CINCINNATI — The newest project filming in Cincinnati isn’t so much about the performance on the stage. It’s more about the actors themselves – and the crew off stage that's running the lights, operating the soundboard and teaching choreography.

Some audience members may even end up on the small screen.

What You Need To Know

  • A new docuseries is filming in Cincinnati

  • The show will take the audience behind the scenes of the making of “label•less"

  • The production, created by Drew and Lea Lachey, tells personal stories of the actors

  • Filming takes place through the middle of August

Film Cincinnati announced that production has started on a new reality series, or “docuseries” (documentary-style show), about the upcoming stage production of “label•less” — a unique musical stage play that combines popular music with spoken word, dancing and visual elements.

The show is the brainchild of Cincinnati native Drew Lachey and his wife, Lea. Many people know Drew and his brother Nick from their work as performers in the boy band 98 Degrees. But today, Drew and Lea spend a good portion of their time running Lachey Arts.

The arts organization created and produced the play. They’re collaborating on the project with Invent TV, TVACOM and Cincinnati-based Brave Berlin, an art and design firm that’s worked on projects like Lumenocity and BLINK.

A photo taken during a performance of “label•less.” (Photo courtesy of Lachey Arts)
A photo taken during a performance of “label•less.” (Photo courtesy of Lachey Arts)

“We are over the moon to host such an extraordinary collaboration of talent in Cincinnati,” said Kristen Schlotman, executive director of Film Cincinnati. “Drew and Lea could film this production all over the world and their commitment and love for this city has never been more palpable.”

Through the docuseries, the Lacheys hope to provide a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes into putting on a stage production. It will look at the ensemble of actors and the cast of support characters helping to put the show together. 

The series will feature rehearsals and practices, but also before, during and after each of the four scheduled performances at the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati this August.

‘It started as a writing exercise’

“label•less” tells the stories of its youthful and diverse cast. Ranging in age from 16 to 26, the actors tell personal stories of how they’ve worked to defy labels they’ve experienced in their lifetimes. 

The show tackles current social issues that this generation faces, according to event organizers. That includes topics ranging from bullying to mental health to homophobia to racism. They also discuss love and compassion.

The Lacheys described it as a “musical journey toward acceptance, focusing on the issues that affect our society, and lending a voice to the youth who are inheriting a world they didn’t create and giving us all permission to live, love and truly be ‘label-less.’”

The project came about by accident about four years ago, Lea said. An original piece, “label•less” was born out of an exercise in a music theater class through Lachey Arts in Fairfax. As part of the training, the students anonymously list types of discrimination they’d faced in their lives.

The plan was to get actors to open up about their personal experiences, Lea said. But the exercise ended up being a lot more than that.

“When we came home that night and put the pieces of paper on our kitchen table, we cried,” she added. “It was really apparent there was some not-so-great stuff going on (in their lives).”  

Drew described the project as “snowballing” into an outlet for the young actors to talk about what they were feeling.

“We realized a lot of issues we felt were on the back burner or in the past, in the rear-view mirror — are still very real and present to a lot of people,” he said. “Whether they are present in our specific lives or not, it doesn’t mean that they don’t still exist.”

The Lacheys have staged “label•less” several times over the years. They’ve filmed it. They even had a showcase at the Over-the-Rhine International Film Festival. But each time the production gets a little different due in part to the cast of characters and stories changing.

“It’s a living, breathing thing,” Drew said.

“It’s their stories,” he added. “These aren’t some hypothetical scenarios. It’s not some fictional play that’s been adapted from a novel. These are real, live people dealing with real-life scenarios, and they are their stories.”

It continues to grow and evolve

The Lacheys have tinkered with the script over the years. The look and feel of the production has changed as well.

“label•less” tells the stories of its cast members. The performance includes spoken word, song and dance. (Photo courtesy of Lachey Arts)
“label•less” tells the stories of its cast members. The performance includes spoken word, song and dance. (Photo courtesy of Lachey Arts)

Drew referred to the “label•less” as a “constantly evolving thing.” As the show’s “parents,” Drew and Lea have been careful with how they’ve raised it — knowing when to let it sit, when to let it develop naturally and when to try new things.

One thing they’ve done recently is add the creative team from Brave Berlin. The agency has used their mastery of light work, digital mapping and overall visual production to transform the look of the stage.

Steve McGowan, who co-founded and co-owns Brave Berlin with business partner Dan Reynolds, first saw the production “label•less” a few years ago at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, a K-12 public performing arts school in downtown Cincinnati. Drew and Nick both attended the school at its previous location.

Nick co-produced docuseries about life at SCPA called “Taking the Stage” for MTV in 2009. 

“It moved us,” McGowan recalled of the first time he watched “label•less.” “Talking to Drew and Lea after the show, I remember thinking, ‘This show has so much potential and so many more people really need to see this.'”

Brave Berlin had previously worked on stage productions of “1984” and “Hamlet” with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

“We knew we could use visual representation to help bring along and add more depth to the actual production value of what had been presented in the past,” McGowan said.

The Brave Berlin crew worked with the Lacheys to host a one-night, “intimate” performance of label•less at Black Box Theater at the Aronoff Center. The audience reacted with such great enthusiasm, McGowan said, that “People felt it was a show that needed to be seen.” 

For this rendition of “label•less,” McGowan and his team plan to work their magic and build in new projections and dynamic lighting designed to enhance the acting and dancing. 

“The show just continues to evolve,” McGowan said.

The production team is busy filming how this iteration of the production will come together — where the ideas come from, the stories behind what the kids are telling on stage and their stories as well.

They’ll capture the rehearsals and the performances as well. 

Performances take place nightly from Wednesday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 14 at the American Sign Museum. Each show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Those who attend in person may even end up in the series — as an audience member or maybe even a speaking part, McGowan said.

“We look forward to becoming characters within this incredible production,” he added.

Drew, who starred alongside his brother wives in the docuseries “Lachey’s: Raising the Bar” in 2015, doesn’t know when or where his new show will air. The team plans to shop the series after the run of stage shows wraps in mid-August.

More information is available on the Lachey Arts website.