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Karamu House now an affiliate company of Playhouse Square

Karamu House performers on stage.
Colleen Albrecht
Ideastream Public Media
Karamu House has presented "Black Nativity" at Playhouse Square for the past two years and plans to again in 2024.

The nation’s oldest Black performing arts theater is joining Playhouse Square as an affiliate company.

“We’re making a commitment to collaborate,” said Tony Sias, president and CEO of Karamu House.

The partnership grew from the success of presenting “Black Nativity” at Playhouse Square the last two Decembers. They plan to do it again in 2024.

“Having a presence at Playhouse Square will only broaden our brand and deepen our presence in the city,” Sias said.

In addition to presenting programming at Playhouse Square, there will be opportunities for Karamu and Playhouse Square to collaborate on arts education, workforce development and commissioning works. Karamu will also benefit from shared marketing and ticketing opportunities, Sias said.

Karamu will continue to operate from its East 89th Street campus in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood. The organization has been renovating during the past few years, adding a new roof, lounge and box office as well as updating the largest theater. The latest phase is a new education wing.

“We will continue to produce and present programing events and activities at the same level here at home,” Sias said.

Karamu is the first organization Playhouse Square has designated an affiliate company, and it intends to name other established arts organizations as affiliates in the future.

“Our goal is to introduce Playhouse Square audiences who may not be familiar with them to their work, and in turn, to introduce their audiences who may not have been here before to Playhouse Square," said Playhouse Square CEO Craig Hassall in a news release about the partnership.

While Karamu is the first affiliate company, there are eight organizations designated as resident companies of Playhouse Square as they hold a majority of their events in the historic theater district. Resident companies include Great Lakes Theater, Cleveland Play House, Cleveland Ballet, Tri-C JazzFest, DANCECleveland, The City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland State University and the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Karamu House’s latest production, “The Breakfast at the Bookstore” by Cleveland playwright Lisa Langford, is on stage through Feb. 18 at its East 89th Street theater.

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.