Play Team: Take an Exclusive Look Behind the Scenes

June 21, 2017
Aly Michaud
In 1992, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park introduced the Play Team program, which was designed to give deeper insight into the theatre’s development of its own productions. Play Team members could peek behind the curtain for an exclusive look at the process of taking a story from the script to the stage. Since then, theatre lovers and supporters of the arts have had the opportunity to experience that creative journey firsthand every single season.

“We don’t just book shows in,” says Playhouse Individual Giving/Stewardship Manager Kendra Struthers. “We create the art on our stages.”

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The Play Team program is a donation opportunity that both supports the Playhouse and allows members of the community to enrich their theatre-going experience from a unique perspective. Play Team members are invited to attend and observe various artistic sessions in the development stages. Events include the meet-and-greet and first script read-through, in which the cast and director read through the play for the first time together; tech rehearsal and dress rehearsal, in which the cast rehearses onstage; opening night and opening night party with patrons and Playhouse staff; and the production’s closing night toast. They are also invited to attend a special dinner with the production’s creative team.

“While many of our other donation opportunities come with behind-the-scenes events, this is the only one that includes the actual rehearsal process,” says Struthers. “No one else gets to listen in on the read-through, watch a rehearsal or chat one-on-one with the actors, directors and designers over dinner.”

Play Team member Kenton Gast says he and his wife Betty appreciate how in-depth the program is. They have been Play Team members for several productions over the years. The most memorable of those include 2008’s Around the World in 80 Days and 2004’s Sing! Hallelujah.

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“You get a better feel for how a play is developed,” says Gast. “From the very first read-through to tech rehearsal, dress rehearsal, to the opening night. It’s a little bit of everything.”

The Gasts have attended each of the production’s meet-and-greets on their first days of rehearsal, and they have also attended intimate dinners with the cast and directors. Gast recalls having met the cast of one production and then being able to catch up with actors who returned to the theatre in later seasons.

“It makes you feel a little closer to the Playhouse. A little more part of the family,” says Gast.

Similarly, Play Team members Lee and Carole Cole usually attend all the exclusive events that are part of the program. Among the most memorable productions is 2011’s The Pavilion, in which the Coles had the opportunity to get to know the three actors of the cast—Jeffrey Kuhn, Jay Stratton and Anney Giobbe.

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“Actors love coming to Cincinnati,” Lee Cole says of the unexpected things he’s learned from the program. “It’s because of where they stay and their opportunities to meet locals.”

Much like the Gasts, the Coles have participated in several Play Team productions over the years because of the level of insight the program provides.

“We encourage people to take part, which obviously involves a financial commitment,” says Cole. “We tell them all the activities in which we participate so that we get to know a lot more about the play. Sometimes we even get to interact with the playwright.”

The Playhouse invites you to engage with the art we create on our stages and to build relationships with the designers who make it happen! For the 2017-18 season, Play Teams are offered for Shakespeare in Love and Ken Ludwig’s Treasure Island in the Marx Theatre, and Murder for Two and the world premiere play Sooner/Later in the Thompson Shelterhouse Theatre.

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For more information, contact Kendra Struthers at kendra.struthers@cincyplay.com, or call (513) 977-2024.