Mamaí & the Co-Founders
Mamaí Theatre Company was co-founded in 2010 by Bernadette Clemens, Wendy Kriss, Christine McBurney, and Derdriu Ring; and established as a 501(c)3 in 2012. Our mission is to create intelligent, relevant classical theatre that offers an artistic home for Cleveland theatre artists and equal opportunity for women in the professional theatre community. Mamaí (pronounced MAH-may) is the Gaelic word for "mother". Four working mothers, theatre artists, colleagues, and friends arrived at a place where it was time to create their own opportunities. "Don't wait to create" became our motto. From 2010-2012 we completed a financial planning phase for sustainability and exploratory artistic projects hosted at venues such as Cleveland Public Theatre and Playhouse Square.
We engaged public as well as invited audiences as well as area professional theatre artists before emerging with our inaugural 2013 season in Cleveland Heights, during which The Plain Dealer noted that Mamaí "has made a howling entrance onto the city's artistic scene." Our award-winning 2014-2016 seasons in Historic Tremont and downtown Cleveland were supported by growing audiences, critical acclaim, as well as public and private grants. Mamaí's four completed seasons have garnered resounding support from the community. The company contractually employed 70 women and 17 union actors belonging to Actors' Equity Association among its greater numbers of theatre artists and technicians hired since 2013, and ushered economic activity into venues' neighborhoods by engaging over 2,000 audience members annually through artistic and educational programming. Mamaí celebrated its 5th season by moving to Playhouse Square.
Mamaí Suspends Operations
Mamaí Theatre Company has announced that it is suspending all operations indefinitely as of December 31, 2017 while it investigates new avenues of sustainability. The company values the many partners and patrons who have contributed to Mamaí’s success, but the company’s operations have grown past the capacity of the current staffing model. Board president David Schiopota notes, “Despite numerous accolades and significant investment from many within the Cleveland theatre community, Mamaí Theatre leadership has struggled to find an administrative solution that can sustain the long-term health of the company. Even with a resoundingly successful debut at Playhouse Square this year, building an artistic company of this caliber is an enormous effort.”
Executive Artistic Director Bernadette Clemens acknowledges the impact of this news on artists and audiences who have witnessed the company’s rapid growth. Speaking of the company’s accomplishments, Clemens notes: “Each year, Mamaí’s grant funding doubled, tripled or quadrupled in total dollars. We saw a balanced budget that grew on average over 40% per year. Our budget in our 5th season was over 400% of our inaugural budget. To me, that says that the women who co-founded Mamaí, the people who led Mamaí, and the community that backed Mamaí’s mission, have something to say. It is something critical, and it was heard. People are still listening.”
Co-Artistic Director Christine McBurney adds, “It has been a dream to fill a neglected niche by providing intelligent, relevant, classical theatre to this community and beyond, with plays that we wanted to see in Cleveland, told by Cleveland artists -- women’s stories from the classical canon, written by the world’s master playwrights.”
Mamaí leadership remains avidly engaged in exploring opportunities to ensure a legacy for the organization and its mission. Thank you to the 7,000 community members who came to our programming in Mamaí’s five-year history. Thank you to more than 100 artists and technicians who have worked with Mamaí and brought their skill to Northeast Ohio stages in plays uniquely produced by Mamaí. Thank you to partner organizations who collaborated in Mamaí’s success. Thank you to the public and private granting entities which have supported intelligent, relevant classical theatre and equal opportunity for women in professional theatre in Northeast Ohio.
What our Patrons say...
'Mamai is a first-class company, on the level with Stratford and Shaw festivals (though tinier!) Thank you, ladies, for the compelling artistry you have shared with us! You are much deserving of a sabbatical and time to figure out administrative solutions. But I do not believe that Cleveland should let this company die. And I don't believe we will!'
'I have seen Arcadia 3 other times: the original in London, in Ashland Oregon at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. ..this production was their equal. Thank You!'
“Thank you for doing something so courageous and so exciting. I really don't know where to begin with this email. I'm never lost for words (ask anyone), and hardly ever use superlatives. Medea is one of the most incredible productions I have ever seen. The direction and the work by the actors is so magnificent. Let me just say...Thank you!”
~Leslie Varnick, premiere Northeast Ohio vocal coach
A DOLL’S HOUSE
"...a standout production...not to be missed...brought to rousing life by the Mamai Theatre Company...under the emotionally astute direction of Christine McBurney. Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A smart and stirring turn under Christine McBurney’s fast-paced and quietly gripping direction. An iconic piece of theater not to be missed." Cleveland Jewish News
THE TESTAMENT OF MARY
THE WOMAN HATER
LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN
DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
2014 CRITICS AWARDS
CLEVELAND CRITIC CIRCLE AWARDS
CJN ABELMAN AWARDS
SCENE THEATRE AWARDS
BEST THEATRE OF 2014
10 MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS IN CLEVELAND THEATER, 2014 EDITION