Sunday, January 27, 2002

College to train backstage workers

Cincinnati State classes to focus on design, history

        For everybody who's been wanting to hone their skills in the many offstage crafts of theater, check out a new theater project at Cincinnati State that debuts the week of Feb. 4.

        Professor Kate Spencer, project coordinator, established the new courses to fulfill a mandate of “community and educational outreach.” She hopes the project will have an enormous, long-term effect on the local non-professional, and even semi-professional, theater scene.

        Ms. Spencer has no intention of creating another producing organization. “There are plenty of those,” she observes.

        No, what a lot of the people she surveyed agreed is missing is affordable, solid training for non-professionals without having to enroll in a degree program.

        Starting the week of Feb. 4, new scenic design (Saturday mornings) and history of theater (Tuesday evenings) classes are being offered, at times to accommodate everyone from people who work to high school students.

        Ms. Spencer plans a series of “special topic” courses: directing and acting in spring; script analysis, stage management and costume design in summer.

        Eventually she sees sessions, with local professionals as instructors, on props, stage combat and fight choreography, makeup “working up to special effects,” even producing.

        People will be able to sign-up for individual classes or an entire course.

        “I'm looking for as many partnerships as we can create. I am open to suggestions.” Ms. Spencer adds that she's particularly looking for multicultural ideas. "I want voices to be heard.”

        Playing no small role in Ms. Spencer's plans is the recent announcement that the campus' new Student Services Building, scheduled to open in fall 2004 will include a small, fully equipped theater. Ms. Spencer says the theater, which will be near Clifton, Northside, I-74 and I-75, will be available for outside use.

        For more information, contact Ms. Spencer at (513) 569-5768 or e-mail her at

        Registration is open until the first day of class. Contact the Admissions Office at 569-1544.

        "Fishman' has 'em hooked: “They've got a hit,” was the first report back from last week's opening of Richard Oberacker and Michael Lazar's premiere The Gospel According to Fishman at the Signature Theatre outside Washington, D.C.

        Aubrey Berg, chair of musical theater at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, flew up for the opening of the new musical by the CCM grads. Gospel opens in 1963 and follows the travails of a young Jewish songwriter who gets caught up in the Civil Rights movement.

        While The Washington Post reviewer was troubled by the show's attempt to balance other story lines with the Birmingham church bombing that plays a significant role in the action, there were nothing but raves for the musical numbers:

        “A lusty and crowd-pleasing score . . . the singing hits gale force and the show is barely five minutes old . . . the show's numbers have a roaring vitality . . . the musical energy is terrific.”

        Sounds like a hit. Mr. Oberacker is back home in Cincinnati for a few weeks recuperating from the opening and preparing for next month's world premiere of Dracula at CCM.

        "Arcadia' a hit: Tom Stoppard's glorious Arcadia, a sublime exploration of science and nature and the human heart, is a winter hit for Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival.

        The festival is adding two 8 p.m. Wednesday performances, including this week and Feb. 6, to what's approaching a sell-out run through Feb. 10. For reservations call 381-2273.

        "Pages' at ETC: Last season, CCM drama department chair Richard Hess was racking up sky miles commuting to Los Angeles during school breaks, helping drama grad Eydie Cohen shape the new show she'd written, The Pages of My Diary I'd Rather Not Read.

        (Ms. Cohen memorably played Roy Cohn in Angels in America, and Pages is reportedly just as daring an effort.)

        All about three college grad gals searching for success in the Big Apple, Pages earned favorable reviews and an extended run for the now-monickered Eydie Faye.

        Back in Cincinnati, Mr. Hess nosed around for a space to perform it. Prohibitive costs at the Aronoff made that a no-go, but a year later he's managed to squeeze Pages in around performances of Women Who Steal at Ensemble Theatre March 1-9.

        Ms. Faye returns to perform along with classmate Betsy Devan. Locally based CCM grad Sunshine Cappelletti will round out the trio.

        Performances are scheduled at 10 p.m. March 1, 2, 8 and 9, 7 p.m. March 3 and 2 p.m. March 2. Tickets $10. Box office: 421-3555.

        Authentic "Macbeth': Drew Fracher is at it again — the Scottish play, that is. Mr. Fracher takes on Macbeth for the third time, beginning Thursday at the Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton. Local theatergoers may remember his last take on Shakespeare's tragedy, a contemporary urban drug reverie at Cincinnati Shakespeare last season.

        He's embarked on a different route for Human Race. “The first two times were modern. What a radical concept — to do it the way Shakespeare wrote it.” Watch for tartans and broadswords.

        Mr. Fracher, an expert fight director, has recruited some of the best stage combat folks in the region to join him on the commute up I-75, including Randy Lee Bailey, Cliff Jenkins and Gina Cerimele-Mechley, who will do double-duty as one of the witches.

        Then or now, Mr. Fracher's take on the bloodbath about ambition, greed, murder and the su pernatural, is essentially the same. “He's just a guy who goes through the wrong door.”

        The guy going through the wrong door this time is Bruce Cromer, a semi-regular at Playhouse in the Park, probably best-known to fans as Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol.

        Macbeth continues through Feb. 17 at the Loft Theatre in the Metropolitan Arts Center (126 N. Main St.) For information call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630.

        Midwinter Masquerade: Falcon Productions will hold a Midwinter Masquerade fund-raiser on Feb. 2 at Westwood Town Hall (Harrison at Montana). Music, juggling, improv, magic and Elvis and Neil Diamond impersonators are on the program.

        Doors open at 7 p.m., scheduled entertainment starts at 8 p.m. There will be a dessert and coffee (and hot chocolate and tea) bar and sponsor Henke Winery, a new neighbor, will hold an apres-party.

        Tickets $20, $15 students and seniors. Call 481-9042 for reservations and information (ASAP, please, Falcon co-founder Ted Weil requests.)

        Youth forum: Culture Works in Dayton hosts its second statewide Youth Arts Forum on Friday and Saturday.

        The forum is designed to bring together social workers, artists, educators, juvenile justice workers, parents, arts managers and community activists to explore the best ways of incorporating arts into youth programs.

        National experts in youth and community development will deliver keynotes and participate in related sessions. They are: William Cleveland, founder and director of the Center for the Study of Art and Community in Minneapolis; Dr. William Pollock, clinical psychologist and author from Boston; and Lily Yeh, founder and executive director of the Village of Art and Humanities in North Philadelphia.

        For registration information contact Culture Works at (937) 222-2787 or and

        E-mail Past columns at


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