Theater director Terrence Spivey blew into Cleveland from New York like a hurricane in 2003, and restored the tattered reputation of the historic Black theater at Karamu House. In his 13 years there, he mounted thought-provoking and groundbreaking productions, encouraged the careers of local playwrights and actors, and guided it into its 100thanniversary in 2015 as a place to watch. He also continued to network with Black cultural and theater organizations outside Cleveland to “re-educate people about Karamu,” as he put it a few years ago.
Although he left Karamu in 2016 due to cost-cutting measure, he’s still a zealous promoter of its history and its role in Black arts and culture. He was recently hired by Allegheny College in northwestern Pennsylvania to spend the fall semester there as a visiting professor to teach a course in Karamu’s history and role in Black theater, the Black Arts Movement, and social justice in the arts today. He’ll also be directing a production (yet unchosen) there in November. No, he’s not leaving Cleveland — just continuing his usual outreach. Among other things on his plate is the presentation of two works at Cleveland’s Borderlight Festival in July.
In fact, Spivey seems incapable of not having multiple projects going on. When he left Karamu in 2016, he was immediately in demand to direct at theaters around the region, including convergence-continuum, Ensemble, John Carroll University and Playwrights Local, for which he directed the unforgettable Objectively/Reasonable: A Community Response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice, which had two runs and an excerpt performed on NPR. Early last year — slipping into the calendar just before the pandemic — he directed a production about the history of slavery at Oliver Institutional Baptist Church with a large cast of mostly amateur performers. He’s also found time to start his own company, Powerful Long Ladder.
Recently, he produced and directed a short experimental film called Resurrection of a Black Man in 8:46. It’s based on the story of the 1933 lynching of a wrongfully accused man in his hometown of Kountze, Texas. He’d been mulling it over for a while, but George Floyd’s murder spurred him into action. He worked with Cleveland photographer Jennifer Hearn to create the haunting, poetic imagery. It’s now making the rounds of film festivals around the country.
To keep up with what he’s up to — if you’ve got the energy — go to Powerful-Long-Ladder.