Sunday, April 6, 2003

Ensemble Theatre eyes Covington



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Could Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati become Ensemble Theatre of Covington?

ETC is in conversation with owners of Covington's Odd Fellows Hall (now being rebuilt after last year's devastating fire) to bring professional theater to Northern Kentucky.

Leaving Over-the-Rhine is "not a consideration," Ensemble producing artistic director D. Lynn Meyers and board president Ed Haberer agree, but ETC is looking into the feasibility of a second space in booking Northern Kentucky.

Meyers acknowledges that at ETC's 12th and Vine home base, "the neighborhood has gotten dramatically worse" and the conversations with Odd Fellows might not have advanced at all "if the neighborhood were not deteriorating around us."

Meanwhile, Odd Fellows is looking at two sets of plans, one with four floors of office space, one with a theater, says co-owner Tony Milburn.

Offices would be the economically sound route, Milburn laughs, "but people don't always do the smartest thing."

Public interest in the historic building has been enormous, says Milburn and says that he and his partners feel "a little obligation" to having at least part of it be public space.

Foundation was poured last week and Milburn expects the building to be open for business by June 2004.

Meyers' primary goal right now, though, is selling tickets to the current season and putting together a 2003-04 season.

Showbiz on the road: Showbiz Players and The Civil War start the next leg of their journey this week. The cast and crew of 40-plus will board a bus for Wisconsin on Friday morning where the regional competition of the American Association of Community Theatres will take place.

It will be a challenge, says director Bunny Arszman. The considerable technical elements have to be put in place during a two-hour rehearsal that night "in a theater we've never seen. It's a little scary."

Cast member Denitra Gaines, now living in North Carolina, will fly to Wisconsin to meet the company. (She drove back to Cincinnati through a blizzard to perform for the state competition in February.)

The Civil War is the first excerpt - and the only musical - in the competition, at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. "Not a wonderful slot for singers," Arszman sighs, "but we'll be ready."

Fund-raising has been ongoing and will include a garage sale on April 26 with contributions from community theaters from across the city.

"We've been overwhelmed with the support we've received from our fellow community theater groups," Arszman say, and also thanks City Councilman Jim Tarbell, whose office kicked in $2,000.

"When we walk on stage in Wisconsin we'll be thinking of all the people who made it possible for us to get here."

'Love Song': Hard to believe, but Carson Kreitzer, who wrote the glorious and visceral The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer (see it, see it, see it!), this year's winner of the Rosenthal New Play Prize at Playhouse in the Park, finished the first version of the script two years ago.

She's surprised, she says, by "how much more painfully current the play has become. It's so pointedly about things going on in the world. I couldn't have written that if I tried."

Oppenheimer is about many things, including "the possible moment when we could have changed our course, helped humanity rather than build this great store of weapons."

After the epic intellectual scope of Oppenheimer, she says her next subject is smaller. And while dark subjects and protagonists who don't fit in intrigue her, her latest work isn't dark at all, she swears. In fact, it's a romance.

"It's called Slither, it's an episodic history of women and snakes." Kreitzer laughs, as if to say "OK, maybe it's a little big and dark and maybe there are a few outsiders in it starting with Eve."

Don't miss Oppenheimer, continuing through April 20 in the Shelterhouse. 421-3888.

'King' moving: Return of the King, the final entry in Blake Bowden's adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is exiting Ovation Theatre for the new Clear Stage Cincinnati, where Bowden will be managing director.

Troy Bausch, production manager with the defunct Stage First, is artistic director. He's hoping for a three-play season in 2003-04, depending on finances. David Sarr's The Yellow Boat also will likely show up in the season.

Clear Stage, says Bausch, will be devoted to showcasing new artists, in hopes of giving graduates from programs like the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Xavier and Northern Kentucky universities a reason to stay in Cincinnati.

King is scheduled for Oct. 17-25 in the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater under the Clear Stage banner. Gina Ceremele-Mechley will again direct. Mechley also moves to Clear Stage, as education director.

Ovation artistic director Joe Stollenwerk says that with Bowden's departure, the theater company will plan another title for the fall '03 slot.

No rest for cast: The cast of The Lion King is keeping busy with cabarets on their Monday nights off.

First up is a concert benefiting AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati (AVOC) and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, starting at 7 p.m. April 21 in the Playhouse Shelterhouse.

The performance begins at 8 p.m. following a reception and silent auction. Tickets $40. For reservations and information call 421-2437, Ext. 304.

On Monday, April 28, Richard Oberacker will perform In the Works, upstairs at Carol's (825 Main St.) Congratulations to Oberacker and Michael Lazar, their The Gospel According to Fishman is up for several Helen Hayes Awards for its Washington, D.C., debut, including the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Musical. (Winners will be announced May 4.)

Oberacker will be flying in College-Conservatory of Music classmate (and Cincinnati native) Jessica Hendy for the show. Hendy counts Grizabella in Cats on Broadway among her roles.

"It's so cool to have her do this show because all the singers (including Wayne Wright and Marcie Brooks) are people who were in shows that I conducted growing up here in Cincinnati and it's being directed by Skip (Fenker)."

Oberacker promises some new songs from his new show Ace. Tickets $25, call 624-8584.

What a 'Blast!': Uber-halftime show Blast! will be the first Broadway touring show to play Dayton's new Schuster Center.

Brass, percussion, batons and flags will get their synchronized groove on Tuesday through April 20.

Tickets $19.50-$60.50. For reservations and information call the box office at (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630 or online at www.ticketcenterstage.com.

Black theater: Cincinnati Black Theatre Company announces plans for 2003-04, including include the fourth biennial Midwest Regional Black Theatre Festival, scheduled for April 1-10.

The community theater will mount three productions in its second season: Motown Revue, Oct. 1-19; a revival of Black Nativity, Dec. 11-21; and For Colored Girls Who Committed Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Feb. 12-28.

For information on the current or next season call 241-6060 or visit the Web site at www.cincyblacktheatre.com.

Chicago booking: Illuzio, which was the final show for Stage First earlier this year, lives again. The comedia dell'arte farce by Nicholas Korn with music by Allen Lindsey is booked at Chicago's Chopin Theatre, opening July 11.

Ticket information will be available in early May. Check the Web site at www.illuzio.com.

E-mail jdemaline@enquirer.com.




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