Sunday, April 08, 2001

Children's Theatre looks to grow

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Children's Theatre executive director Susie Louiso calls the new collaboration with Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival (CSF) “a natural.”

        Children's Theatre is in its sixth season of producing an annual show for high school audiences (next up is The Piano Lesson in May). But for all their efforts to brand it “young adult,” people hear “children's theater.”

        “There's plenty of room for growth,” Mrs. Louiso says about ticket sales at the Taft Theatre.

        Working with CSF “had been in the back of our minds for a while.” Shakespeare plays, including Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, always rank high on the request list of English teachers, “but we knew we were never going to do one as long as the city has a Shakespeare festival.”

        When the theater's advisory board of high school English teachers clamored for a production of The Importance of Being Earnest, artistic director Jack Louiso picked up the phone and called Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival.

        It looked like a win-win partnership. “What the festival does is what schools want,” Mrs. Louiso observes, and the festival already has a loyal student following.

        Children's Theatre can provide the festival company with a big stage, a big budget and a big, new audience.

        “If this works, we'd like it to be long-term,” Mrs. Louiso says. Classics are always high on teachers' wanted list, including Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.

        “It would free us up to do something for junior high school audiences.”

        Children's Theatre also plans to continue working with Rocky Carroll, the School for Creative and Performing Arts grad and TV actor. He started a cycle of acclaimed plays about the African-American experience by August Wilson for the high school series with Fences three years ago.

        “Rocky would like to do all the August Wilsons,” Mrs. Louiso says. “We'll probably do one for the opening of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.”

        Group sales and individual tickets are on sale for Earnest, playing Nov. 8-10. Call the theater at 569-8080, Ext. 10.

        Children's Theatre has announced its three-play 2001-2002 season. David Kisor and Joe McDonough, who have created Ensemble Theatre's holiday family musicals for years, will rule with two titles:

        Holiday musical The Fantastic Toy Shop (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) and Noah's Ark (March 8-10). The season will close with a revival of Once Upon a Mattress (April 19-21).

        Postponements: Casting problems were cited by New Edgecliff in postponing its premiere of Southern Discomfort from April 19 until June 21. “Five auditions,” artistic director Michael Shooner said, sighing, at Cincinnati Shakespeare's recent opening night, “and we couldn't find the right people for two roles” in the large cast.

        There has been much off-stage muttering about fund-raising and re-writes. Mr. Shooner says both are going well.

        • Tri-County Players have been nomads since their 1999 departure from College Hill Town Hall.

        A Company of Wayward Saints, the story of a troupe of actors who have been on the road so long (from the 15th to 21st centuries) they can't remember where home is, seemed like the perfect play for the here-and-there community theater.

        “Our luck ran out,” director Patricia Robb says, sighing. The show announced for May will move to June 1-9 at Grace Episcopal Church.

        • Shadowbox Cabaret, which bills itself as “comedy/rock 'n' roll theater” with two venues in Greater Columbus, has set a new opening date of Oct. 3 at Newport on the Levee. The cabaret is a victim of construction delays.

        Best of Shadowbox will introduce the troupe's style to Cincinnati audiences, then Holiday Hoopla will take the stage Dec. 5-31.

        Regional arts meeting: The Regional Cultural Alliance board is set to meet again on April 19 to complete its assessment of who, where and why they are. (Black arm bands may be in evidence.)

        Boone County Arts Council called it quits last month after almost 10 years, citing membership that had dwindled to a handful of active members.

        So there's no time like the present to retrench, and no better way to start than getting some advice from the pros.

        This is a reminder that at 4 p.m. Monday Ohio Citizens for the Arts will hold a regional meeting at the Contemporary Arts Center (115 E. Fifth St.). It will bring together state legislators and arts supporters.

        Lobbyist William Blair will be on hand. So will Ohio Arts Council chief Wayne Lawson. While state funding is their priority, both can provide good advice on how to get things started at a local level.

        If local arts supporters learned one thing in 2000, it's that without strategic, ongoing effort, you fail.

        If this were a movie, it would be just the first act. The the hero would get up, brush himself off, pump some serious iron and come out fighting again — and again.

        Make time for face time on Monday. Admission is $10 which includes a reception.

        Close to home: Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative is inviting new scripts and members. If you want to check them out, one of their monthly staged readings is 8 p.m. April 17 in the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater.

        Lover, Thief, Sweet Angel of Death by Phil Paradis of Highland Heights is a dramedy about a couple who have been married 50-plus years “and use their grandson as a referee as they grapple with aging, abuse, sexuality, guilt,” Mr. Paradis says. The grandson's issues include caring for elderly relatives in declining health.

        Mr. Paradis started the script so long ago, “maybe six years,” he doesn't remember the original inspiration. “But I do remember writing some dialogue in a notebook during a layover in a Chicago airport. The dialogue amused me so I kept working on it.”

        Bill Hartnett, Ellie Shepherd and Brian Berendts are the readers, Michael Shooner of New Edgecliff directs. Tickets $5 at the door.

        CPI is accepting manuscripts for the 2001 New Voices Series. Tristate playwrights can submit a full-length or several one-acts with a $15 fee, payable to CPI, to: Box 141164, Cincinnati 45250.

        The fee includes a year's membership. CPI holds monthly meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Sunday in French Hall, University of Cincinnati. Visitors and new members welcome.

        For information about CPI or the playwrights workshop call Pauline Smolin at (513) 721-6170 or visit

        Well-reviewed "Pages': UC drama grad Eydie Faye (Cohen) had such good response (including enthusiastic reviews) to the winter run of her The Pages of My Diary I'd Rather Not Read at The Complex in Los Angeles that she's re-opened it at a larger theater.

        CCM fans will remember Ms. Cohen as Roy Cohn in Angels in America. She stars in Pages with CCM classmates (all 1998 grads) Betsie Devan and Marissa Manzanares.

        CCM drama head Richard Hess, who went to the West Coast over winter break to direct, flew back spring break to remount it. The show, which has had some rewriting, is in a five-week run at the Hudson in Hollywood.

        The reviews remain strong. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “raunchy, racy, hip, sometimes outrageous ... genuinely touching and poignant.”

        Mr. Hess still wants to bring the show for a short run to Cincinnati, if he can find an affordable venue. (The Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Theater wasn't it.)

        “I'm very proud of Eydie's writing and all three fabulous performances,” Mr. Hess says. Can we do it here next year for a couple of weeks? Right now it's dreams and hopes.”

        Contact Jackie Demaline at 768-8530; fax: 768-8330; e-mail Cincinnati.Com keyword: Demaline


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