Playwrights Local

Cleveland's home for dramatic writers.

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“O/R” Featured on NPR

npr-logoPlaywrights Local is proud to announce that our recent production, Objectively/Reasonable, will be featured in NPR’s upcoming event in Cleveland!

On October 18, NPR’s Michel Martin: Going There will host “Getting Real About Race,” a unique live event to engage in an open and honest conversation about this issue in Northeast Ohio. Playwrights Local has been asked to open this show with an excerpt from our play.

This performance, with full video, will be streamed and archived on NPR’s website.

Find information on the event at https://www.nprpresents.org/event/going-there-getting-real-about-race/.

And information on Michel Martin: Going There at http://www.npr.org/series/352974380/going-there.

Thanks so much to NPR for inviting us to be a part of this. We look forward to collaborating again with director Terrence Spivey and participating cast members Ashley Aquilla, Kaila Benford, Samone Cummings, Kali Hatten, LaShawn Little, and Nathan Tolliver!

Objectively/Reasonable: A Community Response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice, 11/22/14
A documentary play on the impact and aftermath of the Tamir Rice shooting, expressing unheard voices from the Cudell neighborhood and Greater Cleveland. This new work lets the people speak, with their fears, reservations, and hopes fueling monologues drawn from original interviews. “Objectively/Reasonable” was written by an ensemble of playwrights—Mike Geither, Tom Hayes, Lisa Langford, Michael Oatman, and David Todd—and conceived/edited by David Todd.

Playwrights Local

2016-2017 Season Announcement

Playwrights Local is pleased to announce our 2016-2017 season, our second as Cleveland’s only home for all-new, locally written work. Highlights include three world premieres, two festivals, and playwriting workshops that are free and open to the public!

This year’s playwrights include newcomers to the company Amy Schwabauer, Lisa Langford, and Michael Oatman. Additional writers selected for readings and development projects will be announced as the season unfolds.

Press Release [PDF]

A Community Response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice, 11/22/14
Written by Playwrights Local
Directed by Terrence Spivey
Conception and dramaturgy by David Todd

A documentary play on the impact and aftermath of the Tamir Rice shooting, expressing unheard voices from the Cudell neighborhood and Greater Cleveland. Created by an ensemble of playwrights: Mike Geither, Tom Hayes, Lisa Langford, Michael Oatman, and David Todd.

The 2nd Annual Cleveland Playwrights Festival

A weekend event featuring staged readings of plays, free workshop-style classes, audience feedback sessions, professional development seminars, and post-show gatherings.

This is NOT About My Dead Dog
Written by Amy Schwabauer
Directed by Dale Heinen

A comedic one-woman show in which playwright and performer Amy Schwabauer explores the lifespan of dogs, the behavior of aquatic life, the challenges of being a young adult who loves to party, and the struggles of leaving childhood behind.

MARCH 2017
The Mac Wellman Homecoming Festival

A three-day celebration of groundbreaking Cleveland-born playwright Mac Wellman, widely recognized as among the most influential figures of the Off-Off-Broadway era.  Features Playwrights Local’s production of Bitter Bierce (directed by Christopher Johnston) and the presence of the playwright himself! Presented in partnership with Cleveland State University’s Department of English and the NEOMFA Creative Writing Program, and including performances by convergence-continuum, Baldwin Wallace University Theatre & Dance, CSU Theatre & Dance, and Theater Ninjas.

APRIL 2017
2017 Play Lab + Spring Workshops

A series of staged readings, classes, receptions, and special sessions presented at the conclusion of Playwrights Local’s second annual new-play incubator program.

Things as They Are
Written by David Todd
Original score composed by Ben Chasny
Directed by Anjanette Hall

A play-with-music on American poet and insurance executive Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), featuring an all-new score written and performed by Ben Chasny, who records for the Drag City label as Six Organs of Admittance. A collage of scenes, poems, movement, and original compositions.


Two Grants from Ohio Arts Council

OAC Image for Website Blog PostPlaywrights Local is thrilled to announce the awarding of two grants from the Ohio Arts Council for projects in our 2016-2017 season!

An OAC ArtSTART grant of $3,989 will apply toward Objectively/Reasonable, our ensemble-written piece opening in August 2016.

An OAC ArtsNEXT grant of $6,840 will apply toward Things as They Are, a new play by David Todd with an original score by Ben Chasny. Things is scheduled to open in May 2017.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Its vision is to provide leadership and voice for the arts to transform people and communities.

Find our more about this great organization at http://www.oac.ohio.gov/.

Grant from The Cyrus Eaton Foundation

cyrusPlaywrights Local is pleased to announce a generous grant from The Cyrus Eaton Foundation to support our 2nd Annual Play Lab & Spring Workshops, planned for January-April 2017.

This project grant will enable us to conduct the development phase of the Play Lab, in which three playwrights will work on scripts in progress with assigned dramaturgs and directors. The grant also will fund the presentation phase of the process, including a weekend of public staged readings and additional free playwriting workshops.

We thank The Cyrus Eaton Foundation for their support!

The Cyrus Eaton Foundation is a family foundation located in Cleveland, Ohio, where Mr. Eaton made his home. All Trustees live or have lived in Cleveland, affording us a direct connection with the life of the city, and first-person involvement in its welfare.

The Cyrus Eaton Foundation is committed to providing financial support to qualifying non-profit organizations in Cleveland and northeast Ohio, whose programs enhance the quality of life in this area, and whose aims are in accord with those of our founder, the late Cyrus Eaton.


Waterloo Arts Fest on June 25th!

Playwrights Local wants you to join us on Saturday, June 25th at the Waterloo Arts Fest! This annual celebration of arts, music, crafts, vendors, and food  runs from 12 pm to 7 pm on Waterloo Road in beautiful Collinwood, Cleveland! Find more information about this free event at http://waterlooarts.org/waterloo-arts-fest-2016/!

In discussing our involvement with the Fest, David Todd, our artistic director, said, “Waterloo Arts has been a gracious host to us, and we saw this as a way to give back to them. It’s also a way to contribute to the neighborhood of North Collinwood, which has welcomed us warmly.” We are so grateful to make a contribution to the Fest by curating and underwriting a set of performers on the Kids’ Stage and beyond!

The acts Playwrights Local will be sponsoring include StarDrop Circus (aerial acrobatics), Pinch and Squeal (vaudeville cabaret), and the UpStage Players, who’ll be presenting portions of Shrek The Musical.  Additional performers we’re providing including Talespinner Children’s Theater and Wandering Aesthetics (storytellers). (If you want to check out some of the acts, see the links below).

“There’s so many great bands and artists already participating in the festival,” Todd added. “We’re happy we were able to find a niche for adding some additional content in the performing arts.”

This Saturday will be a great opportunity for us and a wonderful experience for everyone involved! A big thank you to Waterloo Arts for their ongoing support and overall greatness!

For more information, visit http://waterlooarts.org/waterloo-arts-fest-2016/!

Also find the Fest on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1516097215361874/

Playwrights Local at Waterloo Arts Festival



We can’t wait to see you there!

Staged Reading: “Talkin’ on a Twenty Dolla Bill”

Playwright Mary E. Weems, Ph.D.

Saturday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Creative Space at Waterloo Arts
397 E. 156th Street
Cleveland, OH 44110

Playwrights Local is proud to pair with Twelve Literary and Performing Arts Incubator on a staged reading of a new play by Mary E. Weems, Ph.D.!

“Talkin’ on a Twenty Dolla Bill” opens with a simple premise: what if Harriet Tubman and President Andrew Jackson — the two faces on the front and back of the new $20 dollar bill — confronted each other in a conversation about race and power? Written by award-winning poet, playwright, and essayist Dr. Mary E. Weems, “Talkin’ on a Twenty Dolla Bill” is a play about slavery, money, and corruption where history merges with imagination.

Starring India Nicole Burton as Harriet Tubman and Eric Schmiedl as President Andrew Jackson, this staged reading is directed by Michael Oatman.

Join us for this journey into the outrageous!

* If you can’t make it on the 16th, catch another performance on Friday, July 15th at 7:30 p.m. at Twelve Literary and Performing Arts Incubator, 325 E. 156th St. 44110.


To The Orchard: Company Interview


Robert Branch (Simcha Bergman) and Kelsey Angel Baehrens (Rachel Bergman)

Last week, Playwrights Local sat down with three parts of its To the Orchard team: playwright Les Hunter, director Dale Heinen, and actor Kelsey Angel Baehrens. The following is their discussion of this world premiere production.

Playwrights Local: So tell me about To The Orchard.

Kelsey Angel Baehrens: It’s a play about seeking the courage to live your own truth. And redemption, some might say. Which could be any number of things: being able to tell the truth to the people you love, or to be accepted where you are, finding joy.

PL: And who do you play in the play?

Kelsey: I play Rachel Bergman, who is a young writing student at Brooklyn college, who is gay and also Jewish. Which doesn’t work very well where she’s from. And she has to reconcile her sexuality with her family and the future that she wants.

Dale Heinen: The context is that of an orthodox Jewish family, living in Brooklyn. And the mother, Rachel’s mother, has just passed away very shortly before the play starts. So the play deals with the aftermath of that and what it means to her husband and her daughter.

Kelsey: It’s a sad show. But it ends with hope.

Les Hunter: It really does end on a hopeful note. All of the characters are wrestling with their pasts and who they are, and looking for ways to go forward. And, often, not finding them. But I think by the end of the play they have all found their own tenuous way to start groping forward. Fair?

Dale: Absolutely. And it’s worth pointing out that there’s an element of magical realism to the play, and a lot of humor to the play. There really is a lot of lightness there.

PL: Robert Plant and Virginia Woolf make appearances?

Les: They do make appearances. Not in the same band. [laughs]

Kelsey: That would be cool. Virginia and the Wolves, or something.

Les: Oh, that’s good, Virginia and the Wolves.

Les Hunter

Playwright Les Hunter

PL: Les, you said this was your MFA thesis. Has it undergone some pretty radical changes since then?

Les: It has. I think it’s a much better play than it was then. It’s much more streamlined. I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a great show.

PL: What development has the play undergone? 

Les: In 2007, when I initially wrote it, it got what was then called a National Foundation for Jewish Culture Award. They gave me $3,000, which we immediately used on a very elaborate reading. [laughs] And I’m not exactly sure why. But there was a lot of free wine after. [laughs] And we also had a reading at Boston University where I did my MFA. And we had another reading at Brooklyn College for their Building Bridges Festival, which was cool because a part of the play takes place at Brooklyn College. I did my masters at Brooklyn College.

PL: So this is the first production at Playwrights Local.

Les: It’s the world premiere of the play and it’s the first production that Playwrights Local is doing.

PL: That’s a lot of firsts. How has that been?

Dale: It’s also my first full production in Cleveland. I’ve only ever done workshop productions in Cleveland. But working with them has been great. Playwrights Local is a new company, and there’s always a learning curve when producing for the first time, in any new place. But the good news is that there is also a lot of collective experience in the company, which is unusual. There’s a lot of background experience there. And another very real benefit is that it’s experience drawn from working in different cities, and the way things are done there. We’re learning a lot. And so far it’s just been really, really wonderful.

Les: It is really exciting what the company is doing. Trying to do something different than what anybody else, really, is doing in Cleveland right now. I think the challenge has been that, because it’s a new company, we don’t have a lot of stuff. [laughs]

Dale: That’s true. And so we need to acquire lighting equipment and sound equipment.

Kelsey: The cool thing [about] working with such bare bones is that we only have the text, really, and each other to go off of. This is one of my first professional shows ever anyway –

Kelsey Angel Baehrens

Kelsey Angel Baehrens (Rachel Bergman)

PL: Congratulations.

Kelsey: Oh, thank you! And then to be in the world premiere of anything just makes the experience of working feel very purist and important, I feel fortunate to be able to come into rehearsal with my own ideas. It’s really gratifying. Immediately gratifying.

Dale: And of course it’s been wonderful that Les has been here. As we’ve been working very diligently to understand the world he’s constructed. Where is this play set? The world of the play. Because it’s not a world with which people are likely to be familiar. There’s a lot that we didn’t know, that we’ve had to learn in order to give the world its proper dimensions. The life of this community, the life of this family, the way this religion is practiced, the set of beliefs that go with it. And, of course, because all of the back story of these characters is embedded in this religion, we’ve had to also look to the history of this religion.

Les: And all of the dialects. There’s Yiddish, and there’s Brooklyn-ese, and there’s Hebrew.

Michael Regnier

Michael Regnier (Rabbi Isidore)

Dale: There really is a lot. Michael Regnier, who plays the Rabbi [Isidore], he’s been working with a dialect coach. He’s been speaking to a Hebrew scholar, a preeminent Yiddish Theatre scholar. He’s been exploring this character intensely. And he’s been doing it all with a lot of humor, and self-deprecation. He’s been very charming to work with.

Kelsey: And, then, he takes his time in deciding what he’s going to say. [laughs]. I mean, because you’ve got Rob [Branch, who plays Rachel’s father, Simcha Bergman] and then you’ve got Michael [Regnier, who plays their family’s trusted advisor], and they’re on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s a fun cast to be a part of.

Dale: And, finally, the fourth character is Tracie Braggs. [Played by Andrea Belser.] Tracie is Rachel’s professor at Brooklyn College.

Kelsey: Who I have a small, big, lesbian crush on.

PL: Oh?

Kelsey: Yes. It’s rather large.

Andrea Belser

Andrea Belser (Tracie Braggs)

Les: Tracie is an African American Gender Studies professor at Brooklyn College. She is actually from the neighborhood that becomes the setting for the play. And it’s a fascinating neighborhood – Midwood, Brooklyn – because it is this amazing confluence of cultures: there are Orthodox Jews, and a large Caribbean component, there’s a Pakistani portion, and there’s an African American part of the neighborhood as well. And it’s all kind of smooshed together into these couple blocks of Brooklyn. And Tracie grew up in that neighborhood. She’s left to go do her studies and now she’s come back to teach at Brooklyn College. And when we meet her in the play she’s facing this dilemma with one of her favorite students, but her career is also falling apart at the same time.

PL: The research aspect of this production sounds intensive. Les, how much of that did you undertake alone, in the writing of it?

Les: I definitely did a lot of research. Some of it’s from my own life, I did attend a Yeshiva for a while. But I didn’t grow up in an Orthodox Jewish family, so, there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know, especially [having] to do with the intersection of the gay community and the Jewish community, I didn’t know anything about that. I spent a lot of time reaching out to people who do come from that world, and who’ve struggled with that splitting of identity. I spent a lot of time with an organization called Orthodykes, who were very helpful. They were awesome, actually. So there was a large research component, certainly.

PL: Dale, do you enjoy being the first to handle a new play?

Dale: Oh, very much. Yes. And for many years now that’s been my focus. I love to work with new writing, new plays. I’m also a dramaturg, so, often, the two go hand-in-hand. I help to develop a play and I then get to go on to direct the first production of it. What’s nice about working on To The Orchard is that it was largely finished. So there wasn’t that, you know, getting new pages everyday and things being subject to such constant change. It’s taken a lot of the stress out of the process. Les has also continued to be very involved, and has made himself available to answer any questions I might have had. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of being a director.

Director Dale Heinen

Director Dale Heinen

PL: Working with the playwright? Because some directors insist they’ll only work with dead ones.

Dale: But as a director you’re trying to reconstruct somebody’s thought process retrospectively. Meanwhile, you’re performing this gesture of interpreting the work which, because it’s a creative gesture, adds something new to it. For me, with the first production, you want to keep particularly close to the writer’s own impulse in the writing of the play. And with Les there I’m able to ask what informed his decisions, so that I can then try to bring that out more forcefully.

Les: And, for my part, they’re bringing out so many dimensions in my work that I certainly had no idea were there and it has been great to be present, to be able to see that development.

Kelsey: That’s really good to hear! Because from an actor’s perspective – and it may just be from a young actor’s perspective but – the idea that I’m performing a character I’ve never seen anyone attempt before, I often wonder, am I doing the right thing?

Les: You’re doing the right thing. [laughs]

Dale: Les was even at the auditions. He was at the designer interviews. He’s been very involved.

Les: Thank you for having me at everything. It’s been fun. We’ve gotten an amazing cast and crew.

Dale: We’ve been fortunate. People who work all the time are taking a chance on this new company.

Les: And that’s a good way of putting it. Some people have told us that they’re actually keen on working with someone new because they want a new challenge.

Kelsey: In five years, Cleveland’s gonna be an absolute Mecca of work. [laughs] Maybe six years. Give it six.

Les Hunter is Assistant Professor of English at Baldwin Wallace University.  He received his MA from Brooklyn College, his MFA. from Boston University, and his PhD from Stony Brook University.

Dale Heinen is an award-winning director and dramaturg, and is currently Director in Residence for Playwrights Local.  Dale has a BA from Northwestern University and an MFA from Middlesex University.

Kelsey Angel Baehrens is entering her final year at Baldwin Wallace University, where she studies acting, directing, and creative writing.

To The Orchard is Playwrights Local’s debut production.  It runs from May 27-June 5 at Waterloo Arts and from June 10-12 at Dobama Theatre in Cleveland Heights.  Tickets can be purchased at http://playwrightslocal.org/to-the-orchard-tickets/

Live from the 2016 Play Lab + Spring Workshops

Thanks to everyone who came out for our Play Lab + Spring Workshops at Waterloo Arts–audience members, workshop-takers, dramaturgs, directors, actors, and teachers alike! We’re pleased to say this was another successful event for Playwrights Local. Check out our photos below!

Welcome to Playwrights Local 4181

Welcome to Playwrights Local

The cast of Claire Robinson May's "Standardized Child TM"

The cast of Claire Robinson May’s “Standardized Child TM”

Live action from Elana Averbach's workshop on "Playwriting for Kids"

Live action from Elana Averbach’s workshop on “Playwriting for Kids”

The live reading of "A Conversation in an Elevator" by Mary E. Weems, Ph.D.

The live reading of “A Conversation in an Elevator” by Mary E. Weems, Ph.D.

From the workshop "Crafting a Great Synopsis" with Arwen Mitchell and Rachel Lerner-Ley

From the workshop on “Crafting a Great Synopsis” with Arwen Mitchell and Rachel Lerner-Ley

Fundraiser at Johnny Mango on Monday, April 18!

johnnymangoThe fabulous Johnny Mango World Cafe & Bar is hosting a fundraiser for Playwrights Local on Monday, April 18th! Visit Johnny Mango anytime that day — from 11am through 11pm — and 20% of your purchase will go to us. (Yes, that includes purchases from the bar.)

Present THIS FLYER to your server, and Johnny Mango will take care of the rest.

For more information on Johnny Mango’s cross section of Mexican, Asian and Caribbean flavors, see their website at http://www.jmango.com/.

Or, find them in Ohio City at:

3120 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

See you all there!


Grant from The George Gund Foundation

Gund-Social-MediaPlaywrights Local is pleased to announce that it has received a generous grant from The George Gund Foundation to support three projects for our 2016-2017 season and beyond.

This grant will enable Playwrights Local to curate the performing arts programming for the 2016 Waterloo Arts Fest, to present the 2016 2nd Annual Cleveland Playwrights Festival, and to help renovate the Creative Space at Waterloo Arts for ongoing use.

We at Playwrights Local wish to express our gratitude for this support. We thank the Gund Foundation for their investment in us!

The George Gund Foundation was established in 1952 as a private, nonprofit institution with the sole purpose of contributing to human well-being and the progress of society. Find more information on the Foundation at http://gundfoundation.org/.

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