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’s John Fox for working with me as an editor, first at EveryBody’s News and then at CityBeat. John made it possible for me to write regularly about shows, actors and more in Cincinnati, and for 14 years we teamed to manage the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for theater. Last summer John supported my efforts to combine the theater CEAs with the Acclaim Awards to create an even stronger program to recognize local theater. This ongoing project is working hard to heighten awareness of theater in Cincinnati.
I’m thankful to live in a city with fine theaters that provide a remarkable variety of choice. This year I’m especially glad to celebrate Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s 25th anniversary, a great accomplishment for a company specializing in staging new works for audiences eager to stay abreast of the best in contemporary mainstream theater.
I’m equally glad that my coverage of work onstage has coincided with Ed Stern’s tenure as producing artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse. Since 1992, his theater has won Tony Awards for its quality and creativity, and his 18-plus seasons have provided countless memorable evenings of outstanding performance of superb material. I will miss Ed after his departure, but I am so grateful he has nurtured this admirable arts organization, one that will surely continue to give us productions of the highest quality beyond his era.
I’m grateful for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, now in its 16th season of offering a steady diet of classic plays performed by a company of actors you’d expect to find based in larger cities. Know Theatre has provided more than a decade’s worth of newer, experimental work, especially with its ongoing management of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival every June. Know recently launched its Jackson Street Market, a program to encourage artists developing Fringe-styled productions.
I’m thankful to live in a city that supports several exceptional university theater training programs. UC’s College-Conservatory of Music has nationally respected drama and musical theater programs that train young performers for illustrious careers on stage and screen. Northern Kentucky University is establishing itself as another excellent theater program that entertains audiences while cultivating aspiring talent.
I’m thankful for other great things in Kentucky, too, including more theater productions at Covington’s Carnegie Center, which is about to become one of the few venues in the Midwest to offer live transmissions from London’s National Theatre. The first of these will be Hamlet on Dec. 28, directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Rory Kinnear.
It’s also great to be just 100 miles from Louisville, where the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre is perhaps our country’s most respected launching pad for new scripts. (The 35th annual festival begins in late February.)
Finally, I’m grateful to you for reading this column and my CityBeat reviews and for paying attention to local theater. It’s a blessing we need to support.
CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]