PREVIEW: Cincinnati Fringe Festival 2015

This week kicks off the biggest holiday in Cincinnati theatre – the Cincinnati Fringe Festival!  I thought we’d take a few minutes to preview some of the local artists and productions that will be featured as part of this year’s Fringe.  With over 45 different productions, only a true diehard can see them all (and there will be a handful of folks who will!).  I’ve got a schedule in place and I’m very excited for this marathon of theatre!

11259199_829966387078238_3004982903903299737_nFirst up, Homegrown Theatre will present OCCUPATIONAL PLEASURES.  

WHO’S WHO: Featuring Lauren Showen, Dylan Shelton, Leah Strasser, Lisa Marie DeRoberts, Nathan Noerr, & Dave Powell. Written by Ben Dudley and directed by Charlie Roetting.

WHATS IT ABOUT:  “Dan and Louise are keeping their office fling on the down-low. They’re not sure how serious they are and, well, their coworkers are total weirdos. This becomes even more clear when they discover that everyone in the office reads fan-fiction about their theoretical relationship. Disturbed by this revelation, Dan and Louise find themselves in a war between the two competing storylines: a 50 Shades-esque smutfest and a syrupy romance.”

SAPPY THOUGHTS:  This is a who’s who of some of the most talented comedic actors in town and Dudley is a master wordsmith when it comes to writing awkward and offbeat comedy.  I’m looking forward to it!

10526065_849746571734758_1653700971875885568_nAlso, on my radar is Queen City Queer Theatre Collective’s HEARD.

WHO’S WHO:  Featuring Kaleigh-Brooke Dillingham, Cal Harris, Hallie Grace Hargus, Zach Robinson, Tracy Schoster , Mia Vera & Tara Williams. Written by Linnea Jean Bond and directed by Lindsey Augusta Mercer.

WHATS IT ABOUT: “Haunted by her dark religious upbringing, Esther hears voices that help her separate the world outside from the safety of the world within. When exposing her inner life shatters her fragile stability, the fallout leads her on a journey she can’t control – but perhaps one that will finally give her the freedom she needs to overcome her past.”

SAPPY THOUGHTS: QCQTC is an emerging gem in the local scene.  I’m very excited to see Cincy Shakes’ Cal Harris on stage and anytime Tracy Schoster and Tara Williams are acting I’m there.  Plus I think Lindsey Augusta Mercer has had a tremendous directoral year.  This could be incredible.

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I’ll be reviewing METH: A LOVE STORY for CityBeat.

WHO’S WHO: Featuring Carli Rhoades, Connor Lawrence, Spencer Lackey, Laura McCarthy, Katie McDonald & Katie Langham.  Write and directed by A. C. Horton.

WHATS IT ABOUT: After a night of partying, two college students wake up in a meth den. Connection, hijinks and tragedy ensue. METH: a love story tackles drug culture, hook up culture and economic disparity with absurdism and irreverence.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: #theatrecompany is a new upstart featuring folks from UC-CCM Drama. AC Horton is a weirdo-genius (which is perfect for Fringe!) and this cast is solid from top to bottom.  They workshopped it earlier this year with a few different cast members.  I expect big things.

11200586_10153210380275395_646977522008201185_nSeveral NKU grads are behind DOWN AMONG THE VULTURES.

WHO’S WHO: Bradley Jennings Evans, Andrew Hamling, Laura Madden, Michael Perrie Jr.. Directed by Lacy Reily

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:  After an accidental cat litter mogul in a rust belt town kills himself, his fortune is willed to an exotic pet condor, leaving his family to drift in the wake of his death. Down Among the Vultures, by brandon thomas disabatino, is a poetic, dark comedy about desperation, decay and the assassination of an endangered species.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: Sounds pretty Fringe-a-rific from the description; this is a New York based group but with roots in the area.  NKU puts out some very creative folks.  I’m interested.


Another out of towner with local roots is Eileen Tull, the solo performer of JESUS DO YOU LIKE ME? CHECK YES OR NO.

WHATS IT ABOUT: Jesus, Do You Like Me? Please Mark Yes or No: A frazzled, but well-intentioned young woman organizes the Second Coming of Christ after receiving a divine message from an unlikely source. Like Gilda Radner in a Beckett play, she and the audience wait for Jesus’s grand entrance. This explosive one-woman piece tangos with (un)wavering faith, love by vending machine light, the path to self-discovery, and a mystical, blessed vegetable. Answers to all existential crises guaranteed.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: I’m a big fan of one-person shows and I’m always interested in how issues of faith are dealt with on stage.  Tull is now based in Chicago but is a Cincinnati native.  She’s performed at Go Bananas, the Contemporary Arts Center, Kennedy Heights Arts Center, Bogart’s, Contemporary Dance Theater and others.  Sign me up!

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 9.44.26 PMAnother solo show, ZOMBIELOGUE, features the fantastic Mike Hall and is directed by Greg Proccacino.

WHATS IT ABOUT: Whenever we talk about the zombie apocalypse, we never consider that a zombie might have a story to tell. As with any story, there are a lot of inaccuracies. But what this zombie knows might just be the cure to ending the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis. …or he might hold the answer to eradicating gingivitis. That might still be a win.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: Hugo West Theatricals have produced some of the most popular Fringe shows in recent years like DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS and last year’s Loveland Frog musical.  Hall has had a great year with A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT – I expect that trend to continue with this one.  I’ll be reviewing this one for CityBeat, also.



LOVE AND INFORMATION is the annual production by the Ensemble Theatre Acting Intern Company.

WHO’S WHO: Cast includes: Aziza Macklin, Deirdre Manning, Emily Scott, Kadeem Harris, Molly Israel, Natalie Joyce, Patrick E. Phillips & TJ Ganser.  Directed by Ben Ranaan.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:  Someone sneezes. Someone can’t get a signal. Someone won’t answer the door. Someone put an elephant on the stairs. Someone’s not ready to talk. Someone is her brother’s mother. Someone hates irrational numbers. Someone told the police. Someone got a message from the traffic light. Someone’s never felt like this before. In this fast moving kaleidoscope, more than a hundred characters try to make sense of what they know.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: This is the payoff for the company, who spent all season working behind the scenes, understudying, and performing in the holiday musical.  This is a hungry bunch of actors and I expect they will all bring their A-game.  I’m pulling for this troupe.

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TALES TOO TALL FOR TRAILERS features Paul Strickland and Erika Kate MacDonald and is getting rave reviews at the Orlando Fringe Festival.

WHATS IT ABOUT:    Trailer-park tall-tales for adults that kids can enjoy too! Paul Strickland (Ain’t True and Uncle False, Papa Squat’s Store of Sorts) and Erika Kate MacDonald join forces in this off-kilter musical comedy full of funny songs, strange southern stories, shadow puppetry and more! Pee-Wee Herman meets Mark Twain!

SAPPY THOUGHTS: My friend David Lyman said, “An hour spent with master storyteller Paul Strickland is an hour well spent and one you shouldn’t miss.”  Paul’s had a great track record in years past – I’m anxious to see what he’s created with his partner.

10689457_655456314554448_821203100765878280_nI’m especially looking forward to FIXATE by Jon Kovach.

WHO’S WHO:  Featuring Rex Martinez & Sara Mackie. Directed by William H. Chace.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Wesley is desperately trying to overcome his OCD since being dumped due to “poor priorities.” During an episode with his light switch, a stranger named April appears in his apartment; a curious payoff of desires to escape her child-nephew’s birthday party. In effort to understand how they’ve been brought together, Wesley and April reveal more about themselves than either typically would. Through this, “why” they’ve been brought together becomes particularly evident.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: Kovach is one of our city’s brightest young artists; I read an early version of the script and I’m very excited to see how director Chace, veteran actress Mackie, and newcomer Martinez have shaped it since then.  Kovach’s gotten rave reviews in the past; this one will likely continue that trend.


From some of this seasons interns at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park is CHEMISTRY.

WHO’S WHO: Featuring Laurie Roberts & Jay Hobson. Directed by Katie Lupica.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Steph struggles with chronic depression. Jamie just overachieved himself off the deep end. When they meet in their psychiatrist’s office, sparks fly and they stumble unexpectedly into a beautiful relationship. But how do you trust someone else when you are already in a battle with your own brain? Winner of FringeNYC’s 2014 Excellence in Playwriting award, CHEMISTRY by Jacob Marx Rice is a viciously funny and piercingly insightful dark comedy about being crazy in love.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: I enjoyed the scene I saw from these two actors at the Showcase preview last month and I have high hopes for this script and Lupica has had a terrific season at the Playhouse to learn from as the directing intern.

11252598_10205125218022933_4918458841732313760_nAlso from a Playhouse intern is MOUTHY BITCH, one of my most anticipated shows.

WHO’S WHO: Featuring Kelsey Torstveit, written by Dennis Bush, directed by Ryan Amador.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:  Self-described interpersonal dynamics guru Kate Carden leads seminars that explore male/female relationships. Stories of her own relationship history and uncommon sexual experiences hijack her current seminar, as she takes her audience on a hilarious and heartbreaking journey, seasoned with adult language and candid sexual references. Just when Kate is on the verge of clarity, an unexpected discovery changes everything.

SAPPY THOUGHTS:  I’d watch Torstveit read the phone book.  She’s dynamic, hilarious, and brilliant. I expect this to be a sleeper hit of the festival.

11146249_449520128559126_3428786237354175496_n Local playwright and actor Kevin Crowley will debut HITCHHIKERS MAY BE INMATES.

WHO’S WHO: Starring Kevin Crowley and Michael Bath, directed by Buz Davis.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Dave is new to AA and struggling mightily. JD, his sponsor, own tenuous grasp on sobriety is exactly what Dave doesn’t need. Their evening spent flirting with disaster is funny and cautionary.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: Crowley’s SARGE last year was one of the single best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen; the chemistry he had with Michael Bath in THE IRISH CURSE was very good.  I’m excited to see this.  (I’m a little confused – some sources say Crowley and Bath are acting and Davis is directing but somewhere else it appears that Bath and Davis are the stars.  I guess we’ll find out!)


11295634_10204297823752202_433567841778087295_nRADIO GOMMORAH LIVE! features a gigantic cast.

WHO’S WHO: Daniel Britt, Wendy Erin Braun, Mel Hatch Douglas, Keisha Kemper, Dan Robertson, Glenn Schaich, Ramona Toussaint, Donald Volpenhein & Derek Snow. Written by John Ray. Co-directed by Michael Burnham & Paul Morris.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:  It’s the future: Ecosystems in collapse. The One-Percent cavorts in Mercedes escape pods while the rest of us – enslaved by our micro-chip implants – roast rats over toxic waste fires. Only three people can save humanity: a foul-mouthed social dropout, a pathologically cheerful religious fanatic, and a Cyber-Babe with a past. It’s a radio serial, live on stage, with the audience as sound-effects artists. It’s Radio Gomorrah LIVE! It’s the future. Ooops.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: The photo to the left is from a rehearsal of a “butt-centric dance number.”  Hold on to your hats, folks; if Burnham is involved you know its going to be Fringe-tastic.

11138524_10152899278516847_6177404999817540144_nSHIRTZENCOCKLE is a bit of a mystery to me.  It’s from the folks at Performance Gallery.

WHO’S WHO: The cast includes Derek Snow, Jacob Biel, Willemien Patterson, Jodie Linver, and Sydney Ashe. Regina Pugh directs.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:  Folk and Fairy Tales provide a rich moral tapestry to explore – full of surrealism, magical and ridiculous moments and gory content that make our modern sensibilities uncomfortably tingly. This ensemble devised work uses ancient story content to create an energetic romp into the questionable world of morality and how it has been imposed on us through the cautionary tales of our childhood.

SAPPY THOUGHTS: Sounds weird . . . I’ll give it a shot!


11234860_910045879058877_3497162502567713440_nI’m interested in this collaboration between Pones, Inc. and Queen City Flash, SHELTER.

WHO’S WHO: Featuring Ashley Olivia Danger MortonMac BlaisCourtney PaigeIan Timothy ForsgrenAlex RobertsTrisha DurhamMandie Reiber and Kimberly Christine-Marie Popa.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: At the end of the world, a teenage couple seek refuge in a backyard fallout shelter. As lights flicker and sirens blare, their internment reveals the cracks between them and their reliance on each other. They soon discover that survival isn’t what you escape, but what you bring with you.

SAPPY THOUGHTS:  I’m a fan of Mac Blais, a Xavier Theatre student, and I typically love the work of Trey Tatum (Queen City Flash).  This is on my must-see list.

Finally, I’m very excited about CINCINNATI KING, a special presentation by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.  KJ Sanchez has written this piece celebrating Cincinnati’s King Records with an evening of music and memories.  This is a staged reading which tells the story of music pioneer Syd Nathan and King Records. “The play serves as a theatrical album about the history of Cincinnati music, racial equality and the legendary record label. King Records legend Philip Paul kicks off the evening with a one-of-a-kind performance and behind-the-scenes stories.”  This is a free event in Washington Park. I’ve heard unofficially a few of the names on the cast list – I will NOT miss this one.

This is just a sampling of the tremendous offerings of this year’s Fringe Festival, the 12th one!  There is a lot I didn’t cover in this piece; I hope to see some shows that aren’t listed above throughout the event.

Tickets are available now for all of these shows at varying price points.  For instance, you can see one show for $15, two in one night for $30, 6 for $65, and all of them for $200!  Click here for information on tickets.

I can’t wait to see everyone in Over the Rhine; let’s get out and support grass roots Cincinnati theatre at its finest!