Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival


Mar 31, 2004 at 2:06 pm

Then: In 1997, CityBeat reported that the three-year-old Fahrenheit Theatre Company was changing its name to the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival (CSF) in order to more accurately reflect what they felt was their position in the Cincinnati arts scene. Jasson Minadakis, then artistic director, defined CSF for readers. "We'll probably never be an Equity company," he said, referring to the professional actors' union. "If you want to do Shakespeare in America, you will come to the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival for at least a two-year commitment. We'll pay a livable wage and you'll get great chances to play important roles." (Issue of Feb. 6, 1997)

Now: Ten years later, CSF is still a prominent force in the Cincinnati arts community. Though the organization went through some growing pains — last year Minadakis parted due to artistic differences — under the artistic guidance of founding member Nick Rose CSF has recouped losses and is celebrating its 10th anniversary season.

Rose recently stepped down as artistic director and handed the reins to Brian Isaac Phillips, another visionary who's been with CSF for five years. "Brian has the same 'dreamer drive,' " Rose explains. Not working as the artistic director of the company gives Rose a little bit more free time to do things like interviews.

"We held on to that mission statement for about four years," he says, reacting to the quote from Minadakis. "Then we dropped it like a hot potato." He reflects for a moment. "I think it's a growth thing. You learn never to say 'never.' I know for a fact that Equity is going to be in the picture, but at the time we didn't know that."

So where are the faces that adorned the cover of the 1997 issue? Three are on the East Coast, including Marni Penning, who's currently in A Comedy of Errors with the Boulder Shakespeare Theatre. Lisa Penning and Chris Reeder ended up in Wisconsin. Khris Lewin is in New York and engaged to be married. Dan Kenney was just hired by the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Education program. Minadakis is artistic director for Actor's Express of Atlanta. And, fortunately for the Queen City, Gina Cerimele (now Cerimele-Mechley), Kristin Chase, Jim Stump and Rose himself are still here in Cincinnati.

The rest? Rose isn't sure where they are. He's been hard at work to gather alumni for the upcoming The Wars of the Roses, Reeder's adaptation of the Henry VI trilogy that premiered at CSF five years ago and will feature many familiar faces.

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