Firestone High School Creates Short Play for Center Stage Schools New Play Festival

March 9, 2011

Akron Students to Perform “A Turn in the Night: Tornado Stories from Lake High School”

A dance-drama inspired by real events surrounding the tornado of June 5, 2010 in Millbury-Lake Township, Ohio, is the subject of a short play created by students of Firestone High School in Akron, Ohio, during their Full Contact: Center Stage School residency.  Performances of A Turn in the Night take place in the Brooks Theatre at Cleveland Play House on April 1 and 2, 2011. Full Contact: Center Stage Schools is supported in part by The Abington Foundation.

“Students researched the play by reading news articles, watching YouTube videos and other media outlets. Some discussions and collaboration took place between the two high schools,” says Pamela DiPasquale, Director of Education for Cleveland Play House. Directing the play is CPH teaching artist Ellen Rooney. At Firestone High School, Mark Zimmerman heads up the Theater Program and Kelly Berick leads the Dance Program.

During Full Contact: Center Stage Schools, Cleveland Play House partners with select high schools for an entire season.  This provides schools with an extraordinary in-depth relationship with a professional theatre.  All students involved in Full Contact: Center Stage Schools can see CPH productions, participate in CPH programs, receive playwriting residencies, and see their work showcased at CPH in the culminating event of the program: the Center Stage Schools New Play Festival.


Bringing a Painter’s Gift to the Stage

February 22, 2011

- from Laura Kepley, director of “My Name is Asher Lev”

I have loved the story of My Name is Asher Lev since I was seventeen when I read Chaim Potok’s novel for the first time.   This remarkable story gives us insider access to two distinct worlds – the Hasidic Jewish community in Crown Heights Brooklyn in the 1950s and the mid-century American art world, more specifically the mind of a genius artist working at that time.

Our production strives to accurately and authentically represent these two worlds.  So, how do we begin to understand?  Sounds old-fashioned, but my first stop was the library.  I read many fascinating books, many by Chaim Potok himself, such as Wanderings: Chaim Potok’s History of the Jews. Last summer, my set designer, Antje Ellermann, and I took a guided Hasidic walking tour of Crown Heights.  We listened to many stories and tried to absorb as much of the culture as possible.  We watched the documentaries “A Life Apart”, “Trembling Before G-d”, and PBS’ “The Jewish Americans.”  Youtube is an invaluable storehouse of hours of Hasidic recordings of weddings, prayer sessions, and many archival speeches by The Rebbe himself.  Here in Cleveland, the Maltz Museum has been a great resource.  And most invaluably, this production is very fortunate to have Rabbi Michael Unterberg, a graduate of Yeshiva University and a teacher at Fuchs Mizrachi School, serving as a consultant illuminating and contextualizing the Hasidic worldview for us.  Each day of rehearsals brings more questions, such as “What does the bringing the moshiach into the world mean for these characters?”, “What would the image of a crucifixion mean to a Russian Jew?”, “What exactly is the afternoon prayer?”, and “How do my tzitzit show if I tuck in my shirt?”  From the mystical to the mundane, Michael patiently answers our daily “Ask the Rabbi” emails, and comes into rehearsals to watch our work.

As for the art world, some fun research has included reading the biographies and autobiographies of Marc Chagall, Peggy Guggenheim, and Jacques Lipchitz, Potok’s models for the characters of Asher Lev, Anna Schaeffer, and Jacob Kahn.  Myriad trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and locally to the extraordinary Cleveland Museum of Art.  Ron Wilson (Chair CWRU Theatre Department and Head of the CPH-CWRU MFA Program), a true Renaissance man himself, came into rehearsals to teach Noel Allain, playing Asher, and Tom Alan Robbins, playing Jacob, basic drawing concepts.  He helped us to understand the artist-model relationship and worked with Elizabeth Raetz, who plays the model Rachel, and I to find the perfect classical pose for her to strike.  A highlight included taking a figure drawing class at an open studio at the Cleveland Institute of Art.  Noel, as it turns out, has taken several art classes, and his beautiful drawing of the nude he drew that night hangs in our rehearsal hall.  Several CPH artists such as E.D. Taylor, a RISD MFA and Assistant to the General Manager, and scenic artist Jill Davis have offered wonderful guidance (and many paint brushes!).

Though no amount of research would ever truly be enough, as artists, this knowledge allows us to make an informed creative leap into the worlds of the play.


CPH Alumni Spotlight: Lee Unkrich

January 25, 2011

Today the nominations were announced for the 83rd Academy Awards, and a Cleveland Play House children’s theatre alum is a favorite to win at least one Oscar in February — Lee Unkrich. His movie, Toy Story 3, received five nominations including Best Picture, Best Animated Feature and Best Adapted Screenplay.

A Chagrin Falls native, Unkrich participated in children’s  educational programs here at Cleveland Play House. Starting at age 11, he joined our Youththeatre program and spent four years here performing in children’s shows and musicals.

We talked to Lee last summer, when Toy Story 3 was released. It has since become the highest-grossing animated film of all time.

“My time studying theater and performing in plays with the Cleveland Play House Youththeatre was a highlight of my childhood. It not only ignited my passion for entertaining audiences, but it also taught me to respect the craft of acting. It was an important early foundation for the work I’ve done creating stories and directing films at Pixar Animation Studios.”


Powerful New Meaning to Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful

January 18, 2011

- from Timothy Douglas, director

The Trip to Bountiful remains one of my all time favorite plays, and has been on my director’s wish list for some time.

Over the years I’ve had the great blessing of working the preeminent African-American actress Lizan Mitchell, for who, like many artists of her talent, experience, and maturity, challenging roles are far and few between. While she and I were working on August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean recently, I had the brainstorm of what a powerful union could be made between Lizan and Horton Foote’s Carrie Watts … it felt so right!

Equal to my intent of providing a moving theatrical vehicle for Lizan Mitchell is my desire to honor the prolific and uniquely American playwright Horton Foote. And given his recent passing, I felt the timing to uniquely honor him couldn’t be more appropriate.

I went to work combing through the script while visualizing the idea to have the story told from an African-American perspective, at which point this seminal play immediately revealed deeper (dormant) resonances as a direct result of the cultural and social specificities my production would explore. While remaining faithful to the script’s original intent, we’ll also be shedding some light on the heretofore little known black middle class in 1940s Houston, alongside the more commonly understood paradigms of rural Texas life.

Because I remain committed to the playwright’s original intent, all of the augmented socially-specific examples will only be communicated by way of the stage picture, coupled with the audiences’ individual and collective knowledge of race relations.

Ludie’s urgent concern for his elderly mother’s safety takes on an entirely different meaning when Carrie Watts is a black woman traveling alone by bus in the pre-Civil Rights South. And further, in our production, it is understood that she and her impromptu traveling companion, Thelma, are relegated to riding in the back of that bus. No dialogue will be changed, nor will the acting be anything other than naturalistic. Even still, this production will I hope impart powerful new meanings in a unique Trip to Bountiful.


Help others STEP INTO SUCCESS!

January 4, 2011

Ginger Rogers was one of the movie industry’s first women to demand equal pay for women. Helping women who are re-entering or entering the workplace for the first time would be a cause we think she’d support. Therefore, we are hosting an Accessory Drive for the local chapter of Dress for Success during the run of Backwards in High Heels: The Ginger Musical.

PULL OUT YOUR OLD HEELS  and Help Others Step Into Success!

Cleveland Play House and Dress for Success team up to host a HIGH HEEL/ACCESSORIES DRIVE in conjunction with the upcoming production of BBackwards in High Heels: The Ginger Musical, running January 7th through the 30th. Guests that participate in the HIGH HEEL & ACCESSORIES drive are encouraged to bring all types of high heels, jewelry, handbags, scarves, briefcases and portfolios. Everyone that donates will be entered to win a special, one-of-a-kind poster signed by the cast of Backwards in High Heels: The Ginger Musical.

WHEN:
January 7 through January 30,  2011

DROP OFF LOCATIONS:
Cleveland Play House: 8500 Euclid Ave. Cleveland, OH 44106. 216.795.7000 (AND)
Dress for Success: 2239 E. 55th St. Cleveland, OH 44103.216.391.2301

WHY: The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. The Cleveland Play House would like to help support a vital component of the organizations’ continued success, serving low income women who are breaking out of the confines of poverty and moving steadily towards self-sufficiency. They would not be able to suit their clients without the support of the Greater Cleveland Community.

WEBSITE: www.clevelandplayhouse.com AND  www.dressforsuccess.org/cleveland


Lots of building going on

November 23, 2010

Renderings by Westlake Reed Leskosky

From Michael Bloom, Artistic Director

It’s dizzying to think that by the beginning of 2011 we will have four construction projects in process simultaneously!

•    Allen Theater renovation
•    Second Stage and Lab theatre construction
•    Middough Building operations center
•    A close-to-being-determined site for set and prop construction and storage

Reconfigured Allen Theatre

The old seats are already out of the Allen, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new design begin. It’s going to be a beautifully intimate 500 seat theatre, with excellent acoustics, sight lines, and amenities.

 

 

 

Second Stage Configurations

The construction that has caused the temporary detour from the Chester garage to PlayhouseSquare is the beginning phase of our exciting new theatres. The Second Stage will be one of only three fully flexible spaces in the country, with just seven rows of seats. Environment means a great deal to a play; there’s virtually a chemical reaction between a production and its surroundings. And for the first time in decades, CPH will have a truly appropriate space for new work.

 

 

Second Stage Lobby

All visitors to PlayhouseSquare who park in the Chester garage will benefit from our project. Instead of the ‘gerbil tube’ passageway, there will be an indoor promenade through our newly constructed theatres.

 

 

And thanks to PlayhouseSquare’s decision to buy the Middough building, we’ll have offices, rehearsal halls, classrooms, and a costume shop within 200 feet of the Allen Theatre. We’re hoping to move in at the end of this coming summer.

We’re also about to embark on a lease of an off-site property for set and prop construction and storage. I can’t give details now, but it’s in an area that is quickly being revitalized with new infrastructure and the potential to be an important new manufacturing area.

In subsequent postings, I’ll write about the impact of our move on downtown.

And don’t forget our great shows!

Michael Bloom
Artistic Director


Meet Pamela DiPasquale, new Director of Education

October 28, 2010

by Holly Lake, marketing intern

We took a few moments to talk to our new Director of Education, Pamela DiPasquale. Read on!

1) Where did you work before CPH and what made you come here?

For the past four years I worked as the Education Director at Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Louisville.  Prior to that I was the Artistic Director for the Children’s Theatre of Maine in Portland.  I chose to come to The Cleveland Play House because of its strong commitment, both in mission and in leadership, to education. I am also thrilled to be part of the team that transitions The Cleveland Play House and its programs into the 21st Century.

2) We offer a lot of great education programs for people of all  ages.  Is there  program(s) you are particularly proud of/ excited about?

I am very excited to start work on the Full Contact Program.  This program fosters a  partnership between the Cleveland Play House and four local high schools, allowing the students an opportunity to connect to theatre in a very meanigful way. I have just met with all of the teachers and am currently trying to match them up with an artist that will have connections with their students trhoughout the school year in a variety of capacities.  Look for works the students will create as part of this partnership in FusionFest this spring.

3) What’s new on the horizon for the 2011 CPH education department?

I think we will see our programs continue to move towards engaging the whole person and creating dynamic ways to educate and foster emotional, social and cognitive growth in all people that the department serves.
4) Something about yourself that people would find surprising?

I think some people would be surprised to know that I am a bit obsessed with dwarves, or as they preferred to be called, little people.  It all started in my childhood when my mom read me Snow White then it just escalated from there upon encounters with The Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I keep trying to get my son to be an oompa loompa for Halloween, but he refuses. Maybe, if I am lucky, Michael will choose an all “little people” cast for one of the shows next season. A girl can dream.

5) What motivates you (in life)?

When my oldest child was just 11 months old, I was directing a production of Stella Luna, and she attended every rehearsal strapped to my back, never making a sound, but always watching intently the process going on in front of her. Later, during the run, I attended the performance with her in my lap. I was awestruck at how she participated in that production; laughing, gasping, clapping. She was the most active and engaged audeince member I have ever witnessed.  It was a very poignant moment in my career, to realize that something that I had created could enage my own child, that my art could become part of her life on such a personal level.

It is definitely my children that continue to motivate me in my art, my work and my every day life.

6) I could go the rest of my life without…..

Meat.

7) If you could be any piece of fruit in the bowl, which one would it be and why?

I would be the banana, I have no good reason expect for I packed one for lunch today.


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