Playwrights crowdsource community responses to the Tamir Rice shooting death to create a visual of the emotions people feel after the fallout.
In the wake of a tragedy, there’s a mix of emotions and lasting scars. When 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot by police in 2014, it devastated his family and friends along with his Cudell neighborhood and the Cleveland community.
To confront the emotional response to the grand jury decision that police were justified in their actions, five playwrights — Mike Geither, Tom Hayes, Lisa Langford, Michael Oatman and David Todd — took nearly eight months to seek out and interview more than 30 individuals for Playwrights Local’s Objectively/Reasonable.
“We wanted to talk to people and really get their reactions,” explains Todd. “We felt that was the most authentic thing that we could do as people who live in Cleveland and care about the state of Cleveland.”
Directed by Terrence Spivey, the documentary play runs Sept. 1, 3 and 4 at the Creative Space at Waterloo Arts and packs singing, drumming, movement and 18 monologues into 90 minutes. Each monologue, collected from February 2016 until the first rehearsal this July, portrays the anonymous responses of civic and legal officials, community members and closely affected parties.
Shorter voice collages are interspersed throughout, and the play ends with a monologue from someone close to Rice.
“They still had this very fresh, emotional reaction,” says Todd. “A lot of people really wanted to talk about it.”
While the play’s title parses the terms used to determine the appropriate use of police force, it takes inspiration from the works of actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, who blends journalistic interviews, usually on topics of civil and political unrest, to create theatrical works representing many points of view.“The play is not a traditional narrative,” says Todd. “It does emphasize the irrefutable emotional cost to something like this, and the real life cost of something like this. It’s a big part … to not lose track that these are real people that this stuff is happening to.” Sept. 1, 3 and 4, Waterloo Arts, playwrightslocal.org
Silence! The Musical
Serial killers, cannibals and a nice Chianti. Silence! The Musical has all the trappings of an award-winning musical. Originally performed as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, the parody of the psychological thriller The Silence of the Lambs follows a similar plot as FBI agent Clarice Starling collaborates with Dr. Hannibal Lecter to track down a serial killer who targets overweight women for their skin. “It has a lot of risque content that most theaters around the area are afraid to delve into,” says artistic director Patrick Ciamacco. The dark themes and strong sexual overtones of the original film get made over for comedy with songs such as Buffalo Bill’s “I’d F*** Me” and the “Quid Pro Quo” duet with Clarise and Lecter. “The actors won’t be playing it like a comedy, they will play it as a drama,” says Ciamacco. “But it’s funny for us as we are watching it.”
Shining light on current social issues of race and gender inequality, Chicago playwright Joel Drake Johnson’s Rasheeda Speaking explores the friendship between a black woman and a white woman working at a doctor’s office. Their boss drives a wedge between the co-workers when he asks one to find any reason to fire the other. This dark comedy is a thrilling power struggle that uncovers the true injustices in our supposed “postracial” society that surrounds women and different races in the workplace. “It’s a very timely play,” explains guest director Sarah May. “It pushes beyond the politically correct and people say what is really on their mind.” Nov. 4-20, Karamu House, karamuhouse.org
Margin of Error
If you can’t believe the theatrics of this presidential election, then Eric Coble’s new play may be the perfect political ticket for you. Based on true stories of backstage politics, Margin of Error follows Harold Carver, a political insider who knows all the dirty secrets that win politicians the vote, as he rushes to save his four doomed campaigns, his failing marriage and ward off an FBI investigation, all while stuck at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport with an intern. With only two actors, the dramedy urges the audience to ponder capitalism. “It’s like a political roller coaster ride,” says the Cleveland Heights playwright. “And hopefully an antidote to some of the political roller coasters we are on now.” Sept. 30-Oct. 23, Ensemble Theatre, ensembletheatrecle.org
All the Way
Making history is rarely easy. And the Tony Award-winner All the Way shows just how difficult it can be. The drama, which earned Bryan Cranston a Tony Award as Lyndon B. Johnson and became an HBO film, charts LBJ’s transformation from “accidental president” after John F. Kennedy’s assassination to his fight to win the presidency and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “This play, no matter what your political persuasions are, offers us a chance to reflect on what it really is to be an American,” says Laura Kepley, Cleveland Play House artistic director. By giving us insight into the past, All the Way reflects the commitment and passion it takes to create change. “It is impossible to watch this play and not see the many parallels to our world today,” adds Kepley. Sept. 17-Oct. 9, Allen Theatre, clevelandplayhouse.com
The Knife is the Money, the Fork is Love
It’s a riddle, wrapped in mystery cloaked in a theater curtain. The world premiere of Cleveland Heights playwright Jonathan Wilhelm’s meta-theatrical play, The Knife is the Money, the Fork is Love, follows Tobias, a pulp fiction-obsessed boy who’s searching for the secrets of his mysterious financial wealth in the Great Depression. After receiving a cryptic package, Tobias hunts down members of a secret society who may hold the answers to his questions. In the theater, meanwhile, a group of actors pause the story to provide historical context and work with the audience to solve Tobias’ Depression-era enigma. “[The show] is about finding a secret and what kind of knowledge an audience needs to bring to a play,” explains Wilhelm. The Knife is the Money, the Fork is Love breaks the barrier between the audience and the actors. “The goal is to stretch the boundaries of theater.” Dec. 2-17, Convergence-Continuum, convergence-continuum.org
A Very Long and (Almost) Victorious Battle: The Struggle for Gay Civil Rights
To move forward in this fast-paced world, it’s vital to look back at how history has shaped the status of society today. Lillian Faderman, author of The Gay Revolution: The Story of The Struggle, discusses her book at the City Club, exposing the setbacks of the LGBT community, from homosexuality’s classification as a mental disorder until 1973 to the AIDS epidemic. The 2016 Anisfield-Wolf-winning book features interviews from more than 150 movers and shakers, such as Kay Tobin Lahusen, who marched in 1965 with gay rights activist Frank Kameny, to Kylar Broadus, the first transgender person to testify in front of a U.S. Senate committee. The Gay Revolution takes the reader through each hurdle and victory, including the legalization of same-sex marriage, but it also looks forward at the progress that has yet to be made. “It’s been a very long struggle for civil rights and recognition of the LGBT community as first-class American citizens,” says Faderman. “And the battle certainly isn’t over.” Sept. 16, City Club, cityclub.org
44 plays for 44 presidents
Similar to how Hamilton swung racial roles by portraying white Founding Fathers as mostly black and Latino, this biographical blitzkrieg of our nation’s 44 all-male presidents features a flip-flopped all-female cast. “Seeing actors do nontraditional portrayals of these real-life people adds another element,” says co-director Dan Kilbane. The somewhat-satirical play moves chronologically in quick-paced vignettes of each president’s time as commander-in-chief. There are moments that spawn laughs, but the play doesn’t shy away from our country’s challenges, like the partisanship clogging today’s political arena. Seven female actors take on 158 different roles, from Andrew Jackson’s controversial hand in the Trail of Tears to Richard Nixon’s tumultuous tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “It’s 44 stories added together to become one distillation of America’s history,” says co-director Caitlin Lewins. Oct. 6-29, Cleveland Public Theatre, cptonline.org