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Blackbird String Quartet debuts at DPO concert

Returning from a wonderful week of skiing in Alta, Utah means playing “catch up” with Dayton’s arts coverage.  Of course, Dayton had its share of snow which was tame compared to the mountains of Utah.

There were so many events cancelled as a result of the storm.  Most notable were the concerts of the Philharmonic with soloist Rachel Barton Pine.  The Friday concert was cancelled.  The Saturday concert was impossible since many of the musicians were snowbound.  Undaunted, the versatile staff of the Philharmonic and Rachel’s enthusiasm created a solo recital for all who braved the elements.

The experience was enhanced by the appearance of the Blackbird String Quartet. This student group of serious budding musicians, composed of Clara Hofeldt, Ellen Milligan, Amy Malone and Josh Halpern, was slated to play in the Wintergarden before the concert.  In true “a star is born” fashion, they appeared with Rachel on stage to the delight of the audience. I was glad to be skiing, but sorry to miss this wonderful debut.

Before I left for the mountains, I heard the Miami Valley Symphony in a most unusual concert. Playing in the vibrant acoustics of Shiloh Church under the baton of Antioch’s James Johnston, the program included Franck’s D Minor Symphony and Berlioz’ familiar New Year ’s Eve treat, the Rákóczy March.

The highlight of the concert was Félicien David’s Le Désert.  Both the composer and the work were unknown to me and nearly all of the audience.  Composed in 1844, it is a most compelling outpouring of homage for Middle Eastern culture, particularly the Arab love for the desert and its beauties. Narrated in perfect French by Ryan Boasi and sung in equally perfect tenor voice by Marshall Dean, the experience was unforgettable.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

After this unique and new experience came a challenging retelling of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Dayton Playhouse.  It was a surprising co-equal to Le Désert.

Albee’s play is a tormenting experience for the four actors and for the audience. The play is a true distillation of invective.  Two couples cut and slash at each other for nearly three hours.  Every nerve is exposed to pain and torment.  Every secret and every fault is laid bare to serve as a battering ram of demoralization.

The film version with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Sandy Dennis and George Segal has crystallized the personae of the characters. To produce the play with local actors seemed to be an impossible task.  To make it personally more difficult, director Craig Smith had selected two very close friends as the protagonists.

Chuck Larkowski is a treasure as an actor, orchestra conductor and WSU music professor.  Pam McGinnis has proven herself to be quite an actress in many local roles. All, including the cast, were nervous about this challenge. Everyone was amazed at the seamless intensity which McGinnis, Larkowski, Matt Biesner and Amy Brooks were able to muster to keep the drama in motion.

The play was an unqualified success.  It was, in fact, fascinating and challenging to the audience and a true disseminator of Albee’s great language.  Kudos to the entire cast, director Craig Smith, set designer Chris Harmon and the entire staff of Dayton Playhouse for “showing us their guts.”    

WSU Winter Dance Concert

The WSU dance program under the leadership of Teressa Wylie McWilliams is growing impressively. Dance icon Jon Rodriguez has “retired” to emeritus status but remains active.  To enhance the program, Gina Walther, known for her stellar career with Dayton Ballet and DCDC as Gina Gardner, has joined the faculty.  Also, Dayton Ballet star Justin Gibbs is returning from Columbus to join Gina as professors of dance.    

The Winter Dance Concert is one I often miss due to skiing.  This year, I realized what I have been missing.  If you love ballet repertory, this was a real treat.

Unfortunately, I cannot name the individual dancers. Suffice it to say that the company is full of flashing smiles, excellent technique and beautiful aspiring performers.  I was truly impressed.

Choreography was the key to the success of this concert.  By selecting choreographic excellence, the dancers were challenged and inspired.  Jon Rodriguez had two works, each a nostalgia trip for Dayton Ballet fans.  His Olé and Bushido are well remembered.  Each, full of ethnic flavor, had the essence of fine dance and creative innovation.

Gina Walther’s contributions were full of her joy of dance.  Using ballet techniques combined with DCDC moves, Why We Like Falling Down is best described as a “hot ballet done to cool tempi.”  Later in the program, her Reverence for Life-Homage to Albert Schweitzer, took dance, music and creativity to a new level.  Dancers, stunning in combinations of red and black, some on pointe, others in bare feet, danced sensitively to the music of Bach, synthesized into something new and yet completely recognizable.  This is a work which demands repeating with other companies to explore its strength and nuance.

Teressa McWilliams presented Cost, a protest ballet full of intensive emotion, folk melodies and dramatic moves highlighted by equally dramatic lighting.  She joined with Greg Hellems in Pulse, an abstract work which used spins, leaps and dramatic gestures to the fullest.      

Guest choreographers William McClellan of DCDC fame and Gregory Graham each showed their remarkable creativity.  McClellan’s The Street Children was a display of frenetic dancing, full of the fear of rag-dressed homelessness.  In the best DCDC tradition, his dancers, led by Dwight Williams who dances like McClellan himself, created a powerful and evocative ballet.

Graham introduced two Pinter-like characters to lead a whimsical dance, Black Tambourine, full of humorous angst – if there is such a thing.  Karen Russo’s Dayton Ballet II Senior Company joined the program.  They danced a charming evocation of the square dance, Dos a Dos, on pointe with joy.

Personal Revelations by senior student Sarah Starker was the true measure of the excellence of the WSU program. An abstract ballet, charmingly costumed, was danced to the haunting beauty of Yo-Yo Ma’s Gabriel’s Oboe.  

Sarah had her dancers explore the transitions of dance. First came compelling sinuous arm gestures, then interesting body postures and finally, the legs.  Each change of tempo called for movements perfectly fit to the music.

Congratulations to all the WSU dancers.  We’ll see your names in lights someday
Another “don’t miss.”  The Human Race play at the Loft Theatre, Rabbit Hole, is a tough but compelling drama.  It tackles the hardest subject possible, death of a child.  It does it with sensitivity through great acting.  You can experience it through March 30th.  Review next week.

Fiber Arts scholarship offered

Barbara Kuhlman was born and spent her childhood in Dayton, Ohio. She attended Oakwood HS and graduated in 1943. Ms. Kuhlman spent most of her adult life in the pursuit of gaining and sharing knowledge in the field of  Fiber Art.

Thanks to her generosity, the Kuhlman Foundation is dedicated to providing scholarships to outstanding Oakwood High School students (current seniors or graduates) pursuing a four-year degree in Fiber Art.

Related fields of study will be considered to include: wearable art, weaving, pattern design, and fashion design. Information about application: 

Haydn’s Creation to be performed

The Creation, Haydn’s musical masterpiece has been rescheduled to Friday, March 28 at 8 p.m., at the Kettering Adventist Church. The performance, portraying the glory of God’s creation of the world, will feature the Kettering Church Choir and
Orchestra, directed by Jerry Taylor. Admission is free.  

The church is located at the corner of Stroop Rd. and Southern Blvd., across from Kettering Hospital.  For more information please call 298-2167.

Fraze ticket office extended hours

Beginning Saturday, March 22, the Fraze Ticket Office will open for the season with extended hours! Regular hours will be Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The ticket office will also remain open on show days through intermission.

“We believe these new hours will be much more convenient for our guests,” remarks Karen Durham, Fraze Pavilion General Manager. Tickets to all events may be purchased at the Fraze Pavilion Ticket Office and through all Ticketmaster outlets,, and Charge-By-Phone.

With the extended ticket office hours at Fraze Pavilion, tickets are no longer available for purchase at the Kettering Recreation Complex (KRC).

DSPS Call for Entries

DSPS (The Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors) invites artists 18 years and older to enter their Annual Juried Open Spring Show in any of five catagories:


Entries will be judged by pre-eminent artist Yan Sun, Associate Professor of Art and Director of Art Gallery at Muskingum University. Over $1500 in prize money will be awarded.

For more information and prospectus contact: Nancy Fisher at 937-297-0916 or

Friday Fling in the Springs slated March 21

Share in “The Spirit of Yellow Springs” on March 21 at the 3rd Friday Fling in the Springs with shopping, eating and activities happening around town.

Special Friday Fling features include wine-making demonstrations and beer tasting at Main Squeeze and our Find (Free) Art Fridays, with our own art fairies leaving little pieces of art around town for you to find.

Every Friday in Yellow Springs visitors can enjoy wine tasting and live music at The Emporium; live music at Peach’s Grill starting at 10 p.m., movies at the Little Art Theatre at 7 and 9:15 p.m. and dinner in any of our wonderful restaurants.  

At each participating location you visit, you’ll be able to enter the Prize Package Drawing featuring wonderful items from our local businesses.  Our prizes for March include a Shiatsu Massage session from Moore Than Massage and an Irwin Inman photo book from Yellow Springs Books Liquidator.

For more information, please contact the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce at 937-767-2686 or visit

Schwartz finalists to perform at the Loft April 26

Eight talented young people with local ties will be performing unusual auditions April 26 – unusual and very special.  Instead of singing in front of a director or a professor or two, they’ll be at The Loft Theatre downtown, in front of a crowd that will include one of the foremost musical theatre composers of our age….and the public is invited.

The eight are the finalists for the first Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Scholarships from The Human Race Theatre, Dayton’s own professional producing company. The Human Race, which has gained a national reputation for development of new musicals, announced the scholarships in September, when it was presenting Schwartz’ newest work, SNAPSHOTS: A Musical Scrapbook.

Two scholarships will be awarded to students either from this area or going to school here, thanks to the generosity of long-time Human Race supporters Tim and Char Scroggins. Applications were taken last fall, and the finalists chosen after a first round of auditions.

One scholarship is $1500, for a high school senior planning to major in musical theatre. Finalists for that award are Centerville’s Alexandra Finke of Alter High, who played the title characters in Muse Machine productions of Thoroughly Modern Millie and Peter Pan; Springboro High Senior Class President Andrew Koslow, recently seen as Troy in High School Musical; and Bethel High School’s Katelyn Yeager of New Carlisle, who won a DayTony Award for her performance in Fiddler on the Roof.

Four of the five college students vying for a $3500 scholarship are from Wright State – Eric Byrd of Maineville, recently Tony in West Side Story; Lindsay Flick of Fairfield, Anne in A Little Night Music; and Jerome Doerger of Cincinnati, seen at WSU in Urinetown and Aida.  JJ Tiemeyer is a Kettering Fairmont graduate and has been seen as Danny Zuko in Grease at WSU.  The final contender will be Jason Slattery of Miamisburg and Baldwin-Wallace College; Jason played Lumiere in The Muse Machine’s Beauty and the Beast.

Danielle Heaton, Oakwood High ‘05, had been one of the finalists on the college level, but had to withdraw because she’s in a college play in Boston that night (she goes to Emerson College).

Finalists will perform a Schwartz song picked by the judges committee, plus a song of their own choice. The audition show will be hosted by New York cabaret artist Brandon Cutrell, who performed at last year’s Human Race Mirror Ball.

The show begins at 7 p.m. April 26 in The Loft Theatre at 126 North Main, and Schwartz is planning to attend.

Tickets are $25, available by calling (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630 or via , where you can also learn about upcoming plays and other events from The Human Race.

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March 18, 2008
Volume 17, No. 12

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