by Rick Pender
7 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:46 PM | Permalink
This evening at its Jackson Street headquarters in
Over-the-Rhine, Know Theatre of Cincinnati revealed the lineup for the 11th
annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival to
a crowd of nearly 100 enthusiastic supporters and performers. The two-week
festival begins Tuesday, May 27, with the CityBeat
Fringe Kick-Off Party; it winds up 12 days later on Saturday, June 7, having
presented 32 productions — 17 plays, two musicals, seven solo performers, and
six dance presentations. In addition, there will be four FringeNext productions
(selected from 11 applicants — a record number), featuring original material
produced and performed by local students from the School for Creative and
Performing Arts, Newport Central Catholic High School, St. Xavier High School
and Highlands High School.
Performance Gallery is kind of the alpha and omega of the
Cincinnati Fringe: They’ve been in all 11 festivals, including the 2008 hit
show fricative. Producer Eric
Vosmeier calls them the inspiration for much of what the Fringe is about: They
were doing “fringe-like” work before the festival began, and they’ve returned
annually with work that pushes the envelope. This time they’ll offer Heist,
about three crooks of questionable ability. Vosmeier also cited Pones Inc., the
dance-based company that returns for the seventh time with Traffick, a piece of
audience engagement that explores issues of human trafficking. Vosmeier says,
“This is the kind of work the Fringe was built to exhibit.”
“We had a great mix of new producers and returning favorites
in the applicant pool,” Vosmeier says. “The word continues
to spread about our Cincinnati Fringe Festival, which has a national reputation
for being the most artist-friendly festival. We’ve worked very hard on this
over the years, and I believe that we’ve created something special for our
artists and for our region.”
The Cincinnati Fringe differs from festivals elsewhere in
that productions are screened and handpicked by a committee of local theater
artists. Drawing from a large pool of applicants, comparable to last year’s
record-breaking number, this yielded a balanced mix of local vs. out-of-town
producers: 15 from Greater Cincinnati and 18 from beyond. The latter number
includes three international shows, the most ever for the festival: Around Dark Matter, a Holocaust memory
piece by Mica Dvir, is from Tel Aviv, Israel; A Brief History of Beer by Wish Experience from London, a company
that has performed at festivals from Edinburgh to Adelaide; and Prefer Not to Say, an interactive piece
by blueDragonfly Productions, another U.K. group, the presenter of And All the Rest is Junk Mail a year ago.
For Wednesday evening’s announcement event, members of the
Fringe staff mentioned the shows they were most looking forward to. They named:
· An Unauthorized Autobiography of Benny Hill
by Four Humors Theater (Minneapolis), the creative minds behind such past
Festival favorites as Lolita: A Three Man
Show, Bombus and Berylline and Harold. This will be their sixth
consecutive Cincinnati Fringe appearance.
· Blogging Behind Bars by Unity
Productions, creators of two past Fringe hits, The Wave and Nothing.
This time it’s a true story about a young, nonviolent criminal who wrote a blog
while incarcerated in a maximum-security prison.
· Papa Squat’s Store of Sorts by solo
artist Paul Strickland from Indianapolis, whose Ain’t True and Uncle False was a “Pick of the Fringe” last year. His
new show is a music-filled memorial for a guy who “once filled the emptiness in
Big-Fib Cul-de-sac with his insightful songs.”
· Something Something New Vagina by
Rebecca Kling, a transgender artist and educator from Chicago with a follow-up
show to her 2012 production, Beneath Her
· The Ultimate Stimulus by Felipe
Ossa, a Brooklyn-based playwright and a new artist to the Cincy Fringe, is
presented in the form of a TED Talk that argues for concubinage as a way to
address the problem of income inequality.
The festival is also a chance for Cincinnati’s local theater
companies to show off. Clifton Performance Theatre will present Sarge,
a piece by Kevin Crowley about the wife of discredited Penn State assistant football
coach Jerry Sandusky. Untethered Theatre has prepared Where Edward Went, a new
play by Ben Dudley and Adam Sievering about a screenwriter’s effort to make a
documentary about Edward, the late fiancé of Elyse, a painter. They don’t quite
agree about the portrait. New Edgecliff Theatre will offer TRAGEDY: a tragedy,
described as “one of the funniest apocalypses of our time.” And Ensemble
Theatre Cincinnati’s intern company always offers a fine showcase of young
talent. This year it’s two one-act plays: Sheila Callaghan’s Crumble
(Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) and Itamar Moses’s Authorial
In addition to the productions offered nightly, artists,
audience members, staff and volunteers flock nightly at Know Theatre’s
Underground and headquarters for the Fringe Bar Series, with a reasonably
priced bar, some free food inside and offerings for purchase from food wagons
on Jackson Street. Each evening after the Channel
Fringe Hard Hitting Action News Update, everyone has a chance to be a
performer with activities such as the Fringe Olympics, Fringe-A-Oke, Fringe
Prom, Segway Night and the Night Without
Technology. This year the Bar Series night adds Fringetoberfest, an evening of German-inspired food and brews from
local craft beer creators.
Vosmeier expects the festival to attract more than 8,000
visitors this year. If you’re someone who tries to see as much as possible, your
best bet is a “Full Frontal” Fringe pass ($200) providing access to every event
in the festival. Know also offers “Voyeur” passes ($60) good for six shows of
your choice. If you can only make it once, a “One Night Stand” pass ($25) is
available — admission to any two performances in an evening plus one drink at
Know’s Underground bar. Single tickets to Fringe shows continue to be priced at
$12; they’ll go on sale in mid-May.
There will be lots more — and the lineup can change. Hey,
it’s the Fringe, so be ready for anything. You’ll find details on all these
shows and more at cincyfringe.com.
Know Theatre regional premiere entertains, transports and transforms
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 9, 2014
When house lights dim and a play begins,
every theatergoer prays to witness something that entertains, transports
and, in the best cases, transforms...Tom Jacobson’s The Twentieth-Century Way, receiving its regional premiere at Know Theatre of Cincinnati, does just that.
by Rick Pender
75 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 10:36 AM | Permalink
Last evening I went to see Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses
at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. You can read more about
playwright Zimmerman in my column in this week's issue here, and you'll
probably figure out that this is one of my favorite scripts. CCM's drama
program has created a shimmering, playful production that's getting a
brief run (final performance is a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday) at Patricia Corbett Theatre. Guest director D. Lynn Meyers
took a break from Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati to travel up the hill and
stage this one on the UC campus, and her cast of 18 student performers
wholly embraced this unusual show — which requires a pool of water as
its central design feature. (Water plays a significant and meaningful
role in the retelling of a set of classical myths shaped and recorded by
Ovid two millennia ago.) But Dana Hall's scenic design doesn't stop
with water; it's elemental, with immense hanging slabs of stone that
resonate with the decorative concrete slabs in PCT. Wes Richter's
lighting — it really does shimmer — enhances the stories of characters
changed by circumstances, good intentions and bad decisions, and Kevin
Semancik's sound design brings vivid punctuation to many stories,
including a destructive storm at sea. Speaking of sound, cellist Jacob
Yates, a senior at CCM, composed moody accompaniment that distills the
moving emotional essence of each scene; he performs live from stage left
as the tales unfold. Amanda Kai Newman's costume designs complete the
visual power of the show, whether they are fluttering around the edge of
the pool or from a high balcony upstage from which the gods watch and
control the mortals — and even when they are sopping wet from action in
the variable-depth pool. Much of the action is beautifully choreographed
and delivered with confident physicality. All in all, CCM's Metamorphoses is a total theatrical package that's definitely worth seeing. Tickets are likely available if you call quickly: 513-556-4183..
If you want a two-fer featuring shows staged by D. Lynn Meyers, you can catch her production of Tribes
back at her ETC home base. (CityBeat review here.) Nina Raine's script focuses on two young
adults who come from different "tribes," families with distinctively
separate approaches to deafness. Billy's family wants to approximate
normalcy by teaching him to lip read, while Sylvia's parents, both deaf,
have used signing. Now that she's going deaf herself and has befriended
Billy, these practices are at odds. But this is also a show about
family dynamics, love and acceptance — something everyone can relate to.
Billy's family is boisterous and rude, behaviors that often exclude
him. Sylvia's gentle, thoughtful manner is both solace and revelation to
him. Actors Dale Dymkoski and Kelly Mengelkoch (familiar to Cincinnati
Shakespeare audiences; she's a company member there) are simply
excellent in these two roles, and the balance of the cast creates real,
human characters. Tribes has been extended to Feb. 22, a week beyond its announced closing, to accommodate ticket demand. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
Other productions worth checking out this weekend are Seminar
by Falcon Theater at Newport's Monmouth Theater, a play by Cincinnatian
Theresa Rebeck about a writing class with a tyrannical teacher
(CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-479-6783); Bruce Norris's Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, revealing how attitudes about race and class haven't evolved all that much in 50 years, at Cincinnati Playhouse (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-421-3888); and Steve Yockey's absurdist drama Pluto at Know Theatre, an inventively told story of contemporary grief (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-300-5669).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:41 AM | Permalink
OK, the holidays are officially here. If you have any strength left after shopping last night and all day today, there are numerous theatrical offerings to consider.On Wednesday night, I attended the opening of a musical version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a touring production at the Aronoff through Sunday. I suspect most everyone knows the story (which certainly resembles A Christmas Carol, with the Grinch replacing Scrooge as the meanie who's taught the meaning of Christmas). This newish musical uses some of the songs from the beloved 1966 animated version of Dr. Seuss's classic 1957 story of the green guy with a heart "two sizes too small." Audiences, in fact, are invited to sing along on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." What's touring is a 90-minute-rendition that's family-friendly, outfitted with wild costumes, technicolor scenery and a gaggle of special effects that include snow inside the Aronoff and festive confetti cannons for the finale. The tale is narrated by the senior citizen version of Max, the Grinch's hapless dog; Bob Lauder has a great baritone voice, a bemused mindset and a great tail that still wags. (He's complimented by and partnered with his eager younger self, played by Andreas Wyatt.) There's a whole raft of happy singing and dancing citizens of Whoville, of course, especially sweet Cindy Lou who wins over the Grinch's meager heart. Two kids alternate in this demanding role; I saw the adorable Jenna Iacono, but I'm sure Piper Birney is just as charming when she's singing "Santa for a Day" and wearing down the Grinch from his nasty ways.As the Grinch, Stefan Karl gets to mug, growl, grimace and just be a general grouch (he does some farting and belching, just to add to his inappropriateness). He's great fun to watch from his first entrance, as "ugly as a cactus," outfitted in something across between newly mown grass, tattered green feathers and seaweed, to his final scene where he's embraced by the Whos. He's so bad he's good. And his story is a fine addition to Thanksgiving weekend from Broadway in Cincinnati. Performances, including several matinees, are at the Aronoff through Sunday evening. Tickets (starting at $28): 513-621-2787Starting tonight (and for the next several weeks), you can also choose between two different productions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Cincinnati Playhouse returns its beautiful retelling of Scrooge's dark night of the soul for the 23rd consecutive year. If you're a theater fan, it's a pleasure to see Bruce Cromer, one of southwest Ohio's finest actors, in the bah-humbug role. He makes Scrooge such fun, a genuine holiday treat. With all the whiz-bang spinning scenery, ghostly presences and gorgeous Victorian costumes, well, this show is a great dose of holiday sentiment and cheer. Tickets: 513-421-3888.For a different rendition of Dickens' grouch who gets his comeuppance, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is offering a musical version of A Christmas Carol that's new this season. (In fact, the book and lyrics are by Cincinnati Landmark's Tim Perrino with music by Jeremy Helmes; Perrino directs the show.) West Siders love the Covedale, and I suspect more than a few folks from Cincinnati's supposedly more "refined" side will make the trek to 4990 Glenway Avenue to see this one. Tickets: 513-241-6550.If you prefer some non-holiday entertainment, the Playhouse offers The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), which begins a hysterical two hours with a skit that literally presents the "birth of comedy." (CityBeat review here.) You won't stop laughing until it's over, and I can guarantee some unexpected things along the way — there is a script, but the three performers play fast and loose through the performance, including bringing a few audience members into the merriment. Tickets: 513-421-3888.And if Thanksgiving leaves you overdosed on goodness and sick of being nice, you might want to catch one of the final performances of Bull at Know Theatre. (CityBeat review here.) It's the story of three office workers competing for two jobs — and they're not nice at all. If you're seeking some vicarious nastiness, this is the show for you. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Know Theatre is typically the last of our
local professional theaters out of the gate in the fall. It takes the
small company a while to recuperate from the Fringe Festival, from being
a venue for the MidPoint Music Festival and from the numerous other
activities they host at their Jackson Street venue in Over-the-Rhine.
But they’re finally in the midst of the run of their first regular
production for fall 2013, Mike Bartlett’s Bull.
Strong acting and staging in latest Know Theatre production
0 Comments · Monday, November 4, 2013
You won’t like anyone you see onstage in this savage tale.
You’ll probably question your own enjoyment of the show’s dark humor and
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 06:00 AM | Permalink
The pickings have been kind of slim at Know Theatre over the
past year. The quality has been high (the staging of When the Rain Stops Falling was one of the best shows onstage
locally during 2013, and Mike Bartlett’s Cock
offered a showcase of strong acting), but the works have felt few and far
between. So today’s announcement from Producing Artistic Director Eric Vosmeier
of a full schedule that’s already under way and extends beyond the typical end
of the 2013-2014 season is welcome news. Here’s what’s in store following
Lauren Gunderson’s Macbeth-inspired
comedy Toil and Trouble (presently
onstage through Aug. 24):
Bull by Mike Bartlett (Nov. 1-30): Yes, it’s another piece by
the playwright of Cock, making Know
the first U.S. theater to produce both pieces by the British writer. Both use a
stripped-down aesthetic — no props and no scenery make for a lot of onstage
intensity regarding characters and their relationships. This one is the story
of three mid-level executives who compete for two corporate positions. Brian
Robertson, who also staged Cock,
returns to direct this one, and George Alexander, one of the four actors in the
earlier show, will perform in this one, too.
The Naughty List (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings, Dec.
1-30): OTRImprov, an improvisational comedy troupe that’s part of Know’s
Jackson Street Market, will hold forth in the courtyard at Arnold’s Bar &
Grill in downtown Cincinnati for the holidays. Combining long- and short-form
improv, the performers will offer a very irreverent take on the holidays — with
the help of audience suggestions and participation.
Pluto (Jan. 24-Feb. 22, 2014): Know’s former artistic director
Jason Bruffy comes back to town to stage a poignant and evocative new script by
Steve Yockey. The production is part of a rolling world premiere through the
National New Play Network, and it will feature two excellent local
professionals, Annie Fitzpatrick and Tori Wiggins. An ordinary day in a
suburban home takes a strange turn following a local tragedy, what with all
hell breaking loose. Know’s publicity says the show “explores tragedy, loss and
the way love can blind us to the truth.”
TBD (April 4-May
10, 2014): Know is holding a slot for a production to be announced later. You
can be sure it will be another script with the ink still drying.
Cincinnati Fringe Festival (May 27-June 7, 2014): The 11th
annual Fringe will be back with 12 days of theater, music, dance, film, art —
and a lot of stuff in between that kind of defies simple description.
Applications for performers will be accepted starting Sept. 1, 2013 (through
Dec. 6). Info: www.cincyfringe.com.
Moby Dick (Fall 2014): Playwright Julian Rad adapted Herman
Melville’s great American novel for an Off-Off-Broadway production in 2003.
Michael Burnham, recently retired from a long career as a professor of drama at
UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, will co-direct the show with designer
Andrew Hungerford. The tale of revenge and obsession with Captain Ahab pursuing
the great white whale that maimed him has been stripped to its essence for what
promises to be a highly theatrical endeavor that uses sea chanteys and creative
In addition to these full-scale productions, Know has
announced several Fringe “encores,” the return of shows that were hits during
the festival’s 10th iteration back in June. Jon Kovach will repeat his powerful
one-man show based on Ron Jones’ The Wave (Aug. 26-27);
comedian/storyteller/singer Kevin Thornton will present Stairway to Kevin (Sept.
6 and 13); and Paul Strickland’s one-man trailer park fairytale comedy, Ain’t
True and Uncle False (Oct. 11-12).
Tickets for the full-productions are $15 in advance, and $20
the week of the performance; Fringe “encore” tickets are $12. Know offers sets
of six-show flex passes for $90 that do not expire. They can be exchanged for
tickets for any of these productions. For more information: 513-300-5669 or
1 Comment · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I’ve written about theater in Cincinnati for more than 25 years — including reviews and features for CityBeat
since it began in 1994. I recently dug through my files on theaters
that came and went during the 1990s. In this column (and one on July 3),
I’ll provide an overview of that era and offer some thoughts about
what’s missing in 2013.
0 Comments · Monday, June 10, 2013
Almost one-third of the 2013 Cincy Fringe Festival productions won some form of voted recognition, a testament to the high quality of shows this year.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:38 AM | Permalink
If you're looking for an unusual but gripping theatrical production this weekend, you should head straight to UC's College-Conservatory of Music for The Threepenny Opera. Don't think that this is some stuffy old piece from 1928, although that's when the
show with a script by Bertoldt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill was first
performed. It was radical and challenging, mocking the establishment
and paying no heed to social structures. This musical theater production, staged by CCM Opera Chair Robin Guarino, feels lethal and threatening. You'll recognize a tune or two ("Mack the Knife" is the show's familiar tune), and if you've seen Cabaret or Urinetown, you'll recognize how this piece influenced those works. Guarino's production, with a big cast and an
imaginative set (designed by Tony Award winner John Arnone), captures
the vitality and spirit of the original work. I doubt we'll see another
production of this one very soon, so here's your chance to catch a bit
of theater history — and be both entertained and provoked. Definitely worth seeing. Through March 10. Box office: 513-556-4183.
If you haven't yet seen Know Theatre's production of When the Rain Stops Falling, that's another one you should have in your sights. Andrew Bovell's dense, imaginative script is a compelling story of multiple, intersecting generations of two families. (Review here.) The taut, engaging 100-minute production,
staged by Cincinnati Shakespeare's Brian Phillips, features several of that company's best actors, as well as several other local standouts. One of the best productions from Know Theatre in several seasons. It's onstage through March 16. Tickets: 513-300-5669.I haven't seen it (alas, my schedule just doesn't have room for everything), but Legally Blonde: The Musical at NKU has received props from the League of Cincinnati Theatres as an entertaining production. It's the story of Elle Woods, spurned by her fiancé, off to Harvard Law School in pursuit of him, only to discover that she's got the smarts to be more than just a girlfriend. Not profound, but surefire entertainment. Through Sunday. Tickets: 859-572-5464
This is the second and final weekend for Catie O'Keefe's world premiere, Slow Descent from Heaven, presented by New Edgecliff Theatre. (O'Keefe is NET's playwright-in-residence). It's being performed in a converted classroom at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, directed by Ed Cohen. The central character, Molly (Elizabeth A. Harris), is a NASA scientist whose story is bookended by space shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003. An angry, tense character, her involvement with men has affected her career and her attitude.
The story has a reverse chronology, so we peal backwards in time to
learn more about why she's the way she is. This is a good chance to see an original script by a local writer. Tickets: 513-399-6638.