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Cleveland Public Theatre's 2015 production of "The Loush Sisters Love Dick'ns: Great Expectations." (Photo by Steve Wagner)

Cleveland Public Theatre Announces ‘Call and Response’ Season

The lineup includes multiple world premieres and two new takes on ‘A Christmas Carol.’

CLEVELAND: Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT)  has announced its 2019-20 season. The lineup was crafted around the theme of “call and response” and includes multiple world premieres and new-play development projects.

“’Call and response’ speaks to the interactive nature of theatre,” executive artistic director Raymond Bobgan said in a statement. “Inherent to the artistic process, artists and audience are called to listen and to respond. Their responsibility lies in the immediate moment, but also in listening to the world we live in, and responding back.” Bobgan continues that the season’s theme “is present, active, and requires us to listen with our whole hearts—and answer—not simply echo. Theatre is a communal act.”

The season will open with Pandemonium 2019: Alchemy (Sept. 7), the theatre’s annual fundraising event that involves theatre, dance, and other visual and performing art.

Next up will be the world premiere of Rastus and Hattie (Oct. 5-25) by Lisa Langford. The new comedy interrupts a post-racial friendship by sending the friends to opposite ends of society in an alternate past, caused by problematic robots and a glitch in the time-space continuum. Raymond Bobgan will direct.

The Loush Sisters Love Dick’ns: Oops!…They Did It Again (opens Nov. 29) will follow. In the world premiere of this bawdy cabaret created by Liz Conway, Michael Seevers Jr., and Beth Wood, the title sisters reimagine their 2013/14 production based on A Christmas Carol.

The season will continue with Maya Malan-Gonzalez’s A Xmas Cuento Remix (Dec. 5-21), a rolling world premiere with Milagro Theatre in Portland, Ore. With composition and arrangements by Emiliano Valdez and Daniel Valdez, the Teatro Público de Cleveland production is a take on Dickens’s Christmas Carol infused with Latinx culture and modern music. Holly Holsinger will direct with Jason Estremera. The play is presented in English and Spanish with bilingual subtitles.

Entry Point (Jan. 23-25, 2020), a new-play development festival, will be next. Featuring artists from the Northeast Ohio area, the event will include staged readings, short excerpts from works-in-progress, guest panel discussions, and facilitated feedback between the artists and audiences.

Following will be a production to be announced (Feb. 6-15, 2020) from Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi مسرح كليفلاند العربي, a new project developing work by, for, and with Arabic-speaking communities. The piece will be created by the project’s ensemble members, as well as Raymond Bobgan and Faye Hargate, and will feature personal stories, scenes, poetry readings, and live music. The program will be presented in English and Arabic with subtitles. Raymond Bobgan will also direct.

The season will continue with the world premiere of Nikkole Salter‘s Breakout Session (Or Frogorse) (Feb. 15-March 7, 2020). In the new play, directed in its premiere by Beth Wood, a deescalation and anti-bias training session with the Cleveland Police Department spirals in unexpected ways when the white facilitator abandons the approved curriculum. The work is commissioned by Cleveland Public Theatre with funding from the National New Play Network (NNPN).

Next up will be a Spanish-language production, to be announced (March 5-21, 2020), selected by the company of Teatro Público de Cleveland, a collective of Latino theatre artists that produces work that promotes and preserves the cultures of Cleveland Latinx people for Spanish-speaking audiences and the broader public.

Danceworks 2020 (April 2-20, 2020), CPT’s annual event featuring performances from Northeast Ohio’s most adventurous dance companies, will follow.

After this will be Test Flight (April 2-25, 2020), a month-long series that showcases work in development from local and national artists.

Station Hope 2020 (May 2, 2020) will be next. The community event takes place at Cleveland’s first authenticated Underground Railroad site, where audiences can explore the historic properties while viewing works of theatre, music, and dance.

The season will continue with The Absolutely Amazing and True Adventures of Ms. Joan Southgate (May 16-June 6, 2020). A world premiere written and performed by Nina Domingue, the play chronicles the life of the title character, who walked 519 miles in 2002 to highlight the courage of the freedom seekers and conductor families who risked everything on the Underground Railroad.

The season will wrap up with the world premiere of Masks of Flight (May 23-June 13, 2020), created by Cleveland Core Ensemble and guest ensemble members. Directed by Raymond Bobgan, the piece is a play, poem, and work of fiction meditating on humanity’s desire for freedom and love amid tendencies to control and manipulate.

Founded in 1981, Cleveland Public Theatre’s mission is to raise consciousness and nurture compassion through theatrical performances and education programs.

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