Best of 2021: Top 10 Dayton area arts stories



Dave Chappelle, proposed new movie studio and “Hamilton’' are on the list.

In spite of artistic and financial strains stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, the Dayton arts scene showed signs of excitement, promise and reflection in 2021.

Here are 10 stories that made an impact in arts and entertainment this year.

John Lithgow makes virtual appearance during Antioch gala



In January, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award-winning actor John Lithgow reminisced about his upbringing in Yellow Springs for a special virtual gala benefit honoring inspiring professors of Antioch College, which included his father, Arthur Lithgow. Arthur notably co-founded the renowned Antioch Shakespeare Festival, also known as Shakespeare Under the Stars.

Lithgow was among those honored at “Antioch Under the Stars.” Proceeds support Antioch College Works, a program that provides full-tuition scholarships to Pell Grant-eligible students as well as campus and community employment while students study at the college.

ExploreJohn Lithgow calls Yellow Springs ‘a fabulous place to grow up’

Dayton Live announces local premiere of ‘Hamilton’



In April, Dayton Live officially announced plans to bring “Hamilton” to the Gem City at long last. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2015 Tony, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning blockbuster – a hip-hop/pop/R&B history lesson about the brilliance and flaws of founding father Alexander Hamilton – is the centerpiece of the 2021-2022 Premier Health Broadway Series.

The production will be performed Jan. 26-Feb. 6 at the Schuster Center. And, yes, tickets are still available. Trust me. You don’t want to miss it.

Explore‘Hamilton’ at Schuster Center in January 2022

3. Contemporary Dayton moves into Dayton Arcade

Also in April, The Co (Contemporary Dayton, formerly known as the Dayton Visual Arts Center), moved into its new, larger space in the Dayton Arcade. In fact, it doubled in size to 6,224 square feet and incorporates five galleries. The inaugural exhibition featured the work of Dayton natives Zachary Armstrong, the late Curtis Barnes Sr. and Los Angeles filmmaker Cauleen Smith, artists who play a role in social-justice education, community building and social activism.

The Co is currently hosting social justice exhibitions featuring the works of Willis “Bing” Davis, Samuel Levi Jones, and Tuan Andrew Nguyen.

ExploreThe Contemporary Dayton opens Friday in new Dayton Arcade home

4. Patrick Nugent named new CEO of Dayton Performing Arts Alliance



In June, the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance selected Patrick J. Nugent as its new CEO. Nugent joined DPAA from Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he was vice president of development. Noted as a business-minded nonprofit leader with a lifelong passion for the performing arts, Nugent brings an expertise in establishing vision, strategic planning, artistic innovation, fiscal discipline, and responsible growth. He is also committed to public advocacy, representation and community involvement.

While at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Nugent particularly built the infrastructure for a 10-year $650 million comprehensive campaign, organized a $10 million emergency fundraising campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic, initiated the opera company’s first-ever advocacy strategy, and built up its major gifts program.

Among his initiatives in Dayton is removing price barriers to attend shows presented by Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Dayton Opera and Dayton Ballet. In partnership with AES Ohio, the DPAA offers the public to purchase seats for $5 per ticket.

ExploreNew CEO: Patrick J. Nugent to lead Dayton Performing Arts Alliance

5. Kevin Moore announces retirement from Human Race Theatre Company



In July, Human Race Theatre Company artistic director Kevin Moore announced his retirement, which will come in June 2022 at the end of his 36th year leading the troupe. During his tenure, Moore was unafraid to push the envelope, particularly advocating for gay-themed works such as “Angels in America,” “Take Me Out,” “Torch Song Trilogy” and “The Cake.” His final directorial assignment for the company will be seen in February when he helms the local premiere of Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s gender-identity family drama “Everything That’s Beautiful.”

“Kevin is an enormous asset to this community,” said Human Race board chair Jaresha Moore Smith in a release. “His leadership and artistry secured the Human Race’s place as a dynamic and important institution in Dayton. He will be missed but we wish him only the best in his future endeavors.”

The Human Race has launched a national search for Moore’s replacement.

6. Dave Chappelle’s documentary presented at the Kennedy Center



In August, comedian Dave Chappelle’s pandemic documentary “This Time This Place,” directed by Academy and Emmy Award winners Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, received a rousing Washington D.C. premiere at the Kennedy Center. In recent months, Chappelle has screened the documentary across the country on tour, including Cincinnati. Hopefully Dayton audiences will have the opportunity to see this fascinating, funny and touching portrait of Yellow Springs set against the backdrop of 2020′s racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd.

ExploreFIRST LOOK: Dave Chappelle’s new pandemic film a love letter to Yellow Springs

7. Arbogast Performing Arts Center opens in Troy

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

In October, the $11.5 million Arbogast Performing Arts Center in Troy opened its doors with The Texas Tenors as its first musical act. Highlights of the 39,000 square-foot venue include a 1,200-seat auditorium with tiered seating, a lobby that can seat 180 for banquets, a second-floor lobby and art gallery, and a mini-stage in the lobby that can be used for pre-show performances showcasing local musicians.

Jeanne Ward, former assistant superintendent at Troy Christian School, will never forget the day businessman and philanthropist Dave Arbogast and his wife, Linda, walked into her office and announced they were ready to donate $2 million to help build a new performing arts center. The generous gift they had in mind would not just fulfill the school’s dream of having a small campus venue available to the community but would aim even higher. The Arbogasts pictured a larger venue that could provide entertainment, education and inspiration to the entire Upper Miami Valley region.

Now, four years later, Ward has a new office and a new title. The former assistant school superintendent is relishing her role as the executive director of the Arbogast Performing Arts Center. The nonprofit organization, affectionately dubbed The APAC, is on the grounds of Troy Christian, but is financially independent. It’s owned and operated by a board of directors and leases the land for a nominal amount.

ExploreArbogast Performing Arts Center opens in Troy

8. Trolls installation at Aullwood

In November, Danish artist Thomas Dambo’s giant, eye-catching troll sculptures – some 20 feet tall – set up shop at Aullwood Audubon Center. Officially titled “The Troll That Hatched an Egg,” the outdoor sculpture remains a treat for all ages.

ExploreFamily of giant trolls creates magical Aullwood adventure

Julia Reichert retrospective at the Neon



Also in November, the remarkable, acclaimed career of aforementioned documentarian Julia Reichert was spotlighted in the local debut of “Julia Reichert: 50 Years in Film,” a retrospective screened at the Neon and curated and organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts. The retrospective, which premiered in May 2019 at the Museum of Modern Art, also traveled to Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Louisville among other cities before the coronavirus shutdowns. Reichert’s retrospective will continue in 2022 with films and dates to be announced.

ExploreDirector Julia Reichert’s retrospective begins at Neon

1913 Studios plans to become largest film production studio in the Midwest



In December, the Dayton Film Commission announced 1913 Studios purchased a 210,000-square-foot former manufacturing facility in Dayton to use as its film production headquarters. The studio will reportedly be the largest production studio in the Midwest and is estimated to cost $25 million. The project is set to begin construction in January and estimated to be completed by mid-2023. The facility will also help bring national attention to the students of the Tom Hanks Motion Picture School at Wright State University and create new internship opportunities for students. The name, 1913 Studios, is a direct callback to the Great Dayton Flood of 1913.

The studio could really be described as a “campus,” according to 1913 Studios co-founder and president Joey DiFranco. Dayton Film Commissioner Lisa Grigsby called the studio a game changer for the film industry in Dayton.

ExploreMajor production company chooses Dayton to build headquarters and film studios