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Next Summer, Cleveland Will Become a Hub for International Performing Arts Thanks to the BorderLight Festival 

When it comes to the places that host significant international performing arts festivals, which cities spring to mind? Avignon, France! Edinburgh, Scotland! Cleveland, Ohio? (Add record needle scratch here.)

But wait, that's not such a crazy idea, because plans are afoot to launch the BorderLight Festival of International Theatre next summer, right here in downtown Cleveland. Co-directors Dale Heinen and Jeff Pence are leading the way on this project, and they've summoned local talents and resources to make this festival a reality.

Heinen and Pence plan to follow a European model for the festival, with most of the activity happening between Public Square and Playhouse Square along the Euclid Avenue Corridor. In addition to using established theaters, many additional spaces will be utilized, including storefronts and the street.

As Heinen notes, "Cleveland has an amazing theatrical infrastructure. Playhouse Square is the second-largest performing arts center in the country. And our city boasts other neighborhoods, such as Gordon Square, where communities have been reinvigorated by theater. Along with our renowned Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Museum of Art, this city has become a leading cultural center. And BorderLight will only enhance that image."

Of course, it will take a lot of activity to fill the space between Tower City Center and the Connor Palace Theatre. So Heinen, Pence and BorderLight board members have developed a multi-level plan. There will be a core festival featuring performing arts companies that they will import from around the world. Then there will be shared events in which local Cleveland performing artists and groups will collaborate with similar and complementary groups from across the U.S. and internationally. And third, there will be a "fringe festival" with unique theatrical offerings.

And, as they say, you'll get all that plus much more: Puppetry, circus acts, clowning, choirs, youth performances — you name it. "This is an exciting concept," says Heinen, "and because we're establishing an advisory council with national credentials, we believe BorderLight can be a cultural fixture that will draw people from around the world."

So if you've been practicing juggling toasters in the basement and you're ready to go public, or if you are active in any of the myriad performing arts, keep an eye out for the BorderLight announcement inviting Requests for Proposals. That notice will be sent out in October. The Festival itself is scheduled to take place July 25 to 28, 2019.

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