Half Empty or Half Full?

It's a New Year, a time typically full of hope and new beginnings, including our local theater scene. The economic downturn, however, is having an effect.

It’s a New Year, a time typically full of hope and new beginnings, including our local theater scene. The economic downturn, however, is having its effect.

Ovation Theatre Company, a regular at the Aronoff Center for more than a decade, will postpone two previously announced spring productions until the fall, essentially eliminating its 2008-09 season. Artistic Director Alana Ghent says, “We felt this was the most prudent decision given current economic uncertainties.”

Clear Stage Cincinnati, around for a half-dozen years, has apparently gone dark. No shows were announced for the current season, and its Web site hasn't been updated.

In November, community theater director Bunny Arszman told me that Showbiz Players’ staging of a cabaret-style show at Below Zero Lounge was a success. She added, “A lot of theater folks who attended felt like Showbiz was ahead of the curve as far as downsizing. … It just isn’t fiscally responsible for us to risk a huge musical in this economic climate.” Showbiz has presented one musical annually at Xavier’s Gallagher Student Center Theater for several years.

Cincinnati Playhouse
has cut short the run of its next production, Travels of Angelica, a new work by local playwright Joe McDonough. Premieres are important, but they don’t sell as many tickets as more familiar titles, so the Playhouse will finish the show’s run on Feb. 15 rather than Feb. 21.

Broadway is suffering, too, with several shows closing sooner than expected. Several stages will be temporarily dark, an unusual phenomenon in New York City. Not only are tickets not selling, but several promising shows are struggling to find backers. The long-term result will be fewer shows to go on tour.

Is this cause for gloom and doom? Is our theater “glass” half empty or half full?

There is still plenty of good theater for people willing to seek it out — and many of our local theaters know how to present affordable productions that are also artistically satisfying. One good choice will certainly be Christopher Shinn’s Dying City at New Stage Collective, which opens this week. The play was one of 10 cited in The Best Plays Theater Yearbook 2006-2007.

From Jan. 16 to Feb. 8, Cincinnati Shakespeare’s staging of The Seagull, Chekhov’s 1896 masterpiece, sounds promising. Brian Phillips will direct a new translation by venerable playwright Tom Stoppard. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings during the run of The Seagull, CSC invites theater fans to watch the Cincinnati Playhouse’s acting interns present The Nina Variations by Steven Dietz. The piece, created in 1996, offers 42 versions of the final scene of Chekhov’s classic play. (This is also a commendable act of collaboration between two of Cincinnati’s finest theaters.)

Watch CityBeat’s arts/events listings and the To Do critics' picks section for more good choices of shows that will remind you what a great theater town we live in.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]

About The Author

Rick Pender

RICK PENDER has written about theater for CityBeat since its first issues in 1994. Before that he wrote for EveryBody’s News. From 1998 to 2006 he was CityBeat’s arts & entertainment editor. Retired from a long career in public relations, he’s still a local arts fan, providing readers (and public radio listeners)...
Scroll to read more Theater articles


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.