Leight's Tony-Winning Side Man Gives Cincinnati's ETC a Boost

News   Leight's Tony-Winning Side Man Gives Cincinnati's ETC a Boost A critical scheduling change made by the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) last June has improved the theatre's fortunes, and made the opening of its 1999-2000 season a memorable one.
Outside the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, the first regional theatre to perform the 1999 Tony Award winner Side Man.
Outside the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, the first regional theatre to perform the 1999 Tony Award winner Side Man.

A critical scheduling change made by the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) last June has improved the theatre's fortunes, and made the opening of its 1999-2000 season a memorable one.

After securing the rights to Warren Leight's Tony Award-winning play, Side Man, ETC's producing artistic director, D. Lynn Meyers, says the theatre changed its schedule to lead with the award-winning play and to dovetail with complimentary music events in Cincinnati this fall. The results were seen immediately.

The ETC plan was to take full advantage of being the first regional theatre to produce the play since it opened on Broadway in 1998. "The moment we made the switch the phone started to ring," Meyers told Playbill On-Line. "Side Man has been a strong calling card and we've sold more subscriptions than we have in years -- right now, we are 230 subscriptions over last year. That's a lot for a small regional theatre. We're only a 200-seat house."

ETC actively pursued the strategy of opening with Side Man but Meyers credits playwright Warren Leight with making the show possible. "It was an absolute gift on his part," Meyers said, "especially for a theatre of our size."

The opening night of Side Man was arguably the most exciting in the past five years, Meyers said, especially because Warren Leight was able to attend the performance, although his presence was not announced until after the show. "There was a standing ovation after the performance and our managing director, Rick Diehl stepped out just after the actors had done their three bows and cleared the stage. He introduced Warren and the people went nuts, they were on their feet. The actors came back onstage and people just wouldn't sit down."

As reported earlier, ETC's season will also feature two travel-minded world premieres: Katherine Christianson's Earhart and the holiday musical, Around the World in 80 Days, as well as the regional premiere of Lee Blessing's Chesapeake and Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan.

The complete 1999-2000 season follows:

Side Man, the recollections of a son on his trumpeter father and alcoholic mother as they lived through the rise and fall of jazz, opened the Ensemble's season, and runs Sept. 8-Sept. 26.

Earhart, an answer to the question "Wha Happened to Amelia Earhart?" as given by the famous woman pilot herself, runs Oct. 20-Nov. 7.

• For the holidays, the Ensemble Theatre will present the annual family musical, Dec. 8-Jan. 2, 2000. This year's adaptation of the Jules Verne novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, is by Joseph McDonough and David Kisor.

• The regional premiere of Chesapeake, Lee Blessing's one-man comedy about a performance artist who takes on a right-wing Southern politician with the help of his dog, will take the stage Jan. 26-Feb. 13, 2000. The play is to have its Off-Broadway premiere with Mark Linn Baker, Sept. 30.

• Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, which premiered at New York's Public Theatre in 1998, will have its Ohio debut March 15 April 9. McDonagh is best known for his Beauty Queen of Leenane and 1999's The Lonesome West. Cripple tells of the ruckus in a small Irish town caused by news that documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty will shoot "Man of Aran" there.

Private Eyes, Steven Dietz's comedic thriller about a husband snooping into his actress wife's possible affair with her director, runs May 9-21. Dietz is the author of Lonely Planet, God's Country and Rocket Man.

Tickets for all productions are $25. To order, call (513) 421-3555. The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati is located at 1127 Vine Street and on the web at http://www.cincyetc.com.

-- By Murdoch McBride and Christine Ehren