Tag Archives: Hugo West Theatricals

Futuristic Drama Revisits Cincinnati’s Harambe Tragedy On Incident’s Fifth Anniversary

CFF_Harambe logoCINCINNATI, OH – In May 2016, Cincinnati shocked the planet with the tragic death of a rare gorilla. Equipped with knowledge from the future and countless chances to intervene, could the outcome have changed?

Hugo West Theatricals (HWT) proudly presents the first-ever dramatic exploration of one of Cincinnati’s darkest hours in HARAMBE, a new play premiering this spring at the 2021 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. University of Cincinnati drama professor Brant Russell directs an exploration of the nature of fact, expertise and shared moral values in the “fake news” era.

Performances will take place June 6 – 17, 2021 at outdoor venues along Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine:

  • Sunday, June 6, 6:15pm
  • Tuesday, June 8, 6:15pm
  • Sunday, June 13, 8:00pm
  • Thursday, June 17, 8:00pm

Single tickets ($10 – $15), as well as festival passes, are available now at cincyfringe.com.

CINCINNATI TRAGEDY AS CRIMINAL REFORM
Stan has awoken in a zoo, and finds himself witness to a terrible incident: the killing of an endangered silverback gorilla to save the life of a three-year-old child. A mysterious stranger appears, stirring Stan from a fugue state and helping him to realize that he’s witnessing these horrific events on repeat, as “simulation therapy” for crimes committed in the future. Having made Stan conscious of his prison, the stranger shares a startling theory: what if Stan could convince the computer behind the simulation that he’s been reformed, terminating the punishment early? Just one catch… if the digital “warden” senses an effort to manipulate the outcome, the game is changed. Basic facts of the universe begin to shift, unraveling the mind of the incarcerated back into submission.

Voices from the 2016 eyewitness video inspire the characters of HARAMBE. A loving mother whose child briefly escapes her sight, a visiting uncle and niece, the zoo director, and the unfortunate triggerman. With each cycle, reality spins further out of control, causing Stan to wonder if there is any universe in which the life of Harambe can be saved.

Named after a song by Rita Marley, “Harambe,” ironically, means working together, caring and sharing. The music of the Rastafarian songstress is both soundtrack and antagonist in the play, the recurrence of the music signaling the painful restarting of the cycle for Stan.

Queen City patrons will also recognize a parody of Cincinnati Public Radio’s ubiquitous “The Ninety-Second Naturalist,” which punctuates each cycle with themed episodes that increasingly blend fiction with fact about the natural world.

WHY REHASH A PAINFUL MOMENT?
With a bizarre real-life denouement of internet memes and Monday morning quarterbacking, the tragic tale of Harambe has not been significantly explored on the live stage. There is no more appropriate place to broach the subject matter than Cincinnati, and no more appropriate stage than the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. That said, HARAMBE is not a historical drama. The play fictionalizes the key individuals in the incident, and places them in increasingly absurd circumstances. Moreover, the play does not seek to pass judgment on the individuals and institutions involved, focusing instead on the human and societal influences that bring each character to the decisions they make. As the line between truth and fiction becomes increasingly blurry, the audience is asked to consider the nature of fact, expertise and collective moral values, in an age when all three have become a social gauntlet.

Importantly, the play never shows the sad encounter between the child and the gorilla, nor the shooting of the animal. Likeness to any actual individuals involved in the incident is intended as parody.

THE TALENT
HARAMBE is directed by University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) acting professor Brant Russell. Russell’s rich pedigree developing new plays includes founding and directing the Cincinnati Playwrights Workshop, and producing CCM’s annual TRANSMIGRATION festival of new works. In addition to CCM, Russell has directed locally at Know Theatre and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and elsewhere in the country at Queens Theatre, Victory Gardens, Writers’ Theatre and Steppenwolf.

The local cast includes HWT veterans Randy Lee Bailey (DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS, HOT DAMN! IT’S THE LOVELAND FROG!, THE GOSPEL OF BARABBAS) and Chris Stewart (STREAMS). Cincinnati actors Cathy Ross and Sarah Zaffiro and CCM Acting student Mateo Sallano make their HWT debuts. Kevin Semancik provides sound design.

ABOUT HUGO WEST THEATRICALS
Hugo West Theatricals (HWT) is the lunatic hobbyhorse of writing and producing team Mike Hall and Joshua Steele. Mistakenly called “inveterate showmen” (Cincinnati Enquirer) and “smart playwright[s] who know how to surprise an audience in unexpected ways,” their often sold-out productions have been dubbed “smart and funny, amiable and high energy” (River City News) and “riotously funny but infectiously endearing” (Cincinnati Citybeat).

Founded in 2012, HWT has produced award-winning stagings of original, adapted and existing works: DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS: THE CEASE AND DESIST MUSICAL; A KLINGON CHRISTMAS CAROL; HOT DAMN! IT’S THE LOVELAND FROG!; ZOMBIE-LOGUE; CESSNA; THE LETTERS OF VINCENT VAN GOGH: A LIVE PERFORMANCE; SUMATRAN RHINO; and THE GOSPEL OF BARRABAS.

HARAMBE is HWT’s seventh Cincinnati Fringe Festival entry. It is the company’s third play focused on remarkable local history topics, which have included the cryptozoological phenomenon of the Loveland Frog, and a deadly plane crash and yet-undiscovered treasure buried in the early 1980s.

More information on HWT can be found at https://hugowesttheatricals.wixsite.com/home.

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CFF18: THE GOSPEL OF BARABBAS

CFF18_Gospel of Barrabbas promo1THE GOSPEL OF BARABBAS
Part of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival ’18
MEMO Studio
Over-the-Rhine

Directed by Mike Sherman
Produced by Joshua Steele

Cast: Kaleb King as Jesus of Nazareth, Rory Sheridan as Barabbas, Maggie Lou Rader* as Trudy of Nazareth/Ensemble, Rodger Pille as John The Baptist/Pontius Pilate/Ensemble, Mike Dennis as Manuel/Ensemble, Lormarev Jones as Mary/Peter/Ensemble,Randy Lee Bailey as Guard/Ensemble, Lisa DeRoberts as Elisabeth/Judas/Ensemble, Kendall Young as Lydia/Ensemble & Mike Moskowitz as Voiceover

Who smokes a lot of weed, drives a Chevy Astro and was pardoned by the Jews instead of Jesus? It’s Barabbas! The Big Lebowski meets ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD in an absurd adventure through biblical Israel, alongside Trudy of Nazareth, and their buddy Manuel, the satanically-possessed pig. Warning: offensive for all audiences.

  • Wed, May 30 at 9pm
  • Fri, June 1 at 7pm
  • Tue, June 5 at 7:45pm
  • Thu, June 7 at 9pm
  • Fri, June 8 at 8:30pm

Official page | Press release | Facebook page | Facebook event | Official website

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Mysterious Bible Badguy Gets High with Satanically Possesed Pig at Cincy Fringe

CFF18_Gospel of Barrabbas promo1CINCINNATI, OH – He’s a rather enigmatic biblical villain, yet he is mentioned more times in the Christian gospels than Judas Iscariot, and his pardon by the Judeans essentially seals the fate of Jesus of Nazareth. But what if he also smoked a lot of weed, befriended a satanically possessed talking pig and drove a Chevy Astro?

These stupid questions and little else are answered by THE GOSPEL OF BARABBAS (BARABBAS), playing May 30 through June 10 at Memorial Hall (1225 Elm Street) as part of the 2018 Cincinnati Fringe Festival (Cincy Fringe). Mike Sherman directs a cast of local stars and gifted emerging artists in an absurdist adventure through ancient Israel that marries the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski with Tom Stoppard’s ROSENCRANTZ & GILDENSTERN ARE DEAD.

Five performances of the 60-minute farce will take place in Memorial Hall’s Studio:

  • Wednesday, May 30, 9:00pm
  • Friday, June 1, 7:00pm
  • Tuesday, June 5, 7:45pm
  • Thursday, June 7, 9:00pm
  • Friday, June 8, 8:30pm

BARABBAS is rated “R” for offensive language, insinuated violence and simulated smoking of marijuana. Most audiences will find THE GOSPEL OF BARABBAS offensive.

Tickets may be purchased at CincyFringe.com, or by calling 513.300.5669. Single tickets are $15, and various festival passes are available.

BARABBAS is produced by Hugo West Theatricals (HWT)

HIGH CONCEPT, LOW-BROW HUMOR
In the tradition of Stoppard’s absurdist masterpiece ROSENCRANTZ & GILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, BARABBAS imagines the life and times of a minor literary character against the established backdrop of a well-known story. As the consummately self-involved pothead Barabbas moves from failure to failure, he intersects with the movements of biblical characters as described in the Christian gospels. We find our hero huffing spray paint behind the Jerusalem temple where young Jesus absconded from his parents,
filming Facebook live videos in the camp of John The Baptist, befriending one of the satanically-possessed pigs that Jesus sends tumbling over a cliff, holding court in a bar near Gethsemane, and ultimately imprisoned alongside Jesus in Pontius Pilate’s praetorium.

Importantly, the piece does not satirize the bible’s most sacred figures. Mary, John The Baptist, Saint Peter and Jesus (excepting a final monologue) speak only in words attributed to them from King James’ Bible. While offensive in various and sundry ways, BARABBAS does not endeavor to mock the Christian faith.

CINCINNATI STARS SLUMMING IT
Moonlighting from leading the theatre program at Walnut Hills High School, award-winning director and actor Mike Sherman helms a cast of some of Cincinnati’s finest talent. Maggie Lou Rader* descends from her star turn as the “wonderfully anxious temptress” (Cincinnati Enquirer) Maggie in Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF to make her Cincy Fringe debut as Trudy of Nazareth. She plays opposite respected performer Rory Sheridan, who similarly dumbs down for the titular role of Barabbas on the heels of a “terrific” performance (Dayton Most Metro) as Jack in The Human Race Theatre Company production of BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS.

Joining them are some of Cincinnati’s hardest-working actors. A favorite comedic lead of Cincinnati Landmark Productions, Roger Pille lends his talents playing the funniest man in the bible: John the Baptist. He joins fellow HWT veteran Randy Bailey, who with Pille has appeared in a combined seven of the scrappy company’s productions. Cincy Fringe veteran Lisa DeRoberts makes her HWT debut following a turn as Candy/Maurice in The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s production of MADAGASCAR. Narrator Mike Moskowitz is a 60-year veteran of the Cincinnati theatre scene. And in a role seemingly written for him, longtime local character actor and comedian Mike Dennis makes his HWT debut as Manuel, the satanically possessed pig.

Kaleb King is an emerging talent from Northern Kentucky University who has recently starred in the university’s productions of KISS ME KATE (Paul) and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (Oberon). King takes on the onerous task of portraying an earnest Jesus of Nazareth amid low-brow chaos. A new graduate of Walnut Hills High School and pupil of BARABBAS director Sherman, Kendall Young has nonetheless amassed an impressive professional resume, including A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), THE JUNGLE BOOK and THE LEGEND OF POCAHONTAS (The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati).

BARABBAS CAST AND DESIGN TEAM

  • Jesus of Nazaeth – Kaleb King
  • Barabbas – Rory Sheridan
  • Trudy of Nazareth, Ensemble – Maggie Lou Rader*
  • John The Baptist, Pontius Pilate, Ensemble – Rodger Pille
  • Manuel, Ensemble – Mike Dennis
  • Mary, Peter, Ensemble – Lormarev Jones
  • Guard, Ensemble – Randy Lee Bailey
  • Elisabeth, Judas, Ensemble – Lisa DeRoberts
  • Lydia, Ensemble – Kendall Young
  • Voiceover – Mike Moskowitz
  • Director – Mike Sherman
  • Costumer – Jim Stump
  • Sound Designer – Hunter Spoede
  • Stage Manager – Clare Jaymes
  • Producer – Joshua Steele
  • Assistant Producer – Justin Woolums
  • Graphic Design – Greg Glevicky

* The Actor appears through the courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

ABOUT HUGO WEST THEATRICALS
Hugo West Theatricals is the lunatic hobbyhorse of Cincinnati-based writing and producing team Mike Hall and Joshua Steele. Mistakenly called “smart playwright[s] who know how to surprise an audience in unexpected ways,” their often sold-out productions have been dubbed “smart and funny, amiable and high energy” (River City News) and “riotously funny but infectiously endearing” (Cincinnati Citybeat).

Founded in 2012, HWT has produced award-winning stagings of original, adapted and existing works: DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS: THE CEASE AND DESIST MUSICAL; A KLINGON CHRISTMAS CAROL; HOT DAMN! IT’S THE LOVELAND FROG!; ZOMBIE-LOGUE; CESSNA; THE LETTERS OF VINCENT VAN GOGH: A LIVE PERFORMANCE; and SUMATRAN RHINO.

BARABBAS is HWT’s sixth Cincinnati Fringe Festival entry.

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CFF17: My Fringe Schedule: Day 4

Much to do today before I head down to OTR. (Mabel can’t drive herself to the dog park dont’ cha know.) Short and sweet, today I am seeing:

CFF_Busted BumpersBUSTED BUMPERS AND OTHER METAPHORS, written and perfomed by local performer Alexx Rouse. Rouse may be the first FringeNext entrant (2012-YOU WILL HAVE 25 MINUTES) who graduated into the primary line-up.

We all have those friends who tell us every detail about their lives. That person isn’t usually your father. Told in entries taking place on the car rides to school, BUSTED BUMPERS AND OTHER METAPHORS is a heartfelt, funny one woman show about what it’s like to realize that maybe your perfect nuclear family isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be. So hop in the car with Alexx. There’s White Castle in here.

CFF_Fight for 52 logoAlso in 2012, Howard Petrick made his first appearance at the Cincy Fringe with BREAKING RANK! His entry this year is called FIGHT FOR 52¢:

V. R. Dunne’s whole life and character had prepared him for the Minneapolis truck drivers strike of 1934. The workers knew him as a good organizer, who smoked union-made cigarettes, was fond of the movies, didn’t get drunk, and was honest. He never raised his voice or wrote someone off without giving them a chance. The men followed his leadership and many of them, if the occasion offered, would be willing to die for him.

CFF_HomeBen Dudley, best know for his unique sense of humor, offers a psychological thriller this year with HOME:

Rachel struggles to write her next book after a home invasion leaves her unable to feel safe. Hoping to work in peace, she takes a job watching a vacationing couple’s apartment, but is distracted by a suspicious neighbor, Tasha. Slowly, both women become convinced something nefarious happened to the Coopers. From the artists responsible for BOO-BOO (2016) and OCCUPATIONAL PLEASURES (2015) comes a psychological thriller told through text and live sound effects.

Directed by Buz Davis, the cast includes David Levy, Mark Bowen, Tricia Allen & Leah Strasser.

CFF_Spy in the House of Men_1x1From Rochester, NY is SPY IN THE HOUSE OF MEN, written and performed by Penny Sterling:

Forgo the frill, abandon pretension, and dig in for 50 minutes of humble and humorous insight as Penny Sterling relates the very true story of her fictitious life as a man, and her true life as a transgender woman. Rochester comedienne, parent, TV producer/director, improv artist, storyteller, and now informant, Penny will report the findings from her 54 years as a SPY IN THE HOUSE OF MEN.

CFF_Sumantran RhinoClosing out my night is SUMATRAN RHINO presented in partnership with local Hugo West Theatricals:

At one time, the numbers of the Sumatran Rhinoceros were in the thousands. The count has now dwindled to under a hundred. Our conservation efforts are being met with criticism, as there are ethical concerns, and we would like an opportunity to answer them. Please attend our conference as we explore the aspects of these issues and explain why this species is so vital. 

Written by Michael Douglas Hall and directed by Greg Proccacino, the cast includes Darnell Pierre Benjamin & Burgess Byrd.

There are 23 performances today. Make a trip down to Over-the-Rhine today and join the weirdness.

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CFF17: SUMANTRAN RHINO

CFF_Sumantran RhinoSUMANTRAN RHINO
Part of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival ’17
Know Theatre
Over-the-Rhine

Written by Michael Douglas Hall
Directed by Greg Proccacino

Cast: Darnell Pierre Benjamin & Burgess Byrd

At one time, the numbers of the Sumatran Rhinoceros were in the thousands. The count has now dwindled to under a hundred. Our conservation efforts are being met with criticism, as there are ethical concerns, and we would like an opportunity to answer them. Please attend our conference as we explore the aspects of these issues and explain why this species is so vital. Presented in partnership with Hugo West Theatricals.

  • Thu, June 1 at 8:30pm
  • Sat, June 3 at 9pm
  • Sun, June 4 at 8:30pm
  • Tue, June 6 at 6:30pm
  • Fri, June 9 at 9pm

Official page | Press release | Facebook page | Facebook event | Official website |

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