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Friday, January 17, 2014

Theatre Blog - Exact Change at cleveland PUBLIC theatre

Change is powerful. It can save a life, regenerate a country, and even elect a president. Exact change has a increased value to it and is much tougher. Pinpointing something that needs revision, and making a plan to create an exact change, to something that is usually taken as a given, and accepted by others as the same. Therefore, there must be truth to make those decisions. Because it is in that truth that we find peace, or a reasonable defense of our new position in life.

Christine Howey had to find that truth on a remarkable journey which is now on display at cleveland PUBLIC theatre in her one woman show EXACT CHANGE. As director Scott Plate says "Truth, like gender, is shaped by what it faces as it comes into being." That clarity of directorial vision enabled Plate to guide this journey smoothly through the 90 minutes of prose, poetry, and demonstrative storytelling. His excellent skill at moving the piece forward is only matched by Howey herself, who serves up a tremendous evening of entertainment, to say the least.

Last year I attended the Big Box workshop of this show and what a treat that was. 60 minutes of touching, hilarious and brilliant writing, that one person shows rarely achieve. And tonight I had the pleasure of seeing this piece being taken to its next level of development that resulted in 90 minutes of theatrical bliss. With original music supplied by Danny English, we start off the evening with a series of poems and stories. My personal highlight was of one of the most erotic in-home sales calls I have ever witnessed. Witnessed by watching a woman behind window blinds, that reminded me of a commercial for the Trojan Vibrating Tri-phoria, and fully expected her hair to be blown back in a cone after she came out.

The first biting piece for me was Blueberries. Listening to careless conversation between female workers that seems so innocent, and then when it is revealed where this is taking place, a chill goes through you and makes you feel the pain of a time which many would want to forget. I was delighted to see that Beowulf and his wife were back, because this couple would be prime material for a BBC sitcom. As the piece progresses we reach a point where the transformation of Christine begins to unravel before our eyes. We are taken through the life of someone who at first struggles with who they are, asking questions that someone so young couldn't possibly know the answers, to the years where he slowly finds the decisions that will result in a life changing and identity changing event.

As presented by the segments from Oprah, that are shared as part of the evening, we search for the answers and the education necessary to understand sexual versus gender identity. If I remember correctly, I remember seeing Christine and her daughter Noelle on the national show Inside Edition long ago. What an amazing time to be face to face with someone who I thought a hero so many years ago. This process is fascinating to watch, and entertaining as hell. There are painful, thoughtful, and funny moments. And I must say, I would love to have lunch with Dolly, who gives a young man some fabulous advice to be used for his future. At one point during the evening, Christine bares her soul and her head in a very powerful moment of the evening in which she puts everything on the table.

Towards the end of the evening we are reminded of the current murder investigations that are going on that involve the lost transgendered women in the Cleveland area. A reminder that to some, this is a life and death situation. Howey's explanation of the first time she felt accepted in public was a very poignant moment. At the end of this piece, I just sat there and was so inspired by the strength it must have took to not only write everything, but to expose yourself to the world and let all of us in. Remarkable truth was needed to accomplish that task.

As I thought about the play, I was struck with the love story that exists within the evenings poetic synergy, and that is the love story of Christine and Noelle, her daughter. The Oprah clips have Noelle sitting on the couch with her, and then both of them dancing at her daughter's wedding. That really touched me because it was all about family and sticking together. It was a lovely bonus.

Go see this. As a director, actor or playwright. There is a lot to celebrate.

Written and Performed by Christine Howey
Directed by Scott Plate
Scenic Designer: Jeff Herrmann
Stage Manager: Amanda Lin Boyd
Costume Designer: Esther Haberlen
Lighting Designer?Media Intergration: Benjamin Gantose
Text Animation Design: Kyllea Kerg
Sound Technician: James Kosmatka
Assistant Director: Laura Perrotta
Composer: Danny English

Check out cleveland PUBLIC theatre.


  1. Hi Kevin, Thanks so much for coming to the show, speaking with me after, and then blogging! Your words are so wonderful, I'd like to retain them. But I can't copy from your blog. Is there any way you could email me a copy of your blog entry? I'm at: Thanks again for sharing your elegant, insightful and well-crafted thoughts. It means so much to me!! Best, Chris.

  2. i will do that straight away :)
    and thanks for your kind words back
    you rock sista