Tag Archives: great lakes theater

Great Lakes Theater Sets a (Death)trap for Entertainment

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There are some weeks that make me want to crawl into bed and never come out, and I feel like the last few weeks have been that way. It got to a point by the end of last Thursday where I just couldn’t function. Stringing together a sentence that made sense was nearly impossible.

However, I finally had a chance this weekend to recharge. There are two things that help me find my way back to normal. One — relaxing in bed and reading comic books until 10:30 on a Saturday morning. And two — going to see a show.

Theatre, regardless of whether it’s a comedy, drama, musical or play, does something to lift my brain out of a funk. I think it has to do with the fact that the action is unfolding live, in the same room as me. Unlike a two dimensional movie, all of my senses are engaged at a play. The exercise of such incredible focus allows my brain to clear.

Fortunately, over the weekend, I had the opportunity to take in two great shows which I’ll discuss in two posts this week. Although very different, they each provided me with what I needed.

First up was Social Media Night at Great Lakes Theatre. It’s a fantastic program that GLT’s Audience Engagement Manager Chris Fornadel has created, inviting bloggers and active CLE tweeters to learn more about their shows.

Actors Tom Ford (left, as scheming playwright Sidney Ruhl) and Nick Steen (right, as Clifford Anderson) in Deathtrap (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Actors Tom Ford (left, as scheming playwright Sidney Ruhl) and Nick Steen (right, as Clifford Anderson) in Deathtrap (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The latest meetup was for Deathtrap, Great Lakes Theater’s current production onstage at the Hanna through March 16.

I’ve written time and again of my love for murder mysteries, and Deathtrap is one of the genre’s masterpieces. It’s not just the longest-running comic thriller on Broadway, but was also made into the 1982 film featuring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. However, in my 31 years, I still had never seen it.

I count myself lucky that Great Lakes’ production was my first time. Trying to figure out the twists and turns is my favorite part of a mystery, and it’s difficult to recapture that feeling on the second or third viewing/read.

And, boy, does Great Lakes’ Deathtrap have a lot of twists. In fact, with so many shockers, it’s the perfect homage to the classic whodunit.

Ford explains his scheme to actor Tracee Patterson, who plays his wife Myra Bruhl

Ford explains his scheme to actor Tracee Patterson, who plays his wife Myra Bruhl (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

On the surface, the premise is simple: Sidney Bruhl used to be a successful Broadway playwright. However, he can’t come up with his next big hit. In fact, he’s had so many flops, the money is running out.

It’s just his luck that a former student has written a thrilling script with the potential to make lots of money. He has sent it to Sidney, looking for writing advice. Instead, Sidney hatches a plan (which may or may not include murder) to steal the script.  

Before the show, Cleveland mystery writer Les Roberts spoke about Deathtrap, murder mysteries, and his time in Cleveland. It is always a treat to hear Roberts speak and you can read a bit about his journey to Cleveland in my review of his novel Whiskey Island.

His talk was an excellent way to prepare for the show, and his comment of life imitating art (playwright Ira Levin had a series of unsuccessful plays and movies after Deathtrap) was especially interesting. 

Les Roberts talking at Great Lakes Theater's Deathtrap pre-show

Les Roberts talking at Great Lakes Theater’s Deathtrap pre-show

We got to try something new with this production’s Social Media Night: tweeting during the show. By placing us in the Hanna Theatre’s boxes, we could tweet without disrupting other audience members’ experience.

Although it was interesting to livetweet the performance, I will admit to being so engrossed in the show’s details that I didn’t tweet too often.

However, these three tweets captured my thoughts on some of the highlights:

I couldn’t find a fault with the performance. The cast and crew made excellent use of an intriguing script. And while Tom Ford as Sidney Ruhl was a treat, Tracee Patterson (Sidney’s wife), Nick Steen (Clifford), Lynn Allison (the psychic Helga Ten Dorp), and Aled Davies (Sidney’s lawyer) made up an airtight ensemble around him. It also balances the murderous mayhem with biting oneliners.

I recommend this production for anyone looking for a good laugh, a little murder, and a lot of surprise. Deathtrap runs until March 16. Purchase tickets here and use promo code GLT to receive a discount.

The season concludes with As You Like It (April 9-24) and the HANNApalooza fundraiser (June 14).  Great Lakes Theater returns in the fall with their 2014-2015 season: Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Tempest, as well as Dial “M” for Murder and Les Miserables.

I’ll be back later this week with my thoughts on Theater Ninjas’ [sic].

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Deathtrap Social Media Night in exchange for tweeting or blogging about it. My opinions are 100% my own.

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.

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My Friday Five: Why You Should See the Final Performance of Richard III on Sunday

I promise that I didn’t plan on writing three posts about Cleveland theatre this week. However, when Alicia got tickets to see Richard III on Wednesday and it was so incredible, an impromptu post was needed.

There’s only one more chance to see Richard III – this Sunday at 3pm. Here’s my Friday 5 on why you should cancel any Sunday Funday plans you’ve already made and get tickets.

Lynn Robert Berg as Richard III in Great Lakes Theater's production; all photos by Roger Mastroianni

Lynn Robert Berg as Richard III in Great Lakes Theater’s production; all photos by Roger Mastroianni

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Great Lakes Theater’s Magnificent, Macabre Sweeney Todd

UPDATE (10/10): In all my excitement for Sweeney Todd, I forgot to share a social media discount with you. Use code PR6 when purchasing tickets and save $10 off each A Level ticket you purchase. (Offer not valid retroactively, in conjunction with other offers or on student priced tickets.)

“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd. / His skin was pale and his eye was odd. / He shaved the faces of gentlemen / Who never thereafter were heard of again. / He trod a path that few have trod. / Did Sweeney Todd. / The demon barber of Fleet Street.”

Tom Ford in Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street disposing of one of his victims. All photos in this post by Roger Mastroianni, courtesy of Great Lakes Theater

Tom Ford in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street disposing of one of his victims. All photos in this post by Roger Mastroianni, courtesy of Great Lakes Theater

In Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical Sweeney Todd, you need an actor capable of capturing a man broken by injustice and tragedy, reshaped into a monster obsessed only with avenging his family.

Great Lakes Theater’s Sweeney Todd, running through Nov. 2 at PlayhouseSquare’s Hanna Theatre, has found that in actor Tom Ford.

An 8-season veteran of Great Lakes Theater, Ford brings a manic frenzy to Todd. With a theatricality similar to classic horror films, he’s a convincing madman bent on punishing the lecherous judge who wronged him, even if that means hurting others along the way.

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Great Lakes Theater’s Social Media Night at Blithe Spirit

Great Lakes Theater's Social Media Night at Blithe Spirit

Attendees at Great Lakes Theater’s Social Media Night: @FrankZupan, @TLColson, @KaseyCrabtree, @MaryLeeS, @KTOinCLE, @HungryinCLE, @WearingMascara, @BalletinCleve, @RCoristin05, @ADHicken (me!) and @SOS_jr

Between our anniversary and Jump Back Ball, Scott and I decided to make a mini Cleveland vacation out of last weekend. So we extended our stay at the PlayhouseSquare Wyndham to include both Friday and Saturday nights.

While Scott’s ideal vacation plan was to take a night off to relax in the hotel, mine was an evening out at the theatre for Great Lakes Theater’s Social Media Night.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Great Lakes Theater since I started blogging 3 years ago. (You’ll find links to a few of my favorite GLT experiences at the end of this post.) But it had been about a year or so since I’d been back.

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The Art of Engagement, Part 3: Great Lakes Theater

After I moved to Cleveland, the first theatre company I fell in love with was Great Lakes Theater at PlayhouseSquare’s Hanna Theatre.

Providing a nice complement to Cleveland Play House’s contemporary plays, GLT most often focuses on classic theatre – having its roots in Shakespeare when John Lithgow’s father helped found it 50 years ago.

After taking a slight break last week from the series, I’m happy to return with Part 3 of the Art of Engagement by focusing on Great Lakes Theater’s audience engagement programs.

What initially endeared me to Great Lakes was their emphasis on enhancing the typical theatre-going experience by making it more accessible and social.

The Hanna Theater after Great Lakes Theater's renovations

At GLT, access to its artists and production process starts as soon as you arrive at the theatre – even before the curtain rises.  After helming the renovation of a completely reimagined Hanna Theatre in 2008, Great Lakes Theater instituted an “Arrive Early, Stay Late” program.

Before every performance, the Hanna opens its doors ninety minutes early allowing guests to observe the complete pre-show preparation process of GLT’s actors and technical staff.

Elements traditionally hidden from audiences such as stage combat rehearsals, dance calls, prop/scenic pre-sets, technical cue rehearsals and actor warm-ups are conducted in full view of patrons, offering GLT audiences an unprecedented glimpse into the theatrical process.

And because theatre has always been a social experience, the Hanna stays open after the show so guests can hang out at the in-theatre bar, meet other audience members and discuss the show.

Audiences of GLT's spring productions Romeo & Juliet (pictured), The Mousetrap and Sondheim on Sondheim will have a variety of Experience Enhancement programs to enjoy and enrich their time at the Hanna.

Throughout each production, Great Lakes Theater also offers an Experience Enhancement Series, with a variety of pre and post show programming that highlights the Hanna’s unique amenities and continues GLT’s mission of providing extraordinary access to Great Lakes artists:

  • Salon Thursdays feature an engaging pre-show discussion/presentation beginning one hour before curtain with a Great Lakes Theater artist.
  • Happy Hour Fridays afford audience members the opportunity to gather and socialize at the Hanna’s bar and lounge immediately after work with an assortment of small bites and beverages.
  • Nightcap Night Saturdays are designed to encourage audience members to stay after the evening performance and enjoy entertainment hand-selected by the director of programming for Cleveland’s landmark Nighttown.
  • Ice Cream Social Sundays offer guests the opportunity to enjoy a London theatre tradition for half-price.  Food and drinks are sold and allowed inside of the Hanna for every performance, but on Sundays, ice cream is discounted.
  • Director’s Nights feature lively pre-show discussions with GLT’s Producing Artistic Director, Charles Fee, and the director of each production before preview performances.
  • Playnotes Pre-Show Discussions provide patrons with illuminating introductions to the content and history of each play in GLT’s season presented by a guest scholar before Saturday matinee performances.

In addition to these offerings, GLT will be bringing back its Classics & Conversations Series during its runs of The Mousetrap and Romeo and Juliet this Spring.

On Friday, March 23, “Cleveland’s favorite [mystery] writer” Les Roberts will present a pre-show conversation called “Mysteries Solved” before that evening’s performance of Agatha Christie’s iconic murder mystery.

And on Friday, April 27, prior to R&J, their pre-show discussion “What’s Love Got To do With It?” explores the science behind “attraction.”

Behind many of these programs is Great Lakes Theater’s Audience Engagement Manager Chris Fornadel. Fornadel is responsible not just for coordinating pre- and post-show special events, but also arranging behind-the-scenes tours and working with visitors to create unique experiences based on their requests. He can be contacted here.

Exclusive access to each production's artistic process can be found on GLT's website, blog and social media channels. Pictured here: their Fall production of The Taming of the Shrew.

What happens inside the walls of the Hanna is only half of Great Lakes Theater’s audience enrichment programs.

Before you even visit the theatre, you can experience a lot about a production on the GLT website. GreatLakesTheater.org offers comprehensive background info about each of its productions, including video features, audio clips, cast and production team bios and behind the scenes access to the creative process. Although the information for their Spring Shows will be up soon, you can check out previous productions online such as The Taming of the Shrew.

GLT’s social media channels also offer a number of ways to connect directly with their productions.  On their blog, you can find backstage photos and insight directly from the actors and production crew (sometimes even written by the artists themselves). Audience members can likewise access exclusive information and share their input on Facebook, @GLTFCleveland and their Youtube channel.

Great Lakes Theater is even coming to a Northeast Ohio neighborhood near you with a special audience engagement opportunity:  FREE THEATER!

Every season, GLT presents a free touring production that visits nearly two dozen neighborhood venues throughout northeast Ohio to kick off their annual series of Surround outreach programming. This season, in conjunction with The Mousetrap, the Outreach Tour features a world premiere adaptation by David Hansen of Agatha Christie’s Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Feb. 4 - March 7, catch a free performance of GLT's Outreach Tour Production - The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

The twists and turns of Detective Hercule Poirot’s very first mystery will premiere Feb. 14 and tour until March 7.  The production will reach audiences from Cleveland Heights to Akron, Cuyahoga Falls and Oberlin.   These performances are all open to the public (arrive early since you can’t reserve tickets) and they’re FREE (I can’t emphasize enough how awesome that is)!

It’s a great example of how audience engagement doesn’t need to take place inside of the theatre and emphasizes GLT’s goal for audience accessibility.

If you haven’t experienced Great Lakes Theater yet, this Spring is an excellent time to start. Dates, times and locations for the Outreach Tour can be found here. And check out The Mousetrap, Romeo and Juliet, and Sondheim on Sondheim‘s performance calendars for the full selection of Experience Enhancement programming.

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Want to learn about other Cleveland theatres’ audience engagement offerings? Next week is part 4 and the conclusion – a look at Cleveland Public Theatre. In the meantime, read parts 1 and 2 below:

Coming Soon to a Cleveland Theatre Near You…

Great Lakes Theater's 1980s-infused production of The Taming of the Shrew is just one reason to be excited about this Fall's lineup of Cleveland theatre

In another life long long ago (err, 6 years ago) and far far away (Philly), I used to work in theatre.  Specifically, marketing, sales and a little bit of backstage production work (random factoid #352: I worked backstage on this show for almost 2 years when it was in Philadelphia). 

So when Fall rolls around, I get excited not just because of the changing leaves or the promise of pumpkin pie, but because it marks the beginning of a new season for most theatres.

That’s no different in Cleveland as many of our local theatre companies start to kick things off the next few weeks. My personal favorites? Cleveland Play House (who’s celebrating a new home), Great Lakes Theatre (who’s celebrating a new name and their 50th anniversary), and Cleveland Public Theatre (who I need to see more of this year).

However, the city is a hotbed of performing arts so check out this Cleveland Theatre Company Guide for 2011 which has dozens of listings. From PlayhouseSquare’s Broadway Series (on sale Friday, Sept. 9), to The Beck Center for the Arts, Dobama and convergence-continuum, there are a lot of  options beyond what I’m highlighting below.

Last year's Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant returns to Cleveland Public Theatre this December as part of a season featuring 7 world premieres

Cleveland Public Theatre

CPT — a cornerstone in Gordon Square’s plan for economic revitalization through the arts — has always produced challenging and innovative works in Cleveland. And their 2011-2012 season is no different of course. This year they have 7 world premieres — five by Northeast Ohio artists.

They promote a unique and new approach to creating productions called “devised theatre” – where the structure of the play and what the actors say comes not from a pre-written script but the rehearsal process. 6 of CPT’s shows this season were created using this unconventional method.

The Pandemonium '11: Amuse Me fundraiser on Sept. 10 starts off CPT's season this Saturday - tickets are still available and include entertainment, food and drink

I’m really happy to see that one of these 6 is the return of Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant. Scott and I saw this during 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 runs Dec. 1-18 at Cleveland Public Theatre.

If you don’t want to wait for that, check the link above for all of their other productions, including this Saturday’s Pandemonium ’11.

Pandemonium is CPT’s annual fundraiser and features a ridiculously long list of performance groups and plays that will all be packed into their campus on Sept. 10 (fittingly, with so many options for entertainment, this year’s theme is “Amuse Me”).  Over 35 Cleveland restaurants will be in attendance as well, and all food, drink, entertainment and valet parking is included in the tax-deductible ticket.

Cleveland Play House

Bertolt Brecht’s The Life of Galileo kicks off Cleveland Play House’s inaugural season in PlayhouseSquare’s Allen Theatre (here’s the full 2011-2012 lineup). Completely renovated and transformed, the tiny glimpse I’ve seen of their new home looks amazing! 

To celebrate this landmark season for them, Cleveland Play House has a number of upcoming events. While many of these are open to the general public, some of them are targeted to specific audiences like Young Professionals, families and the LGBT community to provide a different backdrop for social and networking opportunities. 

Check the list below for their full roundup (including a new Play Date series for caregivers and their children).

Cleveland Play House celebrates their inaugural season in PlayhouseSquare's Allen Theatre with Brecht's The Life of Galileo, Sept. 16-Oct. 9

  • CPH Open House – 4:30pm – 8:00pm, Monday, September 12, 2011 – Join Cleveland Play House for tours, giveaways and more to celebrate their new home at PlayhouseSquare.
  • CPH Season Opening Party – Sunday, September 18, 2011 – A gala pre-theatre cocktail reception and a special 7:30pm performance of The Life of Galileo.
  • Galileo Play Date – Sunday, September 18, 2011 – A new program for parents, grandparents, caregivers and their children. While grown-ups are watching the show, children are in a play date designed by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
  • nightOUT! LGBT Series– Thursday, September 22, 2011 – A new program that gives a chance for the LGBT community and friends to mix and mingle with a rotating series of happy hours, after parties and more.
  • Gen.NOWSeries – Tuesday, September 27, 2011 – A new program that encourages the next generation of young Clevelanders to engage with each other, downtown hotspots and CPH’s newest show.
  • College Night @ CPH Series – Tuesday, October 4, 2011 – A new program where college students from all universities mingle, enjoy free snacks and soda, then see a show.
  • Pre-show conversation – Arrive to your performance 45 minutes early for a lively discussion with a member of the cast or creative team (this takes place at every show).
  • Post-show discussions – Sunday, September 25; Tuesday, September 27; Sunday, October 2; Sunday, October 9 – Join actors from the cast for these post-show discussions moderated by a member of the artistic staff.
  • Student Matinees – 10:30am on Friday, September 23 and Wednesday, October 5, 2011. For details, call (216) 795-7000, ext. 149.

Great Lakes Theater

Great Lakes Theater was originally founded in 1962 as the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival. Over the years the name was changed to Great Lakes Theater Festival as they moved beyond producing just the works of Shakespeare. 

With their 50th anniversary season just getting started and because they no longer present plays in a festival-style format, they’ve streamlined it to Great Lakes Theater. Of course, regardless of the name change, Great Lakes Theater is still my favorite place to see Shakespeare and other classics performed in Cleveland.

Great Lakes Theater is also celebrating their huge anniversary with a packed season of 6 productions (up 1 from previous years). Things start with their fall repertory of Cabaret and The Taming of the Shrew running together from Sept. 23 until Sept. 30.

The Taming of the Shrew runs in rotating repertory with Cabaret to kick off Great Lakes Theater’s 50th anniversary season, Sept. 23-Oct. 30

As I’ve written many times before, attending a show at Great Lakes Theater is about more than the production, it’s also about the experience of the Hanna Theatre.  Before CPH moved into PlayhouseSquare’s transformed Allen Theatre, the Hanna Theatre complex was renovated for Great Lakes Theater to similarly create a more dynamic, engaging experience for theatregoers.

With a variety of seating options (my favorite is the couches) and a bar inside the theatre that’s open 90 minutes before and after the show (if you’re lucky, you’ll get to watch a combat rehearsal!), a night out at a show takes on a different meaning at Great Lakes Theater. 

In fact, seeing what Great Lakes Theater has done and continues to do at the Hanna is one of the reasons I’m so excited for Cleveland Play House’s move. Now I’ll have two very unique theatre experiences to check out at PlayhouseSquare!    

***

I hope with that short rundown I have you just as excited for Fall Theatre in Cleveland as I am. Of course, if you’re still hungry for more, browse through Examiner.com’s Cleveland Theatre Company Guide for links to the many, many other options for theatre in Cleveland.

What shows are you most looking forward to?

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