I spent last weekend in Kentucky at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville watching a half-dozen brand new works. The festival is an invigorating whirl of creativity, conviviality and engaging performances.
When I was a high school senior and the teacher who staged the school plays — her name was Mary Price — picked Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew,
there was a lot of moaning and groaning. Why do we have to perform in
some dusty old play from centuries earlier?
A crowd of female playwrights came
together in New York City in 2008 to express their concern that works by
women were not getting produced by that city’s theaters. More than 150
playwrights attended the gathering, resulting in standing-room-only at
It was 35 years ago when I first heard
about a new Broadway musical, the story of a Victorian serial murderer whose
victims were ground up for meat pies. My first reaction to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was disbelief.
It’s award season in the theater world,
locally and elsewhere, when past work is pored over to find outstanding
productions and performances, accolades are bestowed, “thank you”
speeches are made and egos are boosted or blasted.
I’ve been a theater critic for almost
three decades. I’m an optimist: I routinely attend shows hoping to be
pleased or surprised. Doesn’t always happen, of course, but I keep going
back. Maybe that’s a little crazy, but I’ve kept at it for all these
years because our Cincinnati theater scene gets better and better, and I
want everyone to hear about it.
I don’t have the bandwidth nor does CityBeat
have enough space to write often about community theaters — groups of
volunteers who produce and perform in shows, often for audiences in a
specific neighborhood — but that’s not because they don’t do a good job.
You won’t find cutting-edge material
onstage at the Carnegie. The theater’s managing director Joshua Steele
has mastered two elements: He collaborates with a wide array of local
theater artists and companies, and he produces works that are, by and
large, familiar fare.