Sunday, February 16, 2003

The arts

Do you know where your arts dollars go?


The annual Fine Arts Fund kicks off its campaign today with its chairman A.G. Lafley of Procter & Gamble urging his execs and corporate colleagues hard toward a probable cost of living increase over last year's $9.3 million goal.

It's a good time to remind everybody of exactly where those dollars go. Last year, this is how every donated dollar broke down (rounded off to nearest fractions):

30 cents - Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

17.5 - Cincinnati Art Museum

11 - Playhouse in the Park

10 - Cincinnati Opera

09 - Cincinnati Ballet

04.5 - Contemporary Arts Center

03.5 - May Festival

03 - Taft Museum

04.5 - divided among nine associate members

03.5 - small arts grants shared by more than 200 organizations

The remaining 3.5 cents goes to administration. The small percentage means Fine Arts Fund runs a tight ship.

Over the last year, a lot of attention has turned to Cincinnati's need to pursue the newly named "Creative Class" - which we have in short supply and are losing at a record pace - and to explode perceptions of our central city.

There is new social and political concern about the creative "glue" that draws people to live downtown and businesses to stay here, that strengthens every part of our city.

That "glue" is made by mixing culture with community at every level, and importantly, at ground level, where most young people are introduced to arts and culture.

The Fine Arts Fund's name says exactly what it is - a fine arts fund.

The Big Eight listed above are vital to our city; they set us apart. Cincinnati stands with only a dozen U.S. cities so well represented by major arts institutions.

Working from this foundation, and also laying claim to nationally renowned College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati, there is potential for a cultural renaissance that could re-define Cincinnati.

But not until we recognize that we have to change the way we do arts business.

If you think Cincinnati Museum Center is doing a great job with exhibits like Baseball as America, which will complement the experience of the new Great American Ballpark; if your youngsters love its Children's Museum;

If you're eagerly awaiting the Vatican art show and mega-tours to follow, then support that great cultural institution. Museum Center gets nothing from the Fine Arts Fund.

If you - and especially your teenagers - felt your stomach drop to your toes when Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival took a death-defying leap in November, drastically reducing budget and completely overhauling its schedule to stay in business; if you've loved its daring; if you want it to survive and continue to add a dash of something young and different to downtown, the festival needs your active support.

Write them a check. Last year, the Fine Arts Fund awarded Cincinnati Shakespeare 1 cent for every $5 contributed.

If you live in Northern Kentucky and long for a cultural district on your own turf, you know that a lot of money flows into the fund from your neighborhoods and corporate parks but hardly anything flows back.

An arts renaissance that defines Cincinnati as something other than "old" and "venerable" means infusing energy and diversity.

It means welcoming new artists with new ideas who believe they can live and work here.

That isn't where the Fine Arts Fund makes its investment.

It's one of the best arguments for the conversations that are going to get louder and louder in 2003 for a Cincinnati Cultural Trust and some sort of tax to support it.

Give to the fund, just know where your money goes. And give where your heart is, too.

Almost `Paradise': Playhouse dates to remember: Paradise, the school touring show about two teenage girls who live and die in the West Bank, will have a free reading at 7 p.m. Tuesday followed by a question-and-answer session.

Tickets first-come, first-served. There's lots of interest, so get there well before distribution begins at 6 p.m. (Limit two per person.) Parking is free in the Playhouse lot.

Monologist and gay activist Tim Miller returns to Playhouse's alteractive series on Feb. 24 in Body Blows. Miller was SRO last year, and this year's appearance looks like more of the same, but don't give up. Call the box office (421-3888) to see if his show has been moved into the Shelterhouse, which would open up more seats.

`Lion King' discovery: Adia Dobbins, who has studied to be an arts administrator at CCM and was thinking about studying law, will instead be the new Nala in the Chicago company of The Lion King.

The 25-year old Clifton resident was "discovered" by Broadway in Cincinnati's Nancy Parrott when she was singing with her choir director from St. Martin De Porres in Lincoln Heights.

Lsst year she was part of a multi-church choir gathered around a pre-Lion King event. "I had great feedback, and that started me thinking, why not?"

Dobbins checked the Disney Web site, saw that the next open audition was in Alabama, was persuaded to take the big chance by a friend, and drove down.

She felt like "a fish out of water" at the audition, but when she'd finished a favorite gospel song, she was asked, "If you were offered a job, would you take it?"

That was last September. She was planning to audition again when the tour comes to Cincinnati in March but then she received another phone call. "They didn't want to wait, they wanted me to come to New York."

Which she did Monday, which Dobbins happily says "was the most amazing day of my life."

The audition lasted all day with hopefuls being eliminated after every round. "I'd given my all and made it through the day" until there were only two women left.

She was asked if she could re-locate by the next week and told that rehearsals for the Chicago engagement start on Feb. 24, which just happens to be her birthday.

The good word came Thursday night. Needless to say, she's ecstatic.

It could happen to you. The Lion King will hold local auditions for singers (adults and children) for the Broadway and national touring companies on March 15 at Arts Consortium (1515 Linn St.)

Kids ages 9-12 (and under 58 inches) sign in from 9-10 a.m. Children will be taught the last verse of "Just Can't Wait to Be King." A parent or guardian must be present at all times. Be prepared to wait.

Adults must call for an appointment at 241-6060 (Cincinnati Black Theatre Company) before March 7. Be prepared to show off your voice and range in 16 bars and provide sheet music for piano accompaniment. Bring picture and resume (or recent photo and list of performance experience.)

Information: 241-6060.

World view: The air was blue with smoke and thick with Bulgarian accents as director Peter Karapetkov discussed a new production of Euripides' Cyclops. His collaborators Boryana Semerdjieva (set and costume design) and Petar Radevski (composer and musical director) nodded and occasionally offered comment, translated by their ringleader.

I didn't have to go far for a very Eastern European theater experience - just to the smoking section of the Vernon Manor dining room - and neither will you.

Karapetkov's Cyclops plays this weekend at Xavier University's Gallagher Theater as part of the Xavier Players' season.

It's part of Xavier theater program director Cathy Springfield's mission to bring a world view to Xavier's stage. Karapetkov has extensive directing credits in Europe. He's here while his wife earns her doctorate at UC.

While Cyclops will be a student production, it promises a startling Eastern European sensibility.

Students are experimenting with using voice as an instrument under Radevski's leadership while Karapetkov ponders, "Who was Euripides? He ended up in the court of Philip of Macedonia. This is the music of the shepherds and their songs. Perfect for loneliness, for sexual deprivation."

Semerdjieva will replace "a not big budget with big ideas."

On stage, Karapetkov promises, "nothing is what it seems to be."

Audiences, he assures "will be provoked" and observes that the story of the Cyclops "is sounding familiar to me today.

"The Cyclops has to lose his only eye to begin to see." Karapetkov says, puffing away.

"I ask, how much are we capable of accepting that is different from us? Why does the dominant culture in the world not have the ability to say `I don't know?' That's why I want to do this play today."

Reservations, information and directions: 745-3939.

Know this: Cincinnati Alternative Theatres (CAT) will help some cats (and dogs) at a meet-the-artist night Thursday at Know Tribe's program of one-acts Trust. Fun starts at 7 p.m., performance is at 8 p.m. at Gabriel's Corner (Sycamore at Liberty).

Tickets $12, students and seniors $10. Proceeds partially benefit Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Donate a pet toy, blanket, cleaning supplies or pet food treats and receive $2 off.

Information: (513) 300-5669.


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