True story: Cincinnati theater celebrates 11 years of personal narratives

It has been said that the most compelling narratives are provided by real-world experiences. As the saying goes, “truth is stranger than fiction.” The theater can be the ideal place to chronicle these experiences, as the energy often facilitates the legitimacy and authenticity to the performance. For the last decade, these true stories have made their way to the stage here in Cincinnati. 

True Theatre, the company behind the local push to help people from all walks of life have their chance on stage, is gearing up for its first live and in-person show since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, scheduled for July 29. 

The love of storytelling was the premise that led Dave Levy to found True Theatre, a non-profit production agency dedicated to using the performer's own curated stories as the script. Since its inception in 2010, True Theatre has given hundreds of people the chance to share their stories.

Renee Alper at trueGRIT"When we originally approached The Know back in 2010 to host our very first show, our intent was to create a curated story-telling event, revolving around one specific topic,” Levy says. “The goal was to get different aspects of a shared experience; building community through the sharing of personal stories. Building bridges and knocking down walls. We made it a point to also provide performance coaching to the performers  to help make sure that their stories were memorable. The performances at The Know were a hit! So much so that The Know suggested that we create a season of shows." 

Since then, Levy, along with his partner Jeff Groh, managed to establish the theatre's non-profit status, giving them the ability to secure funding to create a full, annual season of true story productions. Now in its 11th season, each performance creates a respectful atmosphere where every voice can be heard and any story told — however ordinary or extraordinary, difficult or joyful.

Originally from Long Island, Levy moved to Cincinnati in 1992 following graduate school. Levy and Groh got the idea for True Theatre from listening to The Moth Radio Hour, a popular program that featured true stories behind some of our most favorite tales. 

Each of True Theatre’s shows consists of four to five stories, with each story ten minutes in length. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shows were held virtually. Levy was surprised by how well audiences responded to virtual shows, which was all the stronger because of how personal it felt.

"We didn't think that folks would respond well," Levy says. "But since we have taken our shows virtual, our audience attendance has actually grown. We have even had audience members from other countries tune in, like from Japan. So with our upcoming show, we plan to continue to offer virtual tickets as well as a live in-person experience." 

True Theatre has two upcoming shows: 

Thursday, July 29, 2021
7:30–9:30 p.m.
Memorial Hall

trueVOICES: Behind The Rainbow Curtain
Thursday, August 26, 2021
6:30–10:00 p.m.
The Woodward

If you have a true, personal story that you'd like to share, reach out to True Theatre at
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Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.