None Too Fragile is bringing indie theater back to Akron.
The theater founded by Sean Derry and Alanna Romansky returns this week with a new partner, accountant Jaysen Mercer, and a new black box performance space at Pub Bricco in Akron’s Merriman Valley. Its first show, John Kovenbach’s On an Average Day, opens Friday, starring Derry and Mark Mayo.
Derry, 39, was co-founder of the Bang and the Clatter theater company, known from 2005 to 2009 in Akron and Cleveland for its bold brand of contemporary theater. None Too Fragile, which Derry said will continue in that vein with “thought-provoking, heart-touching, and, at times, principle-challenging, character-driven storytelling,” is looking forward to joining the other theaters in Akron.
“We’re just an additional voice. My goal is to make Akron that much better for adding a collaborative voice to the arts community. I’m excited that we’ve been welcomed with open arms by [John] Hedges at Weathervane, [Neil] Thackaberry at Actors Summit and [Terry] Burgler at Coach House.”
Pub Bricco restaurant owner David Glenny had been interested in turning the space adjacent to his restaurant into a performing arts area, so when Mercer approached him about None Too Fragile relocating there, he bit.
The property, a former gym, had been empty for seven years. Now it’s been transformed into an 1,800-square-foot black box theater that seats 80 — twice the size of None Too Fragile’s former space. Theater performances will run Thursdays through Sundays and the space will become Pub Jazz on Wednesdays, featuring local jazz artists. See www.pubbricco.com/upcoming-events for details.
Pub Bricco brought the property up to code, including HVAC, electricity and fire suppression. None Too Fragile built removable walls, risers and the set, and hung lights to create the performance space. One of the former gym’s bathrooms has been converted into a bar.
The goal is to make None Too Fragile part of a destination venue, Romansky said, with guests enjoying dinner and drinks before or after the show.
“I think the area is perfect. I think the collaboration with Bricco is perfect,” Derry said.
Derry and Romansky, 29, are co-artistic directors and Mercer, 37, is managing director for the theater, which includes doing marketing and promotions, keeping the books, and managing the box office and website.
Mercer came into the project after becoming a fan of the Bang and the Clatter’s work back in 2007, when he saw their production of Tracy Letts’ Bug in Akron.
“I was blown away because I had no idea anything like this existed,” Mercer said. “It was like seeing an indie movie but with people right here in front of you.”
The edgy theater became an important part of the fabric of Mercer’s life then, at a time when he suffered a personal loss. When the Bang and the Clatter folded, “it felt like a piece of me went away,” Mercer said.
Derry and Romansky formed None Too Fragile and produced two shows — David Mamet’s Romance and Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive — at a storefront theater on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls in 2010. The theater went on hiatus when Derry did a string of six movies in Pittsburgh over an 18-month period. He and Romansky recently spent four months in Los Angeles, where Derry filmed national commercials for Under Armour and Bosch Auto Parts.
Mercer reconnected with Derry and Romansky when he and his wife, Bridgette, had their first date in 2010 at None Too Fragile’s How I Learned to Drive. They stayed in touch and in January, Mercer begged the couple to reopen their theater. Mercer, an accountant with SS&G in Akron, shared their artistic vision and offered to help Derry and Romansky with the business end.
Derry and Romansky welcomed the help and decided it was time to tell what Derry calls “kick-ass stories” again. On an Average Day will run through Oct. 20, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Cost is $20. See www.nonetoofragile.com for tickets. Directed by Derry, the two-man play tells the story of estranged brothers Jack and Robert, who meet again after 23 years apart.
The theater will continue with Karen Sunde’s How His Bride Came to Abraham Nov. 9 through Dec. 8, starring Leighann Niles Delorenza and Gabe Riazi and directed by Derry. It tells the story of a Jewish soldier who gets shot and left behind in the Gaza Strip and is nursed back to health by a Palestinian girl. The four- to five-show 2013 season will be announced at a later date. Season subscribers for next year will receive a Don Drumm creation as their season pass.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.