Meet Cain Park's New Artistic Director Joanna May Hunkins
For Joanna May Hunkins summertime means one thing: Cain Park. Hunkins’ mother, Sarah May, served as Cain Park's artistic director in the early 1970s, and she spent many of her summer vacations at the Cleveland Heights performance space as a camper, counselor, performer, director and whatever else needed to be done. When the position of artistic director became available this year she felt she was ready.
“I think I knew right away what a wonderful opportunity it was. I grew up in Cleveland Heights and knew what the park had been. In the past (few) years, they had done away with the large musical on the big, Evans Amphitheater stage. I was hoping to bring that back at some point and had all these visions of what Cain Park could be….it still continues to be wonderful, but I have memories of what it was and goals for the future and I thought: ‘I could do that. Let’s give it a shot!” Hunkins said.
Hunkins feels that because Cain Park, which is owned and operated by the city of Cleveland Heights, is not a non-profit institution it operates under a different set of circumstances than many of the other theaters in the area.
“We have the community on our side, for the most part. Over the years, it has morphed from a community based organization to this huge concert venue. We still have to make money. We bring in these big concerts that people come from all over Cleveland and sometimes out of state to see the shows that we’re doing. It’s a different challenge, but it’s wonderful.”
In 2008, Cain Park decided to stop staging musicals in the larger Evans Amphitheater and present them in the smaller Alma Theater.
Hunkins says financial considerations played a role in that decision.
“It wasn’t so much that they were losing money, but because the potential to make money was so much more on the one-off concerts. You run a large musical that costs an extreme amount of money to produce and now you are stuck with this large set on the stage and that’s all you can do for a few weeks. With the concerts, you are turning people over much more quickly. The trend was starting to go that way, “ she said.
In her first season, Hunkins has been able to achieve one of her goals, which is to present musicals again in the Evans. Cain Park stages a concert version of Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man” this weekend.
“We are doing the full musical, with all the dialogue being spoken and all of the songs still being sung…but this sort of strips away all of the exterior. There’s no big sets or costumes. All the production budget aspects have been stripped away, so that people can focus on the story and the music,” Hunkins said.
Hunkins hopes that sometime in the near future, Cain Park will once again present fully-staged musicals in the Evans.
“It would be wonderful. I think it’s going to be a slow transition if we ever get there again. My goal in bringing this concert this year is to test the waters. It’s a bit of a pilot project to see what the interest is. If people love musicals, let’s see if they show up.
Cain Park presents The MUSIC MAN In Concert, Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Evans Amphitheater.