What motivates a veteran actor to accept an executive director role and bring an historic theater company back to life? In Shooner’s case, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll (the play, not the lifestyle). Plus a desire to stick around town.
“When I started New Edgecliff, I had just come back from my 17-year odyssey out of town,” he says. “I was tired of being on the road, working travelling shows. I was regrouping, trying to figure out what I was going to do. I happened to come across Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll. It blew me away.”
Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll is a one-man-show in which the actor plays 11 different characters. Shooner knew he had to perform that play. There was only one problem. “When I contacted the Cincinnati Arts Association they asked me what the name of my company was,” says the 1973 Edgecliff College graduate. “I hadn’t thought of it. Right at that moment, that’s what popped out—New Edgecliff Theatre.”
His one-man play ran for five shows to a receptive audience, good reviews and a best actor nomination from the Cincinnati CEA awards. “We damn-near broke even. I thought I was done. Then Jackie Demaline, [theater critic for the The Cincinnati Enquirer], calls me and asks, ‘Well, what’s up next for New Edgecliff?’ ”
Demaline has followed Shooner’s quest from the first opening night. “He devoted himself to The New Edgecliff Theatre. It was his desire to emulate all the professionalism and excitement of the original Edgecliff. He’s created something that has a history and a life.”
Through it all, Shooner never relished his role as director as much as a role on stage. “Until very recently, we were in a state where we were just surviving, not thriving.” Now entering its 16th season, with new directors and board members, plus upcoming productions in the Fifth Third Bank Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, New Edgecliff’s plot line is shifting away from a cliffhanger back to center stage in the Cincinnati arts community.