Veteran theater producers, directors and writers, the Corcorans launched their project in 2016, in response to what they saw as a gap in the neighborhood’s cultural life: no live professional theater. Since then, they have offered seasons of four to five fully realized productions inside Judson Manor, utilizing local theater artists and iconic professional actors.
Ask the Corcorans why they’ve decided to devote their retirement to bringing live theater to their community, and their answer is simple: “We’re just doing what we love.”
Despite its youth, the project has drawn rousing applause from the arts community. Among its many honors, Theatre in the Circle earned a 2016 grant from Neighborhood Connections, a program of the Cleveland Foundation; a $30,000 Cuyahoga Arts and Culture grant that the theater nabbed on its very first application; and a nomination for a prestigious 2018 Cleveland Arts Prize, which recognizes artistic excellence in Northeast Ohio.
Audience reactions have been equally enthusiastic. “We have some very sophisticated patrons in this building, and everyone tells us that each production is ‘the best one yet.’”
The project is extraordinary in several ways. First, Theatre in the Circle is the only Cleveland theater venue to offer direct hearing loop technology, which transmits sound directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants. More outstanding still, it is the only resident-helmed professional theater company in a retirement community in the entire United States. “We’ve got something unique in the nation, here,” says Mark, “and we’re trying to make the most of it.”
With productions open to the public as well as to members of the Judson community, Theatre in the Circle serves as a natural ambassador for Judson’s mission of bringing community to life. The message, Bill says, is one of vitality and creativity.
“People wait too long to come here,” he says. “Why put it off until you’re in your 70s or 80s, when you could be here, now, enjoying the freedom that Judson offers?”
Mark agrees. “We are having an awful lot of fun doing this, and we think our Judson Manor neighbors are having fun too. They turn out to usher, to proof-read the programs and hand them out. I think that adds a tremendous amount to the quality of our community and provides another common purpose for us to share.”
“Honestly, we’re still trying to figure out this thing they call ‘retirement!’ We feel liberated and empowered at Judson.”