Cleveland Public Theatre’s Secret Social

Did you know a clandestine society makes its home on the shores of Lake Erie?

Secret Social at Cleveland Public Theatre now through Dec. 23; graphic by Sean Higgins

The 12 and 12 believe that the Grimms’ tragic 12 Dancing Princesses wasn’t just a fairytale and work to reunite the princesses and their suitors. Oh yeah, and they throw really great parties.

Earlier this week, Scott and I attended one
of their initiation ceremonies.

But don’t worry, I can share a bit of the secret rites that transpired.  Because the 12 and 12 isn’t a real secret society, but the heart of Cleveland Public Theatre’s latest undertaking – the highly immersive world-premiere
The Secret Social.

Playing now through December 23, The Secret Social is the latest brainchild from Cleveland Public Theatre and the award-winning Conni’s Avant Garde ensemble.

If you’re familiar with Cleveland Public Theatre’s work, you may have seen their previous collaboration with Conni’s during the last couple of holidays: Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant.

This wild night of theatre and food went on to recently win Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Performance Art Production at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards (you can read my review of Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant here).

And while Conni’s featured the New York theatre company’s long-running ensemble, The Secret Social is a fresh celebration of devised theatre that is equal parts CPT and Conni’s.

Over the matter of only a few months, an ensemble of artists from Cleveland Public Theatre and Conni’s worked together to create this new story and develop their characters.

The end result is a very memorable evening of theatre where the audience is just as much a part of the adventure as the actors.

As soon as we picked up our tickets from the box office, Scott and I were introduced to the soft-spoken, friendly Etude (played by Lauren Joy Fraley) and entered into The Secret Social‘s slightly off-kilter reality.

Connie Hall (the saucy Cady and Conni’s Avant Garde producing director) and Lauren Joy Fraley (Etude); photo credit Steve Wagner

With a few knocks on the door, Etude led us into the secret society’s headquarters. We took a winding path past the society’s reliquary and hidden corners, partaking in a few of their rituals.

In addition to introducing us to the world of the 12 and 12, Etude’s tour took us into parts of CPT’s campus I’ve never seen before – backstage stairs and hallways.

And as our tour came to a close, the curtains opened onto the 12 and 12’s social hall  (the James Levin Theatre).

There we joined the rest of the night’s audience, picked out our secret identies (mine was Isadora Jar; Scott, Jack Frost), and took a seat at one of the cabaret tables.

It’s a very special meeting of the 12 and 12 you’re there to witness – the initiation of Boris, a young gardener (Val Kozlenko) who must go through a series of 3 trials and sacrifice his heart’s desire, the sacrifice each member makes to try and break the 12 princesses’ curse.

Throughout we were treated to a dance lesson, serenades, vegetable bowling and other games as the story unfolded.

Meanwhile we enjoyed a cash bar and a light supper of paesano bread; rich, creamy farmers’ cheese; kielbasa, and a bowl of borscht (Eastern European beet stew). Afterwards, we wore our shoes down dancing just like the princesses.

Part of The Secret Social’s ensemble (from bottom left: Connie Hall, Lauren Joy Fraley, Dionne D. Atchison, Val Kozlenko and Tony Cintrony; photo credit Steve Wagner)

Congratulations to The Secret Social‘s ensemble for weaving an enchantment of their own.

Under the direction of Cynthia Croot, the ensemble’s Conni Hall, Jeffrey Fracé, Dionne Atchison, Tony Citrony, Jordan Davis, Lauren Fraley, Val Kozlenko and Amy Schwabauer each in their own way made it easy to slip into their world and want to be a part of it.

My advice? Let them. Put aside your assumptions when you open the theatre’s doors and play.

Individual tickets for The Secret Social are only $45 and include the light supper.

They’re also offering special packages for groups of 8 and 16 (purchase 8 tickets and get 2 bottles of wine; groups of 16 receive a 10% group discount along with 4 bottles of wine).

The Secret Social is at the Cleveland Public Theatre now through December 23. Performances are Wednesday through Monday in the James Levin Theatre. The cash bar opens at 6:30 with the show starting promptly at 7 (no late seating).

Tickets can be purchased online, by calling (216) 631-2727 extension 501, or in person at CPT’s box office (the group discount for 16 tickets is only available by calling the box office).

Get your tickets soon, though, because last weekend sold out fast.

Disclosure: I was invited to see The Secret Social in exchange for blogging about my experience. As always, my opinions and the choice of events I share are my own.

2 thoughts on “Cleveland Public Theatre’s Secret Social

  1. Pingback: NOVA at Cleveland Public Theatre's Big Box '14

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