Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Euclid-77th Street Theatre

During the 1930s and 40s, Cleveland Play House Artistic Director Frederic McConnell had a problem to tackle, namely that his theater had grown too big for the Brooks and Drury theatres -- he needed a third stage.

After a few opportunities fell through, CPH finally acquired a former Christian Science space on Euclid Avenue at East 77th Street, a building which remains today, appearing something like a domed mosque though it has never been one.

McConnell and his architects created something unique and rare in Cleveland theater history - a thrust stage!
"I never saw a theater in which the sight lines were clearer. The stage is semi-circular, and the audience is bestowed around three sides of the stage. It is altogether different from the ordinary picture-frame theater. It brings audiences into closer contact with the players and will form a wonderful background for certain types of plays, such as those of Shakespeare." - William F. McDermott
The Euclid-77th Street Theatre did, in fact, feature the works of William Shakespeare when it opened on October 15, 1949 with a production of Romeo and Juliet and for a time the Bard was an annual fixture in the CPH season, in this 560-seat auditorium.

It was on this wide, open stage that CPH presented the Cleveland premiere of The Crucible in 1954.

The Play House abandoned this location in 1983 when it invested in Philip Johnson's $14-million dollar money pit, which left the organization with three adjacent prosceniums, each chronologically less charming than the one that came before.

Showtime in Cleveland (John Vacha)
Cleveland Memory Project

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