One could define this past year as the great return of theatre. During 2020 and going into 2021, artists watched theaters shut down across the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic. From community theatre to Broadway – This left many of us wondering, will the show go on?Will I still have a job?Will the arts ever come back?
This year, the arts came back in full force. I was blessed to have seen over a dozen shows. From The Know Theatre in Over the Rhine to The Carnegie Theatre in Covington, Kentucky. Here are my top highlights and reflections.
RENTby Jonathan Larsen, Presented by The Carnegie Theatre, Director Eric Boyd
RENT is a timeless classic and anyone who grew up listening to Broadway cast albums has heard “Seasons of Love” at least once. This production moved me in ways unexpected. I watched through tear filled eyes as these young actors brought to life the musical that changed an entire generation. From Sean Polk’s (Collins) soul crushing reprise of “I’ll Cover You” to Sarah Jane Nelson’s (Maureen) and Julie Schick’s (Joanne) roof raising “Take Me or Leave Me”. This show left me speechless.
The Twunny Fo’ by A.J. Baldwin, Presented by The Know Theatre, Director Candice Handy
The Twunny Fo’ is a world premiere play that opened mid – April. Written by the incomparable A.J. Baldwin, this new theatrical work unpacked topics of gentrification, Blackness, and the politics of community. Some say that theatre isn’t the place to discuss issues such as racism and the ignorance of white America, but I disagree. Theatre isn’t a safe space – it’s a brave space where toxic and outdated ideals should be and need to be challenged. With a powerhouse cast featuring playwright, A.J Baldwin (Tyra), Jasimine Bouldin (Rissa), James Creque (Kinglsey) and Eli Lucas (Shaw), The Twunny Fo’is a shining example of the importance of investing in Black theatre.
The Wiz Jr.adapted from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Presented by The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, Director Zhailon Levingston
In April, The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati opened their world premiere production of The Wiz Jr. This take on the classic story shows Dorothy’s journey to Oz from the Black perspective. With high energy musical numbers and colorful costumes, the small theatre goers were in for a treat. As a grown up, what really grabbed my attention was JeShuan Jackson’s interpretation of Lion. With personality and flair, they strutted across the stage radiating infectious energy. The Wiz Jr. from start to finish was simply a sparkle of joy.
Cincinnati Fringe Festival, Presented by The Know Theatre, Various Directors This summer, things got real fringe-y with the 19th annual Fringe Festival. From June 3rd to June 18th audiences were introduced to thought provoking, weird, and downright chaotic theatre. From Donna Kay Yarborough’s gut punching Rosegold to Bradley Wrenn and Sarah Knittel’s hilarious Make a F*ckin’ Show, You POS – I felt inspired, spiritually recharged, and was deeply blown by the talent.
“Good times and bum times,
I’ve seen ’em all and, my dear,
I’m still here.
Flush velvet sometimes,
Sometimes just pretzels and beer,
But I’m here.
I’ve run the gamut.
A to Z.
Three cheers and dammit,
C’est la vie.
I got through all of last year
And I’m here.
Lord knows, at least I was there,
And I’m here!
Look who’s here!
I’m still here!”
I’m Still Here, Stephen Sondheim’s Follies
Thanks for an amazing year of theatre, Cincinnati! Happy New Year, and here’s to 2023!