James Levin '75
Award-winning director, playwright, and producer, James Levin founded the Cleveland Public Theatre in 1981, bringing innovative off-off-Broadway-style theatre to Cleveland after three years with the LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City. He served as the founding executive and artistic director for CPT for more than 20 years. In 2007, he was awarded the prestigious Ohio Arts Council "Governor's Award" for community impact and, in 2012, he was awarded the Robert Bergen Prize by the Cleveland Arts Prize organization.
Levin has always embraced the idea of the arts’ role in community and economic development, and he continues that vision in current work. He was the founding director of the Gordon Square Cultural Arts District, the former executive and artistic director of Cleveland’s acclaimed Ingenuity Festival of Art and Technology, the Cleveland World Festival, and now presides over FireFish Arts, seeking to transform downtown Lorain, Ohio, into a thriving arts district. He is director of the Gordon Square Cultural Arts District, the former executive and artistic director of Cleveland’s acclaimed Ingenuity: A Festival of Arts & Culture, and the executive producer for Detroit Avenue Arts. He has also served as a professor and the Director of the college of Wooster’s Center for Entrepreneurship.
At the CPT, he has launched many regionally recognized projects such as the New Plays Festival, Danceworks, the Performance Art Festival, the American Indian Festival, Vaudeville, and such education projects as the Summer Theatre Enrichment Program for inner city youth and the Y Haven (transitional housing center for men in recovery) Theatre Project.
His directing credits include Atomic Vaudeville, Marat/Sade, The Sam Shepard Festival, and Killer Joe. He has written lyrics for various rock bands and for Let the Knowing Speak, a jazz cantata featuring Jon Hendricks, Jackie Byard, and Phil Wilson, and scripts for CPT’s late-night satire Titanic: The True Story and Up the Mountain, a project for the Y-Haven drug rehabilitation play.
With collaborator Linda Eisenstein, he has co-written lyrics and book to the musicals Lysistrata 2085, Star Wares: Life Without Television, The Chapel of Perpetual Desire presents a Liturgical Circus of Religious Fervour and Live Sex on Stage!, Star Wares: The Next Generation, and Discordia. The latter two won fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council.
Levin trained as a lawyer at Case Western Reserve University; after earning his degree and passing the bar, he moved to New York to pursue a career in theatre before his return to Cleveland. He continues to practice law in that city, having recently launched LegalWorks, an inner city clinic.