Sunday, August 15, 1999

Ensemble interns gear up for year

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Ensemble Theater lobby was erupting in nervous giggles early Monday evening. As the 1999-2000 intern company gathered for the first time, it was a lot like the first day of school, everybody looking for common ground and memorizing names.

        This year, there will be a preponderance of women (nine femmes to five fellows) and regional ties. There are lots of grads from Miami University, Wright State, Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More.

        What started the giggling is the echo of recognition. If the offspring of the Summer of Love carry names like Sky and Rain and Sunshine, then young parents of the mid-'70s had a certain affinity for the “K” sound. The gathered professional thespians-to-be include a Katerina, a Korey, a Cara, a Khara and a Karyn.

        They all talk about why they're here, making a choice to support themselves with standard nine-to-five day jobs and, for a laughable stipend, work long weeknights, some Saturdays and Christmas holidays. (Almost all of them will be working Around the World in 80 Days, and only Christmas Day won't have a performance.)

        “There's such positive energy here.”/“I'm looking forward to learning the audition process.”/“I just want to do everything — sweep the floor, make coffee.” (Much laughter) “I'll just say it. I really want to be onstage. But everything else is cool, too.”

        They are here for the contacts “(Playwright) Lee Blessing is going to be here!”), the experience and the Equity points. In 40 weeks they can earn 40 points that will get them very close to the 50 points needed to join the actors' union (and access to union jobs).

        It's unusual for so many locals to make up the intern company. Usually a large percentage come from auditions at regional theater conferences.

        “We want to take the best 12 to 15 we can find. If there's a conclusion to be drawn it's that the schools around here are putting out some good theater students,” intern company director Bob Rais says.

        Mr. Rais passes around thick handbooks. Immediately there will be auditions and combat workshops for the school touring show Love and War, which uses Shakespeare's combat scenes to demonstrate that violence is not a good way to resolve conflict. It will bequickly followed by crew and understudy assignments for season opener Side Man.

        This season the interns will understudy, learn to operate a light board, help actors quick-change between scenes, perform in Off Center/On Stage in late spring, build and strike sets, perform school tours, stage manage and create two independent projects.

        The first project they'll self-produce and perform in April; the other is a season-end showcase to be performed for folks who hire actors.

        Mr. Rais offers words to live by: “Check your mailbox every day, be on time, respect the theater, set goals for yourself.”

        Chocolate-frosted cupcakes made by Audrey Meyers, mom of ETC artistic director D. Lynn, are waiting in the wings.

        LOOKING FOR BOOKS: Mr. Rais is planning to start an intern library. He's looking for contributions of scripts and books on acting or technical theater. Call 421-3555.

        LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: The new League of Cincinnati Theaters is welcoming members. Full membership is open to companies with at least three productions a year, an established board and sole artistic leadership and salaries of at least $35 a week to all artists through rehearsal and production. Dues are $150.

        Associate membership is open to theaters with at least three productions a year and defined artistic leadership. Dues $50.

        Individual membership is $25.

        For a membership application call Rebecca Bowman at Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, 381-2288.

        PLAYWRIGHT AT WORK: JBar Studios (426 Findlay St., West End) will be home to #18 by Joe Barnett at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Aug. 26-28. Admission is $5.

        A finalist at the 1999 American College Theatre Festival, #18 (that's the address at which the drama unfolds) presents a cycle of dysfunction repeated through the generations of a family. Mr. Barnett recently earned his master's in theater from Miami University and says he'll stick around town for a while if there's support for his work. “I want to see how this goes.”

        That work includes Comfortable Breakfasts, which won the American College Theatre Festival's 10-minute play contest earlier this year and is a finalist in the national 10-minute competition held by Actors Theatre of Louisville.

        Next up at JBar (but in a different studio): Kim Humphries' production of Gillombardo's Hams in October.

        EXPANDED TO FIVE: A couple of weeks ago Xavier University Theater producer Cathy Springfield put out a call to performing artists to make up a three-part evening of new work. With two dozen proposals, the three parts became five.

        On the program for Sept. 20-Oct. 3: a 10-minute play by Nancy Bailey White and directed by her husband, David, former artistic director of Ensemble Theatre; dance and poetry by Linda Rieff; Don Wong, of Cincinnati Public Theatre, will develop a work with Xavier students centering on child abuse and abandoned infants; director Gyllian Raby also will develop a work with Xavier students, a Faustian tale of bio-engineering.

        The final piece is a short Christopher Durang work, Naomi in the Living Room, directed by Naomi Bailis and featuring Mrs. Springfield in the title role. The starring role had nothing to do with her decision, Mrs. Springfield says, not even attempting to keep a straight face.

        “There were wonderful proposals” among the 20 or so not selected productions. “I'd like to use some of them next year when the theater is torn down. I'd like to see them in found spaces all over town.”

        Don't worry, the theater won't be gone forever. It will be part of a bigger and better student center.

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


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