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Legend of the Humanoid Loveland Frog Comes to Local Stage at Fringe Fest

Hot Damn! It’s the Loveland Frog is high, high up on my list for Cincinnati Fringe-ing this year. I mean –it’s the Loveland Frog finally getting its due!
 
Cincinnati Fringe enters its second decade with performances starting Wednesday and look for the bluegrass musical “Frog” to be a hot ticket. For one, it’s by the folks who brought us the ambitious, smart, funny, buzzy sell-out original musical Don’t Cross the Streams: The Cease and Desist Musical in 2012. 
 
Also, show creators Mike Hall and Josh Steele attract some of the best talent in town and – Frog is in a much smaller venue this year. 
 
The cast includes Mirada McGee, Randy Lee Bailey, Reggie Willis, Bill Hartnett – personally I’ll go to any show with even one of them on stage. Same goes for terrifically talented director Mike Sherman and musical director Steve Goers.
 
What? You’ve never heard of The Loveland Frog? I hadn’t, either, but I went to my favorite information source, Wikipedia and sure enough it was there:
 
“The Loveland Frog (aka the Loveland Lizard) is a legendary humanoid frog described as standing roughly 4 feet (1.2 m) tall, allegedly first spotted in Loveland, Ohio.
 
University of Cincinnati folklore professor Edgar Slotkin compared the Loveland frog to Paul Bunyan, saying that stories about it have been passed down for "several decades" and that sighting reports seem to come in predictable cycles.”
 
The Loveland Frog co-creators are Mike Hall, native of Loveland, aka Sweetheart of Ohio, and Josh Steele, who in real life is The Carnegie’s managing director of theater and turned it into a force to be reckoned with.
 
A little background: The Frog’s first appearance, as we know it, was in 1955 when Robert Hunnicut, a short-order cook, was driving home from his shift at a Loveland diner and saw three strange figures on the side of Hopewell Road. He stopped his car, got out to help – oh, no! They were “frog-like”! 
 
Froggie was back in 1972, this time spotted by local members of the police force. That’s when one of them took a shot at it, raising The Loveland Frog into the national consciousness.
 
The Frog story actually appeared in at least one documentable headline, and I don’t mean Weekly World News. You can find mentions Haunted Ohio and some books whose titles include the word “Weird.” 
 
Back in the day, The Loveland Frog had many things named after it, including a festival and 5k race, but interest seems to have, sadly, dwindled.
 
“We were both instantly attracted to the weirdness of it,” Steele noted.
 
Their imaginations fired and the action is updated to the ‘90s, with McGee and Bailey as demented sibling moonshiners, Hartnett as a disgraced police chief, and Willis as “the last Miami Indian.” And that isn’t even the half of it. 
 
Performances : 8:45 May 29, 5 p.m. June 1, 9 p.m. June 3, 8:45 p.m. June 5 and 8 p.m. June 7, Art Academy of Cincinnati Commons, 1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-300-5669.
 
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN arts contributor
 
More from the Cincinnati Fringe
 
There’s something for every alternative inclination at Cincinnati Fringe: smart, stupid, comic, serious, inventive, or not. Themes include (but are not limited to) politics, religion, eating disorders, being male, being female, being gay. They come as generally 60-minute or less drama, comedy, monologue, musical, dance. Find the entire line-up here, with dates, times and location: http://www.cincyfringe.com/performance/
 
Here are the shows that will start my Fringe 2014 adventure
 
Ultimate Stimulus
All Cincinnati Fringe regulars need is two words – Tanya O’Debra. The New York-based actress/writer gets great reviews across the U.S. in shows that were Cincy Fringe hits --Radio Star (2012) and Shut UP, Emily Dickinson (2013). 
 
This year she plays Amanda McCloud, a renegade economist with a plan for solving America’s income gap: concubinage. Brimming with data, charts, and dramatic life-changing stories, this TED-inspired talk proves that the rich aren’t so different when they're forced to get close – real close – to the rest of us. 
 
Traffick
The seventh Fringe appearance by Pones, Inc. (founded by a pair of NKU grads) is, as always, inter-active and site specific. Audience members should be ready to put on a mask and get trafficked. (Talk about timely.) Inspired by New York sensation Sleep No More, which had ticket-holders follow aspects of the performance piece by following characters from space-to-space, Traffick has the intent of helping audiences experience the journey of human trafficking.
 

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“Audience members will guide themselves through disciplinary experiences -- the more you explore the richer the show. Pones Inc.’s research with EndSlavery Cincinnati will be the rich roots for this artistic interpretation.”
 
The Legend of White Woman Creek
The folk opera comes to Cincinnati with great reviews from North American festivals. The Coldharts from Brooklyn, N.Y. present a 13-song cycle set on the American frontier of 1867. A young woman, Anna Morgan Faber, flees her war-torn home to start a new life in an unfamiliar land and her ghost sings of love, betrayal and redemption in Western Kansas.
 
"A series of magnificent narrative songs, performed just perfectly... An absolute triumph of music, production and mischievous willingness to unnerve." -Edmonton Journal (Five Stars)
 
"The stand out musical performance of the 2013 Kansas City Fringe Festival... The Coldharts have a not to be missed hit on their hands." -KCMetropolis.org
 
"Splendidly moving vocals, exquisite guitar aristry and rich emotional range convey genuinely epic storytelling. This production evokes an atmosphere, forlorn, spectral and sacred." -Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
An Unauthorized Autobiography of Benny Hill
Cincy Fringe audiences are in love with Minneapolis’ Four Humors company. This year’ entry is “the entirely fake true story of the funniest man in the world” in which Benny Hill, relives the untold tragedies behind the genius of his art. Four Humors promise comedy and tragedy will collide. Past original work that’s played Cincy Fringe: Lolita: A Three Man Show, Bombus and Berylline, and Harold.
 
Of note –
 
Highlands High School has an entry in FringeNext, which chooses three high school entries every year at Schoool for Creative and Performing Arts, with students producing, directing, performing – basically putting on the show.
 
Names is described as “a little creepy, a little unsettling and very intense.” Arienette has a severe case of childhood schizophrenia. In the midst of the impending divorce of her parents, the escalation of her disease, and growing up, she escapes to a sanctuary inside her own mind. 
 
“There, memories are manifested and created into friends to help Arienette cope. However, also harbored in her internal world is a malicious cat, the manifestation of all of Ari's fears and anxiety. When her two worlds begin to collide, Arienette must regain control to save all that she cares about --as well as her own sanity.
 
Suitable for ages 12 and up.