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Cleveland Play House Packs Punch with The Royale

Posted April 23, 2018 in Press Releases

CLEVELAND, OH (April 23, 2018) Cleveland Play House (CPH) sets up the boxing ring and goes back to one of the biggest fighting events of the 20th Century with The Royale. Written by Emmy Award nominated TV writer, producer, and playwright, Marco Ramirez brings forth a vocabulary in The Royale that expresses the narrative through physical motion and percussion. The Royale, sponsored in part by Robert Paul & Margaret Kennedy, will be performed in the Outcalt Theatre from May 5th– May 27th under the direction of CPH Associate Artistic Director Robert Barry Fleming.

It’s the early 1900s and Negro Heavyweight Champion Jay “the Sport” Jackson challenges his white counterpart to “the fight of the century.” Tensions are high and Jay knows that even if he wins the bout, the fight for equality and acceptance will continue. Playwright Marco Ramirez (Daredevil, Orange is the New Black), transports audiences back to Jim Crow America and into the boxing ring, with an electrifying look into the mind of this remarkable fighter. The Royale is inspired by the real-life experiences of Jack Johnson (1878 – 1946), the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The bells sound and the stakes are high as The Royale packs an emotional punch. The match is revealed through imaginative staging in a highly theatrical and percussive manner. The physicalized vocabulary of the fight will evoke how visceral this match would be and heightens the rising pressure Jay has felt throughout his life and career.

The Royale made its premiere at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles in April 2013, and has since been featured at Lincoln Center in the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The play was the winner of two Obie Awards, an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Drama Desk Award. In its short time, The Royale has emerged onto the theatre scene with force in the United States and United Kingdom. At CPH, The Royale will run as the centerpiece of New Ground Theatre Festival (NGTF), which provides the chance for playwrights to develop and showcase their work while offering Cleveland audiences the opportunity to see remarkable new plays come to life. The Festival will run from May 11th – May 19th. NGTF would not be possible without the generous support of Honorary Producer Roe Green.

CPH Associate Artistic Director Robert Barry Fleming, director of this production, stated, “It’s an exciting show set in 1910, but it’s executed with the hip-hop swagger of 2018,” and ensures that this show will leave audiences with an adrenaline rush.

The Royale cast

PRESTON BUTLER III (Jay) Engaging in acting, filmmaking, and music, Preston Butler III has worked with an array of extraordinary artists, including Insecure’s creator and star, Issa Rae, award-winning Chinese director and playwright, Stan Lai, and Def Poetry's, Dahlak Brathwaite. He recently toured with the World Premiere of FORE!, a new play written by the 2017 Relentless Award-winner, Aleshea Harris. Butler garnered international acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for his co-creation and performance in the eerily exciting "concert drama" Dead Awaken. Credits include: Gem of the Ocean (South Coast Repertory), FORE! (International Tour), Hecuba (Stella Adler Theater), and Cotton Patch Gospel (American Coast Theater). He is a graduate of the MFA Acting Program at the California Institute of the Arts. Phil 4:13

BRIAN D. COATS (Wynton) Off-Broadway includes: La Ruta (Working Theater); The First Noel (CTH/ The Apollo); On the Levee (Lincoln Center/ LCT3); The Merry Wives of Windsor, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Public). Regional: The Nest (Denver Center Theatre); Seven Guitars, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Two River Theater); Fences, A Raisin in the Sun (Geva Theater); Distant Fires (People's Light and Theater); The Wedding Gift, pen/man/ship (Contemporary American Theatre Fest); Count (PlayMakers Rep); and A Christmas Carol (Actors Theatre of Louisville). TV includes: Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, JAG, Blue Bloods, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Luke Cage, and The Blacklist. Upcoming: Co-Star in Independent Feature Film All The Little Things We Kill.

LEO MARKS (Max) has performed at leading theaters including A.C.T.’s The Strand, Houston’s Alley Theatre, San Diego’s Old Globe, South Coast Repertory, The Shakespeare Theatre in D.C., Berkeley Repertory, Seattle Repertory, Actors Theater of Louisville, Pasadena Playhouse, Ahmanson Theatre, The Kirk Douglas Theater, The Intiman, Playwrights Horizons, Boston Court, and as Hamlet in Jessica Kubzansky’s acclaimed production. He’s a company member of LA’s Antaeus Theatre Company, and a founding member of New York’s Elevator Repair Service. Awards include an Obie for Heather Woodbury’s Tale of 2 Cities: An American Joyride on Multiple Tracks, and a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Performer of the Year. TV/Film includes the lead in The Maestro, a period feature film set in 1940s LA and the season finale of The Last Tycoon on Amazon. Upcoming projects include Patrick Marber’s Three Days in the Country at Antaeus, and the world premiere of Everything That Never Happened at Boston Court.

JOHNNY RAMEY (Fish) since graduating from the Juilliard School, Johnny Ramey has had the fortune to be a part of several great projects as an actor, producer, writer, and director working with, Fusion Cinema, and King Margot Productions. His latest projects: Fatality, Work Party, and Negus he directed, produced, wrote, and starred in, have been, and will show at major North American & international festivals. Johnny won the highly sought after Helen Hayes Award for Superior Donuts, The Irene Diamond Excellence in Acting Award, and recently the Lead Actor Award for his film Laser Wolf at the Philadelphia Film Festival. Also, for his role in The Whipping Man, he was nominated by Broadway World. He recently made his Broadway debut with The Liquid Plain, and his Los Angeles debut with The City of Conversation at the Wallis Anneberg Theater this past year. His latest TV/Film credits include: Forever, Twelfth Night, Rage Room, Royal Pains, Most Likely to Die, and New Year’s Eve. Stay updated with Johnny @jramesjr

NIKKOLE SALTER (Nina) is an Obie Award-winning actress and writer who arrived onto the professional scene with her co-authorship and co-performance (with Danai Gurira) of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play In the Continuum, for which she received Helen Hayes and Black Theatre Alliance nominations for Best Actress. Select stage credits include Stick Fly (Arena Stage/Huntington Theatre), Head of Passes (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Macbeth (Shakespeare Theatre). Select film credits include Pride and Glory (dir. Gavin O’Connor) and Last Night (dir. Harold Jackson III). Ms. Salter is an active member of AEA, SAG/AFTRA, and the Actors Center, and sits on the board of the Theatre Communications Group and the Council of the Dramatists Guild. She received her BFA in theatre from Howard University and her MFA from New York University's Graduate Acting Program. Ms. Salter is also part of Cleveland Play House’s New Ground Theatre Festival as the book writer for The Nolan Williams Project.

The Royale Creative Team

ROBERT BARRY FLEMING (Director) is the Associate Artistic Director at Cleveland Play House, and made his CPH directorial debut with Between Riverside and Crazy. Formerly the Director of Artistic Programming at Arena Stage, he has worked as a director, choreographer, and actor in many of the leading resident theaters across the country including: The Public, The Taper, The Guthrie, La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, Perseverance Theatre, South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and The Goodman, to name a few. His work has been represented on Broadway: Stand-Up Tragedy, Ragtime; in television and film including the Oscar-winner, L.A. Confidential; and he was an associate producer for the NYC revival of Tennessee Williams' The Two-Character Play starring Amanda Plummer and Brad Dourif. Robert currently teaches in the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program and served as Associate Professor and Chair of the Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Department at the University of San Diego, also teaching in The Old Globe USD Graduate Acting MFA Program. An SDCF Charles Abbott Directing Fellow, San Diego Critics Circle Craig Noel Award winner, and two-time honoree of the Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical, Robert received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for his work on Karen Zacarias’ Destiny of Desire at Arena Stage. Upcoming: Next to Normal (Tantrum Theater).

MARCO RAMIREZ (Playwright) has had plays produced at Lincoln Center (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations), The Kennedy Center (Helen Hayes nomination), The Humana Festival, The Old Globe (San Diego), The Bush Theatre (London), and Center Theatre Group. Honors include Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellowship, Lincoln Center’s Le Comte du Nouy Award, and nominations for WGA and Emmy Awards. Education: NYU and Juilliard. TV credits: Sons of Anarchy, Orange is the New Black, Fear The Walking Dead, Daredevil, and The Defenders.

The Design Team for The Royale includes: JASON ARDIZZONE-WEST (Scenic Designer), TONI-LESLIE JAMES (Costume Designer), ALAN C. EDWARDS (Lighting Designer), JANE SHAW (Sound Designer), MICHAEL MORGAN (Dialect Coach). The Stage Manager for this production is MARYANN MORRIS.

Ticket Information

The Royale will be performed in the Outcalt Theatre at Playhouse Square May 5-May 27, 2018. Tickets range in price from $25-$110 each, $15 rush tickets for currently enrolled students under age 25 with valid student ID, and Young Professional discounts available with YP-CPH Membership. To order single tickets please call 216-241-6000 or visit Groups of 10+ save up to 50% off single ticket prices; call 216-400-7027.

Subscriptions: Subscribers save up to 17%. Flexible season packages available. To purchase subscriptions or get more information, call 216-400-7096 or visit


CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, founded in 1915 and recipient of the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is America's first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, CPH has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate, and entertain diverse audiences across Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. CPH has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,600 productions. Today, Cleveland Play House celebrates the beginning of its second century of service while performing in three state-of-the art venues at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland Play House is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Cleveland Play House is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.


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