Cincy Shakes and Other Theaters Announce 2017-18 Seasons

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has revealed the productions making up its inaugural season in its new home on Elm Street.

click to enlarge Miranda McGee and Giles Davies will be featured in Cincy Shakes' production of "Dracula." - Photo: Mikki Schaffner Photography
Photo: Mikki Schaffner Photography
Miranda McGee and Giles Davies will be featured in Cincy Shakes' production of "Dracula."
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a “classical arts corridor” taking shape on Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine. Joining Music Hall, Memorial Hall and the School for Creative and Performing Arts will soon be another significant anchor, CINCINNATI SHAKESPEARE COMPANY and its Otto M. Budig Theater, opening Sept. 8, 2017. It’s close to restaurants, breweries, pubs, distilleries, shops and galleries. There’s ample parking nearby, and two streetcar stops are within easy walking distance. 

Tonight Cincy Shakes revealed for the first time the productions making up its inaugural season in its new home. Producing Artistic Director Brian Isaac Phillips said, “These universal classics of the stage and innovative literary adaptations complement our favorite playwright, William Shakespeare, and his timeless tales of love, betrayal, desire, despair and exaltation. Because we will be bringing you closer to our performances and our actors than ever before, all of the passion and power of our stage is within your reach.”

The opening production will be Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Sept. 8-30). Phillips, marking his 15th year leading the company, said, “This is the perfect Shakespeare comedy to welcome old audiences and new into our new home. The play celebrates the power of love to transform, and it will be a delight to present this magical comedy as our company transforms.” The confused lovers and Nick Bottom’s crew of inept actors have been one of Cincy Shakes most frequently presented works: This will be the fifth time it’s been staged, tying with The Taming of the Shrew. The most recent production was in 2012.

The season will continue in October with a staging of Dracula (Oct. 13-Nov. 4), adapted by Steven Dietz. (His play Bloomsday closes out Ensemble Theatre’s 2016-2017 season this coming May.) The Halloween-themed horror story will feature longtime favorite Giles Davies as the legendary vampire and multi-talented Miranda McGee as his favorite victim.

Preceding the holidays, the company will dive into its first play based on a work by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, adapted by Laura Eason (whose play Sex with Strangers was onstage at the Cincinnati Playhouse in 2015). Cincy Shakes will continue its tradition of presenting the zany holiday comedy, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) (Dec. 21-31). The show has been a hot ticket with audiences for 11 seasons; it’s being re-imagined for the company’s new stage.

To kick off 2018, Todd Kreidler’s adaptation of the 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Jan. 26-Feb. 17) will offer a chance for dialogue around inclusion. A lot of attitudes have changed in the 50 years since this film stirred up conversations. It featured Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton as an interracial couple who announce their engagement to her shocked parents, played by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. 

It’s back to Shakespeare in March with Othello (March 2-24, 2018). Phillips said, “The intimate nature and contemporary themes of this Shakespeare tragedy provides a great opportunity for us to show our audience how relevant the Bard is today. A contemporary setting will inspire innovative staging and design, as well as reveal to our audiences why Shakespeare is for and about everyone.”

Another American classic, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (April 6-28, 2018) is next. The provocative 1955 drama by one of America’s great playwrights is about one man’s struggle to acknowledge his identity and his confrontation with his father about that reality. The season’s final production will be Michael Frayn’s hilarious backstage comedy Noises Off (May 18-June 9, 2018). “This is one of the funniest comedies of all time,” Phillips says, “and it has been a longtime dream of mine to produce it at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.” He plans to have seating available on the new thrust stage to demonstrate its flexibility. 

The new theater promises a high level of intimacy. “All the seats are less than 20 feet from the stage,” Phillips says. “The best seats in the house are within everyone’s reach.” In addition to 197 seats on the main floor surrounding the thrust stage, the theater features an upper gallery, a one-row balcony above the floor seating. Each of those 47 seats is also within 20 feet of the stage. For more details on seating and accessibility features, visit cincyshakes.com/DebutSeasonSeatingInfo.

The new theater boasts many state-of-the-art features inspired by venues from around the world, including the Royal National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe in London, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. The lobby will feature a bar made using recycled barn wood as the focal point of a gathering space for socializing before and after shows and during intermissions. The lobby will be illuminated with lighting inspired by a starry night, acknowledging the long-ago practice of Shakespearean performances outdoors.

Subscriptions are currently available via the website cincyshakes.com or box office by calling 513-381-2273, ext. 1. Single tickets for all shows go on sale on March 1.

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In mid-January CINCINNATI LANDMARK PRODUCTIONS announced the shows it will present at its two theaters during the 2017-2018 season. At the Covedale Center, the Marquee Series will kick off with William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker (Sept. 7-Oct. 1), the drama about Helen Keller and her devoted teacher Annie Sullivan. It will be followed by Young Frankenstein (Oct. 19-Nov. 12), Mel Brooks’ hilarious, affectionate musical take inspired by the classic horror story. Three legendary musicals fill out the season: Annie (Nov. 30-Dec. 23), Guys and Dolls (Feb. 15-March 11, 2018) and Oklahoma (April 5-29, 2018). For the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater’s District Series, up first is Kander & Ebb’s edgy Cabaret (Sept. 28-Oct. 15). Then it’s Alan Ball’s 1993 comedy, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress (Jan. 25-Feb. 11, 2018), about bridesmaids at a wedding reception. The final show will be the farcical Monty Python’s Spamalot (March 22-April 8, 2018).

The Marquee season has been reduced from six to five productions, and the District Series from four to three. In the summer of 2018, CLP plans to add a production to its Summer Classics Season, increasing from three to four shows. “From an organizational perspective, this greatly streamlines production bandwidth and maximizes our greatest strengths while still allowing us to grow and build new audiences,” said Tim Perrino, Cincinnati Landmark’s executive artistic director. “Most importantly, this allows us to truly offer year-round, affordable, locally produced entertainment for our base audience.” The company will continue to be very busy, offering a total of 212 performance nights, 90 at the Covedale Center and 122 at the Incline.

The previously announced 2017 Summer Classics Season at Cincinnati Landmark’s Incline Theater features the baseball musical Damn Yankees (May 24 - June 18), Noël Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit (June 28-July 23) and amusing musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone (Aug. 2-27).

Tickets available at clpshows.org or 513-241-6550.

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At THE CARNEGIE in Covington — where Tim Perrino’s daughter Maggie happens to be the artistic director — four shows have been announced for 2017-2018. One of the earliest productions of Cincinnati’s theater season will be The Carnegie’s staging of The Full Monty (Aug. 12-27), the musical about unemployed steelworkers in Buffalo whose road to financial recovery involves a striptease act. 

Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical (Nov. 4-19), a show that did very well for the Cincinnati Playhouse in 2014, will portray the highs and lows of the life of the girl singer from Maysville, Ky. The show is by two of Greater Cincinnati’s most prolific local theater creators, Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman. The Carnegie has a tradition of family-friendly shows in January, and that offering for 2018 will be Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka (Jan. 18-28), with the chocolate factory coming to life. 

The final production at the Carnegie’s Otto M. Budig Theater will be Motherhood Out Loud (April 14-29, 2018), a joyous, moving and humorous play about parenting by a lineup of 14 playwrights including Pulitzer Prize-winner Beth Henley and Cincinnati native Theresa Rebeck. 

Subscriptions are available online at thecarnegie.com or by calling 859-957-1940.

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Dayton’s HUMAN RACE THEATER COMPANY has a knack of picking assembling seasons with several new works. That’s true for 2017-18, which begins with the American premiere of Legendale (Sept. 7-Oct. 1), a musical by Andrea Daly and Jeff Bienstock. About a guy caught up in an online game, it’s billed as a blend of romance, adventure and virtual reality with a Pop-infused score.

Brian Parks’ The House (Nov. 2-19) is up next in its Midwestern premiere. It’s the story of two couples, one selling a longtime dream house, the other buying it with big plans for renovation. That leads to an outrageous battle of wills. Laura Eason’s Sex with Strangers (Feb. 1-18) is up next. As mentioned previously, the story of an unexpected romantic tryst between a failed novelist and a celebrated (and much younger) tell-all blogger was presented at the Cincinnati Playhouse in 2015 and is, in fact, one of the most frequently produced plays in recent years.

The season will round out with two classic works — after a fashion. Brighton Beach Memoirs (April 5-22, 2018) is Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age comedy about growing up in 1937 Brooklyn. It will be followed by a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] (May 31-June 24, 2018) featuring Bruce Cromer, one of Ohio’s best actors. He knows his way around the Bard’s works from personal experience and from teaching acting at Wright State University. (Cromer is Cincinnati Playhouse’s longtime Ebenezer Scrooge in its annual production of A Christmas Carol.)

Subscriptions and tickets are available online via humanracetheatre.org by calling 937-228-3630.

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