Onstage: Adult Content

Playhouse's 'alteractive' series offers a glimpse at the inventive and innovative

Playhouse In The PArk

Familiar face: The Playhouse's annual alteractive series kicks off with Tim Miller's 1001 Beds on Feb. 19.

If one of your recent New Year's resolutions was to expand your theatrical horizons, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park is ready to give you some choices. This week the Eden Park theater announced its seventh annual "alteractive" series, which kicks off on Feb. 19 with monologist Tim Miller, back for his fourth appearance.

If Miller weren't so darned creative and amusing, I might say that four times in seven years disqualifies him as a new face. He's more like an old favorite at this point.

But with Miller, it's a breath of fresh air — and wry observations — every time the acclaimed performance artist and gay rights activist walks onstage. His new show, 1001 Beds, actually began in Cincinnati when he was here for a previous alteractive appearance and staying at the Vernon Manor Hotel.

"If I continue to tour for another 20 years," Miller explains, "I will end up sleeping in at least 1,000 hotel beds in my lifetime. For maximum poetic oomph, let's say 1,001 beds. They symbolize a life and art dedicated to reaching out toward folks from Bozeman to Tampa. A life and art that has traveled widely and, I believe, reached a couple hundred thousand people with my stories of queer life and love."

His monologue is a raucous chronicle of his travels across love, politics and art — from a gay teen's experience in a hotel across from the Hollywood Bowl to a night in a police holding cell. And it includes a stop in room 626 at the Vernon Manor.

"I saw in so much of my work what a common thread the bed has been," Miller points out. "These politics, our lives, our love, our spiritual selves, are forged between the sheets in a way. So this piece gets to jump forward from that metaphor by inviting the audience into four different stories about very specific beds where my truest self, my political self, my resilient self, my partnered, married self, came forward."

Including Miller's performance, alteractive's 2007 edition will offer six evenings of performance by alternative artists — monologists, poets and musicians — from February through April. Each show is on a Monday evening, presented in a cabaret-style setting in the Playhouse's Rosenthal Plaza, the lobby space between the Marx and the Shelterhouse theaters. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and performances start around 7 p.m. Other evenings include:

Your Negro Tour Guide (Feb. 26). If the title sounds familiar, it's because you read it here in CityBeat. This show is based on weekly columns by Kathy Y. Wilson first published here; they've been adapted by Jeff Griffin and Torie Wiggins. A 2002 drama grad from UC's College-Conservatory of Music, Wiggins performs Wilson's words, bringing them to vivid life — rants, letters, music and nightmares that borrow from spoken word, Hip Hop, cabaret and stand-up. Wilson's observations on race remain brutally honest and profoundly insightful.

Slam Cincinnati (March 12). Cincinnati native Obalaye Macharia, who performs simply as Obalaye and founded the Artistic Order of 144K, will coordinate an evening of our city's best performance poets. The 144K — a performance ensemble of spoken word artists, authors, playwrights, recording artists, producers, actors, singers and musicians — tours extensively in the United States and abroad. Obalaye says, "Cincinnati got old problems, got them all deep down. It's going to change. 144K is part of that change 'cause it's so diverse, and it represents the diversity going on."

Firecracker (March 19). Natalie Sullivan, Stacey Hall and Sarah Maher have performed sketch comedy and improvisation together since early 2005. Their roots are in Chicago, where they performed individually before coming together as Firecracker — which is also what they call their performance. They intersperse their act with satirical commercials, including a very funny takeoff on promotions for Mr. Clean, that handsome guy who got his start at Procter & Gamble.

The Values Americans Live By (March 26). This is a funny and physical performance piece presented by the Laboratory for Enthusiastic Collaboration, which has been entertaining audiences since 1996. It's based on a pamphlet written in 1984 by a cultural anthropologist who was attempting to demystify the American people for foreign visitors. They debuted the piece at an alternative theater festival in Delhi, India, in 2004. It's been amusing people around the world since then — so Cincinnati is probably ready for it now.

Simone Perrin Sings Songs of Love and Love Lost with Her Accordion, Pixie (April 2). A native of Minnesota and a graduate of Oberlin College, Simone Perrin spent five years in New York City cultivating an act that combines an accordion, a big voice and a tale said to be about a broken-hearted vampire and boots "made for walkin'." Her zany show was a hit at the Minnesota Fringe Festival last summer, and she has worked with another Minnesotan, Kevin Kling, who is a past alteractive performer.

The Playhouse warns that "alteractive performances may contain adult content and language." We certainly hope so. That's what makes alternative theater so much fun.

ALTERACTIVE runs Feb. 19-April 2. For more information, go to www.cincyplay.com

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