Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash

Interview with:

The Hairy Ape actor Joe Milan

The Hairy Ape runs at Ensemble November 17 - December 10.

The Hairy Ape runs at Ensemble November 17 - December 10.


We talk a lot about this play really being about Cleveland and Clevelanders, how do you feel that Yank represents Cleveland?

Yank represents the working men and women of Cleveland and all the other Great Lakes States' former manufacturing powerhouses just before wide spread labor union representation. Once critical players in the creation of cutting edge of technology, the technology they built has now increasingly replaced them. Pay attention to Paddy's first monologue. It says it all. Where would Yank be today? Probably a Big Box cashier, marveling at the new self-checkout machines.

What has your preparation been like as you work on the play? Does working on O'Neill mean a different approach as an actor?

Other than gallons of throat soothing concoctions, you mean?

O'Neill is an exercise in brutalist poetry, a test of your sorting skills, and an ultimate reward to the spirit. Only life can fully prepare you for O'Neill, and as the son and brother of machinists (and the great great grandson of one killed in a Cleveland steel mill,) I have witnessed the cycle from the suburban American dream through decline: from material accumulation measured-as-success, to pack rat-ism and death, to have your power of self determination wind up in the pocket of a CEO.

"Is it to belong to that you're wishing?"

What can audiences expect when they go see The Hairy Ape?

All this and an entire cast of incredibly talented actors, crew, and designers!

"So it's ho for the stokehole!"


Molly's Desk: I Can Do This! I Have To Do This

Molly McFadden, Cleveland Heights

After sipping my coffee, I slipped behind the wheel of my Buick - fog all around me and the quiet of a country setting in the early morning. I sat alone in the car and wondered to myself, “Is it too late to get it right?” This was a question that I recently had been asking myself during my quiet times. Sitting with my coffee in the Buick, I just shook my head because I didn’t have a clue as to what the answer was, or even to get what right?

What was the “what?”

I turned on the car and I steered out onto the country road in Peninsula, OH, heading off to work. This is a drive I had done for the past year to the suburbs of Cleveland where I was working full time as a marketing director.

Driving down the road for the next 30 miles I couldn’t get the dialogue out of my head. I couldn’t stop the images from forming in my head as to what the characters on the stage were saying, and I certainly could not put to rest the conflict raging in this family.

I got to work and before I could even start my daily routine I took all the notes from the seat of the car I had been scribbling on for the last month and just wrote everything into a new document on my laptop and placed it in my personal folder.

There I did it. Finally I put pen to paper (manner of speaking) and began to write my very first play on my very own.

Fall turned into Spring and then Summer, and every morning on my drive to and from work I had my pen in hand and took notes on a notepad as the play unfolded before my eyes.

I was elated.

I could see the characters, feel the dialogue and movements, see the staging and I even knew what music should be played before and during a scene.

During this creative outburst of writing, numerous emotions and reflections resurrected on a continual basis. I soon realized the writing was a form of therapy for the last 15 years of my family's life. There was no stopping it, nor should I, as I knew this was cathartic and needed to be done, especially as I needed the answer to that burning question, “is it too late to get it right?”

I also stopped the voices in my head asking, “Who cares” - “is it theatrical” - “ will it sell” - “will it stand up to other plays and dramas?”

I didn’t give a damn about any of that.

You see I had lived and worked in the theatre for the past 30 years and knew well the arena and all the stamina, skills, talents and tools one needs in order to proceed ahead. I was (still am) a performer and only recently had I come to writing. I did not dare to even enter into those conversations in my head as it was important for me to just get everything down on paper as I saw it and felt it.

Come Fall, the play was finished.

Now I needed to step out of my silo and be brave enough to enter into a community where it could be read and discussed. It wasn’t enough that I finished the play – I needed to continue my journey and share this story and have it be heard by others.

In fact, I was surprised at how much I wanted to have the story heard. Taking this leap of faith, I fortunately was led to Ensemble Theatre and two classes led by Tyler Whidden, Associate Artistic Director.

Script Analysis on Tuesday; which gets to the heart of the art form of playwriting.

The other one is StageWrights on Wednesdays. In this you have a FREE series of staged readings, allowing all of the local playwrights a platform to display and hear their work.

I knew then and there ... I was home.

After my first class I slipped behind the wheel of my faithful Buick -- dark of night surrounding me. It was quiet and I looked at the full moon - tears flowing down my cheeks. I knew I was right where I was suppose to be and I had come a long way from that early morning on a country road in Peninsula to now Cleveland Heights.

Finally, the answer to my question: No….no not at all. It is never too late to get it right ... if you know what it is you are trying to get right.

This is my journey.