A version of this article was originally published March 30, 2018
By Rob Bucher
Each year, Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers asks her season subscribers to take a leap of faith and renew their subscriptions prior to the season announcement. The reason: Meyers’ dogged pursuit of regional and world premieres that can delay the announcement until the 11th hour. She jokes, “The ink isn’t even dry on some of these contracts. They are confirmed, but the paperwork is in the mail.” She must be doing something right as 80% of this season’s record high 2,655 subscribers have already renewed their subscriptions prior to this announcement.
“I only go after plays if I care deeply about the value,” confides Meyers. When possible, she uses ETC’s long history with so many writers to approach the playwrights themselves. “Being able to go directly to a writer and tell them how much you loved the script is always my first line if I can.” ETC also enjoys good relationships with theatrical publishing and licensing houses Dramatists Play Service and Samuel French, Inc. “They know us, they know our work, and they know the number of seats we’re selling.”
Each year Meyers chooses a unifying theme for the season. For 2018-2019, Meyers wanted scripts that “talk about people being placed in difficult moments in their lives and how they determine ‘what’s next,’ coming off an accomplishment or a disappointment.” This is exactly the position ETC finds itself in today, “because we’re not talking about building the building anymore. We did that. It’s pretty cool…but where do we go?”
Meyers is referring to the October 2017 completion of the $6M expansion and renovation of ETC’s Vine Street home. The theatre proper boasts new and larger seats, additional hand rails, and a new elevator which also allows access to seating from the top of the audience. Patrons can now enjoy an expanded, spacious lobby; a new bar and lounge area; and additional restrooms. Other changes include larger administrative offices and the addition of a spacious rehearsal hall.
The 33rd season opens with “Fly By Night,” a darkly comic rock-fable musical. This ode to young love is set during the Northeast blackout of 1965. A gypsy prophecy propels a melancholy sandwich-maker and two bewitching sisters through a star-crossed journey of love and connection. Winner of the 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award and nominated for four Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical, performances of “Night” run Sept. 1-29.
For their annual holiday, family-friendly musical, “Alice in Wonderland” returns Nov. 29-Dec. 30. From the local creative team of Joseph McDonough and David Kisor, join Alice and her bubbly friends for an unforgettable tea party. This production features an updated score from Kisor and exuberant, colorful costumes.
In “Ripcord,” a sunny room on an upper floor of the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility becomes the battleground in a dangerous game of one-upmanship between two tenacious golden girls. When cantankerous Abby is forced to share her quarters with happy-go-lucky Marilyn, she has no choice but to get rid of the infuriatingly chipper woman by any means necessary. This wickedly funny and deliciously inappropriate comedy by Pulitzer prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire runs Jan. 19-Feb. 16.
March brings the regional premiere of the wildly inventive American comedy “A Doll’s House, Part 2” to Cincinnati. Nominated for eight Tony awards, including Best Play, this unauthorized sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 groundbreaking classic takes place 15 years after iconic heroine Nora famously slammed the door on her marriage, leaving her husband and children behind. In “Part 2,” Nora returns a changed woman with an incredibly awkward favor to ask of the family she abandoned.
Meyers describes “Skeleton Crew” as “one of the best plays I’ve read in ten years.” Penned by acclaimed, rising star playwright Dominique Morisseau, the funny, tough and tender American drama follows a tight knit group of employees facing the realities of big business bureaucracy in one of Detroit’s last-standing auto plants during the 2008 Great Recession. Morisseau’s “Detroit ’67” was part of ETC’s 2014-2015 season. “Skeleton Crew” runs April 13-May 11.
The season concludes with the regional premiere of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist, “The Wolves.” The widely-acclaimed firecracker of a debut by writer Sarah DeLappe takes the stage from June 1-29. With their undefeated winter season on the line, this pack of elite teenage female athletes are battling their way to the national indoor soccer championships. As the final game of the season approaches, will pressures on—or off—the field prevent the team from reaching their goal? Meyers calls the work “very real, brutally honest, and fiercely contemporary.”
As a bonus to the season, ETC is offering a two week limited run of “St. Nicholas” by Conor McPherson. A jaded theatre critic spins a tale beginning with obsession and ending with a descent into a macabre world of vampires. Is it all a drunken lie? A tantalizing fairy tale? Or is it his own version of a higher truth? This one-man show welcomes back audience favorite Bruce Cromer. “We didn’t get to have [Bruce] on our stage this year due to scheduling conflicts and I didn’t want another year to go by without him.” A perfect fit for Halloween, the show runs Oct. 12-28.
Subscriptions for the 2018-2019 season are now on sale. Individual tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, July 30th at 10 a.m. For more information visit www.ensemblecincinnati.org or call the Box Office at 513.421.3555.
2018-2019 Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati Season
- “Fly by Night,” Sept. 1-29
- “St. Nicholas,” Oct. 12-28*
- “Alice in Wonderland,” Nov. 29-Dec. 30
- “Ripcord,” Jan. 19-Feb. 16
- “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” March 2-30
- “Skeleton Crew,” April 13-May 11
- “The Wolves,” June 1-29