Carnegie brings ‘Vibrator’ play to Cincinnati

Tucked across the Suspension Bridge and south along Scott Street, The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington continues to expand its reach into the local theatrical scene, taking risks with performances and building new audiences.

With its 2011-2012 season, the Carnegie premieres Sarah Ruhl's 2010 Pulitzer-finalist In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, a three-Tony nominee about love, electricity and sex toys set in the Victorian era.

"The Carnegie has found its programming niche," says Josh Steele, Carnegie's managing director. "It's a combination of rarely performed theatrical classics and shows that haven't been produced in the Greater Cincinnati area."

Built originally in 1904, The Carnegie stood unused for decades until it was renovated in 2005. Since then, it has become a new, yet still historic, space for art and artists, showcasing more whimsical and lesser-known works than its peers across the river, including Ruhl's latest play and Rogers and Hammerstein's Carousel.

"It's not done often," says Steele of Carousel. "Some of the content is tough for modern audiences. But we did a pretty faithful interpretation."

And the theater continues to grow and expand. Each season boasts 120 performances of theater, concerts and films. The 2010 season saw a 45 percent increase in attendance.

Steele says that some of risks The Carnegie takes theatrically are what makes the shows interesting. Next season will open with a rarely performed classic, Pippen.

"We're not as in-your-face challenging," Steele says. The goal is to present high-quality theater that can't be found anywhere else in the region.

Carnegie's new season begins Aug. 19.

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By Ryan McLendon

Photo courtesy The Carnegie

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