So it’s Thanksgiving week and I’m
wandering down memory lane to offer an insight into why I’m thankful to
be a theater critic. I grew up in a small town near Cleveland, acted
(poorly) in some high school productions and was infected with an
abiding love for theater. As a teenager I sought out productions at
places like the Cleveland Playhouse and summer seasons at Great Lakes
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.
When I mention the Cincinnati Playhouse
in the Park, you likely think of the theater that sits on the hilltop
above Mount Adams...But the folks who run the
Playhouse know that new audiences must be continuously cultivated, and
for that reason, they deliver performances through a program they call
“Off the Hill,” which tours shows for young audiences to community arts
centers across the Tristate.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is partnering with the theater
program at Xavier University to stage Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
(Oct. 25- Nov. 3; tickets are $15-$30; 513-745-3939.) This came about
because Stephen Skiles, who heads XU’s theater program, is friends with
Brian Isaac Phillips, CSC’s artistic director. Skiles was an acting
intern at the Cincinnati Playhouse 16 years ago when Phillips was
recruited to fill out a cast.
in leadership is under way at Over-the-Rhine’s Know Theatre. Eric
Vosmeier, producing artistic director for the past half-dozen years, is
gradually handing over the reins to resident scenic and lighting
designer Andrew Hungerford. Know, an adventurous and occasionally
chaotic organization that began in 1997, is handling this evolution in a
surprisingly orderly fashion.
Occasionally I like to discuss where
plays and musicals come from. We have two interesting examples locally
this month: a touring production of Ghost the Musical at the Aronoff and the Cincinnati Playhouse’s regional premiere of Fly, a historical drama presented with imaginative staging.
As the season kicks off, it’s the perfect
moment for a few reminders about theater behavior. Attending a play
does not require dressing up or even being concerned about when to
applaud (that’s more complicated for symphony-goers). But it’s not the
same thing as watching TV at home. After all, you’re out in public, in
close proximity to other people who have paid to see live performers.
A year ago, Know Theatre announced a
strategic plan to shift away from being a traditional company offering
annual seasons. Instead, Know announces programming on a rolling basis.
That led to a lighter-than-expected stretch in 2012 and 2013, which
nonetheless featured several excellent productions.
There’s no place like home. That mantra
has put several Cincinnati area community theaters in a good place:
Owning a facility means scheduling flexibility, room to rehearse and the
opportunity to grow.
In recent columns I surveyed Cincinnati
theater companies that came and went during the past 20 years. Some
stumbled because their founders had more passion than management
expertise; others simply lacked the focus to keep audiences coming back.
The truth is it’s hard to identify a niche and settle into it