Fri 1/1-Sun 12/10
After leaving Karamu House in the summer of 2016, Artistic Director Terrence Spivey wasn’t sure what his future held in Northeast Ohio. While offers came in to return to his native Texas, something told him he wasn’t quite finished with Cleveland’s theater scene.
Over the next year he tackled productions dealing with everything from police brutality and female gangs to homosexuality and race relations. Emboldened by the experience, Spivey was ready to helm his own company.
“Peter Lawson Jones called me three months ago saying a friend wanted to produce plays in the Holy Trinity Cultural Arts Center basement,” Spivey said. “Before I met with Rev. Andrew D. Clark, I told him churches can be kind of sensitive.
“I said my works are not safe. I believe in tackling and embracing things that are going on within the black community. I’ll do a couple of safe pieces too. It’s not about shock value. If it’s a good theater piece, but it speaks to the community, that’s what I’m about.”
This led to the creation of Spivey’s Powerful Long Ladder Ensemble theater company, which makes its debut producing James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner December 1-10 at Holy Trinity Cultural Arts Center.
“I always wanted to have my own company, even before I came to Karamu,” Spivey said. “I always wanted to create black theater. Powerful Long Ladder was a title that stuck with me when I was in college. I met the great Owen Dodson, a teacher at Howard University.”
Powerful Long Ladder is the name of Dodson’s 1940 book of poems. For Spivey, it represents reaching into the soul of the black community, which also dovetails perfectly into Powerful Long Ladder Ensemble producing the classic, The Amen Corner. In a way, the company is setting the foundation.
“Exactly, the foundation of holding onto our black voices,” Spivey said. “I want to go back to the classics and touch on pieces that a lot of theaters aren’t doing, even a lot of black theaters aren’t doing right now. And not being apologetic saying we’re doing a black play. There needs to be more black voices heard.”
Looking ahead, Powerful Long Ladder Ensemble will stage Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men this winter. The Dael Orlandersmith play tackles the consequences of child abuse. Then in the spring, the company will produce musical Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Invariably, the good news for Northeast Ohio’s theater scene is Spivey isn’t going anywhere.
“I am happy because it’s all-black theater,” Spivey said. “It’s all about black voices — showcasing new voices and honoring the classics of the past.”