Thu 10/6-Sat 10/29
There’s no doubt this fall that the Latino community and the presidential election are inextricably tied together. With that in mind, the Cleveland Public Theatre decided to kick off its 2016-2017 season with two productions that cater directly to the times.
The first is a world premiere of the latest original work by the Teatro Publico de Cleveland ensemble. ¡Celebrando Three Years! runs Thu 10/6-Sat 10/86 in Gordon Square Theatre. The other is the regional premiere of 44 Plays by 44 Presidents, which will be presented Thu 10/6-Sat 10/29 in the James Levin Theatre.
CoolCleveland talked to Cleveland Public Theatre director of audience engagement & media relations Cathleen O’Malley about the upcoming productions.
Wow, Cleveland Public Theatre is kicking off its 2016-2017 with a bang. Let’s talk about ¡Celebrando Three Years!
It’s by Teatro Publico de Cleveland, which is our Latino theater company. What makes this significant, the company was founded as a pilot project with support from the Cleveland Foundation. Its initiative is to engage audiences and artists who were not at the time represented on Cleveland Public Theatre stages and in Cleveland Public Theatre audiences.
What’s the origin of Teatro Publico de Cleveland?
It was born from relationships between Cleveland Public Theater and our longstanding partners with Latin American culture groups and arts organizations here in the city. The company was formed after a series of public workshops bringing together amateur as well as experienced artists, emerging artists and people who were interested in being a theater artist into this company. We’re actually in our fourth season, and ¡Celebrando Three Years! is looking back at as a sort of best of the last three years. So audience members will see songs and short theatrical works woven together and presented as a vibrant community event with live music and Latin foods before the show with a DJ and dance party after the show on Friday and Saturday nights.
Is ¡Celebrando Three Years! presented in Spanish or English?
The performance is primarily English with some Spanish woven throughout. This year we are introducing new technology thanks to a grant from the City of Cleveland’s Cable Television Minority Arts and Education Fund. It supported the installation of supertitle projector technology. So we will actually be projecting bilingual supertitles throughout the entire show.
So far, what kind of impact has Teatro Publico de Cleveland had on Northeast Ohio?
Teatro Publico de Cleveland has become really an integral part of the Cleveland Public Theater season. They’re regular audience members, attendees, collaborators and friends of the theater. We’ve been really thrilled with the turnout. This company has met a need in the arts and cultural community as far as providing a platform for the multitude of multinational perspectives that make up our diverse Latin-American theater community here in Cleveland, particularly on the West Side.
Let’s talk about the regional premier of 44 Plays by 44 Presidents.
This show is the life and times of the 44 men who have held the office of the U.S. presidency performed by a singing, dancing, all-female cast. The show was originally developed and performed by Chicago’s acclaimed Neo-Futurists. They are a sketch, drama and comedy ensemble. They’re very fast-paced, high-energy, contemporary and clever. The artists who created it have condensed each presidency down into a one-to-three minute vignette.
So it’s funny, poignant or both?
It’s a mix of all those things, just as American history is. You look back and some of the sketches are musicals, some are comedic, some include hundreds of props. Many of the sketches are hilarious. Many of them are pointed, and some of them are very poignant. Just like history itself, the show is complex and does the job of peeling back our notion of who these individuals were.
Finally, in what ways do ¡Celebrando Three Years! and 44 Plays by 44 Presidents epitomize Cleveland Public Theatre’s mission?
With every season, Cleveland Public Theatre prided itself on presenting work that is current, what is fresh, what is original and what really speaks to what is happening in the world around us. And it’s not simply imitative of the past or wrapped up in mainstream values. We’re really looking to reflect on where we’ve come as society but also imagine a future that is vibrant and equitable. It’s absolutely critical for us that what is happening on stage is reflective of the world around us. And you will see that in both of these productions in really fresh and exciting ways.
[Written by John Benson]
[Photo by Steve Wagner]