CCM’s Department of Drama presents the regional premiere of Pulitzer Prize nominee Stephen Karam’s Speech and Debate as part of this fall’s Studio Series. Directed by CCM’s A.B., Dolly, Ralph and Julia Cohen Chair of Dramatic Performance Richard E. Hess, the production opens Thursday, Nov. 6, and plays through Saturday, Nov. 8.
Like all Studio Series productions, admission to Speech and Debate is free, but reservations are required. Tickets become available at noon on Monday, Nov. 3. This production features adult themes and is recommended for mature audiences.
According to Hess, Speech and Debate is “a 90 minute intermission-less romp through high school experienced by three socially awkward misfits. The play is a cry to be noticed from students on the fringe.”
“Both gender and sexual identity play a large role in this play. [It’s] a recipe for comedy in dark and disturbing moments of angst,” Hess explains.
Sophomore Katie Langham discusses her experience playing the irreverent Diwata, a young woman who envisions her future on Broadway but can’t seem to get a part in the school play: “She keeps me on my toes and constantly surprises me. Playing this character is delightfully freeing because she’s so experimental in her own artistic life.”
“Each rehearsal is a time to play and explore, maybe regress back to the days of high school and re-discover adolescent feelings of precociousness, uncertainty and insecurity,” says Langham. It’s this attitude of discovery that makes the characters of Speech and Debate so authentic and engaging.
The play will take advantage of technology to enhance the storytelling. “A crucial plot element in the play is revealed in the very first scene,” Hess explains, “A computer conversation told entirely through projections when an 18 year old high school senior begins cruising on a gay chat line. This event sets the play in motion.”
About Richard E. Hess
Richard E. Hess has been the Chair of CCM Drama for the past 20 years. Recent directing credits at CCM include The Crucible, The Laramie Project, Coram Boy, RENT, You Can’t Take It With You (ACCLAIM Award winner Outstanding University Play), Anon(ymous) (ACCLAIM Award winner Outstanding Play), Brigadoon (Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Outstanding Musical) and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches (Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Ensemble Acting).
He made his New York directing debut at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on 42nd Street directing AN EVENING OF (Mostly) TRUE SONGS (with Andrea Burns), a new incarnation of Don’t Look Down, the music and lyrics of Adam Wagner, first seen in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Favorite directing credits at the Human Race Theatre Co., where he has been a resident artist since 1996, include Race, Red, Doubt, Proof, I Am My Own Wife and A Delicate Balance. He directed Miracle on South Division Street for the Human Race in September 2014.
Other credits include the Los Angeles staging of the one-woman show Besame Mucho, O.K. That’s Enough (with Diana Maria Riva) and the smash hits The Pages of My Diary I’d Rather Not Read and The Catholic Girl’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity, both of which enjoyed sold out runs at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles. For five years Hess was the artistic director of Hot Summer Nights in Cincinnati, where he directed Violet (with Ashley Brown), Hello, Dolly! (with Pamela Myers), Godspell (with Shoshana Bean and Leslie Kritzer) and the premiere of We Tell The Story: The Songs of Ahrens and Flaherty, in collaboration with Stephen Flaherty.
He studied with the internationally acclaimed director Anne Bogart and members of the Saratoga International Theatre Institute (SITI Co.) in New York and Los Angeles for the past decade. He has worked with the KNOW Theatre, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Chautauqua Institution, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops and Cincinnati Opera Education. He is proud of fostering the new work of playwrights and has directed first productions of Richard Oberacker and Rob Taylor’s Don’t Make Me Pull This Show Over: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Parenting, Mark Halpin’s The Kid in the Dark, Ben Magnuson’s Four Minutes and Tom Korbee’s Will It Ever Stop Raining?
He made his debut as a playwright/creator in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival with (UN)Natural Disaster created with 13 actors and performed in an abandoned building in Over-the-Rhine. (UN)Natural Disaster was named the Producer’s Pick of the Fringe and subsequently re-mounted on the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.
In June of 2011, Hess directed The Collapsible Space Between Us with the Dadaab Theater Project, comprised of five CCM Drama students, which was presented with eight refugees from the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya for World Refugee Day sponsored by the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya. He returned to Kenya as a Fulbright Scholar in 2014 and taught acting and directing at Kenyatta University in Nairobi and researched the creation of original works by creating KUMI NA MBILI (12), a stage show and a short film.
Hess was named Ernest Glover Outstanding Teacher at UC in 1999 and again in 2012 and was also named the ACCLAIM Award Theatre Trailblazer in 2009. He is an associate member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers (SDC).
Ryan Garrett as Howie
Owen Alderson as Solomon
Katie Langham as Diwata
Sarah Davenport as Teacher and others
Colleen Ladrick as Reporter and others
- 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6
- 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7
- 2 & 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8
Cohen Family Studio Theater, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati
Admission is free, but reservations are required. Tickets become available at noon on Monday, November 3. Visit the CCM Box Office or call 513-556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.
Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for more information on parking rates.
For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors.
Additional parking is available off-campus at the new U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots. For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.
CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation
Community Partner: ArtsWave
Drama Studio Series Sponsor: Neil Artman & Margaret Straub