Cincinnati Shakespeare Company Hosts World Premiere of Comedy 'Wrecking Ball'

Wrecking Ball was written by Zina Camblin, a Cincinnati native and SCPA alum.

click to enlarge Wrecking Ball staged for a preview performance. The world premiere is Oct. 13. - Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Wrecking Ball staged for a preview performance. The world premiere is Oct. 13.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is hosting the world premiere of Wrecking Ball starting Oct. 13. The new comedy was written by Cincinnati native and accomplished screenwriter and playwright Zina Camblin.

Camblin grew up in Clifton and went to the School for Creative and Performing Arts where she participated in many plays performed at the Taft Theatre, she says. She tells CityBeat that she’s honored to have work in the city again and that her education here was invaluable to her success.

“You know, it's really, really special,” Camblin says of premiering a play in her hometown. “It's really special. And without SCPA and the teachers that I had there, I wouldn't be where I am today in my career. SCPA was huge, like the DNA of who I became as an artist. It just feels good to come back and have my work be a part of the city again.”

Camblin has worked with networks like NBC and Warner Bros. She was named in Variety Magazine's "Top 10 Teachers in Entertainment Education" and wrote for Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga and Fox’s Almost Family. Camblin also wrote And Her Hair Went with Her, a celebrated comedic play about Black women and hair.

Wrecking Ball is a story written from experience. The comedy sees a Hollywood writers’ room swell with tension as writers work to adapt a controversial, classic play for a television series. Production is suddenly suspended when a “shocking truth” is revealed.

Wrecking Ball comes out of my own experience as being a TV writer in Hollywood,” Camblin says. “It was an opportunity to kind of combine my playwriting with my TV writing. And it's been really fun.”

Wrecking Ball is essentially Camblin writing about writing, which should turn out to be an insider and expert look at the reality of Hollywood. The actors in Wrecking Ball are adapting The Hot L Baltimore by Lanford Wilson, which is a rather unknown classic play set in the lobby of the Hotel Baltimore. In the comedy, varied residents are facing eviction after the property is condemned.

"The Hot L Baltimore just seemed like a really cool play,” Camblin says. “It's kind of obscure, it's classic, but not many people know it. It's about all these different kinds of people living in this rundown hotel. And it was actually made into a sitcom in the 1970s by Norman Lear. It had the first-ever gay couple on television and it had a bunch of characters of color, or at least like one or two, which at that time was a bunch, it was really groundbreaking.”
click to enlarge Wrecking Ball staged for a preview performance. The world premiere is Oct. 13. - Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Wrecking Ball staged for a preview performance. The world premiere is Oct. 13.
Camblin says Wrecking Ball characters are depicted perfectly via some of Cincinnati’s “heavy hitters.” She says all of the characters represent a small part of who she is and her life experience, like Meg (Dale Hodges), the longtime TV writer who's also a germaphobe or Abby (Victoria Cartagena), a gender-queer character who struggles to speak up at the writers' table.

Camblin also had the unique benefit of writing with this specific cast in mind, which she praises for their talent and portrayals.

“What was really cool about this particular play, which I've never had an experience doing before, was that I was writing towards specific Cincinnati actors,” she says. “So you know, when I thought about, okay, who are the writers? Who do I want this writers' room? Right? I thought of the actors I want. I thought of the people I wanted to see on that stage that I know and I loved dearly here in Cincinnati that are so incredibly talented. I want Burgess Byrd in that writers' room. I want Dale Hodges in that writers' room. I want Darnell [Pierre Benjamin] in that writers' room. So I had specific actors that I then wrote towards their strengths, because I know their work. And that was just so fun, to be able to write characters for specific Cincinnati actors. I had a blast doing that. And they're incredible.”

Camblin says Wrecking Ball prompts viewers to question the industry’s values, the creative process and sacrifices writers make for their art. It also comes at a relevant time, as the Writers Guild of America strike just ended.

Wrecking Ball runs through Oct. 28. For tickets and more information visit cincyshakes.com.


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About The Author

Katie Griffith

Katie Griffith is CityBeat’s arts and culture reporter. She proudly hails from the West Side of Cincinnati and studied journalism at the University of Cincinnati. After freelancing for CityBeat for many years, she is happy to continue sharing arts and culture news and stories in novel ways as a staff writer.
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