Sunday, May 14, 2000

'House' reunites Kenyon associates

Playwright, students met nine years ago

        Kate Brauer has a long history with playwright Wendy MacLeod.

        It started during her freshman year at Kenyon College, where Ms. MacLeod has been a “visiting” instructor for more than a decade. (These days she's on sabbatical in Los Angeles, writing for the Warner Bros. TV show Popular, a screenplay for Geena Davis and readying a new play for a fall premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.)

        But back in 1991, Ms. Brauer signed on to the costume crew for Ms. MacLeod's House of Yes at Kenyon. Coincidentally, fellow freshman Joe Stollenwerk helped to build the set while junior Brooke Stanley was student producer.

        They all fell in love with House of Yes (although not necessarily with Ms. MacLeod, whom they diplomatically agree was not always the easiest person to be around. “She cuts no slack,” Ms. Brauer offers.)

        Mr. Stollenwerk ran for his life to other projects in the theater department, but Ms. Brauer found herself in a MacLeod show almost every year, even playing the writer at a younger age in The Lost Colony. In her spare time, she worked for Ms. MacLeod's caterer husband and even baby-sat their son.

        Now Mr. Stollenwerk, Kenyon class of '95 and Ovation Theatre Company co-founder, has lured Ms. Brauer (Kenyon class of '95) and Ms. Stanley (Kenyon class of '93) back to the dark and funny contemporary comedy House of Yes which continues at 2 p.m. today and 8 p.m Thursday through Saturday at the Carnegie (1028 Scott Blvd., Covington.)

        Mr. Stollenwerk directs. Ms. Stanley designs costumes. Ms. Brauer stars as Jackie-O, a key member of a dysfunctional family whose patriarch mysteriously disappears at the time of the Kennedy assassination. The family copes by settling into a weird limbo.

        Ms. Brauer, who makes her living writing copy for an ad agency, hasn't been on stage in a year. She had been doing classical work since returning to Cincinnati after graduation and finally found playing “a perpetual ingenue” a little wearing.

        That's not a problem with the darkly demented House of Yes.

        Ovation has announced its 2000-2001 season at the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Oct. 6-14; As Bees in Honey Drown, March 2-10; Lanford Wilson one-acts (titles TBA), May 11-19; and the Stephen Sondheim revue You're Gonna Love Tomorrow, July 13-21.

        Some changes for next season, an excited Mr. Stollenwerk says, will be “an ensemble of actors” calling the semi-professional Ovation, going into year three, home. And “we're trying to link up with other, non-theater arts organizations, creating related arts experiences with music and visual artists.”

        For information on House of Yes and the 2000-2001 season, call 369-1544.

        Year 2000: Jim Volz, national arts management consultant par excellence comes to town May 22 to explain the mysteries of board of director orientation, development and team-building.

        The free presentation Year 2000: Strategies of Board/Staff Relations is set for 6 p.m. May 22 at Stained Glass Theatre (802 York St., Newport), co-sponsored by University of Cincinnati's arts administration program and the Arts Services Office. Arts administrators and board representatives welcome.

        To register, call 871-2787 Ext. 18 by Monday.

        Intern shows: Intern programs at local professional the aters are coming to their annual close with public performances.

        At 8 p.m. today and Monday, Ensemble interns Cara Gilday and Jodie Schwegmann will present their original show, Girl's Eye View. It's about mothers, daughters and friends (very appropriate for Mother's Day). The theater is at 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine. ETC's official intern showcase is scheduled for 8 p.m. May 21 and 22. Both shows are free. 421-3555.

        At the Playhouse ETC interns can also be found at Playhouse in the Park where Sara Vaught is on the running crew and c. David Cornwell is on stage (as a servant) in A Little Night Music.

        ETC intern Mike DiSalvo rounds out the Playhouse intern company of Nicky Silver's funny and sobering The Maiden's Prayer.It plays in rep with Harold Pinter's enigmatic Old Times May 23-June 3. Tickets $10. 421-3888.

        College-Conservatory of Music's drama department closes out the season in the scrumptious new Studio Theatre with a free workshop production of Lanford Wilson's The Fifth of July, Thursday through Saturday, Call 556-4183.

        Shortt's story: Local theatergoers are oooohing and aaaahing over the design for Playhouse in the Park's A Little Night Music, and asking why they don't see more work by its wonderful creator, Paul Shortt.

        Mr. Shortt, whose work is easy to find on stage at College-Conservatory of Music where he's on faculty, grumbles with no real angst about the “slight inferiority complex” an artist has by carrying the label “local.” He's overcome it by working out of town, primarily with opera companies including two seasons with the New York City Opera and four with the Philadelphia Opera.

        CCM's partnering for a summer opera program in Lucca, he admits, “has knocked me out of competition” for several jobs, not that summering in Italy is a cause for complaint for Mr. Shortt.

        He's had to say “no” a lot lately, but happily had a chance to say yes when original Night Music designer Paul Gallo (who had multiple Broadway commitments) had to drop out.

        “The good thing about opera is that you work a year in advance,” Mr. Shortt says. He's designing The Italian Girl in Algiers for Philadelphia Opera's 2000-2001 season “for a mad director from Rome,” but he'll be back in Lucca this summer.

        “We're moving outdoors this summer,” Mr. Shortt says, letting passion take hold. “Malcolm (Fraser) and I scouted locations a few months ago looking for good dramatic character and good acoustics.”

        One place they found is “Caruso's villa Bellas Guarda! Henry James visited all the time! (Cincinnati artist) Frank Duveneck married Elizabeth Boot in Lucca. No one knows if it's the same villa.

        “We'll do a double bill. The first act will be by the lagoon by the statue of Neptune, then everyone will walk 300 yards up the path — there are torches to infinity — to the gardens for the final act.

        “We're not interested in the same old-same old. We want to change its character, to make it more fun. I want it fun and nice for the kids.

        “I want this year to be conceptual, even if it's only a red dress in a green field by candlelight.”

        If you can't make it to Lucca, Night Music continues through next Sunday. Call 421-3888.

        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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