Diversifying the Face of Local Theatre

Diversifying the Face of Local Theatre

The Awesome Foundation Cleveland chapter has been putting cash grants into the hands of local thought leaders and innovative creators since their inception this spring. Their focus is on those who are doing good in our city by way of projects in a wide range of interests, including science, arts, community development, and technology. This year alone, they have awarded quarterly grants adding up to $4,000 to local groups and organizations.

Two young co-artistic directors, Casey Venema and Colin Anderson, are one of the latest grant winners. Their newly formed Nightbloom Theatre Company will present its inaugural 6-show production,  I’m Alive You Bastards and I Always Will Be, written by 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Roxie Perkins, in early October.

Diversifying the Face of Local Theatre“Our job is to bring issues of systematic oppression and communal trauma into a state of immediacy, demanding our collective attention and energy. I’m Alive does that beautifully; we’re giving space to these loud, abrasive little girls, and allowing them a brief moment to experience the privilege of being angry,” says Venema.

“Yes, they are violent, dirty, and cruel” Venema continues, “but our show is really asking: What would little girls say if they were allowed to express rage? How would they move without the constant pressure to appear beautiful and good? What kind of world would they create if their imagination given the space to roam?”

The dark and twisted humor of I’m Alive visits relationship dysfunction and misplaced love through the eyes of misfit teens. Nightbloom will soon bring this production to life on a Cleveland stage while giving local, young emerging theatre artists voices and a platform.

“With Nightbloom, we want lean into the organic, the imperfection, and the sheer power of bodies and voices existing together for a moment in space. Its transience, its living heartbeat, makes theatre fertile soil for sparking change, and I think it’s time that we really start exploring that potential with productions that feature challenging forms and narratives,” says Venema.

Venema and Anderson met while working together at Dobama Theatre, Cleveland’s Off-Broadway Theatre. The two noticed the challenges young artists face while seeking professional, engaging, and compensated roles in Northeast Ohio.

Subsequently, what started as a one-off event aimed to change the theatre industry for the better launched into an initiative to provide ongoing support for Cleveland’s young emerging artists. Their goal is to supply significant acting opportunities and professional development, eliminate unpaid internships, and provide fair-wage employment.

Nightbloom’s positions for emerging young artists in the areas of design, stage management, acting, etc. provide opportunities for women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and any other marginalized voices in theatre. These opportunities, in turn, lend more diversity to the active Cleveland thespian community. Due to the low cost of living in Cleveland, young artists are often drawn here. Venema and Anderson plan to foster opportunities for them to survive and thrive while doing what they love.

Diversifying the Face of Local TheatreSo what type of productions should we expect to see at Nightbloom Theatre? The contemporary collection is designed to shift the narrative with thought-provoking content that is often overlooked and swept under the rug by traditional theatres.  Its mission is to trigger conversations regarding oppression and political turmoil.

“While studying theatre at Oberlin College, I focused on marginalized characters in theatre embracing their strength, which often happened only after a traumatic event. For example, violence and sexual violence against women is often used as character development to make a character more ‘interesting’,” Anderson, who is also the head of the Dobama’s internship program, states. “This play directly engages with that concept, letting little girls be anti-moral and do things that would naturally make you want to look away. It’s hard, but important, to watch.”

You can support Nightbloom Theatre Company through donating to their GoFundMe, by spreading the word via social media, and by bringing a friend along to attend their productions. Daily performances of I’m Alive will span from October 2 through October 6, due to an in-kind sponsorship from Maelstrom Collaborative Arts. To purchase tickets, please visit nightbloomtheatre.org.

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