Events kick off Tuesday and the weirdness continues through June 6
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 20, 2015
As the Cincinnati Fringe Festival comes
upon its 13th year — starting May 26 and running through June 6 — we
thought it would be informative to hear from seven people who work
behind the scenes to produce this annual two weeks of theater,
creativity and fun.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:48 AM | Permalink
Know Theatre, New Edgecliff, Carnegie, Commonwealth, Xavier announce new seasons
your calendars read for another avalanche of shows from local theaters. Know
Theatre just announced its 2015-2016 season, and several others have done the
same recently, so you’ll find everything rounded up in this “Call Board” blog
for CityBeat theater fans. Nearly two
dozen full-scale shows and a handful of other events are headed your way.
Know Theatre of Cincinnati
Hungerford, Know Theatre’s artistic director, has pointed out that the coming
season is the company’s 18th, and that at years of age, “We’re ready to do
everything that entails: step into a wider world, fall in love, confront loss,
get a crazy summer job, have a history lesson, party with some college kids,
give up our childhood toys, obsess over Star Wars again, rail against poverty
and injustice, engage in civic discourse, major in the sciences and then,
maybe, take a trip to the beach.” Know is planning a lot of shows including
works that are entertaining and socially conscious and that offer lots of opportunities
for local artists.
we near the 10th anniversary of moving into our home at 1120 Jackson St., I
think we’re getting ever closer to the vision that Know Theatre’s leadership
has always had for this space,” says Producing Artistic Andrew Hungerford.
“From our mainstage to Serials to Fringe, there is so much happening on our
stages. It really is a theatrical playground here. And seeing the Underground
filled with an audience eager to be a part of the next crazy thing we make
reminds me exactly why I took this job.” Hungerford is completing his first
season of artistic leadership. Here’s what’s in store for his second:
(Late June) will be another stab at short-form theater. This time out there
will be five playwrights involved in creating five episodic plays. Each week
they’ll trade who’s writing which story.
(July 10-12, 2015) This event will invite writers to consider the world around
them, their cities and communities and the ways they view the world, then write
topical moments that say something about what’s happening here and now. The
results, probably 70 to 90 of them, will be put together into three evenings of
Hundred Days (July 24-Aug. 22, 2015). This
is a show conceived by the Bengsons, a singer-musician couple who have been Cincinnati
Fringe festival favorites, and they workshopped it here in 2011. It’s about a
couple whose time together is cut short by a fatal illness. They decide to live
the 100 days left as if it were the 60 years they had hoped for.
The Hunchback of
Charise Castro Smith (Oct. 9-24, 2015) with CCM drama students, will be staged
by CCM drama faculty member Brant Russell. Set in 1504 in Spain, it’s an
irreverent comedy that turns historical atrocities on their heads.
Andy’s House of
Paul Strickland and Trey Tatum (Oct. 30-Nov. 14, 2015). This will be a fully
staged version of the show that was presented in 15-minute increments across
the five evenings of Serials 2:
Thunderdome. (It’s the only show that made it through five weeks.) It’s a
small-town, mystery-spot, time travel musical about an unusual man who runs a
store that’s an every changing emporium of oddities. Strickland and Tatum are
Fringe Festival veterans.
Joseph Zettelmaier (Nov. 20-Dec. 19, 2015) is about three guys who still have Star Wars on the brain, despite being 30
years old. It’s set in Norwood, and the fact that Kenner, designer of Star Wars toys was headquartered in
Cincinnati, is important to this story. This production happens right around
the time that Star Wars: Episode VII –
The Force Awakens will be in movie theaters. The playwright has been
recognized several times by the American Theatre Critics Association, including
this play in 2006.
The Naughty List by OTR Improv at Arnold’s Bar
& Grill (December 2015) picks up on the Star
Wars theme, too. This holiday iteration is subtitled, “The Jolly Awakens.”
Serials 4! (January 2016). Another round
of episodic storytelling.
BlackTop Sky by Christina Anderson (Jan.
29-Feb. 20, 2016) is a story about love, violence, community, mental illness
and the line between poverty and true homelessness. Kimberly Faith Hickman, the
New York City-based director who staged Know’s thought-provoking production of The Twentieth-Century Way in April 2014,
will stage it.
Beertown by dog & pony DC (March
2-19, 2016) is another crossover by a Fringe Festival act: dog & Pony
performed A Killing Game here in
2013. For this show, they’ll present alternative tales about our town’s history
and we get to choose which version we like — a mash-up of choose your own
adventure and maybe a murder mystery dinner party. Every performance begins
with a dessert potluck; audiences are encouraged to bring a dessert to share.
Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson (April
15-May 14, 2016), one of America’s hottest young playwrights. Know presented
her Macbeth-themed script, Toil and Trouble back in 2014, and the Cincinnati
Playhouse is giving her new play The
Revolutionists its world premiere in February 2016. Silent Sky is the true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta
Leavitt and a group of revolutionary women who found a way to measure the
thirteenth annual Cincinnati Fringe
Festival happens in late May and early June 2016. Followed by one more (June
24-July 16, 2016) show that’s still TBA (June 24-July 16), but Hungerford hints
that it could be by Steve Yockey, whose surreal Pluto was staged by Know early in 2014.
New Edgecliff Theatre
New Edgecliff Theatre
has announced three shows for its 2015-2016 season, planned for a new Northside
venue at St. Patrick’s Church. “These are plays that challenge the way the
characters view their lives and the circumstances they find themselves in,”
says Producing Artistic Director Jim Stump. “They are stories of how much can
change when you change how you look at things.”
Frankie and Johnny
in the Clare de Lune
by Terrence McNally (Sept. 17-Oct. 3, 2015). Jared Doren staged an excellent
production of William Inge’s Bus Stop
for NET in 2013, and he’ll be back to put together this show about a pair of
lonely, middle-aged people whose first date ends with their tumbling into bed.
Things head in different directions from there. This show, which debuted in
1987, had a sterling production at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in 1989; the
Playhouse presents a new play by McNally, Mothers
and Sons, in the spring of 2016.
(Dec. 3-19, 2015) is a reprise of David Sedaris’s very funny monologue about
working as an elf in Macy’s Santaland in New York City. This holiday staple has
been missing from local stages for two seasons; it will be fun to see it again.
The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute (April 14-30, 2016). Former NET artistic director Elizabeth Harris will direct LaBute’s 2001
play about a man who thinks a woman is romantically interested in him when
she’s actually using him as the subject of her MFA thesis project.
the management of new artistic director Maggie Perrino, Covington’s Carnegie
will present four productions of well-known theater titles in the Otto M. Budig
Company by Stephen Sondheim and George
Furth (Aug. 15-30, 2015) is about a single man and his married friends. The
show, which won a dozen Tony Awards in 1971, has some of Sondheim’s greatest
musical numbers, including “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Getting Married Today” and
Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer (Nov. 7-22,
2015) is about playing games, but in this tale, the games are deadly serious.
Veteran director Greg Procaccino will stage this famous Tony Award winner, a
whodunit that will keep audiences guessing from start to finish.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, music and
lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg (Jan. 21-31, 2016) will be the
Carnegie’s “lightly staged” musical for the coming season — a production that
puts music and storytelling over physical staging. The production will feature
the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, led by J. R. Cassidy, performing all the tunes
from the classic 1939 movie.
The Last Five
Jason Robert Brown (April 9-24, 2016) is an excellent contemporary musical
(from 2001) about Jamie and Cathy, a young couple going through a divorce. His
story and hers travel in opposite directions through time. Brown is one of the
best of Broadway’s next generation of composers.
Commonwealth Dinner Theater
company offers professional productions with dinner at Northern Kentucky
University during the summer months. Productions are often sold out, so be sure
to call early to reserve tickets (859-572-5464). This summer’s shows have
characters from opposite ends of the age spectrum.
The Sunshine Boys (June 3-21, 2015) is Neil
Simon’s 1971 comedy about two aging vaudevillian comics who have grown to hate
each other after 40 years of working together. They’re reuniting for a special
about the history of comedy, but keeping them on the same page is no easy task.
The 25th Annual
Putnam County Spelling Bee by William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin (July 8-26, 2015) is
about a contest featuring six quirky adolescents, overseen by three oddball
adults. Its 2005 Broadway production was a surprise winner of several Tony
Awards. Brush up on your spelling and you could be one of several audience
members invited onstage to test your skills against the “kids.”
second year as a degree program, Xavier University Theatre is undertaking an
ambitious season that features two Broadway musicals, a world premiere and a
contemporary drama, staged by former Cincinnati Playhouse artistic director Ed
undergraduate actors at Xavier will give Cincinnati audiences a second chance
to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Oct. 22-24, 2015).
will direct Kenney Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth (Dec. 3-6, 2015),
the story of three wayward young people navigating New York in 1982 as they try
to thread their way into adulthood.
especially challenging endeavor, the theatre program will present three plays
in repertory during a two-week stretch (Feb. 17-28, 2016): Miss Julie by August
Strindberg will be staged by veteran actress Torie Wiggins; Betrayal
by Harold Pinter will be staged by another stage veteran, Bruce Cromer; and a
new play by student playwright Tatum Hunter, Eve, will be staged by
Larson’s rock musical Rent (April 21-24, 2016) will round
out the season. It’s another Tony Award winner — and it landed a Pulitzer
Prize, not often bestowed on a musical. Set in New York’s East Village, it
follows a story about bohemian artists struggling to get by, inspired by Puccini’s
opera, La Bohème.
Actors Theatre of Louisville
the Humana Festival of New American Plays marks its 40th anniversary at Actors
Theatre of Louisville. The theater has commissioned Sarah Ruhl, one of
America’s most respected current playwrights, to create a new work, Peter
Pan on her 70th Birthday, for the occasion. The play, a moving look at
growing up and growing old within a family, will be presented from March 10 to April
10, 2016. Ruhl’s works have been offered by many of Cincinnati’s theatres — The Clean House by the Cincinnati
Playhouse, Eurydice by Know Theatre, Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Ensemble
Theatre and In the Next Room (or The
Vibrator Play) by CCM Drama at the Carnegie in Covington.
by Rick Pender
at 10:34 AM | Permalink
I've seen The Lion King five times, on Broadway and on tour. I wrote about it in a feature this week, describing how a successful but not terribly
profound animated Disney feature became a stage musical that's a
worldwide phenomenon. A touring production is at the Aronoff through April 26;
it's the third time the show has landed in Cincinnati. Rather than
evaluate the performers — who are highly talented and extremely polished
in their presentation of the show — I decided to pay attention to the
visuals this time around. It was worth it. The Lion King has the
most inspiring opening of any show I've seen: A call and response
between Rafiki, a nervous mandrill and two others brings together a
clutch of African animals to Pride Rock where a regal pair of lions,
King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi are presenting their new cub. The animals
enter the theater from all directions — from the stage wings and down
the Aronoff's aisles, enabling the audience to see the actors in their
puppet gear up close as they sing "The Circle of Life." It's a great way
to begin the show's magic. But it's only the start: There is color and
pageantry to burn in this story — from a colony of loony hyenas to a
fatal stampede of antelopes. The second act opens with the chorus
dressed in colorful clothes with ornate puppet birds and kites sing "One
on One." I was reminded of the wonderful South African choral groups
that inspired Cincinnati audiences during the World Choir games in 2012 —
passionate harmonizing and heart-thumping rhythms. From start to
finish, The Lion King is a remarkable experience. If you've seen
it once, it's worth going again to appreciate new dimensions of this
gorgeous production. Tickets: 513-621-2781.Two
good shows onstage at the Cincinnati Playhouse this weekend, and they
couldn't be more different from one another. It's the final weekend for Peter and the Starcatcher (CityBeat review here) a prequel to Peter Pan that elaborates
in a fanciful way about the origins of the boy who refuses to grow up,
Captain Hook, the Lost Boys, Tinker Bell and more. It's driven by
imaginative theater-making — instead of special effects, audiences are
called upon to envision things like storms brewing and characters
flying. A great show for families. … On the Shelterhouse stage it's
serious drama with Tracey Scott Wilson's Buzzer (CityBeat review here),
the story of three people moving into a redeveloping urban
neighborhood. It feels like Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine. Tensions
spurred by changing populations provide context for this story, but it's
really about the toxic dynamic between an up-and-coming black attorney,
his white schoolteacher girlfriend and his white boyhood pal who's led a
troubled life. A strong cast and Wilson's naturalistic dialogue make
this a very watchable (but very adult) show. This one is onstage through
April 19. Box office: 513-421-3888.Know Theatre opened it's production of the comic-book inspired Hearts Like Fists
last weekend. It's a two-dimensional tale of girl crime fighters
battling a dastardly villain, Doctor X, who's murdering lovers — since
his own love life is in shambles. There's humor but not a lot of depth
to this one, but if you like slam-bang action stories, you'll love the
fight choreography and the silly posing of the characters. It's around
until April 25. Tickets: 513-300-5669 … A block away from Know in Over-the-Rhine, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is winding down its production of Detroit ’67 (CityBeat review here),
set in a tumultuous era in the Motor City as a brother and sister
struggle to make a living while the world around them is burning.
Although it's rooted in events from nearly a half-century ago, this one
has some very prescient messages that seem like they're about more
recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere. Final performance is
2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: 513-421-3555.Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Monday, March 30, 2015
When I was
a teenager, I devoured comic books ... I haven’t spent much time with those stories or
characters for years, but Know Theatre’s production of Hearts Like Fists took me back to the days of two-dimensional
characters, clear delineation between good and evil and lots of slam-bam
by Rick Pender
at 09:08 AM | Permalink
I seldom laugh out
loud when I'm watching a comedy, but I found myself doing just that more
than once at last night's opening of Peter and the Starcatcher at the Cincinnati Playhouse. You can read about this show and the appeal of Peter Pan here,
but let me simply say this is a deliriously silly but wholly heartfelt
prequel about the origins of the boy who "won't grow up." This
award-winning play uses simple theatrics, not special effects, to work
its magic, and the Playhouse cast of a dozen quick-change performers
dive into the wacky storytelling with zest and zeal. Everyone is having a
good time, perhaps Tom Story most of all, playing "Black Stache" (the
pirate who will become Captain Hook) who spews malapropisms and
extravagant posturing: "There's a poet in these pirate veins," he
announces. The laugh-inducing moment that sets up his subsequent need
for a hook is both ghastly and breathlessly funny, not to mention milked
for all it's worth. Everyone in the cast has moments of fun. This is
imaginative storytelling and extravagant theatricality at its best.
You'll have fun if you bring a kid or two; but even if you don't, go by
yourself and feel like a kid again. Through April 4. Tickets: 513-421-3888.A show that's stuck with me since last June's Fringe Festival, Katie Hartman’s ghostly and
mournful song cycle, The Legend of White
Woman Creek, is back for a pair of performances at Know Theatre tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. It's the tale of Anna Morgan Faber, a white woman captured then slowly absorbed into the
Cheyenne tribe in 1860s Kansas. Hartman sings about a desperate, lonely woman who finally finds
happiness only to have it it brutally snatched away. “It’s
not a stand-up-and-cheer kind of show,” I wrote in my review. Instead, “it’s artfully
crafted and professionally delivered in an understated way. But it is powerfully
effective.” Tickets: 513-300-5669.Elsewhere you can catch Covedale Center's production of The Marvelous Wonderettes,
the story of four high school girls in the ’50s and ’60s who get their
big break singing Doo-Wop tunes. This show kicked off a string of hits
for Ensemble Theatre a few years back, and I imagine the Covedale's audience will love it, too. Tickets: 513-241-6550.If Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is a book you've treasured over the years, you can see a stage adaptation at Cincinnati Shakespeare through March 21 (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-381-2273)
or a musical theater version by Footlighters, the community theater
that performs at Newport's Stained Glass Theater (tickets: 859-652-3849).This is the final weekend for August: Osage County
at Clifton Performance Theatre. It's a big sprawling play wedged into a
tiny space, but with a great script and a fine cast, it's definitely
worth seeing. You'll be close enough to feel like a member of the
dysfunctional Weston family. I gave it a Critic's Pick here. Tickets: 513-861-7469.I missed the first two installments of Serials 2: Thunderdome! at Know Theatre, but I was there on March 2, and I'll be back on Monday evening to see which of five 15-minute segments gets to live on. I'm looking forward to Josh Bromels' So In Tents (there's a pun in there) and Trey Tatum and Paul Strickland's Andy's House of [blank], a wild, time-shifting musical. But there will be more surprises, I'm sure. It's a breath of fresh creative air. Tickets: 513-300-5669Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:33 AM | Permalink
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati continues its hot streak of well-cast and engaging scripts with Sharr White's The Other Place, the story of a brilliant but abrasive woman who is losing her grip. Regina Pugh is excellent in this moving and sometimes funny production, ably supported by Michael G. Bath as her perplexed husband, and with two performers usually seen at Cincinnati Shakespeare, Kelly Mengelkoch and Billy Chace, in an array of supporting roles. This is a drama that keeps you guessing as to what's the truth behind the story that's unfolding. When it all comes together, the revelation is devastating. Definitely worth seeing. Box office: 513-421-3555.Another powerful piece of theater is onstage at Know Theatre, where another Cincy Shakes regular is featured in the one-woman adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. The script feels a tad long, but it's such a pleasure to watch Corinne Mohlenhoff as Offred — and a half-dozen other distinct characters — that all you can do is marvel at her skill in presenting them, not to mention in memorizing more than two hours of text. This frightening dystopian tale of America's possible future staged by Brian Phillips (Cincy Shakes artistic director and Mohlenhoff's husband) on a very effective set designed designed by Andrew Hungerford (Know's artistic director) is definitely worth seeing. Box office: 513-300-5669.Other productions worth seeing on local stages: A collection of Johnny Cash tunes in Ring of Fire at the Cincinnati Playhouse (CityBeat interview here), the humorous Greater Tuna at Covedale (CityBeat review here) and a compelling staging of Samuel Beckett's breathtaking piece of absurdity, Waiting for Godot, at Cincy Shakes (CityBeat review here).
Get ready for more fun at Know Theatre with the kick-off of the second season of Serials!, this one subtitled "Thunderdome." Starting Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. (and continuing at two-week intervals through the end of March) will be five 15-minute pieces intended to be episodically developed. But this time, two will be voted off each week by the audience, to be replaced by two new works the next time around. Sounds like fun, and if this repeats the success of last summer's inaugural event, it's a chance to see local actors and writers at work. Box office: 513-300-5669.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:44 AM | Permalink
A special treat onstage at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater through a Sunday 2 p.m. matinee: Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, featuring Torie Wiggins giving voice to people making pronouncements about race, justice and violence in America. The script by Anna Deavere Smith, drawn verbatim from numerous interviews, was created in the mid-1990s in the following the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict more than two decades ago. But it feels incredibly timely in light of recent tragic events in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere — leading to questions about whether America has made any progress since then. Wiggins brings to life dozens of people — black, white, Hispanic and Asian — offering a myriad of opinions about events and outcomes. "No Justice/No Peace," words heard recently, echo through this script, punctuated with videos and quick audio introductions as Wiggins flips from role to role. It's an impressive performance and a reminder how theater can be more than entertainment — Twilight is a provocative presentation about American culture. Staged by Cincinnati Shakespeare's artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips. Tickets: 513-621-2787.A second one-woman show worth seeing is The Year of Magical Thinking, an effective, bare-bones production at the College Hill Town Hall (1805 Larch Ave., Cincinnati 45205) by the Cincy One Act Festival. It's based on Joan Didion's painful confrontation with grief following her husband's unexpected death and their daughter's serious and ultimately mortal illness. Cate White performs as Didion, the narrator of this deeply personal story; Lyle Benjamin is the director. The show is being presented on Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 28 (no performances on Feb. 20-21). Tickets: 888-428-7311.It's a great month for women onstage month on local stages, what with Corinne Mohlenhoff in another solo show The Handmaid's Tale at Know Theatre (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-300-5669), which also happens to be directed by Brian Phillips; and Regina Pugh as a beleaguered scientist whose world is coming unraveled in The Other Place at Ensemble Theatre (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-421-3555).Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:52 AM | Permalink
Earlier this week I took my mom to see Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical at the Cincinnati Playhouse (CityBeat review here). It was just as good the second time around. Mom, who loved Clooney as a performer in her heyday, had this to say: "It was like seeing her perform live!" I agree: Susan Haefner offers a wonderful interpretation of a Cincinnati icon; and it's great fun to watch Michael Marotta (the only other actor onstage) play her psychiatrist and a dozen or so other characters from Rosie's life. It's a great story of a woman who overcame some daunting demons and made a second career when she had been largely forgotten. Through Jan. 4. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.Even though everyone's Christmas decorations have been up for a while, the holiday season doesn't really begin for me until the Cincinnati Playhouse opens its production of A Christmas Carol. Well, there's no more waiting for that one: For the 24th consecutive year, the Mt. Adams theater kicks things off tonight with a glittering production of Charles Dickens' story of the re-education of Ebenezer Scrooge by several ghosts and the loving family of Bob Cratchit. This show is worth seeing simply for Bruce Cromer's winning performance in the pivotal role, but there's so much more — it's a scenically beautiful production, and the ensemble totally enters into the spirit of the season and brings the audience right along, too. Through Dec. 28. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors is not exactly a holiday show, but it's a lot of fun (CityBeat review here), what with two sets of twins intersecting without realizing the confusion they're causing. Of course, it all sorts out eventually with a happy ending and multiple weddings. Set in a carnival town and costumed as if it were America in the 1930s, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production induces laughter from start to finish. It would be a happy weekend outing for anyone, young or old. Through Dec. 13. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273.Know Theatre's production of The Bureau of Missing Persons is an evocative and entertaining piece of alternative theater (CityBeat review here). The story of a woman's quest from her New York City apartment to a cave in Moscow in search of someone missing is described in the show's publicity as "a poignant tale of loss and redemption — part mystery, part love story." It's also the directorial debut for Tamara Winters, who recently became Know's associate artistic director. There's a preview tonight and the official opening is Saturday evening; it will be onstage through Dec. 20. Tickets ($20 in advance; $10 at the door 10 minutes prior to curtain, if available … cash only): 513-300-5669.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.