Sunday, July 18, 1999

What will local theater scene be in five years?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        American Theatre, the national magazine of professional regional theaters, is prepping a little look at Cincinnati for its October issue. (About time!) Several local folks were interviewed, including me. I liked the last question I was asked so much, I'm putting it to you:

        What will the local theater scene look like in five years?

        For me, the question evoked a tumble of wonderful might be's and what if's.

        Will some enterprising theatrical entrepreneur find a storefront somewhere near Newport on the Levee? What about the Cincinnati riverfront?

        Will the renovation of the Emery Center in Over-the-Rhine include a small performance space? What about the planned performance space in the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts? Will the suburbs along I-275 and I-471 that are talking about cultural centers move forward?

        In five years, the Regional Cultural Alliance should be established. What will that mean to potential funding?

        What ripple effects will there be after five years of a new Fine Arts Fund second tier of organizations (first recipients announced this week)?

        What impact will the strengthening drama department at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music have? Will grads be tempted to settle in for a while and fill niches?

        What about the League of Cincinnati Theatres, established this spring? Will there be strength in numbers? Will the Carnegie in Covington re-commit to developing fledgling companies and closer-to-the-cutting-edge art?

        Of course no one can answer what will be. But we can dream of what we would like it to be. Let me know.

        Here are some thoughts from a few artistic directors about town:

        • D. Lynn Meyers, Ensemble Theatre: “I'd like Cincinnati to be a place where artists want to live and work. And if we had lots of different kinds of theater. It would be wonderful if every night of the week there'd be different theater to go to.”

        • Nicholas Korn, Stage First: “I'd like to see about three other companies grow to the size of Ensemble, and I'd like to be one of them.”

        • Ed Stern, Playhouse in the Park: “I think we'll see a less hand-to-mouth existence for actors, with artists being paid in more venues. I don't know how much will be around, but whatever is around will be fiscally and artistically stronger.

        “And our audience in this city will get younger. We'll defy what's going on nationally, and that will be a great thing.”

        STAGE FIRST: Two local performers are taking time out from their own fledgling companies to take roles in Stage First's season starter Tartuffe, Sept. 2-12 at the Fifth Third Theater. Deborah Ludwig, managing director of Ovation Theatre, and Scott Levy, whose Launch Productions launches Thursday, will take supporting roles in the Moliere play.

        Title role will go to Andy Gaukel, one of last season's most welcome additions to the local stage scene. He stopped in Cincinnati on his way from Lexington to Chicago and happily decided to stay.

        Single tickets to the 1999-2000 Stage First season are on sale, reports artistic director Nicholas Korn.

        He's rounding up restaurants to donate food for opening night “Play Before the Play” receptions.

        He's also working with the Arts and Humanities Resource Center for the Elderly and the Cincinnati Arts Association education department to arrange “inter-generational community days” for the first Sunday matinee of each production. The idea is to bring together students and seniors in post-performance discussions.

        Mr. Korn also is offering public speaking workshops to the business community. The next two are scheduled for Aug. 25 and Sept. 15. Call him for details at 581-1330.

        (By the way, Ovation's I Hate Hamlet opens July 30 at the Fifth Third, 241-7469. Mr. Levy's company opens with his The Mystery of the H-Note: From the Files of Hiram Gladiator at 719 Race St., 961-7921.)

        MORE PUPPETS: If you were intrigued by the giant puppets in Cincinnati Opera's Faust, know that you have a chance to see Mark Fox and his Saw Theatre working on a much smaller scale Friday through next Sunday.

        Saw has scheduled a few warm-up performances for Account Me Puppet on its way to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. Performances are at 10 p.m. Friday and Sunday and 10 p.m. and midnight Saturday. Late start times aren't just because Saw is too hip for words. Its studio — 2823 Massachusetts Ave., Camp Washington — isn't equipped with fancy lighting, so performances must start after sundown.

        Tickets $15. Call 541-0988 for reservations between 4 and 7 p.m.

        THEATER FUND-RAISER: Know Theatre Tribe is having a fund-raiser, 7-10 p.m. Saturday at Westminster's Billiard Club, 1140 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. The troupe spends most of its time touring kid-friendly programs to area libraries and bookstores.

        Ten bucks at the door buys three hours of pool, a potluck dinner, one complimentary glass of beer or wine, a chance to bid at silent auction and a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. Information: 871-1429.

        Jackie Demaline is Enquirer theater critic and roving arts reporter. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax, 768-8330.


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