Neos Ballet fires up the Brickyard

A dance review by Mark Sebastian Jordan

 

Remember when people used to bitch about there being nothing to do in Mansfield? They were always wrong, but if anyone were to dare to say that today, it would be downright laughable. Not only is there a world of interesting things and people, we happen to be entering a golden age of creativity in north central Ohio. The opportunities are little short of astounding:

 

  • Fiery indie musicians like Chico’s Brother, Rust Pelts, 99 Spirits, Oddepoxy, and many more…
  • Challenging artists like Jason Kaufman, Jo Westfall, Thorn Monarch, Lucas Hargis, Neil Yoder, Luke Beekman…
  • Brilliant actors like Ryan Kiley, Scott Schag, Chevy Bond, Colton & Maddie Penwell, Renee Rebman, Ryan Shreve, Lindsey Saltz, Steve Russell, Katy Esmont…
  • Sophisticated classical and jazz musicians like Octavio Mas-Arocas, Condrea Webber, Jeffrey Boyd, Joel Vega, Kelly Knowlton, Wyatt Boggs…
  • Intense poets like Nick Gardner, Jerry Lang, Madison Shilliday, Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, Jason Kaufman (again), Lucas Hargis (again)…
  • Probing directors like Drew Traxler, Doug Wertz, Michael Thomas, Gretchen Ashbrook…
  • Powerful prose writers like Llalan Fowler, Tim McKee, Nick Gardner (again), Jason Kaufman (again again), Lucas Hargis (again again, too)…
  • Inventive filmmakers like Beau Roberts, Eric Sparks, Jennifer Enskat…
  • Engaging playwrights like Bryan Gladden, Michael Thomas (again), Nancy Nixon, Gertrude Brooke (though that’s a pen name for one of the names listed above)…

 

See what I’m getting at? And I haven’t even done justice to everything that is going on in those categories and the venues that host them. This place is on fire with creativity.

 

And if creativity is a flame, then there was a bonfire in the Brickyard in downtown Mansfield Saturday evening. Ballet @ the Brickyard was an evening of dance hosted by the Neos Ballet Theatre, with additional participation from the Richland Academy Dance Ensemble and the RNI Dance Troupe from Richland Newhope. The whole event was tied to an Art in the Alley art show, covered by Llalan Fowler here on VFTB. It is true that Neos no longer has a studio in Mansfield, but Robert Wesner’s troupe has made a commitment to maintaining an artistic presence here and providing this area with the highest quality ballet and modern dance.

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‘Newsies’ Dances Beyond the Ironies

A review by Mark Sebastian Jordan

The Renaissance Theater’s production of the musical Newsies is good, and that’s what I’m here to talk about. Let’s not dwell on the irony of a show about the rebellion of poor workers in the 1890s being created by one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world in the 1990s, the Walt Disney Corporation; nor on the assembly-line formulas of show composer Alan Menken (honestly, has he ever even heard any of the music from the 1890s?), nor even on the strange delight of watching a pro-union artwork in the middle of Trumpistan.

Newsies 5.jpg

The workers unite in an impressive scene from the Renaissance Theater summer production of Newsies, directed with an eye for the big picture by Michael Thomas. (Photo by Jeff Sprang, courtesy of the Renaissance Theater).

Happily, production director Michael Thomas is well aware of the work’s position, and includes an insightful commentary on the show in the program book (that is, if you can read the program’s microscopic print), regarding the Disney-fication of history. But a 1400-seat theater like the Ren is very limited on the type of shows that can be run in the main auditorium (though that won’t apply to Studio 166, the blackbox theater soon to open in an adjacent building). With a large house, the overriding consideration is getting butts in seats, and huge popular musical will do it.

So be it. On with the review.

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Ren Marketing Director Talks Blogging

Here’s a link to an excellent blog post at Americans for the Arts by Colleen Cook, the Director of Marketing at the Renaissance Theater in Mansfield, Ohio, and a great friend and colleague of VFTB. Colleen is talking about how the Ren has used blogging and podcasting to engage people in the north central Ohio area.

 

VTFB contributor Mark Sebastian Jordan has previously appeared on the podcast, talking about upcoming concerts of the Mansfield Symphony. We’re glad to hear the success Colleen is having with this modern marketing tool!