Dressing the Part A performer, installation artist, educator and director, Hargate often explores how American culture shapes the roles we play — especially the tensions between innocence, sexuality and power on female identity. Her one-woman play Feefer Rising debuts at Cleveland Public Theatre Dec. 11-19. White Wash Her performance art installation She's Wearing White, a companion to Feefer Rising, premiered at CPT last October. A collaboration between Hargate and her mother, visual artist Joan Hargate, the work invited audience members to experience the virgin bride's wedding night through the lens of six women in a labyrinth of white-veiled walls. Travel Channel A painter and director of product development with American Greetings, Joan traveled the world exhibiting her art. "Mom would bring things back from her travels and tell me stories that sparked my curiosity," says Hargate. "It opened my eyes to other worlds." Sharp Cuts Inspired by rusty scissors Hargate found at her mother's house, Feefer Rising explores sexuality and selfhood through a girl's journey into womanhood. "Scissors are alluring and dangerous," Hargate says. "The scissors in this play become a totem, like a friend, imbued with magic that can inform our stasis and give wisdom." // Roxanna Coldiron
Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors
Sept. 5-Oct. 3, Allen Theatre, clevelandplayhouse.com
To kick off Cleveland Play House's 100th season, Ken Ludwig premieres his newest play about a fictional former mayor of Cleveland who tries to put on the concert of the century starring a romantic Italian singer and his fiery wife. "Ken so brilliantly takes these characters and quickly gets them into the most complicated situations," says artistic director Laura Kepley.
Bullets Over Broadway
Oct. 6-18, Connor Palace Theatre, playhousesquare.org
Loud and overtly showy, this spoof of the Roaring '20s is heavy on big dance numbers, Tommy guns and fast talk. Adapted from the beloved 1994 Woody Allen comedy, this musical stars a struggling playwright who tries to revive his show by cutting a deal with a mobster and casting his showgirl girlfriend.
Bat Boy: The Musical
Oct. 16-31, Blank Canvas Theatre, blankcanvastheatre.com
Don't let the musical number about dead cows fool you. This spoof of the Weekly World News story about a boy living in a cave raised by bats actually has tender elements of a zany love story too. // Chris Manning
Stage Presence A director, performer and educator, May spent a decade in New York City before returning in 1984 as education director for what is now Great Lakes Theater. In 2012, she directed Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart at Ensemble Theatre, which won three Cleveland Critics Circle Awards. From Oct. 9 to Nov. 15, she brings Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons to the Beck Center stage. Fear Factors May remembers the fear and misinformation in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. In Mothers and Sons, a woman who turned her back on a son dying of AIDS visits his former partner 20 years later to find closure and forgiveness. "How many parents turned their backs on dying sons during those confusing, terrible years?" says May. Think Pieces May has built a reputation in town for staging socially relevant plays, including Rebecca Gilman's Spinning into Butter, which looks at structural racism and individual prejudice at the fictional Belmont College. "People will feel something and talk about it for days, weeks, after they see a play that conceptualizes important social issues," she says. Strong Roots May returned to Cleveland as a single mother in 1984. "I've always loved this city," she says. "Cleveland has so much to offer with prominent theaters and professional actors and crew." // Roxanna Coldiron
Oct. 23-Nov. 15, Dobama Theatre, dobama.org
Addressing the racial issues that plague our society with humor and wit, The Call focuses on a white couple who decides to adopt a child from Africa. From hair care to global health concerns, the cross-cultural process is more difficult than either parent bargained for.
Guys On Ice
Nov. 25-Dec. 20, Actors' Summit Theater, actorssummit.org
At its frozen core, this play is about guys ice fishing and talking about the Green Bay Packers, beer and ... ice fishing. On the slick surface, that may not sound profound, but it takes a dive into deep conversations. "It's a look at the everyman," says artistic director MaryJo Alexander.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Dec. 3-19, Weathervane Playhouse, weathervaneplayhouse.com
This one-act musical comedy turns up the inherent awkwardness of adolescence by using adult actors to play a cast of middle-schoolers. "As an adult looking back on middle school, you have a more humorous perspective," says artistic director Melanie Pepe. Come prepared to spell, as a few audience members will be asked to participate. // Chris Manning