Construction update: Video and pictures

A coating called "fluid applied air barrier" is being sprayed on this week over golden "dense board." They're they'll be followed by more layers of insulation before metal siding goes on. Photos by Hans Holznagel

A coating called “fluid applied air barrier” is being sprayed this week onto gold-colored “dense board.” They’ll be followed by more kinds of insulation before metal siding goes on this fall. Photos by Hans Holznagel

With cranes gone and steel beams no longer flying overhead, we’ve been able walk through our framed-in future home several times during these latter weeks of summer. With just over four months of basic construction to go, we’re now seeing three-dimensional spaces that in the past we could only visualize with drawings, models and lots of imagination. Filmmaker Ted Sikora, who has been shooting a piece about our art and mission since Move On! rehearsals, took a quick August tour with two guys who will spend long work hours in the new building once it’s done: Technical Director and Production Manager Josh Padgett and Stage Manager and Assistant Production Manager Ryan Wolf. Here’s the fun result. (By the way, actors and staff, that side door, with the ladder: it’ll be a real door with stairs when it’s done!)

Below are still photos of a few emerging features of the building that might help you envision what the theater will eventually look like, even with daylight currently streaming through places that will eventually be sealed up tightly for the sake energy efficiency and the beauty of theatrical lighting.

As for timing: We’re still planning on getting occupancy to the building in early January 2015, holding a series of “sneak preview, theater-in-progress” events and parties there from February through April (including our Annual Benefit on a Saturday in late February), and producing our grand-opening, main-stage musical in April and May. – Hans Holznagel

Donors Chuck and Char Fowler, Board President Jason Bristol, and staffers Stephanie Morrison Hrbek and Josh Padgett toured the auditorium Aug. 21.

Donors Chuck and Char Fowler, Board President Jason Bristol, and staffers Stephanie Morrison Hrbek and Josh Padgett toured the auditorium Aug. 21.

Jason Bristol, president of NWT Board of Trustees, and donors Char and Chuck Fowler pause of an upstage-center picture Aug. 21 on recently completed concrete.

Jason Bristol, president of NWT Board of Trustees, and donors Char and Chuck Fowler paused Aug. 21 for an upstage-center picture on recently completed concrete.

The back wall separating the auditorium from the lobby was becoming visible in this Aug. 25 photo.

The back wall separating the auditorium from the lobby was becoming visible in this Aug. 25 photo. Above it is the balcony.

A ramp from the house to the stage, seen here Aug. 21, is one of the features that will make us compliant -- and gladly so -- with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A ramp from the house to the stage, seen here Aug. 21, is one of the features that will make us compliant — and gladly so — with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One of two sets of stairs connecting lower level, lobby and balcony was being installed Aug. 20.

One of two sets of stairs connecting lower level, lobby and balcony was being installed Aug. 20.

The windows that will serve our lower-level refreshment counter were becoming visible on Aug. 20.

The windows that will serve our lower-level refreshment counter were becoming visible on Aug. 20.

On Aug. 25, only the northwest corner remained to be closed in with "dense board" insulation over the wood that surrounds the steel frame.

On Aug. 25, only the northwest corner remained to be closed in with “dense board” — the first layer of insulation — over the wood that surrounds the steel frame.

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Near West Theatre’s $7.3 million construction project is part of the cooperative Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign, which has raised nearly $30 million not only for the new NWT but also for the renovation of the now-reopened Capitol (film) Theatre, extensive physical improvements at Cleveland Public Theatre, districtwide streetscape improvements and parking. Near West Theatre is also grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


‘Superstar’ artwork’s ready. Now we need you!

JCS publicity imageIt’s exciting every year: Fall auditions are almost here. You know things are getting real when the production staff starts meeting and the first artwork appears. Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. and staff designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski have come up with an evocative, beautifully designed publicity image for our coming production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s an electric-blue version of Da Vinci’s Vetruvian man overlaid with ominous crosshairs and crowned with a line from the show, “To conquer death, you only have to die.” Together with the style of lettering, the image suggests a kind of ancient-medieval-contemporary continuum, as well as the tension inherent in the story as Jesus of Nazareth is celebrated one moment and targeted the next.

Now we need you! As noted at the show’s web page and in an earlier blog post, we’re planning an unusual production of this king of rock operas, taking full advantage of the 160-year-old West Side United Church of Christ sanctuary where it will be staged. We need a large, diverse cast of people of all ages, 7 and up, and all levels of acting experience, including no experience at all! Auditions are on the evenings of Sept. 2, 3 and 4. All are encouraged to give it a try; no advance registration is necessary. Consider joining our audition event page on Facebook and inviting other Facebook friends.

If the stage isn’t calling you but you want to get involved, there are plenty of opportunities. We’ll need backstage and tech volunteers who can commit to the last couple of weeks of rehearsal in November and then to every performance, Nov. 21 through Dec. 7. Call Kelcie Dugger at 216-961-9750 if you’re interested. We’ll also need the usual army of volunteers in the box office, concession stand, gift shop, and house, and people to bake goodies and pop popcorn. For those jobs, you can volunteer one night, several times, or for the whole run of the show. To express interest in that, chime in at our Near West Theatre Volunteers Facebook page or send an e-mail to volunteer coordinator Kim Flaherty at volunteers.NWT@gmail.com. And don’t forget about tickets! They’re available online anytime or by calling 216-961-6391 weekdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Hans Holznagel

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.

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Near West Theatre’s community theater production of

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Lyrics by Tim Rice       Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber


In the spotlight: NWT alumna Amanda Krupman

Amanda Krupman

Amanda Krupman

In 1996, on West 48th Street between Sunnyside and Fulton Parkway in Old Brooklyn, Ohio, a friend invited J.F. Rhodes High School student Amanda Krupman to audition at Near West Theatre. Before she knew it, she was cast as Minnie in Hello, Dolly! She returned for two 1999 shows: Bye Bye Birdie and Seasons of Love. What she may not have known at the time was how these experiences would impact her future.

Today, Amanda is a writer and nightlife performer in Brooklyn, N.Y. She writes short fiction, serves as a mentor for teenage writers through the organization Girls Write Now, and has a great day job in communication for one of the schools at City College of New York. She credits her experiences at Near West Theatre with making a lifelong impact, especially when it comes to mentoring teenagers with creative passions. The Near West Circle interviewed her recently.

Q. What was one of your best NWT memories?

A: As I’m sure you’ll hear from countless other NWT alumni, I found Near West Theatre at a time when it was especially crucial I find structured support, creative validation, and a loving community. It is hard to focus on just one memory. I was cast mates with some singularly hilarious and memorable people, and I could relay a variety of formative experiences and bonds.

What I can say is that I associate my time with NWT as one that taught me about what I like to refer to as the power of kith: that is, of chosen family. As a member of the LGBTQ community, over the years I’ve continually reflected upon my time with NWT as one that introduced me to a functional family model. At the time, I was often overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless love, which infused a solid structure that valued interdependence, accountability, and taking on creative challenges.

Q: You mentioned that mentorship was an important part of your NWT experience – who mentored you and how?

A: Going back to the family model, I consider it to have been a collective mentoring experience; my emotional and creative growth can be traced back to my relationships with Bob Navis, Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Carole and Bruce Hedderson, Trinidad Rosario, Stephanie Taylor-Ayers, and so many others.

Q. How did NWT prepare you for your current ventures? 

A. As a performer, NWT offered me the building blocks for stage confidence and craft. But more importantly, as I would become an advocate and activist for social justice, I credit NWT with pulling me in close to my fellow Cleveland West Side community members. Through those relationships I exercised my developing senses of empathy, solidarity, humble curiosity (in the face of not knowing answers but still asking questions), and I began to develop the capacity to translate internal passion into external good works.

– Julie Cajigas

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


Theater stuff on sale July 31, Aug. 1

Our St. Pat's tear-down as it looked on July 8. Photo by Josh Padgett

Our St. Pat’s tear-down as it looked on July 8. Photo by Josh Padgett

As we complete the tear-down of our 36-year home in the St. Pat’s Club Building, we’re ready to part with items that won’t make the trip to our new theater. We’re selling speakers, lights, monitors, a lighting console, tools, casters and more this Thursday, July 31, and Friday, Aug. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 3606 Bridge Ave., third floor. We can only accept cash and company checks, and you’ll need to take the items away with you when you buy them. All sales are final! Questions? Send an e-mail to Near West Theatre Technical Director Josh Padgett, padgett_josh@hotmail.com.

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


Our fall 2014 show: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

This fall, in 2014, Near West Theatre will be between homes. We left the St. Patrick’s Club Building in June, and our new theater in the Gordon Square Arts District is not quite completed. But we’re still doing shows! We are thrilled to announce an explosive production of one of the most popular musicals of all time, Jesus Christ Superstar, presented in the historic West Side United Church of Christ, located at – well, at West 38th Street and Bridge Avenue, Cleveland. Does that sound familiar? It should! It’s literally across the streetfrom our old St. Pat’s home of 3 ½ decades. For three weekends in November and December, and for rehearsals all fall, the people of West Side UCC are opening their beautiful sanctuary to Near West Theatre. We will transform this space of stained glass and intricate wood carving into a theatrical rock venue.

NWT last presented Superstar as a 2003 summer youth production.

NWT last presented Superstar as a 2003 summer youth production. Photo by Rob Sommerfelt.

Jesus Christ Superstar, the king of rock operas, was created at the end of the turbulent 1960s with a social and political rebel at its center. Jesus’ meteoric rise to fame provides, as the title suggests, a parallel to contemporary celebrity worship. Judas sings, “If you strip away the myth from the man, you can see where we all soon will be,” prophesying centuries of controversy that would surround this one man, his life and his identity. Propelled by a stirring score that is driving and majestic, satirical and tender, JCS illuminates the transcendent power of the human spirit. This show startles the mind with its relevance and social implications.

It’s sure to sell out! Our production will feature a large cast of children, teens and adults. Experience the convergence of lead guitar, pipe organ, pews, passion, percussion and provocation. Grab a friend and come audition right after Labor Day. I hope to see you there!

West Side UCC is on the same side of Bridge Avenue as our former home, the St. Patrick's Club Building. Photo by Hans Holznagel

West Side UCC (foreground) is on the same side of Bridge Avenue as our former home, the St. Patrick’s Club Building (background). Photo by Hans Holznagel

One question we’ve been hearing is this: If your new theater won’t be ready till 2015, why didn’t you stay at St. Pat’s longer? The answer: We chose June for our last show at St. Pat’s to give our technical crew needed time between the dismantling of our old space and the move into our new building. If our fall show were at St. Pat’s, we wouldn’t be ready as soon as our Gordon Square theater becomes available. West Side UCC is a wonderful interim site: familiar to our community from past projects, available for rehearsals, and with a large gathering space where we can perform a stunning Superstar with reduced theatrical equipment. – Bob Navis Jr.

Jesus Christ Superstar Audition and Production Schedules

Auditions: Tuesday, Sept. 2, Wednesday, Sept. 3, and Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014

  • Ages 7 to 13:  6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
  • Ages 14 through adult: 7:30 to 10:00 p.m.

As always, our auditions will be conducted in a relaxed, friendly, group-oriented atmosphere. No preparation or experience is required. Dress for movement. Arrive 15 minutes early to register.

Performances: Nov. 21 through Dec. 7, 2014. Sunday performances are at 7 p.m., except for the possibility of a matinee on Nov. 23, to be announced.

  • Friday, Nov. 21 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 22 – 7:30 p.m.
  • [Sunday, Nov. 23 -- 3 p.m. -- possible matinee TBA]
  •  (No performance Thanksgiving Day)
  • Friday, Nov. 28 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 29 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 30 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 4 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 5 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 6 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 7 – 7:00 p.m.

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


Building new experiences through dismantling past ones: summer tech work sessions in action

Kristin, Mary, and Hayden first pose for a photo before another day of packing away equipment.

Kristin, Mary and Hayden pose for a photo before another day of packing away equipment. Photos by Nathan Cole

Now that Near West Theatre has “moved on” from St. Pat’s, pieces from the last production linger in the space, along with equipment used in many years of shows. With the help of NWT’s technical staff, three area students are assisting in tearing it all down during the theater’s Summer Tech Work Sessions. On a recent Monday, Kristin Seastrand, Mary Halm, and Hayden Cook were deconstructing the theater’s risers.

Mary, a rising sophomore at Montessori High School, found dismantling the set odd. “There’s so much work that went into building the set,” she said. “It’s a long process to tear it down.” From now through Aug. 7, the students will be taking apart the theater’s technical equipment and set, recording an inventory, and organizing what’s being saved for a winter move to Near West Theatre’s new home.

Although this is Mary’s first time lending her hand in the technical work of theater, she does have stage experience with NWT. After watching her sister be so involved with the theater and the relationships she developed, Mary wanted the chance for herself. She performed in Once on This Island in 2009, and has been in several productions since – including Move On!, NWT’s last-ever production at St. Pat’s, which closed June 29.

Some Tech Work Session participants are experiencing NWT for the first time. Kristin, a rising senior at James Ford Rhodes High School, found out about the program on the last day of the application cycle. Her aunt encouraged her to apply after seeing Move On! Hayden found NWT through his involvement in a summer job program. He jumped right in. A rising senior at Euclid High School, Hayden has acting experience outside of NWT and hopes to pursue a theatre education after high school. Hayden noted this program is giving him a “huge respect” for set building.

Hayden taking apart the risers.

Hayden taking apart the risers.

Since Near West’s new theater in the Gordon Square Arts District will be finished early in 2015, Mary is eager to build a set at next year’s work sessions. Asked if it was a hard process leaving St. Pat’s, Mary replied, “Yes and no.” She added, “I have so many memories that will live on, but I will make new memories at the new space.”

All three students agree this experience is giving them a greater appreciation for theater and would recommend it to others. “Jump in where you can,” Hayden said. “You can’t be afraid to start.” Josh Padgett, Technical Director of NWT, said participants next year will build a set at the new theater.

Between now and the winter move to our new building, we’re also preparing for a big, transitional fall production of Jesus Christ Superstar across the street from St. Pat’s, at West Side United Church of Christ (auditions Sept. 2, 3 and 4; performances Nov. 21 through Dec. 7; watch for details at the Near West website).

Till then, this summer’s Technical Work Sessions are another step in moving on: preparing the physical parts of the St. Pat’s legacy that will live on at West 67th Street and Detroit Avenue. Like the community itself, the artifacts that make the trip will help create a continuing legacy of art and mission in a new space. – Nathan Cole

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


Near West Theatre has left the building

Fr. Mark Dinardo of St. Patrick's Church offers thanks and best wishes to NWT before the final performance June 29. NWT Founder Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek holds the mike. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Fr. Mark Dinardo of St. Patrick’s Church offers thanks and best wishes to Near West before the final performance June 29. NWT Founder Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek holds the mike. Photos by Hans Holznagel

A downpour started near the end of the final performance of Move On! Sunday afternoon and caused a planned outdoor farewell gathering to be moved inside the St. Pat’s Club Building. We didn’t get to join hands in a circle around St. Pat’s to say goodbye to the building that has been our home since 1978, but perhaps it’s just as well. The hundreds of people who instead formed a “messy circle” indoors, spanning the stage, the floor and the risers, were a lovely mosaic from over the years: The cast, crew and staff of Move On! Father Mark Dinardo of St. Patrick’s Church. Gordon Square Arts District leaders and longtime NWT supporters Dick and Pat Pogue and Tom and Sandy Sullivan. Actors from every decade of past productions — longtime participants like Joanie Hoover, arguably NWT’s poet laureate. Parents and families of the Move On! cast. Volunteers from the house that day. And members of the community who simply answered the public call to show up for the post-show farewell moment. Young, old, participant, supporter, hand in hand, arm over shoulder — there couldn’t have been a moment that was more “NWT” in style, and maybe especially because it was indoors on a muggy, sweaty June afternoon.

A lovely litany written by Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr., which he led with founding Executive Director and choreographer Stephanie Morrison Hrbek — complete with the chant, “Ho, ho, hey, hey, Near West Theatre moves on today”– was a fitting tribute of well wishes and blessings upon the building that will forever contain memories of 36 years of relationships and art.

Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek leads the Move On! cast in a warmup before Near West's last-ever performance at St. Pat's.

Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek leads the Move On! cast in a warmup before Near West’s last-ever performance at St. Pat’s.

But it was really a coda to what had already functioned as the major blessing of the day: An off-the-hook grand finale of Move On!, a high-energy collection of music, big-screen projection and spoken word that somehow went to a new level in its ninth performance. The cast might understandably have gone all weepy, given how much this place has meant to everyone involved. But something else happened instead. To be sure, there were tears shed on stage, and there was nothing fake about them. But mostly, from the downbeat of “Merrily We Roll Along” to the company exit on “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” you could tell everyone onstage was in the zone: giving and receiving energy from each other, improvising within a well designed structure, nourished by (and returning) the appreciation given them by an audience that stood, shouted, joined in when invited, and interrupted the performance with applause like never before — in a run that had already featured remarkably appreciative audiences. That’s what happens when community is built on stage in each production, and when connections with the wider community are built over the years. That’s Near West Theatre.

The Move On! reaches skyward before the last show ever at St. Pat's.

The Move On! cast reaches skyward before the last show ever at St. Pat’s.

Another downpour is no doubt happening as this post is being written. It’s the last hour of the last farewell cast-crew-staff gift circle on a stage that has seen dozens and dozens of them. Tears of release, sadness, gratitude and love are the stuff of these goodbye circles, where folks who have seen way too much of each other for many, many weeks now realize it’s suddenly over. This group knows it has the added task of saying goodbye in behalf of hundreds and hundreds of participants, each of whom has left a bit of his or her spirit embedded in the floorboards and wafting through the ether of the third-floor ballroom of the St. Pat’s Club Building. Whether or not they’re conscious of it, they and the wider community that gathered there today will be the ones to carry a large measure of that spirit into the future — first in our fall 2014 production at West Side United Church of Christ (soon to be announced) and then, in 2015, in our new theater now under construction in the Gordon Square Arts District.

For now, though, Near West Theatre has left the building. Long live the memories and legacies of the St. Pat’s years. – Hans Holznagel

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


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