Know Theatre announces four new productions for 13th season

The innovative and eclectic Know Theatre has announced its “lucky 13” season with four new main stage shows, a new artistic director, and involvement in several educational and outreach oriented collaborations.

The Over-the-Rhine theatre company has a reputation for producing quality shows that stretch the boundaries of traditional theater, and this season is bound to be no different.  In addition to its main productions, the theatre is also involved in the seventh annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival, will host a New Year’s Eve speakeasy party, and is a collaborator for educational shows such as Calculus: The Musical! Three out of the four new main stage shows announced (one is still in the works) range the gamut from a passionate love affair to space and time travel.

Skin Tight, the first show of the 2010-2011 season, is a performance detailing the unique pain and passion that love and loss provides. The production is directed by Drew Fracher and will run from October 9-30.

Skin Tight is a unique piece combining beautifully poetic text with intense physical action on stage,” described newly appointed Producing Artistic Director Eric Vosmeier. “I’m excited to see what Drew can do with this kind of show which I suspect will be unlike anything Know Theatre audiences have seen on our stage before.”

Vosmeier helped steer the theatre through a turbulent time last season, and is excited to see where the Know is headed in the future. Productions such as the theatre’s holiday show, A Wrinkle in Time which is a stage adaptation of Madline L’Engle’s classic book, help to stir that excitement. Jason Ballweber will return from his wildly popular Sideways Stories From Wayside School production last year to lead Meg and Charles Wallace through space in time to save their father. The show will be produced in collaboration with the Four Humors Theater in Minneapolis.

The final show of the season, The Dragon, will be produced alongside Madcap Puppet Theater, another local institution. Local playwright and actor Alison Vodnoy will be adapting the 1943 version of the play. With the exception of two characters the cast will be entirely puppets, created, designed and built at the Madcap Theatre. Experienced puppet theatre director Irina Niculescu will be directing.

A Wrinkle in Time runs November 27 through December 26, 2010, and The Dragon will run from April 2 through May 7, 2011. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Know Theatre box office at (513) 300-5669. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 the week of the show, and season subscriptions cost $48.

Community Campaign raises $11M for Fine Arts Fund

The Fine Arts Fund announced this evening that the Cincinnati community gave $11 million for the arts in during their annual campaign – matching their aggressive goal set last year. Julie Janson, Chair of the 2010 Annual Community Campaign for the Fine Arts Fund, said that the amount matched 2009’s contributions and was more than any other such campaign in the nation.

The news comes as nonprofits and arts organizations around the country have struggled to raise money during a difficult economy, with many organizations scaling back their expectations. Fine Arts Fund leadership noted that donations came from people all over the region, with most people making less than $150 contributions.

“We decided that we had to set an ambitious goal in order to ensure that people continue to share the benefits of the arts that make our community such a vibrant and appealing place,” Janson described in a press release. “And this year, setting a goal equal to last year’s donations was very ambitious.”

The Fine Arts Fund benefits nearly 100 arts organizations throughout the Cincinnati region including museums, theatre companies, dance companies and instructional organizations. Cincinnati’s arts community received another major boost during this difficult economy when Louise Nippert donated $85 million in December to create a musical arts fund supporting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Opera.

“This is an extraordinary sign of community support for the arts and the benefits they bring to the entire area” Lee Carter, Chair of the Fine Arts Fund Board of Trustees, said. “People recognize that our dance, theatre, museums, music, art centers, and so forth make communities more vital and bring people together throughout the region.”

On top of the $11 million raised in the Annual Community Campaign, several foundations contributed special initiative funding that totaled $12.3 million.

“We’ve heard from all corners of the region: the arts make our community a great place to live and visit,” Janson concluded.

CORRECTION: The Fine Arts Fund provides funding to nearly 100 organizations throughout the Cincinnati region, and provides additional services to dozens more. View a full list of grantees here.

Only one week left to see Becky’s New Car

Currently running in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood’s Ensemble Theater of Cincinnati (ETC), Becky’s New Car by Steven Dietz will hold its final performance on Sunday, March 28 at 2:00pm.

In this hilarious comedy of errors, Kate Wilford’s character Becky Foster allows herself to try on a new life for a while – complete with a new lover and a new home. But when her lie begins to unravel, she discovers that her two separate lives were significantly more intertwined that she had thought. She engages the audience for assistance, but their help cannot possible avert the mess Becky has created.

The show will run Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and close on Sunday with a 2pm performance. The ETC sells discounted $15 tickets 15 minutes prior to each show, so make a night of it in the Gateway Quarter and see what you’ve been missing. Grab dinner or drinks at Lavomatic or at the brand new Senate, visit the shops, then head over to the theater. Plenty of cheap and secure parking is available in one of the 3 garages within a block, but why worry about parking when you can take the bus? Visit Metro to calculate your route.

Ticks are selling fast, and range from $30-40. Numerous discounts apply for children, seniors, students, holders of the Public Radio Perks Card or the FAF Card, and Enjoy the Arts members. Patrons may purchase tickets online, in person at the ETC box office (1127 Vine Street), or by phone at (513) 421-3555.

Ensemble Theatre an Over-the-Rhine staple for 24 years

For 24 years the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati has offered up top-notch Off-Broadway theatre performances in historic Over-the-Rhine. The first two years of performances were held at Memorial Hall on Elm Street near Music Hall until the organization relocated to its space on Vine Street near 12th in the heart of the Gateway Quarter district of Over-the-Rhine.

But before there was the now popular Gateway Quarter, the ETC was there bringing in money and visitors to the neighborhood. The ever-growing urban living, retail and entertainment district now has dozens of businesses and hundreds of new residents. Theatre patrons can now dine at establishment like Lavomatic and Senate, and window shop at the unique collection of locally owned shops along Vine Street surrounding the ETC.

Since 1988, ETC has been improving the 106-year-old structure that has been home to a consulate, bank and printing shop before it became the permanent home for ETC. This work has included renovations to the building to make it an appropriate theatre venue early on, and the addition of amenities for theatre personnel and additional seating capacity in the 1990’s. The 191-seat theatre is now at another crucial point in its history as ETC is in the middle of a $6.5 million capital campaign that will help expand the theatre’s presence and improve operations at its existing location.

“This next stage of ETC’s development will help embrace our mission of creating and bringing Cincinnati world and regional premieres,” said ETC Producing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers. “Most importantly, it will allow for the artistic growth of our professional team and visiting artists.”

New shops occupy once vacant storefronts along Vine Street [TOP-LEFT]; Mayor Mallory celebrates the completion of a new condominium project at 12th & Republic streets [TOP-RIGHT]; the once desolate Vine Street is now full of foot traffic [LOWER-LEFT]; rooftop decks for new condominiums now overlook the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati [LOWER-RIGHT].

The ‘Next Stage’ capital campaign is the first such campaign in the ETC’s history, and comes at a time when the theatre is experiencing solid growth. Over the past two seasons ticket sales have inceased 22 percent, and ETC has more subscribers now than in any time during its history.

“It’s an astonishing accomplishment when many theatres across the country are unfortunately seeing a decrease in attendance,” said Jocelyn Meyer, Communications & Development Manager with ETC. The success of ETC has also helped spawn the creation of growing arts community that includes the Know Theatre, Art Academy of Cincinnati, and Fringe Festival all located right in the heart of Over-the-Rhine and within blocks of ETC.

During the course of a season Meyer explained that ETC brings some 35,000 patrons into the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and makes an economic impact of more than $3.5 million in direct spending. But even with strong numbers recently, the ETC is still in need of contributions to help start construction with the Next Stage capital campaign which had originally been projected to complete construction by the fall of 2010.

“While ticket sales continue to do phenomenally well for us, like most non-profits, our contributed income has suffered terribly in this economy,” detailed Meyer who went on to say that the ongoing capital project, with the help of Cincinnati-based GBBN Architects, the completed ETC capital project will add 15,000 square feet of space to the ETC’s existing facilities and strengthen its neighborhood presence.

The Know Theatre draws additional theatre crowds to the Gateway Quarter district of Over-the-Rhine [LEFT], while festivals like the Gateway Summer Celebration have formed to celebrate the residents, businesses, and history of the neighborhood [RIGHT].

“The renovation and expansion plans are an opportunity to extend ETC’s capability and bring the facilities to a level on par with the quality of ETC’s stage productions,” explained GBBN’s Joe Power who is serving as the lead architect for the project. “Look for an expanded presence along Vine Street, a refurbished theatre, new technical support facilities, as well as a new front-of-house that will improve the entire theatre experience.”

In total, the capital project will result in a renovated performance space and seating, an outside courtyard, an on-site scene shop, new office space for administrative staff, a renovated box office and lobby space, and a private meeting room for sponsors, entertainment, and rentals. According to theatre officials, the renovations will also put a strong emphasis on creating a more accessible seating area for mobility-challenged patrons, and will maintain the current intimate theatre setting for which the ETC is known.

“For several years, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati has made a huge commitment to stay in our neighborhood based on their confidence in the revitalization of our urban core,” said Brian Tiffany, Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce President. “ETC has once again proven that Over-the-Rhine continues to offer our city and this region one of the best examples of ensemble theatre in the heart of arts and culture in Cincinnati.”

Those interested and able in giving to the ETC are able to do so by donating online; mailing a check made payable to “Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati” to 1127 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202; or by calling (513) 421-3555.

Know Theater’s “Add1ng Mach1ne” musical a haunting hit

The Know Theater of Cincinnati’s third production of the 2009-2010 season, Add1ng Mach1ne: A Mus1cal opened Saturday to a sold out crowd. A re-imagination of Elmer Rice’s 1923 play, the musical makes tremendous use of the theater’s unique space by placing the audience on three sides of the stage, allowing the actors to freely roam the aisles, and situating the ensemble behind the stage but within view.

Slowly building into a melodic cacophony of numbers, the musical’s first piece immediately grabs the audience’s attention with its monotonous and hypnotizing trance. Playing off the theme of repetition, the musical captures the banality of Mr. Zero (played by Robert Pavlovich), whose only excitement comes in the form of the temptation of a beautiful young co worker (played by Liz Vosmeier).

After brilliantly depicting the essence of Mr. Zero’s mundane employment, the musical explores themes of appearance and superficiality, technology and obsolesce, predictability and sudden change, and crime and justice.

Add1ng Mach1ne runs through March 6. Tickets are only $12 for each show this season thanks to the generosity of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. US Bank Foundation. Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling the Know Theatre box office at (513) 300-5669.

Before the show, grab a drink with friends at the theater’s great bar, or visit Senate which opens Friday, February 19! Parking around the Know Theater (map) is abundant, but several bus lines eliminate the need to drive entirely. Check out Metro’s trip planner, and input “1120 Jackson Street” as the destination.

“Robert Pavlovich as Zero” photo by Deogracias Lerma