Whenever I look through the news releases sent to me by the city’s professional playhouses that announce their roster of new season productions, the former actor in me gets the itch to perform in one of them. That feeling always fades, like a phantom ache, where a surgically removed limb used to be, when I remember the name Asher Kaufman pays the bills better when in a byline of a Cleveland Jewish Chronicle theater review than in the show’s playbill. But this time, the itch was agitated by Mark, the newspaper’s assistant managing editor.
Several years ago, the company formerly known as North Coast Shakespeare Ensemble moved from an archaic venue on Cleveland’s east side to downtown’s state-of-the-art Hedley Theatre, expanded its offerings from all things Shakespeare and renamed itself North Coast Theater. Its season now consists of a musical and two modern plays to go with two Shakespeare productions in an effort to attract a larger pool of potential subscribers and challenge the company’s core of classically trained performers.
This afternoon will be the first meeting of the cast, the theater’s artistic director, his technical and administrative support staff, our director and his team of designers. It will take place in the cavernous, no-frills rehearsal room that will be our home for the three weeks before “As You Like It” runs tech rehearsals, soft opens for preview performances and then launches into a four-week run at the Hedley Theatre across the street.
About the Cleveland Jewish Chronicle. The paper was given its name in 1957, but it was the successor to The Jewish Herald, which was established in 1907, and the Hebrew News, which was founded in 1885 during an upsurge in Jewish immigration in Northeast Ohio.
For our first preview performance, a matinee, the North Coast Theater powers-that-be decide to pad the house with an audience bused in from surrounding nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior citizen community centers. A full Hedley Theatre helps the director monitor reactions and make necessary adjustments in the production. It also allows the actors to refine the comic timing in their performances.