Sunday, June 09, 2002

Author pushes creative theory


Richard Florida sees new class emerging in U.S.

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        Have you been reading (and reading about) Richard Florida's theory of the “creative class?”

        Mr. Florida, professor of Regional Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, theorizes that a new, important social class is emerging in the United States. He calls it the creative class, 38 million strong, comprising more than 30 percent of the work force and “shaping deep and profound shifts in the ways we work, in our values and desires, and in the fabric of our everyday lives.”

        His hypothesis, that creativity is the driving force of economic growth and the creative class is the dominant class in terms of influence, is the subject of his hot-button new hardcover The Rise of the Creative Class (Basic Books; $27.50).

        Who is the creative class? Scientists, engineers, architects, writers and anyone whose creativity is a key factor in work done in business, education, health care, law and more.

        Mr. Florida further theorizes that members of the creative class are drawn to communities that embrace diversity (in both population and culture), that they seek out “congenial and challenging places.”

        Mr. Florida will be the keynote speaker at “Bridging the Gap: Creating Fun and Exciting Places,” University of Cincinnati's Regional Economic Development Seminar, noon Thursday, the UC Event Pavilion.

        City Council's Arts and Culture Committee will use the occasion as a jumping off point for its June meeting at 3 p.m. at the Event Pavilion. (It looks like a big white bubble, adjacent to the Alumni Center.)

        For the record, Cincinnati is in the bottom third of Mr. Florida's Creativity Index among large cities, behind our regional neighbors Indianapolis, Columbus and Cleveland. (No surprise, San Francisco takes first place.)

        When small and midsize cities are added, we drop lower, not quite making the top 50 list. (Indianapolis is in the top 25.)

        Our high score in innovation (23) is dragged down by our rank in diversity (141) and Creative Class population (119).

        Registration for Bridging the Gap closes Monday.

        The Arts and Culture Committee will subsidize a portion of the seminar cost for anyone who wants to attend. For $25, get the seminar, luncheon and a free copy of The Rise of the Creative Class.

        Call Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce's Customer Focus Center at 579-3111 and ask for the Arts and Culture Committee discount.

        The Arts and Culture Committee meeting is free and Mr. Florida is scheduled to attend.

        Sound familiar?: Here's Mr. Florida writing about his hometown, Pittsburgh, and it strangely echoes conversations that have been going on here:

        “What's the problem? With such a legacy and such assets, why hasn't the region been able to turn things around? . . .

        “Pittsburgh people lovingly say the city is slow to follow national trends, or as the mayor often jokingly says: "Why do you want to be in Pittsburgh when the world ends? Because Pittsburgh is always 10 years behind everywhere else.' ” (Something the author lifted from a line attributed to Mark Twain about Cincinnati.)

        “ . . . It's not just that the city lacks the vibrancy and transformative energy that comes from committed forward-looking people who are willing to embrace new ideas and take risks. . . .

        “City leaders continue to promote Pittsburgh as a place that is good for families (in itself a fine thing), seemingly unaware of the demographic changes that have made young people, singles, new immigrants and gays critical to the emerging social fabric.”

        Cincinnati outpaces Pittsburgh by three slots in Mr. Florida's list.

        He writes that he has come up with a handy metric to distinguish cities that are part of the Creative Age from those that aren't.

        “If city leaders tell me to wear whatever I want, take me to a casually contemporary cafe or restaurant for dinner and most importantly encourage me to talk openly about the role of diversity and gays, I am confident their city will be able to attract the Creative Class and prosper in this emerging era.”

        Final curtain call? Was the finalepisode of Alexander the Great, which closed last week, also the last curtain call for Stage First Cincinnati? According to an e-mail to members of the theater community from the theater's artistic director Nicholas Korn, he is considering ending his theater's four-year run if he can't re-structure.

        Stage First specializes primarily in European classics and Mr. Korn's own work (including the Alexander trilogy). It's one of the handful of small theaters that were born with the opening of the Aronoff Center of the Arts' Fifth Third Bank Theater.

        Stage First is still holding dates for the 2002-03 season in the Fifth Third. Cincinnati Arts Association executive director Steve Loftin sighs that if this is the end of Stage First “it would be a real disappointment.”

        Mr. Korn couldn't be reached for comment.

        Hold the date: The League of Cincinnati Theatres has set Sept. 30 for the annual theater season kick-off party. Details to come.

        Happy anniversary: Showbiz Players celebrates its 15th anniversary season withCincinnati's first non-Equity run of The Civil War, Frank Wildhorn's (Jekyll & Hyde) theatrical concert that sets the writings of soldiers and statesmen (from Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass) to the composer's pop/country/gospel score.

        “After Sept. 11, it seems like the perfect time to not just look at our nation's past but to also look at how far we've come,” says director Bunny Arszman.

        Showbiz Players actively recruited cast members for the show, which follows the stories of soldiers and slaves.

        “We didn't have to do a lot of talking,” Ms. Arszman says happily. “People came to us.” Cast members include Ken Early and Tony Wright. Music director is Rich Ashworth and vocal director is John Nixon.

        “I think this will be one of the best community theater productions this season,” Ms. Arszman promises.

        The Civil War plays Thursday-Sunday through June 23 at the Mount Notre Dame High School theater (711 E. Columbia Ave., Reading.) Tickets $12, $10 seniors and students, call (513) 981-7888.

        For more information visit the Showbiz Players Website at www.showbizplayers.com.

        Season opening: Kincaid Regional Theatre opens its season Friday with The 1940s Radio Hour, chock-full of hits from the Big Band era, through June 23.

        The season continues with Side by Side by Sondheim (July 12-21) and season finale The Best of KRT on July 27.

        Performances are in the Falmouth School Center (500 Chapel St.) Falmouth, Ky. Call (800) 647-7469 for reservations and information.

        Bible versions: Falcon Players will be the third company in Cincinnati to perform hot ticket The Bible (The Complete Word of God) over the next 12 months. (Know Theatre Tribe goes first, starting a three-weekend run of Bible on Thursdaythen it will get a holiday run at Playhouse.)

        Those were the dates, says artistic director Ted Weil, that George Alexander, Danny Bayer and Blake Bowden — stars of Falcon's The Complete Works of Wllm Shakspr (abridged) were available.

        Mr. Weil is “ecstatic” that Falcon will open the season with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which has just become available for non-professional production. Rocky plays Sept. 6-21, Mr. Weil will direct, Tim Miracle is choreographer. Auditions will be scheduled for the first week of July.

        Mr. Weil and company will also take a run at Shakespeare's Henry V (with Mr. Weil in the title role), scheduled to play March 7-22.

        It is an ambitious season for a company that “straddles a place between the newer (downtown) theaters and traditional community theater — a place wherewe've been for a long time and where we're very comfortable.”

        With lots of breathing space between productions, Mr. Weil believes it's do-able. Falcon will be offering subscriptions for the first time in its 13-year history ($30 adults, $25 students and seniors). Check the Web site at www.falcontheater.net.

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

       



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