Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: THE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING AND TRUE ADVENTURES OF MS. JOAN EVELYN SOUTHGATE at Cleveland Public Theatre

In spite of valiant mission and strong performance, freedom trail-walk it too long a trek at CPT

Review: THE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING AND TRUE ADVENTURES OF MS. JOAN EVELYN SOUTHGATE at Cleveland Public Theatre

In 2002, Seventy-year-old Joan Evelyn Southgate, a Cleveland area retired social worker and activist, left Ripley, Ohio, on foot, with the goal of highlighting the courage and resourcefulness of freedom seekers and conductor families who risked everything on the Underground Railroad.

Traveling 10 miles a day, her 519-mile walk crossed Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, ended in St. Catharines, Ontario, Harriet Tubman's terminus on the Underground Railroad.

On the trek she visited Underground Railroad sites, gave presentations at schools, and slept in the homes of welcoming strangers, her own "safe houses."

Southgate, motivated by her pilgrimage, founded "Restore Cleveland Hope" to save the city's only remaining Underground Railroad house from demolition.

To raise money for the project, Southgate, at age 80, walked another 250 miles from Canada back to Cleveland, completing the final mile with 170 companions who had been inspired by her journey.

In 2014, the house, resting on the corner of Mayfield Road and East 115th, in Little Italy, opened as an Underground Railroad teaching center where people can learn "what is possible in the way of changing the world and loving people."

Now in her 80s, she is still active in fulfilling her dream of being an educator and ensuring that important parts of American history, such as the Underground Railroad, are taught to children and explained in a way that instills a sense of pride in the fight for equality for all.

Southgate was in attendance, surrounded by a large number of her devoted followers, at the opening night of Nina Domingue's one-woman play, THE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING AND TRUE ADVENTURES OF MS. JOAN EVELYN SOUTHGATE at Cleveland Public Theatre.

Domingue, one of the area's stellar actors, is also noted as a playwright.

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING which, according to the playbill comments, was nine years in the making.

As CPT's Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bodgan, who nurtured the development of this work, states, "I have learned so much from Joan Evelyn Southgate, and I am not alone. Her wisdom, resilience, her joy, her hope, and her love has made, and continues to make, such an impact in our community."

He continues, "This has been a long process. Everyone involved in the project has overcome many obstacles and challenges to make this show possible." He summarizes, "It is my hope that through these amazing and true adventures, you will be touched by Joan's wisdom, joy and love."

Those who attended the opening night appeared to be truly moved by this determined and sprightly little woman who has made an amazing contribution to the Cleveland and African American communities to insure a permanent understanding of the history of the slavery and, specifically, the Underground Railroad.

The play, itself, is a different matter.

Original scripts are a process in the making. They often need to be evaluated by a dramaturg, an expert in script writing and play production, to evaluate the oral and physical aspects of the material. An oral reading of the script often reveals issues, as does the first attempt to stage it.

THE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING AND TRUE ADVENTURES OF MS. JOAN EVELYN SOUTHGATE is such a script.

The staged version revealed that it is too long. The announced 90-minute length, turned out to be closer to two-hours.

Going by the adage, "the mind can absorb what the seat can endure," the audience had more than enough of the material and started to wander the aisles at about the time the play was supposed to end. The script needs cutting.

The topic was overly developed. There was too much of the same ideas presented over and over. This not only added to the excessive time, but became redundant, in spite of Domingue's fine acting. The "cough factor," when an audience gets bored they start to cough, was present about half way through the enactment.

The multi-areas on the stage, which appeared at first glance would allow us to know where on the journey Ms. Southgate was, helped naught, as they didn't really fulfill that purpose, nor did the electronic graphics which were also inconsistent in their use and purpose. Good intentions, poor execution.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Ms. Joan Evelyn Southgate is a wonder of a person. The play about her Freedom Trail walk is an inspiring story, which needs editing and a clearer staging concept!

Next up at CPT

CANDLE LIGHT HYPOTHESIS WORKSHOP-May 11-21-This immersive performance empowers" the guests" (the audience-members), to curate their own experience, inside the part museum, part haunted house, part workshop.

STATION HOPE 2022-Saturday, May 28-a Celebration of Hope. A dialogue for change. Free and open to all. St. John's Episcopal church in Ohio City and the surrounding neighborhood.



Review: HADESTOWN at CONNOR PALACE (Cleveland) Photo
What did our critic think of HADESTOWN at CONNOR PALACE (Cleveland)? When HADESTOWN, opened on Broadway on April 17, 2019, it was met with critical acclaim. Reviews contained such terms as 'inventive,' 'gorgeous, 'hypnotic,' 'high energy,' 'utterly fabulous' and 'immersive.' The critics went gaga over the quality of the singing, the scenery, the special effects, the choreography and the fine acting.

RIVERDANCE Is Coming To Playhouse Square, March 3-5 Photo
Abhann Productions has announced that the 25th anniversary production of Riverdance will continue its critically acclaimed tour with a stop at Playhouse Square March 3 – 5 as a Huntington Bank Featured Performance at Playhouse Square.

Rock Entertainment Groups Nic Barlage is CPTs PAN Honoree Photo
Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan presents Pandemonium 2023—CPT's annual benefit and theatrical spectacular—on Saturday, September 9, 2023, which will honor Nic Barlage CEO of Rock Entertainment Group, which includes the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Beck Center For The Arts Displays Work of National Artists in The Body Rock Photo
Beck Center for the Arts will display The Body Rock, an exhibition by visual artists who bring edge, awareness of their culture, and talent to their work.


From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in... (read more about this author)


Review: HADESTOWN at CONNOR PALACE (Cleveland)Review: HADESTOWN at CONNOR PALACE (Cleveland)
February 3, 2023

What did our critic think of HADESTOWN at CONNOR PALACE (Cleveland)? When HADESTOWN, opened on Broadway on April 17, 2019, it was met with critical acclaim. Reviews contained such terms as 'inventive,' 'gorgeous, 'hypnotic,' 'high energy,' 'utterly fabulous' and 'immersive.' The critics went gaga over the quality of the singing, the scenery, the special effects, the choreography and the fine acting.

Review: BEETLEJUICE THE MUSICAL at Connon PlaceReview: BEETLEJUICE THE MUSICAL at Connon Place
January 14, 2023

What did our critic think of BEETLEJUICE THE MUSICAL at Connon Place?

Review: HAMILTON at Key Bank StateReview: HAMILTON at Key Bank State
December 9, 2022

What did our critic think of HAMILTON at Key Bank State?

Review: THE LAND OF OZ at DobamaReview: THE LAND OF OZ at Dobama
December 8, 2022

What did our critic think of THE LAND OF OZ at Dobama? Since 1959, Dobama Theatre has been dedicated to premiering important new plays by established and emerging playwrights in professional productions of the highest quality. THE LAND OF OZ, is a good selection for them to undertake.

Review: THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD at Convergence-continuumReview: THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD at Convergence-continuum
December 4, 2022

What did our critic think of THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD at Convergence-continuum?