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CPH Announces Exciting 2019 New Ground Theatre Festival

Posted April 3, 2019 in Press Releases

CLEVELAND, OH (April 3, 2019) Cleveland Play House is proud to announce the inspiring works for the 14th Annual New Ground Theatre Festival (NGTF). NGTF provides the opportunity for playwrights to develop and showcase their work, while offering Cleveland audiences the opportunity to see these remarkable new plays come to life. The Festival will run May 9th – May 19th.

This year’s festival will feature readings of Cleveland playwright Eric Coble, who’s play The Hatbox offers a new comedic look at family lore. Coble’s work will also be featured in a production of Feed based on the novel by M.T. Anderson, commissioned by CPH and performed by the talented students of the CPH Theatre Academy. Wildfire and the Bird Scouts will also be presented by the CPH Academy. NGTF will include the hilarious production written and performed by Mark Kendall entitled The Magic Negro and Other Blackness, which takes a look at the representation of black males in the media. An additional workshop production, Egress, and reading of Christina, penned by the 2019 Roe Green Award winners, round out this fantastic lineup of shows.

Literary Manager & Resident Dramaturg Rachel Lerner-Ley, states, “The 2019 New Ground Theatre Festival will be a celebration of contemporary theatrical work. Over the course of the festival, audiences will be able to experience every stage of a new play’s journey from a script being read aloud for the very first time in public to the Northeast Ohio premiere of a comedy taking America by storm.” She adds, “The festival features the work of multiple playwrights who hail from all across the US, as far as Austin TX and as close as Cleveland Heights! We’re thrilled to be welcoming these exciting voices in American theatre to Cleveland. This year’s festival includes a hot button comedy, a provocative psychological drama, a hilarious one man show that combines theatre and stand-up, a twisty comedy about family, and a cheeky yet joyous coming of age story. Be sure to stick around after select performances for conversation with members of the cast and creative team—we’ll be digging into their creative process, their journey to becoming an artist, and more!”

NGTF is made possible through the generous support of Honorary Producer Roe Green. Ms. Green is an arts patron, community activist and chief executive officer of the Roe Green Foundation. She is the first recipient of the CPH Super Nova Award (2015) in recognition of her leadership and generosity which has been instrumental in elevating CPH’s presentation of new works through the New Ground Theatre Festival. NGTF will include the eighth annual Roe Green Award. Winners receive a cash prize; a week-long residency with Cleveland Play House, including rehearsals, and a public reading of a new play. NGTF is also sponsored in part by Ohio Savings Bank, a Division of New York Community Bank.

CPH is proud to name Melissa Crespo & Sarah Saltwick, and Alexis Scheer as the recipients of the 2019 Roe Green Award. Each year, the Roe Green Award is given for outstanding achievement in playwriting. Ms. Crespo and Ms. Saltwick’s play Egress, will be presented in several workshop performances beginning on Friday, May 10th at 7:30 p.m., and again the weekend of May 17 – 19th. Ms. Scheer’s play Christina will be offered with a reading on Saturday May 18th at 1:30 p.m.

Melissa Crespo received her MFA in Directing from The New School for Drama, and is most known as a director of theater, opera and film. She has developed new works at a large variety of theatres including Atlantic Theatre Company, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Labyrinth Theatre Company, and more. Her production of Native Gardens by Karen Zacarías was recently co-produced at Syracuse Stage and Geva Theatre Center. She is most known for her hybrid musical/opera production of ¡Figaro! (90210) by Vid Guerrerio at LA Opera and Off-Broadway.

Sarah Saltwick is a playwright based in Austin, TX, a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin and was a Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. Recent productions/workshops include Tender Rough Rough Tender at Northpark University in Chicago, Limits are For Suckers by Scriptworks at Hyde Park Theater in Austin, TX, and The Girl Who Became Legend at Zach Scott Theater in Austin, TX. Egress was previously developed as part of the Hyde Park Theater New Play Development Workshop. Egress, written in conjunction with Melissa Crespo, explores a woman struggling to face her fears in a provocative psychological drama.

Alexis Scheer was named Rising Theatre Star by the Improper Bostonian in the 2018 Boston’s Best Issue. She is a proud Miami native and New World School of the Arts alum, and holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from The Boston Conservatory. The World Premiere of her show Our Dear Dead Drug Lord will make its Off Broadway debut this fall at WP Theare/Second Stage. Alexis is in her final year of the MFA Playwriting program at Boston University, and moonlights as the Producing Artistic Director of the award-winning fringe company, Off the Grid Theatre. Her play Christina offers a unique look at exploring how a typical Good Girl sheds her stereotype on an overnight trip that opens her eyes to so much more than she expected.

2019 New Ground Theatre Festival Productions/Readings


an irreverent passion

By Alexis Scheer

Director TBD

Roe Green Award Reading

Christina Alvarez is the charismatic leader of the Hillsong Prep Girls’ Choir, a college-bound honors student, and an all-around Good Girl. While her choir-mates revel and raise hell on an overnight trip, an unexpected kiss rocks her to the core and opens her eyes to a society that has betrayed her. Christina is a joyous yet cheeky coming-of-age story about the vulgarity of girlhood in a society where "teenage girl" is an insult.


By Melissa Crespo and Sarah Saltwick

Directed by Sarah Elizabeth Wansley

Roe Green Award Workshop Production

You are an expert on safety, but you no longer feel safe. You have just moved to a small college town to teach architecture, but you realize that your nightmares have followed you. And now, uncertainty lies around every corner. Egress is a provocative psychological drama that draws us into the mind of a woman struggling to face her fears.

The Hat Box

(or, The Inheritance)

By Eric Coble

Directed by Laura Kepley

Do we ever really know our parents? Do we want to? Really? Two sisters are about to find out when they discover a hat box hidden in the back of their recently deceased father's closet. What sits inside sends them off to visit eccentric Aunt Esther and on an increasingly wild ride down memory lane. With surprising twists and hilarious turns, Cleveland playwright Eric Coble's brand new comedy of family lore revels in the bizarre and beautiful mysteries that make up a life.

The Magic Negro and Other Blackity Blackness as Told by an African-American Man Who Also Happens to be Black

Written and Performed by Mark Kendall

Have you ever pondered the idea that Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham might be racially charged? How does one play the race card? (And what does that even mean?) Well, maybe it’s time to take a closer look. Using comedic sketches and improv, this hilarious one-man show examines the representation of black males in the media. From prison and white flight to “Reading Rainbow” – we’ll explore some of the ways these images influence our views on race in everyday life.

CPH Theatre Academy Productions

Also debuting during the festival will be the premiere of Wildfire and the Bird Scouts, by playwright Kristin Idaszak, and Feed, by Cleveland native Eric Coble. These pieces were commissioned by CPH and will be performed by members of the CPH Theatre Academy ensemble.

Wildfire and the Bird Scouts

By Kristin Idaszak

Directed by Pamela DiPasquale

Commissioned by Cleveland Play House

Summer’s over, and the Bird Scouts know what that means—time to head to the Southern Hemisphere! It’s the adventure of a lifetime for these fledglings making their first ever migration. But, when a rampant wildfire separates them from their flock, the Bird Scouts get stranded in a strange, disorienting forest and must work together to reunite with their families. A whimsical and thrilling odyssey that celebrates the power of ingenuity and resilience.


By Eric Coble

Based on the novel by M.T. Anderson

Directed by Pamela DiPasquale

Commissioned by Cleveland Play House

Titus is a typical American teenager in the not-distant-enough future. He attends SchoolTM, parties with his friends on weekend trips to the moon, and like everyone else, gets all he needs from the Feed—an implant streaming the internet directly into his brain. Titus has never questioned being told what to think, feel, and buy until he falls for Violet, an awkward rebel who challenges him to resist the Feed. A story of first love and the fight for authenticity in a brave—and consumer friendly!—new world.

2019 New Ground Theatre Festival Schedule

Thursday, May 9
7:30pm Native Gardens | Allen Theatre

Friday, May 10
7:30pm Native Gardens | Allen Theatre
7:30pm Egress | Helen Theatre

Saturday, May 11
12:00pm Wildfire (CPH Academy) | Outcalt Theatre
2:30pm Native Gardens | Allen Theatre
5:00pm Feed (CPH Academy) | Outcalt Theatre
7:30pm Native Gardens | Allen Theatre
7:30pm Egress | Helen Theatre

Sunday, May 12
12:00pm Feed (CPH Academy) | Outcalt Theatre

2:30pm Native Gardens (Open Caption Performance) | Allen Theatre
5:00pm Wildfire (CPH Academy) | Outcalt Theatre

Thursday, May 16
7:30pm Native Gardens | Allen Theatre
7:30pm The Hat Box | Helen Theatre

7:30pm The Magic Negro and Other Blackness | Outcalt Theatre

Friday, May 17
7:30pm. Native Gardens | Allen Theatre
7:30pm The Magic Negro and Other Blackness | Outcalt Theatre

8:00pm Egress | Helen Theatre

Saturday, May 18
1:30pm Christina | Helen Theatre
2:30pm Native Gardens | Allen Theatre
5:30pm The Magic Negro and Other Blackness | Outcalt Theatre
7:30pm Egress | Helen Theatre
7:30pm Native Gardens | Allen Theatre

Sunday, May 19
2:30pm Native Gardens | Allen Theatre
2:30pm Egress | Helen Theatre

Please note that Native Gardens will have many performances/events leading up to New Ground, which are not included in the schedule above. For performance/event times, please visit

Ticket Information

Ticket prices range from $10-20 and will be available at or 216-241-6000 for purchase. Groups of 10+ save up to 30% off single ticket prices, or by calling 216-400-7027.


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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