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_SawyerBrown2018-PhotobyJeffSprang

Arts Resolutions for 2018

By Audra DeLaney

The month of January is wrapping up. For most of us, breaking one of our new year’s resolutions didn’t take too much time. While we hope you stick to your resolutions, no matter how many setbacks you have, we wanted to give you a look into how you can add the arts in Mansfield to your 2018 resolutions, even if it is almost February.

1. Attend an event at the Renaissance Theatre. 

We hit the ground running in 2018. First, we celebrated our 90th Anniversary with multiple events during the week of January 15. In the coming weeks, Renaissance Youth Opera Theatre (RYOT) will perform The Slipper and The Rose on February 3 at 7 PM and February 4 at 3 PM. The Mansfield Symphony Orchestra presents The Planets on February 10 at 8 PM. Finally, Michael Thomas and cast presents The Hunchback of Notre Dame on March 3 and 10 at 8 PM and March 4 and 11 at 230 PM. A schedule for the remaining events of the season can be found on the Event Schedule on our website.

2. Sign your child up for a class at Richland Academy of the Arts 

According to its website, the Richland Academy of the Arts exists to provide quality programming in both arts, education, and development. Richland Academy offers programs in dance, music, visual arts, and theatre. Classes for varying skill levels and ages are offered. Visit the Richland Academy Calendar for more information.

3. Check out the offerings at the Mansfield Playhouse.

The Mansfield Playhouse mission statement states it is building on its legacy of being the second oldest continuously-producing playhouse in Ohio by enriching and educating audiences and volunteers, and reaching beyond the walls of the Playhouse to embrace all elements of the community. Auditions for Say You Tomatoes will be February 27 and 28 with performances on April 27 and 28 as well as May 4, 5, and 6. The Mansfield Playhouse will also be showcasing performances of Disney’s Mulan Jr. Auditions will be held April 10 and 11 with performances on June 8, 9, 15, 16, and 17. For more information such as audition materials, showtimes, and ticket prices visit the shows tab on The Mansfield Playhouse website.

4. Head over to Richland Source After Hours concerts.

Richland Source has made a buzz in the Mansfield community since its founding in 2013. Richland Source may be known for its news reporting, but it is also known for its concert series called Richland Source After Hours. Richland Source After Hours is a monthly concert series held in Idea Works. Local musicians perform original works and covers in front of community members. For more information on show dates and times for this year, visit the Richland Source Facebook page.

5. Stop in to Element of Art’s First Friday event each month. 

Located in the Carrousel District, Element of Art is a nonprofit art gallery that showcases the talents and offerings of professional artists living with developmental disabilities. The space offers gallery for exhibition and sale of artwork as well as working studio space. Element of Art offers a variety of classes and hosts an event on the first Friday of every month for the public. At each event, live music is performed and the public is invited to listen as well as browse the selection of arts pieces for sale. It is an uplifting environment that showcases the diverse talent of Mansfield artists and musicians. For more information on upcoming classes or February’s first Friday event, visit Element of Art Studio / Gallery on Facebook.

Each year, we challenge ourselves on January 1 to break bad habits, build strong relationships and experience life in new ways. Art brings all of these goals together in Mansfield. As well, art teaches us that although we may not be perfect, we are able to learn, grow, give and love in ways we may not think possible. This is not a definite list of all the places in Mansfield that are filled to the brim with creativity, inspiration, and passion. All of the places here who use the arts as a way to connect with the community have one message to share: take care of yourself, even when you take a step backwards, and know that in this community, artists will make you laugh, cry, sing, dance, and enjoy the year you have been given.

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.

 

Merry Christmas, from the Renaissance!

The Staff of the Renaissance

When it comes to Christmas, it may be our favorite time of the year as a staff. We love seeing the theatre decked out, the holiday lineup of shows, and the goodies that show up in our staff workroom all month long are simply the best (we don’t have a bad cook on our staff)!

It’s also a great time of the year to reflect on the past year and feel extra grateful for the people who have made it another great year for the arts and culture in Mansfield. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may you be reminded of the many good things in your life this holiday season.

Warmest wishes,

The Renaissance Staff

Celebrating 90 Years of Growth

As we mentioned last week, we’re in the midst of an Annual Fund Campaign, which you can participate in here. This year, our goal is to raise $110,000, and we’ve already secured $45,000 in matching gifts to help us get there together.

2018 marks our theatre’s 90th Anniversary since opening in a blizzard in January 1928. We treasure these 90 years as Mansfield’s home for outstanding arts and entertainment, and look forward to celebrating them with you throughout our 90th Anniversary Weekend.