(L to R) D. Lynn Meyers, Alecia Kintner Brian Isaac Phillips and Blake Robison on ArtsWrap with Alecia

Hear the full discussion with D. Lynn Meyers, Brian Isaac Phillips and Blake Robison on episode six of ArtsWrap with Alecia, available wherever you get your podcasts.

Leaders of the region's three largest professional theaters came together recently to discuss how their industry is evolving, post-pandemic.

While The New York Times reported last fall that audiences have been slow to return, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park artistic director Blake Robison sees "signs of hope" that Cincinnati may be faring better than other regions. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati producing artistic director D. Lynn Meyers cautiously agrees, noting that ETC audiences are at 70% capacity, down from 87-92%, pre-pandemic. Even more encouraging, ETC's last production, "Grand Horizons," sold out

Although the region may be rebounding faster than some, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips points out that it's volatile. That volatility makes it difficult to budget, compounded by a shift from season subscribers, to more last-minute single ticket buyers.

Knowing that, Robison has seen success programming familiar titles, such as "Murder on the Orient Express" and "A Chorus Line." Cincinnati Ballet and the Cincinnati Arts Association echo that trend — audiences seem to crave what is comfortable and sure to entertain.

Phillips exercises financial caution, focusing on controllable expenses like cast size. For a while, he says, it's likely that theaters will refrain from productions with large cast or crew requirements. This means, however, there are fewer industry jobs available.

There are always silver linings, including the opportunity to innovate. Cincinnati Shakes co-produced "The Rewards of Being Frank," premiering it here before heading to New York City for an off-Broadway run.

The unpredictability of the last few years will soon be overshadowed by the opening the new Rouse Theatre at Playhouse in the Park, featuring Moe and Jack's Place. Robison's upcoming plans at the Playhouse include two world premieres: "Shane" and "Origin Story."

Meyers has been busy playing an additional role as casting director for local films. She relishes "putting people to work," whether on the stage or the big screen. ETC also has a world premiere of its own: Torie Wiggins' "Who All Over There." The regional premiere of "Morning Sun" is also ahead.

Flexibility, caution and bold thinking: these attributes define local arts leaders as they reimagine and reintroduce the magic of live theater to us all.

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