Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem,” penned in 1951, asks “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Lorraine Hansberry attempted to address these questions in a play – her first to be produced – that debuted on Broadway in 1959 and was performed earlier this year at Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland Heights.
The now-classic “A Raisin in the Sun” serves as a celebration of African American strength garnered through generations of personal struggle and slow-coming social change. And, for actors Eugene and Nicole Sumlin – who are husband and wife playing husband and wife Walter Lee and Ruth Younger in this production – performing together is a celebration of their shared passion, but it has not been a dream deferred.
“Nicole and I have been blessed to be in about five shows together, not counting vocal recitals. And we actually got to share the ‘Raisin’ experience with our son, Easton, which was truly magical and something I don’t think we will ever forget,” recalls Eugene. Easton played the Cleveland Heights couple’s on-stage son, Travis.
For the full article, go to: http://canvascle.com/eugene-and-nicole-sumlin/
In the play Ratus and Hattie, black friends visiting white friends are served dinner by two black robots, called “Rastus Robot, the Mechanical Negro,” that are salvaged prototypes of a kitchen appliance developed by Westinghouse in the 1930s. The play was selected for the prestigious National New Play Network’s National Showcase of New Plays and was a 2019 finalist for the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference and a finalist for the Playwrights Realm’s Scratchpad Fellowship.
Set in Cleveland, The Art of Longing follows the lives of three “third-shift” people—those who guard and take care while the rest of us sleep. The characters’ secrets mask deeply held yearnings that manifest in fantastical abilities and anatomical switch-ups. The play was a finalist for the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers, a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s 2017 National Playwrights Conference, and received its World Premiere in the fall of 2018 at Cleveland Public Theatre.
The 10-minute play The Bomb, a dark comedy about two ex-lovers who run into each other a Black Lives Matter protest, has been published in “Black Lives, Black Words,” an anthology that aims to explore the black diaspora experiences in some of the largest multicultural cities in the world.
These are among the innovative and daring works created by 2018/2019 Nord Family Foundation Playwright Fellow Lisa Langford.
For the full article, go to: http://canvascle.com/lisa-langford/
The basic formula for a modern staging of a play hasn’t changed very much over time. Lighting, sound, set, costume, direction, stage management and performance are among the required elements. But now the language of live-performance storytelling is evolving rapidly, courtesy of projection design.
What was once an experimental and expensive complement to other design elements has become an accessible and integral part of a production’s manufacturing of atmosphere, landscape, perspective and animated special effects. Now the immediacy of theater and the density of computer generated imagery have joined forces so that the lines between set design, lighting design and projection design blur and audiences can’t tell where one stops and the others begin.
On the local front, T. Paul Lowry, 44, is the projection designer of choice when it comes to solving visual production problems, telling and propelling stories, and making moments on stage look particularly cool. “Projections have now become a dramaturgical element in many Cleveland productions,” notes T. Paul.
When he started designing projections professionally, he was usually brought into a project late in the process, after the set was designed and because the creative team was looking for a specific effect. “Now,” as was the case with Dobama Theatre’s production of The Nether, “theater companies bring me into the process at the beginning” and he approaches his work the same way he would building sets and lights.
For the full article, go to: http://canvascle.com/t-paul-lowry/
It was during rehearsals in last summer’s production of the musical Tuck Everlasting at French Creek Theatre, which is based on a children's novel by Natalie Babbitt, that I first noticed that Calista Zajac prances rather than walks, as if always on the verge of breaking into dance. Or taking flight. She played an 11-year-old living in the woods of New Hampshire, a lead role, who must make a decision with everlasting consequences.
And she sings show tunes 24/7. These and other noticeable symptoms of someone born to perform musical theater have contributed to an impressive professional resume, talent agency representation and placement at the top of the short list of most sought-after local actors.
“While most kids her age are listening to Ariana Grande,” notes her Mom, Jessica, who blames herself and her husband, Louie, for giving Calista the acting itch by exposing her to Broadway musicals when she was just 3½ years old, “Calista listens to Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz and Ben Platt.” Louie, having performed “legendary” spotlight work while at North Royalton High School, credits his daughter’s immense talent to heredity.
Perhaps, but Calista’s remarkable drive, unyielding dedication, laser focus, and years of vocal training at Helen Todd Voice Studio in Cleveland Hts. and dance lessons at Emjaez Dance Studio in Bay Village haven’t hurt. She is particularly adept at losing herself in her characters while, at the same time, finding something of herself to inform their portrayals. And she finds joy in absolutely everything.
For the full article, go to: http://canvascle.com/calista-zajac/
"The conductor has his score, the director his script. The choreographer? Nothing but an intention, hopefully an inspiration and a room full of bodies."
That, according to Martín Céspedes, is the tabula rasa that is musical theater choreography. He should know, having spent the last 15 years in Cleveland engaging in that enterprise at nearly every professional theater in town after a career touring the nation in celebrity-studded productions of Broadway shows which include The King and I and Man of La Mancha. My first experience with Martín's choreography was in 2005 while on the stage in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific at the Tri-C Eastern Campus Performing Arts Center.
When he takes on a new project, Martín, of Westlake, finds the intention behind the dance-to-be by listening
to the musical’s cast album, which he does repeatedly in the isolation of his studio. “The potential for
dance arrangements,” he confides, “resides in the recording. I stand in front of the mirrors, set up my
phone camera, and I riff, notating the length of the dance break, the time signatures – slow, 3/4, 4/4 –
and envisioning style of music – waltz, rumba and so on.”
He then performs and storyboards possibilities as he visualizes himself in the specific situation the dialogue
has created for the music and taps the emotion that the music has created for the dance. The results of
this creative process were most certainly on display during the recent world premiere revisiting of Jane Eyre
by Cleveland Musical Theatre, where Martín's graceful choreography created dramatic, fluid tableaus
that captured – along with Gothic lighting design and period-perfect costuming – the tenor of Eyre’s
haunting childhood memories so vividly described in Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel.
Though inspired by and often paying homage to the choreography created for the original Broadway
productions he is re-staging, Martín is driven to follow his own muse and find his own voice. “While
Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse have created the footprint,” he says, “the actual steps need to be your
For the full article, go to: http://canvascle.com/martin-cespedes/
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