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Arts District

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Meet the Two Women Behind 'Everything is Okay (and other helpful lies),' Previewing Tonight at CPT

Posted By on Sat, Oct 20, 2018 at 11:23 AM

(L-R) Matt O’Shea, Caitlin Lewins, Melissa Crum, Joshua  McElroy, Madelyn Hayes. - PHOTO BY STEVE WAGNER.
  • Photo by Steve Wagner.
  • (L-R) Matt O’Shea, Caitlin Lewins, Melissa Crum, Joshua McElroy, Madelyn Hayes.

For the last three years, Caitlin Lewins and Melissa Crum have been developing a new musical called Everything is Okay (and other helpful lies), boasting song titles like, "No One I Love is Gonna Die Today," "Bathroom Love," "Laughter is Medicine," "Masturbation Song," "Keep Fucking Going" and "Falling Apart."

Everything is Okay (and other helpful lies) is a "hot mess musical" about a group of close friends struggling to navigate the tragedies of life, guided by poor decision-making and maybe too much alcohol. Together, these friends try just about anything to find happiness while the ties of friendship fray. It's a dark musical comedy celebrating of the not-so-happy ways in which we persevere, grow and change — whether we want to or not.

Despite the popularity of the medium with women, musical theater, especially composition is dominated by white men. Before 1991, there had only been six female composers on Broadway, total. For two women to compose and stage a full-fledged musical is highly unusual, but in Cleveland it's almost unheard of.
Lewins and Crum have known each other for many years and were trying to find the perfect opportunity to work together. In preparation for Cleveland Public Theatre's annual 'Pandemonium' celebration, the duo tackled that year's theme of "Transform" by writing songs about, as Crum put it, "the transformative power of lying to yourself."

"From when we first met, we were really drawn to each other because we have really similar dark senses of humor," Caitlin Lewins tells Scene. Over cups of coffee at Gypsy Beans in Gordon Square, the duo began writing out lists of songs they'd want to bring to fruition, and sharing stories of the similar upbringings and life experiences they'd endured that brought them together.

Above all else, the duo decided that the musical they wrote had to be funny, had to have an existential crisis and had to relate to things they were dealing with right now.

"We just kept writing these one-liner songs that were the lies we tell ourselves to keep going and to get us through our day to day lives when shit is falling all around us," says Lewins. Some of the original titles from their coffee-shop writing sessions made it to the final cut, like "Nobody I love is Going to Die Today," or "I'm Not a Slut, But You Are," Crum chimes in.

The show developed over time with the help of Cleveland Public Theatre's Catapult program, and both women held fellowship positions within the theatre as well. In particular, the women thank CPT's Executive Artistic Director, Raymond Bobgan, for his assistance in making this show a possibility.

"It was an interesting process because we're two different people, so we wanted to find ways to bring honor each other's voices while also finding a collective voice to tell a story that we hope will resonate with others," Crum says.

Stylistically, the music of the show covers a variety of genres and doesn't necessarily feel like traditional musical theatre. As Crum described it, the show feels more like a theatrical concert.

"There are moments where the nerdy musical theatre kid in us comes out, but there's influences of grunge, Italian arias and folksy singer/songwriters throughout the piece," Lewins says.

While the show is created by women and focuses on the journey of  women within their friend group, the duo firmly believes the transformative power of lying to oneself a universal appeal.

"Writing about women's issues from the actual perspective of a woman is critical, because we often hear stories about the women's perspective but they're not actually written by women, and that often feels like a contradiction in a same way because it doesn't feel authentic to our experience," says Crum.

"It's a story everyone can relate to, it's a coming-of-age story about being in your late 20s-early 30s and trying to figure out why the world is falling apart and how they're going to push through it," Lewins says. "And they do it in the wrong way, which I think is something we have all done at some point."

"I hate that we have to think of it as a 'woman's story,' because it's a story about human beings, and no one would look at a film or play that's male-centric and say 'this is a man's story,'" Crum says. "I'd love to break through some of those barriers of having to define it as one thing, but look at it more as the human experience we're all going through together."

Everything is Okay (and other helpful lies) is directed by Matthew Wright. It premieres at Cleveland Public Theatre tonight and runs through Nov. 10. For additional show and ticket information, click here.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Mystery Science Theatre Founder Talks About the Tour That Comes to the Agora Next Week

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 4:38 PM

  • Courtesy of the Agora Theatre
After last year's successful tour, the people behind the TV comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 have put together the Mystery Science Theater 30th Anniversary Live Tour featuring, for the first time in 25 years, original host and MST3K creator Joel Hodgson back in the red jumpsuit as Joel Robinson.

Alongside new MST3K host Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray), Hodgson and the Bots will bring new movies and all new riffs and sketches to the stage. In a recent phone interview, Hodgson speaks about what to expect from the live show that takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Agora Theatre.

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'Infinity Mirrors' Brought Record Numbers of Visitors to Cleveland Museum of Art This Summer

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 10:41 AM

  • Photo by Emanuel Wallace
The Cleveland Museum of Art saw its highest summer attendance numbers on record thanks to the world-renowned and mega-popular Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors touring exhibit.

Today, the museum revealed that from July 1 through Sept. 30, more than 300,000 people came through their doors. This is more than double that of last year's numbers. The exhibit brought in more than 120,000 visitors all on its own, attracting people from all 50 states and all over the world. 

These numbers may come as no surprise to those who tried to get tickets throughout the months-long run, as most days were sold out. In case you weren't able to score tickets to the Infinity Mirrors madness, you can take a look at what you missed right here.

The Cleveland area also saw record breaking numbers of visitors in 2017, as reported by Destination Cleveland yesterday. This summer's CMA totals alone should help boost 2018's visitor numbers as well. 

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Comedian Bill Squire to Host Christmakwanzakah at the Agora in December

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 9:27 AM

In what we assume is the attempt to be inclusive, comedian Bill Squire, co-host of the local radio program The Alan Cox Show, has just announced he'll headline an event he’s calling Christmakwanzakah.

Comedians Al Jackson, Mary Santora and Ryan Dalton will join him for the performance, which takes place on Dec. 23 at the Agora Theatre.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Baldwin Wallace Opera Presents Midwest Premiere of 'Glory Denied' and the Rest of the Classical Music to Catch This Week

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Gustavo Gimeno, the music director-designate of the Toronto Symphony, will guest conduct The Cleveland Orchestra this weekend, with Mark Kosower, the Orchestra’s principal cello, as soloist in Alberto Ginastera’s Second Cello Concerto. Also on the program: Samuel Barber’s Overture to The School for Scandal, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s tale of Scheherazade, who kept her head on her shoulders by telling captivating stories for a thousand nights. Hear the full program on Thursday, October 18 at 7:30 pm, Friday, October 19 at 7:00 pm (the first Fridays@7 concert of the season), and Saturday, October 20 at 8:00 pm, or a shorter version without the Ginastera on Friday at 11:00 am (a one-hour matinee). Tickets can be had online.

Gregory Ristow has picked a great Russian program for the Oberlin College Choir on Thursday, October 18 at 8:00 pm in Finney Chapel. Faculty cellist Darrett Adkins will join the singers for Sofia Gubaidulina’s Canticle of the Sun, and four pianists will back up the choir for Stravinsky’s Les noces (“The Wedding”). The performance is free.

Baldwin Wallace Opera will present two performances of Tom Cipullo’s chamber opera, Glory Denied. The 77-minute piece, which is receiving its Midwest premiere, recounts the story of Jim Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in U.S. military history, as he tries to re-assimilate into American life after nine years behind enemy lines in Vietnam. Baritone Gregory Gerbrandt sings the title role and Brian Onderdonk conducts a nine-piece chamber orchestra on Friday, October 19 at 7:00 pm at Red Space in Cleveland, and on Sunday, October 21 at 3:00 pm in BW’s Gamble Auditorium in Berea. Tickets are available online.

Cleveland composer Margaret Brouwer has revised her oratorio Voice of the Lake, a chronicle of Lake Erie’s slide toward crisis. You can catch the new version on Friday, October 19 at 7:00 pm at the Cleveland Institute of Music, led by Domenico Boyagian, with Angela Mortellaro, soprano, Brian Skoog, tenor, and Bryant Bush, bass. Tickets are $20, students $10.

St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Cleveland will present the British Marian Consort in music honoring the Virgin Mary by Tudor-era and 20th- and 21st-century composers on Friday, October 19 at 7:30 pm. Rory McCleery directs the group. No admission charge, but a freewill offering will be received.

Cleveland’s dramatic Burning River Baroque ensemble — Malina Rauschenfels, soprano and Baroque cello, and Paula Maust, harpsichord — will take up the timely topic of “Destructive Desires” in a concert of music by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Guilio Caccini, John Eccles, François Couperin, and Philippe Courbois on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30 pm in St. Alban’s Church in Cleveland Heights and again on Sunday, October 21 at 2:30 pm at Lakewood Congregational Church. Suggested donations are $10-$20, and Sunday’s proceeds benefit YWCA Greater Cleveland and its Norma Herr Women’s Center that supports women who have experienced trauma and abuse.

Croatian classical guitarist Ana Vidovic is up next on the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society series on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30 pm at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights. The program begins with Bach and moves on to Spain. Tickets are available online.

Some members of The Cleveland Orchestra lead double lives as members of the Cleveland Bluegrass Orchestra. On Sunday, October 21 at 2:00 pm, in a free concert at Beachwood High School Auditorium, you can hear Trina Struble hold forth on fiddle, Mark Dumm on banjo, Jeffrey Zehngut on mandolin, Henry Peyrebrune on guitar, and Derek Zadinsky on bass (only Zadinsky will be playing the instrument he uses in his day job!)

The Suburban Symphony will play its first concert under its new music director, Domenico Boyagian, on Sunday, October 21 at 4:30 pm, also at Beachwood High School Auditorium. Boyagian will conduct the avocational orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.” It’s free.

And on Tuesday, October 23 at 7:30 pm, the Cleveland Chamber Music Society will depart from its usual menu of string quartets to present baritone Holger Falk and pianist Julius Drake in songs by Schubert, Eisler, Poulenc, and Satie. You can learn more about the music in a pre-concert lecture by Eric Charnofsky at 6:30 pm. In another change from the usual, the performance will be held at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights. Tickets can be ordered online (and very cheaply for students!)

Check out details of these and other events on our Concert Listings page.

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'Cannibal, the Musical' at Blank Canvas Theatre Lacks Timing, and Whole Lot More

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 9:48 AM

  • Courtesy Blank Canvas

It’s an old joke. You say, “What is the essence of comedy?” And just as the person starts to respond, probably with “I don’t know,” you interrupt and say “Timing!” It’s funny because it’s true.

And if you asked me what’s wrong with Cannibal, the Musical, now at Blank Canvas Theatre, I’d quickly reply, timing! Because there is little to none of it in this piece featuring book, music and lyrics by (a much younger) Trey Parker. Yes, he’s the co-creator of South Park and The Book of Mormon, but Cannibal was his first show, and it shows.

It features all of Parker’s trademark gifts for politically incorrect japes and gross-outs. Indeed, there are splatter-zone seats ringing the stage where patrons are promised to be doused in various theatrical replicas of bodily fluids expelled from various character orifices.

What the show doesn’t have are well-crafted comic characters (even gross ones) or a small twinge of wit. And the timing! Long pauses surround most lines as the actors appear to grope for what to say next. This is hard to understand, since director Patrick Ciamacco has proven himself to be excellent at his craft. Evidently he spent too much time making sure the fart nozzles and eyeball squirters were working perfectly.

The story? It’s based on the true account of Alferd (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) Packer who was officially charged with cannibalism for dining on some members of his expeditionary party when they were snowed in somewhere on the way to Colorado during the winter of 1874.

That’s a lot to chew on, but in this 90-minute show the fun cannibalism stuff doesn’t happen until about the 75-minute mark. That leaves a lot of time to fill and this cast isn’t up to the challenge—unless you laugh loudly and reflexively whenever anyone says a dirty word or does something disgusting. In that case it would be easier to just attend any seven-year-old boy’s birthday party.

I have nothing against gross and offensive humor, as long as it is performed with skill and a soupcon of intelligence. None of that is present in this show, except for a clever rendition of “Let’s Build a Snowman” performed wonderfully by David Turner and a reasonably joyous ensemble singing of “Hang the Bastard” after Packer is arrested for his dietary choices.

As Packer, Noah Hrbek sings adequately but is oddly and inappropriately inoffensive. And Meg Martinez as Polly, a local reporter who tries to get the story, also sings well but does not have the acting chops to handle some supposedly amusing moments.

Trey Parker is a gift to the world for his later works cited above which are clever, subversive, and hilariously brilliant. As for Cannibal, it’s only for the hard-core fans of juvenilia (insert wet fart sound here). Timing!

Cannibal, the Musical
Through October 28 at Blank Canvas Theatre, West 78 Street Studios, 1300 W. 78 St., 440-941-0458, blankcanvastheatre.com.

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'Ya Mama!" at Cleveland Public Theatre is a One-Woman Show Ya Gotta See

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 9:30 AM

  • Steven Wagner Photography

Okay, just so there’s no confusion about the currently running theatrical Mammas (with exclamation points!): Mamma Mia! is the musical now at the Great Lakes Theater while Ya Mama! is the one-person show that just opened at Cleveland Public Theatre. They’re both about mammas, however you spell them, but that’s about where the similarities end.

Well, there actually is one shared aspect since both of these shows have been seen in Cleveland before. The ABBA jukebox musical has been popping up on various tours for a good long time while Ya Mama!, written and performed by Nina Domingue, had a previous CPT production in 2012.

The return of Domingue is always a welcome sight since she ignites the stage with her spot-on characterizations and stage movement that is gloriously expressive. Once again, she is telling her own story of growing up in the fires of her own personal hell: her mother committed suicide by drinking drain cleaner when Nina was just four years old. Eventually, her father married a woman named Betty who turned out to be psychologically and physically abusive to the growing Nina.

Using quicksilver persona shifts, Domingue seamlessly fashions scenes involving three or more characters, and it’s a tribute to her talent that we never get those characters confused. These are the moments that work best and resonate most effectively. When Betty snaps at Nina, ordering her to rewash the laundry if there’s speck of lint on anything, your heart sinks along with the young girl’s.

As Nina grows into adulthood she begins having her own kids, hacking her way through the jungle of motherhood issues (What do you do when a child is sick?) without having the guiding light that she was denied from her own mothering wasteland. Her challenges from the five-day labor she experienced with her first child are both agonizing and hilarious.

In this stage iteration, Domingue is joined by Bill Ransom, sitting high above and behind the performer, contributing deft touches of percussion—a rattle of wood blocks here and a sprightly bongo riff there. His efforts add a lovely texture to the proceedings that amplify the emotions at key times.

Under the sensitive direction of Nathan Henry. Domingue tells about her life in 75 minutes of riveting storytelling. She does her remarkable work in a scenic design by Inda Blatch-Geib that is sometimes startlingly powerful (getting trapped in a large bookcase with collapsed shelves) and at other times just startling for no particular reason (a door with a broken shard of another door sticking out from it).

As was the case six years ago, Domingue’s writing can tend towards the didactic when she wants to clearly make a point about her life. This is completely understandable on an emotional level, but theatrically it pulls the audience out of the moment, particularly at the end when the character Nina takes an emotional victory lap.

One wishes Domingue the playwright would fully trust her word artistry by just telling the story, avoid summarizing, and allowing the audience to draw its own conclusions. But if you long to see an actor in full control of her impressive capabilities, ya gotta see Ya Mama!

Ya Mama!
Through October 27 at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave., 216-631-2727, cptonline.org.

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