Sunday, December 26, 1999

'99 Theater: A year to remember

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Local theater fans will look back on 1999 as a year to remember. Chronologically, here are the significant events and performances of the year, including one brief foray out of town.

        • February — Glorious folk “bluesical” Thunder Knocking on the Door rocked the roof of Playhouse in the Park's Marx Theater. Written and directed by Keith Glover with a killer score by Keb' Mo', Broadway-type producers were trotting in and out of Cincinnati for weeks.

        The show started a yellow-brick-road tour of regional theaters last summer, with hopes of a final stop on the Great White Way. That dream disintegrated (the producer couldn't put together finances), but it was a great ride while it lasted.

        • March — The League of Cincinnati Theatres starts taking shape and continues to solidify throughout the year, winning a $10,000 grant from Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts to help finance its start-up. By December, there are 18 members, officers were elected, and the first issue of a newsletter (to be available at member theaters) is heading for the printer.

        • April — The drama department of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music delivers the second half of a personal best, Angels in America. Part Two was directed by Michael Burnham.

        • July — For the first time in its 50 years, the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts welcomes associate members. Local theater companies — Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, The Children's Theatre, Madcap Puppet Productions and Theatre IV ArtReach are all among recipients of new dollars for midsized companies.

        • July-August — Cincinnati enjoys its first summer theater season in memory. Joining CCM's annual Hot Summer Nights series are Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, Ensemble, Downtown Theatre Classics, New Edgecliff, Ovation, Know Theatre Tribe, John Body Players and the new Launch Productions.

        • August — Playhouse in the Park embarks on a commission for a young people's play, The Happy Prince by Elizabeth Wong. Sponsor is Lazarus, which by the end of the year will commit to three more commissions (one a year) of young people's plays by acclaimed contemporary playwrights.

        • September — Playhouse in the Park plays host to Donna (A Chorus Line) McKechnie and friends (including playwright Christopher Durang) as she continued to develop a cabaret act. It's not the show that's significant, it's Playhouse opening its door to future possibilities beyond the regular Marx and Shelterhouse subscription seasons.

        • October — Favorite show of the year: Mary Zimmerman's extraordinary adaptation of The Odyssey at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, which melded the epic storytelling of Homer to an understanding of how we live and what we know now. Hip, funny, provocative, spellbinding.

        Regional productions living on in my heart: Thunder Knocking on the Door, Waiting for Godot (Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival) and Shockheaded Peter by Britain's Improbable Theatre at the Wexner Center.

        • November Waiting for Godot with Giles Davies, Jeremy Dubin and Nick Rose is a personal best for Cincinnati Shakespeare.

        Saving the best for last:

        • December — Attendance at local professional theaters has reached unprecedented numbers with subscriptions at Playhouse in the Park, College-Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, Downtown Theatre Classics, Ensemble Theatre and Fifth Third Bank Broadway Series topping 45,000.

        Several productions played to capacity and near-capacity in 1999. By the beginning of this season, Playhouse has added performances to both Marx Stage and Shelterhouse show runs to accommodate increasing audiences.

        Two more small companies (IF Theatre Collaborative and the Janus Project) made their debut in autumn and joined the legion of new theater companies that has been developing over the last three years. Happily and surprisingly, new talent has been emerging to fill all these stages.


'99 Year in Review: Recalling the century's last gasp
'99 Sports: Color the year Red
'99 Local News: Prosperous year punctuated by hard times
'99 Business: Consumers hang on as economy and technology take rocket ride
'99 Nation/World: A fitting finale to the century
'99 Films: Embarrassment of riches
'99 Pop music: Cincy back on the charts
'99 Television: A million reasons to watch
'99 Classical music: Life imitates opera
'99 Dance: Comings and goings
- '99 Theater: A year to remember
'99 Visual art: All eyes on Vontz Center