Sunday, March 30, 2003

The arts

New festival will showcase theater from the fringes


The Cincinnati Fringe Festival will debut in May 2004, with Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival planning to bring three weeks of beyond-the-mainstream works to three downtown sites, including the stage at the new Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art.

The fringe expects to showcase "15 to 20" companies and individuals. Know Theatre Tribe and New Edgecliff already have signed on.

The idea started with company manager Jason Bruffy, who will spend next year as the Fringe Festival producing director. Last fall, he says, he realized that "what I saw lacking in the Cincinnati arts scene is connective tissue.

"There's no creative showcase" for what he defines as a "strong but not united" underground arts movement in Cincinnati. "There are young artists and new organizations and they get no exposure."

Bruffy pitched the concept to artistic director Nick Rose, who saw it as an ideal finale to Cincinnati Shakespeare's 10th anniversary season. The goal is to make it an annual event.

"We wanted to bring something new to the city," says Rose, "and we wanted to collaborate with other members of the arts community."

The Fringe Festival will fly under the CSF Studio banner, the Cinergy Foundation-sponsored project that survived the season's seismic changes, including the departure of an artistic director.

"I felt it was very important to maintain a creative outlet for daring new work that otherwise couldn't get mainstage runs in town," says Rose.

Bruffy is inviting proposals for fully developed "dynamic pieces in theater, dance, multi-media. New texts, new performance styles, original collaborations between up-and-coming playwrights and performers. I want to challenge the arts community.

"Nobody is pushing the cutting edge, nobody is doing something remotely controversial. Political theater doesn't exist here.

"(Artists) are here to change something. Arts can do that."

The spirit of the fringe line-up, says associate artistic director Brian Phillips, will be "I want to see things I've never seen before."

Bruffy hopes to see at least two of the nine slots taken by out-of-town acts.

The Cincinnati Shakespeare crew all believe that, in time, the Fringe Festival can capture national attention and improve the city's profile if it can tell the story that "there is an arts scene here, Cincinnati is a viable option as a place to do art," says Phillips.

Theaters and artists interested in participating may submit proposals to Jason Bruffy, Cincinnati Fringe Festival, c/o Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, 719 Race St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.

An open meeting will be held for all interested parties (including playwrights, artists and producers) at 7 p.m. May 28 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. Reserve a place by e-mail:

`Breath, Boom' postponed: The Cincinnati premiere of Kia Corthron and her Breath, Boom, about an African-American girl who survives gang life, promised to be one of the gotta-see events of the 2002-03 season.

The Off-Center/On-Stage entry, scheduled to open Wednesday, has been canceled, but producing artistic director D. Lynn Meyers promises the electric drama will be a gotta-see event in 2003-04. She will give it a slot in the main stage series or position it so it can have "a considerably longer run" than the four performances originally scheduled.

The final entry in the Off-Center series will now be Lift Her Voice from the Darkness, a dramatization of writings by women survivors of the Holocaust. Performance dates and times are 2 p.m. April 30 and May 1 and 7:30 p.m. May 5-6. Call 421-3555.

Lift Her Voice is presented in partnership with the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Evening with friends: Best friends reunite at the Aronoff Center next month - sort of.

Skip Fenker, directing Mame for Cincinnati Music Theatre in the Jarson-Kaplan (April 4-12, 241-7469), happily welcomes old friend Richard Oberacker, musical director of The Lion King, back to town.

You can welcome him, too. Oberacker will perform a cabaret, In the Works, featuring his original music and lyrics, at 7 and 9 p.m. April 28 at Plush (upstairs at Carol's on Main, 825 Main St.)

The evening will include selections from Ace, Dracula: The Game of Love (which premiered last year at CCM) and The Gospel According to Fishman.

Oberacker will have a little help from his friends, including Wayne Wright and Marcie Brooks.

Donation $25, all proceeds benefit AVOC (AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati.) Reservations: 624-8584.

Summer sessions: Hot Summer Nights at University of Cincinnati is taking a break in 2003, but other area campuses have set their summer seasons.

Northern Kentucky University opens June 19 with Greater Tuna (featuring faculty member Ken Jones and Troy Hitch), continues with Agatha Christie musical spoof Something's Afoot (July 10-27), and concludes with a comic take on Dracula (July 31-Aug. 10) by Mary Lynn Dobson, a former winner of NKU's Y.E.S. Festival of New Plays (see next item).

Subscriptions ($60) are available. Call (859) 572-5464.

Miami University Summer Theatre will open with Anne of Green Gables by local writers Janet Vogt and Mark Friedman. The musical had a workshop three years ago at Ensemble. Theatre department chair Bill Doan will direct; performance days are July 10-20.

The second production will be the regional premiere of The Fourth Wall by A.R. Gurney, whose work includes the popular Sylvia. Performances are July 17-26. Information: (513) 529-3200.

Just say Y.E.S.: Northern Kentucky University's theater department announces the winners of its 11th biennial Y.E.S. (Year-End Series) Festival of New Plays, running in repertory April 24-May 4 in the Performing Arts Center:

Three Girls, Four Seasons by Kristine Namkung imagines Vivaldi composing his masterpiece in an orphanage/musical conservatory in Venice.

The Bandmaster by Abe Polsky examines the relationship between art and war and the nature of heroism in a drama about General Custer's bandmaster on the night before Little Big Horn.

Too Good to Say Goodbye by Jim Gustafson is a romantic comedy about a pulp fiction writer who finds himself surrounded by the characters from his unfinished novels.

NKU box office: (859) 572-5464 or

Join the Human Race: The works of playwright August Wilson will be the subject of a free panel discussion at 6 p.m. Tuesday, hosted by Human Race in the lobby of the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St., Dayton.

The panel is the first of several special events scheduled around Human Race's regional premiere of Wilson's Jitney, April 24-May 11.

Tuesday's panel includes faculty from University of Dayton, Central State University and Wright State University.

Seating is limited. Call (937) 461-3823, Ext. 3118 to reserve a place.

Bouncing in: Playbill announces a cast change in Bounce, the hotly anticipated new collaboration between Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince - the first in 30 years - which will have its world premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Previously announced UC College-Conservatory of Music grad Faith Prince has dropped out (awwww!) to be replaced by College-Conservatory of Music grad Michelle Pawk (yayyyy!).

The musical (formerly titled Wise Guys) about the Mizner Brothers got a name change to refer to Americans' resilience and ability to reinvent ourselves. Bounce plays June 20-Aug. 10.


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