Big day, small stage

Kalliope Stage’s intimate, 90-seat venue has its advantages: Performers don’t need microphones, which lets them showcase their voices in their purest form, giving audiences a unique theater experience. And this month, Kalliope kicks off its fifth season with a birthday celebration — a cabaret-style presentation of songs spanning the Cleveland Heights theater’s previous 19 shows — and everyone in attendance will receive a slice of cake. (Now, that’s our kind of intimate celebration.) So we touched base with artistic director Paul Gurgol, who also co-founded Kalliope, to talk about the theater’s past and look to its future.
How has Kalliope grown in its first four seasons? We started out very modestly, with 34 subscribers our first season. We built up to 560 subscribers last year. We’re hoping to go past that for our fifth season. We’ve created an ensemble of people who love what they do. In the arts, it’s really helpful when people really care for one another and work together. The art becomes higher quality.

Describe the experience of attending a Kalliope production. Everyone who comes to Kalliope for the first time, by the time intermission comes, they are ecstatic, because most of them have not experienced a musical that close. There is something different in having an actor three feet from you, compared to sitting in the balcony.

Do you perform plays by new composers? We’re always doing one or two new musicals a season. The way the art form is going to thrive is really in regional theaters. That’s where all the new musicals are being done first, and if they’re successful, they can go on to a bigger venue and, eventually, on to Broadway.

Where do you see Kalliope five seasons from now? We do have the availability, if we can raise the money, to expand the theater into the other storefront next to us. It would give us a 180-seat house, which would be perfect. That would be exactly what we’re looking for.

“Kalliope’s Fifth Birthday Celebration,” Sept. 7-9; call (216) 321-0870 or visit for more information.

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