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Akron's None Too Fragile Theatre Takes 'Boogieban' on Tour

David Peacock in "Boogieban" [None Too Fragile Theatre]

Akron's None Too Fragile Theatre is on the move to a new home this week. They'll christen the new space Friday night with a play about PTSD.

The company then takes the production to the Windy City and the Big Apple for its first professional tour.

Last fall, None Too Fragile co-founder Sean Derry directed the world-premiere of D.C. Fidler's "Boogieban," centered on a military psychiatrist on the eve of his retirement.

Travis Teffner and David Peacock in "Boogieban" in 2018 [None Too Fragile Theatre]

"Basically, you see a soldier who was sent to a psychiatrist to be cleared. The psychiatrist who just wants to get out. You know it's his last two days of work. What he sees when he meets this kid for the first time is a lot of himself," he said.

The production was a critical hit and made an impact on local veterans.

Travis Teffner and David Peacock in "Boogieban" in 2018 [None Too Fragile Theatre]

"There was a gentleman there who'd been to the Korean War, and he prefaced his question with: 'What I'm about to tell you, I've never said out loud.' He went on to talk about how everyone in his unit had been killed, and he felt so much guilt from that. By seeing this story he was able to give voice to what had happened to him," he said.

With stories like that, Derry wanted "Boogieban" to be seen and experienced by more people.

So the play returns to Akron this weekend for a series of encore performances before hitting the road.

The production and the tour are funded by a Knights Arts Challenge grant and a matching grant from the GAR Foundation.

Using those grant dollars, Derry booked the play at Chicago Dramatists Theatre and New York City's 13th Street Repertory Theatre.

While the Chicago production is a first for None Too Fragile, the company has staged a play in New York City before, albeit at a space with a much lower profile.

Andrew Narten and Leighann Niles DeLorenzo in "Possum Dreams" in a 2015 production in New York City [None Too Fragile Theatre]

"They had no marquee. It was on the 12th floor of a building. It's right in the theater district, it's 54th and Broadway. So it was beautiful, but nobody knew it was there. Nobody knew that we were there," he said.

This time around None Too Fragile is taking the stage in a more desirable spot.

"It's a small, off-off Broadway house, but it's right on street level on 13th Street, right at the gate of Greenwich Village between 5th and 6th Avenue.  It's right across from the New School, so it's a great, thriving neighborhood. A lot of young people who love theater know that space because it's continuously producing theater," he said.

13th Street Repertory Theatre in New York City

The hope is that the company, and its hometown in Northeast Ohio, will get exposure from this tour.

"By going to Chicago, by going to New York, we're hopefully attracting playwrights, people that are writing scripts that aren't being done, aren't being seen. They'll see our work in Chicago and New York and realize that, 'hey I could submit a play to this great group. They're doing great work, and I'm seeing it first hand,'" he said.

Nate Loyd Miller, Tom Woodward, Derdriu Ring and Anne McEvoy in "The Beauty Queene of Leenane" 2016 [None Too Fragile Theatre]

Meanwhile, this weekend's production marks another milestone for the troupe as they open the doors to their new home located in the former Coach House Theatre at the Akron Woman's City Club. Previously housed in the back of a bar, None Too Fragile's new space provides things it's never had before, like a parking lot, backstage space and lobby.

"And this was the most important to me. It's not a shared space anymore. So no more tearing down the sets on Tuesday nights, rebuilding them Thursday before the show. We can rehearse on Wednesday nights, whereas we could never do that before, so freedom, autonomy, the room to grow. The potential is huge for us at this space. So I could see this as our permanent home," he said.

None Too Fragile's new home in the former Coach House Theatre in Akron [None Too Fragile]

Derry thinks it'll be a welcome change for None Too Fragile's dedicated audience.

"Most people that come to our shows they don't even know what they're seeing. Seriously, they don't know what the show's about. A lot of them have no idea who wrote the play. Some of them don't even know the name of it. They're just coming because they know that we have a show opening. People are coming much of the time blind to what we're doing. I think that says something. They don't care. It's like, 'None Too Fragile's doing it.  Let's go,'" he said.

The None Too Fragile Theatre production of "Boogieban" is onstage Friday and Saturday night in Akron.

None Too Fragile stages "Boogieban" in Chicago for much of August and then in New York City in September.

Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.