Twelve people get on a plane heading west ... and they land in Cleveland! (Where, despite the name of the popular TV show, it was not hot – 50 to 60 degrees at most).The 12 people are the TE’A Company: nine actors, one playwright/director, one stage manager, and me, the artistic director. We were there for the last leg of the Uniform Justice tour, which began in NYC, went to New Jersey, back to NYC, and culminated in Cleveland. In the great mid-western city, we had a total of 5 performances at 3 different venues.
Mt. Zion on Cleveland’s East side hosted us on the first night. The show was solid, the audience was gracious, and the Insight facilitated dialogue was meaningful and full of powerful stories about the issue at the fore of police-community relations.
Next stop was the Near West Theatre in west Cleveland, an amazing new theatre space that just opened in February and whose company has been around for over 30 years. Our first show was scheduled for 1pm. At 11:30 am, there was a power outage on the block and the entire building went dark. On top of that, at around 12 noon there was one of the most severe rain storms I have ever seen. We waited in hopes that the power would come back on. It didn’t. But despite the rain, many people made it to the theatre. After a bit of deliberation someone suggested we do the first couple scenes for those who came out in the rain, in the lobby where the light from the big front windows provided a bit of muted illumination. The Company jumped in with both feet and when they finished the short segment, the audience yelled “MORE!” And so it was that our second performance was done in a lobby, in a dark theatre during a thunderstorm. And here is what one audience member said following the impromptu performance: “Emotional, raw, entertaining and healing!”
Our third and fourth performances were done in a more traditional fashion, at 7:30 pm in the downstairs theatre space at Near West. The shows were well received and the post show discussions were rich and moving. As one audience member said "Uniform Justice is more than a performance, it is an experience. As a child who grew up in Los Angeles and lived in the midst of the Watts Rebellion, I was pushed back to my youth as I watched Uniform Justice capture the divide between cops and communities of color. The focus on trust or, more precisely, distrust between police and the people they serve is significant for a bridge to a new future. Uniform Justice is powerful, and brings forward the essential elements on both side of a broken relationship."
Trinity Cathedral, a gorgeous Episcopal church in downtown Cleveland, was our final venue. Once again, the cast was engaged and the conversation was illuminating.
And then the 12 of us headed for home … and Cleveland will forever be the place where the lights went out, but the show went on ... see pictures below!