Ohio’s previous, truncated season saw incredible creative output from our region’s theatre companies, and this review will only account for a small part of its work. The summer of 2019 saw a co-production between Cleveland’s Playwrights Local and Powerful Long Ladder of Thiz Girlz Lyfe. Written by Clevelander Ernesta Jefferson and directed by Terrence Spivey, the play is based on Jefferson’s autobiography and chronicles the downward spiral of an exotic dancer who, suffering at the hands of an abusive partner, turns to drug use. In Columbus, Guild member JOHNRICK HOLE’s Shakespeare’s Bloody Deed was directed by Donovan Johnson at Original Productions Theatre. The comedy speculates how Shakespeare attempted to save London’s The Theatre from Giles Allen, their landlord.
In the Fall of 2019, Guild member LISA LANGFORD received a world premiere of her play Rastus and Hattie at Cleveland Public Theatre. Directed by Anne McEvoy, the comedy depicts the relationship between two friends, one Black and one white, and the problematic Black robot servants that come between them. Also in Cleveland, Playwrights Local presented a world premiere of CHRISTOPHER JOHNSTON’s Live Bodies for Sale, directed by Terrence Spivey. The docudrama explores the lives of several Cleveland-area women who have survived human trafficking. The production was a recipient of a Dramatists Guild Foundation 2019 DGF Writers Alliance Grant. In the Columbus area, Original Productions Theatre presented Steam Bath Blues. With libretto and lyrics by Billie E. Hazelbaker, music by Jerry Danielsen, and directed by Bill Goldsmith, the musical explores what happens when seven men decide to make themselves disappear from their former lives.
In the winter, Cleveland Public Theatre presented The Loush Sisters Love Dick’ns: Oops!... They Did it Again by Liz Conway, Michael Seevers Jr., and Guild member BETH WOOD, who also directed. This holiday cabaret offered a bawdy adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Also at Cleveland Public Theatre, Guild member NIKKOLE SALTER’s Breakout Session (or Frogorse) received its world premiere. Based on Cleveland’s Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, this drama centers around a corporate training company’s attempt to secure a lucrative contract for anti-bias training with Cleveland’s Police Department. Also in Cleveland, Talespinner Children’s Theatre presented Eric Coble’s Tovic Tomte and the Trolls, directed by Nina Domingue Glover. In this adventure story, Tovic sets out to win a valuable jewel for a kind farmer’s daughter. In Dayton, Guild member MICHAEL LONDON’s A Dragon’s Heart, Part 1: The Colony went up with Town Hall Theatre. Directed by John Lavarnway, the play centers on a dragon who chooses to mother an orphaned human infant in defiance of her dragon colony. The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati produced the world premiere of Coretta Scott King. With a book by Mary Tensing and directed by Deondra Kamau Means, this musical chronicles the life of Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. and an independent woman who herself overcame adversity.
The spring saw Cleveland Public Theatre’s And then We Met .... Collaboratively created by Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi, RAYMOND BOBGAN, and FAYE HARGATE, the play explores what happens when four strangers from different backgrounds come together.
Cut short by COVID-19 was Talespinner Children’s Theatre’s The King of the Animals by Gail Nyoka and directed by Melissa Crum. Adapted from a traditional story out of Cameroon, the play shows what happens when Anansi the spider usurps the rightful king of the animals from his throne. Playwrights Local’s production of Guild member MARY WEEMS’ Hey Siri was postponed due to COVID-19. Directed by Michael Oatman, Hey Siri asks what happens with three traumatized individuals turn to Siri for their salvation.