Ohio Theatre looks backward and forward at the Segal Center this Wednesday



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I have a history with the Ohio Theatre, formerly of 66 Wooster Steet—not just as a critic who has seen dozens of productions there over the past decade. In a previous life, I was a "downtown" actor, appearing in a succession of experimental (read: bat-shit insane) plays by various auteurs and oddballs. One hot summer, at the Ohio Theatre's Ice Factory festival, I was in Rich White Farmers, a piece devised and directed by Robert Cucuzza. The script was built from found text—a panel discussion that Harper's Magazine had convened with a bunch of Republican strategiests after the momentous 1994 midterm elections. Audiences liked watching a bunch of guys in suits freak out around a table, going into dance breaks, pulling faces and making silly random noises—basically being absurdist cutups. I loved performing in the spacious, welcoming Ohio, full of possibility and in a perpetual state of seeming unfinished. And even if there was no air-conditioning, and we sweated through our cheap suits and fought hard not to wipe rivers of perspiration from our eyes, it was a great time and the best company to have.

This unsolicited stroll down memory lane was prompted by news that tomorrow night at 6:30, there will be a panel discussion at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (at the CUNY Graduate Center, Fifth Ave and 35th St) about the Ohio's 29-year history of developing and presenting experimental work. On the panel will be first, Ohio's guiding spirit, Robert Lyons, and Tim Maner (Tiny Mythic Theatre), Jeremy Dobrish (adobe theatre) Susan Bernfield (New Georges) and Maria Striar (Clubbed Thumb). As you already know, the Ohio had to leave Wooster Street in August, but is currently in residence at the 3LD Art & Technology Center.

Lyons writes in an e-mail: "We will generally be celebrating the glorious history of the Ohio, talking about the work and telling stories. I could only put four companies on the panel, which made for an impossible selection. So I want to invite and encourage all the artists and company members from over the years to come and participate in this celebration!"

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