Saturday, November 10, 2001

Town meeting on arts slated

Advocacy efforts may find audience

        In the wake of last week's election, just-folks arts enthusiasts are hoping to gather a crowd of like-minded people to do some serious arts advocacy, small and large, to let newly elected officials — city, suburb and county — know that arts matter.

        Small advocacy efforts can be as simple as attending a local event, checking for the words (and they may be in tiny print) “supported by a grant from the City of Cincinnati” and calling, writing or e-mailing council members to say you went, you enjoyed yourself and thanks.

        Larger efforts? Help grapple with arts issues and help define priorities at a town meeting on the arts.

        Some questions that might come up: What's the best way to introduce our politicians to the local arts scene? How can advocates help our politicians understand that whether their priority is neighborhoods, kids, racial divides or economic development, arts can play an important role in creating solutions? And what do the arts need to succeed in Cincinnati?

        Xavier University's Cathy Springfield and D. Lynn Meyers, past president of the League of Cincinnati Theatres and producing artistic director of Ensemble Theatre, are planning a town meeting on the arts.

        While Tuesday's election results suggest it's a great time to start this push, there's never been a bad time. It's encouraging that new strong Mayor Charlie Luken declared he would immediately establish a city arts and culture committee. But that shouldn't make anyone relax. The mistake has been relying on others, like the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts, to take a leadership position in advocacy.

        Cincinnati is a great town for volunteerism and providing a helping hand. If you care about the arts, now's the time to sign on. Your part in a focused effort, whether it's a little or a lot, can make an enormous difference.

        Call Ms. Springfield at 745-3205 if you want to be added to their list, and let her know if you're willing to volunteer for committee work.

        Leader leaves: Dhana Bradley-Morton announced her resignation as executive director of Arts Consortium, the West End-based community cultural center, effective Jan. 31.

        After seven years, at the top of her post-Consortium list of things to do: “Rest.”

        Ms. Bradley-Morton came here from Louisville and she likely will be moving on, but not just yet. “A year to 18 months,” she predicts. In the meantime she's thinking some event-planning and theater. “I want to get back to the artistic side.”

        She won't be doing theater locally. A spoken word performance artist, she's toured poetry concerts, like Sturdy Black Bridges that played here a couple of years back, with performance partner Priscilla Hancock Cooper. It's returning to touring she has in mind.

        Meanwhile, Arts Consortium board president Stephen Dobbins says a regional search for a replacement will start soon.

        Arts Consortium is looking toward its 30th anniversary in 2002 “and talking about events throughout the year.” It will be vital to have an executive director in place as soon as possible.

        Ms. Bradley-Morton had been working on a revival of Dreamgirls for spring. That's up in the air. “One of the problems we've had over the years is that (our theater) doesn't hold a lot of people,” says Mr. Dobbins.

        “We're hoping to partner with a larger venue.”

        A show that fits nicely into Arts Consortium's intimate space is the current regional premiere of The Preacher and the Rapper, a hard-hitting drama that approaches community issues from the standpoints of traditional religion and contemporary young music artists. Preacher continues at 3 p.m. today and Nov. 15-18. Dean Tabler directs. Tickets $15. Call 381-0645 for reservations and information.

        CCM's "Candide': Tory Ross has a secret passion — cleaning her apartment. “I don't like the big stuff, like vacuuming, I like detailing — taking the Q-Tip and the 409 and cleaning the blender.”

        Ms. Ross' not-so-secret passion is performing. Later this week she'll be playing a great comic character role, the mysterious Old Woman with One Buttock in Leonard Bernstein's glorious and rarely produced Candide at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. One of the reasons it's a rare event is its size. The CCM production features a cast of 39.

        “It's great. I have six dialects, I'm working with (vocal/dialect coach) Rocco DalVera nonstop. I love changing into someone people can't recognize.”

        Ms. Ross may not be the only unrecognizable cast member of Candide; musical theater department chief Aubrey Berg has sacrificed his beard and moustache to play Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss, instructor to the naive and pretty young protagonists, “the wisest of all philosophers and scientists” who teaches them about “this best of all possible worlds.”

        A member of the Class of 2002, Ms. Ross will be heading for New York in March. She's already well on her way to a professional career. She earned her union card by working last summer at the acclaimed Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.

        “It's the job any kid wants to get for summer stock,” she says happily.

        She loved the Civic Light Opera, which loved her back. Midway through the season she won an award as the ensemble member who most exemplified professional skill, high work ethic, positive attitude, ability to work well with others and general enthusiasm.

        The award came with a $300 check. “Half went into my savings account for New York on my mom's instructions, and I bought two dresses on sale at Banana Republic.”

        She spent her formative years in Dayton (along with classmates Tyler Maynard and Angela Gaylor). She'd wanted to be a lawyer (like her dad) until she hooked up with Dayton's famed arts ed program Muse Machine “and they told me to audition for musical theater.” Her parents have forgiven her, and Ms. Ross dutifully takes mom's advice to write thank you notes to all her directors.

        She's hoping for a role in CCM's world premiere musical Dracula in winter. “There's a 50-year-old Hungarian innkeeper I have my eye on,” she laughs. “That's why I'm here, to be in shows. I don't know what I'd do every night if I didn't rehearse.”

        Candide playsThursday through next Sunday in Corbett Auditorium. Tickets $23. Call 556-4183 for reservations and information. (And do it now — tickets are going fast.)

        Theatrical tidbits: Mark June 2, 2002 on your calendars. Ensemble Theatre is planning a Tony Award Party as a fund-raiser.

        • If you've been plenty impressed (as I have) by the members of Cincinnati Shakespeare's new Young Company in mainstage roles this season, you can check them out as an ensemble in brief public engagements of this season's educational touring shows Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

        Caesar has its final performance at 2 p.m. today, Dream plays Thursday through Nov. 18 at the festival, 719 Race St. Tickets $10. Call 381-2273.

        • Xavier Players workshop The Perfect Game, a musical by alum John Grissmer (Class of '55) Thursday through Nov. 18 in the Xavier Armory. The show deals with the development of basketball by Dr. James Naismith. Tickets $10. Call 745-3205.

        • Women's Theatre Initiative continues its series of staged readings with Joan Ackerman's Off the Map at 7 p.m. Monday at Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. It's a portrait of a father whose depression shapes the lives of his rural family.

        Milestone season: Stagecrafters celebrates its 50th consecutive season with Harvey, a comedy about a man and his 7-foot invisible rabbit, opening Wednesday at the Jewish Community Center (1580 Summit Road, Roselawn.)

        There are several centuries of community theater experience connected to the show, starting with director Gittee Bortz, one of the theater's founders. Tom Storey has been acting for 45 years. He and wife Nancy Ann are featured.

        Mike Gavin has 30-plus years in local community theater and will direct Arsenic and Old Lace later this season. He's an old hand at Harvey; in his first appearance in it he played young Dr. Sanders, and this time he's cast as the older Dr. Chumley.

        Sharon Faust joined the theater, married a Stagecrafter and brought daughter Amy in when she was a little girl. Now they're both teachers. Mrs. Faust plays Mrs. Chauvenet in Harvey, and returns later this season to join Amy onstage in Tevye and his Daughters.

        Harvey runs Wednesday through next Sunday. Call 351-1234.
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