Huntington Playhouse Stories: O Captain! My Captain!
Part two of a multi-part series reflecting on the history of Huntington Playhouse, which will close at the end of this year after nearly six decades as the home of community theater in Bay Village.
Who is Keith Stevens and why is there a pirate ship in his yard?
"O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip begun; This demon vessel in our path, was placed here just for fun."
The poet Walt Whitman might have used these words to describe the Halloween display, in a Bay Village neighborhood, that looks as if had been created by Walt Disney.
Keith lives with his wife, Carol, on Elmwood Road and works as a senior lung transplant coordinator at the Cleveland Clinic. When this father of two is not working his regular job, he likes to volunteer.
I usually see Keith at Bay High football games in a police uniform as he volunteers 4-5 hours per week as an auxiliary policeman. He and Carol help out as dance chaperones at school and are involved with the Bay Music Boosters. If that wasn't enough, you can find Keith helping behind the scenes at Huntington Playhouse, something he has done for about 12 years.
Recently the Bay Village Historical Society sponsored tours at Lakeside Cemetery and The Huntington Playhouse. I stopped in for a backstage tour and there was Keith showing our group around. He builds sets, helps with lighting and sound, some building maintenance and is a stage manager as well.
A few years back, his daughter had sent him some keys she had gotten from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Using the keys as inspiration, he created an elaborate dungeon jail cell that graced his front lawn.
Keith's neighbor, Ray Kent, is also a fan of Halloween and so a friendly decoration rivalry began. A 2012 article in the Observer called "Nightmare on Elmwood" featured the pair. Skip ahead three years and the sight of four neighbors raising the mast of a pirate ship in Keith's front yard marks the Halloween season for the 500 block of Elmwood.
Last year the number of people showing up to walk through their displays grew so large, about 500, that this year Keith applied for a block party permit so they could close the street off to vehicle traffic so that all the kids could be scared safely.
Keith is just one example of the kind of community member that gave their time to help The Huntington Playhouse operate.
This past August, the Cleveland Metroparks announced their decision not to renew the lease on the Huntington Playhouse. The final day of operation for the theater is Dec. 31.
I encourage you to go see a show at the Huntington Playhouse to show your support for all of the good people that worked hard to bring you this final season.
Final note: Keith's neighbor Ray designed the set for the current Huntington production of "The Addams Family." He's worked 28 years in professional theatre from Broadway to regional theaters across the U.S. and at one time worked for Disney and, like the song, says, "it's a small world after all."
Citizens For Bay Village Community Theater has been formed to continue the tradition of quality community theater. We are establishing working relationships with civic groups, not-for-profit organizations, government, and businesses in Bay Village to provide a true community effort to keep community theater an active and vital part of our city. We have established a dialogue with the Metroparks board and are working to develop a proposal that will allow community theater to remain on the Huntington Reservation.
Join our Facebook group Citizens For Bay Village Community Theater to receive updates and view our meeting schedule or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick M Meehan
Patrick is Vice President of Education for the newly formed Citizens for Bay Village Community Theater. An organization whose goal is to continue to provide Community Theater and Theater Education for the City of Bay Village.