The Cleveland Play House Sends Off Euclid Ave. Theatre with FusionFest

Cleveland Play House's FusionFest runs from April 13 to April 23, bringing local arts groups together to present an array of new work to the community. (all images from clevelandplayhouse.com)

This coming Fall, the Cleveland Play House will be making a huge move from its home for the last 84 years at 8500 Euclid Avenue to PlayhouseSquare’s newly transformed Allen Theatre. The year-long, $30 million-plus transformation of the historic movie palace just hit its halfway point earlier this month.  And when it’s finished in August, the Allen will not just house the Play House, but also CSU’s dance and drama department.

Before they move, though, the Play House is sending off their current facility with the 6th annual FusionFest, the only multidisciplinary performing arts festival at a regional theatre in the country. With FusionFest, which runs from April 13 to April 23, the Play House will bring Cleveland arts groups together to present an array of new work to the community.

There are a number of productions worth checking out, and the Play House is fortunately making this easy on the wallet by offering a discount: purchase a regular-priced ticket to a FusionFest show and get 1/2 off a second event’s ticket.

To help you figure out what you’d like to see, below are some of the offerings:

Legacy of Light

Legacy of Light by Karen Zacarias is the mainstage anchor production of the FusionFest.  In this new time-traveling comedy, two female scientists search for self-discovery, knowledge and love while their biological clocks tick away. One, living in the age of Enlightenment, races to complete her research before her child is born. The other, living in the present and unable to conceive, arranges for a surrogate to carry her child. It plays in the Drury Theatre from April 8 – May 1 and is the production I’m most looking forward to during FusionFest.

Stew and The Negro Problem

When Stew and Heidi Rodewald began work on Passing Strange, a musical that went on to become both a Spike Lee-directed movie and Tony Award-winner for Best Book of a Musical, their band The Negro Problem was put on hold. This past year, however, the band returned and is touring Making It, a multi-media, rock show collage of song, text, and video. The show traces the unlikely careers of Stew and Heidi from the dive rock clubs of Hollywood to the footlights of Broadway. On the Baxter Stage, April 21-23; Thur. @ 8:00pm, Fri. and Sat. @ 9:30pm. 

 Pollock

With my love for art history, I cannot wait for this one-man piece by and starring Joe Peracchio.  Described as a ferocious and provocative journey through the heart and mind of Jackson Pollock, Pollock is a multi-media production that also features original music by jazz great Ornette Coleman.  Set somewhere between the artist’s barn-studio on Long Island and the vastness of his playful and tormented internal world, Pollock takes the audience through the history, memories, desires, and influences that created one of the most brilliant legends of art. On the Baxter April 15 and 16 @ 8:00 pm.

 Shaheed:The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto

In her solo show, writer/performer Anna Khaja illuminates the lives and historical forces surrounding slain Pakistani Prime minister Benazir Bhutto. In Shaheed, the influence of Bhutto’s life and death resonates far beyond the boundaries of Pakistan, reshaping the world’s struggle to reconcile the precepts of Islam with those of democracy.  In the Brooks Theatre, April 15 and 16, Fri. @ 7:30pm, Sat. @ 5:00pm.

The Real Americans

Playwright and actor Dan Hoyle spent 100 days traveling through small-town America and found himself immersed in the populist anger of the people whom Sarah Palin famously described as ‘The Real Americans’ and awed at the disconnect between Obama Nation and Palin Country. Portrayed with humor, sympathy, confusion, angst, and song, this vivid performance challenges the audience to move beyond their bafflement and engage with the future of a politically polarized America. It’s a disconnect I often marvel at myself, so I’m hoping to see this April 22 or 23 @ 7:00 pm in the Brooks Theatre.

 Marigold Wars

Robin VanLear, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s community arts director who is renowned for Parade the Circle, is leading a team of collaborators in creating a world-premiere interactive performance about the struggle to find reason, peace and beauty amid the ravages of war. With the production, she fuses together sculpture, puppetry, and music from around the globe and multiple forms of dance. Marigold Wars plays on the Baxter Stage, April 14 – 17, Thur. @ 8:00 pm, Sat. @ 2:00 pm, Sun. @ 7:00 p.m. 

 Karamu Readings: TaKe A hArD RIDE

TaKe A hArD RIDE is an original trilogy written by three of Cleveland’s leading African-American playwrights: Part 1 – ANY MAN and FIVE CENTS will pay a COLORED GIRLS FARE all the way to nowhere by Cornell Calhoun III; Part 2 – Truth Out by Mary Weems; and Part 3 – Hunger is a Wanderer by Michael Oatman, a member of CPH’s Playwrights Unit. The production is presented by Karamu House, directed by Terrence Spivey and will be performed on April 17 @ 4pm in the Brooks Theatre.

Voices of Healing

Voices of Healing is a unique collaboration between the Play House, local artists, the Cleveland Clinic and Summa Health System. The production explores the questions: “What does it take to truly heal another person? To be healed? What, ultimately, is our relationship with our most precious possession: our own body?”  Conceived by Martin Kohn, Director of the Program in Medical Humanities, Cleveland Clinic, and written by Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine students, patients and doctors from Summa Health System, and local artists Eric Coble, David Hassler, Nicole Robinson, and Katherine Burke, Voices of Healing will take the audience inside the minds of physicians, patients, and caregivers to explore Northeast Ohio’s medical community as it’s never been seen before. Playing in the Brooks Theatre, April 14 @ 6:00pm.

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In addition to the above productions, other FusionFest highlights include new play readings and the Local Explosion event, which will feature four new short performances fusing local artists from a wide variety of disciplines.  April 21st will also see the presentation of the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Winner hosted by the Mandel Jewish Community Center at 7pm in the Brooks Theatre.

More information and tickets can be found at www.clevelandplayhouse.com/fusionfest or by calling 216 795 7000. With such a varied selection of new and challenging shows in this year’s FusionFest, I think it’ll be the perfect way for the Play House to say goodbye to the place it’s called home for over 80 years.

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