Dobama offers alternatives to live theater

Dobama Theatre's production of Pulitzer-finalist "Dance Nation," was suspended mid-run due to the pandemic.

Dobama Theatre’s 2020–21 season will take a different shape due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Dobama will not be able to welcome patrons into its physical space anytime soon, the theater is planning alternative programming to stay engaged with the community. Most or all of Dobama’s artistic programming this year will be available online.

Like theaters across the globe, Dobama has faced pandemic-related challenges, leading to suspended and canceled performances, as well as cuts to staff and salaries. Thanks to the generosity of Dobama’s members and donors, the theater is hopeful for another live season, to be programmed after an effective treatment or vaccine emerges.

Dobama’s intimate performance space makes social distancing impossible, and health and safety remain its top priorities. Staff continue to work primarily from home, curating artistic and educational programming for the upcoming season. 

A year without Mainstage productions gives Dobama the opportunity to make its educational programming even more robust. For the first time, Dobama has received grant funding to perform free playwriting literacy workshops in public schools throughout Northeast Ohio. Playwriting literacy programs have been proven to raise students’ confidence, critical-thinking skills, and standardized test scores. Educators are encouraged to contact the Dobama office for more information.

Education Director Carrie Williams is creating a series of documents and tutorial videos to ensure that this program can be conducted virtually or in person, as Dobama strives to serve local educators in this dangerous and uncertain moment. Dobama seeks to provide assistance and accessibility to school systems that are underfunded and may lack the resources for this type of programming.

“Educators and parents are doing their best to adapt to changing community needs,” said Williams, “and we are proud to do whatever we can to support them. That requires major planning, and the Dobama team is ready to meet them where they are.”

Dobama’s partnership with Heights Libraries has been a stronghold. The two organizations are working to produce joint programming that serves both of their constituencies. These programs might include a “book club” of plays, and social justice conversations with Artistic Director Nathan Motta and local performers.

Artistic programs for Dobama will include master classes in directing and acting; interviews with local professionals, on topics such as LGBTQ+ and BIPOC representation in theater; and a series of professionally filmed monologues from past productions.

Dobama will use this time to continue developing and deepening its longstanding partnership with Karamu House.

Through these innovative programs, a continued focus on social justice, and plans for volunteer work throughout the community, Dobama remains committed to serving Cleveland Heights and Northeast Ohio.

In the absence of an in-person season, many members have chosen to “belong” to Dobama in the same way that one might belong to NPR, or the Cleveland Museum of Art. Season memberships for 2020–21 are available for $168, with Young Professional memberships available for $132.

Educational materials and programs are being produced through the generosity of the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, the David and Inez Myers Foundation, the Harry K. and Emma R. Fox Charitable Foundation, and the Music and Drama Club.

Dobama is also sustained through the generous support of the Shubert Foundation, the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, the Milton and Tamar Maltz Family Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, and the citizens of Cuyahoga County through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

For more information on programs and memberships, e-mail, or visit

Colin Anderson

Colin Anderson is general manager at Dobama Theatre.

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Volume 13, Issue 9, Posted 8:13 AM, 09.01.2020