- Cleveland Play House
The Cleveland Play House is a professional regional theater company located in Cleveland, OH. As of 2005, the artistic director is Michael Bloom, the eighth artistic director since its inception. In 2011 they moved operations to the Allen Theatre in Playhouse Square Center.
Founded in 1915, Cleveland Play House is America’s first permanently established professional theatre company. It was founded midway through a decade of cultural renaissance in Cleveland. Through a partnership of idealistic vision and philanthropic largess, many of Cleveland’s major cultural organizations were formed between 1910 and 1920—Cleveland Music School Settlement, Karamu House , the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Museum of Natural History.
Joel Grey, Margaret Hamilton, Paul Newman and Jack Weston are among the many actors whose careers began at the Play House, which also operates the nation’s oldest community-based-theatre-education programs.
In the early 1900’s Cleveland theatre featured mostly vaudeville, melodrama, burlesque and light entertainment. But a select group of eight Clevelanders, among them Charles and Minerva Brooks, sought plays of substance on timely topics. Together, they formed Cleveland Play House. They found a home in a farmhouse donated by Cleveland’s industrialist Francis Drury located at East 85th and Euclid Avenue which ultimately became the site of a long-lasting home of CPH.
This Cleveland Play House facility, built in 1927, housed the Brooks Theatre and the Drury Theatre. To accommodate its growth, CPH in 1949 opened the 77th Street Theatre in a converted church, which featured America’s first open stage – the forerunner of the thrust stage that was popularized in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In the 1980’s, the 77th Street Theatre was closed, Cleveland Play House purchased the Sears building and the world-renown architect Philip Johnson designed significant additions for the complex, including the Bolton Theatre. With the 1927 buildings, the Sears building and the Johnson buildings taken together, the complex for CPH became the largest regional theatre complex in the country.
In 2009, through a collaboration called “The Power of Three,” CPH partnered with PlayhouseSquare and Cleveland State University to create the new Allen Theatre Complex in downtown Cleveland. In July of 2009, CPH sold its building on 85th Street to Cleveland Clinic. In September of 2011, CPH kicked off its the 96th consecutive season in a reinvented Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare. Two new venues adjacent to the Allen Theatre will be on board in January of 2012. A new production center is now located along the lakeshore in Cleveland, and adminstrative offices and education center are on East 13th Street.
Cleveland Play House has had eight Artistic Directors since 1915: Raymond O’Neil (1915-21); Frederic McConnell (1921-58); K. Elmo Lowe (1959-70); William Green (1970-71); Richard Oberlin (1971-85); Josephine Abady (1988-93); Peter Hackett (1994-2004) and Michael Bloom (2004-present).
In November 1933, CPH launched the nation’s first theatre education programs. Education remains a high priority. Each year, more than 30,000 students from 350 different schools attend CPH productions, as well as drama and playwrighting classes offered by the Education Department. CPH and Case Western Reserve University offer a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting, and the three-year program is in residence CPH. CPH also has educational partnerships with Cleveland State University and the Cleveland School of the Arts.
Throughout its rich history, Cleveland Play House has remained an artist-inspired theater that serves its community by bringing to life stories that are entertaining, relevant and thought provoking. It has produced more than 100 World and/or American Premieres, and over the 95 years more that 12 million people have attended CPH’s 1,300+ productions.
The Cleveland Play House is organized like most American theater companies, with a board of directors and a number of administrators. The board of directors is chaired by Peter A. Kuhn. The Artistic Director is Michael Bloom, Managing Director is Kevin Moore, and the Associate Artistic Director is Laura Kepley. The theater's national directors are Alan Alda, Austin Pendleton, and Joel Grey.
The list of plays and playwrights that have had premiers at the Cleveland Play House is impressive, the most notable being Tennessee Williams’ You Touched Me, and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage. Other notable premiers include The Pleasure of Honesty by Luigi Pirandello, Simone by Ben Hecht, Translations by Brian Friel, A Decent Birth by William Saroyan, Command by William Wister Haines, Ten Times Table by Alan Ayckbourn, The March on Russia by David Storey, The Archbishop’s Ceiling by Arthur Miller, The First Monday in October by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Lillian by William Luce, The Cemetery Club by Ivan Menchell, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel, Jerusalem by Seth Greenland, The Smell of the Kill by Michele Lowe, and Bright Ideas by Eric Coble. The Play House continues to have a strong commitment to new works, especially those written by Ohio playwrights. The current policy for submission of new plays only permits unsolicited works to be submitted by playwrights who currently reside in the state of Ohio.
At least one mainstage production in each season is a new play.
The MFA program at the Cleveland Play House is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University and has a growing national reputation. The program was started in 1996 and has produced many successful graduates. The master's degree program is three years long with a new class beginning study every two years. Tuition is waived, and an annual living stipend awarded to each student automatically. The most notable graduate to date is Rich Sommer, who is featured on the AMC (TV channel) series Mad Men, as well as a recurring role on NBC’s The Office. Graduates of the program perform in an agent showcase in New York at the end of their third year, and can choose upon graduation to automatically join Actors' Equity. Students in this program are cast in both main stage performances and smaller venues. Each year of study focuses on a different area and period of theatre, as well as a cumulative study of voice, movement, and technique.
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