Sunday, January 09, 2000

Goetzman returns for Edgecliff play

Director guides 'The Woolgatherer'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Jane Goetzman has been lying low, theatrically speaking, since her stint as chairperson of the Edgecliff College theater department ended, along with the department, in 1981.

        Community theater never seemed quite right for her, so she went back to school to study film and video production. For more than a decade she's been producing video documentaries about Cincinnati with partner Dorothy Weil. (Keeping Community: East End Voices is due in April.)

        Then, just over a year ago, her interest was tickled when she saw that Edgecliff grad Michael Shooner had started New Edgecliff Theatre. She remembered him as a student with “exceptional promise.” She saw him in the new theater's first outing, Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll and looked him up in the phone book. They chatted. They chatted some more.

        Now she's directing The Woolgatherer for New Edgecliff, opening Friday for a two weekend run at Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater.

        A delicate drama about a blossoming relationship between an emotionally disturbed young woman and a wise-cracking truck driver, Mrs. Goetzman notes, “I usually like plays about people who know what they're doing. That's not true here.”

        Calling the piece “an actor's play,” she adds, “I don't see myself as superimposing anything on it, just not letting it get out of hand when the actors get rolling.”

        The actors are Mr. Shooner and Melanie Wilson, probably best-known to local audiences as Alice in Ensemble Theatre's Alice in Wonderland last season.

        Directing is like riding a bicycle, Mrs. Goetzman laughs. It all does come back, although “I'm better at directing than I am at riding a bike.” This stint has whetted her appetite for more directing, although what happens next remains “an open question.”

        Not in question is her desire to stay involved with New Edgecliff. “I'd be missing out if I didn't take advantage of re-acquainting myself with people this good.”

        Mr. Shooner says he is finally ready to embark on an official New Edgecliff season in 2000-2001 after almost two years of testing the theatrical waters with occasional projects. (Last summer's All in the Timing at Xavier University was well-received.)

        The Woolgatherer plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21 and 22 and at 2 p.m. Jan. 23. Tickets: $12, $10 students and seniors. Call 241-7469 for reservations.

        "NIXON' MOVING ON UP: Local theater fans still talk reverently of the Playhouse production of Nixon's Nixon, all the way back in fall '97. It has managed to live on and on, and now showbiz bible Variety says the political satire is “slated for a West End (London) run and negotiating with New York producers.”

        After getting regional theater play in the United States, Nixon, again starring Tim Donoghue and Keith Jochim and directed by Playhouse associate artistic director Charles Towers, was a mega-hit at last year's Edinburgh Fringe festival.

        It's playing in Dublin through mid-March.

        “From the start, the West End has been the goal,” notes Mr. Towers, who is reluctant to say anything more because “who knows what will ke-bosh it between now and then.”

        He does admit that there was a production meeting in Dublin before Christmas to discuss what would be needed if the show does happen to go on, and the producers are in conversation with a couple of London theaters, which could put the show on a stage by late May. (That would be just in time for the Playhouse's annual London trip. Jolly good!) With that timeline, a solid commitment would have to be made in the next month.

        HUMANA FESTIVAL: Actors Theatre of Louisville will celebrate its 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays with 32 playwrights — which isn't quite as jaw-dropping as it might sound. One entertainment is an anthology featuring 18 past Humana winners including well-known names Craig Lucas, Donald Margulies, Jane Martin and John Olive.

        Humana will also repeat last year's experiment of three-minute phone plays, with five booths in the lobby available for eavesdropping on a brief, hopefully dramatic conversation. Among this year's contributors are pros Jane Anderson, Jeffrey Hatcher, Jose Rivera and Regina Taylor. Add three 10-minute plays (to be named later).

        That's 26 extremely short-form dramas. (The average comes in at about seven minutes each).

        Full-length premieres will be a mix of work by newcomers and veteran playwrights:

        • Tape by Stephen Belber, about a reunion at the Lansing Film Festival, where two old friends confront memories, motives and an old flame.

        • War of the Worlds by Anne Bogart and Naomi Iizuka, which looks into the myth of Orson Welles.

        • No. 11, by Alexandra Cunningham, is based on a true story about a debutante, a golden boy athlete and a horrible event.

        • Anton in Show Business by Jane Martin (widely believed to be ATL artistic director Jon Jory) is a backstage comedy set at the turn of the century.

        • Big Love by Charles Mee is a 21st century updating of Aeschylus' The Suppliants, in which 50 brides vow to murder 50 grooms on their wedding night.

        • Touch by Toni Press-Coffman in which a life is turned upside-down by the disappearance of a loved one.

        Festival tickets go on sale Feb. 8. Tourist ticket packages will be available for weekends in March. Call (800) 428-5849 for information or reservations or visit

        READING IN THE LIBRARY: Hey, Shakespeare Festival fans! Catch your favorite femmes in something almost completely different. Marni Penning, Lesley Bevan and Corinne Mohlenhoff will take time out from The Misanthrope to read Desdemona (a play about a handkerchief) as part of Theatre of the Mind's Women's Writes series at 7 p.m. Monday at Mercantile Library (414 Walnut St). Directing is the festival's Rebecca Bowman.

        Desdemona is a local first look at Paula (How I Learned to Drive) Vogel's reconsideration of the Bard's Othello. (When it comes down to it, it really is all about a handkerchief ...)

        Admission $5. Call 961-2994 to reserve.

        AT ANOTHER LIBRARY: A free performance of Athol Fugard's Sizwe Bansi Is Dead at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Main Library (800 Vine St.) Friends of the Public Library is sponsoring the appearance by Studio Theatre to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. The drama, featuring Derek Snow, Reginald Willis and A.D. Davis and directed by C. Dean Tabler, had a November run at Arts Consortium.

        PLAYWRIGHT REPEATS: It's two in a row for Miami University senior Tom Gannon. He won last year's regional American College Theatre Festival short play competition with Good Business. He's won it again with Two Thieves in a Trap.

        Thieves will be performed this month at the 2000 festival in Milwaukee.

        Jackie Demaline is The Enquirer's theater critic and roving arts reporter. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax, 768-8330.


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