CBC: Cincinnati Shakes’ Sophomore Season in Their New Home is a Season of Firsts

A version of this article was originally published Feb. 21, 2018

By Rob Bucher

In discussing the success of the first season in their new Over-the-Rhine home, Artistic Director Brian Isaac Phillips speaks with a combination of pride, amazement, and gratitude. “One of the things that’s really important to me, one of the reasons I wanted to work in Cincinnati and stay in Cincinnati, was I didn’t want to go somewhere where everything was already done, and built, and you just become a cog in a machine. I saw the potential for what this company could be and so to see this company grow, and this city grow, and so not to just be a fly over city anymore, but now getting this recognition on a national level…that this is a place to visit for the arts, for food, for everything is really exciting. I think a lot of people in this city have done a lot of hard work to make that happen and it’s nice to be a part of it.”

“Business overall is up 60%. We had a subscription goal and a single ticket goal for every single show. We blew past that subscription goal by so much that it started to eat into available capacity that we could actually sell for single tickets. For us to make our single ticket goals based on how many subscribers we had, we had to operate at 85-95% capacity on every production, which is sort of where we were on Race Street, but now we have all the extra seats. We are hitting those single ticket goals and exceeding them as well, so we are running at a very high capacity.” Phillips is eager to carry that momentum into their 25th season.

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Matthew Lewis Johnson as Pseudolus. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company opens their 25th season with their first musical production, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. “I’ve been waiting to do [a musical] for a while, but we could never figure out how to make it work at Race Street. [For the new theater,] there was a whole bunch of work that we did in designing, planning and building, specifically so we could start producing musicals as well,” explains Phillips.

“Forum” is a Tony-award winning farce with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Set in ancient Rome, it follows Pseudolus (Matthew Lewis Johnson), a slave who schemes to win his freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door. Broadway veteran Patrick Ryan Sullivan makes his Cincy Shakes debut playing Roman army captain Miles Gloriosus. On the production side, director Phillips has CCM’s Vince DeGeorge providing choreography and Cincinnati native, Erin McCamley comes home to music direct.

In another first, CSC is honored to have The Royal Shakespeare Company’s associate artist Christopher Luscombe stage “The Winter’s Tale” in March 2019. Luscombe’s currently running production of Twelfth Night closes Feb. 24 at Stratford-Upon-Avon in London and is being filmed for a world-wide release.

Last presented by CSC twelve years ago, “The Winter’s Tale” is one of The Bard’s most beautiful romances.  Leontes (Bruce Cromer) the King of Sicilia becomes convinced, groundlessly, that his heavily pregnant wife Queen Hermione (Kelly Mengelkoch) has been having an affair with his childhood friend Polixenes, the King of Bohemia.

Performances begin in July with the summer extra, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” Three actors perform The Bard’s entire canon in with wild comedic abandon at breakneck speed.

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Sara Clark as Julia. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

Early in 2017, George Orwell’s novel “1984” experienced newfound popularity, even landing for a time on Amazon’s bestseller list. In October, Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s acclaimed play makes its regional debut on the CSC stage. The political thriller follows Winston Smith as he discovers a secret resistance to the authoritarian government known only as Big Brother.

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Caitlin McWethy as Viola. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

Viola (Caitlin McWethy) loves Count Orsino. Count Orsino loves Countess Olivia. Countess Olivia loves Cesario. The problem, Cesario is Viola disguised as a man. Learn how Viola gets into, and out of, this dilemma in Shakespeare’s most lively, lovely and lyrical comedy “Twelfth Night” opening in November.

CSC’s holiday tradition, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!),” returns in mid-December. This 90-minute comedy extravaganza offers an irreverent look at your favorite holiday stories.

In January, Cincy Shakes is proud to produce their first August Wilson script, “Fences.” Accolades include the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Awards for Best Play (1987) and Best Revival of a Play (2010). Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, the story focuses on Troy Maxson, a former Negro baseball league player, who at 53 years old, struggles to provide for his family as a garbage man. When his son Cory wants to play ball, will Troy’s bitterness and resentment destroy their relationship?

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Kelly Mengelkoch as Lady Macbeth. Pby Mikki Schaffner Photography.

CSC Resident Ensemble Member Miranda McGee makes her directorial debut with William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Audience favorite Giles Davies stars as the Scottish general who, after hearing the prophecy of three witches, murders King Duncan to take the throne. Ambition leads to madness as he and his co-conspirator Lady Macbeth (Kelly Mengelkoch) face the consequences of their treachery. Expecting a high ticket demand, an extra week has been added to the run.

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Sara Clark as Lucienne and Kelly Mengelkoch as Raymonde.

The season concludes with a hilarious new translation of the turn-of-the-century farce “A Flea in Her Ear” by David Ives (“All in the Timing”). Raymonde, suspecting her husband of infidelity, hatches a plot with her friend to test her husband’s heart. An invitation to a rendezvous from an anonymous admirer sets off an unexpected chain of events. Confusion reigns as a colorful cast of characters run amok in the notorious Paris hotel, The Frisky Puss.

2018-2019 Cincinnati Shakespeare Company schedule

  • “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” July 20-Aug. 11*
  • “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Sept. 7-29
  • “1984,” Oct. 12-Nov. 3
  • “Twelfth Night,” Nov. 16-Dec. 8
  • “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!),” Dec. 14-30*
  • “Fences,” Jan. 25-Feb. 16
  • “The Winter’s Tale,” March 1-17
  • “Macbeth,” April 5-May 4
  • “A Flea in Her Ear,” May 17-June 3

*Season extras

For more information visit www.cincyshakes.com.


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