Sunday, January 02, 2000

Arts and Entertainment: 21 To Watch

        • Television: KEN JOBE

        The task of rebuilding WLWT's news ratings has fallen to Ken Jobe, 40, a former WCPO-TV (Channel 9) producer who joined Channel 5 in November from New York's WABC-TV. His mission: To win over Tristate viewers who watch ER, Law & Order and NBC's other popular 10 p.m. shows, and then flip to Channels 12 or 9 for late news. With Channel 9 tumbling into a tie with Channel 5 at 11 p.m. in November, four ratings points behind Channel 12, the battle for second place this year could be very interesting. Channel 5 hasn't won at 11 p.m. since 1991, with anchor Jerry Springer.

        • TV/Radio: DAVE LAPHAM

        Could Cincinnati Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham pass on the Bengals? Could the Bengals punt Mr. Lapham, whose contract expires this winter? It's possible. Fox Broadcasting may offer the former Bengals lineman more NFL games this fall, forcing him to choose between Cincinnati or network TV games. Skipping four Bengals games last fall for Fox TV upset Bengals General Manager Mike Brown. The Bengals radio rights also could move to another station when WBOB-AM (1160) and WUBE-FM (105.1) are sold as part of the acquisition of AMFM by Clear Channel, owners of WLW-AM and seven other stations here. The Bengals could have a new flagship station and new announcers before moving into Paul Brown Stadium.

        • Radio: GARY BURBANK

        After years of threatening to retire, Gary Burbank says he means it this time. Mr. Burbank, who turns 59 on July 29, says he's quitting his 2-6 p.m. show on WLW-AM (700) when his contract expires on Dec. 11, 2000. He has talked about retiring throughout most of the 1990s, and actually announced in 1997 that he was moving his show that year to Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. The national syndication deal fell through after he had built a recording studio on his three-acre tract along the Rainbow River in central Florida. Now he's building a house there.

        “I know I've said this before — and the bosses say, "Yeah, Gary, sure' — but I seem more resolute about it this time,” he says. “I kind of feel like a comic who has been on the stage for 18 years, and the applause keeps getting less and less.”

        • Classical music: PAAVO JARVI

        Conductor Paavo Jarvi, 37, is the man of the hour in the national classical music scene.

        The Estonian-born American is one of the hottest contenders in a race to fill an unprecedented number of orchestra vacancies around the world. Widely praised by critics and universally liked by musicians, this young maestro has been scrutinized for the top job in several cities for some time, including Cincinnati.

        If he becomes the 12th music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, he will lead the orchestra into the 21st century with his superior musicianship and knowledge of orchestra repertoire — combined with a savvy for the musical tastes of today's audience.

        He will add a note of young blood. Yet he also is a direct link to the past, continuing the legacy of former CSO music director Max Rudolf, Mr. Jarvi's teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

        As the CSO confronts the diminishing audience for classical music, the new music director will face many challenges in programming, marketing and the concert format, which has remained basically the same for 105 years.

        It's a tall order, but no one else has emerged as a close second in the CSO's music director search to replace Jesus Lopez-Cobos, who leaves in 2001.

        • Opera: NICHOLAS MUNI

        In his third full season as artistic director for Cincinnati Opera, Nicholas Muni has a challenge: How do you satisfy longtime opera supporters and mount cutting-edge productions? His 1999 season generated controversy — along with record ticket sales. While some subscribers are “shuddering to think what Mr. Muni is going to do to Aida,” others can't wait.

        If Mr. Muni's season is not the talk of the city — for better or worse — we'll be surprised. Already tongues are wagging about his plans to have London architect Zaha Hadid (designer of Cincinnati's new Contemporary Arts Center) design aproduction of Aida, but it's not likely to happen until 2004).

        Meanwhile, Mr. Muni aims to make his company a force on the national scene. How — or whether — he will accomplish that should make for provocative watching. This year, the opera will add a performance, hoping to lure out-of-towners. Will it work?

        • Opera: CAROLYN SEBRON

        Keep your eyes on mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sebron, a Cincinnati native and graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She has been making an incredible string of debuts. When she sang Delilah to Placido Domingo's Samson in Madrid's Samson and Delilah in June, the critics called her “a true seductress.” In December, she made her Berlin debut singing Amneris in Aida at the Deutsche Oper Berlin; next month she stars in Bizet's Carmen in Berlin.


        Emmy-winning director Alphonzo Wesson III has carved out a name for himself as a film and videomaker on the move with memorable commercials for the Cincinnati Ballet, among others. He also shot the “Do It Again” commercial for Cincinnati Community Video, where he is a stalwart of the training program that introduces young city dwellers to production jobs. Next up: Developing the Aaron Pryor story for a TV movie.


        From her Northern Kentucky home base, Marion Schniegenberg has built a thriving career producing commercials; this year's hot clients include toy trucks and laser games. She has also begun building a track record working on independent feature films, including Dayton filmmaker J. Todd Anderson's The Naked Man, now playing on cable TV in the United States. This year, she also is looking forward to a local premiere for People Like Us, a debut feature from writer-director Rob Kennedy on which she tackled production duties in 1998. She also expects to have a hand in new projects with Mr. Anderson, who, she said, “has a couple of scripts coming.”

        • Film: JULIA REICHERT

        Julia Reichert's distinguished filmmaking career encompasses Oscar-nominated documentaries (Union Maids, Seeing Red),features (Emma and Elvis) and teaching at Wright State University. After serving as producers of The Dream Catcher for fellow Yellow Springs resident Ed Radtke, Ms. Reichert and her partner Steven Bognar now are working with Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati on a documentary about children with cancer and their families. With this project, they have thrown in their lot with the technological upheaval in the motion-picture world by shooting all their footage with a digital camera.

        • Pop music: ITAAL SHUR

        He's responsible for 1999's biggest song, but things are just beginning for Itaal Shur.

        The former Cincinnatian wrote “Smooth,” the Carlos Santana/Rob Thomas single that owned the No. 1 spot on Billboard's pop charts for the final months of the century.

        Now major labels are calling, looking for more Shur hits and offering production deals to his Itaalavision company.

        That's the plan for 2000, says the 33-year-old keyboardist, a veteran of such bands as the local Sleep Theatre and New York-based Groove Collective.

        But his “Smooth” ride is far from over. Look for that song and the entire Santana album, Supernatural — the biggest success of the guitarist's 30-year-plus career — to garner a batch of major Grammy nominations, including song of the year. That songwriter's award would go to Mr. Shur and co-writer Thomas.

        • Pop music: YANKEE GREY

        Yankee Grey got its start as a mainstay of the Tristate honky-tonk circuit and signed with Monument Records in 1997. The band then waited almost two years for the release of its debut CD, Untamed, on Monument Records (the Dixie Chicks' label), but it was worth it.

        Yankee Grey's “All Things Considered” was on the country charts for the second half the year, much of that time in the Top 10, a rare accomplishment for a new country act's first single.

        In 2000, the multi-faceted band — singer Tim Hunt, guitarist Matt Basford, drummer Kevin Griffin, keyboardist Jerry Hughes, fiddler Joe Caverlee and bassist Dave Buchanan — will move to the next level, releasing the follow-up, “Another Nine Minutes” (the band just finished the video), and hitting the road.

        • Pop music:


        98 was very, very hot in 1999 and won't cool down in 2000.

        This was the year the Ohio quartet — Cincinnatians Nick and Drew Lachey and Justin Jeffre and Massillon's Jeff Timmons — really established itself, gracing the covers of every teen magazine, making People's “sexiest” issue and even being quoted in Rolling Stone.

        Along the way they sold millions of CDs and in December landed two albums in Billboard's Top 50. Other artists lined up to sing with them, from established diva Mariah Carey to newcomer Jessica Simpson.

        In the new year, look for more and bigger things (including a new album, the group will take January off and go into the studio in February). Look for a summer tour to bring 98 back to town.

        • Dance: DANIEL SIMMONS

        Daniel Simmons, 53, is director of the Otto M. Budig Academy of Cincinnati Ballet. Mr. Simmons brings 20 years of teaching experience to his new position with Cincinnati Ballet. He has taught at three major ballet companies — San Francisco, Washington and Joffrey, at San Jose Dance Theatre Academy, the Steps Studio in New York and countless studios across the country.

        We're watching to see if he can combine this vast experience with his weighty teacher training — the Royal Academy of Dance in London and the Vaganova Institute in Leningrad — to create a world-class school in Cincinnati.

        • Dance: RENE MICHEO

        Rene Micheo, 33, soloist with the Cincinnati Ballet and a native of Guatemala, has danced with Houston Ballet, Ballet de Santiago, Chili, Tulsa Ballet and Sarasota Ballet. This is his second stint with Cincinnati Ballet; he returned last season after a four year absence to guest in Sleeping Beauty.

        He looked too good to let go and was invited to rejoin the company. A wonderful technician and extraordinary dancer, watch for him to be promoted to principal and to be featured extensively.

        • Dance: ZSUZSANNA BOKOR

        Zsuzsanna Bokor, 22, corps de ballet, Cincinnati Ballet. Ms. Bokor, a native of Budapest, Hungary, danced with the Hungarian National Ballet Operahause of Halle, Germany and trained at the Hungarian Dance Academy, North Carolina School of the Arts, Kirov Ballet, Marinskij Theater, and Royal Academy of Sweden.

        She followed husband Gabor to Cincinnati, where he's an intern in orthopedic medicine at University Hospital. Strolling into the ballet company's studio at the start of this season, she asked if she could take class.

        She's so good she was snatched up in a heartbeat; watch for her to move up quickly to major roles.

        • Visual art: TIMOTHY RUB

        Can an art museum director from a small town (Hanover, N.H.) make it at a big city museum like Cincinnati Art Museum? Timothy Rub, 47, previously the director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, comes to the directorship of the CAM with enthusiastic praise from colleagues.

        But some people ask if he can survive the shift from the protected world of academia to a big museum in a big city, with the inevitable pressure from trustees and patrons and with a senior staff who are not going to easily surrender their power base to the new kid in town.

        • Visual art: ALEXANDER LEE NYERGES

Alexander Lee Nyerges has his eye on Cincinnati. As director of the Dayton Art Institute, he sees Cincinnati as a large potential audience, attracting new members and donors to the DAI. He plans his exhibitions, acquisitions and programs with the Cincinnati art audience in mind.

        Backed by a generous and supportive board of trustees, Mr. Nyerges, 42, feels that his team has the energy, enthusiasm and positive attitude to lure art lovers, art patrons and even art away from Eden Park and up I-75 to Dayton.

        • Visual art: SUE SPAID

From Cincinnati and out to both coasts, Sue Spaid, 38, will have an impact on the direction the arts take in 2000 and beyond.

        The new curator at the Contemporary Arts Center is an art critic and independent curator who will create exhibitions for the CAC in its current home as well as the new Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, opening in 2001.

        Previously the director of the Sue Spaid Gallery in Los Angeles, her critical articles have appeared in major art publications. She has curated more than 20 exhibitions for museums and art centers in the United States and Europe.

        • The arts: TOM NEYER JR.

Hamilton County Commissioner Tom Neyer Jr., 33, stands as the only local politician who grasps just what arts can do for cities and metro regions. It wasn't all the national examples of success that persuaded him (at least not completely). His mom Chris Neyer loves the arts and she passed that love along to her kids.

        Among the list of People to Watch a year ago was the new director of the Regional Cultural Alliance. That hire didn't happen in 1999 as the process of creating the alliance slowed to a practical, foundation-building pace.

        Midyear Mr. Neyer stepped in to chair the committee. That officially puts Hamilton County, which doesn't contribute to local arts, at the table. It also means Mr. Neyer can apply his arts and business savvy to the eventual hire and his political muscle to bolstering regional arts.

        • Theater: ANTON SHILOV

        The infancy of Downtown Theatre Classics has been so bumpy you'd think the people behind it would be black-and-blue. Production stage manager Anton Shilov, 23, came on board a year-and-a-half ago to design Fiddler on the Roof while he was a student at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

        He's still there, which makes his tenure longer than any of the theater's artistic directors. Right now he's DTC's one constant as it faces a season (its fourth) of guest directors. There's producing blood running in Mr. Shilov's young veins and he's making the case with the DTC board for several eye-popping projects. If he pulls it off, watch for DTC to transform from Titanic to titan in 12 short months.

        • Theater: RICHARD HESS

        Richard Hess is both a teacher and a student of theater. As chair of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music drama department, he has been a key factor in the ever-improving student body and the recent productions of epic stage adventures Angels in America and The Grapes of Wrath. As a student, he's an enthusiastic exponent of the intuitive style of theater artist Anne Bogart.

        If CCM has long been considered an ivory tower, Mr. Hess, 38, is doing his best to lower the drawbridge. These days you see CCM's students — a much-needed well of talent — on local stages as never before. Mr. Hess has brought CCM summer program Hot Summer Nights into the League of Cincinnati Theatres and directs every year at Human Race in Dayton.

        He has big plans for the sublime new Paul Shortt-designed studio theater in the new CCM complex (maybe a series?) and most importantly he sells Cincinnati to students. A lot of the nation's best theater towns have their roots in university theater departments and students who decided to settle in after graduation and put on their own shows. Time will tell how good a salesman he is.


People to watch in the 21st Century
Metro: 21 To Watch
Sports: 21 To Watch
- Arts and Entertainment: 21 To Watch
Business: 21 To Watch
Food: 21 To Watch
Nation and World: 21 To Watch