PlayhouseSquare, Cleveland, Ohio
PlayhouseSquare. No mistake. It is one word these days. A brand, a campaign, a trend, and a success story from the belly of the steel belt-turned rust belt-phoenix forwarded to the premier American Theatre vortex after Broadway. What? Cleveland? That grey and cold wasteland of blue-collar memories? Cleveland? The butt of every civic joke? Face it. Pittsburgh? Not funny. Baltimore? Not funny. Cleveland? Hah!
I grew up in Northeastern Ohio. Jim Brown was my hero and the Cleveland Browns my mythology. But Cleveland? The river was a fire hazard. No kidding! This is not an attempt at humor. In the height of industrial negligence, the Cuyahoga River would flame up from excessive pollution. Excessive? The river was on fire. What a municipal memento at the mouth of Lake Eire.
Then there was Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the true and legitimate “Mistake on the Lake”. Any old-timer will tell you how cold, ill-designed and downright nasty this dump was.
Exodus to the suburbs, slum-lording, the rise of television and a host of other factors rusted out the guts of this proud metropolis until Cleveland actually lived up to its moniker, THE Mistake on the Lake.
But, maybe it’s the Ohio winter, or the love of football, or the resilient way of Midwestern Americans. Whatever the case, this tough town that was living up to the tag on its Terminal Tower came roaring (alright, more like limping) back. Like Bo and Woody in a 3 yard cloud of dust, the small Lakefront trading post named after General Moses Cleaveland (that spelling is NOT a mistake either) in 1796 methodically rushed from 1st down to 1st down until they scored with the world class Cleveland Symphony, a new stadium, resurrection of a warehouse area known as “The Flats” and a bunch of other stuff. AND THE CAVS!
Plus Play House Square. Oops. Mistake. www.PlayhouseSquare.org.
A team of visionaries, artists and business types who still knew the value of performance art took Ohio, State, Hanna, Allen, and Connor into the huddle. No, not the Buckeyes, 2 players, and a cheerleader! Between 13th and 17th Streets on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland were 5 theatrical temples: Ohio, State, Hanna, Allen Theatres, and Connor Palace. 13. An unlucky number in the USA. 17. Just as unlucky in Italy. No wonder these architectural marvels were moments away from the wrecking ball in the 1970’s.
Patience, tenacity, resolve, resources and perseverance was the game plan and “Touchdown”, Playhouse Square of boarded up movie houses became PlayhouseSquare, the 2nd City for American Theatre. Take that you Chicago Bears. Oh, the Windy City is Midwestern too? Just kiddin’ yoos guys.
Ok, enough of the football metaphors. The point is a piazza is precious to any community, even a rough and rugged one. The magic on Euclid between lucky 13 and 17 is a testament to that and to a success story that is the envy of any community under the not so bright light of urban blight.
If people outside Italy can call Piazza San Pietro,”St. Peter’s Square” even though there is nothing square about Bernini’s elliptical design, then I say, “Welcome to Piazza di Playhouse, Commune di Cleveland, Regione Ohio”.
Not so long ago, I never boasted my roots. The decade in NYC and my world travels always seemed a more attractive device in my insecure need to be awed.
“You are in performance art and show business? Great. From Ohio? Near Cleveland? Yeah Right!”
Who is going to take a Northeast Buckeye Song and Dance Man seriously?
Plus, I could never go home to that cultural wasteland. What would an actor, director, professor, Edu-tainer do in Ohio? “Ice Cold Beer Here”.
Then I would meet Midwestern visitors here in Rome, or interact with them during hometown visits, or read about the correction of “Mistakes on the Lake” and elsewhere. Solid people. Family and community oriented. Heck, I forgot that 8 presidents came from Ohio, more than any other State. And Ohio is the vortex of electoral madness every 4 years. Why? Pundits start polling for the next POTUS (President of the United States for you missed inane acronym class). Being from Ohio is cool. Who knew? Scusa, GO CAVS!
Watch out World! Here I come to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Pro Football Hall of Fame down the road in Canton and…THE one word that sums it all up for me…PlayhouseSquare. Oh yes, and LONG REIGN KING JAMES, GO CAVS!
Hope they accept my doorman application. Where did I put that winter coat?
Shameful snatching of a Marquis Posting in PlayHouseSquare.
Like to say they did it for me. Great show Biz Lie!