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Dayton Theatre Guild’s Cover of Life a winner

The magic of live theater can be equal to the sum of all the parts. There are plays where the final equation is a disproportionate result of those forces.

A Great Shakespeare play can survive a weak cast or interpretation.  A flawed play can be elevated by great acting and direction. The Dayton Theatre Guild offering, R. T. Robinson’s The Cover of Life, is a perfect example of the latter premise.

The playwright looked back into that era of separation caused by World War II. Families were torn asunder as the men went to war and the women eked out their lives.  The men had adventure, danger, fear and belief in their cause to spur them on. The women had loneliness, mail, fear and allotment checks to keep them from benumbing depression.

There are a million real stories from that era called “the greatest generation.” Robinson chose an interesting scenario.  Based on his family, three brothers went to war.  Their wives, all “war widows” moved in with their mother-in-law for the duration. His play fictionalizes the sturm und drang of four women interacting under these frustrating stress-filled conditions.

A central crisis point of the play is the power of Life Magazine during those times. Life picked the story for the cover.  In those days, this was a form of immortality.  

The central characters, mother-in-law and the three daughters-in-law were played by Jennifer Lockwood, Angela Timpone, Holly Kuhn and Wendy Williams. The Life reporter charged with the story, Debra Strauss, was both chorus to the play and one of its main characters.  As the homegrown local reporter, Heather Martin had a meaty support role.  Vignette glimpses of the lone husband were revealed half in fantasy and half in reality by young Matt Curry.

The six women used the enlightened direction of Fran Pesch to create personae that exceeded the bounds of the play itself.  The flaw of the premise, the magazine article as a definition of existence, faded in the compelling interpretation of the time, the place and story.  

Each character was rounded into a reality and believability, making us care deeply. As the play unfolded into a tragedy, the literary truth was laid out for the audience with sensitive clarity.  

Cover of Life was performed on the customary impeccable Theatre Guild set by Greg Smith.  The company’s penchant for historic accuracy is most beguiling and worked to perfection for this play.

Holiday season filled with Arts venues

There are enough issues in our lives today to dismay us.  The economic collapse, the hopelessness of war and the threat of the bloody hands and feet of terrorism color each day.  What we have to counter those forces is the abundance of art available at our doorsteps.  

This holiday season is an incredible case in point.  There are performances and exhibitions in every venue guaranteed to delight us.

The Philharmonic program dominates the season.  Our orchestra plays and programs its music as well as any in the country.  Maestro Neal Gittleman has passionately introduced music of all eras to augment the standard repertory usually associated with a regional orchestra.  

This week includes a festival of the music of William Grant Still.  He is often called the “Dean of American Negro Composers.”  The orchestra will celebrate three of Still’s works as well as a quasi-American symphony, Dvorák’s “New World.”  These classical concerts are on Thursday and Saturday of this week.

If you are still eager for more, the Friday Classical Connections will go deeper into the music and life of the composer.  Pianist Everett Jones, Wilberforce professor, will appear as piano soloist in the music of fellow Wilberforce alumnus, Still.  Soprano Adrienne Dandrich, a Dayton Opera Star, gives a recital of Still’s opera music at UD’s Sears Hall on Wednesday and the multi-talented Stivers’ young persons will give a recital Saturday afternoon.

Add to this the Dayton Ballet’s irrepressible Nutcracker extravaganza from Dec. 12-21.  The Human Race lets Scrooge fall in love with Tiny Tim in their A Christmas Carol production from Dec. 4-21.  Musica! gives a pair of concerts of their incredible singing on Dec. 13 and 14.  And, Hallelujah, The Messiah can be heard thrice at different venues by the DPO, soloists and chorus on Dec. 13-14.

Don’t forget the DAI’s marvelous exhibitions and the Dayton Visual Arts Center for exhibits and gift purchases.  For my arts calendar information, I go to Dayton Public Radio’s web site at  Click on Arts Calendar and be prepared to be delightfully exhausted by all there is to do.  No gloom permitted in the Miami Valley this December.

You can end the year with the Philharmonic’s Gala New Years’ Eve concert and then about 50 football games the next day.

Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra concert

Fourteen high school students from Kettering and Oakwood will be performing in the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s concert at the Schuster Sunday, Dec. 7, at 3 p.m. The concert will include the Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel; The Incredible Flutist by Walter Piston; and Mass of the Children  by John Rutter. The Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, founded in 1937 by Paul Katz, is one of the nation’s oldest youth orchestras. Students from across the Dayton region audition to be in the orchestra. These students are, from left to right, standing: Zach Jarrell (bass, FHS), David Locke (horn, FHS), Louis Weyrauch (bass, FHS), Joshua Neiman (bass, FHS), Chelsea Robbins (bass, FHS), Christian Schlorman (bass, FHS), Josh Halpern (cello, OHS), George Frazier (violin, FHS), Jesse Hill (oboe, FHS),  Rachel Sales (violin, FHS), Phillip Osterday (percussion, FHS). Kneeling: Lauren Yu (viola, Miami Valley School), Ellen Milligan (violin, OHS), Clara Hofeldt (violin, OHS). Comprised of many of the most talented musicians in the Dayton area, the nearly 100-member DPYO will also perform at the Schuster Center on March 1 and May 3, 2009.

Youth piano competition seeks entries

The Dayton Chamber Music Society is calling for entries to the Eleanor McCann Piano Competition for Youth which will take place April 4, 2009 at Christ Episcopal Church, 20 W. First St. in Downtown Dayton.  First place prize is $1,000; second place prize is $500.

The competition is being held in memory of the late Ms. Eleanor McCann who “dedicated her life to the introduction of area young people to the excitement of music and its developmental effects,” according to the announcement received.

The number of finalists will be limited to a maximum of eight to ten and will be chosen from CD recordings. Each finalist will be allowed a total playing time of twenty minutes.

The competition is open to contestants between grades 9 and 12 as of the 2008-09 school year (no exceptions) and must reside in Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Clark, Warren, Clinton or Preble County.

To receive an application form and entrance procedure requirements, call 436-2603 or e mail a request to Materials must be postmarked no later than February 14.

Human Race scholarship accepting applications

The Human Race Theatre Company has opened the application process for the 2nd Annual Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Scholarships, which are designed to support singer/actors in the Dayton area who are training for musical theatre careers. The scholarships - $3,500 for a current college student, $1,500 for a high school student accepted into a college musical theatre program.

Students with permanent addresses in Montgomery, Preble, Darke, Miami, Clark, Greene, Warren or Butler counties or who are currently enrolled at a college in one of those counties are eligible to apply. Complete application information can be found at The application deadline is Nov. 24, 2008.

Preliminary auditions will be held in December, with the final audition before a live audience next April.



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December 2, 2008
Volume 17, No. 49

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