Sunday, June 11, 2000

Wexner's lineup worth drive

Columbus series chance to catch outstanding works

        The Wexner Center greets its second decade this fall with — I do not say this lightly — an astounding performing arts series on the Ohio State University campus in Columbus.

        Consider the opening week: The Gate Theatre of Dublin stops in on Oct. 10-11 with Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape and Waiting for Godot playing back to back. (Yes, it is possible to catch them both in one evening.)

        A revival of Andrei Serban's The King Stag, which was a breakthrough for the masks, costumes and puppet art of Julie (The Lion King) Taymor 20 years ago, will stop in Columbus Oct. 13-14 as part of a national tour.

        On Oct. 15, the Buena Vista Social Club will make a live appearance with torch diva Omara Portuondo fronting the band. Loved the movie? So did fans coast-to-coast. Don't postpone ordering tickets to this one.

        In 10 years, the Wexner has attained national and international significance on the performing and visual arts circuit with programming like this. Additions to the schedule are promised soon, thanks to a recent $1.5 million grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

        It's a remarkable thing when a local philanthropist (Leslie Wexner) also has a visionary's soul. Being short on such serendipity locally, be glad Cincinnati is within easy driving distance.

        Also coming up at the Wexner: Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet provide live accompaniment to silent film Dracula for pre-Halloween and the return ofGreat Britain's fabulous Improbable Theatre (Shockheaded Peter).

        The producers of Stomp offer their latest — Aeros, 15 Olympic medalist gymnasts from Romania choreographed by Americans including David Parsons, Momix and Pilobolus.

        This isn't the half of it. The brochure for the entire extraordinary season is available now. Call (614) 292-3535 for information. Tickets are on sale to members. (You can join for $40.) Tickets go on sale to the public Sept. 5.

        P.S. Factor in the sizzling schedule from Columbus Association of Performing Arts (including Andrea Marcovicci, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, listed in this column last month) and what you have is a definition of cultural tourism and arts as destination.

        “Some of those do sound like dynamite,” says Steve Loftin, interim exec director of Cincinnati Arts Association (that's temporary and not to be held responsible for policy). Mr. Loftin has quietly been CAA's No. 2 for seven years, and has had a lot of time — and a very good perch — to look at Cincinnati.

        There are lots of issues in making presenting choices, he points out. Interestingly, he doesn't think size of house need always be the determining factor.

        There's a lot Mr. Loftin would never say. For instance, it's common knowledge (just check five years of scheduling) that CAA and its Aronoff Center have treated classical headliners as hands off since day one, staying out of the way of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

        “And there has to be a true belief that enough people are interested in (these kinds of shows) to allocate limited resources to them,” Mr. Loftin ventures.

        But where does that belief start? Neither of CAA's first two CEOs, Warren Sumners and Elissa Getto, tested the waters — even in the two small theaters where the risk factor would have been minimal.

        The almost 90% subscriber rate at Playhouse in the Park's Shelterhouse should suggest that, correctly marketed, there's a big local audience eager to try what we've never been given an opportunity to see.

        Are you angry that all this high-end programming detours around Cincinnati? Tell CAA board members. Be relentless. Start with the executive board. Or call (721-3344) or write CAA management (to Mr. Loftin's attention, CAA, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati 45202) and tell them it matters.

        If none of that works, gas up the car and head for Columbus.

        "Harvey' hops in: Thomas More College will make its first venture into summer theater in 10 years with old reliable Harvey in a two-weekend run June 16-25.

        Harvey? It turns out director Buz Davis did the quaint comedy as an undergraduate. He's managed to round up several of the original cast including Don and Mandy Volpenhein (she used to be Stephenson), Chuck Smith and Chez Nora owner Jim Gilliece to revive the period piece about dipsomaniac (the polite '40s term for amiable alcoholism) Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey, the 6-foot invisible rabbit of the title.

        Box office: 341-5800.

        Grant session: Learn all about a new common grant application at one of two free sessions next week. Both sessions, 5 to 7 p.m. June 19 and June 20, will focus on community arts fund projects and operating support.

        To date, 15 major local funders including the Fine Arts Fund's Community Arts Fund, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Mayerson Foundation, PNC Bank foundations, Louise Taft Semple Foundation and special grant programs administered by the Health Foundation and United Way and Community Chest are sharing a grant application form.

        Both sessions will be at Greater Cincinnati Foundation's new headquarters at 200 W. Fourth St. Reservations required by end of day June 12. Fax 871-2706 or e-mail

        Business volunteers: It's time for smaller arts organizations to sign up for Business Volunteers for the Arts for next season.

        The BVAs have proved a godsend for smaller companies which need help almost from A to Z — accounting, architecture, board development, databases, education/outreach, fund-raising, grantswriting, marketing, strategic planning, volunteers — OK, almost A to V.

        Deadline for applications is June 21. For more information call matchmaker Heather Hallenberg at the Arts Services Office, 871-2787.

        Addicts' affair: Sarah Mann is intrigued by Drug Dreams. It all started several years ago when she was living in San Francisco. Ms. Mann met people addicted to drugs or alcohol and “I realized that to an addict, the substance isn't inanimate, the way the substance is perceived by non-users. The addict has a relationship with it. There's ritual, fears of abandonment, jealousies, a need to complete oneself.”

        She started writing down people's stories, “people trying to carry on the way everyone is trying to carry on with their lives.” It was local director and College-Conservatory of Music faculty member Michael Burnham who urged her to turn it into a performance piece. She's been working on it for about three years.

        Now she'll perform Drug Dreams at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the very temporary VOLK gallery (214 E. 14th St., between Sycamore and Main streets, Over-the-Rhine).

        “It's not obscure, it's very gettable, just non-linear. It's recommended for mature audiences,” Ms. Mann says. “I used to be a Sunday school teacher and these are adult themes not appropriate for children.”

        Seating is limited, $5 donation requested, call 651-1817 for reservations and information.

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


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