Fall Arts Picks

Onstage, visual arts and lit

Aug 29, 2012 at 10:55 am
click to enlarge Rhode Island-based dance company Everett
Rhode Island-based dance company Everett

Get ready to buckle your swashes and gird your loins for the merry adventures of The Three Musketeers at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. We all know some form of this story, probably from a movie version, but the Playhouse’s new artistic director Blake Robison maintains that Tony Award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig’s new adaptation respects the plot and the period, but is well suited fot contemporary audiences. “The language,” he says, “is fresh and vibrant, far from some of the stuffy and wordy versions you might have seen in the past. I think that this production embodies the Playhouse’s past and future. It’s an epic production of a beloved literary classic, the kind of production that only the Playhouse can do. At the same time, it’s an invitation to new audiences.” Robison, who chose to stage this production to kick off his first season at the Mount Adams theater, thinks that this story of heroism, treachery and honor is the perfect show to appeal to audiences young and old. The Playhouse is offering specially priced tickets for children ($25) for the run of the show. Sept 6-29, Playhouse’s Marx Theatre, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Eden Park, 513-421-3888, cincyplay.com.
(Rick Pender)

Sure, dance is entertaining, but did you ever consider how smart it can be? Providence, Rhode Island-based Everett brings the brains to modern dance once again with Brain Storm. The acclaimed company will perform this thought-provoking evening-length work in the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater Nov. 2-3 — marking the first installment of Contemporary Dance Theater’s 2012-2013 Guest Artist Series. CDT last presented the multi-disciplinary company here in 2004, when they were known as Everett Dance Theatre. But what hasn’t changed since their 1986 inception is their nontraditional approach. “I’ve always been interested in their process, in the research that goes into the work they create,” says CDT Artistic Director Jefferson James. “I’m intrigued by the subject matter that they deal with. … It’s not superficial; it’s a depth of information they’ve gone through to create the work.” And Everett doesn’t shy away from taking creative risks: Brain Storm blends neuroscience, medicine and the arts and explores the human brain in all its complexity and beauty. Expect an awe-inspiring amalgamation of dance, video music and theater, too. But rest assured, dance still remains at the heart of the work — the brains of the operation, if you will. Tickets available Oct. 2; performances are Nov. 2-3, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-621-2782, cdt-dance.org. (Julie Mullins)

If you were around the Cincinnati Hip Hop scene in the last half of the 1990s, you may (like me) have seen then-UC student/now-Indie Rap darling Yoni Wolf performing his idiosyncratic, melodic logorrhea at small venues around campus like Ripley’s with Doseone and Odd Nosdam. The Cincinnati-bred musicians moved out West and subsequently founded indie record label Anticon. Wolf went onto form Greenthink and cLOUDDEAD with Doseone and Nosdam, and later the equally experimental music group WHY? with brother Josiah. Although his Wikipedia entry still lists Yoni as a “Berkeley, California artist,” he actually returned to his hometown in late 2010 and both he and Josiah (with wife/musical collaborator Liz Wolf) use Ohio as their home base now. Set to release their fifth studio album Mumps, Etc. on Oct. 9, WHY? continues to defy expectations by bending genres to fit its unique sound. This album was produced by the Wolf brothers and mixed by Graham Marsh, and they bring their tour to town with an intimate standing-room only performance at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). Tickets are $10-$14 and go on sale Sept. 12. Oct. 18, 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513- 345-8400, contemporaryartscenter.org. (Maria Seda-Reeder) 

Some of the best area theater productions happen regularly at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, which terms itself a “premiere” theater — that is, a place that produces plays that are new to local audiences. Jeffrey Hatcher’s two-actor script, Mrs. Mannerly, first performed in 2010, is a memory play, a recollection by a man of his agonizing experience as a 10-year-old boy taking an etiquette class from a starchy, demanding teacher in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1967. (It just so happens that Hatcher is from Steubenville and his young character is named Jeffrey, so there’s undoubtedly some autobiography going on in his play.) You can expect this production to be extra fun because it will feature Cincinnati Entertainment Award Hall of Fame actress Dale Hodges, one of our city’s most versatile professional actors, as the title character. And enhancing the show’s credentials even more: It’s being staged by Ed Stern, who just finished his 20-year career as the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s producing artistic director. With that kind of talent involved, it’s likely that this could be the comic hit of the fall theater season. ETC offers a note on etiquette: This production contains strong language. Oh, my. Oct. 10-28, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-3555, ensemblecincinnati.org. (RP)

In a world that’s becoming more and more digitized by the day, Books by the Banks is an unabashed celebration of words published on physical objects. Now a fixture on the local literary landscape, this one-day smorgasbord for book lovers of every stripe again takes place at the Duke Energy Convention Center, again featuring more than 100 local, regional and national authors working in a variety of genres and styles. The daylong (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) event includes a pavilion where readers can meet and purchase books by their favorite writers, panel discussions, a Kids’ Corner and too many other activities to fit in this sentence. Participating authors are still being finalized, but many have already been announced, including Katherine Howe, a New England-based historical novelist with a keen imagination; Kambri Crews, whose debut memoir, Burn Down the Ground, is getting good notices; former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, whose False Justice — Eight Myths That Convict the Innocent sounds intriguing; and David Bell, a Cincinnati native whose first novel, last year’s Cemetery Girl, was a creepy, deftly delivered thriller. That, of course, is just a tiny sliver of those who’ll be on hand. Perhaps best of all: Books by the Banks is free and open to anyone who wants to experience its many pleasures. Oct. 20, 525 Elm St., Downtown, booksbythebanks.org. (Jason Gargano)

concert:nova sets the mood for Halloween, slicing and dicing superheroes and film icons in H. K. Gruber’s Frankenstein!!. The Austrian composer describes his 1977 work as a “pan-demonium” for chansonnier and chamber ensemble, which gets to double on toy instruments and paper bags that “should make a deafening noise when burst,” according to the score. “It’s a truly bizarre, haunting, hilarious piece of music,” says Edwin Outwater, c:n’s conductor. “The narration examines all the unspoken weirdness in what’s going on in the mind of a child. A particularly warped child.” H. C. Artmann’s text is a series of quick-time sequences of political satire mashed up with pop culture heroes, villains and the usual Halloween suspects, including a werewolf and a female vampire. Batman and Robin are caught in bed, Lois Lane is gunning for Superman, Robinson Crusoe hangs out with cannibals and who knows what Goldfinger and John Wayne are up to. New York cabaret phenom Isengart debuts the chansonnier, a role that includes cabaret, lieder and opera, speaking, whispering and shrieking. “He’s an incredibly poised and amazing, focused performer and hypnotic to watch. It’s going to be an incredible experience for everyone.” Oct. 19 and 21, Emery Theater, 1112 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine, concertnova.com. (Anne Arenstein)

Be prepared for perhaps the most outrageous show you’ve ever seen at downtown Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center for the Arts when Broadway in Cincinnati presents the Blue Man Group in the Procter & Gamble Auditorium. Three bald-capped actor-musicians coated in brilliant blue makeup perform a show that features experimental music, physical comedy and tons of inventive multimedia. Using PVC pipe as musical instruments, beating out rhythms on glowing drumheads and splattering paint instruments, engaging the audience with giant inflatable balls and bathroom tissue cannons — this is truly performance art elevated to the level of hilarity and a kind of weird techno-beauty. Oh, by the way, the Blue Men are hilarious, too, typically engaging members of the audience in their good-natured tomfoolery onstage. It’s quite remarkable what these three guys accomplish without saying a single word, although big screens behind them offer a running commentary on the action — including “Shake your euphemism!” This is about as avant garde as Broadway in Cincinnati is ever likely to get, so if you’re ready for something truly zany, this one should be on your fall schedule. Oct. 16-28, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, 800-982-2787, cincinnatiarts.org. (RP)

Call it ladies’ night at Cincinnati Ballet: For the first time ever, this year’s Kaplan New Works Series features a lineup of exclusively female choreographers: Heather Britt, Paige Cunningham Caldarella, Amy Seiwert and Jessica Lang. The first three graduated from the School for Creative and Performing Arts, and Lang from Julliard. All have produced works to great acclaim and represent associations locally, as well as in Chicago, San Francisco, New York City and beyond. “If you think you know what female choreography is about, well, you’ll have to think again,” says the Ballet’s CEO/Artistic Director Victoria Morgan, “because this will surprise you.” But the company’s annual season-starting program extends beyond a female focus. The audience gets a rare opportunity to experience dance up close, thanks to the intimate venue, the Mickey Jarson Kaplan Theater — right inside the Ballet’s home studios at the corner of Central and Liberty streets. And it’s a chance for the Ballet to stretch its creative boundaries with contemporary-leaning, even risky new works. New Works is a hot ticket. The shows Sept. 8 and 9 have already sold out, so don’t dawdle, and don’t miss the season’s most talked-about dance performances. Sept. 6-16, 1555 Central Parkway, Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-5282, cballet.org. (JM)

Cincinnati Opera and the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music (CCM) are into their second season of Opera Fusion: New Works, which awards composers and librettists a 10-day residency to workshop operas using the resources of both organizations. This year, audiences can experience works in progress by two of America’s most prolific — and divergent — composers. Best of all, performances are free. Champion, with a score by Jazz legend Terence Blanchard and a libretto by award-winning playwright Michael Cristofer, is based on the true story of boxer Emile Griffith. The prizefighter won a bitter world championship; when his opponent made veiled accusations about Griffith’s being gay, Griffith’s KO sent him into a coma from which he never recovered. Performances are Oct. 27 and 28, with a reception to meet Blanchard and Cristofer that Sunday. Morning Star follows a family of Russian Jews who immigrate to the U.S. in the early 20th century. Composer Ricky Ian Gordon and his librettist William Hoffman began working on the opera over a decade ago. Says Gordon, “It’s a musical melting pot of styles I absorbed from my mother, a famous Borscht Belt performer.” Performances are scheduled for Dec. 4-5. West Corry Street and Jefferson Avenue, Corryville, 513-556-4183 or 513-241-2742 (Cincinnati Opera), ccm.uc.edu. (AA)

On a family trip to Chicago in 2005, I was out-voted for a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago’s major retrospective on French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in favor of the macabre (if educational) Bodies: The Exhibition at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Seven years later, I am still kicking myself for missing that show, but this coming October the CAM will hopefully fill that void with an exhibition simply titled Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. A fixture in Paris’ center of bohemian entertainment Montmartre, Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfa defied the expectations of a man born of his noble heritage, pursuing a career as a working artist among the lower classes that frequented and worked there. Two consecutive childhood accidents left him physically dwarfed, which likely provided him entrée into worlds he might not have otherwise seen, had he followed his aristocratic birthright. Although he was a prolific painter, Toulouse-Lautrec is most known for his prints and posters, which this exhibition will highlight. Expect to see some of his iconic lithographs like that of French cabaret singer Aristide Bruant in his distinctive red scarf and black cape, in addition to several other highlights of the CAM’s collection. Oct. 13-Jan. 13, 932 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, 513-721-ARTS, cincinnatiartmuseum.org. (MSR)

Years before the ABBA guys, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, turned their iconic Pop tunes into the hit Broadway show Mamma Mia, they composed music for a show called Chess. It’s set during the Cold War (it began its life in 1984 as a successful concept album before it landed on a London stage in 1986 and moved to Broadway in 1988), the story of two top players, one Russian, one American, involved in a romantic triangle with a woman who manages one of their careers while falling in love with the other. Loosely based on the characters of real American and Russian chess grandmasters, it’s all about making the right moves. With lyrics by Tim Rice (who provided the words for Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and The Lion King), the show has been described by Time as “one of the best Rock scores ever produced.” If you haven’t ever caught one of the mainstage musical productions at CCM, this is your chance to see great theater talent in the making. These performers will be heading to Broadway in the next few year, so aren’t we lucky to watch them as they train? Oct 25-28 at CCM’s Corbett Auditorium, West Corry Street and Jefferson Avenue, Corryville, 513-556-4183, ccm.uc.edu. (RP)

Hear the future of classical music in Price Hill! No, I am not making this up. In the year since Laura Jekel established an after school music program with Price Hill Will, she has garnered an impressive list of donors, volunteer teachers and a group of elementary school musicians who take to classical music like Beyblades. Music for Youth in Cincinnati (MYCincinnati) provides free music lessons to approximately 40 students, who receive weekly instruction in solo instruments and ensemble playing in an orchestra and in smaller groups. MYCincinnati is based on the principles of El Sistéma, the acclaimed Venezuelan program of intensive music instruction, beginning in preschool. Its most famous alum is Gustavo Dudamel, the 30-year-old conductor of the LA Philharmonic, and many other Sistéma grads go on to professional careers. The enduring value is a love for making music. That’s already apparent with Jekel’s students from Roberts Padeia, who meet every day after school for two hours of intensive music instruction from staff and volunteers, including members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Check out this extraordinary group perform arrangements of works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Rimsky-Korsakov Oct. 4. A Halloween concert on Oct 30. features an arrangement of Saint-Saens “Dance Macabre.” 513-251-3800 ext. 106, pricehillwill.org/MYCincinnati. (AA)

As part of this year’s MidPoint Music Festival (MPMF), ArtWorks is hosting its second annual Box Truck Carnival, which involves 10 plain box trucks converted into non-traditional spaces for performance art, opportunities to craft art and unique vendors of all stripes to entertain concertgoers throughout the three-day music extravaganza. This year, one can expect to find the work of artists like PAR Projects’ Jonathon Sears and Christopher Hoeting’s interactive “Rat Race” remote controlled car game, or Calcagno Cullen’s performance/installation “Free Advice” wherein the artist installed vintage telephones with recorded audio advice and a live person to personally guide visitors through their own deepest questions about life. Other installations will include a miniature improv theater run by local comedy troupe OTRimprov, a “chill out” sanctuary by Lucius Limited and the opportunity to record one’s MPMF experience with local visual documentarians Queen City Project. This Midpoint Midway will also feature a programmed stage, Jack White’s Third Man Records Rolling Record Store, as well as some of the city’s favorite vendors and food trucks over the course of the three-day festival. SpringBoard (ArtWorks’ business planning and development program) is the perfect pairing for MPMF as their recruits are artists, artisans and creative entrepreneurs searching for innovative ways to approach business ventures. Sept. 27-29, 12th Street between Vine and Walnut streets, Over-the-Rhine, artworkscincinnati.org. (MSR)

The Mercantile Library is one of Cincinnati’s great cultural treasures. It’s kind of remarkable, then, that are still people who’ve yet to sample its cozy, recently refurbished confines. The library has been a haven for lovers of the written word for nearly 200 years — it supposedly has a 10,000-year lease at its 11th-floor location on Walnut Street — a literary oasis that not only houses a vast collection of vintage books but is also a nurturer of contemporary writers and readers. In addition to its ongoing discussion groups and workshops, the Mercantile continues to bring in authors of considerable reputation to speak — from local luminaries to international bigwigs like John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Don DeLillo and Ray Bradbury. This year’s Niehoff Lecture series, sponsored Buck and Patricia Niehoff for 25 years, features renowned Irish poet and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, whose latest book, 2010’s Human Chain, garnered praise from nearly every corner of the literary universe. Speaking of Buck, in September he will publish his third book, Winning Cincinnati, a look at how Cincinnati has become the “most consistently Republican major city in the country.” The book will available at the Mercantile and selected bookstores. Call or go online for a complete rundown of the Mercantile’s upcoming schedule or to reserve a seat for the Niehoff Lecture. Oct. 20, 414 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-621-0717, mercantilelibrary.com. (JG)

Museum administrators don’t typically dig exhibitions that are “messy.” Bringing dirt, water and bright lights into galleries would require suspending conservation standards for many institutions with missions to maintain priceless relics. Fortunately, the CAC being a non-collecting institution makes it a perfect place to debut the upcoming exhibition Green Acres: Artists Farming Fields, Greenhouses and Abandoned Lots, with its real working farms in the gallery and lobby. Green Acres includes 25 artists/teams and is broken up into five thematic sections: farming awareness, innovative farming strategies, community farming/farming communities, biodiversity and farming mysticism. Guest Curated by Sue Spaid, (a former curator of the CAC, 1999-2002), the show focuses on artists’ relationships with agriculture. The exhibition is a companion to Spaid’s eponymous book, and she seems to want to inspire both artists and farmers alike — activism is an admitted common thread throughout. Spaid notes, “it’s very important that this show opens in Cincinnati, since Cincinnati has one of the most far-reaching community garden systems in the nation. With nearly 50 community gardens, managed by the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, 650 people produce 7,000 tons of food and donate nearly a ton more to food pantries, seniors and families. In Cincinnati, Green Acres celebrates everybody’s hard-won efforts to improve food security, whereas when the show reaches Washingon, D.C., it will propose farming as a local possibility.” Sept. 22-Jan. 20, 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-345-8400, contemporaryartscenter.org. (MSR)

In addition to providing local theatergoers with a steady diet of the works of William Shakespeare, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has proven itself adept with other classic material, both British and American. The downtown group opens its season this fall with the theatrical adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel that won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize. The story is set in 1936, a time of social upheaval in a small Alabama town. A sister and brother learn about courage and compassion as their father, an attorney, defends a young African American accused of rape. The warmly told story revolves around Atticus Finch, a moral hero of profound integrity. The role will be played by Bruce Cromer, who opened last season for Cincy Shakes as another admirable man of great principle, Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons. Cromer (who annually plays Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Cincinnati Playhouse) is one of our area’s finest actors, and this is a role he should excel in portraying. Sept. 7-30, 719 Race St., Downtown, 513-381-2273 ext. 1, cincyshakes.com. (RP)