CLEVELAND, Ohio– “It was actually something that I never thought I’d ever do something different, for sure.” Dominic Rivera says.

Being in play, was something most of the men in the Y-Haven program, never thought they’d do, but after three months of preparation, their play “Father's Watch” is being seen by audiences across Northeast Ohio.

Y-Haven is a branch of the Cleveland YMCA. It is a transitional housing facility for formerly homeless men recovering from substance abuse and mental health challenges. This is the 21st year the program has partnered with Cleveland Public Theatre to put on a show written, produced, performed and inspired by the men of Y-Haven.

“We get stories from their past, we get stories that they write down, and we just started drawing a lot of raw material and start kind of jamming it together and seeing what common themes come up and use that common use those common themes to come up with one main story that we follow.” Education manager of Cleveland Public Theatre Adam Seeholzer says.

The original play “Fathers Watch” follows a young man on a journey to self-discovery. He’s faced with difficult decisions that could be life-altering. 

James Poon plays the role of the father. He says being in the play doesn’t only give him and the other men of Y-Haven skills for the stage, it’s teaching them life lessons.

“Coming outside of yourself, doing things that you wouldn’t normally do, being committed. I mean, I gained confidence because I haven’t missed a day yet, because I was committed to this.”

Leading up to opening night, the men rehearsed three times a day, three hours per rehearsal.” Poon says. 

“I go home exhausted, just like two and three hours of rehearsal. because it’s mentally, physically, it’s draining.” Rivera says.

Although exhausted, Dominic Rivera says rehearsal time is time well spent.

“I do morning groups, come in here for practice, and then go into meetings at night so my day is full, they keep me busy, keep me out of trouble for sure.” He says. 

The group will perform Father's Watch seven times by the end of this month; they hope the audience will leave entertained and also, a bit more understanding.

“My hope is that people in the audience can see people that normally society would like kick to the curb…see that people can change. you know, if given an opportunity.” Poon says. 

Rivera says he likes his experience with Cleveland public Theatre so much, he wants to stay on stage even after Fathers Watch comes to an end. 

“I’d stick with it. I love the atmosphere, and the people are my kind of people, I don’t know how to explain it. CPT is like, I feel at home here. I feel like I belong.” Rivera says.