Fire on the Water

Created & Performed by Northeast Ohio artists.

February 14, 2019 - March 02, 2019

7:30pm, Thu/Fri/Sat/Mon, Gordon Square Theatre. Previews February 14. Opening Night is February 15.

2 hours and 30 min with an intermission

Fire on the Water, the acclaimed multimedia theatrical event, returns to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River in an all-new version. Fire on the Water is a fast-paced series of short plays inspired by this pivotal moment in Cleveland's history. Created by a team of playwrights, directors, and actors, the production features original work woven into a powerful production exploring how the environment shapes identity, while celebrating the remarkable recovery of Cleveland's waterways.

Featuring: Courtney Nicole Auman, Sidney Edwards, Faye Hargate, Brinden Harvey, Shatara Jordan, Michael Levin, Kim Martin, Terah McGowan, Daniel McKinnon, Mary-Francis R. Miller, Zach Palumbo, Adam Seeholzer, Kat Shy, Anastasía Urozhaeva, Hillary Wheelock.

Musicians: Devin Hinzo, oboe; Ariel Clayton Karaś, violin; Amara Sperber, violin; Natalie Frakes, violin; Buck McDaniel***, piano & electronics

The Gordon Square Theatre is ADA compliant featuring a ramped entrance and an all gender, wheelchair accessible restroom.

Preview / Standard Price (Monday, Thursday): $15
Standard Price (Friday, Saturday): $35

Please note: Friday 2/15, Saturday 2/16, Saturday 2/23, Monday 2/25, and Saturday 3/2 performances of Fire on the Water are sold out. For all sold out performances, we encourage you to arrive early and join our waiting list in the box office starting at 6:00pm.

The Creative Production Team Includes:

Raymond Bobgan – Conceiver & Lead Playwright
India Nicole Burton* & Raymond Bobgan – Co-Directors
Beth Wood – Line Producer
John Dayo-Aliya, Alison Garrigan, Cathleen O'Malley, Jeremy Paul, with Michael Oatman, Darius J. Stubbs, and Dr. Mary E. Weems – Contributing Playwrights
Alison Garrigan, Cathleen O'Malley, Jeremy Paul – Contributing Directors
Maelstrom Collaborative Arts, Talespinner Children's Theatre – Collaborating Companies
Jennifer Caster** – Stage Manager
Jaytionna Wells – Associate Stage Manager
Benjamin Gantose – Lighting Designer
Alison Garrigan – Costume Designer
Jacob Kirkwood – Co-Composer & Sound Designer
T. Paul Lowry – Video & Scenic Designer
Buck McDaniel*** – Composer & Music Director
Chris Young – Fire on the Water Technical Director
*2018/2019 NNPN Producer in Residence
**Stage Manager appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
***2018/2019 Kulas Theatre Composer Fellow

Remarkable Rating:


Every SATURDAY performance will be followed by a post-show discussion with NE Ohio “Sustainability Heroes.”

Stick around after the show, grab a beer or refill your canteen, and join an energetic and informative conversation with some of the individuals working to preserve and protect our precious waterways.

Saturday, February 16

Kirsten M. Ellenbogen, PhD – Great Lakes Science Center, President & CEO
Chief Matt Gray – City of Cleveland, Chief of Sustainability
Shanelle Smith – Trust for Public Land, Ohio State Director

Saturday, February 23

David Beach – Civic Leader, Sustainability
Crystal M.C. Davis – Alliance for the Great Lakes, Policy Director, Ohio Office Manager
Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells – Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, CEO
Hon. Matt Zone – City of Cleveland, Councilman

Saturday, March 2

Commissioner Alex Margevicius – Cleveland Water, Commissioner
Jenita McGowan – Eaton, Sustainability Manager
Andrew Watterson – KeyBank, Senior Vice President, Head of Sustainability

Click here to learn more about the panelists.

Want to skip the search for parking? Thanks to our friends at Lyft, you can ride to Fire on the Water at a discounted rate! Use discount code GREENCLE for 15% off two rides.

(Max savings of $5 per ride. Discount applies to fare and Prime Time charges only. Cannot be combined with other ride credit or offers.)


About Conceiver, Lead Playwright, & Co-Director Raymond Bobgan

This is Raymond Bobgan’s 13th season as the Executive Artistic Director at Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT). Raymond specializes in working through an ensemble process to create new performances that are bold, multilayered, and highly physical. Raymond’s work has been seen in Romania, Brazil, Denmark, Serbia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Canada and has been featured in American Theatre magazine, Canadian Theatre Review, Theatre Journal, and in Lisa Wolford’s book Grotowski’s Objective Drama Research. Raymond has created many works for CPT including: Red Ash Mosaic; Feefer Rising, with Faye Hargate; Rusted Heart Broadcast; Insomnia: The Waking of Herselves, with Holly Holsinger and Chris Seibert; Cut to Pieces, with Chris Seibert; and Blue Sky Transmission: A Tibetan Book of the Dead, co-produced by CPT and La MaMa ETC (NY).

Raymond initiated the Student Theatre Enrichment Program (STEP) in 1994, a job-training theatre program for teens, co-created the Y-Haven Theatre Project with James Levin which engages formerly homeless men in writing and performing theatre, and initiated Teatro Público de Cleveland, CPT’s resident Latino theatre company, and Station Hope, a community arts festival honoring Cleveland’s social justice heritage and exploring contemporary issues of social justice. Raymond and Cleveland Core Ensemble’s production of Red Ash Mosaic recently toured nationally to New Orleans and Columbus.

In 2017, Raymond received the Cisgender Ally Award at Cleveland’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, and in 2015, received Equality Ohio’s Ally Award. He received the 2017 Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio and in 2014 became the first recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize in the discipline of Theatre. He currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for the National New Play Network, serves on the Theatre Communications Group Board of Directors, and is the Chair of the Board of the Gordon Square Arts District. Raymond is a two-time recipient of the Creative Workforce Fellowship (2010 for theatre, 2014 for music composition), a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (now Arts Cleveland).

About Co-Director India Nicole Burton

India Nicole Burton is an actress, director, playwright, and producer. She is a native of Akron, OH and graduated from The University of Akron in 2011 with a BA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis on performance. Upon graduating, India founded Ma’Sue Productions, an African American theatre company located in Akron. She has directed, produced, and performed in several of Ma’Sue’s plays and acted as artistic director until 2015. India has worked with many prominent Akron, Cleveland, New York, Atlanta, and L.A. actors, directors, and playwrights. Some of India’s acting credits include Julius Caesar (Portia), Bootycandy (Actor 1), and An Octoroon (Dido). India’s directing credits include for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf (Heads Up Productions), The Laramie Project (Heads Up Productions), Daybreak’s Children (Ma’Sue Productions), A Happening on Imperial (Ma’Sue Productions), O Patria Mia (Ma’Sue Productions), Little Women (Hathaway Brown Theatre Institute), and two short plays produced at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Station Hope: What we could have been and Maya: The Poet. India’s assistant directing credits include the 2014 production of The Color Purple at Karamu House, brownsville song (b-side for tray) at Dobama Theatre, and Cleveland Public Theatre’s Barbecue. She is the director of drama at Dike School of the Arts where she trains students in acting and performance, grades pre-K through 8th. India is currently working on developing and devising an original play about women in the Black Panther Party.

About the Show: A “360 Degree “Experience

“When you come into the theatre, you’re not walking into a typical theatre space, but into a space where things are happening all around you, like a 3-ring circus.”

-Raymond Bobgan, CPT Executive Artistic Director and Fire on the Water Conceiver, Lead Playwright, and Co-Director

Fire on the Water weaves together a dynamic assortment of short theatrical works based on historical events, reinterpreted in a textured and multimedia pageant that includes comedy and satire, original mythology, dramatic monologue, puppetry and movement, layered with live music, and unfolding over multiple stages in CPT’s historic Gordon Square Theatre. Described as a “360 degree” experience, audience members will be seated in 100 rolling office chairs during the show to best enjoy the dynamic performances happening above, around, and between them.

“Come in with an open mind, ready to think, ready to laugh, and ready to take something from this piece and work to change the world.”

-India Nicole Burton, Fire on the Water Co-Director and 2018/2019 NNPN Producer in Residence


A Message from Raymond Bobgan, CPT Executive Artistic Director and Fire on the Water Conceiver, Lead Playwright, and Co-Director

What happens when we remember the environment is not a lifeless, simplistic phenomenon, but something in which we and our interior selves—our dream selves—connect with?

Cleveland Public Theatre has a long history of producing plays to shift consciousness around critical social issues. Back in 2012, we started wondering: how can art play a bigger role in changing thinking and feeling around the environment? We created The Elements Cycle—a performance series testing our own preconceived notions about our relationship with the environment. The original 2015 production of Fire on the Water was the fourth part of The Elements Cycle, using the element of fire to explore the burning of the Cuyahoga River.

As I started drilling into the river’s polluted past, and its revival, I discovered how remarkable the story is—particularly the roles played by our leaders Carl and Louis Stokes, who in many ways supported, drove, and created the EPA and the Clean Water Act. As we developed the 2015 production of Fire on the Water, we continued to learn. The play was complete… and we were still learning. At the time, we even joked we would need to make a second play.

This year, we remount Fire on the Water to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River. As I look back to the last time the river burned, I think remembering the burning centers around three things: honoring the Stokes brothers and what they did, not just for Cleveland but for our country; celebrating the clean-up of the lake and river (which is still ongoing); and addressing the threats we face now. While the Cuyahoga River has experienced an amazing recovery, we still have a long way to go… and the road to change starts by not taking nature for granted.

Fire on the Water asks us, in a way that’s personal and fun, to reconsider our relationship with our environment—the ground we walk on, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.

Raymond Bobgan
CPT Executive Artistic Director and Fire on the Water Conceiver, Lead Playwright, and Co-Director


A note from Co-Director India Nicole Burton

“The visual and technical aspects of Fire on the Waterthe images, the video design, the set—are a huge part of the storytelling. These elements really elevate the experience, and I think will surprise audiences.

Working with Raymond has been my favorite part of Fire on the Water—being witness to his process. From the way he creates a space for actors to feel comfortable creating, to the way he runs rehearsals, or how he brings his pieces together—it’s incredible. I’ve always seen his work from the outside, but now I’m in there watching… and it’s fascinating.”

-India Nicole Burton, Fire on the Water Co-Director and 2018/2019 NNPN Producer in Residence

Fire on the Water on ideastream

“We’re in this interesting place around the fire and the burning of the Cuyahoga River where we can look back 50 years and say, ‘Look at all this progress we’ve made.’ But are we at the pinnacle? Where are we headed now, and what is our responsibility to the future?”

-Raymond Bobgan, CPT Executive Artistic Director and Fire on the Water Conceiver, Lead Playwright, & Co-Director

Click here or on the image above to hear a story by 90.3 WCPN ideastream’s Carrie Wise featuring some of the local arts and culture organizations shining a spotlight on the environment this year, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River. At the 1:20 minute mark, Raymond & Carrie talk Fire on the Water!

The Stokes brothers: putting clean water on a nation’s agenda

“Stokes testified before Congress and advocated for federal legislation with his brother Louis, a congressman. All the attention eventually helped bring about the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the federal Clean Water Act of 1972… The river, described in 1969 as ‘biologically dead,’ is alive again, because of the EPA and its implementation of the Clean Water Act. Cleveland is ‘the mistake on the lake’ no longer.”

-Michael Mikulka,

Click here to read the full article on

Study up…

On June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire for the 13th time, sparking national attention that led to a wide range of reforms including the 1972 Clean Water Act and the establishment of federal and state environmental protection agencies. Explore the articles, photo galleries, and videos below to journey back in time to the Cuyahoga River’s past—and see how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go.

Capturing a nation’s attention: 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River featured in Time magazine

“No Visible Life. Some river! Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows. ‘Anyone who falls into the Cuyahoga does not drown,’ Cleveland’s citizens joke grimly. ‘He decays.’ The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration dryly notes: ‘The lower Cuyahoga has no visible life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes.'”

In its August 1969 issue, Time magazine ran a story on cities with polluted rivers, igniting nationwide concern. The flaming Cuyahoga became a symbol of America’s increasing environmental issues. However, the photo of the fire in the article (pictured) was actually from a much larger fire in 1952. No picture of the 1969 river fire is known to exist.

Click here to read the article in Time magazine from August 1969.

The way it was…

“The river was like a cauldron. It would just bubble up, oxygen trying to get out of the river. It had a coat of oil on it. And you’d see rats float down the river the size of dogs, bloated from whatever it was they ingested. And there was a rule that if you fell in the river, you immediately went to the emergency room in the hospital.”

Click here to read an article about the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River, featuring videos and historical photographs, on Cleveland Historical.

The road to recovery

“There was once smoke and fire. Now there is hope—not to mention places to dine and drink, row and fish and revel in how far the river has come.”

Click here to embark on a visual tour of the Cuyahoga’s comeback via

Test your knowledge! ideastream’s Cuyahoga River fire anniversary quiz

How many times has there been a fire on the Cuyahoga River? Can a river even actually catch fire? How many photographers came to the Cuyahoga River to take a photo of the 1969 fire?

Click here for an ideastream quiz to see how much you know about the burning of the Cuyahoga River.







Thank you to our Advisory Committee:

Peter Anagnostos
David Beach
Peter Bode
Molly Farris
Italo Gonzalez
Chief Matt Gray
Dave Karpinski
Councilman Martin Keane
Chief Valarie McCall
Linda Warren
Andrew Watterson
Chief Jason Wood
John Michael Zayac
Councilman Matt Zone