Sunday, August 20, 2000

Arts chief proud to bring 'King'

Production could lure edgier shows to Aronoff Center

        Theater fans should be cheering over Friday's announcement of a one-night stand for The King Stag at the Aronoff Center for the Arts on Oct. 17.

        Thank a very good deal for Cincinnati Arts Association that came about because tour producers were looking for an engagement to partner with the fantastic fable's booking at the Wexner Center in Columbus.

        Based on an Asian folk tale, it employs Japanese bunraku, Indonesian shadow puppetry and Italian Renaissance street theater — all signatures of the show's designer and choreographer Julie (The Lion King) Taymor — to tell the story of an Oriental king's search for a wife.

[photo] A scene from The King Stag coming to the Aronoff Center.
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        Directed by Andrei Serban, the play was an instant favorite with East Coast audiences when it debuted more than 15 years ago at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., and sold out adult and school tours in the Northeast.

        With Ms. Taymor's mega-fame thanks to The Lion King, which won't be touring any time soon, producers decided to take their chances by offering Stag as a reasonable substitute.

        King Stag is a reach and a risk for Cincinnati Arts Association, agrees acting director Steve Loftin, in part because there's no time for word-of-mouth to spread.

        “One-nighters are always risky,” he says, “and this is a large-scale production, making it even more risky. But it's such a rare opportunity, we had to take the chance.”

        Could solid box office translate to more matches with the Wexner's high profile (Buena Vista Social Club) and cutting edge (Shockheaded Peter) fare?

        “We would love to try to do more of these in the future,” says Mr. Loftin. If the community shows support at the box office “We'll break our necks to bring these kinds of shows to Cincinnati.”

        You can cast a vote for more good stuff by making yourself heard at the box office, 241-7469.

        Director leaving: There's backstage news from Showboat Majestic. Managing director Denny Reed will leave at the end of the season to set off on his own.

        “I have the urge,” he laughs.

        No solid plans yet, but he's “researching, exploring, putting together financing” for what would be a “semi-professional commercial venture” for the 2001-2002 season of four or five musicals. Details in the new year.

        Meanwhile, Showboat won't repeat the winter season dinner theater experiment it tried this year at the Plantation in Harrison.

        Interestingly, Showboat's current management contract is coming up for renewal. This means other proposals will be entertained by the city's Recreation Department, which oversees the showboat's use.

        Details will be released by the end of the month.

        Her "Town': Ginny Chizer figures she taught Our Town “no less than 50 times” in her 17 years of teaching American lit at Oak Hills High School.

        “I've always wanted to do it, but I always got the same old "everyone does it, everyone's seen it.' Actually no one's done it here in eight or nine years.”

        Mrs. Chizer is at long last getting to direct the American classic for Drama Workshop (which is hoping to attract high school audiences, maybe even for student matinees).

        The theater is also crowing over nabbing the regional premiere of Tina Howe's Pride's Crossing. Ed Cohen will direct. Crossing Delancey, directed by Karen Vanover, will round out the season.

        Auditions for all the Drama Workshop shows will be held 7-10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Westwood Town Hall (Harrison at Montana). A large variety of ages are needed. Information: call Mrs. Chizer at 637-1441.

        Know, the future: Speaking of regional premieres, Know Theatre Tribe has them stacked up for 2000-2001. The young company, which has a mission of multiculturalism, will introduce Cincinnati to Humana Festival winner Polaroid Stories by Naomi Iizuka.

        Adapted from Ovid's Metamorphoses, a nameless city's young dreamers, dealers and desperadoes share an abandoned pier. It plays Oct. 13-28.

        Know will take a few months off (“I doubt we can get people to Gabriel's Corner in the dead of winter,” notes artistic director Jay Kalagayan), then will start a February through October season.

        Among the five offerings will be Lanford Wilson's Redwood Curtain and Track and Field by local playwright Kevin Barry. Know had a big hit last spring with Mr. Barry's In Rebel Country.

        Current Know offering Prelude to a Kiss continues through Aug. 26 at Gabriel's Corner (Sycamore at Liberty) in Over-the-Rhine. There's a performance at 8 p.m. today.Information and reservations: Call 871-1429.

        New home: People of Color Theatre Ensemble moves to the newly renovated Imperial Theatre (280 W. McMicken) in Over-the-Rhine for Mr. Rickey Takes a Meeting, playing 6 p.m. Saturday, 4:30 p.m. next Sunday and 8 p.m. Monday.

        The timely drama is about baseball and directed by Obalaye Macharia, childhood pal of Ken Griffey Jr.

        Mr. Rickey is set in the late 1940s when baseball was still segregated. Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was preparing to change that — and American history.

        The subject is a fictitious meeting among Mr. Rickey, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Paul Robeson and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

        Tickets $10. Information and reservations: Call producer Kilolo Njonjo at 861-2242.

        Minerva deadline: The Janus Project wants to remind women theater artists in the region that the deadline — Sept. 1 — is approaching for the Minerva Project.

        Minerva invites women artists to collaborate on a project, preferably a local premiere of a play by a woman playwright, which would be produced by the Janus Project in May. (They'll raise the money!)

        No shortage of work out there — how about Chicago's hot Rebecca Gilman (Spinning into Butter) or our own Theresa Rebeck?

        The work of acclaimed, Kentucky-born Naomi Wallace has never been performed here. And let's not forget Melanie Marnich, who lived here for years before moving on and scooping up playwriting awards.

        Even Susan Sontag has written a play. Or dig back into history. There are lots of overlooked works by creative women from which to choose.

        Interested theater and visual artists are invited to submit a proposal (500 words) and a resume to the Janus Project, 2692 Madison Road N1 No. 253, Cincinnati 45208-1320. Questions? Call 235-6597.

        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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