Dramatic Tension

Out of the ashes of one of Akron's most impressive upstart theater companies comes a humbled but optimistic vision.

The Bang and the Clatter Theater Company erupted in Akron five years ago, promising edgy Ohio premieres. By the time it stormed into a second location on Cleveland's East Fourth Street, the seeds of its undoing were planted.

"We had all this passion, all this desire to make it happen, and then when things started happening, taking off, we couldn't keep up," says former co-artistic director, Sean Derry. "We used to say, ... Go big or go home,' and I think we just got carried away. ... We did. We went home."

Less then a year after moving to the Cleveland space, The Bang and the Clatter lost out on a crucial tax credit that the company had already committed to its budget. The economy tanked, and the new theater struggled to find patrons in a region studded with progressive neighborhood stages.

He points to companies such as Dobama Theatre, Convergence Continuum and Cleveland Public Theatre, which have found success by winning over their particular neighborhoods. "Downtown's not a neighborhood — not yet," he says. With no money and even fewer options, The Bang and the Clatter presented a final production in Akron and exited stage left last year.

This spring, Derry's back with a new co-artistic director and a smaller theater space in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. "I think the potential for what [Front Street] could become is this culturally rich area where people come to see art, to experience art, to interact with it," says Derry, pointing to the festivals and events that populate the area frequently throughout the summer.

The None Too Fragile Theatre seats maybe 45 people. Derry and partner Alanna Romansky built the risers and stage themselves. It's a labor of love that Derry says gets back to the essence of what theater should be about in the first place.

"You could go to a movie and be moved by what you see on the screen, but it's not the same way you can be moved when you can reach out and see the sweat or the tears or the joy right in front of you," he explains.

And it's true. Sit in the front row at a None Too Fragile production, and you're close enough to touch the actors. The theater's August production is Eric Bogosian's Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead, a series of monologues that will be a one-man showcase of Derry's acting chops.

"It's very crass, but [it has], like, this real deep message," he says. It's in keeping with None Too Fragile's style: in-your-face plays that challenge the audience, characters that resonate, themes that parallel society's hot-button issues.

"It's a fragile industry, it's a fragile art, and there's a danger in losing it," Derry says. He's lost his theater once, and he knows how easily it could happen again. "The main thing is, let's just do great stories. And if it grows, it grows."

2125 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-962-5547
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