Cincinnati is more than rich in musical offerings. Just have a look at the current schedules for CCM, the Linton Music Series, the Catacoustic Consort, the Classical Revolution, concert:nova, the CSO, the CCO, and the infinite number of choral, sacred music and chamber music in the greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area
It is nearly impossible to find one weekend day or even a weekday when there are not two and three and more events – many of them free-admission – competing for our attention and attendance.
Our principal professional theatres in Cincinnati — and, by “professional” I mean those organizations employing members of Actors’ Equity, the union of American stage managers and actors – are two in Cincinnati. Those two theatres produce a season of – ballpark – half a dozen plays in each of their spaces. Those plays have to please a substantial number of people – the subscribers – that makes up, in a perfect theatre world, more than half of their constituency.
Each play is slated to a run for a fixed number of weeks, usually a minimum of three, with six or seven performances a week. If the artistic director chooses a play that is too controversial, too uncomfortable, too risky for a nice, conservative, predominantly Caucasian, largely middle-aged or older, well-heeled audience that can afford to plunk down quite a few dollars for a season subscription…if that happens, the theatre has trouble. Bottoms on seats means a positive balance at month’s end, which is precisely what arts boards like to see. Displease the subscribers – no bottoms on seats.
Nevertheless what I am looking for here when it comes to theatre is risk-taking.
In college theatre, the world on and off and backstage is different. The actors and stage managers and the student designers don’t get paid. Their parents pay. And the audience pays a pittance to see young talents who will most likely land a Broadway or Chicago or Hollywood gig next year. And I speak from experience here. College Conservatory of Music experience, sitting on a comfortable seat in Corbett Auditorium or Patricia Corbett Auditorium or Cohen Studio Theatre, where I have sat through some pretty amazing performances given by “kids” one third my age from the theatre and musical theatre and opera departments.
The point I attempted to make in my overly long rambling on about professional theatre in Cincinnati was not to disparage the very good work I have often seen on the stages of our two professional theatres of record in Cincinnati, but to extol the risks that the creative people at CCM take in programming plays that our two professional theatres would steer well away from, fearing the fallback they would bring.
Just around the corner CCM is putting on three shows you would likely not ever see in these parts were it not for CCM.
Next week (February 9 -12) at CCM, the Department of Theatre is valiantly staging HER NAKED SKIN, a play by Rebecca Lenkiewicz that deals frankly with several themes: social injustice, women’s rights, Feminism… It’s not Grandfather’s feel-good stage show but it will make you think and it will provoke you. Tickets: $27 and $31. Call 556 4183 to reserve. Bravo, Richard Hess!
The Opera Department leaps way outside the operatic box tackling Conrad Susa’s Transformations, an…opera (ugh, that word again) that opera-haters and theatre-lovers will adore, what with its wacky and dense book (libretto in opera) by Anne Sexton and its grim deconstruction of the Brothers Grimm’s notion of what happened to all those fairy tale characters after the fairy tale ended. Performances on February 17, 18, 19. Tickets are free but they go fast. Call 556 4183 to reserve. Brava, Emma Grifin!
The improbable love affair between movie director Mack Sennet and silent screen diva Mabel Normand is the Musical Theatre Department’s next foray. The music is by Jerry (Mame, Hello, Dolly) Herman, Aubrey Berg directs, the CCM students (remember they are practically professional) sing, act and dance, and the show is MACK AND MABEL. It is a randy, off-the-beaten-Broadway path, in your face show. It runs at CCM, March 2 through 5. Tickets: $31 and $35 (on Broadway that would set you back three times that much…) Call 556 4183 to reserve Bravo, Aubrey Berg!