On the 50th anniversary of the notorious Cuyahoga River Fire, Lit Cleveland placed a call for original work by Cleveland writers addressing the devastating fire and other environmental issues. Over 100 poems, personal essays, plays, and short stories were submitted, and Lit Cleveland's programming committee and staff worked to review, select, and edit the submitted works.
Ultimately, over 20 pieces were chosen for an upcoming staged reading titled "Words On Fire: Remembrance of the Cuyahoga River Fire, 1969." Part of this year's Cleveland Humanities Festival, the free staged reading takes place Sat. 3/16 and Sun. 3/17 at 7pm in CSU's Student Center Ballroom. In anticipation of "Words On Fire," we sat down recently with the show's director, Chennelle Bryant-Harris, for an inside scoop on the show.
Without giving too much away, can you tell us what's in store for this performance?
I have always been intrigued by the mythology of Cleveland—there is always a larger-than-life story about this city. So, I wanted to play with the idea of mythological creatures speaking these words. What if the goddesses of the river could speak? What would they say? How would they feel about the development of their body, the river? It will be a celebration! A rally for the river! A thinning of the veil so to speak.
In what ways have the selected works impacted your understanding of the Cuyahoga River Fire?
One thing I noticed in a lot of the pieces is that there seems to be a change in the tide. We are 50 years out from the last fire and the river seems to be headed in the right direction—wildlife is returning and the river is becoming part of the life of the city again. The sentiment of rebirth and reclamation is echoed through the pieces. It parallels the growth of our city.
What are some of the challenges of adapting written pieces for the stage? What is exciting to you about this process?
One of the biggest challenges in adapting written pieces for the stage is the editing process. I truly believe that different art forms are created to be tasted, enjoyed, and discussed differently. The artist's intent with the work is the most important part, so moving, changing, or editing works to fit a into performance was hard for me to do knowing that each word and phrase is chosen for an important reason and with the intent of being read off the page by the audience member directly. I want to honor the work and the words, and also create a dynamic performance piece. On the other hand, all I have as a guide is the text. The world that we will create is not bound by stage directions, characters, or a plot, so the audience has no idea where we are going. And that’s kind of fun!
Anything else you'd like to share about the show?
I hope our audience comes with an open mind, ready to experience these pieces and then go home and read them for themselves. I hear music every time I read them and our performance will encourage a soundscape too.
If you haven't already, register in advance for the free performances here. See you at the show!
"Words On Fire" is presented in partnership with Cleveland State University's English Department and
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University.
Cleveland’s infamous Cuyahoga River Fire in 1969 triggered a lot of change, accelerating the environmental movement in Cleveland and around the U.S. On the 50th anniversary of the fire, 20 creative writers from Northeast Ohio will share their thoughts about that event, with their words performed by three professional actors at the 2019 Cleveland Humanities Festival.
This one-hour staged reading titled: “Words On Fire: A Remembrance of the Cuyahoga River Fire, 1969,” presented by Literary Cleveland, will be held on Saturday, March 16 and Sunday March 17. The performances each night will begin at 7 PM in Cleveland State University’s Student Center Ballroom.
Lit Cleveland's call for submissions garnered more than 100 poems, plays, personal essays, and short stories from writers across Northeast Ohio. The selected works--some urgent and some elegiac--explore various topics including climate change, Hurricane Harvey, humanity’s relationship with nature, California wildfires, the fate of native animals and plants, and some very personal reflections.
The performances promise to be very involving. As director Chennelle Bryant-Harris says, “It’s a unique challenge to craft performances from diverse kinds of writing such as poetry and essay. We’re excited to share these resonant works because the range of emotions they touch on really express what it means to be a Clevelander.”
Christine Howey, Executive Director of Literary Cleveland also notes, "We are thankful to all the writers who shared their perspectives and insights with us, and look forward to collectively exploring a truly life-altering event for Cleveland and the nation."
This free event is made possible with the support of the Baker Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Humanities Festival, and Cleveland State University. Although there is no charge for the performance or the reception afterwards, all attendees are asked to register in advance for the event. The Cleveland State University Student Center is located at 2121 Euclid Avenue.
Contact: Christine Howey, Executive Director, Literary Cleveland, email@example.com.
As great as our instructors are (and they are amazing!), consider how much you can be mentally stimulated by your fellow participants in the classes and workshops we offer.
For example, here’s a rundown of the topics that participants brought with them to work on—in our recent How to Create Creative Nonfiction class with Christopher Johnston:
• An exploration into the art of handmade archery bows.
• A history of drag racing in Cleveland.
• A perspective on changes in religion in Cleveland in the last 50 years.
• Dealing with children that have neurological disabilities.
• Power walking and meditation.
• Gender and social issues from a combined Cleveland/India perspective.
• Chinese gang wars in the 1920s.
• Behind-the-scenes experiences in TV and radio offices in New York City and Cleveland.
• Health aspects of climate change.
• History of transit in Cleveland.
• A look at the #MeToo movement through various age groups.
• Using the wisdom of people to heal racial and economic divides.
Whew! And that’s just one class…full of fascinating, involved, and sharing participants. To join a class yourself, start here. To learn more about the structure and philosophy of our workshops, click here.
The new year has brought exciting developments to Lit Cleveland and Northeast Ohio's literary community more broadly. Click the links below to get up to speed.
Christine Howey Changes Careers By Taking Charge of Literary Cleveland (Ideastream)
Cleveland's Literary Scene is Loyal and Strong (Ideastream)
Accelerate finalists to make civic pitches in this year's competition on Feb. 27 (Cleveland.com)
Three New Skills to Learn in 2019 (Cleveland Magazine -- features Darlene Montonaro's Developing a Writing Habit workshop)
Literary Cleveland announces new Executive Director: Christine Howey
Literary Cleveland's Board of Directors is excited to announce that Christine Howey will be leading the organization as Executive Director beginning January 1, 2019. Christine brings a unique combination of business acumen, literary talent, and an unparalleled passion for our mission.
Most recently, Christine wrote, produced and performed in a play and film titled "Exact Change," which was featured at a number of local theaters, including Playhouse Square, as well as at the New York International Fringe Festival. She has published four books of poetry and was named Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights (2016-2018). Christine has led numerous writing workshops, including several at Literary Cleveland, and has been a columnist and theater critic with Cleveland Scene and other publications. She has also been the creative director of branding and advertising with various advertising and communications companies.
As Christine notes, "I am thrilled to have been selected to be the next Executive Director of Literary Cleveland. Throughout my life, words and stories—those I have read and those I have written—have saved me. Words have defined who I am, what I want, and how I proceed through life. And I am eager to help others experience how that sharing of words, poems, lyrics and stories can change lives for the better."
Under the leadership of founding Executive Director Lee Chilcote, Literary Cleveland has attracted over 350 members, involved more than 2000 program participants, and conducted over 200 hours of programming annually. As a result, Christine realizes she is filling some big shoes: "I have great respect for the outstanding work outgoing Executive Director Lee Chilcote and the Board of Directors have done to bring Literary Cleveland to this point. It is a strong and thriving organization, and I look forward to helping Literary Cleveland grow in its mission to be a vital and involved part of the life of Cleveland readers and writers."
Literary Cleveland was founded in 2015 with the mission to create and nurture a vibrant literary arts community in Northeast Ohio, and the organization is committed to the values of inclusivity and partnership. Programs include writing classes in all genres, events for readers, an annual Inkubator workshop that is open and free to the public, and publication of an online literary magazine, Gordon Square Review. Through its Cleveland Stories program, Literary Cleveland helps give voice to people in underserved communities, encouraging and developing writing and presentation skills.
Call for submissions: Humanities Fest staged reading addressing the theme of "50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Fire"
Literary Cleveland will produce a staged reading during next year's Cleveland Humanities Festival in March and April.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire, a milestone event that led to the passage of the Clean Water Act and galvanized the environmental movement in Northeast Ohio and beyond. As part of the yearlong celebration of that legacy, we invite you to contribute a poem, personal essay, short story or other literary work addressing the theme of the “50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Fire.” Writers are encouraged to interpret the theme broadly. Submissions do not have to be about the Cuyahoga River. We welcome work that touches on issues such as nature, the environment, pollution, or climate change in a personal way.
Submissions can be in any genre and ideally should be less than 1,000 words. We strongly encourage submissions that lend themselves to performance – examples include short personal nonfiction pieces interspersed with dialogue and action and poems with rhythmic and musical language. Short plays are also welcome. Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Humanities Fest Staged Reading” by Friday, Jan. 25th 2019. Selections will be made by staff and members of Lit Cleveland’s programming committee.
Lit Cleveland’s Humanities Fest staged reading will be directed by actor and director Chennelle Bryant-Harris, who works as a teaching artist with Great Lakes Theater.
If you have questions, please contact Lee Chilcote at email@example.com.
Chennelle Bryant-Harris is an actor, director and teaching artist happy to be based in Cleveland. Chennelle began her Northeast Ohio journey as a member of the inaugural apprentice class of 2012-2013 at Cleveland Play House as an Education Apprentice. Since then, she has served as an Actor-Teacher for Great Lakes Theater School Residency Program, as well as an Assistant Director and dramaturgue for Great Lakes Theater Outreach Tours The Secret Advisory and The Jabberwocky. Chennelle has also worked as an actor, director and teaching artist for Talespinner Children’s Theater. She is most proud of the work she accomplished with her intergenerational casts of students, teachers and professional actors when she served as director and planning team member for the Cleveland branch of the English Speaking Union’s All City Shakespeare productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. Chennelle has performed in various roles in theaters throughout Northeast Ohio including Laertes/Guildenstern in Hamlet at Rubber City Theater, various roles in 44 Plays for 44 Presidents at Cleveland Public Theater, Olivia in Twelfth Night: As Told By Malvolio at Great Lakes Theater, and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at French Creek Theater. She holds a B.A. in History and Theater Arts from Gettysburg College and can be seen next in Great Lakes Theater’s Classics on Tour production of Treasure Island. She is currently the Education Assistant at Great Lakes Theater.
Last Thursday, November 29th, writers, readers, and a few Lit Cleveland members gathered at The Happy Dog to celebrate the launch of Gordon Square Review's third issue, which went live earlier in the week.
The night kicked off with a reading from some of Issue 3's talented contributors: prose contest winner Ariel Lewis, Jason Harris, Charlie Malone, Anne Cudnik, and prose contest finalists Jackie Feldman and Courtney Ebert.
Those in attendance also had the chance to participate in a raffle to win prizes from In the 216, Artful Living, Sweet Moses, Cleveland Cinemas, Belt Publishing & Belt Magazine, and even some Lit Cleveland swag.
We were thrilled to have a full house on such a chilly Thursday night, and this was the most successful Gordon Square Review event to date! Special thanks to our contributors, prose contest judge Lucy Biederman, GSR editors Laura, Matt, and Ali, our generous raffle donors, and The Happy Dog.
Pushcart Prize nominations were announced at the end of last week, and there are a few past and present Gordon Square Review writers in the running this year! Congratulations to Elizabeth Wing, Idza Luhumyo, Ariel Lewis, Jason Harris, Cat Dixon, and Amanda Stovicek.
Check out some photos from the launch party below, and be sure to read Issue 3!
Gordon Square Review announces fall prose contest winner; launch party set for Thurs. 11/29 at Happy Dog
Cleveland, OH – In anticipation of its upcoming launch party taking place Thurs. 11/29 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Happy Dog, Gordon Square Review, an online literary magazine published biannually by Literary Cleveland, is pleased to announce the winner of its inaugural Prose Contest.
Taking first place in the contest is “A Rest Season” by Ariel Lewis. Three finalists include "Native Tongue" by Athena Dixon, "The Case of Strauss's Missing Dentures" by Courtney Ebert, and "In Your Dreams" by Jackie Feldman.
Reflecting on Lewis' piece, poet, professor, and contest judge Lucy Biederman remarked, “'A Rest Season’ is a masterly short story. It has an intense clarity of voice and tone, even as it winds through the increasingly strange territory of its plot.”
As the winner of Gordon Square Review’s Prose Contest, Lewis will receive $250, publication in Issue 3 of Gordon Square Review, an invitation to read at the Issue 3 launch party, and a voucher for one free Literary Cleveland class or workshop.
The upcoming launch party will celebrate the recent release of Gordon Square Review’s third issue and offer a platform for Lewis and a number of issue contributors to read their work. Learn more about the launch party.
Gordon Square Review’s mission is to showcase emerging writers nationwide, award editing mentorships, and provide a venue to spotlight Northeast Ohio writers.
Support for Gordon Square Review comes from individuals, the George Gund Foundation, and state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Learn more about Gordon Square Review at www.gordonsquarereview.org.
Literary Cleveland’s mission is to create and nurture a vibrant literary arts community in Northeast Ohio. For more information on upcoming events, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @litcleveland.
Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.
This year, the Lit Cleveland board of directors is generously matching dollar-for-dollar the first $1,500 of gifts given from Thanksgiving through Giving Tuesday (11/27)!
Moreover, if more than 10 new memberships are purchased from Thanksgiving to Giving Tuesday, the board will kick in another $250.
Beginning on Thanksgiving, make your gift here, or become a new member or renew your membership here.
Check out the photos below for a glimpse of some of the wonderful programs we offered in 2018.
Thanks in advance for your support of Lit Cleveland this Giving Tuesday. Please spread the word about our goal by sharing with friends and family on social media!
To create a strong community of readers and writers in Cleveland, Ohio through workshops, classes, readings and other events.