Sunday, March 17, 2002

The arts


Young playwright has whirlwind year

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        “It's been a great year, a spectacular year,” Dan Stroeh says.

        Just about a year ago, Loveland native Mr. Stroeh (pronounced STRAY) was a senior at Wittenberg University, and he had just won the National Student Playwriting Award for it is no desert.

        He performed the one-man show, about his odyssey living with neurofibromatosis, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He performed it again in Cincinnati to a sell-out hometown crowd at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater as Cincinnati Arts Association's Emerging Artist of 2001.

        He went to Los Angeles to attend the Other Voices Project, a national conference on disabilities and theater; he spent a few weeks at Sundance Theatre Lab in Utah, where he networked and made friends; he's met with producers; he's working on a play commission for the Kennedy Center; he's about to move to New York from Boston.

        Mr. Stroeh can even ace the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, because the two of them spent a recent Saturday evening at a bar in the company of mutual friend Heather MacDonald, author of An Almost Holy Picture in which Mr. Bacon is starring in New York.

        This week Mr. Stroeh is back at the Jarson-Kaplan for a reprise of it is no desert, which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

        Sundance “was incredible,” Mr. Stroeh says. “My mission was to keep my eyes and ears open and shut up and learn from the best.”

        He spent time “letting my mind go where it took me,” but now he's working against a June deadline on that commission.

        “It's looking good,” he says. He was asked to address some of the same themes he did in desert for a play for high school audiences. The title will be, he says, either The Chess Club or En Passant (a chess term.)

        “It's about three high schoolers who are friends from elementary school. One has leukemia and isn't doing well. The play is their last chess game together.”

        Mr. Stroeh is feeling good. Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder of the nervous system that causes tumors to form on nerves anywhere at any time. The tumors aren't cancerous, but they do cause nerve damage. The disease is progressive and incurable.

        Mr. Stroeh now uses leg braces and a cane. “I was surprised how well I was doing in New York. I walked everywhere — maybe there was a little bit of adrenaline.”

        He's feeling good enough to hope there's response to CAA's efforts to book some additional engagements.

        “We are helping him out,” CAA's Van Ackerman says. “It's nothing formal, but we're sending mini-information kits to tour contacts in the presenting world at arts centers across the country. If people want information about booking the show, we'll be happy to help.” (Find Mr. Ackerman at 977-4108.)

        Tickets $16. Call 241-7469.

        Hodges takes wing: If you loved her in Wit, come see her in Wings. Dale Hodges takes center stage at 7 p.m. Monday in Theatre of the Mind's staged reading of Wings at Ensemble Theatre.

        Hard to believe, but it's a regional premiere for Arthur Kopit's glorious drama about a middle-aged woman, a barnstorming wing-walker as a girl, now struggling to find her way back from a stroke.

        Tickets $5; 421-3555.

        Budig honored: Otto Budig Jr. was Cincinnati's sole awardee at Ohio Arts Council's Governor's Awards for the Arts last week, but what the city lacked in numbers, he made up in class.

        Mr. Budig shared the arts patron honors for the $10 million he's given over the last 10 years.

        He spoke of his conventional beginnings and of his discovery over the last decade that “arts are the engine that drive dreams.”

        He graciously thanked the several dozen arts folk about town who came to cheer him on “for the art you've made and the art you've made possible.”

        As usual, Hamilton's Fitton Center for Creative Arts was very much a presence. Poetry enthusiast Dennis Kurlas was honored for his business support of the arts. Most of his efforts are orchestrated by the Fitton through the Riverbank Poetry Project, which oversees several programs including poetry slams and a poet-in-residence. (Mr. Kurlas, owner of Red Squirrel and Skyline Chili restaurants, also has a Poetry Wall of Fame at one of his restaurants where the work of local students is displayed.)

        Fitton scored another win when University of Rio Grande took a partnership in the arts award. The two institutions collaborate on Riverside Academy, a satellite campus geared toward educators.

        "Nocturne's last nights: When the season ends, we'll remember March for BalletMet's Dracula and Cincinnati Shakespeare's Nocturne. Dracula has come and gone. You still have a little time — a very little time — to see Nocturne.

        Brian Isaac Phillips is giving one of the season's most compelling performances in Adam Rapp's one-man drama about a 30ish guy trying to survive a family trauma.

        Material and staging are very downtown. (Downtown NYC, that is.) Adventuresome theatergoers will want to say they saw it, but it means going out on an off-night — Nocturne plays 7 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday. (Note work-friendly starting time.) Call the festival box office at 381-2273 for details.

        Check it out: The Monmouth Theatre in Newport has completed renovations and is ready to book. All interested parties — and theater people who like to party — are invited to cabaret evenings Friday and Saturday to check it out.

        Joy Galbraith is making an investment in the theater (636 Monmouth St.) with mom Rose. (She owns the Costume Gallery next door.) Ms. Galbraith counts off possible uses on her fingers — auditions, rehearsals, cabaret, improv, parties, productions.

        She also lists the small live theater spaces growing up in the neighborhood, including Shadowbox Cabaret, Stained Glass Theatre, No Name, York Street Cafe and now Monmouth Theatre.

        Northern Kentucky University's musical theater department has already booked Monmouth Theatre for its senior showcase May 6.

        Ms. Galbraith continues with the theater's assets. “Three blocks south of Newport on the Levee, free off-street parking, easy access from I-471 and downtown Cincinnati” and she doesn't even mention the memorabilia from former occupant Les Madames, which graces the handicapped-accessible restrooms.

        RSVPs are requested for both evenings, which will include lots of local theater folk entertaining and an open mike. Call (859) 655-9140.

        Hot ticket: The annual Not Famous Yet Showcase is one of the theater season's hottest tickets.

        Not Famous Yet is the revue that the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music's graduating musical theater class will perform next month in front of New York agents and producers. It's the culmination of four years at University of Cincinnati.

        Among CCM's current Broadway babies: Jessica Boevers and Justin Bohon as Ado Annie and Will Parker in Susan Stroman's highly anticipated revival of Oklahoma!; Eric Scioto in Sweet Smell of Success; Pam Myers in the revival of Into the Woods (arriving in New York with raves from its West Coast tryout).

        There's a Friends of CCM benefit performance at 6:30 p.m. April 4. Friends provides scholarships and career development opportunities for CCM students. The $50 ticket includes a post-performance New York deli buffet. Reservations: 556-2100.

        There will also be two free performances at 8 p.m. April 5-6. Those tickets can be reserved beginning March 29 at the box office (556-4183.) Make a note to call that morning, because the tickets will be gone by mid-day.

        The drama department has its own senior showcase at 6 p.m. April 2. Call the CCM box office to reserve seats.

        Contact Jackie Demaline by phone: 768-8530; fax: 768-8330; e-mail: jdemaline@enquirer.com.
       

       



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