Category Archives: Theatre

Assistant Directing Newsies

By Nik Demers

I have loved Theatre as far back as I can remember. Whether it’s acting, designing, building sets, stage managing, etc., I love getting to see a show come together from the ground up. Seeing live theatre was what sparked that love for me when I was a little kid, and the first shows I ever saw were right here at The Renaissance Theatre. Despite coming to see many shows over the years, Newsies is the first production I have gotten involved with and I’m so glad that I finally did. It is home to a wonderful and incredibly talented group of people that we are so lucky to have in our community.

The Newsies set

The Newsies set

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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.

Web_Renaissance-Theatre-photo-by-Jeff-Sprang

Thank You for 90 Years

by Colleen Cook

This past weekend, we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the opening of our theatre, but we’re really celebrating this big milestone all season long. The reality is, our history is rich with the legacy of countless people who gave their time, their talents, and their resources to preserve our venue as a vibrant source of arts and culture for future generations.

It’s hard to imagine how many people have sat inside our auditorium, how many have stood upon our stage, how many have volunteered countless hours, or made a sacrificial donation to invest in the arts in Mansfield.  When you talk to lifelong Mansfielders, so many share memories of growing up coming to films at the Ohio, or as they get younger, shows and concerts at the Renaissance. The reality is, this incredible space holds special memories for nearly everyone who has sat in one of its seats.

I’ve been on staff for five years, and while I’ve heard about some incredible shows and seen many more, what I’ve loved is hearing your stories of first dates, proposals, parents and grandparents, and time shared under our magnificent chandelier. The arts and entertainment bring people together – we were created to share stories with the ones we care about, and those are the things that bind the Renaissance/the Ohio to our hearts.

When I bring my own small children into our space, I’m proud to create new memories in this special historic venue with them too. My daughter has seen more live theatre and music in her four short years than I had by the time I graduated high school, and I’m so grateful to have this space in our town to cement a lifelong love for the arts and entertainment.

So, thank you. Thank you for investing, for attending, for volunteering, for committing, and for performing. Thank you for believing that Mansfield deserves great arts and culture. Thank you for the past ninety years, and for the next ninety. We are so grateful.

Renaissance Chandelier Restoration 2015 photo by Jeff Sprang

The Ohio Reborn

by Colleen Cook

Ninety years is more than most people get to enjoy on earth. Mansfield has changed in so many ways over the past 90 years, our world has changed in so many ways, the fact that anything remains the same is nothing short of a miracle.

Yet, here we are in 2018 and Mansfield still flocks to the same beautiful venue for arts and entertainment. The Renaissance Theatre opened as the Ohio Theatre in 1928, and was for many years a popular destination for cinema and traveling acts. By the 1960s and into the 1970s, though, movie palaces declined severely in popularity, and nearly every theatre like the Ohio was victim to the age of television and multiplexes. One-screen movie palaces just couldn’t compete.

Renaissance quite literally means “rebirth,” and the theatre’s name change in 1980 could not have been more apt for the story that followed. In the late 1970s, the theatre had closed following public outrage as it had become a XXX film house.

Around the same time, the Miss Ohio Pageant committee had been searching for a venue large enough to house the pageant and with the capacity to do a television broadcast of the state pageant. The committee came into the space and cleaned it up (I’ve heard from individuals on that committee that it was in a very sorry state at that point).  A local group of community-minded individuals had been working to save the Madison Theatre down the street, and redirected their efforts to the Ohio Theatre.  Philanthropists Fran and Warren Rupp purchased the venue and donated it to the group, renaming it to the Renaissance Theatre.

In the mid-1980s, a $2.25 million capital campaign successfully restored the space and repurposed it as a performing arts center. The restoration was completed by Richland Renovating, the same group who completed the plaster, paint, and silk updates over the past two years at the theatre. A new theatre organ was installed, this time a magnificent Mighty Wurlitzer (the theatre’s original Kimball Organ had been sold off by prior owners), and fixtures from the Leland Hotel and the Sturges Mansion were later integrated into the theatre as well.


Celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the theatre with us at our 90th Anniversary Weekend – learn more here.

January 18, 1928 Mansfield News Promo

90 Years of Entertainment

by Colleen Cook

The Renaissance is celebrating a really big birthday this year – it’s the 90th anniversary of our theatre opening on Park Avenue West in Mansfield.

The Ohio Theatre was a big deal to Mansfield well before it opened on a cold January night in 1928. There were already several theatres in town, including two run by the same company that built the Ohio, but the Ohio promised to be the biggest and most modern of them all. It was advertised as Mansfield’s $500,000 theatre, which would be $7 million in today’s dollars – no small investment!

In 1928, silent films accompanied by theatre organs were the craze, and movie palaces and vaudeville houses were all over the country. The Ohio Theatre ran four showings a day, year-round, charging around 50 cents per showing. The first film shown at the theatre starred Clara Bow, a film sensation at the time, and was called “Get Your Man,” telling the story of a man and a woman who had been betrothed as infants by their parents, and who met later in life and fell in love.

Like many building projects in Mansfield, and beyond, the construction and opening of the venue was optimistic and ultimately, delayed. They had hoped to open by Christmas 1927, but delays in construction materials slowed the process and delayed the opening until January 19, 1928.

The news articles at the time indicate a general concern and frustration with the delays, given a slightly unconventional construction process that left a large pit for what was perceived as too long as the team waited for materials. As we all know now in hindsight, those concerns were unmerited given the long tenure of the theatre on Park Avenue West since.

The Ohio Theatre was designed by Cleveland architect Nicola Petti. At the time, he had also designed several Cleveland-area theatres, including the Variety Theatre built at the same time as the Ohio with many similar design features. Nicola Petti designed a small handful of theatres before his untimely death in 1929, and only four of those remain standing today including the Renaissance.

The opening night advertisement for the theatre dedicated it to, “the future progress of Mansfield.” How true those words have been over the past 90 years, as we today continue to utilize this space to welcome tens of thousands each year for arts, entertainment, conversation, and community.

This month, we’ll highlight some of the significant moments in the past 90 years as we gear up to celebrate. We hope you’ll join us to celebrate this monumental occasion – learn more about our 90th Anniversary Weekend here.

 

Maddie Beer Sister Act - Photo by Jeff Sprang

Pro-Tips for Auditioning for Theatre

by Colleen Cook

At the Renaissance, we frequently have auditions running for upcoming productions. The audition is a critical moment for any performer, because it’s your chance to show your best self and potentially secure the part of your dreams. For our casting teams, auditions are challenging because so many talented individuals show up and perform well, and many factors (age, look, personality, etc.) all go into the final casting decision.

If you’re curious what auditions are upcoming, we keep all of our audition information current on our website, and we also post our cast lists there as well; we also try to keep our social media audience informed on our Facebook page. Each type of production has a slightly different process for auditioning: some register for specific time slots and specify what they’d like to hear and see, others offer an open process where there is more flexibility. When in doubt, follow directions and be flexible in the moment!

Our artistic team has offered up some pro-tips for having a better audition. Here are our top tips, and a few things to avoid:

Tips:

“Be prepared, flexible, respectful, focused and friendly. The auditors take notice of you the second you walk into the room, so be self-assured but not arrogant. Roll with the punches and do what is ask of you to the best of your ability without apologizing or making excuses. Producers and casting agents know that big egos cause big problems. Act like a professional, don’t tell them you’re a professional.” – Michael Thomas

 

“Be pleasant throughout the audition process. We watch you, and try to engage with you, from the moment we first meet you. If we sense a challenging attitude, it may not matter how well you audition. As directors, we need to know that you are willing to work WITH us; and that we can successfully communicate with you.” – Dauphne Maloney

 

“When approaching an audition, and while in the audition process, fully commit to everything you’re asked to do!  If you’re asked to read for a role that doesn’t interest you, do it anyway. Still apply yourself; use your training, skills, and experience to show us the best of what you’ve got (don’t try to “throw,” or sway an audition by downplaying your ability to audition well in ANY role.)” – Dauphne Maloney

 

“If it’s a musical audition, have several varying selections prepared. The auditors may not like your choice and may want to hear something different. Have your music clearly marked and in a three ring binder. No accordion/taped-together mess that flows over both ends of the piano. No loose sheets. If your music is a Xerox copy, make sure the music is printed on both sides, so there are less page turns. Clearly mark where you’re beginning and ending, taking liberties with tempo, pauses, ritards, etc. If there is a coda or you’re going back to a certain part of the music, print that sheet out again so your accompanist doesn’t have to flip through the pages to find the right spot.” – Michael Thomas

 

“Don’t audition unless you’re willing to accept any role.” – Lori Turner

 

“Come in the room and make us believe that whatever you do is what you meant to do.” – Kelly Knowlton

 

“Be familiar with the show and the composer, and select audition material that is aligned with that show/role/composer’s style.” – Lori Turner

 

“Be clear, concise and friendly to the pianist – even if they mangle the accompaniment to your song. Soldier on as best you can. The auditors know it’s not your fault, you don’t need to point it out.” – Michael Thomas

 

 

Pet Peeves/Things to Avoid:

 

“Worst for me is when someone comes in the room and is apologetic or making excuses for their performance.” – Kelly Knowlton

 

“Don’t bombard the auditors with excuses – such as: you’ve recently had a bad cold, you’re nervous, you haven’t had time to adequately prepare, etc.” – Michael Thomas

 

“Starting off your audition by telling me the reason you may not sing your best that day.” – Lori Turner

 

…sensing a theme here???

 

“When someone is unprepared or underprepared, without having music explicitly marked for the accompanist, and copping an attitude when things don’t go perfectly.” – Kelly Knowlton

 

“When a performer auditions with the wrong style of music for the show they’re auditioning for.” – Lori Turner

 

“Don’t overstay your welcome or try to be hilarious.” – Michael Thomas

 

“Children choosing to sing songs which are inappropriate for their playable age; for example: “I Dreamed a Dream, ” from Les Miserables–sung by a seven-year-old. A more appropriate choice for/from that show would be “Castle on a Cloud.” – Dauphne Maloney

Educational Impact of Theatre Renaissance Performing Arts

5 Reasons You Should Take Your Teen to the Theatre

Yes, we’re biased, but research indicates that the benefits of taking your teen to the theatre are countless. Whether you’re planning your outings for the school year, thinking ahead to the holidays, or spontaneously trying to change up your routine, live arts and entertainment should find a place in your calendar for these great reasons!

  1. Live theatre is beneficial to students’ educational development
    Educational Impact of Theatre Renaissance Performing Arts

    Among many others, University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform cites that arts attendance for students enhances literary knowledge, tolerance, empathy and holds “significant benefits in the form of knowledge, future cultural consumption, tolerance, historical empathy and critical thinking.”
  2. Theatre attendance develops appreciation for the arts and the community
    Web_Renaissance-Theatre-photo-by-Jeff-Sprang
    Engaging in your community’s cultural assets and experiencing excellent arts & entertainment in your town will develop a lifelong appreciation and investment for your impressionable teen.
  3. It forces them to “unplug” for the evening
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    Parents are increasingly aware of the damage being done to their teens through smartphone use with frightening statistics on loneliness, suicide rates, depression being tied to smartphone use. Giving them an opportunity to be engaged among a crowd of people, outside their bedroom, without looking at a screen is a bigger deal than we ever realized.
  4. It develops empathy and a sense of belonging
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    Humans are hard-wired for story. When you can engage with story through the performing arts, you are more likely to understand foreign ideas and concepts, develop empathy for those who are different from you, and feel that you are not alone when working through a personal challenge or transition.
  5. It’s an opportunity for your family to bond
    Christmas Carol 2017 Renaissance Theatre

    Raising teenagers is challenging, and it can be increasingly hard to connect emotionally in everyday conversation. Bonding through a shared hobby or interest, such as theatre attendance, creates a safe place for open conversation and shared time that can feel like a breath of fresh air for both parent and child.

Why do you come to the theatre? Tell us in the comments.