Rehearsals began for the Lorain County Community College theater department’s spring production of “Blooms of Steel”, an original musical written by local playwright Kimberly Aldrich-Ceja. The play turned musical is being produced by the Lorain Historical Society; in partnership with the Lorain Palace Theater and Lorain County Community College’s Department of Theatre.
The musical tells the story of the community that grew around the steel mill in Lorain, Ohio through the family history of fictional steel mill retiree, Emil Hubiak.
The show’s cast and crew is comprised of LCCC students, members of the general public, and several actors and actresses from the Cleveland area.
Although most of the production and rehearsals will take place on the LCCC campus in the Cirigliano Studio Theater the actual performance will take place in the Lorain Palace Theater April 22-24.
The journey of the play itself began in the fall of 2007 at the request of Gary Gerrone of the Lorain County Metro Parks.
“They were looking for a playwright to create a work about the mill to coincide with the opening of a new trail through repurposed steel mill property. As a result, I was commissioned by the Lorain County Metro Parks to write Blooms of Steel, which opened in May 2008. It was produced by Rick Fortney and TrueNorth Cultural Arts. While the original play incorporated music, along with a great deal of historical narrative, images and flashback scenes, it was not a musical.”
Aldrich-Ceja later received a call in 2013 from a family friend who was associated with the Lorain Historical Society regarding the play and the potential to produce it. Aldrich-Ceja credits Barb Piscopo as the driving force behind making the script a reality just as much as the production crew and cast.
When picking a venue there was one special place in mind for Aldrich-Ceja, The Lorain County Historical Society and crew. “It made sense to stage it in the heart of Lorain at the Lorain Palace Theater, one of the most beautiful theaters in the area.” stated Aldrich-Ceja.
“When I first heard about Blooms of Steel it was during the summer when a friend was looking for some people to do a table reading of it at the Lorain Historical Society,” explained director Skip Corris. “I read a few small parts, and gave a bit of feedback to Kim [Aldrich-Ceja]. The director of the LCCC theater department Jeremy Benjamin asked me if would be interested in directing it in the spring, as I’d directed another historical work, Jeffrey Sweet’s American Enterprise,” Corris added. Corris also directed a table reading of Blooms in the Cirigliano Studio Theatre in August 2015.
“I responded to it because I enjoy showing history onstage, and I liked the music Kim [Aldrich-Ceja] had written for it. I also saw that it called for a multi-media approach.”
“When I used to tour shows I was always interested in the history of the cities I visited, especially the mix of different ethnic groups and their stories. I think that moving into Lorain County, rather than having grown up here, gave me a unique perspective on the area and the people of Lorain.”
“I wasn’t around for the boom times, and among my first students at LCCC were many displaced steelworkers. I saw their personal stories, and I’ve become a part of the area as I raised my own children to adulthood.” added Corris. “Kim, through her music and media, has told many family stories in her play, stories that are so very important to remember and learn from as we grow and change. The story of Blooms, after all, is the story of the resilience and ingenuity of Lorain’s people encountering and facing challenges over time, and preparing to use that resilience and ingenuity to face the future.”
Aldrich-Ceja, a LaGrange native, spent most of her childhood in her mother’s home town of Lorain where Ceja’s grandparents owned a local store. Ceja’s husband and his family also grew up in Lorain and worked for the steel mill. “Both of his parent’s families came to Lorain from other countries to work in the mill,” Aldrich-Ceja said.
Aldrich-Ceja’s inspiration for the play and now musical began around the same time as her love of writing and performing. “Writing has always been a center in my life,” Aldrich-Ceja said. “I used to write a lot of short stories as a child, many of which my mother saved.”
“The play is not about the steel mill, but the community that grew around the mill, like a flower on a tree or an actual bloom of steel, which is a product of the steel mill. Many people, including my husband and his Mexican and Russian parents, would not exist had it not been for the mill. The story of the fictional Hubiak / Bloom family is a combination of the history of my own family, my husband’s family and stories from numerous community members.” Aldrich-Ceja replied when asked about the subject of the plot.
There will still be work to do when it comes to the script even all the way up to opening night.
“The process of editing the original script has proved quite challenging,” explained Aldrich-Ceja on the process. “Simple updates soon morphed into a new story that weaves the past into present-day challenges, while offering hope for the future. As we move forward through rehearsals, we will iron out the kinks. It is a work in progress, and I anticipate making changes even after the show is produced.”
Music director David Blazer, a veteran of the LCCC music department, has assisted the theater department’s musical productions, looks forward to the new piece of work and where it goes.
“Right out of undergrad school I lived in the Lorain area and understood the message that this play has,” Blazer explained. He also commented on the composing. Saying, “the music and lyrics are incredible. Lyrics being so relevant to both time periods that we encounter in the show. The music has great melodies and such a variety of genres, moods and emotions.”
“It is just such an honor to be part of this project and to work on a musical, especially when the writer of the script and the music is in our midst. Kim [Aldrich-Ceja] has such personality and enthusiasm that this is going to be one of those projects that will be a hit – and probably one that we all will be so sad when it ends or then again, maybe it will move to Broadway.” added Blazer.
“When I was first hired I wanted to find a way to tell the story of the history of the City of Lorain that was engaging and that would appeal to a wide audience,” Barb Piscopo, executive director of the Lorain County Historical Society explained about the musical and the hopeful impact it will have on the community.
“The collaboration between the Lorain Historical Society, the Lorain Palace Theater and LCCC’s Theater Department has been a great example of how organizations working together can create something that will be a benefit to the entire community. We are grateful to Dr. Roy Church and the Palace Board for their willingness to take on such an undertaking.”