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Kids Deserve Great Theater Too

Published September 13th, 2010 by | Comments Off on Kids Deserve Great Theater Too

If there is one thing I’ve learned about Colleen Porter (PlayhouseSquare’s director of community engagement and education) in the six years I’ve worked with her, it’s that she firmly believes in children’s ability to appreciate works of art. She spends a great deal of time nurturing artists who create performances and artistic experiences for young audiences.

Cleveland’s young audiences benefit from her commitment, and the commitment of PlayhouseSquare to provide affordable, and sometimes free, opportunities for students and families to experience the performing arts. Through the Children’s Theater Series, International Children’s Festival and the International Showcase of Performing Arts for Youth (a conference that’s been held at PlayhouseSquare three times), Colleen has introduced our community’s children to performances that inspire their imaginations and broaden their understanding of the world.

And now, through her relationship with the New Victory Theater, New York’s theater for kids and families, Colleen has brought two renowned arts companies to Cleveland for rehearsals and previews of what promises to be a show unlike anything young audiences have seen before.

Tectonic Theater Project and Gotham Chamber Opera are producing the fairy-tale favorite Puss in Boots (El gato con botas).  The show combines theater, opera, puppetry and live music – unheard of in a production meant for children.

Cleveland audiences are being treated to free preview performances of the show in English and in Spanish on September 18 – before Puss takes his boots to New York for the October 2nd premier at the New Victory Theater.

Geoffrey Canada Rocked the House

Published September 1st, 2010 by | Comments Off on Geoffrey Canada Rocked the House

We were honored to welcome Harlem Children’s Zone CEO and author Geoffrey Canada to PlayhouseSquare for “A Conversation with Geoffrey Canada: Improving the Lives of Children, One Poor Child at a Time” on Monday, August 23.

Mr. Canada captivated the audience of early childhood educators, community leaders and other citizens concerned about the welfare of our children with his wit, humor and startling statistics. Did you know that:

  • 69% of African-American males who don’t graduate from high school are unemployed
  • Single African-American mothers are just $30 away from bankruptcy at any given time
  • 75% of America’s children are not qualified to enter the military
  • Per capita, America imprisons more people than anywhere else in the world

Therefore, “we must do something radically different for our children or we will destroy our nation,” said Mr. Canada. “Our children are the educational equivalent of [Hurricane] Katrina.”

He noted that this is a nationwide problem and explained how the Harlem Children’s Zone has worked to change things in the community. Some notable pieces of advice:

  • “If you keep excusing failure, you never fix it.”
  • “Don’t be a hostage of the past.”
  • “Put the children first and don’t compromise.”

We at PlayhouseSquare were particularly interested to hear his take on the value of arts in education. He stated, “There is no denying that poetry saved me,” and went on to explain that it is important to offer a range of supports and activities because you never know what will save a child.

Before taking questions from the audience, Mr. Canada shared his original poem “Don’t Blame Me.”

You can see Mr. Canada in the documentary film “Waiting for ‘Superman,‘” to be released in select theaters on September 24.

More than 2000 free tickets were distributed for this event. The free admission and Mr. Canada’s visit were made possible by the PNC Grow Up Great program.


The Best Broadway Camp Ever

Published August 13th, 2010 by | Comments Off on The Best Broadway Camp Ever

Last week, 80 talented young men and women participated in PlayhouseSquare’s annual one-of-a-kind Broadway Summer Camp. What makes our camp so unique?

It’s the only camp of its kind in Northeast Ohio, and as far as we know, the only camp of its kind in the country. Yes, there are other performing arts and theater camps, but no one does Broadway camp like PlayhouseSquare.

Campers spend the week working with and learning from cast and crew members from the Broadway show that’s currently running at PlayhouseSquare. This year, that was The Phantom of the Opera.  We’ve also held camps with Wicked, Disney’s The Lion King and Mary Poppins, Jersey Boys and Hairspray. During the camp week, the students see the show together and then discuss it with the cast.

We also make sure that students leave camp with a professional head shot and resume.

Are we bragging? Well, maybe a little. We’re proud of the experience we provide to our campers, but don’t take our word for it. Here are some of the comments the students left on their end-of-camp survey:

  • “The most amazing experience I have ever had”
  • “I had been told I was talented before, but hearing it from real professionals really boosted my self-esteem”
  • “I liked the camp and it wasn’t like other theater camps”
  • “Such such such an honor to be a part of such a wonderful program”
  • “Truly top-notch”
  • “I do not plan on entering musical theater, but I still thought the camp was enjoyable, informational, emotional and helpful”
  • “This was the BEST Broadway camp I have EVER been to” (from first-time camper at our camp)
  • “Best summer ever”

Kudos to our Community Engagement & Education Department for another great camp and to the cast and crew members from The Phantom of the Opera who participated – we couldn’t have done it without you!


Historic Musical Leads Into Historic Transformation

Published August 2nd, 2010 by | Comments Off on Historic Musical Leads Into Historic Transformation

The Phantom of the Opera isn’t just a big show, it’s a mega-musical in every sense.  It takes a full week for Phantom to load into a theater; most shows require just one to two days.  Twenty 48-foot semi-trailers are required to move the show from city to city.  The chandelier weighs one ton.  The Phantom cast album has gone platinum six times in the United States.  It’s been estimated that the show has been seen by no fewer than 100 million people.  And try this on for size – worldwide, Phantom has grossed more than $5 billion.  In comparison, the recent blockbuster film Avatar has grossed just a little more than half that amount at $2.7 billion.  To find out more about the mega-ness of Phantom, check out the interview with advance stage manager David Hansen in our latest issue of Buzz Extra .

How fitting that a show of such historic proportions is the one to send off the Allen Theatre into what is sure to be an historic transformation.  Led by Cleveland-based architectural firm Westlake, Reed, Leskosky and Turner Construction, the transformation promises to be a provocative marriage between the old and the new.  An example of how well this can work is the recently renovated Hanna Theatre, where the majesty of an historic theater combines with modern design in a dynamic, inviting and comfortable space.

The future of Allen Theatre

With three highly flexible spaces – the Mainstage housed in the Allen Theatre, and the Second Stage and Lab theaters in a newly constructed addition – the Allen Theatre Complex will become home to innovative performance, world-class artistic and technical theater education, and so much more.

When The Phantom of the Opera closes on August 22, the next exciting chapter in PlayhouseSquare’s 89 year history will begin and we cannot wait for you to see how it unfolds!


Brave New Voices

Published July 19th, 2010 by | Comments Off on Brave New Voices

Last Thursday, Cleveland’s National Youth Poetry Slam team held a public performance to showcase the poems they created for the International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, Brave New Voices.

Today, the six team members board a plane for Los Angeles and experience they’ll never forget. Have a great time Ariana, Maya, Eric, Lee, Derrick and Alana!

The six team members were chosen through PlayhouseSquare’s Slam U program, an annual series of workshops and events for teen poets.

2010 Slam U Team

2010 Slam U Team


It Takes a Village to Bring You the World

Published April 9th, 2010 by | Comments Off on It Takes a Village to Bring You the World

We’ve been hard at work for the past year (well, longer than that, actually) planning our first International Children’s Festival.

It started with Colleen Porter, our director of community engagement and education, who traveled to a number of festivals and conferences to find performances that not only represent various cultures and artistic styles, but are entertaining and educational.  That was followed by long hours on the phone and a phone book’s worth of e-mail exchanges with agents and producers to negotiate schedules and booking fees, as well as ensuring that international artists, their sets and props will be able to clear customs when they arrive.

Colleen’s staff has been coordinating with local cultural artists to present additional performances, developing meaningful workshops and talking with teachers about bringing their students to the Festival.  (Look for the yellow school buses lined up in front of the theaters during the first week of May!)

Local experience artists have been creating interactive art installations that reflect the Festival’s theme of “celebrating the world we share.”

Every department in the organization, from ticketing, group services, security, food and beverage to maintenance, housekeeping and theater operations, has been involved in the planning of this Festival for months to ensure that our guests have the best experience possible.
And the marketing staff (which I represent)?  We’ve been figuring out how to tell all of you about this wonderful new opportunity for students and families to engage with the sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and always vibrant cultures of our world through the arts.

We hope you enjoy our first International Children’s Festival!


Changing Lives…

Published February 25th, 2010 by | Comments Off on Changing Lives…

One of the best parts of my job is working on the Slam U performance poetry program for teens, presented each year by our Community Engagement & Education Department.  The students that participate are amazing; I would not be surprised to see the next Denzel Washington, Maya Angelou or Barack Obama rise from their ranks.

We held our first Slam U event of the year in January.  I enjoy seeing new faces mixed in with familiar ones, and catching up with the returning students to find out what they’ve been doing since I saw them last.

One of the students started talking about how Slam U has changed his life, going on to say that he didn’t know who he would be as a writer or even as a person without Slam U.

Hearing that made me feel a tremendous amount of pride and joy in the work that we do.


About Us

A not-for-profit performing arts center that presents and produces a wide variety of performing arts, advances arts education and creates a destination that is a superior location for entertainment business and residential living, thereby strengthening the economic vitality of the region.