Tag Archives: cleveland public theatre

NOVA at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big Box ’14

Cleveland Public Theatre's Big Box '14, February 6 - March 22

Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big Box ’14, cptonline.org

Cleveland Public Theatre is known for its year-round dedication to pushing boundaries and taking risks with their production choices (you can read about some of those performances here and here). However, when it’s time for their annual Big Box series, they push it one step further.

Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big Box celebrates audacious, local artists by providing a space and support staff for new workshop performances.

For the writers, directors and actors selected to take part in Big Box, it means they have an opportunity to focus solely on experimenting with different disciplines and new stories. For audiences, it means the chance to experience ten world-premieres in only seven weeks. 

First up is NOVA, a one-act opera that satirizes contemporary marketing techniques and how our society often treats people – especially women – as commodities.

Presented by Real Time Opera, producers of Harvey Pekar’s Leave Me Alone!, NOVA is running in the James Levin Theatre February 6, 7 and 8 (all performances start at 7 p.m.).

Presented by Real Time Opera, NOVA will be onstage at the James Levin Theatre 2/6-8 (Credit: Don Harvey)

NOVA, onstage at the James Levin Theatre 2/6-8 (Credit: Don Harvey)

If the Stepford Men’s Association had gone to robotics school, NOVA would have been their thesis project. In short, she’s a sexbot.

(Needless to say, this production is for adults only — leave children at home because it contains nudity and sexual language of a graphic nature.)

This show intrigues me because I’m two issues into Alex & Ada, a new comic about an emotionally detached guy who receives a sexbot from his grandmother for his birthday.

However, in contrast to Alex & Ada’s use of the android trope for a love story, NOVA is taking a much more scathing and reflective approach.

Paul Schick, who wrote the libretto, said he intends NOVA to deliver an indictment of “the superficiality of commercialized sexuality — essentially white, video-obsessed and gamingobsessed — in which our culture is immersed.”

I’m similarly interested in how NOVA twists the traditional opera format. While the production will include a chorus, they’re evangelists backing up the sexbot salesman’s unending pitch. The jingles they use quote pre-existing material and advertising campaigns. The show will also feature canned sitcom laughter from a “studio audience.”

It’s an interesting concept and I love that CPT’s Big Box provides an environment where local artists can take this sort of risk and get feedback from an audience. 

After NOVA, Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big Box series continues through March 22 with one to two shows per week. Tickets cost $12 on Thursdays and $18 on Fridays and Saturdays. You can read more about each week’s schedule at the links below: 

Cleveland’s Holiday Arts and Entertainment: My 2013 Top 10

Blogkeeping: Congratulations, entry 6 – Melanie, for winning the Rachael Ray Week in a Day giveaway. Please respond to my email by 5pm ET on Wednesday (12/11).

Holiday Arts and Entertainment: Great Lakes Theater's A Christmas Carol (now through December 22); photo by Roger Mastroianni

Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol (now through December 22); photo by Roger Mastroianni

It’s time for one of my favorite blog posts of the year — my wrap-up of holiday arts and entertainment coming to Cleveland. From the return of popular classics to new takes on old tales, here are my 10 picks for what to see around Cleveland this December.

Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol (through December 22)

This December, Great Lakes Theater celebrates a milestone for their annual holiday production — the 25th anniversary of A Christmas Carol! Through December 22, take the family to see their twist on the Charles Dickens classic. It’s Christmas Eve, twenty years after Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. The Cleaveland family sits down to read the story as it comes alive onstage, seen through the imagination of the family’s youngest child.

Continue reading

Shine Bright at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Pandemonium

Blogkeeping: Congratulations to entry #40, Megan McFadden. After removing one pingback and placing the other entries in Random.org, you won 2 tickets to Locavore. Please reply to my email by 9/5 or I will need to select another winner.

Locavore Winner

One of the things I love about this city is its desire to climb high. Dream big. Shine bright.

For over 30 years, Cleveland Public Theatre has lit up Cleveland’s west side with brilliant creativity and innovation. Every season they bring to the Gordon Square Arts District productions that embrace the risk and adventure of life, while also showcasing new, local talent.

They’ve aspired to – and succeeded in – celebrating the remarkable, the experimental, the weird in CLE.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Pandemonium: Building CPT's House of Dreams

On Saturday night, Scott and I went on an unexpected adventure when Cleveland Public Theatre hosted their annual benefit and awards party.

What followed was the most unusual and remarkable party I’ve been to since moving to Cleveland. Part Fringe festival / part dance-party-on-your-last-night-on-earth, simply – and literally – put it was Pandemonium.

And. It. Was. Awesome.

As we pulled the car up to CPT’s campus to park, the show was already starting on the front steps. With the year’s theme being House of Dreams, it was only fitting that as we walked into the theatre we were surrounded by an art installation of performers “sleeping” around the entrance.

At check-in we were given a program for the evening and a map of all of the stages. In total there were 24 stages located throughout CPT’s campus, many of which were tucked away in corners, under staircases and in some of the 3-building campus’ most unusual places.

Every adventurer needs fuel before setting out on a journey, though, so before the performances started, guests could enjoy food from many of my favorite Gordon Square Art District and neighboring restaurants like Happy Dog hot dogs and toppings.

As the crowd finished filtering in, the party really started with their opening performance. Created by CPT’s executive artistic director Raymond Bobgan, the performance was a scene about being overwhelmed by our daily struggles that led into a dance-chant dream sequence with hints of last season’s Akarui.

At the end, the harried office-worker was transformed into the House of Dreams’ radiant queen who introduced Bobgan, the evening’s Morphius, and invited us to give into CPT’s mission of taking risks and approaching the evening with an adventurous spirit.

I was happy I wore my more comfortable heels that evening because it made it easier to scour CPT’s campus. My favorite part of the evening was that although there was no way you’d see everything, the art installations, plays, interactive performances and music were so varied that it became an evening of Choose Your Own Adventure.

A few of the highlights I enjoyed included:

  • Winsor McCay’s Slumberland, a short play by David Hansen of Cleveland Centennial adapted from the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland
  • The Reverie Oracle, a 2-hour long-form improvisation piece by Raymond Bobgan
  • Back from the Echoless Shore, an art installation created by mother/daughter team Faye and Joan Hargate which was a peaceful, comforting space to disconnect from the rest of the Pandemonium

Those who have seen my backyard will know I was also excited to see MorrisonDance’s Flamingo performance on the Lovecraft Lawn – they fully embraced the movements and grace of my favorite bird.

In the middle of all of this, we took a break for a few more bites from LUXE, BonBon, Touch Food Truck, Latitude 41N and XYZ like watermelon gazpacho, pork belly and a brussels sprout-bacon hash. The Root Cafe also had a delicious selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes.

After catching Last Call Cleveland’s final performance for the night and a few songs in the upstairs cabaret from Tara Hawley, we headed back to the mainstage for Pandemonium’s Awards presentation.

Created to recognize outstanding contributions to the arts and community, the 10th annual Pandemonium PAN Award honored local leaders and dedicated philanthropists Jakki and Fred Nance. In honor of their work, they were presented with a unique and beautiful award designed by artist Shawn Godwin. Each year, Godwin creates a piece inspired by architectural details from CPT’s theatre and the recipients’ bios.

If you thought the party was done, though, you were wrong. Aerialist Leslie Friend’s acrobatics and the living centerpieces of the dessert tables ignited the room for the second half of Pandemonium, a dance party that went late into the night.

In addition to fundraising for Cleveland Public Theatre, Pandemonium was the perfect way to capture the spirit of their 2012-2013 season, described in a word as “REMARKABLE.”

The season, which features 7 world and a number of regional premieres, will start on October 4 with two productions: the regional premiere of Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays and the world premiere The Kardiac Kid.

From Oct. 4 through 20, Standing on Ceremony will play in CPT’s mainstage Gordon Square Theatre. Conceived by Brian Shnipper, it features vignettes from some of the nation’s best playwrights – Jordan Harrison, Moisés Kaufman, Mo Gaffney, Neil LaBute, Wendy MacLeod, José Rivera, Paul Rudnick, and Doug Wright – about gay marriage rights and the heartfelt and sometime wacky moments surrounding the theme of “I do.”

At the same time, in CPT’s Storefront Studio, The Kardiac Kid will present a celebration of Cleveland, the Browns and the fall of 1980. In his one-man show, Cleveland’s own Eric Schmiedl plays a girl abandoned to her grandparents, a Roman Catholic priest (and his enemy, the parish dog), and a bookish skilled tradesman from the west side who thinks that he has discovered the secret for keeping the Browns winning. As football season gets underway, it’s a high-powered performance for Browns fans.

You can learn more and purchase tickets for the entire season at cptonline.org/cleveland-public-theater-performances-and-tickets.php.

CPT staff and the more than 300 artists and volunteers who came together to put on such an incredible and off-the-wall event deserve applause for a night that fully embraced the risks and rewards you find in the arts. And as I went to sleep that evening, exhausted from such a good time, I was happy to dream.

There were too many fantastic moments from House of Dreams to fit in a blog post, so if you want to see more of the craziness, here’s my full slideshow:



Disclosure: With my love for local performing arts, I was more than happy to share a preview of Pandemonium as well as a recap of my experience at the event. In exchange, a guest and I were invited to attend.

Pandemonium Celebrates Cleveland Public Theatre Season

Blogkeeping Note: You have until 11:59 pm on Sept. 4 to enter the Taste of the Browns giveaway – good luck!

Celebrate the start of the 2012-2013 theatre season with Cleveland Public Theatre on Sept. 8

Cleveland theatre fans, rejoice! The summer break is over and many of our local theatres are ready to premiere their new seasons. A few quick bits of note:

  • Football and theatre enthusiasts alike will love Cleveland Playhouse‘s Lombardi.
  • The thought-provoking, but comedic Milk Milk Lemonade is currently playing through Sept. 8 at the often-off-the-wall, boundary-pushing convergence continuum.
  • Beck Center for the Arts mounts the first locally produced run of Xanadu.
  • And community auditions for Near West Theatre‘s November production of Children of Eden just wrapped (they’re still seeking volunteers for backstage crew and front-of-house work — call 216-961-9750 if interested).

If you want to keep up-to-date on what’s onstage, Cleveland.com’s theatre page and BroadwayWorld Cleveland are my favorite sites to bookmark.

CPT’s Pandemonium features dozens of local theatre, dance, visual and performance artists

Cleveland Public Theatre, in particular, knows this time of year is one to celebrate. So before they roll out their 2012-2013 shows in October, they’re throwing their 10th annual Pandemonium bash on September 8.

At Pandemonium: House of Dreams, CPT invites you to “choose your own adventure” with an extravaganza that features dozens of local theatre, dance, visual and performance artists and fabulous food and drink.

At Pandemonium, performances will pop up (or drop in) in the most-unexpected places

Check-in starts at 7pm, where guests will receive a performance schedule for the night. From there the evening is up to you as innovative performances will be popping up in surprise spots throughout CPT’s campus:

  • Dance performances will feature Verb ballets, Inlet Dance Theatre, Wind and Sand Dance Company, Double-Edge Dance, Kevin Marr, Antaeus Dance and MorrisonDance.
  • Live music by We the People, Queue Up, Last Call Cleveland, and Bobby Williams.
  • Stand-up comedy by Ramon Rivas’ Accidental Comedy Feast.
  • Original work by CPT’s The Dark Room, Eric Schmiedl, Holly Holsinger, Greg Vovos, Opera Per Tutti, Theater Ninjas and dozens more.
  • Wandering performances by Talespinners Children’s Theatre, Ray McNeice, Robin VanLear, and Mark Zust.
  • Cabaret Acts featuring Paul Hoffman and Alison Garrigan.
  • Original performances by Raymond Bobgan.
  • And installations by Jeon Francis and mother/daughter team Faye & Joan Hargate.

Meanwhile, chefs from BonBon Bake Shop, Latitude 41 N, Luxe Kitchen and Lounge, Root Café, Touch Food Truck and XYZ Grill and Tavern will be cooking up an outdoor feast. Treats from Sweet Moses and tastings from AMP 150, Players, Light Bistro, Fat Cats, Vento La Trattoria and Tartine will also be available.

The evening culminates with music and dancing til midnight.

Pandemonium supports CPT’s mission of developing new, adventurous works and education programs that speak to contemporary issues and empower positive change in the community

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $135 ($75 of which is tax-deductible) and valet parking, unlimited food, drinks and entertainment are included – so indulge yourself as much as you’d like with no regrets (at least til the next morning ;) )!

Purchase Pandemonium tickets online or call 216.631.2727 x 212.

Still need convincing? Catch a glimpse of last year’s Pandemonium experience then go get your tickets:


Pandemonium 2011 from Ted Sikora on Vimeo.

Photo Credits and Disclosure: Photos credited to Steve Wagner. Graphic provided by Cleveland Public Theatre.  A guest and I were invited to attend Pandemonium in exchange for sharing about it on my blog.

Cleveland Public Theatre's Transformative Akarui

From Cleveland Public Theatre’s Akarui, left to right: Beth Wood, Dionne D. Atchison, Rose Sengenberger, Amy Schwabauer, Faye Hargate, Carly Garinger, Roxana Bell – laying down is James Alexander Rankin

When I compare it to other theatres, what sets Cleveland Public Theatre apart is that I never know what to expect when I walk in their doors.  When I see a show there, I get the same on-edge excitement as when I stick my hand into a mystery box at a fair, not knowing what I’m going to pull out.

From a transatlantic love story that bears witness to the tragic consequences of extremist ideologies to experimental dinner theatre that’s not really dinner theatre – their shows often take the audience on a wild ride challenging our views on certain topics and sometimes even the fabric of reality itself.

I love this element of surprise, and CPT delivered on it again when my friend Kate and I saw their latest production – Akarui – last week.

With Reddstone’s renovations complete, theatregoers have another option for pre-show drinks and dinner

Before we headed to CPT, we stopped at nearby Reddstone to try their revised menu and see the newly renovated space. I really enjoyed the bulliet black cherry sour and o*y*o mule served in mason jars, while their goat cheese and chorizo-stuffed mushrooms were the highlight of our meal.

With our whistles wetted, we headed over to Detroit Ave. for opening night of Akarui’s world premiere. Written by up-and-coming playwright Jen Silverman, Akarui is a contemporary tale of transformation that transports its characters across time and place to a rave where DJ Akarui spins beats for the lost, the desperate and the dangerous.

Among those that answer the call are a pre-op transboi, a beautiful musician, a victim of violence and a fearsome scientist caught up in her experiments. Everything comes at a price, though, in this world led by the hypnotizing sounds of DJ Akarui.

Akarui’s chorus looks on from the scaffolding at James Alexander Rankin and Davis Aguila

When we walked into the theatre, we were struck by the set’s industrial, urban feel. Designed by Great Lakes Theatre’s Marketing and PR Director Todd Krispinsky, it featured three sets of scaffolding platforms and graffiti artwork by Christopher “Pokes” Cook.

Over the next couple of hours, this well-utilized space would be the backdrop for a town in America, Brazil, Dr. Baba Yaga’s hut in the middle of a swamp, and finally DJ Akarui’s rave-cave at the end of the world.

As everyone settled into their seats, thumping music started to swell and a veiled, androgynous chorus entered the stage. With echoes of a Greek Chorus, DJ Akarui’s rave children weaved the seemingly disconnected storylines of the play together until they all collided with one another in the second act.

The chorus and DJ Akarui (back: Faye Hargate, Dionne D. Atchinson, Roxana Bell, Chris Seibert, Amy Schwabauer, Carly Garinger, Rose Sengenberger; front: Adam Seeholzer, Jeremy Paul)

Akarui had a very entrancing cadence to it thanks to the rhythmic nature of the script and a percussive songscape influenced by the Afro-Brazilian Candomble Tradition.

In Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan’s Director Notes, he wrote about traditional music’s ability to ease humanity through moments of transition – to transport and guide us.   The music was central to Akarui because it is a play about people, who (like all of us) are half done.

While some of the transformations in Akarui were physical (like DC’s and the Mantaray’s), others were emotional such as the killer who sought redemption and his victim who sought revenge and then forgiveness.

These characters were all guided in their change by either DJ Akarui or Baba Yaga who were excellent foils as to how to achieve a successful transformation.  Whereas Baba Yaga sought a scientific, “easy” and immediate approach to change, DJ Akarui embraced an organic process in which the person seeking something new needed to fully want and accept it and be willing to give up their former self.

I’ve always been intrigued by Roman and Greek myths about transformation (that’s what 7 years of studying Latin will do to you!) and Akarui was a very interesting, contemporary take on it.  The notion that you have to be truly open to your change before you can undergo it successfully really hit home for me.

Richard Brandon Hall and Molly Andrews-Hinders as the musician and DC in Akarui

There were a couple of spots within the performance that I thought could possibly be smoothed out. Specifically, the very end – which admittedly had the challenge of wrapping up so many intertwined story lines – left me wanting something more.

I felt that there was such an incredible peak in energy leading up to it which didn’t carry over to the last note. Regardless though, the rest of the journey more than made up for it.

The performing arts revolve around the notion of transformation – from the writing of the script and the transformation of a bare stage with props and sets, to the emotional experience actors and audience share during a performance. Akarui is a strange, beautiful ode to this Transformation that takes place not just onstage but also in our lives.

Akarui is at Cleveland Public Theatre through June 9th with performances at 7:30pm on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Tickets range from $10 to $25 and can be purchased at www.cptonline.org, by calling 216-631-2727, ext 501 or by visiting the box office.

Because this is the last production of CPT’s season, join them after the closing performance on June 9th for their End of Season Party. Starting at 10pm, the event is free, open to the public and features dancing, free desserts and a cash bar.

Disclosure: All production photos courtesy of Cleveland Public Theatre – credited to Steve Wagner.  A guest and I were invited to attend Akarui’s opening night in exchange for blogging about the experience. As always, though, my opinions are 100% my own.

Cleveland Public Theatre's Premiere of Antebellum

Before I start today’s post, I wanted to take a moment and encourage everyone to contribute to the Chardon Healing Fund. 100 percent of the money raised will help those in the community directly affected by the random and devastating violence from earlier this week.

Donations can be made at any PNC Bank branch or the United Way of Geauga County to help Chardon’s community take their first steps in what will be a very difficult healing process. 


The regional premiere of Antebellum is at CPT through 3/10

The majority remains quiet…And it is the minority…which strikes the match.’” — Antebellum

Cleveland Public Theatre’s latest production Antebellum continues the Gordon Square theatre’s mission of producing “a forum for debate, a vessel for exploration” through the performing arts.

Although the play, which runs at CPT through March 10, takes place almost a century ago, it is lines like the one above that demonstrate Antebellum‘s powerful relevance in a contemporary climate saturated with extremist idealogies.   

Written by Robert O’Hara and first helmed at DC’s Wooly Mammoth Theatre in 2009, Antebellum is making its regional premiere at CPT. Last Friday, Scott and I headed to the Gordon Square Arts District for the production’s opening night.

At the heart of Antebellum are two men – one African-American, the other Jewish. The beautiful cabaret singer Gabriel and conflicted Southern gentleman Ariel (portrayed by Nicholas Sweeney and Mark Rabant, respectively) share a love that bridges years and thousands of miles while challenging their societies’ intolerance of race, religion and sexual preference. 

From L to R: Nicholas Sweeney as Gabriel, Mark Rabant as Ariel, and Audrey Lovy as Edna (photo by Steve Wagner)

CPT’s Associate Artistic Director Beth Wood both directed and designed the production’s set. Her stage design allowed the action to fluidly jump between a southern American plantation, a German concentration camp, the world premiere of Gone With The Wind and a Berlin cabaret in the 1930s.

Its simplicity also created a very effective backdrop against which three relationships become indelibly intertwined because of Gabriel and Ariel’s sweeping romance.

Although Gabriel and Ariel’s love story pushes Antebellum’s action forward, it’s through the respective people holding them back that the audience sees the full spectrum of discrimination central to the play. 

On the one hand, there is Ariel’s wife of convenience whose obsession with the world premiere of Gone With The Wind is kind of chuckle-inducing at the start of the play. Laurel Hoffman intentionally plays “Simple Sarah” with an almost over-the-top ditziness and naivete.  However, beneath her Southern belle charm lies a subtle racism that eventually transforms into violent hatred.

On the other side of the Atlantic is Oskar von Schleicher, a Nazi Commandment portrayed by Dana Hart. He is equal parts monster – imprisoning then viciously torturing Gabriel – as well as tragic prisoner to a love forbidden by the regime he serves.

Dana Hart as Oskar von Schleicher and Laurel Hoffman as Sarah Roca (photo by Steve Wagner)

Although Sarah and Oskar were powerful antagonists to Gabriel and Ariel re-discovering love, it’s a testament to Hoffman and Hart’s authentic portrayals that they could simultaneously stir pity and disdain for their characters.  

Unfortunately, Audrey Lovy’s portrayal of the mysterious Edna was the production’s only weakness.  Her performance was too restrained and didn’t fully capture the enigmatic stranger that shows up on Sarah’s doorstep at the beginning of the play.

O’Hara’s Antebellum is a heartwrenching story about discrimination in all its forms. Not just the outright hatred and violence that most often comes to mind when the topic is discussed, but the majority’s complicit silence that allows it to thrive. 

Antebellum, a powerfully relevant statement on the spectrum of discrimination (photo by Steve Wagner)

Antebellum is on stage in CPT’s main Gordon Square Theatre until March 10. Along with Darwinii: The Comeuppance of Man and poor little Lulu, it is part of a three-play series CPT is busy producing over the next month. 

Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday.  Prior to this Friday’s performance (March 2), join CPT and the LGBT community for the inaugural goPUBLIC pre-show happy hour and after every Friday performance, enjoy a drink on CPT during Free Beer Fridays.
These complimentary engagement programs allow audiences to mingle with the production’s artists and CPT staff, while opening a dialogue about a show that strongly resonates in today’s culture.
Tickets can be purchased online or over the phone and in-person at CPT’s Box Office.  Ranging from $10 on Thursday and Monday to $25 on Friday and Saturday, the cost for this compelling evening of theatre is incredibly affordable.
Cleveland Public Theatre 411:

Disclosure: I was offered two tickets to a performance of Antebellum in exchange for sharing my opinions in this blog post. As always, these opinions are 100% my own.

The Art of Engagement, Part 4: Cleveland Public Theatre

Over the last month, I’ve enjoyed blogging about one of my favorite topics: Cleveland theatre.  Specifically, highlighting what a few of our local theatres are doing to engage more diverse audiences and help members of the community explore a deeper relationship with the performing arts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about local enrichment programs along the way and will check some of them out the next time you see a show.  Today I’m happy to conclude the Art of Engagement with Cleveland Public Theatre.

CPT is the ideal setting for audience engagement programs. Founded in 1981, CPT was inspired by Cafe LaMama, an internationally renowned experimental theatre in New York City. For over 30 years, Cleveland Public Theatre has been Cleveland’s leading stage for adventurous new theatre, nationally recognized for its unconventional and ground breaking work.

From productions like Conni’s Avant-Garde Restaurant to their Big Box series, which gives local artists the opportunity to create new work, CPT challenges their audiences to experience theatre as “a site for celebration, a forum for debate, a vessel for exploration.”

To help audiences dig deeper into the labyrinth, Cleveland Public Theatre has introduced a handful of audience engagement programs this season.

After Friday night performances, CPT invites the audience to stay and enjoy a drink on them. However, Free Beer Fridays are about more than just drinking for free.

Artists from the show, such as actors, designers or the director, as well as CPT staff attend Free Beer Fridays to mingle with the audience and have a conversation about what they just saw.  The goal is to make the theatre feel more like a home where questions, thoughts and discussion are always welcome.

CPT is also engaging audiences and helping newer artists through two development programs: the Springboard: Staged Reading Festival and Leap/Conceive.

CPT opened the 2011-2012 season with their first Springboard series. The festival featured staged readings of new scripts by local writers as well as work that was under consideration for future production.

In addition to post-show discussions, comment cards were left on every chair so that if audience members wanted they could anonymously share their feedback on the show.

With Leap/Conceive, audiences got a sneak peek into the creative process as CPT presented showcases of performances in the middle of development.  The artists — all from Northeast Ohio — chose a 10 minute segment of their future production to develop and share. Audience and artists saw the work together, assessed it and offered their reactions.  CPT took a flip/cam around immediately after the show to get people’s reactions on what they had just experienced.

Both of these series not only supported local artists, but also offered audiences a rare opportunity to participate in shaping new work.  The final production will show the fruits of the audience feedback it received during development.

Coming up next for Cleveland Public Theatre is their production of Antebellum which opens this coming Thursday, February 23.

Against the backdrops of a southern American plantation, a German concentration camp, the world premiere of Gone With The Wind and 1930s Berlin cabarets, the love story of two men, one Jewish and the other African-American, bridges time, space and gender and challenges intolerance of race and religion.

In addition to Antebellum, CPT’s upcoming productions of Poor Little Lulu and Akarui were either written by an openly gay playwright or deal with LGBT issues. To further engage the LGBT community and allies during these productions, CPT created goPUBLIC.

On the second Friday of these three productions (March 2, March 16 and June 1), CPT will host their goPUBLIC pre-show happy hour as well as the Free Beer Friday after the performance.  With the production bookended by these opportunities to socialize pre- and post-show, the performance creates a source of insightful conversation.

More information about the goPUBLIC night for Antebellum can be found below:

From social to educational experiences, new to well-established programs, I’ve loved learning about the audience engagement experiences the Cleveland Play House, Near West Theatre, Great Lakes Theater and Cleveland Public Theatre offer.

There are a lot of opportunities (most of them free!) to discover more about the shows you see onstage, meet new people who are similarly interested in the arts and even get involved with the creative process.

Of course, there’s a lot I still need to explore within Cleveland theatre – Dobama, Beck and convergence-continuum are on my list to name just a few.

But that’s what I think is at the heart of audience engagement and its greatest gift: the desire to keep exploring new theatres, shows and the unique approaches each company takes. And at the end of the day, I hope I was able to share a bit of that with you.

Missed parts 1-3 in the Art of Engagement? Here you go:

All I Want for Cleve-mas, Part 1: Onstage This Holiday Season


This year, Santa comes early to Cleveland with plenty of onstage holiday action - from theatre like the Cleveland Playhouse's Game's Afoot to concerts like the Cleveland POPS at PlayhouseSquare. (graphic from playhousesquare.org)

Each year, holiday preparations seem to start earlier and earlier (I was floored when I saw Christmas decorations on some shelves before Halloween). But although I’m not quite ready to bust out the decorations, I think it’s never too early to start planning my gift giving, as well as my own wishlist.

Last November, I shared my “All I Want for Cleve-mas” round-up of holiday shows in Cleveland. It’s time for the 2011 edition — my top 5 gift suggestions for the Cleveland theater-phile in your life.

Ken Ludwig's The Game's Afoot (or Holmes for the Holidays), 11/25-12/18 (photo from clevelandplayhouse.com)

Ken Ludwig’s The Game’s Afoot (or Holmes for the Holidays)

For their holiday show, the Cleveland Play House is bringing a world premiere to the Allen Theatre.

In the Game’s Afoot, acclaimed actor of the 1930s, William Gillette, invites his Sherlock Holmes co-stars to his eccentric Connecticut mansion for a Christmas Eve celebration. When one of the guests is murdered, Gillette employs the persona of the master detective he’s made famous on the stage.

I’m most excited for this show – not just because I enjoy all things Sherlock Holmes and murder mystery comedies (love Murder by Death!), but also because it’s directed by Aaron Posner. Posner is the founder and former artistic director of one of my favorite Philadelphia theatres — the Arden Theatre. He also was the adapter of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev (both of which have been staged at Cleveland Play House).

Nov. 25-Dec. 24 / Buy tickets here.

Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant, 12/1-12/18 (photo from cptonline.org)

Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant: Home for the Hollandaise

Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant is back after last year’s sold-out run at CPT.  If you’re curious about this show filled with crazy cabaret, improv comedy, death and a mighty tasty five-course meal, you can read my full review here.

It’s definitely a unique, thoroughly entertaining and appetizing twist on the holidays while exploring motherhood, rock n’ roll fame and the art of bussing a table. Plus ChefChef BonBon (from Bonbon Bake Shop) is back to cook up a delicious menu.

Dec. 1-Dec. 18 / Buy tickets here.

A Christmas Carol, 12/1-12/23 (photo from greatlakestheater.org)

A Christmas Carol

A Cleveland holiday tradition returns to Great Lakes Theater when the family classic A Christmas Carol appears on the Ohio Theatre stage for its 23rd year.

Longtime GLT artistic company member Sara Bruner, will stage former Artistic Director Gerald Freedman’s heartwarming adaptation of A Christmas Carol. During this story within a story, the fictitious Cleaveland family gathers in its Victorian-era parlor on Christmas Eve to read Mr. Dickens’ book. GLT actor Aled Davies returns for his fourth season in the role of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.

Dec. 1-Dec. 23 / Buy tickets here.

Cleveland Orchestra's Holiday Festival, 12/2-12/23 (photo from clevelandorchestra.com by Roger Mastroianni)

Cleveland Orchestra Holiday Festival

The Cleveland Orchestra and Choruses join forces for nine concerts of traditional Christmas favorites during The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2011 Holiday Festival. The seasonal programs will include “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, and “Sleigh Ride,” “Scenes from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.”

 Academy Award-winning songwriter Randy Newman who wrote music for Toy Story among many other songs (including my favorite – the theme to Monk) will be performing a holiday concert on Dec. 3 with the Orchestra.

The PNC Holiday Musical Rainbow series will also celebrate Chanukah and Kwanzaa with music and stories.

Dec. 2-Dec. 23 / Learn more and buy tickets for all of the events here.

Santaland Diaries, 11/25 -12/17 (graphic from playhousesquare.org)

Santaland Diaries & Cleveland POPS at PlayhouseSquare

PlayhouseSquare’s theatres will also play host to a few other holiday shows.

The Cleveland Public Theatre will present David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries, Nov. 25-Dec. 17. Based on the best-selling author’s own hilarious holiday experiences, it’s the story of a 33-year-old slacker who takes a job as Crumpet, a Macy’s Christmas elf, dealing with thousands of children and their parents as they pay a visit to Santa.

On Nov. 27, the Cleveland POPS and Conductor Carl Topilow will be joined by Fox 8 TV personalities including Todd Meany, Tracy McCool, Wayne Dawson, and Dick Goddard. During their Old-Fashioned Christmas Show, the Cleveland POPS will play favorite Christmas songs and carols and local shelters will be there with adoptable puppies and kittens.

And because I like saving money, I’ll be on www.playhousesquare.org on Nov. 28 for their Cyber Monday specials. Last year, they had a different special for each hour — from no ticketing fees to parking and food vouchers to PlayhouseSquare gift cards. 

Santaland Diaries: Nov. 25-Dec. 17 / Buy tickets here.
Cleveland POPS Concert: Nov. 27 / Buy tickets here.


While these may be my top 5, Cleveland is fortunate to have a number of professional and community theatres that call it home. So if you haven’t found the perfect gift here, keep an eye on those last 2 links for more options of what’s onstage this holiday season!

For more ideas when shopping local for the holidays, check out: