When Cleveland's Hanna Theatre formally reopens the last week of September, the first round of applause may come from behind the unraised curtain, several minutes before the show begins.
After the Hanna opened in 1921, it became the custom of touring performers to sign their names on the inside of the 38-by-38-foot stage curtain. As time went on, those signatures became a virtual index of show-business glory. ... Helen Hayes' name is there. So are those of Henry Fonda, Ethel Barrymore and Katharine Hepburn, Al Jolson, Don Ameche, Mary Martin, Carol Channing and dozens more.
That curtain still hangs. And before it rises on the evening of Sept. 30, there'll be another signature added. This time, it will belong to a nationally known creator of theatrical magic who's fast becoming a latter-day Flo Ziegfeld.
That impresario is Ray K. Shepardson, who midwifed Cleveland's Playhouse Square Foundation into existence in the 1970s, left the city in 1979 to renovate or refurbish 25 more theaters from Boston to Seattle and San Diego, and now has come back to roost — permanently, he says — at the Hanna.