What is the Kennedy Center Partners in Education?

by Colleen Cook

The Renaissance is a proud member of the Partners in Education program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Starting in 2010, the Renaissance has been collaborating with the Mansfield Art Center and Mansfield City Schools to provide high quality professional development to educators in our region through workshops, conferences, trainings, and in-classroom teaching on topics related to arts integration. Workshops are open to any area teacher or school administrator, and are a fun, valuable opportunity to gain contact hours towards Continuing Education Credits (CEUs).

Arts integration is a tool that is meaningful for all educators, not just arts specialists. “Arts Integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both,” according to the Kennedy Center.

Our community has strongly supported the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program for several years, and this year has been no exception. Support from the Ohio Arts Council, the Key Bank Foundation, and Charles P. Hahn, Cleveland Financial have underwritten this valuable program to keep it free for educators to attend each training!

This school year, we’ve been able to offer a summer institute along with three evening workshops for educators. Each workshop during the academic year is paired with a full day of demonstration teaching within Mansfield City Schools. Because demonstration teaching utilizes the specific arts-integrated lessons that teachers will learn to create during the teaching artist’s workshop, demonstration teaching not only offers a valuable opportunity for teachers to observe the teaching artist’s method of delivery, but it also shows the immediate impact of using arts integration as a teaching approach in the classroom.

In addition, the Mansfield Partners in Education team launched a teaching artist training program for local artists in September 2017. Sixteen artists were selected for the extended program, through which artists will observe several Kennedy Center teaching artists in action during workshops and demonstration teaching, as well as participate in the Kennedy Center’s intensive seminars for teaching artists over the next three years. The aim of the teaching artist training program is to grow a cadre of fully-vetted local teaching artists who both supplement the professional development opportunities that the partnership currently offers and provide additional post-workshop follow-up, demonstration teaching, and arts-integrated coaching in North Central Ohio schools.

Educators interested in participating in the Kennedy Center Partners in Education trainings can find out about upcoming events here, by contacting Chelsie Thompson at chelsie@mansfieldtickets.com, or by watching our Facebook page for event posting.


Mindsprouts: Creative Writing

By Audra DeLaney 

Children channel their creativity in many different ways. Some love to tell stories, others enjoy writing poems, and some combine both ideas and put on a play or a musical. Mindsprouts, a program in the Renaissance Education Department, invites students in Kindergarten through 12th grade to creatively write on a theme. Their pieces are juried and the best of the submissions are staged in our annual showcase.

The project is open to children in public, private and home schools. Each year, a theme is chosen to inspire students, but to not restrain their creativity. We encourage teachers to discuss with the students the elements of a story: beginning, middle, end, character development and conflict/resolution. More advanced writing techniques are expected to be evident in upper grade submissions.

This year, the Mindsprouts theme is “Fantastic Fables.” Interested students can read the full guidelines and theme details here. Our MindSprouts Sixth Annual Showcase will be presented this spring. Submissions are due at the end of March, so be sure to enter!

Meet Our Bach to Rock® Finalists!

Toward the end of 2017, we had a singing contest inviting local performers to submit videos of themselves singing pop and rock songs. Once their videos were submitted, we invited the public to vote to select their favorite performers to choose a top 10 by the end of 2017.

From the top 10 finalists, the top 5 vote earners were invited to perform their song along with the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra on our Bach to Rock® concert on March 24, 2018. Take a look at these incredible singers!


See Them Live at Bach to Rock® on March 24

Mike Miller & Chelsie Thompson; photos by Jeff Sprang and Isaac Coffy


With an eye to the future and a commitment to the present, the Renaissance Performing Arts Association is undertaking a reorganization in leadership intended to set the stage for a second century of providing arts, education and entertainment to Mansfield and surrounding communities.

Michael Miller, who has served as the Renaissance Performing Arts Association’s President and CEO since 2010, will become the CEO of the non-profit organization effective March 1. Miller will represent the organization in the community and focus on broadening the base of support for the Renaissance.

Responsibility for day-to-day operations of the Renaissance will shift to Chelsie Thompson, who has been on staff at the Renaissance since 2010 and most recently served as Executive Director.  Thompson has been promoted to President of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association and will lead the staff in its continuing efforts to provide meaningful arts, entertainment, and educational experiences for the North Central Ohio region and beyond.

Miller stated, “As we just celebrated our 90th Anniversary, this restructuring will allow me to concentrate on locking in the support and resources we will need as we strive to achieve our vision. I have full confidence in Chelsie’s leadership of the staff and operations of the Renaissance and am excited to see the Renaissance further live into its vision.”

“I am thrilled to accept this new assignment, but at the same time humbled by the trust and support of the Renaissance Board in making this change,” said Thompson. “I believe that my education and experience, as well as my passion for the performing arts, all combine to prepare me for this opportunity,” she continued.  ”We have a lot of work to do, but I believe that our outstanding staff is ready to take us to the next level.”

Rand Smith, President of the Renaissance Board of Directors, added, “It’s unusual for an organization of our size to have two such talented and capable leaders.  Our Board members fully support Mike and Chelsie in their new assignments and will work closely with them to secure our future.”


It’s Music in Our Schools Month

March is Music in Our Schools Month!

Many of our patrons, and most of our performers and staff have been influenced greatly by their music educators throughout their formative years. At the Renaissance, we consider it one of our highest priorities to supplement and support our local arts educators with resources and programming that will extend their arts curriculum. We are able to offer 15,000 students each year opportunities to perform, watch, and learn through the arts!

If you’d like to learn about our many educational initiatives, you can find out more here.

Be sure to thank your music educators this month – they often have class sizes three or more times bigger than the typical classroom teacher, work longer hours for little or no more pay, and many of them have to stand up in front of every parent multiple times a year to lead their students in showcasing their work. They deserve great recognition for the lives they are impacting!


From Cirque to Soleil to Hunchback – Meet Brad Cronenwett

by Colleen Cook

In last week’s blog, we highlighted a handful of our region’s talented individuals involved with our production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which runs March 3-4, 11-12). If there’s one thing we’re passionate about, it’s providing top-notch arts and entertainment put together by the countless talented musicians, artists, performers, technicians, and creatives in our region.

This week, we’re going to dig in with someone you may not already know, whose work will take Hunchback to a different level. Bradley Cronenwett was born and raised in Shelby, and has gone on to do big things in the industry – most recently working with Cirque du Soleil!

Colleen Cook: What is your background? How did you get from Shelby to Cirque du Soleil?

Bradley Cronenwett: I was born and raised in Shelby, and have been an Ohioan for most of my life. While growing up I was an active part of The Ren community helping design productions with the resident designer at the time, Don Pontious. I really credit him for all of my lighting knowledge because he was such an integral part of my passion for lighting.

Through the years doing multiple types of production, working at The Walt Disney resort, and continuing to grow my knowledge in the field I began to apply for Cirque. I made lots of connections along the way, and we all know how small this world is, especially in production. As the news began traveling, one thing led to another and I began interviewing for positions.

I certainly did not get the first job I applied for. It was probably a span of six months of waiting and interviewing before I finally got the golden ticket. I joined Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna in Amsterdam, April of 2016.

CC: How did you get involved with Hunchback?

BC: While attending a preview of A Christmas Carol the cast, myself and Michael Thomas all when out to dinner after the rehearsal and we discussed my current adventures with Cirque. I had mentioned that I was back in Ohio to help with the Richland Academy’s production of The Nutcracker which I think sparked a conversation. Later on Michael and I spoke about the show and I continued to express my interest in helping out. So here I am!

CC: What is your vision for the lighting design in Hunchback? What has inspired you, and what can the audience expect?

BC: My vision for designing the Hunchback lighting was to keep certain design elements in the show as true to the actual cathedral as best as we could. Earlier this month I  was on holiday in Paris, and visited the cathedral. I studied the shadows, the colors, how the light interacted with the cold stone pillars, and of course admired the colors of the beautiful stained glass windows.

We want to take the entire theater to Paris for a brief moment and let them experience how the cathedral must have looked in 1482. Of course the cathedral is just one setting in the show. The lights will adapt to the scene, and enhance the beautiful set, complement the costumes, and all without much notice to the audience, and that’s all by design.

Bradley continues his journey with Cirque du Soleil joining the newest Big Top show, VOLTA, touring here in the United States. You can see his work on our stage at The Hunchback of Notre Dame, March 3-4, 11-12, 2018. Get Tickets Here!

locally grown world class talent renaissance theatre hunchback of notre dame

Locally-Grown, World-Class Talent

by Colleen Cook

When I look around Richland County, I’m in awe of the incredible talent we find at every turn. Simultaneously, I’m shocked when I come across people who have been born and raised here who think they have to leave town for great arts and entertainment. Not being native to North Central Ohio, I’ve got to tell you: you don’t know how good you have it!

For evidence, look no further than our production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame which will have its regional premiere in March on our stage. This show boasts world-class talent on every single plane – not only among the incredible cast (feat. the likes of Ryan Shreve, Maddie Beer, Scott Schag, Colton Penwell, Stephanie Hayslip, Matt Mayer, Patrick Clinage, Jay Reid, and many more).

Most of the talent on our stage and behind the scenes is native to North Central Ohio. Many have moved away for a time and returned, and some have stayed, but they all share one thing: the talent they bring to the arts and culture scene in Mansfield is unmatched. 

It’s impossible to talk about our musicals and not rave about our director, Michael Thomas, whose vision and skilled direction of our musical theatre productions simply takes our entire organization to the next level. He shares about his experience writing for television and theatre, as well as his background as a Second City alumnus in this blog post.

Jason Kaufman has designed our remarkable set, hand-carving nine life-size gargoyles, gutters, and grotesques based on the actual design at Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Paris, where the Victor Hugo story is set. Jason is a well-known local artist with pieces featured throughout downtown Mansfield (most notably at Relax It’s Just Coffee) and an upcoming exhibit at La Luna.

This show we also welcome lighting designer Brad Cronenwett, a Shelby native who has worked as a lighting designer for Disney and is currently coming to us from Cirque du Soleil Brazil. (More on his story and vision for the production in next week’s blog.)

Local singer, teacher, and music director Kelly Knowlton, (most recently seen on our stage as Ursula in The Little Mermaid) brings together sixty performers: the cast along with an on-stage choir as well as the first live orchestra accompanying a musical at the Renaissance in seven years. The orchestra, which will include several members of the Domka family, will perform an Academy Award-winning score by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz.

Once again, Shannon Maloney returns to share her talent for choreography with our community. Shannon currently lives in New York City, but was raised here in Mansfield and is the daughter of another remarkable individual involved in the production: Dauphne Maloney, who designs and creates the costumes for our musicals.

We’ve barely scratched the surface on how many remarkable professionals have come together to create an unforgettable production. When you look around this region and think for a second that you need to drive an hour or more to see incredible productions, you’ve missed some of the greatest gems sitting right in your back yard. But don’t take my word for it – come to Hunchback on March 3-4, 11-12 and see for yourself.

A Look Back at Some Favorites

By Colleen Cook 

One of the biggest perks of working at the Renaissance, in my opinion, is that we get to see the shows as a part of our job. I have always been a huge fan of live arts and entertainment, and in some instances a bit picky when it comes to what I consider a well-done performance. My personal favorite genre of live arts is musical theatre.

Having had the opportunity over the years to see hundreds of musicals on stages from Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theatres, community theatres, to schools, I feel confident saying that I truly feel that the Richland Bank Broadway series at the Renaissance is some of the best live theatre around.

As we prepare to open one of the most beautiful shows I know of, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I find myself reflecting on some of my personal favorites from my past five years employed at the Ren. I’d love to hear what your favorite moments have been, so be sure to comment or tell us on Facebook!

Les Miserables

Les Miserables, Photo by Jeff Sprang 2014

Les Miserables, Photo by Jeff Sprang 2014

This show was the very first I ever saw on Broadway, and remains one of my most favorite performances at the Renaissance. The cast was truly incredible – every single role was perfection – and the story still makes my heart beat a little fast.

Hot Mess

Hot Mess the Musical photo by Jeff Sprang

Hot Mess the Musical photo by Jeff Sprang

Original productions are one of the most awesome things the Renaissance offers to the community. Our dynamite Artistic Director Michael Thomas brings a wealth of experience and creativity to our stage every time he directs, but it’s on another level when he writes the shows. Hot Mess is screamingly funny while telling a great story with a relevant cultural message. If we did this show every weekend, I’d be in a seat every time.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol, Photo by Jeff Sprang 2016

A Christmas Carol, Photo by Jeff Sprang 2016

We performed this show more than a year ago, but I still find myself thinking about it. The setting of the show was stripped down, allowing for the story and the beautifully composed music to shine. I have always liked A Christmas Carol, but this performance made me love it.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast, Photo by Jeff Sprang 2016

Beauty and the Beast, Photo by Jeff Sprang 2016

When I think about this production, I remember how delighted my daughter was by the show, how mesmerized I was by the music, but above all, I remember the set. Jason Kaufman and his team built this intricate, lacy false proscenium that still dazzles me when I think of it. The commitment to detail in that show was breathtaking.

See our Richland Bank Broadway Series Lineup Here

Maddie Beer Sister Act Photo by Jeff Sprang 2017

Great Mansfield Dates for Galentine’s/Valentine’s Day

by Audra DeLaney and Colleen Cook

Whether you’re celebrating with your friends or with a significant other, the week of Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a lonely hearts club. Mansfield is packed with great options for a fun night out, especially if you’re looking for something creative. Audra and Colleen have programmed two great evenings for you to spend out this Valentine’s Day Weekend!

Audra’s Night Out

When my friends and I first got our driver’s licenses, we thought the only place to have fun in this area was in Ontario. Cinemark, Target and Menchie’s took over our lives until we realized that downtown Mansfield had copious amounts of joy and fun to offer.

Some of our favorite memories in recent months are full of hours spent downtown. We have so much fun exploring all Mansfield has to offer us. Here’s my suggestion for an awesome “Galentine’s Day” out with your girlfriends:

Shopping at Old Soul Vintage Attire and Records  

One of my new favorite places downtown is Old Soul Vintage Attire and Records. The store just celebrated its one year anniversary and their selection is remarkable. When you first walk in the door, a selection of rings, bracelets and necklaces are on your left. As your walk further into the store, you see vintage attire on your left and records on your right. Both types of items range in price, but are quality and fun to sift through. My friends and I rave about this place and have all purchased shirts and records from it. I have even given a few items as gifts!

Dinner at City Grille  

My love for flat bread pizza intensified after my first visit to City Grille and Bar. A restaurant specializing in American cuisine, the menu is diverse and absolutely phenomenal. I am partial to the spinach and bruschetta flatbread, as well as the fried pickles, spinach artichoke dip and the veggie wrap. The environment is filled with great music and enough room for medium sized groups. Grab your girls and go try their daily food and drink specials.

Ice Cream at The Chill 

Now I know its winter but, but I sure do love ice cream no matter what the temperature is outside and Valentine’s Day is all about chocolate and sweets. The Chill, an ice cream parlor downtown near Richland Academy of Arts, opened last summer and offers a wide variety of ice cream treats in a modern venue, as it is adjacent to owner Tara Beaire’s floral shop. The ice cream served is Toft’s and I enjoy just a plain mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. Speciality treats are also on the menu, which makes the shop worth it to check out any time of year.

Show at The Renaissance Theatre 

Our 90-year-old theatre is the perfect place to laugh, cry and sing with friends who mean so much to you. I have done it a time or two and I will never regret it. Our goal is make sure the Renaissance is a place for those in our community to come together in the spirits of friendship and solidarity for all things art. Our schedule is packed with thrilling, hilarious and heart-warming events to end our season so reserve a seat for a show today and make sure your friends do the same.

Drinks at Martini’s on Main 

Those at Martini’s on Main are passionate about giving those who walk through their doors the best experience possible. They are passionate about what they do and offer expertise on what drink will suit you best, and no, they do not only serve martinis. Other offerings include bottled beer, craft beer, mixed drinks options, liquor and wine. The atmosphere is also enjoyable with live music and pizza options that are unique to the establishment itself.

Colleen’s Night Out

When my husband and I were dating as Ashland University students, we had no idea how many fun things Mansfield had to offer. Many of our early date nights were spent browsing the shelves at Barnes and Noble and eating Chipotle – which was lovely and is still something we enjoy doing on occasion, but a far cry from taking advantage of the more unique options available to us in our area.

Some of our favorite nights out in Mansfield in recent years have included evenings spent at some of the locally-owned places that make our region so unique. Here’s my suggestion for an awesome Valentine’s Day night out:

Dinner at Saffron Indian Cuisine

I am more than a little obsessed with Saffron – their food is spectacular, and their owners are delightful. I’m a little timid when it comes to spicy food, but that’s never been a problem there. The owners are incredible chefs who have a good sense of what level of spice appeals to people in our region, and can always dial up the heat if that’s your thing. I recommend the Palak Paneer or the Lamb Saag, but everything’s incredible. Be sure to get dessert and order Gulab Jamun!

Wine Tasting at Cypress Hill

Mansfield and its surrounding regions have some pretty spectacular options when it comes to wine and ale – we even have our own Wine and Ale Trail! One of my favorite cozy spots is Cypress Hill Winery on 4th Street in Downtown Mansfield. The wine is outstanding, the owners are knowledgable, and the ambiance of the location is just right for a romantic night out for two. I’m a particular fan of Cypress’ Dry Riesling, if you like a semi-sweet white wine.

Escape Room

One of the most fun dates my husband and I have gone on in the past few years has been to do an escape room together. These interactive experiences range from spooky to silly as they put you into a live-action game in which you have to search for clues and solve puzzles to find the way out of a scenario. There are several great options in our area, and more are always popping up. We have successfully completed and thoroughly enjoyed the rooms at Exithis and Masterminds.

Drinks at Phoenix

Phoenix Brewing Company is one of our absolute favorite options for a good beer and great environment. They frequently have live music, the beer selection is outstanding, and the beautifully restored space is top notch. Their beer selection rotates seasonally, but we like the Pale Ale 419.


Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

A Return to Film

by Colleen Cook

When our patrons who have been longtime Mansfield residents think about the Renaissance Theatre, they often recall fondly their visits to the Ohio Theatre to see movies throughout their formative years. When our theatre opened, it was as a movie palace that provided a considerable stage and dressing rooms for live acts.

In recent years, the Renaissance has only occasionally offered films as part of our programming, for a number of reasons. Securing the rights to films can be very costly, and certain films require highly expensive and frequent upgrades to projection technology that would put severe limitations on the live programming we’re able to offer. With a great cinema nearby, film is not an avenue we’ve sought to aggressively pursue.

All the while, though, we are deeply aware of our roots in film, and have been more than eager to be able to include film as a more regular part of our programming. We spent the past two years restoring and upgrading the projectors in our projection booth, which were actually original to the (now demolished) Madison Theatre down the street.

So, when a community leader, Chuck Hahn, approached us about launching a Stephen King Film Festival, we were more than eager to jump on board. As the series developed, we’ve partnered as well with the Mansfield/Richland Public Library and will be able to include expert speakers talking about the film and Stephen King prior to many of the films in the exciting lineup.

Thanks to the financial support of Charles P. Hahn, Cleveland Financial and the Mansfield/Richland Public Library, tickets are only $5 for each of the films in the series.

You can see the full Stephen King Film Festival lineup here.