In 1989, Ted Weil was about to graduate from Northern Kentucky University and was looking to tackle more contemporary and challenging plays than what were being produced locally.
He teamed with friend David Radtke (who at the time was a recent graduate from Wright State University) to create Falcon Theatre. Never did he suspect that what began as an idealistic labor of love would become a theater company that has not only survived for 30 years but thrived.
“I didn’t intend to start a (theater) company that lasted 30 years,” Weil, Falcon’s artistic director, told me recently at a Cincinnati coffee shop following a full day of set construction.
Their first production was the farcical comedy “Beyond Therapy” by Christopher Durang at Westwood Town Hall. The shared-use facility, managed by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, served as Falcon’s theatrical home for a dozen years. It was the impending remodel of the facility that provided the impetus for a “temporary” move to Newport, into the Monmouth Theater. The property was owned by the Costume Gallery, which was located in the building adjacent to the theater.
One of the first changes they made was removing the drop ceiling over the stage area, taking the ceiling up to 13 feet, which allowed lighting equipment to be hung over the stage itself. By the time the renovation of Westwood Town Hall was completed, Falcon Theatre’s board made the decision to stay in Newport.
In October 2014, Falcon Theatre purchased the building for $210,000. Since taking over the building, $50,000 has been invested in upgrades, including a new awning, remodeled restrooms and rebuilt raised platforms and seating for the audience. Behind the scenes, the dressing room has been extended, doubling the square footage available. The group’s biggest undertaking has been replacement of the building’s HVAC system.
The city of Newport recently installed new LED lighting in the Historic District and will replace sidewalks along Monmouth Street this summer.
Bev Holiday, community liaison coordinator for Newport, said Falcon Theatre is a city asset. Its outreach program, Falcon Takes Flight, has partnered with the Campbell County Libraries to perform stage readings for patrons. A recent event, “Letters from Vietnam,” drew 200 people to the Newport branch.
Next up for the Falcon stage is Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which opens March 16 and is directed by Nate Netzley. A child of Greater Cincinnati’s diverse theater community, his parents met doing theater in college before relocating to Cincinnati. The pair became active with the local community theater group the Drama Workshop.
Netzley has fond memories as a child of evenings in Westwood Town Hall while his parents worked on productions. He was a member of the Groundlings, a student acting program offered by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. In high school, he helped create a student-led theater program. His formal education led him to completing a bachelor’s degree in acting at NKU.
It was near his final year at NKU when his focus began to shift to directing. Outside of college, he was able to begin adding to his directing experience tackling original works in the episodic “Serials” and Cincinnati Fringe Festival entries both sponsored by Know Theatre of Cincinnati. An internship with Clifton Performance Theatre led to his first main stage directing opportunity. “Streetcar” is his second production.
In the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, fading Southern belle Blanche DuBois has lost the family home to creditors. With no other options, she travels from a small Mississippi town to the French Quarter of New Orleans to live with her younger married sister, Stella, and brother-in-law, Stanley. Personalities clash and secrets are revealed as Williams’ troubled, eccentric heroine unravels before the audience’s eyes. Netzley is updating the play’s setting to modern post-Katrina New Orleans to illustrate the play’s universal themes.
For information on what is on stage in Greater Cincinnati, visit Rob Bucher’s Behind the Curtain Cincinnati blog at www.behindthecurtaincincy.com.
Falcon Theatre chronology
1989: Founded by Ted Weil and David Radtke in Westwood
2004: Theater moved to Monmouth Theater, an intimate 75-seat facility on Monmouth Street in Newport
2014: Falcon Theatre purchased Monmouth Theater (Read the Enquirer article)
2016-17: Set attendance record of more than 1,600 (eight performances over 40 dates)
2017-18: Attendance at record pace, expected to top 1,800