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CPH presents Sharp, Surreal Satire About Race and Elitism in the Dark Comedy, BLACKADEMICS

Posted April 30, 2021 in Press Releases

(Cleveland, OH) Cleveland Play House presents its final virtual play for the 2020/21 theatrical season, Blackademics, a dark comedy written by Idris Goodwin. This raucous satire about two college professors navigating success and racism as Black women features Northeast Ohio actors, Mariah Burks, Colleen Longshaw, and Lisa Marie Schueller. Directed by Ansley Valentine, Blackademics can be streamed virtually May 22–26, 2021. Tickets to all virtually streamed performances are $10 and are available exclusively at

A select table reserved at an exclusive café inspires a ravenous appetite from African-American professors Ann and Rachelle. From seed to slaughter, their host, Georgia, has the evening fully planned – down to the last chair. Blackademics is a comedic culinary celebration that quickly turns from crudité to cruelty as our scholars banter, debate, and battle each other to claim their literal seat at the table.

Nationally acclaimed playwright Idris Goodwin is renowned for his literary works tying in cultural and systemic issues with hip hop and breakbeat music. CPH produced Goodwin’s breakbeat play How We Got On in 2014 and in 2019 commissioned Goodwin to pen Jacked!, inspired by the classic tale “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Blackademics was first developed and produced by MPAACT in Chicago 2013. It was remounted at Theatre on the Lake and was further developed and produced by Crowded Fire in San Francisco in 2015.

The cast of this outrageous one-act features Northeast Ohio actors, including Mariah Burks as Rachelle (CPH’s Clue: A New Comedy, The 25th Annual…Spelling Bee, Shakespeare in Love, and She Stoops to Conquer; and Cain Park’s Ragtime); Colleen Longshaw as Ann (CPH’s The Piano Lesson, Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol, Dobama Theatre’s Made in America, Porthouse Theatre’s Sister Act, Karamu House’s Fences, and Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s Twelfth Night); and Lisa Marie Schueller as Georgia (Coach House Theatre, Ohio Shakespeare Festival, Porthouse Theatre, Cleveland Theatre Company, Carousel Dinner Theatre, and Playhouse Square).

CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley says, “This season, CPH produced 13 virtual productions that explored very human and topical issues while creatively experimenting with this new way of storytelling. Featuring three smart, dynamic, and very funny women and the excellent direction of Ansley Valentine, Blackademics, uses humor, satire, and absurdism to grapple with questions of equity and inclusion.”

Director Ansley Valentine says, “Blackademics spoke to me on many levels. As a Black professor in academia, I closely identified with the experiences of the two main characters. It will be an interesting journey to turn such a physically active and engaging play into a piece of virtual theater.”

Ticket buyers are also invited to a free live roundtable with director Ansley Valentine and guest panelists via ZOOM on Monday, May 24, 2021 at 7 PM EDT.

KeyBank is Presenting Sponsor of the 2020-21 Theatre Season at Cleveland Play House.

Additional funding for Blackademics is provided by DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky.


“By the end, the triangulating alliances...slyly underscore the way that ‘let's you and her fight’ has been used by the people with power to keep us from questioning why all we can hope for at life's banquet is a handful of seeds.” – Chicago Tribune

“Idris Goodwin’s tight, provocative new play transcends the talkiness and didacticism that often impairs social-issue theater and opts instead for heated, engaging arguments between two fleshed-out characters. Relevance and fresh ideas... are served up in large, savory portions.” – Chicago Reader

“Idris Goodwin’s wild and probing dark a grimmer-than-Grimm fairy tale for adults, set up like a rap-energized topical cross between Waiting for Godot and No Exit.” –



Written by Idris Goodwin

Directed by Ansley Valentine


Saturday, May 22 at 7 PM EDT – Premiere Broadcast Performance

Sunday, May 23 at 5 PM EDT – Streamed Broadcast Performance

May 24–26 – On Demand Streaming


Monday, May 24, 2021 at 7 PM EDT


An ASL-interpreted performance will be available to patrons who are deaf. For further details, please


Mariah Burks as Rachelle

Colleen Longshaw as Ann

Lisa Marie Schueller as Georgia

The actors and stage manager in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.


Playwright: Idris Goodwin

Director: Ansley Valentine, SDC

Production Editor: Ben Needham

Composer: Aaron Needham

Additional Music: Max Lunati

Stage Manager: Olivia Louise Tree Plath

Production Assistant: Ashley Raymer Brown

Artistic Virtual Programs Manager: Adam Kern

The director is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.

SETTING: A café in the rural Midwest

The virtual performance runs approx. 75 minutes without an intermission.

Content Advisory: This play contains strong language and physical violence.

Blackademics is produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc.


IDRIS GOODWIN (Playwright) has forged an impactful career as a multiple award-winning playwright, breakbeat poet, director, educator, and organizer across two decades. Passionate about cultivating new audiences in the arts, Goodwin is the Director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, the first Black man to hold the position in its 100-year history. Prior to this, Goodwin served two seasons as Producing Artistic Director at StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. He actively serves on both the advisory boards of Theatre for Young Audiences USA and Children's Theatre Foundation Association. Goodwin is the author of over 50 original plays ranging from his hip hop inspired breakbeat series to historical dramas to works for young audiences. Works like And In This Corner: Cassius Clay, How We Got On, Hype Man: A Break Beat Play and the groundbreaking Free Play: open-source scripts for an antiracist tomorrow, are widely produced across the country by a diverse mix of professional theaters, academic environments, and non-traditional spaces alike. Other works include the poetry books: Can I Kick It?, Human Highlight: Ode To Dominique Wilkins, and the play This Is Modern Art. Goodwin has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry, Sesame Street, NPR, BBC Radio, and the Discovery Channel. He is a 2021 United States Artist Fellow, recognized as a culture bearer who celebrates community values and cultivates histories with care. Supported by prestigious institutions like The Kennedy Center, The Eugene O’Neill Conference, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, and The Playwrights’ Center Goodwin uses his full creative powers to galvanize people to the community square to sculpt better tomorrows.

ANSLEY VALENTINE (Director) is a professional director for the theatre and musical theatre and an educator with experience teaching professionally at the collegiate level and in both public and private performing arts high schools. Ansley holds an M.F.A. in Directing from Indiana University. He is currently a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) and Actors' Equity Association (AEA). Some of his favorite productions include Les Misérables, The Colored Museum, Twelfth Night, and many new plays. Ansley is also a graduate of the Arts Midwest Minorities in Arts Administration Fellowship, a program funded by the Ford Foundation to increase minority representation in leadership roles at American not-for-profit organizations. His many awards include a Kennedy Center Gold Medallion. He is excited to be working with Cleveland Play House again, where he completed a fellowship in 1994 and served as assistant director for Forest City in 2003.

MARIAH BURKS (Rachelle) is a Cleveland, OH native. She is elated to have collaborated and created such unique work alongside this incredible cast. Cleveland Play House credits include: Clue: A New Comedy (Cook), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre), Marie and Rosetta (understudy for Sister Rosetta Tharpe/Marie Knight), Shakespeare in Love, and New Ground Theatre Festival’s The Nolan Williams Project. An alumna of the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program, Burks appeared in Macbeth, Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, Clybourne Park, and She Stoops to Conquer. Other credits: Caroline, or Change (Tantrum Theatre), Ragtime (Cain Park), Spring Awakening, Legally Blonde, and Book of Days.

COLLEEN LONGSHAW (Ann) is a Cleveland native and holds an MFA from Kent State University. Credits include: Kiss Me, Kate (National Tour), The Groove Factory (New York Musical Theatre Festival), Hairspray (Northshore Music Theatre, Porthouse Theatre), Sister Act (Porthouse Theatre, Karamu House), The Full Monty (Northshore Music Theatre),Fences (Karamu House), The Piano Lesson (Cleveland Play House), Caroline or Change (Tantrum Theatre, Dobama/Karamu, Mercury Theatre), Starmites (Porthouse Theatre), Made in America (Dobama Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Great Lakes Theater), The Color Purple (Karamu House), South Pacific (Porthouse Theatre), Dreamgirls (Cain Park), Once On This Island (Porthouse Theatre), Big River (Porthouse Theatre),Avenue X (Cain Park), Godspell (Porthouse Theatre), Aida (The Beck Center), The Buddy Holly Story (Carousel Dinner Theater), and Twelfth Night (Ohio Shakespeare Festival). 

LISA MARIE SCHUELLER (Georgia) makes her Cleveland Play House debut. Favorite roles include the regional premiere of Your Mother’s Vagina (Allen Theatre, TX), Heathers: The Musical (Maedgen Theater, TX), Scotland Road (Wayside Theatre, VA), and Oh Coward! (Coach House Theatre), among others. She has been seen onstage with Ohio Shakespeare Festival, Porthouse Theatre, Cleveland Theatre Company, Carousel Dinner Theatre, and Playhouse Square. Lisa holds a BFA in Acting and a MEd in School Counseling, both from Kent State University, and has been a proud member of AEA since 2005.

BEN NEEDHAM (Production Editor) is the Owner and Principal Designer of Digital Squirrel Studio, a full-service animation, design and architectural illustration studio. Film and television projects include set designer for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Kill the Irishman, Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Reagan, ABC’s The Kingmakers, Meg Ryan's Ithaca, Amazon’s Original Series Point of Honor, PBS’s Mercy Street and of AMC’s TURN – Washington’s Spies. Ben was most recently a set designer on the upcoming films The Outpost and Son of the South. In addition to his editing and television work he has designed over 850 Theatre productions including locally for Porthouse Theatre, Beck Center for the Arts, Dobama, the Fine Arts Association, Signstage on Tour, Karamu Theatre and many others. In addition to running his design studio, Ben also is the Academy for the Performing Arts resident set and lighting designer and oversees the design/technical theatre instruction for high school juniors and seniors who are pursuing future careers in the performing arts.

AARON NEEDHAM (Composer) is a sound designer, composer and performer based out of Cleveland and NY. Past design experiences include sound design on the immersive design productions Shadow of the Run’s Wanderlust and Railroaded, as well as various projects with The Academy for the Performing Arts in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Aaron also is an associate artist and designer for Digital Squirrel Studio. His past performances include LaFou in Beauty And The Beast, Ryan in High School Musical, the Scarecrow in Wizard Of Oz, and Ren in Footloose.

OLIVIA LOUISE TREE PLATH (Stage Manager) is delighted to be working with Cleveland Play House community again. At the top of the pandemic, Olivia joined her classmate Josh Wilder as Co-Pilot (producer/casting director) for The Playwrights Workshop. With the addition of classmate Christina Fontana, this trio led work with more than 50 playwrights and 80 actors over the course of last year. Olivia’s last few projects have been with the Guthrie Theatre, the International Arts & Ideas Festival, and Yale Repertory Theater.


Registration for Blackademics is required in advance. Viewing access is $10 per household. The event will be broadcast via Broadway on Demand and can be viewed on a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Patrons can purchase viewing tickets exclusively by visiting

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