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The Stages are set this Weekend for 'The City is Our Stage', a Live Performance Arts Tour of Cleveland

by Steve Sucato
August 10, 2020
Cleveland, OH
Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.
The first large-scale citywide arts event since the global pandemic hit, The City is Our Stage on Saturday, August 15 from 1-6 p.m., is a tapas-crawl-style drive-to sampler of a variety of local music, theater, poetry, dance, and circus performers’ work throughout greater Cleveland neighborhoods.

The brainchild of nationally known lighting and production designer Trad A. Burns, MorrisonDance founder/director Sarah Morrison and All-Go-Sign’s Chuck Karnak, the event gives audiences the opportunity to get out of the house and into their vehicles to see live performance in up-to-10 minute bite form on the porches, front lawns, driveways and other small-scale locations, of artists just as eager to get back to performing for the public.

“It was probably March we had our first conversation about what we can do during this pandemic for ourselves to perform and the community as a whole,” says Burns.

The volunteer trio says they reached out to the city and other organizations about the feasibility of several ideas to put on such an event.

“Given the uncertainty of COVID-19, we knew we had to come up with an idea we could put time and time and energy in and realize,” says Karnak. “We knew people being in cars we could move in that direction.”

The idea they landed on took its inspiration from a similar, if not significantly smaller scale, drive-up arts tour in Seattle.

The Cleveland The City is Our Stage event involves some 28 interdisciplinary mini performances along 10 distinct driving routes within a 15-mile radius of downtown Cleveland. There is a choice of 40 location and start time options to choose from each taking about 2-hours to complete.

“The planning was incredibly complicated,” says Burns. While he, Karnak and Morrison (with administrative support from Lindsay Carter), handled the choosing the performers involved, the logistics of the audience driving routes and organizing the performance schedules, the choice of performance spaces was left to the performers themselves with guidelines that it had to be a private residence or have permission from the owner and the neighbors and they needed to submit how many cars could legally park at one time. The performers were also charged with providing their own production elements and equipment for sound, multimedia, etc.

Morrison says the group worked extremely hard to reach out to and include as many diverse artists as possible and as such for this inaugural event, most everyone that wanted to participate is doing so. Also, for Morrison getting The City is Our Stage to work was more than the idea of bringing the local arts community together, but a personal quest to save live performance. “We have to fight for something,” she says. It is great to be creative and come up with new ideas for virtual content, but dance [and other performance art forms] is most appreciated in a physical space with an audience,” she says.

With an event like this, the need to have it highly controlled became apparent to the organizers. The performers were given instructions to adhere to state COVID-19 guidelines, and those purchasing tickets are asked to do so as well. The routes and addresses to performance spaces will be issued prior to August 15 and only paid vehicles will be allowed into the performance areas. All the proceeds from the event will be divided up among the performers.

As to whether the trio see the event as more than a one-time deal, Burns says “I would love to bring this back. I think we as artists are going to be in a position that some of these new things we have found as creative artists to adapt to the current environment we will continue to do when this [the pandemic] is over.

Morrison and Karnak concur seeing The City is Our Stage as even more than a collection of performances but a journey of discovery for audience members about the neighborhoods and parts of the city they may not have explored before.

Easily one of the most unifying and spirit-lifting arts events to come out of this difficult time in all our lives, The City is Our Stage is a can’t miss opportunity for any arts lover.

The City is Our Stage, 1 – 6 p.m., Saturday, August 15 (Rain Date, Sunday, August 16). Tickets are $40 per vehicle and available until the morning of the event. Visit thecityisourstage.com for tickets, list of performers, and more information.
MorrisonDance

MorrisonDance

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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