Making Waves: Cincinnati Shakespeare's Home Team Creates Community
Great cities offer a wide variety of art – from modern dance to classical theater, opera to puppetry. The more arts experiences available in a region, the more people participate, and the greater the benefits for everyone who lives there. Generating all of that art requires lots of resources. A thriving arts scene needs artists – especially artists who are committed to living in the communities where they work.
For eighteen years, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has built the region’s artistic community by producing Shakespeare and the classics with a resident ensemble of actors. Recruited from all across the country, the professional actors who join the ensemble sign on for an entire season of work, performing in five to ten shows in a single year. Audiences get to know the performers and enjoy seeing them play a wide variety of roles – the actor playing the romantic lead in Romeo & Juliet may be the funny butler in next month’s The Importance of Being Earnest, or the mysterious villain in Dangerous Liaisons. Actors often stay for two to four years with the company and some have been with the organization for over a decade. Working together for long periods, the actors develop a greater camaraderie, understanding of each other’s strengths, and level of trust - like a great baseball team.
When not onstage at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, resident ensemble members are often seen on other local stages including Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Know Theatre of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, among others. Producing Artistic Director Brian Phillips coordinates with these theatres to share everything from scene shop equipment to lighting designers. “The collaborative spirit of the Cincinnati theatre community allows audiences to see a wide variety of plays, playwrights, musicals, and experimental performances,” says Brian, “By working together and sharing resources, we produce more theatre more efficiently, so that more people can enjoy it.”
“Ensemble Theatre is proud that Brian Phillips came to Cincinnati to be an intern with our company and he has stayed to help sustain and grow the Shakespeare Company,” says D. Lynn Meyers, Producing Artistic Director of Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. “ETC was founded on the principle of giving local professionals a wonderful place to live and work and Brian has embraced that with his hiring of a resident company.”
The growing pool of professional actors in the community benefits other arts organizations as well. Over the past ten years, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company actors have performed with Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company actors also serve as teaching artists in schools throughout the region, record commercials and voice-overs for local businesses, and create podcasts, blogs, and viral videos enjoyed by people all over the country. By providing a home base for these artists, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company provides a critical fuel for the region’s creative engine – skilled artists with a passion for their community.
CSC Artistic Associate Jeremy Dubin has been performing with the company for over twelve years, but he still gets the same question: Why are you here? Why don’t you live in New York or L.A.?
Jeremy responds, “New York and L.A. both have actors in abundance. The result is that actors there (with the exception of a very small percentage) become anonymous cogs in a vast machine that views them as expendable. Here in Cincinnati, I have a voice and a role to play within the arts community and the community at large. I have been able to develop personal relationships and an ongoing artistic conversation with our patrons. I am able to feel that what I do is a benefit to the community, and the community, in turn, has provided me with an opportunity to keep doing what I love.”