A year ago, Know Theatre announced a strategic plan to shift away from being a traditional company offering annual seasons. Instead, Know announces programming on a rolling basis. That led to a lighter-than-expected stretch in 2012 and 2013, which nonetheless featured several excellent productions: Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling was one of 2013’s best shows on any stage (directed by Cincinnati Shakespeare’s Brian Isaac Phillips), and Mike Bartlett’s Cock showcased strong acting. And many said the 10th anniversary Cincinnati Fringe this past June featured one of the strongest lineups ever for the annual feast of innovative performances.
The result of this plan becomes more obvious with this week’s announcement from Producing Artistic Director Eric Vosmeier of an ambitious array of anticipated shows into the fall of 2014.
Know currently has onstage its first show of the fall, Lauren Gunderson’s Macbeth-inspired comedy Toil and Trouble (onstage through Aug. 24). Following the CNKY Scene Festival of LGBT films (Sept. 20-22) and the Midpoint Music Festival (Sept. 26-28), for which Know is a venue, will be Mike Bartlett’s Bull (Nov. 1-30). That gives Know the bragging rights as the first U.S. theater to produce both scripts by the British writer. Cock and Bull (Bartlett certainly had an inside joke in mind with his pair of titles) use a stripped-down aesthetic — no props and no scenery plus lots of onstage intensity between characters. Bull is the story of three mid-level executives competing for two corporate positions. Brian Robertson, who staged Cock, will direct this one, too.
Another director with previous ties to Know, one-time artistic director and Fringe founder Jason Bruffy, will stage Steve Yockey’s Pluto (Jan. 24-Feb. 22, 2014). The new script, called “poignant and evocative,” is part of a rolling world premiere through the National New Play Network. The production will feature two of Cincinnati’s best local professionals, Annie Fitzpatrick and Tori Wiggins. Following a local tragedy, an ordinary day in a suburban home takes a strange turn when all hell breaks loose.
Holding to its intention to keep the schedule flexible and take advantage of options for newer works likely to come available, Know is holding a springtime slot (April 4-May 10, 2014) for a show that will be announced later.
For the fall of 2014 Know plans to stage Moby Dick, playwright Julian Rad’s 2003 adaptation of Herman Melville’s great American novel. Michael Burnham, recently retired from a venerable career as a professor of drama at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, will co-direct with designer Andrew Hungerford. The tale of revenge and obsession as Captain Ahab pursues the great white whale that maimed him has been stripped to its essence for what promises to be a highly theatrical endeavor, using sea chanteys and inventive staging. (Interestingly, a year ago Cincinnati Opera announced plans to present an operatic rendition of Melville’s novel at Music Hall in its 2015 summer season.)
Also in the mix will be a holiday reprise of The Naughty List (Dec. 1-30) at Arnold’s Bar & Grill by OTRImprov, a comedy troupe that operates within Know’s supportive umbrella, the Jackson Street Market. At Arnold’s courtyard downtown, the performers will offer an irreverent take on the holidays — involving audience suggestions and participation. Performances will be on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings.
The 11th annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival (May 27-June 7, 2014) returns for another celebration of theater, music, dance, film and art — and a lot of stuff in between that kind of defies simple description but draws thousands of enthusiastic attendees to offbeat venues in Over-the-Rhine.
Know sustains interest in the Fringe and keeps its patrons coming back by occasionally presenting “encores,” returning shows and performers that were hits during the June festival. Jon Kovach offers The Wave next week (Aug. 26-27), his powerful one-man show based on an educational experiment by Ron Jones; comedian/storyteller/singer Kevin Thornton will present Stairway to Kevin (Sept. 6 and 13); Paul Strickland rolls back into town with his one-man trailer park fairytale comedy, Ain’t True and Uncle False (Oct. 11-12); and Animal Engine returns with its charming love story, Petunia & Chicken (Nov. 10-11), my personal favorite, based on the writings of Willa Cather. Also returning will be the St. Louis-based troupe, The Beggar’s Carnivale (Dec. 5-7), a variety show described as “Cirque du Soleil on a whiskey bender,” back for the fourth consecutive year.
All this adds up to an ambitious body of work that’s distinct from other theaters in Cincinnati, demonstrating a commitment to artists and new scripts.
More info: knowtheatre.com
CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]