Performances by Ray McNiece

Poet, Performer, Educator...




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Ray McNiece, poet, performer, educator - poems, poetry education, performer, and more...(photo)

Ray McNiece

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Ray McNiece's Page-to-Stage ProductionsRay McNiece's Page-to-Stage ProductionsShows - Solo Theater - Poetry - Music - Rock 'n Roll


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Click here for performances of Ray and his Band, Tongue In Groove

 photo credit above, Tim Lachina

Yeats and McNiece, at CPT

     Cleveland poet and performer Ray McNiece is on stage in the Cleveland Public Theatre's debut production of "Open Mind Firmament," a play about William Butler Yeats, and most specifically focussed on Yeats' Cuchulain cycle, a series of short plays about incidents in the life of the mythic Irish hero C?Chulainn (the pronunciation of whose name, by the way, is a subject of some scholarly debate: Yeats prefered the pronunciation "ku-HOO-lin").

     Yeats was himself intimately involved with the theater (along with friends, he established the Irish Literary Theatre to produce Irish and Celtic plays), on a mission to produce a form of theatre that avoided "vulgar realism" in favor of an avant-garde theatre emphasizing symbolism, nuance, and poetry.

     Roy Berko calls this production "visually compelling"-- I'll agree with that; the stagecraft (on a very nearly empty stage) is magnificent. This is a performance combining symbolism, dance, scholarly analysis, and Irish song. I think Yeats would be proud. And Ray McNiece is brilliant in the role of Cuchulain.

Lives of a Poet

The Lives of a Poet

 Written by Ray McNiece
Directed by Jordan Davis
Music by Al Moses

      Through Linked poems, songs and monologues, Ray McNiece presents, The Lives of a Poet, a Memoir on Stage depicting the many facets of his life as a performer.  Live music and ancestral images help him tell the tales of a poet whose words have carried him from the rusty crucible of Cleveland across the wide world.

     From first finding his callings not as a preacher but as a poet in the hills and hollers of Appalachia to the working class crucible of Cleveland that forged his hard edged colloquial verse, Ray McNiece takes the audience on a poetic journey through the wonders of words that have carried him from stages in 49 of the United States to international performances in Europe, Russia and Asia.

     Whether if be though drama, song or poem, this poet has been making a living by living his making through language. The significant creations that make up this memoir on stage will be linked by the back stories that provided their genesis.

     Al Moses provides musical accompaniment for original songs and created sound-scapes to accentuate the poems and monologues that make up these various lives. Jordan Davis directs and conceptualizes the ancestral images and voices that guide a poet walking in the footsteps of endless others.  A poet is the sum total of all those met, all those voices heard, and all those lives lived.

 US? Talking Across America

US Stage Performance

         This 80 minute picaresque tour of average Americans and their opinions starts in Times Square and ends on Hollywood Boulevard. Performed in front of a wall-size map of the country made from 50 used flags that were going to be burned, we hear from we, the people--a factory worker in Cleveland, a survivalist in the hills of West Virginia, a cow on a ramp in the Midwest, a truck driver, a broken-down bronco buster, a country and western singer in a Reno bowling alley, and a young hustler -- as they offer their questions and responses to the question, "What one question would you like to ask the American people?" Of US?

US:  Talking Across America, created and performed by Ray McNiece
              Amy Sparks of the Free Times writes, "McNiece smoothly blends fine writing with an angry political conscience and deft theatrical techniques to create a series of characters straight from the streets." In a review from the Orlando Fringe Festival the Sentinel called Ray "a folk troubadour descendant of Woody Guthrie. He has a way with words and a dry sense of humor." The Star-Phoenix said, "His thoughtful writing combines with perfectly timed delivery to create a powerful wordscape that owes as much to jazz as writing." [ 80 minutes ] 
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DIS:  Voices from a ShelterDIS:  Voice from a Shelter, created and performed by Ray McNiece...

     This 75 minute, one-act series of linked monologues, poems and songs is a visceral and poignant portrait of disrespected people --the homeless. A dozen characters covering a cross-section of the street population, including a Vietnam vet, a Native American, a de-institutionalized mental patient, and an elderly woman, present their thoughts and feeling with riveting insight. The monologues are composites of the stories and experiences told by the guests of the Boston Night Center, an all-night drop-in center near Boston's theatre district.

       The video version of this show was produced by WGBH-Boston and aired on PBS nationally. In a review of DIS from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, London's Stage and Television Today said, "The energy he has for each character is impressive and he never fails to surprise with the variety packed into the show." The Edinburgh Scotsman reported, "McNiece's characters are acutely observed, the speech patterns and mannerisms perfectly caught. In a review in dialogue, arts in the Midwest, John Stickney wrote, "McNiece lends these victims a face with a voice and words, not full of pity but with individual dignity."   [ 75 minutes ]    
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     Conversations:  Homegirl and Whiteboy

Ray McNiece with Shawn D. Jackson, Homegirl and White Boy, Conversations across the racial divide...       
   This one hour deconstruction of racial and gender stereotypes, performed with Shawn D. Jackson, uses poetry, storytelling, drumming, and game-show satire to explore relationships. Based on interviews with other interracial couples and their own experiences across the country, the play details issues of race and identity and the challenges faced by lovers crossing cultural boundaries. A black and white Romeo and Juliet for the 90's. A seminar/question and answer follows each performance. [ 60 minutes ]    
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Mouth Music

 Mouth Music -- A Two-Bit Poetry Opera

    This 90 minute performance in two acts features vocalist Ray McNiece and the band Tongue-in -Groove, along with guest musicians in a musical m?ange of poetry and song. From Rusty Junkyard Rock and Roll to Hillbilly Hip-hop, from Acid Polka to Classical, come hear Laughing Sal's echo, a mongrel on the edge of the Flats bark at Steel Cleveland Sagging, Johnny McEldoo's dine and dash donnybrook, and Vedron Smelovic's dirge for Sarajavo as incarnated by the voice of Ray McNiece as he explores the diverse musical influences on his poetry.  [ 90 minutes ] 



 A Rust-Bowl Hootenanny

    This two hour extravaganza in two acts celebrates the urban Appalachian experience in the Industrial cities on the North Coast. Through his trademark mix of stories, songs and poems, Ray explores the themes of work, family and spirituality from his 'hillbilly' roots. The second act of the show includes local folk musicians doing traditional and contemporary songs and ends with a Mountain dance call. [ 120 minutes ]  
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    Ray's Band  Tongue - In - Groove
Contact Ray  

The Millard Fillmore Presidential Library bar & grill
15617 Waterloo Rd, Cleveland, OH 44110
(216) 481-9444

Tongue n Groove

Plays the third Sunday of the month at 6

Sample Fillmore performance 

At the Fillmore

(on hiatus for January and February due to Covid)

March 20th, featuring Irish American Seanachie, Sean Thomas Daughtery,
April 17, internationally touring Nepalese Poet Yuyutsu Sharma
May 15, Ray McNiece?s belated 60th Birthday Bash, featuring Zoom Workshop Poets
 June 19, Daniel Gray-Kontar,
July 17, Raja Belle Freeman

 Love Song for Cleveland: 

Tupelo Honey: 

Crazy Heart, Barking Spider: 

Here's a clip of Tongue In Groove from back at the start

Education:  See Teaching Literature through Song Lyrics, The Poetry of Rock and Roll

Ray McNiece on guitar with Tongue n Groove...Tongue n Groove, at the Powerhouse Pub, Cleveland, Ohio, with Ray McNiece in the lead...

Ray and the boys in the band...

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