Universes Collide in Groundbreaking New Work at Cincy Playhouse in the Park

PIP_americUS logo

Steven Sapp by Arthur Cohen; Mildred Ruiz-Sapp by Mildred Ruiz-Sapp; Gamal Abdel Chasten by Lawrence Turner.

americUS fuses theatre, jazz, poetry and hip hop to weave together experiences of modern life

CINCINNATI – The award-winning, multi-cultural performance ensemble Universes will bring its groundbreaking style of live storytelling to Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park with the world premiere of americUS. With support from The Rosenthal Family Foundation, this infusion of slam poetry, music, dance and theatre runs from Feb. 1 through March 8, with opening night on Feb. 6 at the Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre.

The Universes ensemble originated in The Bronx in 1995, inspired by the urban music and poetry scene that took over New York City in the ‘90s. Having performed off-Broadway, internationally and at major stages across the country, Universes has been praised by critics for their singular and unforgettable performance style. The production of americUS, which was commissioned by the Playhouse, brings Universes to Cincinnati for the first time.

“When I first saw Universes perform, I was simply blown away by their performance style, the variety of what they do, and the depth of feeling and thought that they can engender within the audience,” says Blake Robison, artistic director. “This show promises to be unlike anything seen before on Playhouse stages.”

An unfiltered, honest portrait of contemporary America, americUS is directed by Joan Herrington, who has worked with Universes in past productions, and will feature an ensemble cast including Universes’ co-founders Steven Sapp and Mildred Ruiz-Sapp as well as Gamal Chasten and Asia Mark.

americUS is an exploration of what it means to be in America at this time — what our joys are, what our challenges are and how we find our way in the midst of some very crazy days,” says Herrington. “Everything Universes does has contemporary relevance and this piece is no different.”

Sapp and Ruiz-Sapp are excited to engage with the community and hope that audiences take something away and feel empowered to open a dialogue about the issues presented in the show.

“It’s exciting because it’s a new audience, it’s new grounds to walk through, new people to meet and interact with,” says Ruiz-Sapp. “We’re going to walk into it like we’ve been there before, like it’s family, like these are the people that we’re living with and the people that are us. No differences, no barriers, no boundaries, no borders.”

For more information on americUS, visit cincyplay.com.

CAST
Gamal Chasten, Asia Mark, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp and Steven Sapp

PRODUCTION
Joan Herrington (Director); Misha Kachman (Set/Costume Designer); Mike Durst (Lighting Designer); Broken Chord (Sound Designers)

TICKETS
To purchase tickets or for more information, call the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888 (toll-free in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana at 800-582-3208) or visit www.cincyplay.com. Call 513-345-2248 for Telecommunications Device for the Deaf accessibility.

Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, at 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Individual tickets start at just $35. Tickets to all performances of americUS are priced at just $10 for college students with a valid school ID. Discounted ticket prices for teens are available for $30 to $50, depending on seat location.

americUS is suitable for adult and older teenage audiences. Universes performance ensemble presents an insightful and hard-hitting social commentary on contemporary America while discussing race, class and social inequality. The show covers these topics through powerful poetry, original music and dance movement, but it also contains some strong language.

EVENTS
ADULT ENRICHMENT WORKSHOP: PERSONAL STORYTELLING
Saturday, Jan. 15 | 10 a.m. to noon at the Playhouse | Cost: $50
This class will teach you how to write your own story and perform it in front of others. Learn the essentials of oral storytelling that will engage listeners, initiate discussion and create a sense of community. Share your story — we’d love to hear it!

MEET THE ARTISTS
Sundays, Feb. 9 and Feb. 16, at 2 p.m. | Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. | Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Stick around after the performances listed above for a special Q&A with the americUS company. Learn about their craft, creative process and what inspires their storytelling and performance.

POST-SHOW DISCUSSIONS
Following every performance, excluding the dates of Meet the Artists Q&As.
Engage with the artists of americUS in in-depth conversations about the themes and ideas represented in the play. These discussions provide an opportunity for patrons to dive deeper into the show’s subject matter and connect with other audience members about their interpretations.

CINCINNATI VOICES PROJECT
Saturdays, Feb. 15, Feb. 22, and Feb. 29
In recent years, the Playhouse has developed important relationships with diverse groups throughout the region, hosting special discussions and facilitating creative workshops. Inspired by the artistic vision of Universes performance ensemble, the Playhouse has partnered with the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition and the Holocaust & Humanity Center to create the Cincinnati Voices Project. Individuals from these groups and others will perform original personal monologues between the 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. performances of americUS on select Saturdays. Performances are free and open to the public. For details and to learn more about the performance schedule, visit cincyplay.com, or call the Box Office at 513-421-3888.

SPONSORS
Sponsored by Andrea and Dr. Edward Herzig. Design sponsor is Geiler. Additional support provided by The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. americUS was commissioned through the Playhouse’s Jerome Fey Endowment. The season is sponsored by Heidelberg Distributing Company. Season Sponsor of New Work is the Rosenthal Family Foundation.

The Playhouse is supported by the generosity of almost 40,000 contributors to the ArtsWave Community campaign. The Ohio Arts Council helps fund the Playhouse with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Playhouse also receives funding from the Shubert Foundation.

ACCESS
The Playhouse is fully accessible. Audio enhancement receivers, large print programs, and complete wheelchair access are available.

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