Sunday, April 07, 2002

Shakespeare Festival season shaped by unrest

By Jackie Demaline,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Jasson Minadakis and the Romeo and Juliet poster
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    What: Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival 2002-2003 season.
    When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.
    Where: 719 Race St., downtown.
    Tickets: Subscriptions $50-$150 now on sale at the box office. 381-2273. Individual tickets, $20-$22 adults, $18-$20 seniors and $16-$20 students, go on sale in June.
The season
    The Complete Works of Wllm Shakspr (abridged), July 25-Aug. 18
    Macbeth and Beowulf (educational tour preview), Aug. 22-Sept. 1
    Romeo and Juliet, Sept. 12-Oct. 13
    Jesus Hopped the “A” Train, Oct. 24-Nov. 17
    The Gimmick, Oct. 27-Nov. 13 (Sunday through Tuesday performances)
    Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, Nov. 28-Dec. 29
    Bent, Jan. 9-Feb. 2
    The Winter's Tale, Feb. 13-March 9
    Hamlet, March 20-April 12
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, April 17-May 11
    In the Blood, May 22-June 15
        The civil unrest of a year ago has everything to do with Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's 2002-2003 season.

        “We were profoundly affected,” saysartistic director Jasson Minadakis.

        Like every other theater downtown, the festival felt the punch at the box office. But even more, the acting company felt it where they live.

        Most of the festival company members live along Woodburn Avenue in East Walnut Hills. Last April, they watched nightly disturbances from their windows. They felt the tension in the neighborhood.

        “We became very conscious of being unconscious of the city we live in,” says Mr. Minadakis. “We started asking, "What is our purpose here? Who are we trying to serve? The entire city? A portion of the city?”'

        The festival's answers are clear in a gutsy season that is all about “looking directly at issues facing Cincinnati, the nation, the world at this moment in time,” he says.

        The Shakespeare productions will include an inter-racial Romeo and Juliet as it introduces a five-member, culturally diverse Young Company.

        “We knew it was something we were going to do. This year it became a priority,” Mr. Minadakis says.

        Some contemporary entries take a hard look at the reality that often hits when somebody's fighting The System: The System wins.

        Cincinnati premieres include Stephen Adly Guirgis' Jesus Hopped the “A” Train, Dael Orlandersmith's The Gimmick and In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks. The festival also will revisit a gay classic, Bent.

        It is hard-hitting work that, Mr. Minadakis says, won't attempt to solve problems for the audience. “It's not about finding solutions. These plays don't answer questions. Hopefully, they help us find a place to begin.”


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