Sunday, February 29, 2004

'Servers' get chance to strut in CCM's senior showcase

The arts

Jackie Demaline

Talk about art reflecting life (but hopefully not): In Dame Edna: The Show That Cares a "lucky" audience member is invited to join the megastar on stage at every performance (Tuesday-March 14) to partake of linguine with arugula salad (from Pizzeria Uno just across Walnut Street from the Aronoff).

The guy serving you is no ordinary waiter. He's an actor! And he's not getting paid, he's getting exposure! Ben Pitts and Eric Yellin, both seniors in College-Conservatory of Music's drama program, will alternate in the role, which comes immediately before the senior class flies to New York and Los Angeles to show off their talents to agents and casting directors.

In fact, Edna's first Cincinnati performance Tuesday is the same day as the drama department's local senior showcase (2 and 6 p.m. at CCM). (Not to worry, the waiter doesn't make an appearance until about 9 p.m.)

In New York, more actors work in restaurants than in the theater.

The upcoming gig is one of those cases where an actor doesn't want to be too good at a role, Pitts and Yellin agree.

"I was a waiter for about two months," Pitts says. "And I hope this as close as I ever get again."

Pitts is already booked this summer at Seaside Rep in Florida, starring in Fully Committed (playing a restaurant reservationist) and Proof, so it looks good so far.

The senior showcase is open to the public, but seating is limited. Call the CCM box office at 556-4183 for reservations. For Dame Edna information and reservations, call 241-7469.

Hodges holds a space

It looks as if the Cincinnati Fringe Festival is already developing a fringe. Dale Hodges, whose great local roles include Wit at Playhouse, has put a hold on dates for off-nights (Sunday-Tuesday) at Arnold's Bar & Grill in early May, coinciding with the Fringe.

The project has to be The Bench, a contemporary Russian satire that she'll open in Friday in upstate New York. Director is Peter Karapetkov, who has a string of international credits and is relatively new to the Cincinnati theater scene. Terrific (and too seldom seen) local actor Michael Bath could share the bill.

Calendar updates

In other show business, there are changes and additions to the regional theater calendar: CCM Drama is replacing the regional premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis' In Arabia We'd All Be Kings (casting problems) with the regional premiere of Howard Korder's Obie Award winner The Lights, a sort of grittily urban contemporary O. Henry tale.

Show dates remain April 29-May 1, and it's free in the Cohen Family Studio.

In Dayton, the touring company of Oklahoma!, which plays Cincinnati in April, has booked June 7-19, 2005, dates at the Schuster Center.

'Rebel' doesn't wow critics

New York critics haven't welcomed Kevin Barry's In Rebel Country to off-Broadway. The noir-ish fantasy of a road trip in which the ghost of James Dean figures prominently, premiered at Know Theatre Tribe in Over-the-Rhine and ends today off-Broadway at Thirteenth Street Rep.

Reviews have been more ho-hum than brutal but "they haven't been of the paste-it-in-the-scrapbook variety," Barry says.

Barry, who originally hails from New York, moved his family to Milford a decade ago and has a premiere, workshop or reading at Know just about every year. (Next up is A Note on the Type in May.)

The playwright is happy with forged relationships, if not the reviews and light box office. "The poster of James Dean in front of the theater has been stolen at least six times," he laughs, and adds, "I hope the thieves at least bought tickets."

It's likely that Thirteenth Street will workshop Barry's Distracted by the Landscape, which had a successful run at Moving Arts, a small Los Angeles theater, some years ago for a possible opening later in the year, and Rebel director Jim Stover has just signed on with Manhattan's well-respected resident theater company Second Stage. Barry hopes that could lead to another collaboration.


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