Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cleveland Play House: On the Move

The move of The Cleveland Play House* to PlayhouseSquare is unquestionably a monumental move for both organizations and has been the focus of much of The Cleveland Play House's outreach for the past several months.

With that in mind, I wasn't really expecting much in the way of new information and that expectation was met. Kevin Moore, Play House Managing Director, fluidly moved through a PowerPoint encompassing renderings of the new spaces, Cleveland Play House History (Abridged version: America's first regional theatre in 1919, first Play House was actually a house, then a church, then the current facility along with a different church for a period, now the current facility) and the reasons for the move (synergies with other artistic organizations, operating costs, $20m+ in deferred maintenance, connect with west- and south-side audiences) and the minor benefits (More ladies restrooms, complete ADA accessibility, closer to downtown).

Ultimately as Michael Bloom had noted at one of the Cleveland Play House happy hours earlier this year, with the 8500 Euclid location the Cleveland Playhouse was getting pushed into the role of a real estate company that produced plays rather than a theater company that owned real estate. The move downtown liberates them from the overhead of owning real estate and allows them to focus on their core missions.

The not completely unexpected but extremely disappointing news is that single ticket sales will be processed by PlayhouseSquare's box office. If you recall from my A Tale of Three Box Offices post, the #1 reason I don't attend more events at PlayhouseSquare is because their box office is at best slow and dispassionate and at best infuriating (the gall of charging $3.50 in shipping and handling for a will-call ticket bothers me. Combine it with a $7 'preservation' fee, and it shows a disdain for the customer previously only exhibited by the DMV).

The solution, of course, proffered is to subscribe, in which case you'll deal with a Cleveland Play House "Subscription Concierge" -- which is great if subscribing is practical for your circumstances and if you already know the Cleveland Play House quality that you're committing yourself to... but for the first-time ticket buyer or for people like me who just don't subscribe (I don't doubt that I could save money, but with the unpredictability of my work schedule an psychological issues with parting with that much cash at one time, I just prefer to buy single tickets)

That rant ranted, though I did have a good conversation with Ed Gilchrist, the Play House's Director of External Affairs, and he was patient enough to listen to several of the specific issues I have in this vein and discuss possible solutions following the presentation. I guess we'll have to see what happens after the move has happened (and I suppose hoping for a patron-friendly remodel of the State Theater Box Office as as an extended part of the project is asking too much)

The renderings look great, but I'm still having a hard time getting truly excited by the outcome. Based on the number of construction and renovation projects I've been involved in, I suspect once a hard hat tour is opened (and I do own my own hard hat, thank you very much) I'll get more excited. Something about seeing the raw structure evolve; framing before drywall, bare concrete before flooring always gets my excitement level up.

*- At this event Mr. Moore announced a new logo and style guide would be revealed in the next week. I hope that this package doesn't drop any spaces for the sake of being "contemporary". I don't think I could bring myself to type TheClevelandPlayHouse without snickering.

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