Mamaí's first season: a hit!

Mamaí Theatre Company co-founders Wendy Kriss, Derdriu Ring, Christine McBurney and Bernadette Clemens.

Asked to reflect on their inaugural season, two of the four co-founders of Mamaí Theatre Company—Christine McBurney and Bernadette Clemens—agreed that they had exceeded their own conservative expectations.

“Ensemble Theatre welcomed us into their space,” said McBurney. “The discounted rent in the form of a space grant enabled us to launch. Community support [came from] the Heights Observer, Nighttown, the Props Shop, friends, family, students, and Lori Berenson, our volunteer house manager.”  

McBurney said that colleagues volunteered their time to help build sets, photograph and videotape rehearsals and performances, and staff the box office. Friends did laundry for cast members, and family members provided food.  

Other local theaters, such as Dobama and Cain Park, participated in ad swaps and “welcomed our postcards in their theaters,” she said, adding, “We were able to pay every actor, every designer, every staffer, and even ourselves. No one was paid what their work or time was actually worth, but they believed in what we were attempting to do and wanted to be a part of it.”

Most gratifying, perhaps, is that McBurney, who usually talks with other theater folk when she attends performances, now chats with patrons. “I've been surprised and moved by perfect strangers walking up to us and thanking us for doing classical theater, for employing women artists, and for choosing plays with great roles for women. It's affirming, empowering, and humbling to know that other people think that our mission is relevant.”

Clemens was also thrilled with Mamaí's first season. “The response from the community—and in equal doses from the theater community and the Northeast Ohio public—was unexpectedly overwhelming. We didn't intend to make a splash, we only wanted to enjoy the swim, and we've been hearing a resounding thank you for making a big splash.”

Encouraged by the success of their inaugural season, Clemens said, “The changes we foresee [for next season] are all positive signs of growth: We will be employing a greater number of directors, designers, production staff and actors. We’re expanding to four productions for Spring-Fall 2014, and hopefully drawing audiences to at least one new venue. Audiences will also see more than one co-founder of Mamaí Theatre Company onstage next season.” Two of the company’s founders are also Equity actors.

Further good news comes from Mamaí’s generous sponsors. One has offered to revamp the group’s website, and another will professionally redesign and print its playbill.
Meanwhile, stay tuned for the announcement of Mamaí Theatre Company’s second season line-up. “Like” them on Facebook or go to for updates.

Jewel Moulthrop

Jewel Moulthrop is a Cleveland Heights resident and member of the Heights Observer's Editorial Advisory Committee.

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 2:10 PM, 08.30.2013