A year after shutdown, the community reacts to the re-opening of Cleveland’s Playhouse Square

It was March 12, 2020, media night for the Webber / Rice hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar, when Playhouse Square sent a notice to patrons: “Governor Mike DeWine has issued an order to postpone or cancel community gatherings. Playhouse Square and its resident companies Cleveland Play House, Cleveland State University, DANCECleveland and Great Lakes Theater are immediately following this order. We appreciate the leadership of our public officials to ensure the health and well-being of our community and the guidance we have received from University Hospitals.” And thus, we were locked down.

But fast forward to a year later, and Playhouse Square has finally issued another statement about its stages, and this time it’s one of hope. Promising to be a raucous party, Playhouse Square (PSQ) will be re-opening one of its theaters from June 11 – July 11, 2021 for the international hit THE CHOIR OF MAN. This will be the first show that will tour into Cleveland and grace the PSQ stages in over a year. Playing the Mimi Ohio Theatre, the production will incorporate new Health and Safety Guidelines to keep patrons safe.

And Cleveland rejoices!

“THEATRE IN CLEVELAND! As an actor and all-around theatre creator I am beyond thrilled for the return of a major part of my personal life and a major part of what makes Cleveland great. PSQ’s re-opening is just the beginning of what will soon be a re-blossoming of creativity and, probably equally as important, human connectivity. We’ve all collectively lost so much in this past year so it’ll be such a blessing to get back to those simple things that in actuality meant so much,” says Cleveland resident Shannon Ashley Sharkey.

“Hearing that Playhouse Square is re-opening has been a joyful addition to the news of the COVID era’s move from current events to history. We have sorely missed attending (and participating in) live stage performances. You just can’t replicate the visceral connection of live theatre in virtual space. We’ll be vaccinated, masked if advised, and definitely stoked as we join those streaming once more past the chandelier into that beautiful theatre complex,” says Lakewood local Dennis Runkle.

It is a long time coming, especially for our local theater community. The re-opening of Playhouse Square (even if it’s slow), means that the end is in sight for our smaller local theaters and organizations as well. Even though our community venues won’t be immediately busting open the doors and letting the world in all at once, PSQ has taken the lead in showing that getting back to a semblance of “normal” (although forever altered) is not as far away as it feels.

“[I am] someone who immersed themselves in theatre for a very long time, whether it was stage managing, directing, performing etc. Then, taking a break from it all a few years prior to the pandemic and then recently having the opportunity to stage manage a show via Zoom, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions I felt while rehearsing, or running a show. The feeling of love and lightness was something that didn’t quite compute. And at the same time what did compute was the longing to share theatre in the same space with others was so profound that it has continued to live within me even weeks after the show closed. I’ll probably laugh/cry the first time I step into a theatre to watch a live performance… and I know I won’t be the only one,” notes Parma creative Amanda Lin Boyd.

However, the PSQ re-opening will only be the first in a long line of steps needed to getting live theater back into northeast Ohio. There are many custom strategic plans and logistics that many of the local groups will have to ponder and devise. Re-opening a national 1,000-seat theater in downtown Cleveland is very different than opening a small local venue such as the 93-seat Clague Playhouse in Westlake, or our local high school and college stages. With concerns about social distancing, infrastructure for HVAC, custodial readiness, face mask requirements, and other conditions, each building, staff, and audience in each location will have many hurdles to overcome before even considering letting guests through the front doors.

“The majority of local theatre makers have to make ends meet without the support or resources of the major downtown venues, and the pandemic has completely upended our lives and livelihoods. Playhouse Square opening again is a good first step… Local arts organizations need and deserve more attention and support as they navigate the challenges of reopening. In some ways, I know lots of places will look to PSQ to set the example, but at the same time safety protocols for a venue like the State or Palace won’t work for a space like Dobama Theatre’s. There are lots of ways that Playhouse Square can be an effective leader in the reopening process, including gauging audience readiness and receptivity,” says Lakewood artist and actor Carrie Williams.

Regardless, a new season in theater is coming to the northeast Ohio area, and Playhouse Square’s move with bringing in “The Choir of Man” is like a slow rising up out of the cold dirt of COVID-19, pushing through the battered ground like the first green, Spring daffodil stems after a long, harsh Cleveland Winter.

What should you expect when going downtown for the first show after the ravages of the plague? Here is some information from PSQ’s website:

  • If you are sick or at risk, please stay home. Flexible options are available to you if you become ill or are no longer comfortable attending after purchasing a ticket. 
  • As a reminder, all guests must have a ticket.
  • Face masks are required for all guests (age 2 and over) and must be worn at all times unless actively eating or drinking in your seat. Neck gaiters, bandanas and masks with vents or valves are NOT permitted. Masks must fully cover the nose and mouth and fit securely under the chin. If you do not bring or have lost your mask, one will be provided to you at no charge.
  • All seats will be grouped in “seating pods” separated by 6 feet or more.
  • Abundant hand sanitizer and hand washing stations are located throughout the theaters.
  • Theater capacity is limited.
  • Maintain 6 feet of physical distance between yourself and others whenever possible. Adhere to marked spacing designations. Congregating in common areas is not permitted.
  • All transactions inside the theaters will be cashless. All purchases must be made with a valid debit or credit card, or with mobile wallet options such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. VISA gift cards can be purchased with cash at the Box Office located in the KeyBank State Theatre Lobby.
  • Eating and drinking in common areas is not permitted. Concessions must be consumed while seated in your ticketed seat. Masks must be worn unless actively eating or drinking.
  • Please consider digital ticket delivery to your mobile device for an easy, touch-free experience.

Failure to comply with health and safety guidelines can result in removal from Playhouse Square.

So join in the celebration with THE CHOIR OF MAN, which will run at the Mimi Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square June 11 – July 11, 2021. Tickets are $59-$79 and can be purchased via the website at http://www.playhousesquare.org.

THE CHOIR OF MAN
The runaway hit of numerous international music festivals is hitting the road for its first U.S. tour! Known across the globe as “the ultimate-feel good show,” THE CHOIR OF MAN offers up 90 minutes of indisputable joy! It’s a party. It’s a concert. It’s a pint-filled good time set in a working pub that combines hair-raising harmonies, high-energy dance, and live Percussion with foot-stomping choreography. The multi-talented cast of nine handsome blokes sings everything – pub tunes, folk, Broadway, classic rock – all to roof-raising heights. It’s the best singing, dancing, stomping, pub crawl of a concert you’ll ever attend! CHEERS!

Published by Kate Klotzbach

After writing for Examiner for 7 years, I brought my content to a new venue! Founded in June of 2016. I'm a Musical Theater graduate of Ohio Northern University and a long-time performer, arts lover and former stage manager. I spent 3 years touring the U.S. with VEE Corporation, and am a proud Cleveland Singing Angels alum. Lover of Cleveland, chocolate, coffee, dogs, scary movies, Cards Against Humanity and (of course) my awesome family. PLEASE BE SURE TO "FOLLOW" MY BLOG FOR ALL OF THE LATEST UPDATES AND POSTS!

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