Sunday, April 18, 2004

Clear Stage expands scope for new season



By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Clear Stage Cincinnati will more than double its production schedule and its budget for 2004-05 with a five-play season in the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater (unless otherwise noted):

• Oct. 21-30, Romeo & Juliet (Jarson-Kaplan Theater)

• Dec. 9-18, Joyful Noise

• Feb. 10-19, Oleanna

• April 19-30, Ordinary People

• June 30-July 9, Driving Miss Daisy

Mnaging director Blake Bowden says that the theater's mission is reflected in its selections.

"Our purpose is to try to find ways to give young performers a reason to stay in Cincinnati."

Romeo & Juliet will be cast with several high school students, directed by Gina Cerimele-Mechley. Ordinary People, a best-selling novel by Judith Guest and an Academy Award-winning film by Robert Redford about a teenage boy struggling with his part in a family tragedy, is adapted for the stage and will also feature teen actors.

While the theater company is in its infancy, says Bowden, "it doesn't make sense now to talk about (creating paid work), but we do believe that will be a reality five or 10 years from now."

Joyful Noise is a play with music that traces composer Handel and The Messiah; Oleanna is David Mamet's provoking debate on sexual harassment and political correctness; Driving Miss Daisy is a crowd-pleaser about an aging white woman and her African-American chauffeur in the South.

In the near-term, Clear Stage is estimating next season's budget at between $200,000 and $250,000. The group will continue with its on-the-job training internship and apprentice programs for high school and college students; its Books in Action tour to Head Start and kindergarten classrooms and its stage combat workshop.

The theater is developing a "Dark Day Drama Series" which will invite emerging regional playwrights to submit their work for public readings.

The series supplements Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative's long-standing local play-reading series.

"This is an experiment," Bowden says. "We're going to see if there's interest from playwrights and audiences. If it works, if folks feel it's a useful exercise, great."

Information: 253-7920; www.clearstagecincinnati.com.

The fledgling company completes its two-play debut season with a two-weekend run of The Yellow Boat opening Friday in the Fifth Third Bank Theater. Thursday is pay-what-you-can-night for The Yellow Boat. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, there will be a patio party and happy hour to celebrate Clear Stage's first season. It's at Arnold's Bar & Grill (210 E. Eighth St., downtown); suggested donation is $5. For party information: e-mail rhalter3633@msn.com.




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