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Published: Monday, March 05, 2018 @ 12:34 PM
SPRINGBORO — A performing arts center featuring a 150-seat theatre is part of plans for redevelopment of Springboro’s central crossroads.
On Tuesday, city officials are unveiling plans for the development of 6.5 acres on the northwest corner of Ohio 741 and Ohio 73, Main Street and Central Avenue in Springboro. Members of the public are to provide input during a meeting from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Springboro City Hall.
This morning, City Manager Chris Pozzuto said the arts center now calls for a 14,000-15,000 square foot building with a 140-150 seat theatre, activity and meeting rooms.
The land, formerly known as the Springboro IGA plaza, is south of the Settlers Walk and Austin Landing developments on Main Street.
“We hope that the performing arts center construction closely mirrors the infrastructure (roads, water lines, etc.) for the rest of the redevelopment of the former IGA Plaza site. We would love to break ground sometime late summer, but that remains to be seen,” Pozzuto said via email.
The city is expecting to fund the project, but no cost estimate was available this morning.
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— Harry Potter, SpongeBob, Regina George, Eliza Doolittle, and Roy Cohn are among the familiar characters connected to Broadway’s outstanding 2017-2018 season, which will be saluted Sunday, June 10 as the 72nd annual Tony Awards air from New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
Unlike some years when the Tonys seem to be confined to a private bubble, spotlighting plays and musicals to the average viewer that are more appealing curiosities than must-see showcases, 2018 has the pop culture-driven potential to bring tourists to the Great White Way in droves.
The pleasantly surprising and gleefully entertaining “SpongeBob SquarePants” and Tina Fey’s hilarious adaptation of her 2004 comedy “Mean Girls” are impressively tied, leading the pack with 12 nominations including Best Musical.
Other major contenders include the gorgeously reconceived revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” (11 nominations), the beautifully pensive new musical “The Band’s Visit” (11 nominations), the splendidly acted revival of “Angels in America” (11 nominations), the stunningly designed revival of “My Fair Lady” (10 nominations), and the knockout spectacle “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two” (10 nominations).
Here are five items worth noting regarding this year’s telecast, which will likely benefit ratings-wise from not competing against the NBA Finals while aiming for a younger demographic as evidenced in the selection of co-hosts and previous Tony nominees Josh Groban (“The Great Comet”) and Sara Bareilles (“Waitress”).
1. WRIGHT STATE REPRESENTED
Ohio natives and Wright State University alums Layan Elwazani of Bowling Green and Ross Feilhauer of Cincinnati are associated with two acclaimed frontrunners. Elwazani, who received her BFA in Acting in 2015, is a standby in “The Band’s Visit.” Feilhauer, who received his BFA in Lighting Design and Technology in 2003, is a member of the lighting team of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
2. I’M JUST WILD ABOUT ‘HARRY’
Bound to win Best Play with a possible sweep of the technical categories, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is simply one of the most extraordinary Broadway shows I have ever seen. This marvelously magical, high-flying, roughly six-hour epic delivers superb performances reaching Shakespearean heights bolstered by non-traditional casting, remarkably cinematic stagecraft, and how-in-the-world-did-they-pull-that-off special effects. But in spite of its razzle dazzle, the production, centered on Harry’s complex relationship with his son Albus, remains a deeply engaging and moving exploration of parenting, friendship, expectations, misunderstanding, forgiveness, fear, legacy, lineage, and the importance of carving your own path. If you’re able to see it, be sure to catch both parts and, most importantly, be prepared to be blown away. It is truly a one-of-a-kind event, the hottest ticket in town since “Hamilton,” and totally worth the price of admission.
3. YAZBEK’S YEAR
The Tonys haven’t been kind to David Yazbek, perhaps best known for writing the catchy theme song to the PBS series “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Previously nominated for his vibrant scores of “The Full Monty,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” Yazbek is back in contention for “The Band’s Visit,” a reflective tale about an Egyptian band mistakenly arriving in a small Israeli town. Thankfully, momentum is finally on his side, setting up an overdue victory for one of Broadway’s finest and most eclectic composers.
4. COMPETITIVE CATEGORIES
The races for Best Musical and Best Leading Actor in a Musical are the tightest and most suspenseful. The former is a prime battle between flashy, feel-good diversions (“SpongeBob,” “Mean Girls,” “Frozen”) and quietly character-driven, musically alluring intimacy (“The Band’s Visit”). All four are expected to tour so it’s a tough call. It’s also anyone’s guess whether or not the playfully energetic Ethan Slater (“SpongeBob”) can surpass Broadway newcomer Harry Hadden-Paton (a stellar Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”), three-time “Monk” Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (“The Band’s Visit”), or historic Joshua Henry (the first African-American to play Billy Bigelow in a Broadway revival of “Carousel”).
5. OVERLOOKED STANDOUTS
How to Watch
What: 72nd annual Tony Awards
Where: New York’s Radio City Music Hall
Time: 8 p.m. tonight (June 10, 2018) on CBS
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— Wright State University alums Layan Elwazani and Ross Fielhauer have reason to celebrate this year’s Tony Awards. After all, they’re respectively essential to “The Band’s Visit” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two,” among the most critically acclaimed productions of Broadway’s 2017-2018 season.
The 72nd Annual Tony Awards will be held on June 10, 2018, to recognize achievement in Broadway productions during the 2017–18 season. The ceremony will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and will be broadcast live by CBS.
LAYAN ELWAZANI AND ‘THE BAND’S VISIT’
When she arrives at the Barrymore Theatre a half-hour before curtain, Elwazani, 24, has to be ready to cover multiple roles in “The Band’s Visit” but the pressure doesn’t bother her. She enthusiastically embraces her responsibility as a standby, meaning she doesn’t perform unless one of the principal performers is out. She joined the show in March and officially made her Broadway debut in April.
“Preparation is key,” said Elwazani, who received her BFA in Acting in 2015 having appeared in such shows as “The Magic Fire” and “All in The Timing.” “I am one of two women who standby. I cover three of the four female roles. From a creative and artistic standpoint, out of eight shows a week, I usually spend one show watching it from inside the theater, another peeking at it backstage from the wings, and the other six I go over material in my dressing room for my characters from blocking to music to lines. Even when I’m a principal character in a show, I still have to have discipline within myself that I’m reviewing my lines and blocking. I work with such incredibly focused and driven individuals on stage, which makes it very easy to feel prepared because I feel taken care of.”
Stylistically and musically, “The Band’s Visit” is the polar opposite of many shows vying for attention on the Great White Way. It’s a quiet, thought-provoking tale of connection within a cultural melting pot many traditional theatergoers are unaccustomed to. Even so, its bold uniqueness is a strong selling point, and Elwazani, a Palestinian-American who grew up in Bowling Green, feels likewise.
“Within the juxtaposition of cultures, the clashing of belief systems and morals, the Israelis open up their homes to an Egyptian band and it really resonates with audiences,” she said. “We have a group of people which are seen as The Other who enter this world in which anything bad could happen at any moment. However, the show highlights the fact that the things that are different about us are not as important as the things that are the same about us.
“We all have hardships and we all suffer loss no matter what language we speak. The human experience is really illuminated in this show. And this show is so beautifully simple. Not every theatrical experience has to be crafted. Our director, David Cromer, has allowed the actors to truly live and breathe in the moment without having to do too much. It’s so exciting that this beautiful piece of art is such a standout even in the height of all the exciting mania surrounding the Tonys.”
Elwazani acknowledges “The Band’s Visit” has been a great learning experience, but gives credit to WSU for reminding her to continue training.
“Wright State offers a wonderful foundation for all artists and the faculty really students to continue their education after college,” she said. “After you’ve graduated and moved to New York you’re not done learning. It’s frightening sometimes to show up to auditions with people who have master’s degrees or have studied at Stella Adler or studied Sanford Meisner for years. Wright State helped me understand the lessons they were teaching me in the moment were very valuable and it was on me to continue learning, growing and enriching myself.”
ROSS FIELHAUER AND ‘HARRY POTTER’
Growing up in Cincinnati, Ross Fielhauer always loved theater, specifically design. He saw “The Phantom of the Opera” in fourth grade and knew he wanted to be a part of what made a production shine from behind the scenes. He took many art classes and ultimately relished taking technical theatre classes at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. He received his BFA in Lighting Design and Technology in 2003 having worked on such shows as “Parade,” memorably scenic designed by Don David, and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
“Going to college for theater simply solidified if I wanted to make a career in theater,” said Fielhauer, 37. “I still lean on those art skills I learned all those years ago. One of the best parts about the WSU theatre program is that you start designing shows right away as a freshman. You hit the ground running. From dance concerts to black box shows to assistant design on the main stage. The major lesson I learned in college was the importance of time management, a major requirement in theatre. College helped me prepare for the real world. I had great professors. Tim Judge, retired WSU master carpenter and production manager, was an amazing influence. He really made getting my college degree worth it. I owe a great debt to him for all he taught me.”
After lighting shows on Royal Caribbean cruise ships post-graduation, Fielhauer moved to Las Vegas in 2005, where he spent seven years working on such shows as “Blue Man Group” and “Disney’s Lion King.” In 2012, he moved to New York where he worked on “Aladdin,” “Beautiful,” “Jersey Boys,” “Hamilton,” and Cirque du Soleil’s “Paramour” among many others.
The fact that “Paramour” performed at the Lyric Theatre proved providential for him when it was announced last year that the Broadway transfer of London hit “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” would be housed there after its renovation, which reduced the number of seats from 1,900 to 1,500 in order to bring more intimacy to the spectacle’s eye-catching extravagance. Even the walls of the Lyric are an instrumental part of the show’s astounding storytelling, accented by dazzling special effects and a particularly jaw-dropping finale to Part One that is unforgettably creepy and mesmerizing.
“When the theatre house electricians like you and know you are a smart hard worker it can pay off down the road,” he said. “Broadway is a small world. And we all help each other. You just have to prove your worth first. When I heard ‘Potter’ was moving into the Lyric, I knew there was going to be a lot of work to be done. They were going to go big. I was very fortunate to be asked to work on it from the start. They completely redesigned the inside of the theater, which is gorgeous and a must-see in person.
“We started prepping all the lighting equipment in October and started loading in the show in November. It has been a long but great year. I’m part of a 10-person lighting team. My main responsibility is to assist the head pyrotechnic technician with preset before the show. There is a lot of prep work for every show. Also simply maintaining the rig is a beast. During the show I primarily run one of the six follow spots. I am also the backup moving light technician for the show which involves being on the stage working alongside the cast and crew during the show. It’s really exciting to be on stage during this show.”
A huge “Harry Potter” fan, Fielhauer remains thrilled about the show’s reception. He admits the show is one of the most technically challenging, biggest, and most complicated he’s ever worked on, but is very proud of this moment in his career. “There’s nothing better than to hear a reaction from a massive crowd night after night and knowing you were a part of it,” he said.
How to watch
What: “The 72nd Annual Tony Awards,” hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban
When: 8 p.m. Sunday, June 10
Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— After interviewing Carole King for days, playwright Douglas McGrath was faced with a tough decision. Which parts of the legendary singer/songwriter’s personal journey should be included in a musical about her life?
You’ll see the results when the Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway hit “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” makes its Dayton premiere at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center May 22-27. The show’s songs include “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,”“You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “Up on the Roof” and “Take Good Care of My Baby.”
McGrath believes for a Broadway show to succeed, the audience has to care about and connect with the people in it — whether it’s the King in “The King and I” or Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton.” In this case, McGrath decided to focus on a period in King’s life that began in 1959, just before Brooklyn native Carol Klein composed her first hit song. She is 17, pregnant and newly married to 20-year-old lyricist Gerry Goffin.
The decade that follows includes her early songwriting years, the break-up of her marriage and the 1971 release of “Tapestry,” one of the best-selling albums of all time. “Tapestry” not only represented Carole King’s artistic peak as a performer and writer but also sums up everything that had gone on in her life up to that point, McGrath notes. “All of those things inform these songs. Because ‘Tapestry’ was such a triumph, it supports the play’s message of victory over heartbreak.”
The playwright didn’t know a lot about the famous singer before becoming involved with the Broadway show. “She is a keep-to-herself kind of person and my standard joke is that — like most people — I thought she was born, learned to walk and then recorded ‘Tapestry!’ ” he says. “What I didn’t realize was that 12 years before ‘Tapestry’ came out she was writing hit songs for all of the big groups in the ’50s and ’60s —Aretha Franklin, The Drifters, the Shirrells, the Beatles, the Monkees.”
Crafting a show
The other main characters in “Beautiful” are another married songwriting couple — Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
“We were lucky in this case because ‘Beautiful’ is about four real people,” says McGrath, who interviewed all four songwriters at length. “All four were intelligent, inspiring, interesting and flawed people — meaning they are human, not perfect — which helps an audience relate and connect.”
McGrath was obviously impressed with King when he interviewed her. “You don’t necessarily think of rock musicians as intellectual, but Carole is really brainy and could speak articulately about everything,” he says. “She skipped two grades in school and was in college by age 16. She has a perfect memory and never struggled for specific dates or names. Later, when I interviewed Gerry, her ex-husband, he confirmed everything she had told me.”
McGrath says his hours with King weren’t always easy for her. “Her life has been filled with joy as well as heartbreak and I don’t think she had talked about some of it for a long, long time,” he says. “A lot of Kleenex kept coming out of her purse. Gerry was her first love.”
Whenever he worked on the script, McGrath played their music in the background. “It helped me see the connections between events in their lives and the music itself, what they created, ” he explains. “You could hear something in their lyrics and stories that would make sense with certain parts of their lives. I wanted the songs to feel connected to their lives.”
That goal was apparently achieved. King walked out halfway through the first read-through she attended. It turned out, says McGrath, it wasn’t that she didn’t like it. She did. It was simply too painful.
Since that time, King has returned to see the entire show. Sarah Bockel, who will portray the famous singer in Dayton, remembers a night in Boston when the cast was asked to gather on stage after the performance for an important announcement.
“We thought we were getting fired!” recalls the Chicago native who worked as an understudy for the leading role before playing it. “Then, Carole King walked out! We didn’t know she was there, it would have made us too nervous. She was extremely gracious and kind, gave us her blessing. Everyone was crying and clapping because she’s not only changed our lives but has changed millions of other people’s lives. We all got to take a selfie with her.”
Bockel says there’s a lot she loves about this part and this show. “I love singing the music every night, and love the other 22 people in the show,” she begins. “I love the fact that theater allows people to communicate a message to a group of strangers sitting in the dark who are bought together because they want to be told a story. I love telling stories. I like communicating with people, making them feel joy, sad. I love being a different person and I love the work you have to do within yourself to produce genuine emotion in yourself so that others can feel something cathartic. I love that it’s never the same and you’re always learning.”
Bockel believes audiences relate to “Beautiful” because they have a major connection to the music and to memories attached to it. “Her music is so personal and so applicable to everyone’s lives,” she believes. “For example, what does it mean to be a natural woman? It can mean something different to everyone but the idea is really simple.”
McGrath hopes Carole King fans who come to the show will be surprised to discover new things about the singer’s life. He’s also hoping those fans bring their kids and grand-kids.
“Her story is very inspiring for young people,” he says. “It’s about a girl who — at 16 — broke into a business where there were no females. And when her marriage came apart and she thought everything was lost, there were even better things ahead. It’s a great message for those who have experienced losses — a first heartbreak or a job that doesn’t work out. You think you’re the only one who has had your heart broken and that’s not the case. It’s great to see someone who’s had difficult things happen and fully recovers without becoming bitter.”
WANT TO GO?
What: “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical”
When: May 22-27. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton
Tickets: $26 and up plus service fees. Get tickets online at TicketCenterStage.com, at the Box Office, or by phone at (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630.
NOTE: Saturday matinee performances of Broadway Series presentations are sign interpreted. Audio description is available by request.
BACKGROUND ON BROADWAY At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday, you can learn about the development, history, and artistry of the show. This free event is held in the Schuster Center’s fourth-floor lobby. You must have a ticket to that day’s performance.
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— Sierra Leone will be in the spotlight today.
The Dayton writer and one of the leaders of a Dayton urban poetry movement is a 2018 Ohio Governor’s Award recipient in the category of Community Development and Participation.
The award is presented by the Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation. Sierra’s award, in Community Development and Participation, is for, according to the Ohio Arts Council website, an “Individual or organization that works to create or strengthen interactive arts participation among diverse community members while increasing public awareness about the role of the arts in community life.”
That is certainly a fitting description of Sierra, who is the president and artistic director of Oral Funk Poetry (OFP) Productions, co-founded with her husband Robert Owens Sr.
“I felt euphoric,” Sierra said, when I asked her to describe her reaction to learning that she’d won the award. “I don’t make art for validation, and yet this particular validation felt powerful, to know that our state recognizes and values the work I’ve created with Robert.”
For more than a decade, OFP has produced “The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show,” a bi-monthly show that presents urban poetry, music, dance and more, drawing from local, regional and international talent. The show is housed at The Loft Theatre and is co-presented by The Human Race Theatre Company. In addition, the show expanded to include a poetry competition, The Last Poet Standing.
“The urban art we’ve produced is a unique form, celebrating all art forms with poetry as the moral fabric,” Sierra says. “Spoken word poetry is not usually in the forefront of the arts, so for this to be honored by the state is meaningful to us.”
Sierra also works with organizations and schools through the company’s educational arm, particularly focusing on girls’ empowerment work. She writes and performs her own poetry as well.
“I come from a large family,” Sierra says, “And I started thinking about this when I learned of the award. I wondered, ‘what are the roots of my passion for connecting arts, artists and community?’ And I think it has to do with growing up in a large family, and from my grandmother who emphasized that life is better together, in community. In community, we can be more creative, more impactful, reach more people in diverse audiences.”
Indeed, The Signature shows are, Sierra says, in some ways like artistic church to the attendees. “It’s a higher minded experience, and provides in many ways a sense of healing to the community.”
At the same time, Sierra says that “the arts are constantly morphing and changing, and so we need to, too, at OFP.” Looking ahead to the next ten years, Sierra says the production company will continue to produce some “The Signature” shows, but also aims to develop other experiences and productions. Sierra, who started as spoken word poet, plans to also continue to grow as a poet in writing, and to focus on consulting with area schools and organizations and to serve as the lead educational consultant for her husband Robert’s education business.