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CWRU CPH MFA Class of 2022 Make Their Debut in Middletown

Posted March 6, 2020 in Press Releases

CLEVELAND, OH (March 6, 2020) The Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House (CWRU/CPH) MFA Acting Program Class of 2022 is preparing make their MFA debut as an ensemble in Will Eno’s Middletown . Directed by Interim Director of the CWRU/MFA Acting Program Donald Carrier, this production runs March 18th - 28th in the Helen Theatre at Playhouse Square. The cast includes Isaac Baker, Sierra Grabowska, Kristina Gabriela, Bridget Kim, Gustavo Marquez, Chris Portley, Jordan Taylor, and Noah Williams. General admission tickets can be purchased at 216.241.6000 or clevelandplayhouse.com.

Welcome to Middletown, USA. Population: Stable. Elevation: Same. It’s an ordinary small town. With ordinary people. All living seemingly ordinary lives. And yet, from all this ordinary emerges the extraordinary—the absurd, the hilarious, and the beautiful moments of lives being lived. Told with humor and deep compassion, this spiritual successor to Our Town shows us the joy, sadness, small victories and defeats we experience as we go through the ups and downs of being human.

Middletown Director Donald Carrier says, “Will Eno has a unique voice. He set out to write a play about birth and death and everything in between, where sometimes small events become significant. It's a wonderful play to explore in the first year of training as it challenges our students to remain grounded and not always strive for the ‘big moment’. The characters in this play are your friends and neighbors and I am excited about the journey we are all on with this play.”

Cleveland Play House Artistic Director Laura Kepley says, “Cleveland audiences will get their first glimpse of the Class of 2022 in this moving production directed by Donald Carrier. They are a playful, dynamic and engaging group of individuals who are coalescing into a very strong ensemble. I invite people to see these young actors now so you can experience the joy of watching them grow and transform over their three years of training.”

“The first production of any cohort is such an exciting time,” says Jerrold Scott, CWRU Katharine Bakeless Nason Professor of Theater/Chair and Artistic Director. “We've seen the students perform in their first semester in coursework and projects, but as an ensemble this is their first test in front of a true audience. Will Eno's Middletown provides such a great opportunity to shine: it evokes one of the great classics of the American theater canon—Our Town—yet puts a decidedly modern spin on it."

Middletown opened Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in 2010, and Will Eno won the 2010 Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play. Middletown was also produced by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2011, Dobama Theatre of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Third Rail Repertory Theatre in Portland, Oregon, and Actors’ Shakespeare Project of Boston, Massachusetts in February 2013.

REVIEWS

“Delicate, moving, piercing, tart, funny gorgeous. Mr. Eno’s gift may be unmatched among writers of his generation. Glimmers from start to finish.” – The New York Times

“Richly engaging and satisfyingly theatrical, with heart and humor.” – TheatreMania

“Utterly spellbinding! Four stars! Will Eno’s dark comic genius inspires all.” – Time Out New York

THE CREATIVE TEAM

DONALD CARRIER (Director) recently directed Othello at Texas Shakespeare Festival and As You Like It for the CWRU Department of Theater. For the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program, he has directed Fifth of July, Clybourne Park, The Misanthrope, Shaw’s Too True to Be Good, and The Violins of Hope; Other directing includes, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Seminar, and Really Really (Beck Center for the Arts); and Becky Shaw (Dobama Theatre). Other selected directing credits include: The Crucible, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Alms, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Habeas Corpus, The Pirates of Penzance, and Oh! What a Lovely War. He has appeared at Cleveland Play House in Shakespeare in Love; All the Way; Luna Gale; The Crucible; The Little Foxes; Yentl; In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; Ten Chimneys; Noises Off; and Lincolnesque. Regional credits include: The National Arts Center, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Great Lakes Theater, The Studio Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre, The Wilma Theater, The Huntington Theatre, The Intiman Theatre, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. He spent nine seasons at the Stratford Festival, three seasons at the Old Globe and two seasons at the Shaw Festival. Television/Film: Guns, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Passion of Ayn Rand, and Dead by Monday. Don is a proud Lunt/Fontanne Fellow.

WILL ENO (Playwright) is a Residency Five Fellow at the Signature Theatre in New York, which presented Title and Deed in 2012, and The Open House, in 2014. His new play, Wakey, Wakey premiered there in February 2017. Following an acclaimed run at Yale Repertory Theatre, his play The Realistic Joneses was on Broadway in 2014, directed by Sam Gold and staring Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, and Marisa Tomei. The Realistic Joneses won a Drama Desk Award, was named USA Today’s “Best Play on Broadway,” topped the The Guardian’s 2014 list of American plays, and was included in The N.Y. Times’ “Best Theatre of 2014.” The Open House won the 2014 Obie Award, the Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, and a Drama Desk Award, and was included in both the Time Out New York and Time Magazine Top 10 Plays of the Year. Title and Deed was on The N.Y. Times and The New Yorker magazine’s Top Ten Plays of 2012. His play Gnit, a loving but aggressive adaptation of Peer Gynt, premiered at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in 2013. Middletown, winner of the Horton Foote Award, premiered at the Vineyard Theatre and subsequently at Steppenwolf Theater and many other American Theaters and universities. His internationally heralded play Thom Pain (based on nothing) ran at the Geffen Playhouse in Winter of 2016 starring Rainn Wilson, was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. He was recently awarded the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation Award. His plays are published by Samuel French, TCG, Dramatists Play Service, and playscripts, in the U.S., and Oberon Books in London.

The Design Team for Middletown includes: scenic design by Aaron Benson (Hay Fever); costume design by Jeffrey Van Curtis (Fifth of July, She Stoops to Conquer, A Philadelphia Story, Twelfth Night); lighting design by Jakyung Cho Seo; and sound design by Angie Hayes. Additional creative team members include Catherine Albers (Acting Coach), and Kyra Button (Production Stage Manager).

THE ACTING COMPANY

The cast of Middletown consists of members of the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA Class of 2022:

ISAAC BAKER (John/Janitor) graduated from the University of Evansville, where he played Bruce Bechdel in the collegiate premiere of Fun Home. At Evansville, he also appeared as Andrew Carnes in Oklahoma!, Georg Zirschnitz in Spring Awakening, Pa Joad in Frank Galati’s Grapes of Wrath, Albert Thornton in Horton Foote’s Lily Dale, and Antonio in Twelfth Night. Other credits: Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice with the Great River Shakespeare Festival, John Proctor in the Pheonix Theatre’s The Crucible, and Ansel in Brute Candor Production’s premiere of The Cyprus Hatley Chapel.

SIERRA GRABOWSKA (Public Speaker A/Astronaut/Tour Guide/Auntie/Landscaper/Attendant/Radio Announcer) is originally from Shepherdstown, West Virginia. After earning her BA in Theater and English from UMass Amherst, she performed in Boston with multiple touring companies and is a company member of Magnificent Bastards, an international Shakespearean improv comedy troupe. Other credits: Juliet in Shakespeare Now’s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet in Boston Theater Company’s Hamlet, and Puck in Boston Theater Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She also works as a director, fight choreographer, and teaching artist.

KRISTINA GABRIELA (Female Doctor/Female Tourist/Sweetheart) is from Corpus Christi, Texas and received her BA in Acting/Directing at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Recent credits include, Sophie in Mamma Mia, Ariel in The Tempest, Mimi in Rent, and Beauty in Smokefall. @quirky_kris

BRIDGET KIM (Mary/Cop Voiceover) is from Morehead, KYand received her BA in Political Science and a minor in Theatre Arts from the University of Louisville. While there, she found joy as LeeAnn in A Piece of My Heart, Rebecca in The Long Christmas Ride Home, and Grace in Baltimore. She was last seen as Ginny Yang in the Liminal Playhouse’s production of Smart People.

GUSTAVO MARQUEZ (Mechanic/Freelancer) was born in California and was raised in Colorado where he received a BFA in Music Theatre from the Metropolitan State University of Denver. Professional credits: Sweat, A Christmas Carol, Native Gardens (Denver Center Theatre Company). Other credits: The Comedy of Errors, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Metamorphoses, You Can’t Take It With You, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, American Idiot, Dracula, Grease.Gustavo-Marquez.com

CHRIS PORTLEY (Public Speaker B/Male Tourist/Male Doctor/Male Date/Attendant) is from Dallas, Texas. He earned his B.S. in Integrative Studies at the University of North Texas where he played Kent in Stick Fly. After graduating, he studied at the Shakespeare Academy at Stratford as part of the 2017 ensemble, where he played Ferdinand in The Tempest and Elbow/Abhorson in Measure for Measure in repertory. Other theatre credits include Delray in Memphis with the Musical Theatre of Denton and Homer in Father Comes Home from the Wars parts 1,2 & 3 with the African American Repertory Theatre.

JORDAN TAYLOR (Librarian/Female Date/Intercom Voice) is originally from Ypsilanti, Michigan, and obtained her BFA in Acting from Oakland University. Her favorite credits include: In The Red and Brown Water, Marcus; or Secret of Sweet, Othello, and Electra.

NOAH WILLIAMS (Cop/Ground Control) is from Alabama where he attended Troy University. While there, he performed in numerous roles, including Tom in The Glass Menagerie, Pretruchio in The Taming of The Shrew, and Black Stache in Peter and The Star Catcher.

Ticket Information

Tickets are $15, with $10 tickets for currently enrolled students (valid student ID required). Ohio Direction/EBT cardholders receive $5 admission to any performance (for up to 8 tickets). Single tickets can be purchase by calling the Box Office at 216.241.6000 or by visiting clevelandplayhouse.com. Groups of 10 or more can save $5 off by contacting CPH Groups Sales at 216.400.7011.

ABOUT THE CWRU/CPH MFA PROGRAM

Since 1996, Case Western Reserve University has partnered with Cleveland Play House. Every two years, eight actors are chosen from the hundreds who audition nationwide to join this rigorous three-year conservatory program. The CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program admits committed and bold young artists who possess a love of language, empathy for the human experience, a vivid imagination and the desire to develop the necessary physical and vocal skills for a successful and sustained career in the ever-evolving performing arts scene. All three years are spent in residency at Cleveland Play House, providing students with unique access to its new downtown Cleveland state-of-the-art facilities and the professional expertise of its staff.

ABOUT CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE

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. clevelandplayhouse.com

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