Five Best Cincinnati Arts & Culture Events for Memorial Day Weekend

A game show-like performance piece at Wave Pool, a monumental video-art installation at Cincinnati Art Museum, a countertenor singer at the May Festival and movie star Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the cinema are among our selections for May 25-28

click to enlarge Chelsea Flowers presents her "Check Point" game at Wave Pool on Saturday. - PHOTO: Chelsea Flowers
PHOTO: Chelsea Flowers
Chelsea Flowers presents her "Check Point" game at Wave Pool on Saturday.

Looking for something to do over Memorial Weekend beyond A Taste of Cincinnati, which this year features a big outdoor concert by the B-52s on Sunday? There is much more, and here are five events that would be especially satisfying, in our opinion:

• Check Point closing reception, 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Wave Pool, 2940 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington

Detroit-based artist Chelsea Flowers ends her stint as a Wave Pool artist-in-residence with a game show-like performance of her fun and enlightening Check Point interactive artwork. Trying to determine if it's possible to build a sense of community through the act of playing, she has created a way to test social, cultural and emotional knowledge by asking participants such questions as “Did O.J. do it?,” “What day did Beyonce turn Black?,” and “Can you walk like an Egyptian?” The game might also ask participants to “list seven young men and/or women who were murdered by police in the past four years,” according to Wave Pool. 

Check Point aims to make its players not only realize they don't always know the answer, but to become comfortable with knowing how to ask for it. As Flowers told Wave Pool, "We create our own communities based on what we share and how we care for one another. Participants will be able to show their care through play (verbal discussion), dance (intellectual conversation with one’s body) and investigation (openness to learning).” The event starts with food and mingling from 7-8 p.m. and then the participatory performance hosted by Flowers at 8 p.m. More information:

Debut of Juanjo Mena as May Festival Principal Conductor, 8 p.m. Friday, Music Hall

The Friday program, which Mena talked about with CityBeat recently, is a good example of the new programming the May Festival has this year as it aims to be a more inclusive vocal music event. Friday's concert will feature Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with soloist David Daniels, who attended University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and has been a leader in the current revival of male countertenor singers. There will also be the North American premiere of James MacMillan’s Credo, which Mena premiered in England in 2012. Giovanni Gabrieli's Magnificat is scheduled, too.

Mena is especially proud of the second half of the program — a complete performance of Maurice Ravel’s ballet score Daphnis et Chloé, in which the chorus is a vital part of the soundscape. The ballet is rarely performed, although its two orchestral suites are frequently programmed. Mena conducted those suites with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival chorus during the 2012 festival. This will be even better, he promises. "It’s a masterpiece,” he told CityBeat's Anne Arenstein. “Allow yourself to be carried away by this Impressionist music of enormous beauty, which is full of sensuality, enormous energy, emotions and life.” More information:

Screening of Sanctity of Sanctuary: Paul Strauss and the Equinox Farm, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Common Roots bar and event space, 3642 W. Eighth St., Price Hill

Common Roots, which seeks to be environmentally conscious and is owned by the Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage, is showing the last film in its spring series on Friday. According to the provided description, it explains how Strauss is a "renowned herbalist working on his 300-acre farm in southeast Ohio’s Appalachian foothills. He has restored woods and prairies on strip mined land and helped create the United Plant Savers Sanctuary for endangered medicinal plants." This 2013 documentary, from director Blis Hanousek DeVault, tells how Strauss first discovered the land and, over the years, attracted others with the same interests to move nearby. Common Roots says this is the best film in its series. More information:

click to enlarge Ruth Bader Ginsburg - PHOTO: Courtesy Magnolia Pictures
PHOTO: Courtesy Magnolia Pictures
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

RBG, Esquire Theatre, 320 Ludlow Ave., Clifton

This is the second time we've selected this film for this column, and why not? This engaging, inspiring documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become a runaway hit — it's earned a phenomenal (for a limited-release documentary) $4.4 million nationally in less than a month and is just hitting stride. At the Esquire, which also is showing Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War, RBG is every bit as much a superhero movie as the competition. More information: 

The Visitors and Scenes from Western CultureRagnar Kjartansson, Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Dr.

There are just a couple weeks left to visit the fantastic nine-screen video installation The Visitors by Icelandic contemporary artist Kjartansson, so this would be a great time to get that trip in before it closes after June 17. The museum is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but is closed Monday. As CityBeat's Leyla Shokoohe described the experience when the exhibit opened in March, "It’s both an installation and performance art and has been touring museums constantly. The artist and eight friends repeatedly perform a song refrain in different rooms of an old New York mansion until they slowly come together. As it plays out in real time, museumgoers move from screen to screen to watch. It’s easy to become enchanted by the music and the slow but sure way the participants join up while hauntingly singing, 'Once again I fall into my feminine ways.' "

WEEKDAY BONUS EVENT:  Cincinnati Soundbox's VIVE! Ensemble, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Urban Artifact, 1660 Blue Rock St., Northside

Now finishing its third season, Cincinnati Soundbox has established a reputation for the way it offers newer musicians and composers from here and elsewhere a chance to showcase their Classical work. This concert presents an ensemble under the leadership of conductor Maria Mercedes Diaz Garcia, and will feature such composers with Cincinnati ties as Rachel C. Walker, Michael Lanci, Paul Poston and Julia Seeholzer.

In an interview on Cincinnati Soundbox's website, the conductor explained the importance of introducing new music to Classical aficionados: "Every music has been new at some point," she says. "By closing off to new works, we are shutting down the voices of our artists and society. Actually, against what many think, new works can touch people in ways that older works might not. The composers, artists, performers creating art now are living in this society and can talk about issues that are current and affect us all. Of course, art can be universal too, and touch universal timeless issues, and that is why we also want to keep the history, in the form of art, alive. But there should be a better balance, where history does not overshadow the present." You can read the full interview here.

Tickets are $10 and will be sold at the door. More information:

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