Exploring the Universe of the Stage: Cleveland Public Theatre Presents a Trio of New and Innovative Pieces — In Addition to their Regular Play Schedule

Theatrical Excitement can come in many forms, and some of them are quite short-lived. Like mayflies, these performances appear for a day or two and then vanish, so you have to be alert and ready to view them.

This fall, Cleveland Public Theatre has a trio of such shows. One is a devised play created by the local Hispanic community; one is a dance combined with macabre visual design; and one is a new vampire-based opera in English!

From Oct. 16 to 19, Teatro Publico de Cleveland will follow up last year's very successful show with another devised theatrical work (which has yet to be named). Created and performed by members of the Latino community — some with theatrical experience and some without — the piece will explore stories and issues that impact their lives.

As CPT artistic director Raymond Bobgan says, "Last year's show was incredibly successful, so we've expanded the core Teatro group this year to 24 members, and they're working hard." Developed through workshops at CPT, this year's Teatro Publico de Cleveland promises once again to be a funny and insightful experience.

Three days later, The Neighbor's Grief Is Greener opens for a brief run (Oct. 23 to 25). The action is set in a sterile suburban kitchen. It starts with a 1960s-era prim housewife preparing a dish, and all seems well until she empties the bowl on the floor. And, you know, it ain't exactly a tuna casserole. From there, separate scenes play out through dance and music, and show a variety of views of gender stereotypes and sexuality amid some rather startling images.

This piece is produced by The Visual Theatre of Emanuella Amichai, an Israeli theater company. Bobgan sought out this company and is proud to bring them to Cleveland. As he explains, "We are always interested in international partnerships. After traveling to Israel, we worked with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Israeli Embassy to make it happen."

After some missed opportunities, Bobgan was finally able to bring Neighbor's to Cleveland. And he is thrilled about the event. "This is an experiment with form, combining dance and theater. The audience can appreciate the performance as they would a dance, but there are disturbing visuals. It has a lot to say, and we think it fits in nicely with our other event, She's Wearing White..., which is being offered at the same time in another building on our CPT campus."

She's Wearing White... is an immersive art installation by Faye Hargate and Joan Hargate that also investigates role-playing and sexuality in an entirely different manner. If you choose to see both, you can get $5 off She's Wearing White... with proof of purchase of The Neighbor's Grief Is Greener. (That deal is also available for patrons of the Teatro show.)

From Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, Opera Per Tutti will strut their stuff with a concert reading of new opera Clarimonde. If you're not up to speed on your foreign languages, Opera Per Tutti means "opera for all," and this company seems dedicated to making that a reality.

As the resident opera company at CPT, Opera Per Tutti wants to reach out to opera fans and to those who have never considered going to an opera. As OPT artistic director Scott Skiba says, "We think this is a perfect show for Halloween, since it involves a confrontation with the supernatural and a psychologically complex relationship with a vampire. But this isn't your typical blood-sucking vampire."

Clarimonde is an English-language opera by composer Frederic Chaslin and librettist P.H. Fisher. It is an adaptation of Theophile Gautier's La Morte Amoureuse (1836), a short story neck-deep in magical realism and science fiction. As performed in the opera, it is a love story between alluring Clarimonde and a handsome priest Romualdo, as she tries to escape the clutches of the vampire master dubbed the Maker.

Since this is a new work, the all-Cleveland cast of accomplished singers will perform it more like a concert, even though there will be some light staging and costumes. In short, they won't "park and bark" in front of music stands.

Skiba really hopes non-opera folks will sample this creation. As he notes, "It's always fun to try something new, and experiencing the power of the unamplified human voice is something special. Plus, it's very rare to see a new opera still in its formative stage. We will have a casual meet-and-greet with the artists after each performance, so the audience and cast can share their ideas. This is a vibrant and exciting way to communicate."

The same is true for all these CPT shows. They're here and gone in only a couple days each, but you may remember them for much longer than that.

Cleveland Public Theatre

6415 Detroit Ave., 216-631-2727, cptonline.org.

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Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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