New Theatre Company’s Debut Part of Cincinnati’s “Arts Renaissance:”
Making History with J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE RETURN OF THE KING

A hobbit-sized theatre company in Cincinnati, Ohio is about to embark on a huge adventure! For the opening of their inaugural 2003-2004 season, they will present an original staged adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Return of the King – book three of his fantasy masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. CLEAR STAGE CINCINNATI is proud to quietly make theatrical history – as this production marks the first time that all three installments of the trilogy has ever been written and produced by a single adaptor in three subsequent years. [Lifeline Theatre in Chicago recently produced the trilogy over 6 years, with 4 different authors.] The production itself is a world debut – and the culmination of three years of production efforts at the Aronoff Center.

The production runs October 17-25, 2003 at the Jarson-Kaplan Theater in the Aronoff Center for the Arts – just weeks before the international release of the live-action movie of the same name. The first two installments, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, were produced by Ovation Theatre Company (also in Cincinnati) to critical acclaim and box office success! (Several staff members left Ovation Theatre Company to continue their pursuit of the “Tolkien Quest!”)

Cincinnati is experiencing an “Arts Renaissance!” The opening of the Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Center (directly across the street from the Aronoff Center) has caused an international “buzz” in the world of modern art and architecture! Cincinnati boasts a host of theatres, professional sports teams, and TallStacks steamboats glittering along the Ohio River. This fall promises to be the most exciting Cincinnati has seen in years!

Ohio-native, Blake Bowden, is pleased to be completing this quest with his production colleagues – a journey that has lasted for more than 10 years. “When I saw Mary Zimmerman’s theatre-workshop of The Odyssey, I knew that Tolkien should be on the stage as well,” he said. More than just a playwright and actor, Dr. Bowden is also a child psychologist who found the power of myth healing in his work with terminally ill children during his residency in Boston. “My bag-of-tricks didn’t work with kids who were dying. But spending the time to read a compelling story of a hero’s journey seemed to help them come to terms with their lives and where they were going.” Dr. Bowden was recently recognized by Cincinnati Magazine as a member of the “Creative Class,” one of 70 young professionals who are vital to the creativity and vibrancy of the city.

The Return of the King features the talents of actors and artists from the tri-state region including:

  • Puppeteers: Carus Waggoner and Rick Couch (The Cincinnati Enquirer “Jackie Award,” Citybeat “Best of” award);
  • Set Design: Thyra Hartshorn (Isabella Duncan Award, San Francisco Ballet);
  • Original Music: Steve Goers (Grammy nomination);
  • Graphics/Web Design: Jay Nungesser (WebAwards Standard of Excellence);
  • Director/Fight Director: Gina Cerimele-Mechley (CEA Entertainment Award nominee, The Cincinnati Enquirer “Jackie Award”);
  • Actor: Joe Sofranko (CAA Overture Award for Drama, Cappies “Best Actor”);
  • Actor/Playwright: Blake Bowden (CEA Entertainment Award nominee, The Cincinnati Enquirer “Jackie Award,” Cincinnati Magazine Creative Class recognition);
  • Actor/Puppetry Director: Aretta Baumgartner (president of the local chapter of the American Puppetry Guild);
  • Actor: Elizabeth Harris (The Cincinnati Enquirer “Jackie Award,” CEA Entertainment Award nominee).

A cast of 25 actors will present the world of Middle Earth and the “War of the Rings” in the intimate Jarson-Kaplan theatre at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Audience members will see Orcs and Ents come to life, Wizards battle, Elves and Dwarves bickering, and Hobbits striving to fulfill their quest to destroy the One Ring of Power. An enormous battle scene is featured in the production that includes an army of Orcs, a stable of horses, a forest of Ents, an angry wizard, and the henchman for the Dark Lord, Sauron, himself. Grammy nominee, Steve Goers, has composed a score to accompany the production – furnishing a lush musical soundscape to Middle Earth. Huge Puppets and intricate mask-work rounds out the show – providing a unique scare for the Halloween season! The Return of the King is directed by award-winning actor, educator, and Fight Choreographer, Gina Cerimele-Mechley.

Performance Schedule:

Friday, October 17th @ 8:00p
Saturday, October 18th @ 2:00p
Saturday, October 18th @ 8:00p
Sunday, October 19th @ 2:00p
Friday, October 24th @ 8:00p
Saturday, October 25th @ 2:00p
Saturday, October 25th @ 8:00p

Thursday, October 16th @ 8:00p – Pay-what-you-can Night. This final dress rehearsal/preview is open to the public.

Tickets for The Return of the King can be purchased at the Aronoff Center Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at, or by phone at 513.241-7469. Visit www.clearstagecincinnati for more information about CLEAR STAGE CINCINNATI, The Return of the King, or the Cincinnati arts scene!

Tickets are $16 (General Admission); $14 (Seniors); and $12 (Students).

CLEAR STAGE CINCINNATI is a professional theatre company that strives to develop and showcase fresh theatrical talent by providing a “Clear Stage” for the advancement of artistic professionals. Note: All artists associated with CLEAR STAGE CINCINNATI are paid. Please list under “Professional Theatre” section.

Gimli (Elizabeth Harris), Aragorn (Dave Early), Legolas (Adam McLean) mount their horses for battle.

Gollum (Aretta Baumgartner) leads the way to Mordor… Sam (above, Blake Bowden) bids farewell to Frodo (Joe Sofranko)… Orcs on the prowl!

Please credit all photos to RICH SOFRANKO PHOTOGRAPHY with thanks to Ovation Theatre Company. (Image quality reduced for this press release. High Quality digital photographs for the production are available for reprint.)

Actors available for news spots/appearances – in costume, with huge puppets, magic, and music from a Grammy-nominated composer! This is a Cincinnati-original project – at the Aronoff Center Oct 17-25!