Outside, the world is telling us that we march only forward, at the moment toward inevitable spring. The majority of our picks this week, however, share the theme of looking back – at our traditions and our various cultural journeys, whether through music, poetry, art or even tapping the first keg of the season. Funny thing, though. Looking back always seems to put a new light on the present and the future.
Bockfest | Downtown and Over-the-Rhine (centered around Main Street)
Friday, Feb. 28-Sunday, March 1
In the late 1800s, Cincinnati had two daily newspapers in German. That was, of course, in addition to the four in English. It should be little surprise, then, that a German tradition like Bockfest would bloom here, too. Now celebrating its 28th year, Bockfest has grown along with the resurgence of Over-the-Rhine.
Maybe the best thing about this traditional festival – which celebrates the arrival of the year’s bock beers and the spring that will soon follow – is that it (so far) has maintained a sense of community. That is to say, it isn’t the drinkfest for half a million of your closest friends that Oktoberfest is. Here are some of the activities on tap:
• The parade, as usual, heads up Main Street from Arnold’s at 6 p.m. Friday. The annual blessing of the beer follows.
• Through Saturday night, two stages offer live entertainment.
• On Saturday, there’s a 5K (past many historic brewing sites) in the morning and the crowning of the Sausage Queen and Beard Baron starting at 7:30 p.m..
• On Sunday, celebrate Sundays in 1800s Over-the-Rhine with family-friendly, traditional German entertainment.
• All weekend, two dozen bock beers from the area’s craft breweries will flow. You can work it off with a wide variety of German food or a walking tour of historic OTR.
Revolution Dance Theatre
Thursday, Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m. | Jarson-Kaplan Theater, Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
“Our Turn,” Revolution’s inaugural season performance at the Aronoff offers three world premieres performed by local African American dancers. Revolution is dedicated to giving minority students and children from low-income families the opportunity to participate in the art of dance, particularly ballet, and to build cultural diversity.
revodance.com or 937-738-6362
‘Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles’
Thursday, Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m. | 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45209
It’s the end of the Jewish and Israeli Film Festival, and what better grand finale than a behind-the-scenes look at one of the masterpieces of Jewish entertainment, “Fiddler on the Roof.” As one of the interviewees puts it, “You want to do a musical about old Jews in Russia going through a pogrom?” What could go wrong? How about a review that said there are no memorable songs in the show? You know, like “Tradition,” “Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Far From the Home I Love” or “Sunrise, Sunset.” Despite these liabilities(!), the show ran for more than 3,000 performances on Broadway and, in its 1971 film adaptation, earned John Williams his first Oscar. This Max Lewkowicz documentary about the show premiered in 2019.
mayersonjcc.org or 513-761-7500
Tuesday, March 3, 6 p.m. | Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
We told you last week about Part I of this Adaptation Book Club installment. Mini Microcinema volunteers Lillian Currens and Michael Sweeny led a discussion of “Miss Lonelyhearts,” Nathanael West’s 1933 satire of modern love – or lack of it – in Depression-era Manhattan. They’re back this week for Part 2, a screening of the film adaptation West’s novel inspired, 1958’s “Lonelyhearts,” starring Montgomery Clift.
mercantilelibrary.com or 513-621-0717
‘Reckoning with the Past’
Thursday, Feb. 27, 6 p.m. | Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
The next lecture in the Six@Six series features Kristine Yohe, associate professor of English at Northern Kentucky University. Her topic is the work of Frank Walker, former Kentucky poet-laureate and co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets. (Walker coined the term Affrilachia to describe African-American culture and history in Appalachian identity.) Yohe has written a book on Walker’s work as a tool to promote racial healing.
mercantilelibrary.com or 513-621-0717
CSO: ‘Beethoven Akademie 1808’
Saturday, Feb. 29, 4 p.m. | Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
About a week after his 38th birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven led one of the most remarkable concert programs in Western music. It was a benefit concert for himself, one of the few ways an independent composer – then a novel profession and, like today, already a financially precarious one – could earn some money. In all, the evening ran four hours (with a long break in the middle). Filling the bill were premieres of the fifth and sixth symphonies, the fourth piano concerto and the Choral Fantasy, which Beethoven dashed off because he thought the evening lacked a grand enough conclusion. Beethoven was the piano soloist for the concerto and the fantasy, and he also improvised a fantasia for the occasion.
We told you last week that there was about to be a lot of Beethoven to be heard this year. This weekend, Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony recreate that remarkable 1808 “Akademie” in two, two-part marathon concerts. Israeli-born pianist Inon Barnatan takes Beethoven’s solo roles, including, interestingly, an extemporized fantasia. The May Festival Chorus and a half-dozen vocal soloists round out the roster.
Part I begins at 4 p.m., then there’s a dinner break, and Part II follows at 8:30 p.m. They repeat the whole endeavor beginning at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, with Part II starting at 7 p.m. Best of all, unlike Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in 1808, Music Hall has heat.
cincinnatisymphony.org or 513-381-3300
Wednesday, Feb. 26 | Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Janis Ian holds the unusual record of having been nominated for 10 Grammys in eight different categories. (Good bar trivia: She lost to Jimmy Carter in 2016 but beat Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama in 2014.) Ian’s music has tackled controversial topics since she was a teenager, and she’s an accomplished poet and author. Now in her fifth decade as a performer, she brings a selection of all of it to the intimate confines of Memorial Hall on Wednesday.
memorialhallotr.com or 513-977-8838
Cincinnati Black Theatre: ‘Anne and Emmett’
Opens Friday, Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m. | National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Emmett Till was just 14 years old when he was lynched after the allegation that he whistled at a white woman in Money, Mississippi, in 1955. He was a year younger when he died than Anne Frank, the Dutch teenager whose diary of life in hiding from the Nazis is now standard school reading worldwide. (She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, still just 15.) In Janet Langhart Cohen’s play, the two victims of similar racial hatred meet in an abstract place called Memory. They explore common bonds of humanity and of human cruelty. Six performances through March 8.
cincinnatiblacktheatre.org or 513-241-6060
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company: ‘Pride and Prejudice’
Opens Friday, Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m. | 1195 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
The Season of the Woman marches on at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company with this Kate Hamill adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Miss Elizabeth Bennett once again finds that the path to true love leads to the most unexpected of places. Just eight actors cover the sundry roles, requiring what CSC calls some “gender-fluid doubling” to spice up the Regency-era rom-com. Sara Clark, Cincy Shakes’s development director, directs the production at the Budig Theater. Runs through March 28.
cincyshakes.com or 513-381-2273 (BARD)
Playhouse in the Park: ‘Destiny of Desire’
Opens Saturday, Feb. 29 | Marx Theatre, 962 Mount Adams Circle, Cincinnati, OH 45202
A storm brews in the small town of Bellarica, Mexico, when two baby girls are born on the same night in the same hospital. A former beauty queen switches them at birth in her lust for power. It’s all part of the burning passion, cunning deception and outrageous melodrama in this homage to Latin American soap operas. There’s plenty of Latin music and comedy, too. Runs through March 28.
cincyplay.com or 513-421-3888
‘Something Over Something Else’
Open Friday, Feb. 28 | 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45202
It’s a busy weekend at the Cincinnati Art Museum:
Romare Bearden was born in 1911 in North Carolina, moved to New York as a toddler, to Pittsburgh in his teen years, then back to New York after high school. After building a reputation mostly as a painter, he began working in collage in the 1960s. His Profile Series of collages, inspired by a New Yorker profile of him, traces his journey as an African American from rural North Carolina to his first studio in Harlem. “Something Over Something Else” reunites 30 works from this series for the first time. Runs through May 24.
In celebration of Black History Month, the museum is offering free admission to the Bearden exhibition Friday through Sunday. (Museum admission is always free, but special shows usually require separate admission.)
The opening of the Bearden exhibition also just happens to line up with this month’s Art After Dark celebration. The festivities get under way at 5 p.m. Friday with cocktails and food. Live jazz starts at 6 p.m. You also can take a docent-led tour of the Bearden exhibition.
For the more traditional set, an exhibition-specific opening celebration starts at 5 p.m. Thursday with music and refreshments in the Great Hall. At 7 p.m., curators from Columbia University and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, which organized the show, will speak about Bearden’s Profile Series in Fath Auditorium.
cincinnatiartmuseum.org or 513-721-2787 (ARTS)