Sunday, December 11, 2011

Playwriting in Cleveland

Original Plays Have a Home in Cleveland

Theatres in the Cleveland area are producing local, regional and national premieres. Included are the recent productions of Ken Ludwig’s THE GAME’S AFOOT at Cleveland Playhouse (world premiere), Conor McPherson’s THE SEAFARER at Dobama Theatre(regional premiere), and Joanna McClelland Glass’s TRYING at Caeser’s Forum(local premiere).

An additional trend is presenting works in development such as Randy Blair, Timothy Michael Drucker and Matthew roi Berger’s FAT CAMP at Playhouse Square and newly minted plays like Jeremy Paul’s MONSTER PLAY at Cleveland Public Theatre.

The two most prominent of the local writing groups are the Cleveland Play House Playwright’s Unit and Ensemble Theatre’s Stagewrights. In addition Cleveland Public Theatre creates new and original works in a less organized manner.

A look at one of these units showcases the new development and play process.

The Playwrights’ Unit is a group of experienced, accomplished playwrights from the Cleveland area who receive creative and administrative support from Cleveland Play House. The Unit meets regularly with Associate Artistic Director Laura Kepley to read their works-in-progress and provide each other feedback.

As early as 1918 local writers developed works for and within CPH. Starting in 1927, the theatre started to feature readings from what became known as the Playwrights’ Workshop.

In 1988 a Lab Company was developed to expand the number of plays created. In 1990-91 a collaboration with Ohio University MFA acting students added to the literary department. Plays were produced under the title: CPH NEXT STAGE NEW PLAY FESTIVAL.

By 1966 the membership in the group altered with new members added. Again in 2008 new members replaced some of the retiring writers.

Numerous writers from the group have had their works staged locally and by regional, national and international amateur theatres. The success of the venture can be illustrated by examining long time member Eric Coble’s success. His BRIGHT IDEAS received a CPH main stage production, was moved to off-Broadway, and won the AT&T Onstage Award. In 2010-2011 Coble saw over 60 shows receive national and international productions. Several of his new works will be staged by area theatres during the upcoming year. He has been commissioned to write a new main stage holiday show for CPH for next year’s season.

In addition, Eric Schmiedl’s FRANKENSTEIN has been commissioned for adaptation by the Denver Center Theatre. His MY HEMISPHERE AND YOUR HEMISPHERE LIVE ACROSS THE STREET was developed with an Aurand Harris Fellowship from the Children's Theatre Foundation of America 2010. Schmiedl has been commissioned by CPH to create a new show.

Deborah Magid’s THE WEDDING NIGHT was announced as the winner of the 6 Women Playwriting Festival in 2009, produced by Louisa Performing Arts Center, in Colorado Springs, and staged by the Santa Fe Playhouse Benchwarmers.

The excitement of local writers emerging to have their works presented on area, national and international stages continues. It’s just another aspect of what makes the Cleveland area a hub for the creative arts.