Sunday, February 16, 2003

Wild Plum Theatre Company Emerges (Wild Plum Theatre Company)

The Wild Plum Theatre Comany Emerges

Theatre companies come into being to satisfy a need. The local theatre scene has such companies. Karamu Theatre grew from the lack of a venue for the performance of plays about and written by blacks. Though many theatres now perform black-oriented plays, especially since the advent of Black history month, Karamu continues to fulfill its original purpose. Halle Theatre at the Jewish Community Center focuses on plays with Jewish themes or by Jewish playwrights. Other theatres produce plays of interest and about the Jewish scene, but Halle is still the consistent focus of that community’s ethnic and religious offerings. Red Hen sets forth a women’s perspective. Others do women centered plays, but Red Hen stands alone in its focused mission.

It is with a purpose that The Wild Plum Theatre Company has come onto the Cleveland scene. Cleveland has not, to date, had a venue offering gay and lesbian -themed or authored pieces. Several years ago Elephant Productions emerged. Their demise was brought about quickly when they produced several poorly performed and written shows. A lesson should have been learned from that experience. Though a venue was needed, if that organization doesn’t chose their vehicles wisely, and doesn’t do quality level productions, it will not last in spite of initial audience interest.

Wild Plum grew out the felt need that the gay-lesbian voice needed to be heard and there were those who were interested in listening. Fortunately for the fledgling group Cleveland Public Theatre set aside two months during their production year to make its facilities available to groups who needed a performance space. Wild Plum took them up on their offer and recently produced an evening of one-act plays. The results were a mixed bag. Despite a gallant effort, some acceptable acting, and appropriate directing, the lack of script quality created a problematic evening. In spite of this, the enthusiastic sold-out house on opening night cheered loudly. Obviously, given that enthusiasm, if presented with quality scripts and productions.

There are many fine gay-oriented plays and playwrights. ‘GROSS INDECENCY: THE THREE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE,’ ‘THE NORMAL HEART,’ ‘ANGELS IN AMERICA,’ ‘JEFFREY,’ ‘THE SUM OF US,’ ‘LA CAGE AUX FOLLIES.’ ‘BENT,’ ‘THE LARAMIE PROJECT,’ and ‘THE CHILDREN’S HOUR,’ are only a few. Well know plays such as LOVE! VALOR! AND COMPASSION! have not had local productions. Newer vehicles such as ‘THE GENE POOL’ have been produced here.

It can only be hoped that Wild Plum will seek out quality scripts which will bring pride to the company and give a needed voice to the area’s gay and lesbian community.