•March 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Three weeks out of the year, this is my home.

At the beginning of the outreach tour, I made mention of how odd it was that as we began it was warm, comfy, springtime weather.  Usually the tour is a journey from darkest winter into brightest spring … this year it was exactly the opposite.  Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, Firestone High — these stops are supposed to be refreshing, sunny and pleasant.  They weren’t. I mean, the people were, the shows were, the weather has been dreary.  Thank goodness we finished today as there is already steady sleet this evening and the threat of ten inches of snow tomorrow.

Yesterday we visited the Northwest Branch of the Akron-Summit Library.  This stop is such fun because it is always a 1 o’clock on a weekday, promising a nice crowd of a dozen or two seniors and other folks who have time to spare in the middle of the afternoon — plus about a hundred kids from Firestone High who walk around the corner to join us.  It was a raucous good time.

Today we brought our tour to a close at Firestone High itself.  Mr. Z. always takes great care of us (okay, last year was a little kooky) and the place has a larger percentage of theater geeks than your average school.  We had a big, appreciative crowd.

Twice Told Tales was the longest outreach show I have done so far, most came in under an hour … with schtick this one usually clocked in at 1:05 or :10.  This provided little time for students to come up to us after a performance, at certain schools their day was over.  But so many Firestone kids really do want to know where you went to school to study drama, and some life recommendations.

After the show we had what is fast becoming an annual tradition — the farewell lunch at the Ghent Road Winking Lizard.  When your last performance is at 9:15 AM and you have loaded out at 11:30, and you are in Akron … I mean, hey.  Cheers!  Lisa and I dropped off the set at the Trane Ave. space, the costumes at the Hanna Bldg. costume shop, the office business at the offices and then said good-bye to the van for another year.

Complete Works opens the day after tomorrow, and I hope you got tickets because it is sold out!  Yay, opening night sell-out! As for me, I have to begin cramming for my solo performance which open in less than a month at Cleveland Public Theatre.  I hope you have enjoyed this trip through the 2011 Outreach Tour.

And now I will leave you, for the time has come for me to bring all words to an end, and offer you my humble thanks.

See you next February!


Pre-Show @ Lakewood

•March 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Photos by Robert M. Smith

Thank you, Lakewood Public Library!

The Black Plague is upon us!

•March 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Lisa in happier days.

This one was for LISA.  I received a truly pathetic phone call on Sunday morning from our fearless director, and she sounded miserable.  We have worked together for almost ten years, I know what Lisa sounds like when she is ill, but she was even more upset than that, and for good reason.  Her advisor from Roosevelt University in Chicago, where she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Directing, was flying in that morning to catch the 2 PM at CH-UH on Lee, and out again the same day, to see this show.

What’s the big deal?  Maybe you hadn’t heard, but Decameron is Lisa O’s thesis production.  She has been working overtime on this production for a year.  It is the culmination of all her effort and good will.  It’s important, dammit.

And she had a stomach bug. She still has it. Feel better, Lisa!

Rest assured, the show went on without her.  I was able to introduce the proceedings in the character (ostensibly) of Giovanni Boccaccio, which actually gave the show context it doesn’t usually have.  “Hi, my name is Boccaccio. This is my story.”  That doesn’t mean I want to do it again, I have a lot to think about before the show begins without having to deal with programs and calling places, etc.

Nice house, filled with all those brainy Cleveland Heights ex-beatnik types. Like, you know, my wife. And Lisa’s mentor from Roosevelt. He introduced himself after the show with a big smile on his face, I said how sorry I was she couldn’t be here and he said it was no matter, he knows the work she has done on it and was just there to see the show in its finished form.  I think we gave him a very good, no-b.s. performance, which is more than I can say about the last couple of gigs. (*cough*)

In The Heights

Speaking of which, tonight we appear at Lakewood Public Library, which features the shallowest stage of the tour.  A lot of blocking is going right out the window tonight.  Come experience the madness!


•March 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I am glad you cannot see my face because I am laughing right now.

Did they have cookies at Nordonia?  Have we presented the outreach tour at the Nordinia Hills branch of the Akron Summit Public Library?  Check on both, thanks very much!  We had a full house on Thursday night and merriment was had by all.  I do love Nordonia.

Which is to say nothing of the reception we received from the young women of Our Lady of the Elms.  Those girls prepare.  During the talkback, one student asked me by name (they know me there) which of the shows we have brought to Elms have I enjoyed the most.  We have only visited three years now, and each year they are such wonderful audience members … but I did say the Chekhov pieces were the most memorable for me.  It was such a surprise to find a high school audience so ready for some late nineteenth century Russian comedy.  This year, as usual, they had read the script, and read up on the subject matter, but each year I am glad to say we surprise them with the production.

And wha-hey!  A night off!  I went to check out the final weekend of Big Box at Cleveland Public Theatre, and tomorrow I am taking the kids to the Auto Show.  My five year-old told me today he wants to invent a car that runs on air.

Next stop for Decameron: Cleveland Heights this Sunday at 2 PM!

The Big Sleep

•March 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment


Apologies for my absence, the tour is still rolling across Northern Ohio. But we have been seriously booked this week, I have had grant reports to file, a school play to write and direct … it’s been busy.  And I want that spring weather back, thanks.

Sunday was a matinee for the lovely citizens of Akron, at the main branch of the public library.  We will be visiting the Nordonia Brach tonight — a study in contrasts, let me tell you.  Akron Main features a recently constructed, state of the art hall, with professional lighting, a deep stage, curtains — it’s like a theater.  Nordonia is a neighborhood branch of the library (with a dedicated outreach tour following – 10 consecutive years!) and they provide us with a meeting room, which is one of the smallest venues we use.

And Nordonia always has cookies and coffee after the show.  I love that.  Come to NORDONIA tonight at 7 PM!

On Monday we visited the recently named Lorain High (formerly Lorain Admiral King) but my daughter had a day off from school, so I brought her with me and Lisa put her to work packing props and costumes after the show.

However, we were not through for the day — Monday was a double, including a visit to one of my favorite spaces, Olde Town Hall in North Ridgeville.  It is a beautiful old space, and we had a delightful gathering of folks out for a good time.  Lots of laughs in N. Ridgeville that night.  Many thanks to our host Mary, who offered refreshments following the show and Michelle who handled our lights.

Having performed this show twice in one day, the company was more than happy to scarf down wine and cheese and relax a little before loading out.

Tuesday night was our fourth year visiting the fine people at Kendal at Oberlin, which features a shallow stage but also some nice floor space and we took advantage of both, hopping up and down for different parts of the performance.  It’s these little changes in venue which keep all outreach tours alive for me … it’s also good to keep these young people I have to work with on their toes.

This is what a talkback looks like.

And yesterday afternoon we moved into Elryia Catholic High School for the afternoon.  Mad props to all those charming young men of EC, who were more than happy to rip class to help us load in our sets and materials and help us set up and tear down.  In fact, there were so many of them, and they were so efficient, our set was in and up within ten minutes and we had about an hour and a half to lie around before the performance.

I am not complaining.  As you might be able to tell, I am really craving the lying around thing right now.

See you at NORDONIA!

are we all fed?

•February 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Cuyahoga Valley Arts Center

Lake Ridge Academy

Big spaces! Little spaces! We play all them spaces!

Thanks to all who played host these past two days.  Cuyahoga Valley Arts Center was a new one this year, and Linda, Dorothy and everyone there made us feel right at home.  We got cookies and coffee!  It’s a very active place, I arrived as a life-drawing class was hard at work capturing a patient ranch hand frozen in time, carving a wooden duck.  Just as we were loading out, the Camera Club was setting up a slide carousel and enjoying what was left of the cookies.  I was impressed.

This morning we attended the first of the four high schools we will be visiting this tour.  Show started at 10 AM, which is when most teenagers are still asleep.

Tomorrow, oddly enough, we have a day off!  There was a scheduling change which has provided us with a double on Monday, so we’ll pay for it then, but for now, this old man could use a dose of Ibuprofen and at least six hours of rest.

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: Snowpocalypse XIII hits the North Coast! Lucky for everyone we visited Lake Ridge yesterday, as that school and every other school in the region is closed today.  Whew!

We put the “Player” in Workshop Players.

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Pre-show speech featuring Mr. Daniel Hahn

Big wheels keep on turning.  Monday we visited the Cleveland Sight Center, a site we missed last year because the venue was closed due to a heavy snowfall.  That was very disappointing, as it is a mid-day stop that I always enjoy.  Jeri Rask and her team are always very helpful and friendly.  There is a trio of ladies who always come and sit in the front row, and it is always good to meet them again.

GLTF Producing Artistic Director Charlie Fee, freshly flown in from Boise to direct The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was on hand, accompanied by GLTF Executive Director Bob Taylor!  Response was very positive, though it is different performing for a visually impaired audience, who aren’t impressed by things like juggling, for example.

However, audio description was provided by Muriel Chasin, who excellently brought everyone onto the same page in regards to the hinky, physical aspects of the production … although, when the narrator tells you there are two people in bed and they start making loud “whoopee” sounds, why even turn on the lights?

At many of the venues audiences have remarked positively about all the different characters we play, and the many different character voices we use.  The Sight Center audience in particular appreciated the distinct voices and followed the story as easily as anyone else.  One audience member even asked Kristy if she were the only woman in the company, which I thought was a great compliment.

And then … AMHERST! Workshop Players is swiftly becoming my favorite tour stop anywhere.  (And no, Eric, it’s not just because of the food.)  This former one-room schoolhouse (though we really, really appreciate the food) has been a community theater space for 55 years.  Their space is small and in-the-round, though they can also lose one of the short sides and make it a thrust, which is how we performed.  It holds about 90 people, and last night we had close to that.

They have a dedicated staff of volunteers, led by the great Dave Cotton, who were on hand to help us load-in, set-up, breakdown and ship-out, as well as act as enthusiastic audience members.  The large, close audience (watch where you are swinging that knife, people) were a mix of Workshop regulars and a great number of students from Marion L. Steele High School.  This was our noticeable assemblage of young people.  And young people think this show is really funny.

For our part, it was a shame-fest, each of us trying to wring as much laughter out of the crowd as possible.  No one was safe.

Rob was complimented on his Italian accent, though someone else remarked it’s more like a Jersey Shore Italian.