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.