,” a multi-channel video and sound installation that premiered at the Venice Biennale.

Nils Frahm with Dawn of Midi (November 17, 2014)
Since his early childhood, Nils Frahm has been immersed in music, particularly in the styles of classical pianists before him as well as contemporary composers. Today Frahm works as an accomplished composer and producer from his Berlin-based Durton Studio. His unconventional approach to an age-old instrument, played contemplatively and intimately, has won him many fans around the world. Frahm displays an incredibly developed sense of control and restraint in his work, catching the ear of many fans. The recognition of his immense talent has been steadily growing thanks to his previous solo piano works, include Wintermusik (2009) and The Bells (2009), and Felt (2011). Last year, he returned with the celebrated new album Spaces, a collection of pieces that perfectly expresses Frahm’s love for experimentation and answers the call from his fans for a record that truly reflects what they have witnessed during his concerts.

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<![CDATA[CAC Seeks Proposals for Summer Performance Series]]>

The Contemporary Arts Center has issued a call for proposals for a Summer Performance Series. The deadline is June 13. Here is the announcement:

The CAC is now accepting proposals for original performance works by artists and collectives from or currently living in the Greater Cincinnati area for the 2014 Summer Performance Series. This series is designed to celebrate the diversity of the local artist community, encourage the development of live art in the region, and provide a new opportunity for artists to showcase new projects and/or works nearing the end of their development.

Working in parallel with the CAC’s Black Box Performance Series, we ask artists to take bold risks while surprising themselves and the audience. All performance works will be considered, though a preference towards the multidisciplinary, and those that challenge the artist’s norms, will be of greater interest. Projects will be selected through a proposal process, with an emphasis on new works in development and/or emerging artists. Each artist will work with the CAC performance team to prepare and execute their performance, while be required to create their own work as well as the organization and preparation for the series, the CAC will provide the space, load-in and day-of support, marketing, sound equipment, and projector if needed.

The Summer Performance Series will occur at 7 p.m. each Monday during the month of August 2014 within the CAC Black Box, located in the Lower Level. Each evening, two artists from the series will be given the room to realize their production, at a maximum of 50 minutes in length. A stipend of $350 will be provided for each project for creative and developmental support.

Deadline: All proposals must be submitted via email, and received by 5 p.m. Friday, June 13, 2014. Please send all applications to dklein@contemporaryartscenter.org or epahutski@contemporaryartscenter.org.

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<![CDATA[Matters of our Art: Portraits of the Artist]]> If you’ve been to the Cincinnati Art Museum recently, and specifically since March 22, you’ve probably found yourself lingering among portraits in a corner of the second floor. (Up the grand staircase and in Room 212, the space now designated as the museum’s photography gallery.)

And it might’ve been Jean Renoir’s doing. The filmmaker’s honest, sideways smirk that’s good at whispering you in to laugh at life at or with him.

For me, he was the one whose 77-year-old face, through the gap of a narrow doorway, led me in to look upon his ruthlessness magnified, given new life by Richard Avedon and brought to light by Brian Sholis, the museum’s new curator of photography.

“It wasn’t until the 1970s when museums started taking photography seriously,” Sholis says. “The art world stopped writing it off as so mechanical and lacking real talent, so museums like this one began acquiring a lot of it.”

Which explains the 4,000-field, photographical rundown Sholis was sent before moving from New York to Cincinnati to take his curatorial position in 2013. The database was a list of every museum-owned piece of photography, and while studying it, Sholis noticed a pattern: two recognizable names in one row, repeated. An artist by an artist. Portraits of the Artist. You see where this is going.

“For people who don’t know much about the history of photography, they’re given another chance to connect here, and I wanted my first exhibition to be as welcoming as possible,” Sholis says. “Here, there’s twice the chance of hitting upon someone a visitor could recognize.”

Out of four-dozen artists-by-artists photographs, Sholis narrowed his exhibition selection to 14 of them, presenting Frida Kahlo by Bernard Silberstein, Picasso (with his son Claude) by Robert Capa and Miles Davis by Lee Friedlander, among others.

The dancer in me was especially drawn to modern mover Merce Cunningham by Barbara Morgan, who took Cunningham’s photo like he crafted his dances — with good faith in chance.

She shot the double-exposure by retrogressing her film after an initial shot and snapping Cunningham again in another position, not realizing the two bodies as one image until they’d been developed, much like Cunningham frequently rolled a die to dictate his movements and their sequences.

And while, like the individual pieces themselves, the idea of the exhibition is stimulating and timely (I don’t need to tell anyone about the portrait-in-the-form-of-iPhone-selfie phenomenon), the placement of the pieces is also noteworthy, and very thoroughly Sholis-thought-through.

The Mexican artist portraits are grouped together alongside a couple of painted face performers; partners in work and life, John Cage and Merce Cunningham share an intimate space on a portion of the gallery’s west wall; and Miles Davis is situated alone and dominantly, glaring over onlookers while avoiding awkward eye contact with Renoir (after being moved when Sholis saw the staring contest).

“These are more than just casual snapshots even though they look that way,” Sholis says. “These are kind of dialogues between the artists themselves and their creators, the photographers.”

And, of course, you.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Full Speed Fringe]]> If you haven't found a couple of 2014 Cincinnati Fringe show that you're dying to see this weekend, you need to go to CityBeat's Fringe hub for some recommendations — including reviews of early performances of all 30-plus shows. But if you're still coming up short, there are more choices from area theaters. 

If it's fun you're seeking, you might want to stop by the Carnegie in Covington, where Showbiz Players is presenting Spamalot. It opens tonight and runs through June 8. You probably know that this very amusing musical (it won three 2005 Tony Awards, including best musical) is "lovingly ripped off" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you can repeat lines from that 1975 cult hit, then this is surely the show for you. Tickets ($21.50-$24.50): 859-957-1940

Although it's not part of the Fringe, Marc Bamuthi Joseph's red, black & GREEN: a blues surely could be. The hybrid performance work leads audiences through four seasons in four cities: summer in Chicago, fall in Houston, winter in Harlem and spring in Oakland. Memories, hallucinations, dreams and lamentations are set in shotgun houses and subway cars, on park benches and in father-son conversations. I haven't seen it, but people I know have raved about the power of the work, which ranges from hilarious to poignantly sad. Joseph is a spoken-word poet, and his work is meant to be a conversation starter about sustainability and community building. It's being presented on Friday and Saturday evening by the Contemporary Arts Center at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. Tickets ($18 for CAC members, $23 for everyone else): 513-621-2787

This is the final weekend for The North Pool at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (CityBeat review here.) Rajiv Joseph's anxiety-filled drama is a sparring match between a hard-nosed vice principal who thinks he knows something and a student, the son of Middle Eastern immigrants, who has things he wants to keep to himself — but it's not what the school official thinks. In fact, they both have secrets that are slowly, painfully revealed. Great script, great actors. This one is definitely worth catching. Tickets ($25 for students; $30-$75 for others): 513-421-3888

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Fringe and More]]>

The really big show this weekend happens tonight when the The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati present their eighth annual awards for high school theater productions and performers. Our local program is one of the most established, right up there with programs in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and beyond. Our local awards are presented at the Aronoff Center's Procter & Gamble Hall. In addition to the recognition of high school student performers, the evening offers excerpts from a dozen or so schools plus ensemble numbers featuring kids from all over the region — more than 20 schools participate in the program. An especially exciting aspect (at least from my point of view as a critic) is the fact that an element of the Cappies involves students attending one another's performances and writing about them. Tonight will open with a recognition of the outstanding boy and girl critics, and wrap up by citing the top team of high school critics. I'll be onstage at the Aronoff to present that award, as well as something new: An award for the "top critique" by a student writer. I had the privilege of choosing the winner, which will be posted on CityBeat's arts blog after the award ceremony. And to show how profoundly CityBeat is committed to cultivating arts coverage, we're inviting that winner to cover a high school Fringe Next production in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, which kicks off next week. No award for me, but I'm honored to be asked to hand out this recognition to the next generation of theater writers!

Speaking of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, I should remind you that it kicks off with a special party hosted by CityBeat on Tuesday. Performances begin on Wednesday evening (continuing through June 7). You can read my overview of the Fringe here touching on the many aspects of creativity, talent, emotion and flat-out fun that will be happening at venues throughout Over-the-Rhine and the northern edge of Downtown Cincinnati. For more information: www.cincyfringe.com.

It's Memorial Day weekend, which is sort of the end of the local theater season, but there's still plenty to see. Size Matters, Ray McAnally's entertaining one-man show about his career as a "hefty" actor gets its final performance on Sunday (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-421-3555), and the Cincinnati Playhouse's taut drama The North Pool is still available on its Shelterhouse Stage (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-421-3888).

One last tidbit: After many years of producing shows aboard the Showboat Majestic, Cincinnati Landmark Productions has pulled into port to stage its summer productions on dry land. They just opened a production of Jerry Herman's classic musical Hello, Dolly!, the kind of show that people have flocked to see on the 'Boat for decades. The Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is an interim stop: By next summer, CLP intends to steam into its new facility, The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater. If that name is unfamiliar, it's because it's just been announced. The savings and loan has been a West Side institution since 1893, and it's lending its venerable moniker to the brand-new 220-seat performing arts center, slated to break ground this summer. The fundraising effort seeking $5.6 million for the project is nearing completion. In the meantime, catch Hello, Dolly! between now and June 1. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Cat-and-Mouse Games at the Playhouse]]>

You really can't go wrong with a show at the Cincinnati Playhouse this weekend. I gave both productions Critic's Picks. The North Pool, on the Shelterhouse stage through June 1, is a taut dialogue between a suspicious high school vice principal and a wary student of Middle Eastern descent. (CityBeat review here.) It takes a while (the show is about 90 minutes, played in real time) to decide who's the good guy and who's the bad guy, and you'll be turned around several times in the process. Excellent acting and a fine script by Ohio native (and Miami University grad) Rajiv Joseph makes this an excellent theatrical experience. On the Playhouse's Marx Stage, it's the final weekend for another kind of cat-and-mouse game. Venus in Fur is all about sexual tension, between an imperious playwright/director and the woman who's auditioning for a role in a play he's adapted from an erotic novel. (CityBeat review here.) David Ives' witty and allusive script (it's literary and mythical in some most amusing ways) is being produced at theaters from coast-to-coast, but I can't imagine there's a finer production than this one anywhere. Tickets: ($30-$75) 513-421-3888.

At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, you still have two weeks to catch a rare production of The Two Noble Kinsmen. The play is rarely staged (perhaps with good reason: it's not one of Shakespeare's best), but Cincy Shakes' rendition is noteworthy because it's the final work to complete their endeavor of staging all 38 of the Bard's works. (More on that feat here; CityBeat review of The Two Noble Kinsmen here.) It's a feat accomplished by just a handful of theaters worldwide, and it's your chance to check this one off your bucket list. Through May 25. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273.

Falcon theater, which produces shows in the tiny Monmouth Theater in Newport, Ky., opens Bat Boy the Musical tonight. It's a show that was lifted from the headlines of the Weekly World News (yes, found in the finest grocery store check-out lines) about a strange creature found in a cave in West Virginia. Of course it's crazy, but the show is actually a really entertaining piece about acceptance and community. Three weekends, through May 31. Tickets ($17-$20): 513-479-6783

If you missed The Irish Curse presented by Clifton Players at the tiny Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow Avenue back in February and March, they've brought it back for a couple of weekends, this being the second of two. It's an amusing adult comedy about a bunch of guys fretting over the size of their "equipment." Tickets can be ordered online (brownpapertickets.com) or purchased at the door (but be aware: it's a small venue that quickly sells out).
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<![CDATA[Raphaela Platow on the CAC’s 2008-2009 Maria Lassnig Show]]>

When I interviewed Raphaela Platow, the Contemporary Arts Center’s director/chief curator, several weeks ago for this week’s CityBeat story about the institution’s 75th anniversary, I asked about some of the highlights of her tenure.

One was the 2008-2009 exhibition of abstracted and intense figurative paintings by then-octogenarian Austrian painter Maria Lassnig, who was little known in the U.S.

Platow had arranged for the show to travel here from London’s Serpentine Gallery, and it was presented as Lassnig’s first major solo U.S. museum show. It meant a lot to Platow, who as a native of Germany had been familiar with Lassnig’s work, and she was emotional addressing the audience on opening night. (The first CAC show Platow curated, work by Carlos Amorales, also opened that night.)

Because of space considerations, not much about the Lassnig show was included in the story, beyond noting it as an example of CAC’s prescience, since MoMA-PS1 currently has a major retrospective of her work and calls her “one of the most important contemporary painters.”

Lassnig died last week at age 94. So, as a tribute to and remembrance of her, here are some excerpts from the interview with Platow (that was done before Lassnig’s death):

“I had a very personal relationship to the exhibition because I loved the work for many years,” Platow said. “It was really surprising to me she had never had a show in the U.S. I really felt she was one of most prominent female painters there is, and there are not that many female painters of that generation who are not part of the history, part of the discourse.

“In the area of painting, it was always the heroic male creating these amazing canvases, and here was Maria always struggling and staying her course. It meant a lot to me to present this first exhibition, and ever since then she won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, and PS1 now has a big show of her work. I’m happy we sort of spearheaded that.”

Lassnig did not come to Cincinnati for the opening of her 2008 show here. And as Platow recalled, it wasn’t all that easy even to get her paintings to town.

“We ended up taking a show that Serpentine in London put together because it’s extremely difficult to work with her,” she said. “She didn’t want her paintings to fly over ocean.

“We had to separate them out and put them on three different planes. She didn’t want all her work to be on one cargo plane. And she was extremely afraid of the work traveling overseas on a trans-Atlantic flight. It was very strenuous to get it here.

“I was so happy we did it, and it was a beautiful show and very meaningful for me.”

Read more about the CAC’s 75th anniversary here.

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