Sunday, July 13, 2003

Women's Theater Initiative first in America to put on 'In Flame'


The arts

By Jackie Demaline
Cincinnati Enquirer

Women's Theater Initiative delivers a full-scale production once a year at most, but when they surface for a summer entry, you can count on it being intriguing.

The Initiative rounded up some favorite names among the younger players in town - including Corinne Mohlenhoff and Brian Isaac Phillips from Cincinnati Shakespeare, Carrie Ellen Zappa and Sunshine Cappelletti - for the American premiere of In Flame, by Charlotte Jones, author of London hit Humble Boy.

Director Regina Pugh says, "What resonates with today's audiences is that we have such trouble learning from the past. We may be missing opportunities by not being able to break cycles - family stuff can be influencing our lives and we aren't even aware of it."

"There is something fundamental about human experience, no matter when or where we live," agrees Initiative founder and executive director Kristin Dietsche.

In Flame tells two connected and simultaneous stories, one set in 1908 Yorkshire and the other in contemporary London. Both sets of women struggle with issues of love, identity and the passion from which the play takes its title, the state of being "in flame."

Pugh loves its message that, "your past wants to help you - if you open yourself to it, it could change your life."

Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through July 26 at Performance Gallery (3900 Eastern Ave.) For reservations and information, call the box office at (513) 604-8545. Tickets $12, students and seniors $10.

What's that song?

Lesser- and better-known Broadway songs fill Pam Myers' new (and first) CD. But chances are you'd be hard-put to recognize the song that gives the CD its title - "The Chance to Sing."

That's because it hasn't been published. It's from an in-the-works musical version of cult film Harold and Maude.

Wednesday at Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati's homegrown musical theater star Pam Myers sang some songs from The Chance to Sing (accompanied by Terry LaBolt) and told backstage stories to an appreciative crowd.

How did she come by an unpublished song by Tom Jones, composer of I Do! I Do! and The Fantasticks? She's known him for years, a friendship that began by working a show with his choreographer wife. As for Stephen Schwartz, composer of shows from Godspell to previewing Wicked, they met in summer stock when she was at CCM and he was at Carnegie Tech.

The unifying theme of the CD is composers accompanying Myers on their songs. Myers says she was "flabbergasted" when composers she didn't know, such as Chicago's John Kander, gave her an immediate "yes."

The Chance to Sing is getting good word from New York critics. Myers says she's "giving some thought" to getting herself booked into a Manhattan cabaret for a weekend in autumn, after the run of Ensemble Theatre season-opener Nite Club Confidential. (If you want to see Myers show off her comedic and vocal talent in the noir musical send-up, call the theater box office at 421-3555.)

Climb on board

In a lot of cities, a "Culture Bus" is a regular route. Families, tourists, couples, even solo culture vultures can take advantage of one-stop parking. They climb aboard and stop wherever and for however long they fancy.

Cincinnati will get a brief free sample 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 16 and noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 17 with a shuttle route connecting the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts, Cincinnati Art Museum, Playhouse in the Park (Abracadabra!), the Black Family Reunion at Sawyer Point and the opening of Baseball As America at Cincinnati Museum Center. Buses are scheduled to run every 15 minutes.

A Culture Bus was in the Metro Moves plan that went before voters last fall, reminds Metro director of public affairs Sallie Hilvers.

The Culture Bus was in the fine print below "light rail." The weekend route would have had the bus shuttling among museums during the day and hot spots (Main Street, Mount Adams) at night. On Election Day, the plan went down in flames.

Best way to get a culture bus long-term? Make sure you get on board.

"We haven't given up," Hilvers promises, and adds that Metro often is looking for a way to test new routes.

Best-case scenario: the buses will be full and those who make decisions will say, "Gee, look how many people!"

The Aug. 16-17 runs celebrate both Metro's 30th anniversary (Aug. 15) and arts marketing campaign Festival of the New's "Family Fun" weekend.

(As usual, even though it's already five "festival" weekends in, there's no need for evening transportation. This festival is so corporate Cincinnati that "new" stops at 5 p.m.

Of course, we can always transfer to TANK and head for Newport on the Levee for a little nighttime entertainment.)

Arts committee forming

A citizen action committee to create a designated arts district in Over-the-Rhine south of Liberty is taking shape. Spearheaded by the community-minded membership organization Cincinnatus, interested parties from civic and cultural organizations in the neighborhood have started meeting.

The idea of an arts district, says convener and preservationist Beth Sullebarger, has been batted around for a couple of years.

Key questions "who's going to do it?" and "how much is it going to cost?" remain unanswered.

"I see it as a collaborative effort," says Sullebarger, who expects the first step to be an implementation plan.

With the first phase of Councilman Jim Tarbell's "Community of Arts and Artists" financed and ready to go before Council, possibly as soon as August, one piece is already in place.

Certainly Music Hall and Pendleton Arts Center provide strong anchors to the east and west, with another strong presence coming in the Art Academy of Cincinnati. A named arts district could provide a boost to reviving plans for the Emery Theater (at Walnut and Central Parkway).

Sullebarger, who emphasizes her leadership is only temporary ("I just wanted to get it started."), doesn't have a timeline. While there's no money at this point, "there does seem to be a lot of momentum after just two meetings," she says.

The committee will be meeting again this month.

In related business, the group of arts leaders who have been meeting under the auspices of Greater Cincinnati Foundation and Cincinnati Business Committee will reconvene this week.

Just to clarify

To settle some confusion: The new Over-the-Rhine musical blueS alleY caT is being performed at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, not by SCPA. The show continues through Aug. 3. More information: 362-2713.

'Nightclub' leads off Miami series

Miami University has announced a mark-those-dates lineup for its 2003-04 Performing Arts Series.

Among the highlights:

• Ballet Hispanico's Nightclub Sept. 30, showcasing tangos and salsa from 1920s Latino society to contemporary Hispanic culture.

• Rennie Harris and Puremovement bring hip-hop and other dance styles from America's inner city African-American and Latino communities to the Hall Auditorium stage Nov. 19.

• Turtle Island String Quartet offers a tribute to Miles Davis Feb. 6.

• Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Jazz at Lincoln Center's newest ensemble, March 25.

The series also headlines Bela Fleck, Offenbach's La Perichole and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company with Flight Project.

For information, call the Miami University box office at (513) 529-3200 or visit www.tickets.muohio.edu.

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E-mail jdemaline@enquirer.com.




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