Over the weekend, Know Theatre of Cincinnati celebrated its 10th anniversary with a cool three-location party (interlinked by video feeds) during which the company announced what it's up to for the first season of its second decade. Jason Bruffy, Know's artistic director, says that the group is "constantly looking for the 'Theater of the Now,'" and that appears to be what's in store — the shows in the queue are by and large unknown works, mostly by rising writers who have not yet made their name. Bruffy adds that "Know Theatre is looking for writers writing for the stage, who are engaging our imagination in ways that only live theater can."
Know will become the first local theater to try a "rep schedule." What that means is that it won't be one show at a time, but rather with some overlap — making it possible for productions to build audiences over a long period of time and for works to mature as they are performed. Know experimented with this concept earlier in 2008 with Topdog/Underdog and Red Light Winter, and apparently they liked the results. While the group has announced its shows for next season, several have just general dates attached to them, like "spring 2009." It appears that three shows could be running at points during the fall, and another three during the spring. It's an interesting approach that should serve the group well, it seems to me.
Here's what they're planning to offer:
REEFER MADNESS (opening Sept. 20, 2008). The season will kick off with a musical satire, based on the classic scare film of the same name. It's the story of Jimmy Harper, an upstanding youth who becomes a murderous fiend once he's exposed to marijuana.
MILITANT LANGUAGE (sometime during the fall of 2008). Subtitled "a play with sand," this work is set in Iraq in the midst of the war. Two American GI's caught in an untenable situation during the effort to rebuild a war-torn nation. Playwright Sean Christopher Lewis is the "emerging playwright in residence" at Interact Theatre in Philadelphia, a position funded by the National New Play Network; his script will receive three additional stagings next fall, at Bang and Clatter in Cleveland, Halcyon Theatre in Chicago and Available Light Theatre in Columbus. As a solo performer, Lewis participated in the 2004 Cincinnati Fringe Festival with his script, I Will Make You Orphans.
EURYDICE (sometime during the fall of 2008). This is a new work by the promising young playwright Sarah Ruhl; her Pulitzer Prize finalist The Clean House was a CEA Best Play winner in 2006 at the Cincinnati Playhouse. In the script Know has chosen, she retells the story from mythology of Orpheus and Eurydice, a woman trapped in the underworld and the man who tries to bring her back — told from her perspective.
A VERY MERRY UNAUTHORIZED CHILDREN'S SCIENTOLOGY PROJECT (Dec. 2-28, 2008). For the holidays, Know will offer just one production, a musical satire by Kyle Jarrow, a Brooklyn-based writer and musician that one an Obie award in 2003 — it's been popularly presented in L.A., Boston, D.C., Philadelphia and Atlanta. Tracing the teachings of the controversial Church of Scientology, it's been described as a bewildering blend of children's theater and performance art.
I LOVE YOU BECAUSE (opening Jan. 17, 2009). With music by Joshua Saltzman and words by Ryan Cunningham, this 2006 show is a modern-day, gender-switched retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The romantic musical been well-reviewed in a half-dozen productions around the country, in places a varied as Missouri, Nebraska, Connecticut and Florida, plus several in the U.K. — and one in Korea.
MR. MARMALADE (sometime during the spring of 2009). This is the first of two works by young playwright Noah Haidle that Know plans to produce. His "imaginative parables," as one reviewer called them, have won the writer, not yet 30, recognition from the Sundance Institute and Lincoln Center; he's working on a commission from the Old Globe Theatre in California; and his work will be showcased at Chicago's Goodman Theatre next fall. He's also the recipient of the 2005 Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights. This very dark comedy was produced Off-Broadway by the Roundabout Theater Company in 2005. The title character is a yuppie imaginary friend of a four-year-old girl.
VIGILS (sometime during the spring of 2009). This is Haidle's second play, given its world premiere at the Goodman in 2006. Haidle's script, which Variety calls "a sweet exploration of memory and grief," is the imaginative tale of a fireman's widow who has trapped her husband's soul in a trunk. When it's time to move on with a new man, she has trouble sorting things out.
SKIN TIGHT (opening May 2, 2009). Know will wrap up its 11th season with the regional premiere of a new romantic drama by Gary Henderson, a playwright from New Zealand, where this story is set. Directed by local actor and CEA-winning director Drew Fracher, it's about a couple very much in love but coping with her imminent death — and yet fiercely competitive.
Two of Know's current actors, Anne Marie Carroll and Brook Stetler, are joining Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, while Todd Patterson is headed to the resident company at Playhouse in the Square in Memphis. CCM grad Anthony Darnell, who has acted with Know for several seasons, is headed to Seattle to join the Satori Group, a theater company that originated here in Cincinnati. Know also announced a new acting company of seven actors: Jessica Amara Beaudry (Kent State), Fang Du (University of Virginia), Jenny Guy (University of Arkansas), Daniel S. Hines (Catawba College in North Carolina), Babs Ipaye (University of Texas) and Ayla Ocasion (University of Florida).
– Rick Pender