Arts & Entertainment News

Walking tour to give historical perspective on Cincinnati’s urban core

maxresdefaultMax Grinnell is an author, historian, and a professor who is experienced at sharing unique perspectives of American cities. He has given a number of talks and led walking tours in cities across the country, focused on urban innovation, public art, and travel. Next week, he will be coming to Cincinnati to give us a look at the city from a historical perspective.

Grinnell’s tour will be based on Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors, a book published in 1943 for the Federal Writers’ Project. It is a part of the American Guide Series, also known as the WPA guides, a program funded by the New Deal to employ writers during the Great Depression. Today, it serves as a snapshot of 1943 Cincinnati, when the city’s population was 455,610 and now-iconic structures like Carew Tower and Union Terminal were just a decade old.

UrbanCincy was able to ask Grinnell a few questions about why he was inspired to come to Cincinnati for this event.

UC: You’ve given walking tours of many other cities, and have upcoming tours scheduled for Chicago and Boston. What drew you to Cincinnati, a comparatively smaller city, for a tour?

MG: I started coming to Cincinnati five years ago to work as a grader for the AP Human Geography exam. I’ll be honest: I didn’t know much about Cincy before I got here. Probably thought about chili, Pete Rose, and that’s about it. Now? I’m a totally Queen City booster: I tell people about Mount Adams, the streetcar, the walkable neighborhoods, the great food scene, the alleys (yes, the alleys), and more.

UC: What inspired you to create a tour centered around the 1943 WPA Guide to Cincinnati?

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 10.57.51 AMMG: Taken as a whole, the Federal Writers Guides are nothing short of amazing. Imagine the government putting writers back to work in the Great Depression by writing about their cities, states, regions, and more. Truly a fantastic undertaking, and the Cincinnati guidebook was the last big one to be released.

The guidebook cover all of Cincinnati, plus northern Kentucky, the far reaches of Hamilton County and more with an eye for spectacular details. Historic homes, obscure technical schools, evocative park descriptions, and just about anything else was grist for the mill. Today, travel guides don’t get into that type of detail, which is a same.

Also, it’s a bit of an “amber” moment, if you will, as this was the Queen City at its industrial peak. I consider it one of the better city guides produced by the Federal Writers project and that’s significant, considering other volumes considered New Orleans, Philadelphia, and others.

UC: For people who have been following the many changes in Cincinnati’s urban core in recent years, what new perspectives might they gain from the tour?

MG: I think they’ll gain a new perspective courtesy of the past, if you will. We’ll be hearing about how businesses like the Netherland Plaza Hotel, the Billboard Publishing Plant, the James Book Store and more gave the downtown character. As someone who teaches urban studies for a living, I think we’ll also be talking about how the various buildings have been repurposed over time and how various civic leaders have seen visions both realized and unrealized come and go.

Tours will be given on two dates–Thursday, June 4th and Saturday, June 6th–at 6 p.m each day. The tour lasts 60 minutes, and tickets can be purchased for $15 at Grinnell’s website.

Up To Speed

Will Northern Kentucky’s Manhattan Harbour ever get built?

Will Northern Kentucky’s Manhattan Harbour ever get built?.

Northern Kentucky leaders certainly cannot be faulted for their lack of big plans, but their implementation has been suspect over the past decade. A multi-billion plan in Newport, for example, called Ovation sits as an overgrown lot on the city’s riverfront. Meanwhile, in Dayton, KY, officials there have been working for years to try to make Manhattan Harbour a reality. The 73-acre riverfront development would include high-rises, condos, shopping, a marina and more, but will it ever happen? More from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

DCI’s project with the city has been scaled down from a $1 billion investment to a $300 million to $500 million development. The newest version will have 45 upscale single-family building lots under the name the Commons, a combination multifamily, high-rise condominiums and single-family homes with a mix of commercial development in an area called the Lookout, and luxury multifamily apartments in an area called the Vistas.

Manhattan Harbour’s mixed-use development has been in the works since 2005, when DCI signed the development agreement with the city, which owns the land. In 2008 and 2009, nearly a half-billion dollars in state and local tax incentives were approved for the project. A $10 million sewer line was laid in 2010 to prepare for development. A 20-year tax increment financing district was created for the site.

Arts & Entertainment News

PIPPIN Kicks off Carnegie’s Diverse Theater Season

The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center kicks off its 2011-2012 season with the provocative tale of young Pippin’s relentless journey through politics, war, sex, and marriage seeking his “corner of the sky.” PIPPIN’s tale of self-discovery is itself edgy and glossy; the score is bright and clever; and the Carnegie production promises all the glam its audience can handle: “young, spry, sexy dancers and performers is what this show needs,” reports Joshua Steele, The Carnegie’s Managing Director, “and we’ve got them.”

More than half of the production’s cast is comprised of the region’s top young talent from the award-winning musical theatre programs at Northern Kentucky University, The University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, and Wright State University.

Adventurous, insatiable young Pippin is played by Chris Stewart, a gifted Nebraska native who is active with the the Children’s Theater of Cincinnati, the Showboat Majestic, the Cincinnati Opera, and the Commonwealth Theatre Company.

The fresh pizzaz of the young talent is matched by the professionalism and experience of Greater Cincinnati theatre favorites including Deb Girdler, Brooke Rucidlo, and Jim Stump. Girdler, whose resume boasts 40 years of stellar performances including a record-breaking 46 parts on the Showboat Majestic and 25 critically-acclaimed turns at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, takes on the comedic role of Pippin’s grandmother, Berthe. A show-stopping number in the first act filled with verve and energy lets Girdler truly shine. Rucidlo, regarded as one of the area’s top rising young talents, plays PIPPIN’s non-traditional ingénue, Catherine. Stump, the Artistic Director of Cincinnati’s New Edgecliff Theatre was last seen as Mr. Bumble in Carnegie’s production of Oliver! Here, he appears in the role of Pippin’s father, Charles.

PIPPIN challenges as it inspires. “It is a very self-aware show,” Steele says, “When you walk in, you are completely aware that you are watching a show. It satirizes the traditional theatrical process and all the things we expect from it.”

The show is delivered by a complex, talented production team. PIPPIN marks the second time the Carnegie has partnered with Commonwealth Theater Company, the professional production arm of Northern Kentucky University’s Department of Theater and Dance. Commonwealth contributes the peerless vision of multiple Acclaim Award Winners, Ken Jones (director) and Jamey Strawn (music director). In 2008, the pair brought the critically acclaimed Carnegie / Commonwealth collaboration of Jesus Christ Superstar, which set and still holds Carnegie theatre attendance records.

The Carnegie starts its season with the wile and sheen of PIPPIN and ups the ante with its second production. From November 4-20, 2011, Carnegie joins with CCM Drama to bring the regional premiere of In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play, about a doctor at the dawn of electricity who invents the vibrator to treat hysteria in women. “The content of it probably pushes the envelope for us at The Carnegie,” reports Steele.

The second half of the Carnegie season is much more traditional. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I will be presented in concert with musicians from the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra from January 20-29, 2012. The season closes with Pump Boys & Dinettes running April 13-29, 2012. “We have some nice variety this season,” concludes Steele, “and PIPPIN will kick us off!”

PIPPIN will feature eight performances, all during weekends between August 19, 2011 and September 3, 2011. Tickets may be purchased through The Carnegie Box Office at 859.957.1940 (open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5:00 pm) or
online .

PIPPIN picture provided.

Business Development News

CDFC $2 million closer to investing in Northern Kentucky’s urban neighborhoods

Thanks to an equity investment from PNC Bank, the Catalytic Development Funding Corporation (CDFC) of Northern Kentucky is $2 million closer to its $10 million capitalization goal. With the recent investment, the Catalytic Fund is up to $6.5 million.

Once the $10 million goal is met, CDFC will begin making targeted investments in catalytic development and redevelopment projects in northern Kentucky’s urban neighborhoods in order to spur additional investment and revitalization in the area. The Catalytic Fund investments will provide patient capital for projects that could not occur due to private capital market constraints.

Patient capital does not always take the same form, but generally it is more flexible and willing to accept more risk than conventional funding. The purpose is to fill in gaps in a financing package to make a project more attractive to primary lenders. Patient capital tends to be the first money into a project and typically is repaid after the primary loan payment is made each payment period. This is a similar model that 3CDC uses when deploying Cincinnati Equity Fund capital.

In addition to providing patient capital for development projects that meet the Catalytic Fund’s investment criteria, CDFC will also facilitate development by acquiring land for future projects, providing technical assistance to developers, and recruiting developers to participate in northern Kentucky’s urban renaissance.

The CDFC and the Catalytic Fund will be in very capable hands. Jeanne Schroer, the executive director of CDFC, has over 25 years of experience as a real estate professional specializing in project financing.

The CDFC and the Catalytic Fund were created in 2008 based on a recommendation by the Urban Renaissance Action Team of northern Kentucky’s Vision 2015 planning initiative. Since the fund’s inception, Jeanne Schroer has been working tirelessly to raise $10 million during tough economic times. This is a list of all the contributors to the fund so far:

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Schroer

Arts & Entertainment News

Bloody Good Fun: ‘Evil Dead: The Musical’

Just in time for the Halloween season, Evil Dead: The Musical made its area premiere at the Falcon Theater this weekend. The show runs at the Newport theater through November 6, 2010.

The first indication that this isn’t your typical horror show are the seats covered in plastic. Evil Dead is billed at the world’s first musical with a splatter zone. A section of the theater is reserved for adventurous patrons who don’t mind leaving the theater with bloodstains (all the ‘blood’ washes out easily).

Instead of scary and creepy, Evil Dead: The Musical is a hilarious mash-up of comedy, horror, and in-your-face innuendo set to music. Based on Sam Raimi’s cult favorite Evil Dead film series, the musical blends story lines and characters from several of the movies. The action begins with five young people embarking on their spring break adventure to a cabin in the woods. Housewares employee Ash (Nate Moster) leads his girlfriend Linda (Hannah Balash), whiny kid sister Cheryl, randy best friend Scott, and Scott’s ditzy new girlfriend Shelly across the only bridge to the cabin.

The group discovers an old manuscript and recording left behind by the cabin’s owner. They listen to the strange recording, inadvertently unleashing an ancient curse. Cheryl (Rebecca Weisman) is the first to fall victim to the strange noises coming from the woods. She’s transformed into an annoying demon that pops up out of the cellar to torment everyone else in the cabin. Eventually everyone falls victim to misfortune – some accidental – as Ash tries to destroy the demon. Fans of the Evil Dead franchise will be excited to see the singing moose make an appearance.

As his friends die off, Ash is confronted by the cabin owner’s domineering daughter Annie (Michelle Grove) and her boyfriend Ed (Jeff Surber). Only Annie can decipher and counteract the curse. However, more hilarious misfortunes – and a riotous musical number – befall the remaining non-demons before order is restored. Bryan Franke shone as Jake, the hillbilly who gets caught in the crossfire guiding the couple to the cabin.

While all the songs were witty and playful, “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons” will stick in your head for day. Sean Mize was great as the lustful and foul-mouthed Scott, while Rebecca Weisman created the perfectly grating demon in Cheryl. While not a perfect, polished performance, the cast was full of energy and passion that left the audience in stitches. Simply put, Evil Dead: The Musical is bloody hilarious fun.

Evil Dead: The Musical runs at the Falcon Theater now through November 6, 2010. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 513-479-6783 for $18 ($15 students, seniors).

Performance Dates:

  • October 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 31
  • November 5, 6, 2010
  • 8:00pm start time for all performances