Actors' Theatre Artistic Director loves the South Side, Schiller Park and more

Philip J. Hickman has performed in works by Shakespeare and other classic authors for more than 20 years. His favorite roles in Shakespeare's plays are Cassius in“Julius Caesar”and Caliban in “The Tempest.”He joined Actors' Theatre of Columbus in 2010, serving as Associate Artistic Director beginning in 2013 and named as Artistic Director in 2015. The company's “Julius Caesar” closes this weekend in Schiller Park, and opens its second 2017 season show, “Pride & Prejudice,” on Thursday, June 22. Here are a few things he loves.

Schiller Park

As artistic director of Actors' Theatre of Columbus (Shakespeare in the Park, y'all), I have one of the best offices in the city. Green, lush, beautiful and full of interesting people. Where else can you watch “Julius Caesar” while enjoying a tasty Brown Bag Deli picnic with your favorite pet? Not to mention a great recreation center, sword fighting clubs, jugglers — and just a block away from Winans Coffee & Chocolate. Rain or shine, I love this emerald in the middle of the city.

The South Side

The South Side boasts all of the attractions of the city with just a little more dirt under the nails. German Village gets a lot of attention for the shops and restaurants that nestle along the brick streets. The rest of the South Side has plenty of charm, from Scioto Audubon Park to Parsons Avenue. There are still factory works on the South Side (mostly empty, but that won't last forever), real diners and non-ironic bluegrass nights. The South Side is a low-key working class hero.

Kafe Kerouac

A Columbus institution at this point. I remember the space before Mike Heslop opened Kerouac, and helped build the original counter. My first theater company performed on the 8-foot-by-8-foot stage in the corner and tried to shout over the espresso machine. More than a decade on and now Kerouac serves adult beverages along with the same great coffee. The performance area/library is home to Writers' Block Poetry Night (hosted by Scott Woods) on Wednesday evenings, the best poetry slam and open mic in the city. I grew up going to Insomnia and Idiot Boy, and Kerouac has carried on the grand tradition of those campus coffee spots.

Columbus

Columbus, I love you. I grew up in a flyspeck town in Texas (Dawn, pop. 51, not a joke). It meant a lot to be welcomed here 25 years ago. Columbus is this great cultural mix of Appalachia, the Rust Belt and the Yankee Midwest. Columbus invites everyone in, whether they are from rural America or from Somalia or China. And Columbus chooses to become richer for the diversity of culture and opinion rather than force a stagnant assimilation. There are many languages spoken here, and that makes a joyful noise.

Columbus arts scene

Columbus isn't a destination city like Chicago, and it hasn't had the rich historic arts support that Indianapolis and Cleveland have enjoyed. But since the 1990s, investment from institutions in the city has created things like the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Columbus Museum of Art expansion/renovation and the very snazzy Short North Arts District. Galleries are thriving throughout the city, from Franklinton to Olde Towne East. With support from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, emerging artists are finding the venues and opportunities to let their work meet their audience.