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.


Join hands June 29 in a farewell circle of love around St. Pat’s

NWT-2013-14-Brochure-CoverThis is it. Our last week of performances at the St. Pat’s Club Building, our home of 36 years, has arrived. Will you join us in saying a communal goodbye to this grand old place? Sunday, June 29, at about 4:45 p.m., after the final matinée of Move On!, you’re invited to join an outdoor community circle around our beloved building at 3606 Bridge Avenue. Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. is creating a brief farewell ritual in which we’ll join hands and raise voices to say goodbye to this place where so many lives have been touched, so many relationships formed, so much passion shared.

You’re encouraged to join the circle (it’s a free, public event) even if you’re not in the audience that day, though we do hope you’ll help us fill the house Thursday through Sunday. Tickets for shows at 7:30 p.m. June 26, 27 and 28, and 3 p.m. June 29, are available online anytime or by phoning 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.

And what of the future?

First, the cast, crew and staff of Move On! will go back inside after MOVE ON poster 4the outdoor gathering and carry out an important Near West Theatre tradition. It’s almost unbearably emotional to think of the last potluck and gift circle — experienced by so many participants over the decades — taking place on those risers and that stage Sunday night.

Then the transition begins. Our Tech Work Session participants, led by Technical Director and Production Manager Josh Padgett, Assistant Technical Director Perren Hedderson, and Stage Manager Ryan Wolf, will spend the summer dismantling our set, risers and theatrical equipment, taking inventory, and storing much of it to await the move in early 2015 to our future home, still under construction in the Gordon Square Arts District. In this way, our equipment can be readied for transit as soon as the interior of our new theater becomes available, even as we put on a fall show elsewhere.

The familiar West 38th Street side door of West Side UCC, where our fall show will be. Photo by Hans Holznagel

The West 38th Street side door of West Side UCC, where we’ll be this fall. Photo by Hans Holznagel

And there will be a fall show! Auditions for a musical soon to be announced will be Sept. 2, 3 and 4. For cast members ages 7 through adult, the production will be rehearsed September through November and performed Nov. 21 through Dec. 7 in the sanctuary of West Side United Church of Christ, 3800 Bridge Avenue, right across West 38th Street from St. Pat’s. It’s a familiar place to past KLAMOR participants and audiences and a long-time rehearsal site for our Annual Benefit. We’re grateful to the folks at West Side UCC  for making room for us during what promises to be an exciting transitional half-season. – 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.


See this goodbye, even if it’s your first hello

If you’ve never seen a show at Near West Theatre, you may wonder: Why bother with a farewell show in a third-floor church ballroom?

The cast of Move On! at a June 12 rehearsal. Photo by Mo Eutazia

Standing for justice during a June 12 Move On! rehearsal. Photo by Mo Eutazia

My advice: do bother. Go climb the stairs and see Move On!, and not just because it’s Near West’s last production ever in the St. Pat’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave. Don’t even just go for the good reason that it’s a piece of Cleveland arts history: founding Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek and almost-founding Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. have shaped the show, and they join a cast of 65 in performing it in the same place where it all started back in 1978. No, see it above all because it’s fun, passionate and satisfying. It’s a mix of music, the spoken word and projected images a that form a grand, interesting, moving artistic experience. It’s about the power of theater — and this theater in particular, in this part of Cleveland — to change lives and build community.

Move On! presents Broadway and popular songs in a concert style and intersperses them with original poems, video interviews and testimonials written or voiced over the years by people who have seen and felt the impact of Near West’s mission. The production showcases the power of Near West Theatre’s process to build relationships and create great art, while also explaining its socially conscious roots and its place as an institution in an unusually rich, MOVE ON poster 4diverse, challenged, changing neighborhood. It’s embodied by a diverse cast of ordinary people ranging in age from 7 to 60, and augmented in a delightful way by video interviews and still images assembled by Assistant Technical Director Perren Hedderson.

Soloists, duos and the entire ensemble belt, croon and harmonize beautifully, backed by the strong work of assistant musical director Jordan Cooper on keyboard, drummer Rick Tyler and trumpeter Juan Ingram.

Hang around afterwards to enjoy refreshments, greet the actors, check out the many Near West artifacts displayed throughout the space by Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski, and say goodbye to St. Pat’s, even if it was your first hello. Come back one more time if you can, around 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, June 29, after the  final matinee, to join hands with the community as we encircle St. Pat’s for a brief farewell ritual. We’re moving on to a transitional half-year of theater across the street at West Side United Church of Christ and then into our new building in the Gordon Square Arts District in early 2015. With you, I hope. – Hans Holznagel

The cast, crew and staff of Move On!, pictured on June 12, 2014. Photo by Mo Eutazia

The cast, crew and staff of Move On! on June 12. Photo by Mo Eutazia

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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.

 


‘pARTy’ with NWT @ Gordon Square, Sat., June 14

pARTYlogoThe Near West Theatre outdoor stage returns this Saturday, just a few feet from the steel rising above the site of our new theater in the Gordon Square Arts District. Our stage on Detroit Avenue at West 67th Street will be among the featured music venues during the annual pARTy in Gordon Square festival on Saturday, June 14. Brief performances every half hour, from 2 p.m. until shortly before 6 p.m., will include a kids’ ensemble singing selections from Once On This Island Jr. and a half-dozen familiar NWT soloists sharing Broadway and other popular and original tunes, accompanied by pianist Jordan Cooper. In the past, when our site was not yet excavated, we had room under the NWT tent for a DJ, dancing and various activities, ranging from games to a cookout to kids’ crafts. This year — because we’re FINALLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION — we’ve got less space. But it’ll still be fun: a stage, a tent, some chairs, lots of great music, and a constant stream of “pARTy”-ers going by the space that will soon become a plaza in front of our new buidling. (Sorry, no Broadway karaoke with Bob Navis Jr. this year: we all have to get over to St. Pat’s for a 7:30 p.m. show!)

Singer Mariah Burks and accompanist Jordan Cooper, seen here in 2012, are among the performers returning to the NWT outdoor stage on June 14.

Singer Mariah Burks and accompanist Jordan Cooper, seen here in 2012, are among the performers returning to the NWT outdoor stage on June 14.

The fun throughout the Gordon Square Arts District starts in the morning in and around the Capitol Theatre, with cartoons, face painting aand shuttle rides to Cleveland’s East Side for Parade the Circle. It continues throughout the afternoon and evening with music, vendors and activities in several Gordon Square locations, especially at the main stage in Cleveland Public Theatre’s parking lot. Of course, you’re also encouraged to make your way over to Bridge Avenue and West 38th Street for Near West Theatre’s 7:30 performance of Move On!, as our farewell to the St. Patrick’s Club Building continues. Below is the Near West Theatre Stage lineup. Stop by and see us! — Hans Holznagel

 Near West Theatre Stage Schedule, Sat., June 14, 2014:

Song from Broadway and the great American songbook!

Time Performer(s)
2:00 to 2:15 Once On This Island Jr. ensemble
2:30 to 2:45 Mariah Burks
3:00 to 3:15 Once On This Island Jr. ensemble (repeat)
3:30 to 3:45 Eric Fancher
4:00 to 4:15 Trinidad Snider
4:30 to 4:45 Kevin Joseph Kelly
5:00 to 5:15 CoCo Smith
5:30 to 5:45 Mo Eutazia and Kelcie Dugger

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