Playhouse world premiere opens season
By Natalie Hastings
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park returns for the 2021-22 season with a renewed commitment to enriching the community with stories that reflect the multi-faceted world we live in and the people within it. Beginning Oct. 9, THE WEST END, a world-premiere drama from Keith Josef Adkins, will transport audiences to a transformative chapter in the city’s history, thanks to support from the Rosenthal Family Foundation. The show runs through Nov. 7. Opening night is Oct. 14.
“Our theatre is a community gathering place where we seek to illuminate the human experience,” explains Blake Robison, producing artistic director. “In doing so, we celebrate differences and lift up our shared humanity. The connections we make through live theatre and artistic engagement are unmatched, and we are excited to bring this story about the lives and legacies of people who have shaped the history of Cincinnati.”
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who was raised in Cincinnati. His 2014 historical drama, Safe House, made its world premiere at the Playhouse. His plays have been produced off-Broadway, in Los Angeles and Chicago, and around the country.
THE WEST END is a personal continuation of the playwright’s interest in his ancestry. His previous drama Safe House was inspired by his matriarchal forebearers — a free Black family of shoemakers in Cynthiana, Kentucky, before the Civil War. This time, he set out to honor his patriarchal roots.
“My mother’s family has been in the Cincinnati area since the late 1700s,” Adkins says. “They were considered free people of color, and I honored them and their lives with my play Safe House. My father’s family moved to Cincinnati’s West End from Georgia during the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. They were part of the Great Migration, and I wanted to honor their experience.”
In 1941, Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood was home to African Americans who recently migrated there in search of new opportunities as well as German settlers who faced new hostilities as the U.S. was on the brink of entering World War II. That’s where THE WEST END begins, with Grace, who also fled the South and whose row house hosts people of both backgrounds.
“I love that THE WEST END is one slice of life that celebrates and honors all of those who had to find new homes during the Great Migration and looks at Cincinnati as a crossroads or meeting point between so many different people. I love that the play is an examination of found family. THE WEST END is one such play that has deep roots to Black life in Cincinnati. I can’t think of a better home for THE WEST END than Cincinnati Playhouse,” says Nicole A. Watson, Playhouse associate artist and director of the production, who helmed the Playhouse’s critically acclaimed production of Mr. Joy in 2016.
To purchase tickets or for more information, call the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888 (toll-free in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana at 800-582-3208) or visit www.cincyplay.com. Patrons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf blind or speech disabled: dial 711 to connect to the Box Office via Ohio Relay Services.
Performances on Tuesdays through Saturdays will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. There is one Wednesday matinee at 1 p.m. Individual tickets start at just $35. Student tickets are just $15 on the day of the show for all other performances. Discounted ticket prices for teens are available for all productions and are $30 to $45, depending on show and seat location.
Recommended for ages 13 and up. This historical drama finds characters wrestling with mature topics like racism, war, xenophobia and adult relationships. They discuss these with in-depth wisdom and stoicism, though not without occasional adult language and a few acts of violence.
Patrons will need to be masked and fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to attend an indoor performance.