An artful panacea for the blues of March

T.S.Eliot called April “the cruelest month.” That may be true for London, but here in Cincinnati it must be March. We all need some inspiration to get through those raw, lingering, gray days with highs in the 30s. For some, it’s the craziness of college basketball. For many, it’s the transformative power of the arts. Here are some special arts events to nourish your soul in the weeks to come.

“Othello,” Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

“Othello,” Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

THEATER: Othello x2

“Othello,” March 2-24, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Over-the-Rhine

“Red Velvet,” March 6-31, Ensemble Theatre, Over-the-Rhine

Othello is a busy fellow this month, appearing at theaters two blocks apart in Over-the-Rhine, but spanning several centuries. Cincy Shakes and ETC are completing a mid-season collaboration; ETC’s D. Lynn Meyers just wrapped up directing “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” at CSC. The companies bring us two wrinkles within the legend of Othello. Cincy Shakes is offering The Bard’s “Othello,” albeit set in contemporary Venice, a city with technological and digital capabilities, and where “war is the norm and not the exception.” A CSC newcomer, Cincinnati native William Oliver Watkins, returns from New York City to play the besieged Moor.

Nearby, at ETC, CSC’s Brian Isaac Phillips will stage “Red Velvet,” a 2012 play by English actor-turned-playwright Lolita Chakrabarti that tells the true story of Ira Aldridge, the first African-American actor to portray Othello in Shakespeare’s play. It is 1833 and Aldridge is brought on to replace a legendary white actor in the role, while outside, in the streets of London, riots have broken out over the abolition of slavery.

Several CSC resident ensemble members are joining Phillips over on Vine Street. This level of cooperation is what’s so unique and so special about the theater scene in Cincinnati, and what helps attract and keep young talent in the region.




“Kill Move Paradise,” by James Ijames. March 2-24. Know Theatre, Over-the-Rhine, 513-300-5669,


“Fancy Free,” Cincinnati Ballet

“Fancy Free,” Cincinnati Ballet

DANCE: rhythm, athleticism, gesture

“Director’s Cut: Musical Masters,” Cincinnati Ballet, March 15-18, Procter & Gamble Hall, Aronoff Center

As a musician, I look for dance programs set to outstanding music, such as this one by Cincinnati Ballet. The evening opens with “Fancy Free,” choreographed by Jerome Robbins to music by Leonard Bernstein, both of whose centenaries are being celebrated in 2018. “Fancy Free” was the inspiration for the musical “On the Town,” the story of three sailors on shore leave looking for female “companionship.” For his first ballet, Robbins injected classic dance with the rough-hewn athleticism needed to capture the essence of these testosterone-laden young men. Bernstein’s exuberant, muscular music is full of syncopation, incorporating dance rhythms of the time.

George Balanchine’s “Rubies” is the quirky middle movement of his evening-length ballet “Jewels.” The music for “Rubies” is Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra (1929) by Igor Stravinsky, a jazzy, neo-classic concerto that will feature CSO pianist Michael Chertock. According to Chertock, Capriccio is full of “rhythmic verve and a lot of humor … Stravinsky at his most witty.” Balanchine, a musician himself, considered his choreography an accompaniment to music, rather than the other way around, saying, “When too much goes on, on stage, you don’t hear the music.”

Balanchine is the master of refined elegance, and in this case with a twist – whatever it takes to serve the score.

“Facades,” a recent work by emerging choreographer Garrett Smith, examines social conventions by contrasting classic costumery, music and the refinements of ballet with strong injections of contemporary gesture. The music of Vivaldi provides the primary backdrop, but he also includes the Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra, a modern work by Philip Glass executed on an 18th century instrument, again featuring Chertock.

All three works carry elements of classic ballet forward, making them relevant to their contemporary environs, and that’s emblematic of what Cincinnati Ballet seems to be doing, overall,
these days.



Koresh Dance Company – blending ballet, modern and jazz, with Middle Eastern influences. March 10-11, Jarson-Kaplan Theater, Aronoff Center. Presented by Contemporary Dance Theater,


Louis Langrée, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestr

Louis Langrée, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

MUSIC: complex counterpoint, sweeping melodies + a lot of wind

“Louis Langrée Conducts Mozart + Strauss,” March 23-24, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra,  Music Hall

The CSO hosts its own internal Battle of the Bands this month: Strings vs. Winds.

This is an opportunity to really hear how different families of instruments within the orchestra are reflected within the new, smaller Music Hall. And maybe to find out who’s better …?

The concert opens with “Metamorphosen,” a late work by Richard Strauss, written at the end of World War II and premiered in 1946. Scored for 23 solo strings, it is full of Strauss’s trademark complex counterpoint and sweeping melodies. Inspired by the destruction the elderly Strauss saw across Europe, especially the bombing of the Munich Opera House, this is a searing, anguished elegy to what Germany had foolishly thrown away in such a short time, falling so tragically into disgrace from its pinnacle as the leading power in Europe.

After intermission, you’ll time-travel from the turbulence of war-torn Europe to the sunny tunefulness of Mozart’s Vienna. If you’ve seen the movie “Amadeus,” you’ve heard at least a segment of Mozart’s Serenade No. 10. The third movement plays as Salieri encounters Mozart for the first time, and he tries to reconcile such heavenly music with the crass, childlike creature before his eyes. (Remember Tom Hulce’s hideously wonderful “Wolfie” laugh?)

Composed about the same time as his opera “Idomeneo,” this is prime Mozart wind band music, scored for oboes, clarinets, basset horns (larger cousin of the clarinet), bassoons and horns, plus a lonely double bass. A real showcase for the CSO’s superb winds.



Two Lenten season choral concerts:

Rachmaninoff: “Vespers,” March 20, 7:30 p.m. Vocal Arts Ensemble, Craig Hella Johnson, conducting. Memorial Hall, 513-381-3300,

“Mothers & Sons” – Music of Bach, Arvo Pärt and more. March 24, 7 p.m. at Collegium Cincinnati, Christopher Eanes, conducting. St. Anne’s Church, West Chester. Encore: March 25, 3 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral, downtown.


“Make America Great Again,” from the series That’s What Friends Are For, 2017, silkscreen print

“Make America Great Again,” from the series That’s What Friends Are For, 2017, silkscreen print

VISUAL ART: a Cuban take on propaganda

“The Banana Issue: Jorge Rodríguez Diez (R10),” March 23-May 12, Marta Hewett Gallery

In 2015, Cincinnati artists Kay Hurley and Jens Rosencrantz visited Cuba. They returned, energized by the art they saw and the artists they met, inspired to create an exchange between Cincinnati and America’s estranged neighbor to the south. They created a nonprofit named, fittingly, Bridges not Walls.

They since have brought works here and taken Cincinnati art with them to Havana. Now, in conjunction with Marta Hewett Gallery, they are presenting the first solo U.S. show of one of these Cuban artists: Jorge Rodríguez Diez, also known as R10.

Diez, born in 1969, is a designer, visual artist and native of Havana. He studied there at the Technical Institute of Industrial Design and the Superior Institute of Design.

Diez will present paintings depicting ’50s-era graphic designs with bold colors and nostalgic images that carry a socio-political message.

In addition to the paintings, five limited-edition silkscreen prints by Diez will be on display, produced locally by DIY Printing.

Artist talk: March 24, 3 p.m., opening reception follows: 4-6 p.m., Marta Hewett Gallery, Pendleton Art Center Annex. 513-281-2780,


“Midwest Markdowns,” works by nine emerging artists in the Midwest area. Thru March 24. Also, “Unpresidented,” various works in response to the current government administration. March 31-April 28. Both at Wave Pool Gallery, 2940 Colerain Ave.

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