Sunday, October 26, 2008

leaving cleveland and I won't look back

                 We are leaving Cleveland. Finally.  I don't mean to offend any of you who might read this blog and be from Cleveland, but honestly, it has been the most difficult stop so far.  

                 And after three cast members being held at gun point by a thug on the street, we are all a little stressed and relieved to not be walking these streets after tonight.  

                 This is the only city where our company has had to hire armed security guards to walk us home. The other night we had a sassy lady security guard, who, before leaving the safety of the theater and braving the streets, said, "If anything goes down, you guys drop.  I am much better with a clear shot."

                 And she was not kidding.  

                Just last night my friend Ian was walking home from dinner with his fiance and they happened to pass a man, standing alone on the sidewalk.  Just as they got close he started rummaging in his pockets and drew something out really quick...Ian jumped and screamed just a little...The man proceeded to bring his just-found tissue up to his nose and blow.

              So yeah, like I said, we're all a little tightly wound.  

               There are just so many abandoned buildings and so few people downtown that you really have to watch your back.  It's a sad town and I hope it gets better soon.

             But tomorrow we're heading north, up to Canada!  Toronto is going to be sweet and fun even though we will not be celebrating Thanksgiving at all because that is a very American holiday and we will be very much in Canada. And very much working.  

            Actually, knowing our cast, we will find a way to celebrate Thanksgiving; we find a way to celebrate almost anything.  


jason said...

Did you at least go to the Rock N Rock Hall of Fame!?

jess said...

I kept meaning to-but it never got organized and I didn't want to go that far by myself, to be completely honest. I do regret not going, though:-(

Mom said...

Leave Ohio behind and look forward to Canada....I've never had a bad experience in Canada, a beautiful and kind country. I hope you love it there.

kathiek said...

I have been to Toronto, though I didn't see much of it, just the Vineyard there by the airport (I don't think it is a Vineyard anymore, though). What I did see, I liked, especially Niagra Falls. Have fun!

Anonymous said...


I stumbled across your blog a week or so ago... I am a Clevelander and am sickened, saddened and depressed by your Cleveland experiences - anything but offended. I don’t even know what to say.

I’ll agree that, despite 120,000 people working downtown each day – and events like Monday Night Football, Cavaliers games, a Coldplay concert, the Ringling Bros. circus, PlayhouseSquare events and the opening of our new $200 million transit line (constructed right in front of the theater for the last 2 years – which is one of the reasons for so many boarded buildings nearby) likely bringing another 200,000+ people downtown during your stay alone, the streets can still seem a bit empty. Many Midwestern cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh and others are struggling with similar issues… And, yes, the downtown mall – which once housed Gucci and Barney’s stores, etc… - is a somewhat “depressing” one now, as you note.

At the same time, I think many of us here would say that your cast’s unfortunate experiences (as it relates to safety) were far from the norm. However, it doesn’t make them any less real for you, the cast and crew and, for that, I wish I could apologize for all 3.5 million Clevelanders.

The irony of the matter is that the 5 restored theatres of PlayhouseSquare, where A Chorus Line performed, are sources of great pride for Cleveland – since we know we’ve got something most others cities do not. A million people a year venture down for extended runs of all the best touring shows – some of which do tech rehearsals here (last year’s Drowsy Chaperone, the upcoming original leads Rent tour and others) and/or launch their US tours here (next Summer’s Mary Poppins, Into the Woods, etc…) and/or set international box office records (this past summer’s 5 week Jersey Boys run saw it have its best-ever 1 week gross, anywhere). And yet look how we treat those who come to perform. Sad.

Cleveland, however, continues to fight the mighty fight. Over $1 billion of development is already underway or planned for our downtown. Our art museum, one of the few best in the country, is spending $350 million to transform itself. Our orchestra – perhaps the best on the planet– continues to enthrall critics here and globally. Our medical community is pretty much second to none – with our Cleveland Clinic, one of the best hospitals anywhere, spending almost $1 billion to add additional facilities to continue to provide the best care to our citizens – as well as the royalty and heads of states who regularly fly in from all over the world for care. And all of this is happening within a few miles of our downtown. And, despite all this, we still look like an unsafe ghost town downtown. Ouch…

Your blog has already prompted me to write an editorial letter to our local paper. I’m also going to contact PlayhouseSquare and other local reporters to clue them in on the awful events of your visit… There’s no way a town like this should take this any longer. Maybe this is the rock bottom we've been looking for.

Appreciate your comments. We hope to be much, much better the next time a tour of yours stops through town.



Tophs said...

Actually... Thanksgiving is not only an American holiday, it seems to be a North American holiday, in fact. Canadians DO celebrate Thanksgiving, though it is actually right about now, at the end of October. (I learned all this last year from my Canadian friends on the ship). They have a TG with the same intentions as ours, it's just a month earlier. And those that are dual citizens like my friend Amanda celebrate both!!! So you'll get to give thanks TWICE!

Natalie said...

Canadians have Thanksgiving, too! It's early October, though. I'm sure you guys can have some sort of Thanksgiving's almost un-American not to.
Congrats on making it out of Cleveland alive. The fact that three castmembers were held at gunpoint scares the hell out of me and I'm glad you're all out of there.
A director of mine was in the international touring cast of 42nd Street that got held up in Moscow, I think? I don't know. That all just sounds so scary.
Have fun in Toronto! Stay warm (and alive)!!

Jessica Latshaw said...

Anon--thank you for that smart, insightful comment concerning Cleveland! and I did fail to comment on the many very kind people I did meet there, as well as how beautiful the theaters are right downtown. In fact, every first-rate tour stops in Cleveland, they are that nice.

natalie and tophs--Yes, the cabbie told us today that they just did celebrate Thanksgiving and I guess we narrowly missed the Canadian one--but we'll be sure to celebrate it! We were already talking about having the delicious meal AFTER the show (if we had it before, we would NOT get off the ground in the opening combo...)

Millerlindy said...

I am sorry that you had a bad experience while in Cleveland, but i think that it is a shame that you wrote such horrible things in your blog. Cleveland is a great city and as you mentioned as a follow up in a second blog, has the best people you will ever meet. i hope that you will reconsider not looking back and understand that crime happens everywhere and it was just a fluke. I as a single woman feel completely safe downtown and don't think that cleveland is a bad place.

Jessica Latshaw said...

Hi Millerlindy--sorry that I offended you, I really am.

There truly are wonderful people in cleveland, as I mentioned, and you have a great theater scene with all those fantastic theaters downtown.

However, I did not feel safe, which was my main problem. The streets were very empty downtown, making me feel like a target, and it frustrated me to have to wait for a security guard to go home at night after the show. Along with the abandoned buildings, those were my main problems.

However, I know there are good plans for Cleveland, as well as good people who live there (like yourself) who make it a good place.

Anonymous said...

After reading a Cleveland Plain Dealer news article about your rant on Cleveland, I had to find out which role you played in ACL. I was just there to see you perform the day after your harrowing experience. My first reaction was to be really mad at you and then I realize my anger was misdirected. That kind of negative publicity is not what Cleveland needs...especially now with the economy the way it is. But that is not your fault. Maybe all the corrupt politicians that (mis)lead our city will pay attention once and for all. Thank God we have the freedom to vote!
I was also just in Canada to celebrate my anniversary and it was lovely.
I hope you make it back to Cleveland and visit the R-n-R Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the University Circle area.
But come in June when the weather is nice.

Anonymous said...

I live and work in downtown Cleveland. I would like to send an apology to you and your cast on behalf of all us true Cleveland believers. While I do think your experience was out of the norm, I can understand how a robbery at gun point has shaped your view of the city. I am not going to try to change your mind or say you are out of line, because your view is justified and understandable. I wish your experiences would have been more positive.

Good luck with the rest of the tour.


pgserge27 said...

I was so sorry to hear about the situation that happened to you guys. I'm a Clevelander, and like some of the others said were angered by your comments, but I realize that you did go through something horrific and had the right to vent. I would love to invite you back to our great city in the future and do hope that you would be able to visit some of the awesome things we do have going on here. The city is really seeing a rebirth. Once again I am sorry that you guys had to go through that.

Anonymous said...

I work in downtown Cleveland. It's ok during the day with lots of people around, but do not walk down any alleys between buildings. People have been robbed during the day in alleys.

I use the RTA transit train to come into Cleveland. I never drive into downtown Cleveland not even for pleasure for the last 10 years. Took my son to the library -- received an unjust/unwarranted parking ticket on a Saturday. Try fighting that one, it's easier to stay in the suburbs. Plus now Cleveland now has lot's of red light/speed camera's and such to bring in money at $200/ticket. Cleveland generates a "Not Welcome" feeling for everyone, so why bother going into Cleveland and risk a ticket/bad evening.

The RTA just wasted $200 million on rebuilding Euclid Avenue for new buses to use by putting the bus stops in the middle of the street. "More Efficent". Now RTA is threatening anyone that jaywalks with expensive tickets if they do not go to the end of the stop to cross over to the sidewalk.

If someone builds a Theatre/Playhouse in the suburbs, they would do well.

Jessica Latshaw said...

thank you for your understanding, and again, I am sorry for offending the people who call Cleveland home. I am glad you take pride (or at least some of you do!) in your city; and with people like you, hopefully the officials can make it a safer place for out-of-towners.

With that said, you do have an amazing theater scene with gorgeous play houses. Also, I realize that my own experience is not the final word on Cleveland!

I believe you when you say that there are many great things going on there;-)

And anon--sorry about the $200 tix; that sucks!