Act 1 is in the books.
And the early reviews by an enthusiastic crowd on Saturday make it look like the Summit StageFest will be back for Act 2.
They say all the world is a stage, and for Akron all of quirky Highland Square offered the perfect setting for five different temporary stages with everything from the Cleveland Opera to the Ohio Shakespeare Festival to selections from Weathervane Playhouse’s production of Hairspray offered up for free.
There was even that dude called the Indestructible Popeye lying on a bed of nails in between the stages.
Performers of all ages took to the various stages to perform abbreviated scenes from productions all over Northeast Ohio.
The one-day free festival that aspires to become an annual event has been in the works for about two years.
Retired Judge Jane Bond said the idea was born in a discussion of how to better promote the local theater scene in Northeast Ohio. Others joined the bandwagon, and the Partners for Theater group was born.
After initially reaching out to theater companies all over the region to gauge their interest, Bond said, they began lining up corporate support from Acme and FirstEnergy and then area foundations including the Musson Charitable Foundation, Ritchie Memorial Foundation and Corbin Foundation.
Like a play itself, Bond said, an event like this would not be possible without the tireless behind-the-scenes work of volunteers, the city helping with logistics like closing the street and police officers making sure everyone was safe.
“Talk about a leap of faith,” she said. “It just came together beautifully.”
In addition to the theatrical performances, West Market Street was lined with food trucks and vendors selling henna tattoos to fine paintings to horror pieces.
Joyce Sklarek decided to bring her resident critic Ziggy over to check out Akron’s newest festival.
The German shepherd seemed more interested in the wafts of food smells than the strains of Shakespearean prose.
“Ziggy would probably prefer to watch cartoons,” she said with a laugh.
But Sklarek said she loves to see the street alive with the arts.
“I love to see this in the neighborhood,” said Sklarek, who lives two blocks away on Elmore.
Fellow Highland Square resident Kyle Brooks agreed.
“I did not realize how many different theater groups there are out there,” said Brooks, who teaches English at Highland High School in Medina County.
Comments like this bring a smile to Bond’s face.
That is exactly why Summit StageFest was created — to raise awareness of all the theater companies out there and the good work they do.
“We need to grow the audience for these theater companies,” she said. “If people will not go to the theater, then we need to take the theater to them.”
Craig Webb can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3547.