On December 2, 2019, Michael Thomas, Artistic Director for the Renaissance, was honored by Broadway’s and Hollywood’s elite at the Ars Nova Ball 2019. He and his writing partner, Jeff Richmond, co-wrote Melancholy Baby which was the first show produced on the Ars Nova stage in 2002.
For the upcoming production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in October 2019, Scenic Designer, Jason Kaufman, gave some insights to this extraordinary set build.
Richland county has a special blend of dining options for people of all backgrounds and taste buds! So whether you’re craving Asian, American, or home-style, they got you covered! Here’s a list of places you’re gonna wanna try before attending the next Renaissance event! Continue reading
“And the 2018 Miss Ohio is…” Seems just like yesterday for Matti-Lynn Chrisman being crowned on the Renaissance stage for the 2018 Miss Ohio Scholarship Program. Since then, the Kent State University graduate who holds a Bachelor’s in Musical Theatre (2018) and an ongoing study in Public Communications B.A. (expected to graduate Fall of 2019), has traveled across the state of Ohio impacting individuals from all walks of life and advocating her social initiative impact. Matti was recently seen on the Renaissance stage this past March in Mamma Mia as Sophie.
As Matti’s position as Miss Ohio concludes this week, we wanted to hear her take on how the last year has been as a state-wide celebrity.
It has taken three long years, but in six weeks a new theatre in Mansfield, OH will be born -Theatre 166, The Black Box Theatre of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association.
By Nik Demers
I have loved Theatre as far back as I can remember. Whether it’s acting, designing, building sets, stage managing, etc., I love getting to see a show come together from the ground up. Seeing live theatre was what sparked that love for me when I was a little kid, and the first shows I ever saw were right here at The Renaissance Theatre. Despite coming to see many shows over the years, Newsies is the first production I have gotten involved with and I’m so glad that I finally did. It is home to a wonderful and incredibly talented group of people that we are so lucky to have in our community.
“Clothes Make a Statement, Costumes Tell a Story”
At the Renaissance Theatre, we take great pride in the beautiful costuming being presented onstage each show. But where do these costumes come from and who’s behind the magic of creation?
Many costumes at the Renaissance Theatre are made by our very own staff! For example, the fabulous Ursula costume featured in last year’s production of “The Little Mermaid” was made by our Teaching Artist and Education Assistant at the Renaissance, Dauphne Maloney.
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.
I used to read this design magazine (remember those?) called ReadyMade. It was a quirky diversion from typical magazines because it focused on things we don’t tend to associate with the design industry such as sustainability and DIY projects that discourage consumerism in favor of reuse and repurposing of castaway items. As a lifelong lover of making things with old junk (ask my poor mother about raising me) it was probably my favorite magazine of all time.
They had a regular column titled “How did you get that f@#$%^& awesome job?” I read it religiously. It featured creative people doing sometimes remarkable, and occasionally off the wall things. Who knew someone could make a living with a skeleton shop? And yes, that is a real thing. While I was fascinated by these people I hadn’t yet considered that I could be one of them.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Aside from a period in third grade when I planned to be a princess/cheerleader, as far back as I can remember I planned to be an artist. I didn’t really know exactly what that would look like, and nobody really questioned the idea until I didn’t outgrow the crazy notion. Eventually my parents pushed me to explore some “real jobs.”
I wasn’t super keen on the idea, but it made everyone else feel better about my aspirations when I chose to major in art education in undergraduate school. Turns out I loved teaching, but long story short, I hated working for a school district. I worked on a masters degree, this time in psychology, and I studied creativity theory. I got the offer of a lifetime and at a very young age became an executive in one of the largest museums in the country. There wasn’t a day that I worked at the Detroit Institute of Arts that I didn’t feel honored just to be there.
Life happened though, as it is want to do, and I ended up having to leave the museum due to a divorce-related comedy of errors that is another story unto itself. I found myself in Ohio again, trying to find work in museums or art centers, and working a string of unrewarding jobs along the way. I met my husband, moved to Mansfield, had one last stint in an arts organization, and when that fell apart so did I.
How did I get this f@#$%^& awesome job?
Up to this point I held this limiting belief that the only way I’d make a living as an artist would be to work for some arts institution. With only one employer in my field in Mansfield, now a former employer, my future looked pretty bleak.
Sometimes adversity is opportunity if you choose to see it that way. You’ll never hear me say, “Everything happens for a reason,” because I simply don’t believe that. Life is messy, horrible things happen, and it’s perfectly acceptable to experience the low times for exactly what they are–miserable. BUT–we can’t dwell there.
“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”
― Elizabeth Taylor
I took Elizabeth Taylor’s advice and continued to show up at meetings and events, and volunteered more for the causes I cared about.
A friend messaged me and planted a very important seed. She said, “Maybe now is the time to start something of your own.” This began an interesting journey to find my footing and really flesh out an idea that had legs.
Somewhere in the universe you can find this perfect overlap of what you know, what you’re good at, who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what people will pay for. It takes time, reflection, openness, confidence, risk taking, and a bunch of other things that don’t cost a penny, but will tax your soul.
In time I launched Tog Loft. We’re a unique organization that helps photographers of all types to grow in the way that works best for them. Whether you want to take better snapshots of your kids, or plan to transition to becoming a full-time photographer, we help you achieve those goals. It’s incredibly fulfilling work and I’m very proud of our members and what we do in our community.
I also had this side hustle doing public relations, freelance writing, and marketing. I’d never taken it particularly seriously, but at some point I realized that I had a “real business” and maybe I should treat it as such. We took our formerly part-time business full-time and Graziani Multimedia became an agency. We help businesses to grow, and that is such a wonderful privilege.
Yes, you can make a living in the arts
None of it happened overnight, and looking back it’s interesting to see how my career has evolved, and no doubt will continue to do so. As a kid I never would have dreamed that I’d own a digital marketing agency, in part because the internet didn’t really exist then, but also because I lacked exposure to the vast array of cool careers that exist. And I certainly didn’t think about creating something that didn’t exist, like Tog Loft.
As it turns out a combination of education in the arts and psychology is the perfect blend of art and science that makes my mind wired wonderfully for marketing, especially in a digital age. The most important lesson I’ve learned along the way is that sometimes the perfect job will never be posted on a job board. Occasionally it is up to us to make our own luck, and that has made all the difference for me.
All jobs are real jobs
I’d also like to point out that there are many paths that artists take, and sometimes a person’s day job is a means to support their work, but not their creative work. Many a gifted artist have worked non-arts jobs in the post office, as did William Faulkner, as theater managers like Bram Stoker, or even as a stockbroker, like Paul Gauguin. Sometimes art as a job takes the joy out of the work and another job is a better service to the artist.
Whenever I hear someone snark that a foolish college kid is going to end up working in a coffee shop or bartending forever because they chose to pursue the arts I cringe. Many great artists have done just that, and were all the happier for it. I know I am.