Cincinnati Playhouse to Present Free Reading of CINCINNATI KING, 8/31
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will host a free reading of a new play about Cincinnati music pioneer Syd Nathan and King Records. CINCINNATI KING, a "theatrical album" of stories about the history of Cincinnati music, racial equality and the legendary rhythm and blues label, will be presented in The Playhouse's Thompson Shelterhouse on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 7:00 p.m.
Playhouse Artistic Director Blake Robison commissioned KJ Sanchez, one of the theatre's new associate artists, to create the play. Sanchez is the founder and CEO of American Records, a company devoted to making theatre that chronicles our time. The CINCINNATI KING project was designed to collect and share stories that preserve a unique part of Cincinnati's history, foster understanding and ignite dialogue.
What began as an investigation specifically into the history of King Records quickly took on broader meaning thanks to Nathan's unique contributions to the music industry and to Cincinnati at large. Nathan founded King Records in 1943 as a country label. Among those who made "hillbilly music" for him were The Delmore Brothers, Cowboy Copas and Moon Mullican. King's sister labels, Queen and Federal, became immensely successful for fulfilling the needs of a different audience and supporting the growing popularity of African-American rhythm and blues artists. Iconic singer JAmes Brown started his career at King Records.
King Records became one of the most successful independent labels of the 1940s and 1950s. Nathan revolutionized the industry by keeping the entire production process in house, recording, mastering, printing, pressing and shipping all of the albums King produced. At the same time, he employed both blacks and whites, who worked side by side, inside and outside of the studio. King Records was one of the first integrated industries in Cincinnati.
Working with a group of Playhouse board and staff members, drama students from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and community volunteers, Sanchez compiled the play from transcripts of interviews with nearly 50 people from across the Tristate. Additional material was drawn from recordings Nathan himself made, as well as newspaper clippings and books written about King Records.
"What surprised me was how large Syd's - and King's - impact was," Sanchez says. "In a very short time span, basically 25 years, Syd went from nothing to the sixth largest record company in the country, with offices all across the world and hundreds (maybe even thousands) of artists and millions of records sold.
"Then only a few years after Syd's death, what we knew of as King Records was no more," Sanchez says. "The name still exists, but now it's a catalogue. For Syd to have done all that in such a short time - wow, what a life!"
The CINCINNATI KING reading is free and open to the public. However, space is limited, and reservations are required. Two free tickets are permitted per person. To make a reservation, contact The Playhouse Box Office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 513-421-3888 (toll-free in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana at 800-582-3208). Call 513-345-2248 for Telecommunications Device for the Deaf accessibility.
The 2013-14 season is presented by The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation and Heidelberg Distributing Co. The season sponsor of new work is the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation.
The Playhouse is fully accessible. Audio enhancement receivers, large print programs and complete wheelchair access are available.
The Playhouse is supported, in part, by the generosity of the tens of thousands of individuals and businesses that give to ArtsWave. The Ohio Arts Council helps fund The Playhouse with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Playhouse also receives funding from the Shubert Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.