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February 26, 2023 , Allen Theatre


I'm Back Now:

Returning to Cleveland

directed by STORI AYERS

This production has been cancelled. Ticketholders will be notified on January 24, 2023.

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* What do you know about your ancestry? Is there an ancestor with whom you have a strong connection?

* What is the story behind your name?

* What does “home” mean to you? What does it mean to return home?


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I’m Back Now: Returning to Cleveland is the first script commissioned by the Roe Green Fund to be fully produced on a CPH mainstage, but what does that mean?

With the generous support from the Roe Green Fund, CPH scours the country in search of ground breaking playwrights to invite to Cleveland where they complete two residencies that will provide the inspirations for a commissioned play. While hanging out in our neck of the woods, playwrights are guided through customized itineraries built by CPH staff to incisively and directly aid them in their chosen areas of research for their commissioned work. The Roe Green fund will commission ten brand new plays over the course of five years that will result in a series of works that speak directly to the identity of and life in “The Land”: past, present, and future.

Charly Evon Simpon’s commissioned play will be the debut of this “Cleveland Cycle” of plays after a much celebrated workshop last year at CPH’s New Ground Theatre Festival. To catch future workshops of new and developing works, be sure to check out our New Ground Theatre Festival this spring. You may very well get an early look at the next Cleveland Cycle installment.


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Being a part of Cleveland means having an immense and rich history right in our backyards or down just about any street. Charly Evon Simpson’s I’m Back Now: Returning to Cleveland was partly inspired by the role Cleveland played in the life and journey of Sara Lucy Bagby, the last women to be prosecuted under to Fugitive Slave Act. Ms. Bagby was able to escape enslavement through the Underground Railroad which included passage through Cleveland. Cleveland was a significant hub for the Underground Railroad; in fact, there are a host of Ohio historical sites that offer tours or welcome visitors to experience and learn on location.

Check out these Ohio spots that resonate with the some of the inspirations behind I’m Back Now: Returning to Cleveland.


Cozad-Bates House - An important stop on the Underground Railroad located in University Circle, this house is one of the few remaining pre-Civil War structures in the area. The Cozad-Bates family owned a variety of properties that are now what we cherish as a significant portion of University Circle.


Woodland Cemetery - Sara Lucy Bagby’s story offers a testament to Cleveland’s importance as part of the Underground Railroad. Linked is an article about the decision to create a memorial stone for the gravesite of Sara Lucy Bagby which had gone without a marker for 106 years.

Thanks to the work of volunteers and Northcoast Memorials, Sara’s gravestone can be visited at Woodland Cemetery. Perhaps you can spare a moment to preserve and extend the memory of those who have passed on by taking grave rubbings or maybe heartened to share a quiet thought of sympathy and celebration for the lives memorialized.


The African American Museum - The museum is located in the 100-year-old Carnegie Library Building on Crawford Road in Cleveland. It was founded, and significantly curated, by longtime East-Cleveland Resident Ichabod Flewellen. The museum opened in 1953 and offers visiting and viewing hours on their Facebook page as well as hosts community events.

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Do you have any surprising or interesting discoveries in your family tree? Share what connections gave you a renewed sense of conviction in your family legacy or excited you about your ancestral identity.

If you have a family tree rendered or constructed, we’d love to see just how big the Cleveland family forest grows. Send your stories, pictures, and trees to

One of our fellow Cleveland Play House family, Victoria, did an in-depth look into her own family tree through thorough research on Ancestry DNA, and what she found was absolutely astounding!

Through Ancestry DNA Victoria was able to trace her family line over a dozen generations back. With each discovery of individual branches of her family tree there came a rich story of her family and a deeper understanding of the history of this country.

In Victoria’s case, she was able to find the captain’s log and slave schedule dating back to the late 1500s where there was documentation of the furthest back reaching relative she’s uncovered so far. Those documents were some of the few means of recording enslaved people, often as property, as ships and colonizers made their way to Europe and America. Victoria’s family was settled in Virginia back in the early 1700s. From there the story of her family expands; in the journey of encountering more and more relatives, the site offered background into a relative who served in the Kentucky 12th Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment during the Civil War. Further on Victoria learned her family now extends to both coasts of the continental United States, Hawaii, South America, England, and more. Connections of relatives no one knew about were unearthed, and the story of her family continues to deepen and blossom.

These pictures show the growth and spread of Victoria’s family from the 1700s to 1800s with added historical context.




The site not only shares the ethnicity origins and the geographical journeys of ancestors, but is additionally able to specify and distinguish these aspects of identity between the father’s and mother’s sides individually. For each relative connected to the site there is geographical and, at times, biographical information offered. Victoria’s own living relatives are surprised at the wealth of findings she has amassed and the new family they’ve yet to meet.

Our family stories are literally life-giving and build connections where there were thought to be none. As Victoria shared her research, her excitement was contagious and inspiring. Share your experiences and let us know what moved you to

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Storytime! Do you have any favorite family tales or stories? Maybe an anecdote that scores a strong eye roll from across a dinner table every time it comes up at holidays? These stories offer a great way to connect to our families even if we’re in a very different time and place - that’s part of the magic of stories.

Charly Evon Simpon’s I’m Back Now: Returning to Cleveland theatricalizes the story of women who overcome obstacles and, in doing so, find connection to their family and legacies. The play invites audiences to examine our connections to the generations of our own families.

In 2023, sometimes connecting can feel silly or awkward when in person, especially in a world where there are all sorts of ways we “connect” but keep us on the other side of a screen. When was the last time you sat down with a family member - particularly a family member from a different generation - and shared stories with each other? Consider interviewing a family member to discover and connect with a story from branches of your own legacy that you hadn’t known before. Sometimes the most fascinating and galvanizing tales are right across the dinner table.

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