April 16-May 3
86 Owen Brown St., Hudson
Journalists in Cleveland — and probably all the Rust Belt cities — have been telling statistical stories of people, jobs and money leaving town for years. It's easy to get lost in the steady deluge of numbers as they become a blur of decline. It's also easy to lose sight of the fighters who stay behind. In the past year, though, local theatres have begun to take up changing cities as subject matter in a way that has something in common with gothic tales of the postbellum South: There's grandeur and pride in the past, poverty and struggle in the present.
The husband-and-wife playwriting duo Bob and Pamela Noll were still tweaking their play Tremont as it entered the final week of rehearsal at Actors' Summit, where it opens this week. Bob Noll is an experienced playwright, with 26 scripts produced, at least one of them in every state in the U.S. He and Pamela have directly relevant experience that will help tell the tale, as both grew up in ethnic neighborhoods of Cleveland.
"My wife and I thought, there's a story about the ethnics in the city," says Bob. "I spent a lot of time in Tremont in the early '60s. It was all Polish people living there. I remember the steel mills closing. My dad worked in mills. I remember when they built the projects there, and at the time, a lot of people moved to Parma. So it's about these people that are still there."
The Nolls built their characters and story from real people they knew. There's a guy named Zoltan who owns an old neighborhood bar and lives upstairs. The bar — which Bob describes as "one of those bars where you'd go in at noon and start drinking" — is the setting for the story. Zoltan takes in his waitress, a 38-year-old woman named Eva who's afraid to stay in her apartment, which was recently broken into. There's an elderly couple who are regulars at the bar: She wants to move to Parma because of the way the neighborhood is changing, but he wants to stay, no matter what. There's a character named Tree who always wears brown pants but changes his shirt according to the seasonal colors of the leaves. Tree has lost his job but believes he can build a new career betting on the Indians. Eva's long-lost brother returns on the occasion of their parents' death because he wants his share of the inheritance. He was a drunk when he left town and seems to have reformed, but he's not fooling Eva.
Bob Noll says the cast is great because they've all worked together before, and their familiarity serves the story well. He also credits director Neil Thackaberry for having a strong understanding of the characters.
"These were great people who worked so hard to make Cleveland the great city it was," he says. "I love all these characters because they remind me of people I know.