by Rick Pender 05.04.2015
Posted In: Theater at 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call Board: Theater News

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's 30th season will present three world premieres, the revival of a great musical and Cinderella

While other Cincinnati theaters hustle to get their seasons announced in order to ramp up subscription sales, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has built enough faith with its audiences that they'll start signing up sight unseen. Artistic Director Lynn Meyers tells regulars that they'll be pleased, and they take her at her word; she adds that if they aren't happy with the shows she picks, they can have their money back. No one asks for it. Of course, ETC presents shows that haven't appeared elsewhere in our region yet, typically premieres that have only recently been onstage in New York City. And they're given productions with great acting and beautiful design so well assembled that many shows have extended runs. (That's happening with the show concluding the current season, John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar, which opens on Wednesday with a stellar cast that includes local stage veteran Dale Hodges and Cincy Shakes Artistic Director Brian Phillips. ETC has announced it will run a week longer than initially indicated, now closing on May 30.)For its 30th season, ETC has assembled three regional premieres and a revival of a musical it staged to great acclaim in 1999, with a TBA slot (March 22-April 10, 2016) that's likely to bring another show that's been a recent Broadway or off-Broadway hit. Here's the lineup announced over the weekend:Luna Gale (Sept. 8-27, 2015) by Rebecca Gilman: The show recently received the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, and it was considered by many to be a strong contender for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. It portrays the moral dilemma facing a social worker with a crushing caseload and personal baggage. She must decide whether to leave a child with neglectful drug addict parents or place her with a grandmother who is a religious zealot. It's a complex and disturbing work about faith and forgiveness that doesn't offer easy answers for the lifelong after-effects of abuse. Its first production was in January 2014 at the Chicago's Goodman Theatre. It's slated for productions at Cleveland Playhouse and Actors Theatre of Louisville in the coming season, but ETC's happens first. Buyer and Cellar (Oct. 13-Nov. 1, 2015) by Jonathan Tollins: The one-many comedy was a big New York hit in 2013, telling the story of an out-of-work actor who takes on the odd job of playing shopkeeper for Barbra Streisand in the basement of her lavish Malibu estate. It's a fanciful imagining of what one does with decades of memories and acres of memorabilia. Performing the piece will be Nick Cearley, a Cincinnati native who has appeared at ETC in next to normal and The Great American Trailer Park Musical.Cinderella (Dec. 2-Jan. 3, 2016) by Joe McDonough, David Kisor and Fitz Patton: ETC's holiday show is a remount of its contemporary take on the classic fairy tale that demonstrates that being smart can be truly beautiful. Grounded (Jan. 26-Feb. 14, 2016) by George Brant: It's another solo show, described by one critic as "ardently humane," about a woman who's an ace pilot reassigned to operate a remote-controlled drone from a windowless trailer near Las Vegas. It's a hit at New York City's Public Theater right now featuring Anne Hathaway in a production directed by Julie Taymor. Hunting terrorists by day and returning to her family at night, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert where she lives and the one she patrols half a world away in Iraq.Violet (May 3-22, 2016). Jeanine Tesori's musical won the Drama Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Award for best musical when it premiered off-Broadway in 1997. It was a local award winner, too, but not seen by many who have come to love ETC's offerings. The score features American Roots tunes as well as Folk and Gospel styles. Violet's story is set in the 1960s; she is a young woman disfigured in a childhood accident who dreams of a miraculous transformation through the power of faith provided by a televangelist. It was one of ETC's best early productions, and it's a great choice to cap off a celebration of three decades of fine theater.Subscriptions are currently available. Call 513-421-3555 for information.
by Rick Pender 12.12.2014
Posted In: Theater at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
plaid tidings_covedale center- photo mikki schaffner

Stage Door: A Weekend of Holiday Theater

This weekend affords you numerous chances to see a holiday show. (Quite a few shows will still be onstage in another week, but you might be too busy shopping or baking cookies ...) A Christmas Carol at the Playhouse has been drawing crowds for 24 seasons, and it's worth seeing (CityBeat review here). Lots of people do it as a family outing. (Tickets: 513-421-3888.) If kids are younger, you might consider Sleeping Beauty at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (CityBeat review here). This is the 18th year that ETC has offered a musical fairy tale created by two local artists, playwright Joe McDonough and composer David Kisor. (Tickets: 513-421-3555). Both shows are lots of fun (Christmas Carol does have some ghosts, of course, but they are portrayed with humor and wit), quickly paced and dazzlingly produced with costumes and sets that make watching an enjoyable outing. A new holiday show to the area is Soldier's Christmas, presented at Northern Kentucky University by New Edgecliff Theatre and the Actors & Playwrights Collaborative. This weekend marks the premiere of local playwright Phil Paradis's show about a remarkable event that happened on Christmas Eve 1914 when battle-weary British and German soldiers came out of their World War I trenches, left their weapons behind and celebrated the holiday together. The "Christmas Truce" was also the subject of Cincinnati Opera's Silent Night, presented last July. (Tickets: 888-428-7311).If you simply want to have a good time, I gave a Critic's Pick to the Covedale Center's production of Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings (CityBeat review here). The show is a sequel to the amusing musical about a quartet of Doo-Wop singers who return from heaven to do the big concert they missed out on in life (they died when their car was broadsided by a busload of girls on their way to see the Beatles' American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show). This time they're back to do a Christmas concert. It's a lot of silliness, of course, but the four guys — all musical theater majors at UC's College-Conservatory of Music — are talented singers, dancers and actors, so they're a blast to watch. (Tickets: 513-241-6550).More high-jinks are available thanks to OTR Improv at the courtyard at Arnold's Bar & Grill for The Naughty Show (starting Sunday evening, presented by Know Theatre; tickets: 513-300-5669), as well as Falcon Theater's production in Newport of The Eight Reindeer Monologues (it finishes up this weekend; 513-479-6783). Finally, if you're tired of holiday stuff (and who isn't when it gets cranked up not long after Halloween?) there are three choices for you: Cincinnati Shakespeare's very funny The Comedy of Errors (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-381-2273); Know Theatre's mysterious and magical The Bureau of Missing Persons (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-300-5669); and Cincinnati Playhouse's staging of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical (CityBeat review here; 513-421-3888). The latter has been selling lots of tickets, causing the Playhouse to extend the show until Jan. 11.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

What’s New Onstage? What’s Popular?

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Cincinnati has a theater scene that’s surprisingly sophisticated for a city this size.  

My Name Is Asher Lev (Review)

Ensemble Theater production argues art vs. religion

0 Comments · Friday, January 29, 2010
The intensity that drives 'My Name Is Asher Lev' comes close to swamping the show in its regional premiere at Ensemble Theater of Cincinnati. The core argument — which pits unyielding, enslaving tradition against the enlivening freedom of artistic inquiry — begins to sound like posturing. And the play's vibrant energy, so promising at the outset, slides off into sound and fury.  

Stacking Up

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In case you’re keeping track, the most produced play in the United States this season is Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s Boom, presently in its regional premiere at Know Theatre of Cincinnati. According to American Theatre magazine, nine productions of the absurdist comedy are scheduled this season. The list excludes works by Shakespeare and holiday-themed shows.  

Review: Gravesongs

0 Comments · Sunday, May 31, 2009
To showcase its intern company, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati has annually contributed a show to the Fringe that features these young performers in scenes by established playwrights or self-written pieces on a particular theme. This year, with a talented set of interns (five 23-year-old women plus a director) they undertook a more coherent piece of theater that has truly paid off.  

Don’t Make Me Pull This Show Over (Review)

A swift and zippy musical on parenting and being parented

1 Comment · Friday, May 1, 2009
It's back ... that musical with the mouthful name that kicked up so much excitement last summer at the 2008 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Ensemble Theater of Cincinnati bills Richard Oberacker's and Robert Taylor's no-plot, no-dialogue, five-person fantasia on parenting production as a premiere, and considering the changes that's close to true.  

A Great and Mighty Ship

ETC starts at the the beginning of August Wilson's play cycle with 'Gem of the Ocean'

0 Comments · Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Director Ron 'OJ' Parsons knows something about playwright August Wilson. In fact, Parsons met Wilson on numerous occasions before his death in 2005. He's in town to stage Wilson's 'Gem of the Ocean' at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.  

Gem of the Ocean (Review)

Poetry, emotion and affecting characters make ETC production a can't miss

0 Comments · Thursday, February 5, 2009
All too often, August Wilson is termed a great African-American playwright. That's foolishness. Go see 'Gem of the Ocean' at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati and tell me if you can think of a better script by any American playwright, one with more poetry, emotion or affecting characters.   

Gems of the Neighborhood

Despite tough economic times, Over-the-Rhine's theater companies continue to breathe life into the neighborhood's bricks and mortar

1 Comment · Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The neighborhood's professional theater companies (Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Know Theatre of Cincinnati and New Stage Collective) had a thrilling year artistically in 2008. They offered shows that spoke to issues of the day, and they brought tens of thousands of visitors to Over-the-Rhine, most of them the young professional types city leaders seem to covet. For their track record of serving Over-the-Rhine, their dedication to thought-provoking artistic work and their perseverance in face of economic difficulties and general apathy from the powers-that-be, CityBeat names Know's Jason Bruffy, New Stage's Alan Patrick Kenny of Collective and ETC's Lynn Meyers our 2008 Persons of the Year.