The Cleveland Playhouse (CPH) world premiere production of Touch the Names: Letters to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial starts previews on May 9 at the Drury Theatre. The show runs through June 11.
Co-conceived by writer Randal Myler (It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues) and composer Chic Street Man, Touch the Names is described in production notes as dramatizing "the cathartic experience of visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington." Myler gained unusual access to the National Park Service's Washington, D.C. warehouse where he spent several days reviewing and vetting hundreds of letters that are featured in the play.
The music- theatre piece was workshopped at CPH's 1999 Next Stage Festival of New Plays.
The cast for Touch the Names includes Ann Guilbert ("Millie Helper" on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"), CPH associate artist Mike Hartman, Charles Weldon and Adale O'Brien.
Myler helms the show, and Street Man serves as musical director. The production team comprises set and costume designer G.W. Mercier, who received a Tony nomination and two Drama Desk nominations for designing the Broadway production of Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal's Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass. The CPH has organized a series of events surrounding the play. These include: "The Moving Wall," a half-size replica of the actual monument, which will be displayed in the CPH parking lot from its opening on May 9 through its closing ceremony on May 20; a May 29, 7 PM radio broadcast of Touch the Names on WCPN 90.3, the NPR affiliate in Cleveland;
an exhibit of servicemens' letters at the Bolton Theatre Lobby Art Gallery from May 9-11 sponsored by the Plain Dealer; a pre-curtain dialogue, "The Heart of the Matter: Theatre That Heals" on May 25 sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Public Library; and "Talk Back," a series of post performance discussions scheduled for May 24 and May 28.
Tickets run $26-$39. The CPH is located at 85th and Euclid in Cleveland. For tickets call (216) 795-7000 or visit cleveplayhouse.org.
-- By Murdoch McBride