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CPH New Ground Theatre Festival Returns as Interactive Virtual Event

Posted May 5, 2021 in Press Releases


SATURDAY, MAY 15, 2021

(Cleveland, OH) Cleveland Play House is pleased to announce the return of the New Ground Theatre Festival, this season as the two-part virtual event Mapping New Ground on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Mapping New Ground is a celebration of Cleveland-inspired new play development at Cleveland Play House and features play excerpts written by five groundbreaking playwrights commissioned through the Roe Green Fund for New American Plays: George Brant, Vichet Chum, Jessica Dickey, Chelsea Marcantel, and Charly Evon Simpson. Tickets to Mapping New Ground are Pay What You Can starting at $5 and are available exclusively

In 2020, CPH announced the commissioning of five playwrights to delve into Cleveland’s past and present to create new stories for the future. Mapping New Ground will provide audiences with the opportunity to meet the five playwrights and get a preview of their plays in progress. Playwrights will dialogue with special guests and instrumental collaborators from Cleveland and beyond, offering a deeper look into the worlds of the newly commissioned plays, as well as the stories and people that inspired them. Additionally, CPH is thrilled to unveil an interactive component of Mapping New Ground, which can be experienced virtually or in-person.

Artistic Director Laura Kepley says, “In spite of the challenges from the pandemic, Cleveland Play House never stopped creating. Five new plays centered on Cleveland have been commissioned and developed over this year thanks to the Roe Green Fund for New American Plays. These five brilliant writers, working at the height of their creativity and talent, are deploying their vivid imaginations to tell stories inspired by the people, events, and spirit of our city.” Kepley shares, “The name ‘New Ground’ takes on added resonance as we present this year’s festival in a virtual format, allowing people all over the world to experience these Cleveland stories.”

Hosts for Mapping New Ground include Artistic Director Laura Kepley, Literary Manager & Resident Dramaturg Rachel Lerner-Ley, and Artistic Associate Mekala Sridhar.

Mapping New Ground will allow audiences to explore and discover the rich stories and history within several Greater Cleveland communities and locations, including the Variety Theatre, Woodland Cemetery, Public Square, and the Cuyahoga River, among many others. An accompanying interactive experience is available for audience members in the form of a commissioned map that can be engaged with virtually or in-person. Commissioned Artist Sequoia Bostick has illustrated a custom map that features locations that served as inspiration for, or appear in the five Roe Green Fund Plays. Bostick is a Cleveland-based artist whose work has been featured in such publications as The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Scene, and Vagabond Comics. She also created the illustrations for The Christmas House, a film featured in CPH’s December edition of Theatre Thursday.

Additional guests of Mapping New Ground include: Shayla Gordon, Johnny Joo, Jesca Prudencio, Afi Scruggs, Holly Witchey, and Mark Winegardner, all appearing in the live conversation with the five Roe Green Fund playwrights.

Roe Green is the Honorary Producer of New Ground Theatre Festival.

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

Additional funding for New Ground Theatre Festival is provided by Case Western Reserve University.



Mapping New Ground
Saturday, May 15 at 4:00 PM EDT
Premiere Broadcast Event
Pre-recorded event streaming through YouTube
The virtual event runs approx. 80 minutes without an intermission.

Mapping New Ground: A Live Conversation
Sunday, May 15 at 7:30 PM EDT
Live-streamed event through ZOOM
The virtual event runs approx. 65 minutes without an intermission.

This event is appropriate for audiences ages 13 and up.

The five commissioned Roe Green Fund Playwrights featured in NGTF 2021 are as follows:

George Brant
Crooked River Burning
based on the novel by Mark Winegardner

Cleveland Heights resident George Brant will discuss and introduce excerpts from his new play, Crooked River Burning based on the Mark Winegardner novel, which includes stories about Alan Freed, Dorothy Fuldheim, and Carl Stokes. The excerpts will be directed by Laura Kepley, featuring Bjorn DuPaty (Stokes), Phyllis Kay (Fuldheim), and Rick D. Wasserman (Freed). CPH has produced many plays by Brant, including Grounded (2014 NGTF), Marie and Rosetta (2018), and Into the Breeches! (2019).


Charly Evon Simpson
I’m Back Now

Charly Evon Simpson will share the inspiration for her new play, I’m Back Now, based on Clevelander Sara Lucy Bagby, the last person in the United States prosecuted under the Fugitive Slave Act. While Bagby’s final resting place is in Cleveland’s historic Woodland Cemetery, Charly reflects on this fascinating saga in African American history through a walking tour of Greenwood Cemetery near her Brooklyn, NY home.


Jessica Dickey
The Ghost Tour

Jessica Dickey will perform an excerpt from her new play, The Ghost Tour, inspired in part by the Variety Theatre on Lorain Avenue. CPH audiences may have seen Dickey in the 2016 production of Mr. Wolf and in the 2014 NGTF reading of Fairfield.


Chelsea Marcantel
Lake Erie Oubliette

Chelsea Marcantel will present her research on spiritualism and its ties to Cleveland, while guest artist Kate Eastman (Cath in Tiny Houses) gives Chelsea a three-card tarot reading. Marcantel is the recipient of the 2018 Roe Green Award for Tiny Houses, which received its world premiere production at CPH in 2019.


Vichet Chum

Vichet Chum will share two excerpts from his new play-in-progress, Liébling. We catch up with protagonist Sovanna in Cleveland as he encounters the ghost of his partner’s Cambodian/German/Hungarian grandmother and later we see Sovanna as he mentors a Gen-Z visual artist. The excerpts will be directed by Jesca Prudencio, featuring Francesca Fernandez McKenzie and Jon Norman Schneider.


(Playwright) has written many plays including: Grounded (Cleveland Play House, Dobama, Public Theater); Into the Breeches! (Cleveland Play House, Trinity Repertory, Asolo Repertory); Marie and Rosetta (Cleveland Play House, Atlantic Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park); Grizzly Mama (Dobama Theatre); Salvage (none too fragile); The Prince of Providence; Elephant’s Graveyard; Tender Age; The Mourners’ Bench; and Any Other Name. An Affiliate Writer at the Playwrights’ Center, his scripts have been produced internationally by such companies as the Milwaukee Repertory, the Studio Theatre, Alley Theatre, London’s Gate Theatre, Page 73, and the Traverse Theatre. His plays have received a Lucille Lortel Award, an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, the Smith Prize, a Fringe First Award, an Off-West End Theatre Award, an NNPN Rolling World Premiere, four OAC Individual Excellence Awards, a Creative Workforce Fellowship, and the Keene Prize for Literature. George received his MFA in Writing from the Michener Center at UT Austin and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. He is published by Samuel French, Oberon Books and Smith & Kraus.

VICHET CHUM (Playwright) is a Cambodian-American playwright and theater maker, originally from Dallas, Texas and now living in New York City. His plays have been workshopped at Steppenwolf Theatre, the Magic Theater, the Alley Theatre, the UCROSS Foundation, Fault Line Theatre, Crowded Outlet, Second Generation Productions, Weston Playhouse, Cleveland Public Theatre, All For One Theater, Amios, Florida State University, Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the New Harmony Project. He received the 2018-19 Princess Grace Award in Playwriting from New Dramatists and is a current board member for the New Harmony Project. Vichet was a part of the 2019-20 Resident Working Farm Group at Space on Ryder Farm, the 2020 Interstate 73 Writer's Group at Page 73 and the 2020 Ars Nova Play Group. In the 2022/23 season, his play High School Play: A Nostalgia Fest will have its world premiere at the Alley Theatre and his play Bald Sisters will have its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. He is a proud graduate of the University of Evansville (BFA) and Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company (MFA).

JESSICA DICKEY (Playwright) is an award-winning playwright whose writing was hailed by The New York Times for its “freshness, economy, cheeky vulgarity, with a fine measure of poetic insight”, and The New Yorker magazine as “funny, smart, deep and sad”. Her most recent play, The Convent, a dark comedy about a group of women who try to live like nuns in the Middle Ages, premiered Off-Broadway this year in a sold-out co-production with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Rising Phoenix. Jessica’s play The Rembrandt (about a museum guard who decides to deliberately touch a Rembrandt painting) had a sold-out run at Steppenwolf starring John Mahoney. Other plays have been premiered Off-Broadway in New York and produced around the country including: The Amish Project, about the 2006 Nickel Mines school shooting in an Amish community; Charles Ives Take Me Home, about a violinist father and his basketball star daughter; and Row After Row, a dark comedy about Civil War re-enactors. In television, Jessica is writing for Apple TV’s comedy Physical, starring Rose Byrne. She also has a development deal with ABC and Tom McCarthy’s company, Slow Pony, to write a series about young female clergy. Her next world premiere will be on the West Coast: Nan and the Lower Body is a dark comedy about the creation of the Pap smear and her maternal grandmother (commissioned by Manhattan Theater Club and the Sloan Foundation). Jessica is a proud member of the exclusive New Dramatists.

CHELSEA MARCANTEL (Playwright) is an LA-based writer, director, and collaborator. Reared by Cajuns in southwest Louisiana, Chelsea has lived and made theatre among the peoples of the Midwest, Appalachia, the Mid-Atlantic, and now the West Coast. In 2016, she completed a Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Fellowship at The Juilliard School. Her plays, which have been produced across the US and Canada, include Airness, Everything is Wonderful, Tiny Houses, Ladyish, Devour, and the online theatrical experience Citizen Detective. She is the recent recipient of the Elizabeth M. Olsen New Play Award (2018) and the Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theatre (2021). Chelsea is currently working on commissions from Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Cleveland Play House, Signature Theatre DC, and the Geffen Playhouse, as well as three commercial musicals, and various television and film projects. As a writer, she is extremely interested in humans as small-group primates, and what happens when the rules and value systems of our chosen groups cease to serve us. She is an enthusiastic member of The Writers Guild of America and The Dramatists Guild and runs with a fantastic group of activists called The Kilroys.

CHARLY EVON SIMPSON (Playwright) is a playwright, TV writer, and teacher based in Brooklyn. Her plays include Behind the Sheet, Jump, form of a girl unknown, it’s not a trip it’s a journey,. Her work has been seen and/or developed with Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Lark, P73, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chautauqua Theater Company, Salt Lake Acting Company, and others. She is a recipient of the Vineyard Theatre's Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and the Dramatists Guild's Lanford Wilson Award. This fall, she will begin her seven-year residency with New Dramatists. She currently has theatre commissions with MTC/Sloan, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Cleveland Play House, Elizabeth George Commission/South Coast Rep, and PlayMakers Repertory Company. She's also currently working on TV shows for HBO and teaching playwriting at SUNY Purchase. Charly has a BA from Brown University, a Master’s in Women’s Studies from University of Oxford, New College, and her MFA in Playwriting from Hunter College.

ROE GREEN (Honorary Producer) is an arts patron, community activist, and chief executive officer of the Roe Green Foundation. With a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Communications from the University of Colorado and a Master’s degree in Theatre from Kent State University, her experience in stage and business management includes work at Cain Park, Cleveland Opera, and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Today she is president emeritus of CAVORT, Inc., the Conference About Volunteers of Regional Theatres and serves on the Kent State University School of Theatre and Dance advisory board, the foundation board of Kent State University, the board of Porthouse Theatre, the board of Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, FL, and the board of Cleveland Play House. She is responsible for the Roe Green Visiting Director Series for the School of Theatre and Dance at Kent State and the University of Colorado. Ms. Green has received numerous awards for her support of the arts and new play development, including the 2009 State of Ohio Governor’s Award for Arts Patron, the Dramatist Guild’s Patron of the Arts Award (2013), the Muse Award (2014) from the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, and the Theatre Forward Chairman’s Award (2017). In 2013, she received the CPH Centennial Star Award that recognizes select individuals who have made special and important contributions to CPH’s rich legacy of artistic and educational programming. 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 New Ground Theatre Festival.


Registration is required in advance. Viewing access is Pay What You Can starting at $5 per household. The event will be broadcast via YouTube and ZOOM and can be viewed on a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Patrons can purchase viewing tickets exclusively by visiting

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