10 must-see shows and exhibits this season

September has arrived, officially ushering in what promises to be a jam-packed, envelope-pushing and entertaining 2019-2020 arts season across the Miami Valley. Familiar favorites and exciting local premieres are planned. Audiences are prepared to laugh, cry or reflect about a subjects and themes from the flavorful worlds of theater, dance and visual art to the multicultural allure of hip-hop. It can be difficult deciding which shows to catch in any given season, but here are 10 diverse choices to keep in mind as the calendar progresses.

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Sept. 21, 2019-Jan. 12, 2020, Dayton Art Institute

In celebration of the Dayton Art Institute’s centennial as well as the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in 1519, this presentation offers a modern reproduction of da Vinci’s masterpiece created in 1503. Artist Jenness Cortez was commissioned to paint the reproduction using expert data from the Louvre in Paris as well as her own research. Her work is expected to showcase the colorful vibrancy and fresh details of the original. If your upcoming travel plans do not include the Louvre or the Prado Museum in Madrid, stop by the DAI and bask in the beauty of da Vinci’s composition envisioned within a new perspective.


Oct. 5-6, 2019, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

The legendary work of Tony Award-nominated choreographer Donald Byrd (“The Color Purple”) comes to the Victoria Theatre by way of DCDC. The company will present two classic routines from Byrd’s spirited canon: “Harriet Tubman Remix” and particularly extraordinary “The Geography of the Cotton Field.” Interested in a sneak peek? DCDC Artistic Director Debbie Blunden-Diggs will discuss these works in an “Up Close and Personal” informative session Friday, Sept. 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the DCDC Studios, 840 Germantown St., Dayton.

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Oct. 22-27, 2019, Victoria Theatre Association

Recipient of the 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, “Once On This Island” is a touching, humorous and exhilarating Caribbean-infused universal story of family, race, survival, love, and legacy written by Tony winners Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (“Ragtime”). This national tour and Ohio premiere will feature “American Idol” alumna Tamyra Gray as the villainous Papa Ge.


Oct. 24-27, 2019, Playground Theatre and University of Dayton

Having successfully collaborated last season on a riveting production of “The Library,” the Playground and UD reunite to produce another regional premiere. Written by Ingrid DeSanctis, “Stained Glass” is an O’Neill National Playwrights Contest semi-finalist. It is a dramatic, whimsical story based in magical realism concerning a young woman returning home to New Jersey following her father’s death. DeSanctis will be in residency during the show’s run, discussing her work at select performances which will be held at the PNC Arts Annex.


Oct. 31-Nov. 17, 2019, Human Race Theatre Company

Previously seen off-Broadway as well as the Contemporary American Theater Festival, Bekah Brunstetter’s gay-themed dramedy chronicles the crucial decision Della Brady faces when her best friend’s daughter returns home to North Carolina to marry a woman. Should Della bake her wedding cake despite her own beliefs? Come and find out. Added bonus: Brunstetter, a Winston-Salem native, is Supervising Producer of NBC’s marvelous Emmy-winning drama “This Is Us” so trust me when I say this play has the potential to strike an emotional chord.

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Nov. 1-17, 2019, Dayton Playhouse

Following a highly publicized and controversial fallout last season in which the Playhouse and other troupes across the country were denied the rights to stage this Harper Lee classic adapted by Christopher Sergel, you’ll finally be able to see Academy and Emmy Award winner Aaron Sorkin’s refreshing adaptation. It is currently taking Broadway by storm. In a progressive departure from Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the African-American viewpoint is more distinct in this version as lawyer Atticus Finch attempts to seek justice on behalf of wrongly accused Tom Robinson. Lee’s tale is set in 1930s Alabama, but it’s clear that Sorkin set his sights on boldly reshaping her foundation, creating dialogue addressing the divisions threatening to destroy the American fabric in 2019.


Nov. 13-16, 2019, Sinclair Community College

Sexual violence brought about by slut shaming is the focus of Katie Cappiello’s edgy 2013 drama, which will be presented as part of Sinclair’s Free Expression Theatre Series. “We were awarded a grant to bring in the playwright for two visits,” said Gina Neuerer, Chair of Sinclair’s Department of Theatre and Dance. “The first will be right after auditions to workshop with the cast and the second will be after we open to have a public discussion about sexual violence. …. This Free Expression Theatre Series is one way for us to bring the arts to our community and give back to our community.”


Nov. 22-Dec. 1, 2019, Young at Heart Players

In this local premiere produced by YAHP and slated at the Dayton Playhouse, Cassandra Engber will star in the plum dramatic role of linguistics professor Alice Howland, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Engber’s consistently engaging work has primarily been seen at the Dayton Theatre Guild over the years. Julianne Moore received the Academy Award for her portrayal of Alice in the 2014 film adaptation, also based on the book by Lisa Genova.


Feb. 6-16, 2020, Wright State University

Sarah DeLappe’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist concerns the sportsmanship, friendships, personalities, and insightful conversation surrounding a high school girls soccer team. As the team routinely warms up for each game, DeLappe vividly examines the depths of communication between these young women and how they are ultimately affected by experiences expected and unexpected.


Feb. 8, 2020, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra

The title says it all. DPO Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman takes the DPO into an intriguing new realm of broad-based programming with this Rockin’ Orchestra Series concert featuring singer/activist/actor Wyclef Jean, who has received three Grammys including two with the hip-hop/reggae-influenced group the Fugees. Jean has also worked with Whitney Houston, Shakira, Lil Wayne, Akon, will.i.am, Mary J. Blige, and Dave Chappelle among others.

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