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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

EAST CLEVELAND THEATER

EAST CLEVELAND THEATER

The EAST CLEVELAND THEATER was committed to the furtherance of interracial cooperation and understanding, particularly through its practice of interracial, nontraditional casting. Founded by East Clevelanders Eugene and Chris Pace, the community theater made its bow with a 1-act play at East Cleveland Baptist Church in January 1968. Incorporated in 1970, the theater moved in 1971 to the Windermere Presbyterian Church at 14108 Euclid Avenue, which it purchased in 1979. In its 200-seat main theater and 100-seat Gallery Theater, it presented about six major shows annually, ranging from musicals to mysteries. Major productions included God's Trombones, Carmen Jones, and the local stage premiere of Scott Joplin's Treemonisha. Among the organization's many awards was the Ohio Governor's Award for the Arts.

As the East Cleveland Theater was dedicated to uniting the races on a common stage, casting was colorblind, unless the credibility absolutely hinges on a character being of a certain race, auditions were open to all talent levels, teaching those whose ability was raw, and, as long as parts were available, everyone landed one. The theater offered drama, dance, and piano classes for children and adults, and a low-cost theater camp for kids in the summer. In addition to the theatrical performances staged at the East Cleveland Theater, art shows were displayed in the theater's gallery during each production.

Most of the work was done by volunteers under the direction of a small professional staff and costumes and sets were made in house using donated materials. The cultural institution struggled financially due in large part to the expenses involved with the maintenance of its spacious, historic building, a majestic church that was more than 100 years old. In 2001, a fire in the building accidently ignited by neighborhood children on the Fourth of July destroyed a number of men's costumes, some dating to the 1940s. As of 2009, Theresa Tucker served as the executive director of the institution.