Live, In-Person Theater is Back in Cleveland; Here's What's Happening Through January on Local Stages

click to enlarge The Choir of Man is now playing at Playhouse Square - Photo by Jack Blume
Photo by Jack Blume
The Choir of Man is now playing at Playhouse Square

As we continue to sort out the COVID Vaxed from the Unvaxed, while also keeping a wary eye on the Variants (viral and human), the local theater community is slowly but relentlessly pursuing an ample schedule of plays for the second half of Recovery Year 2021. Clearly, the last 15 months have done significant damage to theaters across Northeast Ohio, in terms of finances and personnel. But true to the oldest showbiz maxim of all, the shows must go on!

Here is a round-up of what these theaters are planning from now until bratty little 2022 pops its head into view in six months, plus comments by each theater's leadership. Please note, the dates and shows listed below are all subject to change due to a...shudder...revived pandemic or any other bizarre cataclysm Mother Nature might devise. So check the theater websites to be sure about show dates.

Hey, let's go to a play!

Beck Center
July 23-August 8: This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing by Finegan Kruckemeyer.
Beck is opening their new season with a short run of this one-person (Derdriu Ring) show. It's a family-friendly (age 6 and up), modern-day fairytale that explores the struggles and inspirations of three sisters who are left in a forest by their woodsman father to find their way in the world.

September 10-October 3: Broadway Bound by Neil Simon.
Renowned actor Austin Pendleton returns to Beck to star in this hilarious and poignant story about two brothers who are both comedy writers and who share a load a family dysfunction.

October 8-November 7. The Exonerated by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen.
A docudrama about six people who were falsely accused and sentenced to death. Directed by Colleen Longshaw, the intense piece, developed in partnership with the Innocence Project, examines how they each gained their freedom.

Holiday Show: tbd

Scott Spence, Artistic Director: "I think my first curtain speech to the faithful Beck audience, after all this time away, will be pretty emotional. But we've kept busy upgrading key elements such as the ventilation in the theater, to create a safer space. We can't wait to get going again!"

More information at

Blank Canvas Theatre

There are no specific shows selected yet, and no dates. But according to artistic director Patrick Ciamacco, there will be three shows this calendar year, comprised of three of the favorite shows in the theater's ten-year history:

A September show
A Halloween show (probably an encore presentation of their hit musical, the blood spurting and squirting Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
A Holiday show

Patrick Ciamacco, Artistic Director: "During the shutdown Blank Canvas produced a series of concert shows, with the audience in their cars. Now we're ready to get back on stage because this is our Tenth Anniversary season— it means a lot to us."

More information at

Cleveland Play House
October 23-November 14: Where Did We Sit on the Bus? by Brian Quijada
An autobiographical journey utilizing rap, hip-hop, spoken word and live looping as a young student learns what it means to be Latino in America. A hopeful, uplifting and innovative tribute to the power of community and belonging.

November 27-December 22: Light It Up by Jason Michael Webb and Lelund Durond Thompson.
Set in Cleveland, this World Premiere musical features rock, gospel and jazz to explore the importance of family and being connected.

Laura Kepley, Artistic Director: "This is 'Homecoming Season' for the Cleveland Play House. It's a time of change and transformation for our theatre, and for everyone. After such a long stretch in isolation, it's important that we experience new stories that replenish our hearts and minds and restore our spirits."

More information at

Cleveland Public Theatre
Now through August 7: 2021 Free Summer Season
In a first for CPT, they are offering a docket of summer shows, performed outdoors, in person and free of charge!

Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation | 70 min |Thursday, July 1; Friday, July 2; Saturday, July 3; Thursday, July 8; Friday, July 9
Eric Schmiedl's The Kardiac Kid | Saturday, July 10
The Dark Room | Tuesday, July 13; Tuesday, July 27
Teatro Público de Cleveland (TPC) (performance with Papo Ruiz Y La Dulzura De La Salsa) | Friday, July 16
CPT’s 2021/2022 Season Announcement | Saturday, July 17
Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi مسرح كليفلاند العربي | Friday, July 23
Twelve Literary Arts | Saturday, July 24
Student Theatre Enrichment Program (STEP) | Thursday, July 29; Saturday, August 7
Siaara Freeman's Black Women & Femmes: A Lineage Of Language |Friday, July 30

First Indoor Performance: (date, tbd) Breakout Session (or Frogorse) by Nikkole Salter
This is a play, dealing with police bias and anti-racism work, that closed CPT's 2019-2020 season. It is now being revised and updated by the playwright.

Raymond Bobgan, Executive Artistic Director: "During the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about 'essential businesses.' With all due respect to first responders and others, at Cleveland Public Theatre we believe art is also an essential business. To that end, we are sharing our stages with other theatrical groups in our community, to help us all come together again."

More information at

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival
July 23-August 14: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Touring ten different outdoor locations in northeast Ohio, check website for details

Dusten A. Welch, Artistic Director: "Since we're just doing one show this summer, we decided on Romeo and Juliet, because it hits home in ways that are unique this year. Plus, it celebrates love in all its forms. Next summer, we plan on going back to our two-show summer schedule."

More information at

August 20-September 11: Oliver Parker! by Elizabeth Merriweather.
An unlikely and uncomfortable friendship exists between old-man alcoholic Jasper and socially awkward 17-year-old Oliver Parker. This is anything but a typical coming-of-age story.

October 8-30: White by James Ijames.
Black playwright Ijames takes razor-sharp satiric aim at white privilege. The play spins out of control as it audaciously explores issues of white privilege, racial and gender politics, and the fine line between appropriation and opportunity.

December 2-18: The Twentieth Century Way by Tom Jacobson.
A two-man show about clandestine gay life 100 years ago in Los Angeles. It raises many issues in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner.

Cory Molner, Interim Artistic Director: "Clyde Simon has eased into a well-deserved retirement. But at convergence-continuum we will continue to offer plays you won't see anywhere else, including works about LGBTQ people as well as other marginalized individuals and groups."

More information at

Dobama Theatre
October 29-November 20: Airness by Chelsea Marcantel
When Nina enters her first air guitar competition, she thinks winning will be easy. Following her mission to shred or be shredded, Airness is an exuberant reminder that everything we need to rock is already inside us.

No Holiday Show this year, but three more full productions are scheduled for the winter and spring of 2022.

Nathan Motta, Artistic Director: "During the pandemic we reorganized the Dobama staff with the objective of being more inclusive and we doubled the size of the Board of Directors to assure wider representation from the community. We also redesigned the audience seating to improve sightlines while making it more comfortable and ADA-compliant. We are refreshed and ready to go!"

More information at

Ensemble Theatre
Ensemble Theatre is currently active in virtual theater, with their monthly reading of Ten-Minute Play Readings, presented by their Stagewrights Unit. Also, on July 24 they will offer a virtual benefit reading of The Gospel According to James by Charles Smith.

October 22-(closing night tbd): Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris.
A spin-off of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and spanning 50 years, this play involves fictional events loosely based on the history of Chicago at that time.

Celeste Cosentino, Artistic Director: "The pandemic inspired all of us at Ensemble to broaden our horizons. We are focused on being more nimble, and we're looking into producing work with people in other cities and states, using both live and virtual performances in combination."

More information at

Great Lakes Theater
October 15-November 7: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Tempted by spirits, teased by sprites, and tormented by a monster, a shipwrecked king and his party face the wrath of the betrayed conjurer, Prospero - a man they marooned on the enchanted island years ago.

November 26-December 23: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens' classic tale of one man's ultimate redemption. One of northeast Ohio’s favorite holiday traditions, A Christmas Carol is a perfect gift of theater for children and adults of all ages.

Kacey Shapiro, Director of Marketing Communications: "We can't wait to welcome our audience back to Great Lakes Theater, and we will be ready with a safe environment and high-quality productions. Many thanks to our donors and subscribers for staying with us!"

More information at

Karamu House
Fall Schedule: Check website for details.

Tony F. Sias, President and CEO: "We are proud that, during the pandemic, we produced 13 (yes, I said 13!) video programs featuring Karamu artists, and offered them online at no charge. We are committed to using our platform to engage and move the needle on critical issues such as health disparities in the black community and generational trauma. We seek to educate people about many issues and help them activate for change."

More information at

Mercury Theatre Company
July 16-August 8: Amelie
Ameile is a young woman, an imaginative dreamer who finds her voice, discovers the power of connection, and sees possibility around every corner. In these uncertain times, Amelie is someone to believe in.

July 29 and August 1: Me & My Girl — Staged Concert
A concert version of the play by L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber (book and lyrics), and Noel Gay (music). It tells the story of an unapologetically unrefined cockney fellow who learns that he is the 14th heir to the Earl of Hareford.

Pierre-Jacques Brault, Artistic Director: "I really hope Zoom musicals and plays are a thing of the past! Still, we've learned some new techniques from the digital world that we look forward to using with our live productions."

More information at

None Too Fragile
September 3-18: Small Engine Repair by John Pollono
Three friends gather one night under a mysterious premise at a repair shop in Manchester, New Hampshire, where they explore the ideas of regret, fraternity and masculinity

October 15-30: The Butcher of Baraboo by Maria Wegrzyn
Skewed family values and the deep and dark secrets they create become a life force for Valerie, the infamous butcher of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Once her husband has gone missing everyone suspects she played a hand, especially her nosy sister-in-law who just happens to be the town sheriff.

December 3-18: Year of the Rooster by Olivia Dufault
A fiercely comic play about cockfighting, connections, and clawing your way to the top.

Alanna Romansky, Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director: "We've used our time off—we called it 'active hibernation'—to upgrade our space by improving the plumbing and lighting. And we've scheduled three unique plays to kick off our 2021-2022 season, so come see us in Akron!"

More information at

Ohio Shakespeare Festival
July 15-August 15: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's magical comedy, set in the equally-magical outdoor stage at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron. All seats reserved, to accommodate social distancing.

October 7-24: Miss Holmes by Christopher M. Walsh
Inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this theatrical fan fiction shines a new light on favorite characters from the canon, re-examining the Victorian world of Holmes and Watson by exploring the added obstacles faced by these two iconic characters if they were women.

Holiday Show: (date, tbd) Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
This edition of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical is based on the 1997 teleplay featuring Whitney Houston and Brandy featuring unforgettable musical numbers.

Nancy Cates, Artistic Director: "We're ecstatic to be back! It was so confusing to have no rehearsals or performances to go to for so long. But we're grateful to all our donors and granting organizations for their support of the Ohio Shakespeare Festival."

More information at

Playhouse Square — Theater
Now through August 8: The Choir of Man
An enjoyable, no-holds-barred jukebox musical fed through an Irish pub complete with real Irish dudes doing the songs. And maybe you can score a free beer served by the cast!

October 1-15: Disney's The Lion King
The "Circle of Life" show has circled back to the State Theatre once more, and it never fails to amaze and delight.

November 2-21: The Prom by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin (book and lyrics), and Matthew Sklar (music).
It's a new musical comedy about big Broadway stars on a mission to change the world and the love they discover that unites them all. A joyous, funny and sweet show.

Holiday Show: (tbd)

Gina Vernaci, President and CEO: "We are so grateful for the kindness and generosity of northeast Ohio and the philanthropic community for their support. This is our centennial season and while the silence was deafening for a while, we look forward to the happy sound of actors, musicians and audiences coming back together."

More information at

Porthouse Theatre
July 8- 24: BKLYN The Musical, by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson
BKLYN is a play within a play with a group of street performers weaving together stories from their lives to tell the tale of a young woman arriving in Brooklyn to find the father she never knew.

July 29-August 15: Altar Boyz, by Kevin Del Aguina, Gary Adler and Michael Patr4ick Walker
A foot-stomping, rafter-raising musical comedy about a fictional Christian boy band on the last night of their national “Raise the Praise” tour. The Boyz are five all-singing, all-dancing heartthrobs from Ohio named, wait for it: Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham.

Terri Kent, Artistic Director: "We are welcoming everyone back to our gorgeous open-air theater. In the last year, my key word became "pivot," and we've done just that—changing and adapting to keep our season on track. As I always say, our work is only complete when the audience is here, so we can't wait to see everyone!."

More information at

Theatre in the Circle
Sadly, Theatre in the Circle has decided to cease operations due to conditions unrelated to the pandemic. So, we offer a parting Huzzah! to Mark Corcoran and Bill Corcoran, the talented and dynamic founders and partners who operated the theater on the premises of a downtown retirement community. It was a wonderful musical theater venue featuring top professional performers from the area. They will be missed!

About The Author

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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