by Josy Jones
Akron, The Rubber City. It only seems right that there are groups all around Akron paying homage to its legacy, acknowledging its difficult past and carrying this tagline into the dream for Akron’s future. Rubber City Theatre wears the city slogan with pride and enthusiastically serves the Akron community through the performing arts.
Rubber City Theatre is young. It’s only five years old. However, in that short amount of time, it has gone through several improvements and adjustments. Many Akronites may know Rubber City Theatre as Rubber City Shakespeare. After continuous mix-ups between the Ohio Shakespeare Festival and Rubber City Shakespeare—ironically, name mix-ups are a problem that Shakespeare explores extensively—and the company’s decision at the end of 2016 to extend its repertoire into musicals, modern plays and eventually new work, they decided to make the switch.
Producing Artistic Director, Dane Leasure says that although Shakespeare continues to be the “cornerstone of the company,” they felt extending their reach into other genres of theatre and keeping “Shakespeare” in the name would have clashed with their brand. They are happy with the decision to switch, and the change has given the company “greater flexibility to provide professional quality theatre at an affordable price.”
The name change isn’t the only adjustment they’ve made. Rubber City Theatre’s first home was Summit Artspace, located in downtown Akron. From there, they moved to The Well, the home of Compass Coffee on East Market Street. They enjoyed The Well and its staff, but they longed for a more intimate space. Feedback revealed that audiences were having a hard time hearing the actors in that space, so they looked for a new space that could serve both their desire for more intimate audience-actor relations and the requests of the community. They found their new black box location on Romig Road.
I know. Romig Road? Where Rolling Acres Mall used to be? Yep, that Romig.
It wasn’t exactly where they expected to be; however, Rubber City Theatre has strong values rooted in serving their community. They’ve always wanted to help redevelop areas in Akron. The Romig Road area could use some love and attention, so making their home in that area is a perfect way to serve an Akron theatre desert and encourage further development.
According to their mission, Rubber City Theatre has two main goals: make theatre more accessible and “inspire the next generation of theatergoers and performers.” Through their new partnership with the Salvation Army, they are extending their capacity to fulfill their goals. Salvation Army helped them secure their new home on Romig Road, and Rubber City Theatre provided summer classes for the Salvation Army this past summer. Through additional collaboration, the pair continued to have conversations about afterschool programming and youth performances. Now they will have a full year of Main Stage and Youth performances!
Through their new, intimate location, their commitment to youth and their Pay-As-You-Like-It system, Rubber City Theatre has made classic theatre more accessible to the Akron community. After seeing the show “Hamlet” at the Romig location, I have experienced first hand the need for theatre in that area. They also have a knack for capturing a younger demographic, something that is difficult for many other theaters in the area.
If you’d like to support the work that the Rubber City Theatre is doing, check out some of the shows from their current season.
“A Christmas Carol”
December 1-23, 2017
William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”
February 9-25, 2018
Bill Cain’s “Equivocation”
April 6-15, 2018
Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
June 8-24, 2018
2207 Romig Rd
Josy Jones is not a native of Akron, but proudly wears the invisible badge of an Akronite.