Cincinnati is blessed with a strong community theater scene. Several of these volunteer organizations have been around longer than any of our professional companies. We all appreciated the wonderful 50th anniversary season of the Cincinnati Playhouse in 2009-2010, but this year marks the 75th year that Mariemont Players has been in business, generally offering five or six productions annually. (They’re planning a celebration for Dec. 18.) One of Mariemont’s big advantages is that it performs in its own building, the Walton Creek Theater, a converted 1910 school house just east of the Village of Mariemont. Two other well-established companies, Footlighters Inc. and Cincinnati Music Theater, have long established homes, too — Footlighters in the Stained Glass Theater in Newport (in an 1882 church designed by Samuel Hannaford), and CMT, a regular at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater since 1995.
Showbiz Players, which marked its 25th anniversary in 2011, has performed for a while at Xavier University and then at the Madisonville Arts Center. Now they’ve decided to move to a venue that’s fast becoming a respected spot for excellent theatrical entertainment, the Otto M. Budig Theater at Covington’s Carnegie Center. Showbiz plans to inaugurate its new home with the regional, non-professional premiere of Avenue Q, an irreverent Tony Award winner from 2004. The production is set for June 1-10, 2012.
The Carnegie’s Joshua Steele says the Center is “thrilled to welcome a theater organization as venerated and energized as Showbiz Players” and adds that the staff at the Carnegie is eager to work with producer-director Bunny Arszman and the company “to realize their vision for Avenue Q and hopefully on many other shows to come.”
Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that The Drama Workshop, producing shows since 1954, has purchased a facility to call its own. In October, TDW acquired the Glenmore Bowl building on Glenmore Avenue in Cheviot. The group plans to turn the 1928 facility, originally a movie theater, into a community performing arts center.
“This is monumental for our group in terms of awareness and building an audience and membership base,” says Mary Stone, TDW’s president. “Now that we have a dedicated venue, we can increase the number of productions in our season, as well as secure permanent signage and have a constant presence in the West Side community.”
TDW’s facility is in the heart of Cheviot’s entertainment district, close to approximately 10 restaurants and bars, providing theatergoers the opportunity for an evening out with dinner before the show or drinks afterwards. TDW intends to make the building available on an affordable basis to other groups and individuals in need of performance space.
The group hopes to open its doors next September. In the meantime, they are seeking interested individuals, businesses and organizations to help them defray the cost of converting a bowling alley back to a performance facility. Contributions can be sent to The Drama Workshop in care of “The Glenmore Bowling Building Fund,” P.O. Box 712, West Chester, Ohio 45071. For more information: [email protected].
You might consider getting engaged with TDW or one of these hardworking theater groups. Volunteers are always welcome, and you’re likely to establish long-lasting friendships. Even if that’s not your thing, I urge you to explore the offerings of these theater: You’ll be surprised to see the quality of work that volunteers can produce.
CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]