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5 Outstanding Theatres In Cincinnati You Need To See

5 Outstanding Theatres In Cincinnati You Need To See

Cincinnati is home to some incredible theatre venues. Almost everyone knows about the Arnoff, where you can see traveling Broadway shows. But many don’t know you can still the same high quality performances from local theaters. Being such a fan of theatre myself, I’ve been to pretty much every theatre in the area and these five theaters you need to get tickets to before they sell out!

1. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati

Ensemble Theatre prides itself on its work for new shows. They are often produce the regional premier of a show and many times the world premier. Their shows are often social commentaries but comes in all forms of theatre; musical, drama and comedy.Bring the theatre that always introduces new shows can be very difficult to do; producing shows that people haven’t heard of can make it hard to get an audience. But Ensemble has such a high reputation and caliber of performances that locals return to time and time again. It’s actually really exciting to go to a theatre knowing nothing about the show than a small description but still know that you’ll be able to leave talking about the performances for weeks. Their shows speak for themselves, their actors are truly exceptional and going into their theatre for any style of show is an unforgettable experience.  

The mission of the theatre is to unite communities through theatre, using their performances as well as being very active in servicing the community in numerous outreach programs. Going to a theatre that is so conscious about giving back makes you feel good going to support the theatre. Even with doing this they don’t compromise the integrity of their performances, they are true professionals who care about creating genuine art and using that art to positively impact their community. 

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Their theatre has a unique set up to it, a stage right when you walk in and then ample seating up rows of stairs. This has the audience looking down at the actors, so each row is higher up than the one infant. So every seat is a good seat and you won’t have to worry about being able to see behind the tall man infant of you. Located in the heart of OTR, this theatre is perfect for a date night or girls night. Taste of Belgium is right next door to them, so start there for dinner and drinks before heading over to Ensemble to end the night with brilliant theatre. Their tickets are very affordable, but they also offer a huge variety of discounts for students, military and seniors and many other discounts. But believe me when I tell you, whatever you pay will be worth every penny once you see their performance.

2. The Carnegie

Twice in my life I have cried watching theatre not because it was sad, but because of the sheer power of what was being performed on stage. Once was in London, seeing Lily James and Richard Madden in Romeo and Juliet and the other was seeing The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The Carnegie. It was the opening number, nothing was even remotely sad yet and I cried because I was absolutely blown away by the harmonies and melodies and just raw talent directly in front of me. The number ended and I looked at my friend and said “I’m not going to make it through this show with any makeup left”. And by then end my mascara was all cried away.

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Anyone who has ever taken a Theatre 101 course knows the “cathartic moment” in a show. Which is essentially a release of emotions that an audience feels when viewing theatre. It can be laughing at a comedy, crying at a tragedy or for me the entire performance of Hunchback. The Carnegie is located in Covington, KY just across the river and hosts possibly one of the most beautiful theatres. They have a stage with lower level seating as well as balconies on every side of the theatre. No seat is a bad seat, but the balconies offer incredible views and you feel like a fancy lady at an opera. They too are involved in extensive community outreach, something I love about all of the theatres on this list. The Carnegie tends to stick to names of shows you’ve heard before, but isn’t afraid to branch out and definitely makes each show their own. Their tickets are also much more reasonable priced and they too offer various discounts and deals. But if you’re looking for a beautiful theatre with breathtaking and cry invoking performances check out the Carnegie and you’ll find me weeping in the corner over Quasimodo. 

3. Know Theatre Of Cincinnati

The Know, much like Ensemble focuses on new works. Where the Know is different, is that they tend to push the envelope a little more. They really hone in on creating work that cannot be seen anywhere else. They really push to create equality in theatre and represent the underrepresented in their works. They refer to their theatre as an “artistic playground” which should give everyone an incentive to want to check out their theatre. You will see theatre here that you will literally never see anywhere else, its a bit weirder and less standard than what you may see at other theaters, but once you go, you’ll want to keep coming back. 

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Their creativity and artistry are intertwined perfectly to give impactful and unique performances. They often focus on serious topics, but they aren’t afraid to have fun and give you a good laugh. Also located in OTR, they too are perfect for a visit to Coffee Emporium to get a caffeine kick before going in to experience their newest show. They have possibly the most affordable ticket prices out of all of the theaters but you aren’t compromising quality when going to the Know. If you’re looking for a theatre with a positive mission as well as something little different than what you’re used to head to the Know for a truly outstanding experience.

Oh yeah, and they’re also the ones with the famous “lookin’ good” mural on the outside of their theatre.

 

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4. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

Yes, everyone knows Playhouse from A Christmas Carol, but year round they give them same quality performances and they deserve recognition more than a few months a year. Playhouse, similar to the Arnoff is usually where families go for a theatrical excursion. Playhouse hosts artists locally, as well as all over the world. Their productions are of the highest quality, they have received multiple Tony awards and strive for excellence in every production.

I have never been disappointed by a performance here. They also produce premier performances but the classics are what draw audiences in. No Christmas in Cincinnati is complete without a trip to seeing A Christmas Carol. Their Pride and Prejudice performance a few years back, was the single greatest show I have ever witnessed. They are so good at taking classic shows and stories that people know and love but transforming them into something new. Instead of going to see A Christmas Carol and being bored because you know the story as well as Scrooge, you are in awe of their added technical aspects and the superb performances. 

Their theatre is located in Hyde Park and like the Arnoff the tickets here are more pricy than the others on this list. This is more of a special occasion theatre experience or ask mom and dad to pay for your ticket experience. But every minute of being in Playhouse is worth it.

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I once saw You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, which is my least favorite musical of all time. But, I was still happy that I went because the entire experience at Playhouse is next level. Their facilities is beautiful, their staff is incredibly helpful and kind. They even have an option where you can preorder drinks from the bar for intermission and they will have your drink waiting for you. It’s genius and every theatre should take note. Although the performances of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown were top of the line, it helped ease me into a show I wasn’t a fan of. And even though the show it’s I personally don’t like, I have only positive remarks about it because it was so well done and the experience there is unreal.

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5. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company 

I saved this one for last because it is the entire package of Cincinnati Theatre. They are in my opinion the single greatest theatre in Cincinnati, for many reasons. Shakespeare can often be a turn off to many non theatre people because they have this perception that Shakespeare is old and irrelevant. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company proves the opposite.

I have always been a huge Shakespeare nerd so I was drawn to them just by the name but what I didn’t know is that they produce many non Shakespeare plays and every performance is nothing short of perfection. They focus on the classics of theatre, creating Shakespeare plays that are accessible and entertaining to all education levels and all ages. Their theatre is brand new, it’s got a modern yet sophisticated look. They have an ensemble of actors, which means that they typically use the same actors from their company time and time again. Instead of holding auditions for specific shows, you have to audition for the company. As a frequent audience member, I love seeing the evolution of their actors and seeing them go from playing a goofy nonsensical character to Lady Macbeth in the same season, but absolutely nailing both roles.

They are also highly involved in community outreach and also located in OTR with their friends Ensemble and Know.They perform Shakespeare in the Park where they travel to parks in the area and host free performances. It’s a great way to introduce Shakespeare to kids so it’s both cheap and they can run around during intermission.

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This year the theme of their season is The Year of The Woman, so every show is has a strong female lead, or has a female writer or director. They are even doing Hamlet this year where a woman will be playing Hamlet and it’s one of the most anticipated performances of the year. I cannot say enough positive things about this theatre, they exude excellence in every way possible. They take the foundation of theatre and transformed it to modern day. Their actors are some of the best I have ever seen. I saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theatre in London (aka Shakespeare’s OG theatre and the Mecca for all Shakespeare nerds) and the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at CSC was far superior. You don’t need to travel all the way to London for the best Shakespeare performances, just Cincinnati.  

Which theatre’s have you been too? Which one are you going to try for your next night out? Comment below which one you’re going to next!

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