Tag Archives: renaissance performing arts

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


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.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Careers in the Arts: Entertainment Writing

by Michael Thomas

When I was young, I never envisioned a career as a writer – let alone a writer in the entertainment industry. Admittedly, I had a rough start, primarily because, early on, when participating in a creative writing class in high school, I was told I was incapable of following direction. Successful writing, it seemed, was accomplished by following a strict, preordained outline – and any wandering from the path would result in failure. Here were the basic ground rules:

  • Don’t try to funny. Funny is frivolous.
  • Satire is snarky. No one likes a smart aleck.
  • Say what you have to say as uninterestingly as possible, cite some examples of something or other, throw in a quote, use similes and a metaphor or two and then move on.

One day we were asked to write an autobiography. I filled my pages with a random array of fantastical Candide-like adventures, and proudly handed it in – expecting my teacher to pass it right along to her “Hollywood uncle” who, she said, had connections because he’d been in several Laurel and Hardy shorts. While it should have been given a low grade due to its pedestrian attempt at humor, (more Mad Magazine than Voltaire), it was instead judged on its lack of footnotes and quotes from my grandmother. “This was NOT the assignment!” was smeared across the top of my story – right next to the C-. On page three, my teacher had clearly had enough and had angrily written “You were NEVER a narcoleptic used car salesman in Sarasota. This is NONSENSE!” So much for my writing career.

At the time, I had no idea that film and television shows required writers. Like most people, I assumed that actors just made it up as they went along. So it never occurred to me that I could forge a career out of script writing. I happened into writing by accident – or at least by necessity. As a kid I’d written funny sketches – mostly ideas stolen from Mel Brooks or the Carol Burnett Show. At 11 or 12, I thought they were pretty clever – but they didn’t require much thought or planning – and they never seemed to impress my target audience – which was anyone I could get to read them.

But then I went off to acting school, where you were always being called on to perform monologues. It seemed as though there were only six or seven monologues floating around at that time – and classmates were incredibly possessive of them. “You can’t do that monologue – that’s Bill’s! Bill does that one.” So, since I couldn’t hope to compete with Bill, I started writing my own monologues – which I’m pretty sure were terrible. When performing them, I’d say they were from a little-known Off Broadway play – and I’d assign them fancy Off Broadway play titles such as Hero’s Welcome, The Blossoms are Gone or The Milwaukee Trilogy. I’d invent playwrights with fancy Off Broadway names like Everett Sinclair, Tansy Langford or Pepper Covington. It was all pretty ridiculous, but in fairly short order, I discovered that I actually began to enjoy writing more that I enjoyed performing. Perhaps it was because, when writing, you can get up and make cinnamon toast or stop and watch kitchen gadget infomercials. You can’t do that as an actor.

After college, when I was trying to find work as an actor in Chicago, I came to the realization that it was easier for me to write and create my own material to perform – especially since no one seemed particularly interested in casting me in any of their shows. What began as a whim, quickly became a passion. I spent more and more time fussing over a script and less and less time worrying about auditions, callbacks or monologues.

When one of my early stage projects became cult hit in Chicago, I shifted gears once and for all and focused exclusively on writing. It was then that I discovered what opportunities existed for writers in the entertainment industry. Everyone, it seemed, needed a writer. And no one cared if you used quotes, similes or footnotes. The qualities that failed me so miserably in my high school creative writing class were the same qualities that made me unique and original.

Now I’m not saying you should ignore your teachers. They must know something because they have books and desks and lesson plans and most of them seem very organized. But I truly believe there’s a greater power in following your own instincts – and that sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you’ve found it. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent my entire career working in the arts – though I still having trouble following directions and completing a project as assigned. And who knows, if I keep it up, maybe I’ll one day be as successful as a Tansy Langford or a Pepper Covington.