This special chronicles the community efforts to preserve a handful of vaudeville and movie palaces that went on to become one of America's largest and most important performing arts centers - PlayhouseSquare. The special airs on WVIZ/PBS ideastream on Thursday, November 15 at 8 p.m.
New Documentary Spotlights Story of PlayhouseSquare’s Dramatic Rebirth
“Staging Success: The PlayhouseSquare Story” Premieres
Thursday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. on WVIZ/PBS ideastream®
As PlayhouseSquare celebrates its first 90 years, “Staging Success: The PlayhouseSquare Story” pays tribute to the people who were instrumental in saving the theaters and shows how the community worked together to create a cultural showplace in the heart of downtown Cleveland. This new documentary, a production of WVIZ/PBS, in collaboration with Think Media Studios, reveals a Cleveland rags-to-riches tale as dramatic as any on Broadway. “Staging Success” premieres Thursday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. on WVIZ/PBS (encores: Friday, Nov. 16 at 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. and Thursday, Nov. 22 at 10 p.m.).
For years the PlayhouseSquare District on Euclid Avenue was downtown Cleveland’s cinematic and entertainment destination. (In fact, former Sen. George Voinovich explains in the documentary that he took his now-wife Janet to PlayhouseSquare when he was “courting” her.) But the flight to the suburbs after World War II, combined with the increasing popularity of television in the 50s and 60s, led to the near demise of these once great theaters.
In a dramatic turn of events, an eclectic group of volunteers, led by an inspired and creative champion named Ray Shepardson (who is newly interviewed for “Staging Success”), saved the formerly elegant Ohio and State theaters from the wrecking ball—literally days before their scheduled demolition. Beginning with a planned two-and-a-half week run in 1973 of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” that finally ended after a two-and-a-half year marathon, the tireless work of this dedicated group started the theaters on their road to renewal.
That restoration continued for years and the organization evolved with the help of volunteers, organizations and political figures. Today, PlayhouseSquare is the country’s largest performing arts center outside of New York’s Lincoln Center. It has become an economic engine that attracts more than one million people and generates more than $60 million for the local economy annually.
“Staging Success” blends nostalgic older films, news stories and photos with breathtaking new footage and engaging interviews with many of the people that helped usher PlayhouseSquare into a new era, including current PlayhouseSquare President and CEO Art Falco, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Voinovich, along with key early volunteers, such as Lainie Hadden, Oliver "Pudge" Henkel and John F. Lewis.
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