Okay, so who is Mac Wellman and why is there a festival dedicated to him? Well, he's a fellow who grew up in Mayfield Village and went on to become a much-lauded experimental playwright, making a name for himself in the off-off-Broadway world for his dozens of challenging and surprising plays, and one opera.
If you are wondering what "experimental" means, here's how Clyde Simon, co-founder of convergence-continuum theater, describes a Mac Wellman piece: "Mac's plays don't tell us what they mean and what we should think and feel. There are enough people and institutions doing that already. His plays don't enforce meaning; they allow it. When anyone asks me, 'What did his play mean?' my answer is always, 'yes.' Or sometimes, 'tongs'."
Many years ago in New York City, Simon acted in what Wellman considers his best play, The Lesser Magoo. And since Simon has been in Tremont, his theater has produced six Wellman scripts, with the seventh, Harm's Way, set to open this Friday at The Liminis.
Wellman will be in town for the entire three-day festival, and will be available to talk with attendees at various events, including a special Q&A session at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 25. And he's looking forward to the experience. "I've never stayed in a Cleveland hotel," he noted, "so that will be something!"
For many years, Wellman has taught playwriting and mentored playwrights around the country and all over the world. But he has a warm spot in his heart for Cleveland, noting that Cleveland has always been a leader in the arts. "The Cleveland Play House did the first production of an Ibsen play, even before New York. And the first really important black theater, Karamu House, is in Cleveland. Along with, of course, the Cleveland Orchestra.
Featured Mac Wellman Homecoming Festival events
-Damnable Artifacts: Production Memorabilia from the Plays of Mac Wellman. T-shirts, vintage reviews, and original artifacts from several collections including that of Wellman's primary designer, Kyle Chepulis. At the Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University.
Thursday, March 23
-Cleveland. Staged reasing directed by Allan Byrne. At Drinko Hall & Lobby, CSU, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 24
-Bitter Bierce, directed by Christopher Johnston. At Drinko Hall, CSU, 8:15 p.m.
-"The Good, The Bad and Mac: Local Playwrights Do Mac Wellman's Writing Prompt." Presented by The Manhattan Project, Cleveland Lab. At Drinko Hall, CSU, 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 25
-"Mac Wellman's Breakthroughs as a Playwright, Teacher and Mentor." Panel discussion moderated by Mike Geither, associate professor of playwriting. At Music Building, Room 311, CSU, 11:30 a.m.
-Harm's Way, directed by Clyde Simon. Presented by convergence-continuum at The Liminis, 8 p.m.
-Festival Wrap Party, Tremont Tap House, 9:30 p.m.
For a full listing of all Festival events, go to playwrightslocal4181.org.
The Festival has been organized and curated by Playwrights Local and that group's two movers and shakers: artistic director David Todd and managing director Tom Hayes. It is their mission to support the dramatists of Northeast Ohio as a development and production center, fostering diverse talents and presenting locally written works.