Mini Zoom Readings, History, and Plenty of Donations — How Local Theaters Are Responding During the Coronavirus Crisis

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CPT ENTRY POINT FESTIVAL 2018, COURTESY CPT
  • CPT Entry Point Festival 2018, Courtesy CPT

Remember when you used to get enraged at somebody slowly opening a plastic hard candy wrapper during a play? Right now, most of us would give our right arm (okay, our left arm) to once again hear that irritating crinkly flurry—because that would mean the world was back as it used to be.

We don't know when our live theaters will be up and running again, with audience members either jammed side-by-side or spread out like the caramels in a box of picked-over chocolates. But until that time, for the theatrically deprived, here are a few online options made available by some theaters in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio:



Cleveland Play House

All CPH education programming pivoted to online learning within three days of the Governors announcement closing schools, and they currently deliver educational programming to young people in 31 states. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has access to more than 300 hours of programming a week, with information at this link.

In addition, CPH has made a series of videos around the message of the play Every Brilliant Thing that was produced this past fall. The play centers around a character who is living with depression and mental health issues. As a coping mechanism, the character creates a list of every brilliant thing that makes life worth living. In that spirit, CPH has gathered artists, craftspeople, community partners, and sponsors who were involved with that production and asked them about the "brilliant thing" that’s keeping them going during this difficult time. The first two of these videos launched recently.



Very soon, CPH will be releasing short videos introducing the writers commissioned by the Roe Green Fund for New American plays. This will enable everyone to get an inside peek into what those folks are writing for future production at Cleveland Play House. You can find all of the videos mentioned above on the Cleveland Play House Facebook page.

Feel free to support the Cleveland Play House by picking up a subscription or making a donation at: www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

Cleveland Public Theatre

Recently, CPT posted videos of readings from their production Candlelight Hypothesis #1-12 on Zoom, for donations starting at only $1.00. They plan to continue offering similar half-hour readings on their website featuring different company artists and eventually others as well. The objective is to feature theater pieces that have been worked on but are not yet polished. Audience members are encouraged to virtually gather before and after the readings to share their thoughts.

Every month, CPT is also continuing their Dark Room series, now online, where writers have a chance to try out new material with actors providing cold readings of the material. Once again, observers are encouraged to provide feedback. Recent Dark Room gatherings have dealt primarily with Covid-19 inspired work.

Additionally, the theater is looking into the possibility of posting archival videos of past shows, if the intellectual property rights can be resolved.

If you'd like to donate to Cleveland Public Theatre, just visit them at www.cptonline.org.

Great Lakes Theater

Currently, GLT is focusing on curating and distributing interim digital content (via email and social media platforms) for audience/stakeholders that includes “messages of hope” from core artistic company members. These include past pre-show audio discussions).

There are also new education video modules for students created in the style of GLT's School Residency Program to support the @Home education curricula curation efforts of the region’s teachers. GLT is also in the midst of creating a new section of their website tentatively called “Great Lakes Theater @ Home” which will serve as a repository of this content.

Here is a link to a sampling of the content mentioned above.

If you want to support Great Lakes Theater by purchasing a subscription or donating, visit: www.GreatLakesTheater.org

Beck Center

Beck Center has started a series of #BeckAtHome videos that share theater education with the community. These are available here.

Also, Artistic Director Scott Spence started a vlog series, Above the Waist, in which he interviews professional actors who started at Beck Center, perhaps in classes or productions. They have produced three so far: Rory O’Malley (The Book of Mormon, Hamilton, the final episode of Modern Family), Rebecca Pitcher (Phantom of the Opera—over 3,000 times!), and Michael Chernus (Orange is the New Black, Tommy). There are more to come. Here is the link to view these vlogs.

Plus, Beck Center will be announcing their 2020-21 Professional Theater and Youth Theater and Dance schedules via an online link that will be emailed to donors.

If you'd like to be a donor or a subscriber, just visit: www.beckcenter.org.

Dobama Theatre

Dobama plans to celebrate past shows and the important work of Cleveland's professional theatre artists by posting the video trailers of past productions on social media.

They are also posting weekly 60th Anniversary Interviews. These videos feature prominent members of the Northeast Ohio theatre community sharing reflections of and appreciation for Dobama Theatre. They are available on social media platforms as well as Dobama’s website here.

This summer Dobama will be exploring a variety of artistic content including: online videos of readings of some the winning plays from this year's Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival, Q&A conversations with artistic director Nathan Motta, and perhaps an online directing masterclass. And stay tuned for a possible "Webisode" adaptation of a past Dobama show later in the summer.

To make a donation in support of Dobama Theatre, or to pick up a subscription, visit them at: www.dobama.org.

Ohio Shakespeare Festival

In collaboration with the Downtown Akron Partnership, OSF has started an “R&J Zoom” series, designed to assist educators with teaching Romeo and Juliet this spring. Two scenes from the play, in order, “drop” each Monday and Friday at 11am, so that students can hear the language, and get an idea of why this theater says, “don’t read Shakespeare, see Shakespeare live.”

These scenes are free and will remain accessible permanently. A half-hour live discussion with the actors is scheduled at 11:30am after each release. Along with free study guides, OSF is hoping to engage students, lighten the load on teachers, and adapt their mission to keep Shakespeare alive.

Along with R&J Zoom, OSF fight director Ryan Zarecki is doing a twice-weekly Facebook Live fight lesson, also free, for anyone who wants to participate. Combat styles change monthly: rapier and dagger, hand-to-hand, broadsword, Jedi light. You can find these stage combat lessons here.

To subscribe to Ohio Shakespeare Festival or make a donation, click here.

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival

Since CleveShakes performs its shows outdoors at various venues, they are currently planning to maintain their summer schedule (with proper social distancing, of course):

The Comedy of Errors: June 19 - July 5
Julius Caesar: July 17 - August 2

Before then, CleveShakes will make some rehearsals available online on their website, cleveshakes.com. Their performances are all free, but you can donate to support them and find the venue schedule (when it's available) at cleveshakes.com.

Rubber City Theatre

RCT has several offerings on their Facebook page, including their full production of Love's Labour's Lost. In addition, they have several of their actors performing monologues from Shakespeare as a part of Shakespeare in the Living Room series.

Also, they will soon be launching an interview series with different professionals in the theatre as a way to provide an educational resource for those who are interested in jobs in the theatre.

To contribute or subscribe to Rubber City Theatre, click here.

Theater in the Circle

Theater in the Circle, the only professional theater in the U.S. located in a retirement community, is staying in touch with their supporters through email newsletters and social media. Their most recent newsletter featured a highlight reel from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. And there is another reel now available for a previous production of And The World Goes ‘Round.

Donations to Theater in the Circle are gratefully accepted at their site.

Seat of the Pants Productions

Last September, the traveling theater company Seat of the Pants Productions began The Greenhouse, a group of local theater makers who meet regularly to encourage and provoke one another's development as humans, artists, collaborators, and citizens - a "think tank" of sorts. They have continued to meet through Zoom meetings during this time.

They have been doing play readings together every Sunday night and have also been prepping some pieces for staged readings in the future. When it's possible, Seat of the Pants will perform the readings at theater companies through the area as a 100% fundraiser for those institutions: Seat of the Pants provides the show; the host theater companies keep the money. As artistic director Craig Joseph says, "It's Just a way of giving back to the companies at which we've worked and which we all love."

When subscriptions become available for Seat of the Pants Productions, which is hosted various locations in Northeast Ohio , they will be available for purchase at their website, www.seatofthepants.org.

Karamu House

Karamu House is now focused on continuing with arts education. They had a summer arts education program planned that is now being transformed into a distance learning program for our youth, grades 7-12, with specialized training in drama, dance and vocal music. They are also exploring new ways to implement community programming.

To get a subscription or to donate to Karamu House, visit karamu.com.

Note: If your favorite theater is not mentioned here, it's probably because they are sheltering in place and conserving their resources, human and otherwise, for their eventual return to form. Please look them up online and support them, to the extent you are able.

Christine Howey, a former stage actor, is executive director of Literary Cleveland.

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