Cleveland Play House is America's first regional theatre. It was founded in 1915 by a group of eight prominent Clevelanders, among them Charles and Minerva Brooks, who sought to bring plays of substance to the people of Cleveland in an era dominated by vaudeville. From these beginnings, The Cleveland Play House became, and remains, an artist-driven theatre that serves the Greater Cleveland community through its superb productions and outstanding theatre education programs.
Cleveland Play House has had nine Artistic Directors: Raymond O'Neil (1915-21); Frederic McConnell (1921-58); K. Elmo Lowe (1959-70); William Green (1970-71); Richard Oberlin (1971-85); Josephine Abady (1988-93); Peter Hackett (1994-2004); Michael Bloom (2004-2013); and Laura Kepley (2013-Present). Managing Directors include Dean Gladden (1988-2006) and Kevin Moore (2007-Present). Paul Newman, Joel Grey, Margaret Hamilton and Jack Weston are among the many actors whose careers began at Cleveland Play House, either on stage or in the theatre's education program.
In Cleveland Play House's ninety-plus seasons, over 12 million people have attended more than 1,300 productions, including more than 120 World and/or American premieres. Some of the notable premieres include: The Pleasure of Honesty, Luigi Pirandello; You Touched Me, Tennessee Williams; Mother Courage, Bertolt Brecht; Simone, Ben Hecht; Translations, Brian Friel; A Decent Birth, William Saroyan; Command, William Wister Haines; Ten Times Table, Alan Ayckbourn; The March on Russia, David Storey; The Archbishop's Ceiling, Arthur Miller; The First Monday in October, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee; Lillian, William Luce; The Cemetary Club, Ivan Menchell; The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds, Paul Zindel; Jerusalem, Seth Greenland; The Smell of the Kill, Michele Lowe; Bright Ideas, Eric Coble; and Heaven's My Destination, Lee Blessing.
The Archbishop's Ceiling, 1984
The original Play House facility was built in 1927 on farmland donated by industrialist Francis Drury, and housed two theatres that remain in use today. To accommodate substantial growth in the years just after World War II, Cleveland Play House operated the 77th Street Theatre from 1949-83 in a converted church a few blocks away. That venue featured America's first open stage the forerunner of the thrust stage that was popularized in the 1950s and '60s. In 1983, a Philip Johnson designed addition to the original facility opened, annexing a Depression-era Sears building to the original Drury Theatre building.
In November 1933, Cleveland Play House offered the nation's first community-based theatre education programs. Today, more than 40,000 students attend Cleveland Play House productions, as well as drama and playwriting classes offered by the Education department, each year. Additionally, Cleveland Play House and Case Western Reserve University launched an MFA program in acting in 1996, a program that has quickly become one of the most prominent in the nation.
Calista Flockhart and Roger Howarth, You Touched Me!
Alan Alda, 1958
Paul Neuman, 1936
Margaret Hamilton, 1928
Internationally, Cleveland Play House has made its mark with the Full Circle International Theatre Exchange Program. The Exchange was established to celebrate Cleveland's ethnic diversity, and has enabled Cleveland Play House to host or exchange productions with the National Theatre of Hungary, The Czech National Theater and Slovak National Theater, as well as Russia's New Experimental Theater of Volgograd. The most recent exchange in this remarkable series was in 2008 when the renowned Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv, Israel brought its remarkable production of Hamlet to Cleveland Play House.