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Becoming Unbalanced

Company seeks to create new opportunities in the Columbus theater scene Seriously, when was the last time drinking a lot of wine gave you a really good idea? An idea that might even change your community? “We’ve been getting together once a month, reading plays out loud, drinking wine, and talking about what we want [...]
Laura Dachenbach



Company seeks to create new opportunities in the Columbus theater scene

Seriously, when was the last time drinking a lot of wine gave you a really good idea? An idea that might even change your community?

“We’ve been getting together once a month, reading plays out loud, drinking wine, and talking about what we want to do,” said Catherine Cryan Erney. “There is a whole mindset that we want to tip… because we know the talent’s there.”

I’m sitting at Starbucks with Cryan Erney, joined by April Olt and Sonda Staley, the pussyhatters of Columbus theater. We’re all sober, and ready to talk about the plans of The Tipping Point Theatre, a new theater company dedicated to creating opportunities for writers, directors, and performers who are female, older, of color, or perhaps all of the above.

“One of the reasons we started reading plays as a group together is because we noticed that there were a lot more opportunities in Columbus theater for men than women, and we actually created a spreadsheet and looked at that,” said Staley.

The group crunched the numbers of the Theatre Roundtable members for the 2015-2016 season and found some depressing statistics: more than 100 roles more for men than women, fewer roles for women over 30 than men over 30, fewer leading roles for women, and very few shows written by women. The issues were compounded by the fact that women make up a much larger share of the theatrical talent pool. While many community theaters seemed to offer more diverse opportunities, it is a less practical option for those who need to be paid for their work.

In the capital city, known for its tolerance and diversity, this information was unsettling, to say the least.

“We are not showing on stage the demographics of what is America, or even what is Columbus,” says Olt, who noted that outside of the August Wilson Festival at the Short North Stage, no shows by African-American playwrights were produced within two seasons, and the season offered only three roles specifically written for actors of color. As theater artists and as audience members, The Tipping Point questions whether economics is reinforcing the types of shows being produced—good shows, but shows that don’t provide as many opportunities for women or people of color.

“Why are we paying to not see our stories told?” asks Olt. “Look at Broadway. We’ve gone backwards because we’re spending more money on shows. So the fact that it wasn’t until 2016 that you had your first all-female artistic and production team of a musical is telling.”

So, how did get we here?

“All the theaters in Columbus are and have been predominantly managed by men,” says Olt.

“80 percent, 90 percent of shows are directed by men,” says Cryan Erney.

“I don’t think it’s malicious,” Staley interjects.

“It just happened that way,” Olt concludes.

This is Tipping Point’s real-life call to action.

“Rather than just sit around and drink wine and bitch,” explained Staley. “We decided, as women do, to change the playing field. We wanted to be the change that we needed in the Columbus theater community.”

So this January, The Tipping Point got out of the living room and onto the boards with a staged reading of two works by female playwrights featuring all-female casts: Lauren Gunderson’s The Taming, and Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women.

“[The Women] shows the darkness of our history, that when we can’t get what we want, women have been historically pitted against each other, which is thematically what we want to do in the world of theater,” Staley explained. “We don’t want women fighting for the same two or three roles. We want to open up the opportunities so we work together.”

So, where is this going?

“Fiscal viability,” says Olt.

“Fiscal viability!” everyone cheers.

“We want to—first and foremost—do really good theatre,” Staley adds.

“We want juicy, satisfying roles,” Cryan Erney says.

Women have faced discrimination in theater since being forbidden from appearing on stage in the first chapter of classical theater history, but The Tipping Point is not a “No Boys Allowed” club. Despite their frustrating experiences of having to audition for male directors in hotel rooms, or having their appearances deemed “inappropriate” for certain roles, these women have a passion for the theater arts, and they’re not going anywhere.

And they hope that they can inspire other companies to make similar changes. (They give a special shout out to The Actor’s Theatre of Columbus, a classical theater company, for its strides towards gender parity—particularly with its gender-bending production of The Countess of Monte Cristo last summer.)

“We believe that our mission shouldn’t just be ours—that it should make everybody around us think about doing things a little bit differently,” says Olt.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist





Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.


And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas



If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.


With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Cousin Simple to wow crowd with energy, passion





As a young up-and-coming band, Cousin Simple is excited to play at this year’s Columbus Art’s Festival. In their two years as a band, they have already done a lot of really cool things, such as making a single with L.A. multi-platinum music producer David Kershenbaum, playing at Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center, and selling out shows at the A&R Bar, the Basement and The Big Room Bar. But there is much more they want to accomplish including recording more music, making a music video and playing more shows in and out of Columbus.

The band members are all Columbus born and raised. Four members currently attend The Ohio State University, while their drummer Joel is finishing up his junior year at New Albany high School. Cousin Simple brings an energy and passion to the stage and gives everything they have to their performances, regardless of the crowd size. They just released a new single in February called Honeybee, available on iTunes and Spotify and have a single set to release May 10 titled “Star Destroyers.”


Columbus is a great city for musicians. Whether you’re in the indie, rock, or hip hop scene, there are other musicians and music industry people willing to help you out. Columbus also takes a great sense of pride in its “local gems.” People love to see musicians who are doing well in their hometown and are willing to support them in many ways.

There are so many organizations that have taken this to heart and are helping bands get great opportunities. CD102.5, WCBE 90.5, PromoWest Productions and the Columbus Music Commission have helped Cousin Simple get airtime, shows and support. When it comes to music cities, Columbus may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there are so many bands and musicians doing exciting things it’s making the future bright for them and the Columbus music scene.

But Cousin Simple recognizes that none of this would be possible without the support of their family, friends and FANS that come to each and every show. They are humbled and motivated by their audiences who energize them to make every performance an experience their fans won’t forget. 

Cousin Simple will perform on the Big Local Music Stage on Rich Street on Friday night, June 7 at 7:45 p.m.

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