A new theater education program launched last week in Cleveland with a focus on LGBTQ+ youth in Northeast Ohio
The Text Kitchen, 11210 Detroit Ave. in Edgewater, is being launched by Mindy Herman and David Munnell, who are the executive director and art director, respectively, of The Umbrella Theatre—an emerging LGBTQ+ theatre in Cleveland.
This free after-school writing and acting workshop will give LGBTQ+ youth ages 15 to 20 the opportunity to share their work and see it performed by other young actors. Writers will bring up to 12 pages of new written work including traditional theatre scripts, screenplays, monologues, and spoken word.
Actors who attend the event will be cast on the spot to perform in front of an audience, open mic style. Attendees will then give both the writers and performers constructive feedback to aid in their development.
Herman and Munnell talked with leaders of Studio West 117, an LGBTQ+ entertainment hub currently under construction in Lakewood, and wanted to find a way to bring a theater arm to the project.
Herman has worked with writers for about 20 years now to help them develop their work. She also runs a similar program for adult writers at Cleveland Public Theatre, and when she realized there wasn’t a similar program available to young writers, it led to the idea of The Text Kitchen. The program is being funded through a grant from the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation and the West 117 Foundation.
Although The Text Kitchen is geared toward LGBTQ+ youth, any writer or actor ages 15 to 20 is welcome to attend the workshop.
“It’s a growth opportunity for actors as well as writers,” Herman says, “because actors will just be given a script cold and have to perform it, which is how you audition most of the time, but it’s super low stakes.”
Herman says the ultimate goal with the program is to work with young writers to strengthen their writing skills, build their confidence, and get their work to a point where it’s performance ready.
“For performers, and writers as well, to believe in their work and to give them a safe space to hear their work read by actors, that’s a pretty difficult thing to do on your own,” he explains.
That’s where The Text Kitchen comes in—to provide the space, resources, and professional feedback needed to keep improving their work.
“I think it’s going to be a fun event,” Herman says. “There’s an education element obviously, but we’re really hoping to build community outside of school.”
The Text Kitchen launched last Tuesday, Jan. 18 and sessions will be held the third Tuesday of every month.
“In a couple of months, we’re going to start bringing in some well-regarded and published authors to speak to [the attendees]and give a little mini presentation and feedback on their work as well,” Herman says.
This first month will be a sort of soft launch of the program. While the event will still take place in person, due to rising Covid-19 concerns Herman doesn’t want to bring in too many extra people initially and will just keep this first event to the young writers and actors who attend.
The Text Kitchen in the Mansion at Studio West, 1210 Detroit Ave., and will run until June. If the program was well-received, The Next Kitchen will return in September.
Ultimately, the program is pretty informal, Herman says. There’s no need to register prior to the sessions, which run from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and while Herman said there will be some structure to the program, She is hoping that The Text Kitchen they can connect artists with one another in a safe, inclusive space.
“I just think that there’s a bit of a hole in Cleveland’s artistic communities for LGBTQ+ young adults,” she says. “I think this will hopefully help give them an outlet.”
This story originally was published in The Buckeye Flame on Jan. 17. Republished with permission.
Maria McGinnis is a recent graduate of Kent State University where she studied journalism and minored in advertising and psychology. She is now working as a freelance writer and editor. In her free time when she's not typing away on her laptop, Maria enjoys spending time with her friends and family, baking, yoga, discovering new music and thrift shopping.