The holidays offer a perfect time to go to the theater with local productions for theater fans from wide-eyed kids to old cynics. Some shows are familiar, like a visit with old friends, while others spruce up an old story with some new garland — and perhaps a sprig of twisted sass. Here's a rundown on eight locally staged holiday recommendations.
During a week when we count our blessings, I want to mention several things I'm grateful for, starting with Mrs. Mary Price, a high school English teacher who pulled me out of a study hall in 1963 and urged me to audition for a play she was directing. I've been in love with theater ever since. I'm grateful to CityBeat for supporting my support for local theater, and I'm grateful to all the fine theaters in Greater Cincinnati that provide a remarkable variety of choice.
George Stevens Jr.'s play is a 90-minute monologue that chronologically presents the life of Thurgood Marshall. Speaking in an auditorium at Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., Marshall reminisces about his life and how he chose not to challenge the legal system but to use it to advance the cause of civil rights. "My weapon," he says, "is the law." He became living proof of how one man can make a difference.
A small investment can make a big difference: In August 1986, with $200 in hand, several aspiring theater artists produced three one-act plays at Memorial Hall. Success inspired them to create Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. Two years later arts patrons Murph and Ken Mahler and Ruth and John Sawyer financed the purchase of a building that became ETC's permanent home. Now in its 25th season, the organization still represents what creativity and devotion can achieve.
September marks the beginning of Greater Cincinnati's 2010-11 theater season. Check it out: Playhouse in the Park, Ensemble Theatre, Cincinnati Shakespeare, Know Theatre, Human Race Theatre Company, Broadway Across America, the Covedale Center, CCM, Falcon Theater, NKU, the Footlighters and Cincinnati Musical Theatre are offering up a huge array of live theater this fall.
Part of the fun of Fringe is the slapdash, on-the-fly sense of some productions. Often this is calculated, of course, a screen for serious theatrical smarts. But after several days of such fun and games, it's a pleasure to walk into a real theater with a generously furnished set waiting for action.
A lot of theater awards are handed out around the nation this time of year, including the Acclaims earlier this week in Cincinnati. I organize the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, which will return in August (for year 15) to honor excellence from this season just before the next one kicks off. Awards are arbitrary, subjective and unscientific, but that doesn’t stop us from being fascinated or rooting for our favorites.
Lynn Meyers' intuition for audience-pleasing productions continues its unerring course at Ensemble Theatre with this musical about four young women who have dreams and hopes and keep striving for them. The Wonderettes of Act I are a high-school girl group who get to sing at their 1958 prom when a boy group gets into some teenage trouble; in Act II, a decade later, they're back for a reunion.
Actors and stages and shows ... oh, my! April has offered Cincinnatians several unparalleled weeks of "We're off to see the theater." No matter which yellow brick road you followed, it likely led to a stage with an excellent production. Let me recap...
A successful comedy is tougher to pull off than a serious dramatic play. Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati's D. Lynn Meyers never seems daunted by that challenge. The latest piece of evidence is ETC's production of 'Becky's New Car' by Steven Dietz. I've seldom heard people laugh out loud so heartily or repeatedly as they did on opening night for this clever show.