My Daily Routine: The Ins and Outs of My Full Time Volunteer Schedule at Near West Theatre

Susan is a full time staff volunteer in our office for this whole year. She will be writing monthly blog posts about her experiences being a full time volunteer and working with us at Near West Theatre. 


I’ve officially volunteered at Near West for one month, and a busy month it has been. I’ve worked my first production, The Snow Queen. I’ve attended staff meetings, and even spoke in a few of them. I officially have a desk, still working on bringing in desk knick-knacks. And, probably the most important thing, I learned how to transfer calls! Yup I’m finally feeling acclimated to working at Near West and I’ve gotten a good routine down.

Representing home town of Cincinnati on my home screen!

Representing home town of Cincinnati on my home screen!

My typically day starts with my twenty minute bike ride from my house in Lakewood to the office (not looking forward to the weather changing when I can’t take that ride any more, but that’s to be dwelled on another time). Once I arrive at the office I check my email, the Near West Theatre Facebook account, and select which musical I want to listen to that day. Typically there aren’t too many emails but every once in a while I’ll get a meeting reminder. The Facebook page often has a number of notifications and a few comments to reply to. And as for the musical, Hamilton has been my choice more often than not lately, but from time to time I stray and listen to Bridges of Madison County or Hair (all fantastic shows and if you haven’t had the chance to listen to any of them I suggest you do).

The reason I check the Facebook account is because that’s one of my tasks as a full time volunteer here. I’ve been assisting Cory, our fabulous marketing manager, with all our social media so she can focus on more of the bigger picture marketing items. It’s been an adventure and a blast getting to know Near West’s social media. I was eager to connect to the community that Near West has already cultivated that I had yet to get to know. At other organizations where I’ve done social media I was lucky to get a like or two on a post. Here almost every post I’ve made got a comment or two and a number of likes! It was so exciting for me! The Near West community is so eager to engage. The best part so far have been the comments I’ve gotten on posts not necessarily related to Near West Theatre, such as an article about a different theatre or about diversity. After just a handful of interactions I feel like my post have improved greatly as well as my knowledge of what Near West is here to do and what their community enjoys. It’s truly been a wonderful experience being able to connect with the Near West Theatre community, the Gordon Square Arts District community, and the Cleveland Theater community all through the Near West’s Facebook page.

After spending some time engaging on Facebook, looking up new articles to post, liking other organizations’ posts and maybe even sharing them, all while listening to my musical of choice that day, the Box Office phone rings. My first few weeks here when that happened, panic would flash across my face. I’ve worked with a number of ticketing systems, each different than the last, and the system here at Near West is no different. After stellar guidance from Kelcie, our box office master and office coordinator, during my first few calls, and help walking me through my first ticket orders, the panic on my face turned to slight dread and then finally into confidence. I’ve mastered our ticketing system and now the calls are easy (I’ve yet to master Kelcie’s ticket selling talent, she seriously knowns everyone who calls, it’s amazing). Working the Box Office during the opening night of The Snow Queen is really what finalized my knowledge of our system. If you need to learn a program, there’s nothing like a high-stress, fast-paced environment to force you to master it quickly!

Working Box Office while also trying to collect photos and content for social media is not a simple task. But  every once in a while I snap a good photo.

Working Box Office while also trying to collect photos and content for social media is not a simple task. But every once in a while I snap a good photo.

While both those items, selling tickets and engaging on Facebook, can be constant all day, there’s one more project I fit into my routine: developing a task force. This past April, Near West Theatre hosted a tour of their new ADA compliant building with a number of representatives who provide services and advocacy for people living with disabilities. While there, a number of people suggested that we form a Disabilities Task Force to discuss future options for advocacy. I’ve been reaching out to a number of organizations to form this group and to pick their brains about what we can do better at Near West. On top of that, I’ve been researching programs and workshops we could possibly start here. It’s been a fascinating process and you’d be amazed what’s out there, and also how many holes there are when it comes to making the arts inclusive for all. I’m really looking forward to getting this task force off the ground and starting some programs here at Near West to bring the arts to everyone, but it’s still in the beginning stages right now (don’t worry, there will be updates!).

Somewhere during all that work I eat lunch, often I walk across the street for a pick-me-up from Gypsy Bean, and even more often the whole office pauses on what they’re doing to hear Kevin sing something, sometimes it’s an actual song but normally it’s just something he makes up. But besides a few random items that pop up here and there (Star Seats, printer malfunctions, staff meetings, etc.), that’s my routine. It will change and evolve as my time here continues, but for now it’s a good start. There’s still a lot of learn but I’m feeling more comfortable and more at home.


Meet Our Full Time Volunteer: Susan Dicken

Susan will be a full time staff volunteer in our office for this whole year. She will be writing bi-weekly blog posts about her experiences being a full time volunteer and working with us. Here’s her first post, keep an eye out for future ones, and say welcome to Susan!


Overwhelming

Last week was my first week as a full time volunteer for Near West and it’s been nothing short of overwhelming. I know that overwhelming is often associated with a negative connotation but in this instance that is not that case.

Profile Pic

Hey! That’s me!

First, a little background about me and what I’m talking about! Hello, my name is Susan Dicken. I am from Cincinnati, Ohio and Cincinnati is where my love of theatre began. My parents have always been supporters of the arts. They began taking my older brothers and I to theatre productions from when we were 5 till… actually… they still take us to theatre productions, that is, if we’re lucky enough to get invited. I’ve spent evenings at Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park, The Arnoff Center in the heart of downtown, as well as my own high school’s auditorium, although while I was there I’d tend to be more backstage or on stage than in the house.

When I started undergrad at Wilmington College my love of theatre came to its height. While I loved theatre and performed in every production I could audition for at Wilmington, I also thoroughly enjoyed my business classes (which was fortunate because I was double majoring in marketing and economics). I was fortunate enough to combine these two, business and theatre, through the Arts Administration maters program at The University of Akron. I also got a taste of the production side of theatre while there though my work as a graduate assistant. While attending school up north I was introduced to Ohio City and the rest of the Cleveland area, which was bursting with nonprofits for me to volunteer with!

IRTF host a Social Justice Teach-In every year. I helped set up their Fair Trade table as well as moderated workshops.

IRTF host a Social Justice Teach-In every year. Last year I helped set up their Fair Trade table as well as moderated workshops. (And that’s Chrissy next to me!)

A good friend of mine, Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, is a co-executive director of one of these nonprofits, the Inter-Religious Task Force on Central America and Columbia (IRTF for short). If you’re thinking to yourself, “hmm that sounds familiar…” that’s because if you’ve ever attended one of Near West Theatre productions at their St. Pats location you walked right past the IRTF office! So needless to say the staff of IRTF is familiar with the Near West staff and if you know Chrissy you know how good she is at bringing people together. And that is how I met Stephanie Morrison Hbrek (although I doubt she remembers the first time we met at all and that’s totally ok!) and how I got introduced to Near West Theatre.

Now that establishes my passion for theatre and how I got introduced to Near West, but how did I get to be a full time volunteer? I’ve always loved volunteering. I’ve worked at soup kitchens, painted houses through Habitat for Humanity, was a summer Ameri-Corp VISTA, and have volunteered at IRTF for the past year. IRTF has two full time paid staff members and the rest of their staff come from volunteer programs. One of those programs is call The Humility of Mary Volunteer Service. They connect volunteers with non-profit sites all over Cleveland and even a few sites down in Florida. Here’s where Chrissy comes into play again with her connection skills, as well as the IRTF Humility of Mary Volunteer Dave. They both connected me with the HM program director Sr. Mary Stanco. After showing her how much of Near West Theatre’s mission lines up with Humility of Mary Volunteer Service’s mission I got the okay that the HMVS program can support me being a full time volunteer for Near West!  And that, I believe, catches us up to where we are today (sorry that was so long, I hope you stuck with it!).

Only a week in and I already do feel at home!

Only a week in and I already do feel at home!

Back to being overwhelmed. I started working, or volunteering if you want to get technical, at Near West at one of the most inopportune times. Everyone was just coming back from Labor Day vacations, we have a show opening this week (insert plug for Snow Queen here: Buy your tickets now! It’s going to be an amazing show!), and of course on top of all of that the usual commotion that always goes along with running a nonprofit theatre. Even with all this chaos the staff here welcomed me with open arms and it was overwhelming. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that this company took a chance on allowing me to start this brand new position here. I’m overwhelmed with excitement to start the projects that they have lined up for me to tackle. I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness at this wonderful learning opportunity and at how the staff has already begun inviting me into their jobs to see their tasks so I can experience every aspect of working here. And I am overwhelmed with joy to become a part of such a strong theatre community along with the opportunity to use the work I’ll do here to make a difference in the local community. So yes, this first week has been overwhelming, but it has been overwhelming in the best way and I could not be happier to start my journey here at Near West Theatre.


In the spotlight: the Pantalone Family

Christene (CeCe) Pantalone in Move On! (2014). Production still by Ted Sikora

Christene (CC) Pantalone soloing in Move On! (2014). Production still by Ted Sikora

Sam Pantalone as Jean Shepard in A Christmas Story, the Musical (2013). Photo by Terry Schordock

Sam Pantalone as Jean Shepard in A Christmas Story, the Musical (2013). Photo by Terry Schordock

The term “family musical” has an added meaning at Near West Theatre this spring. The cast of Shrek the Musical, running now through May 17, includes the entire Pantalone family: parents Sam and Christene (CC) and sons Jacob, 14, and Phil, 11. This is Jacob’s first time on the Near West stage with the other three, who appeared together in A Christmas Story, the Musical (2013), in which Phil played Randy and Sam played Jean Shepard; the ensemble show Move On! (2014), in which CC had a major solo; and the casts of two Annual Benefits. Phil was also in Once on This Island Jr. (2014).

Jacob Pantalone with Jennifer White during a rehearsal for Shrek the Musical, April 22, 2015. Photo by Terry Shordock

Jacob Pantalone with Jenn White during a rehearsal for Shrek the Musical, April 22, 2015. Photo by Terry Shordock

If you saw the Ted Sikora documentary Move On! in this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival, you heard Sam, CC and Phil describe what draws them to Near West: its energy, its strong shows, and the way it invites unusually diverse actors into a process of building community, making art and tackling challenging subject matter. We asked the family three questions (see below) as they recuperated after Shrek’s tech week and opening weekend, which inaugurated Near West Theatre’s new building in the Gordon Square Arts District on April 24 and 25. They discussed the questions as a family; their collective answers are below.

At this writing, tickets are still available for most remaining performances of Shrek the Musical, though some have sold out. Consider buying in advance, and soon: online anytime, or by calling 216-961-6391 weekdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

— Hans Holznagel

1. What are your tricks for making the daily work-school-dinner-theater transition? It is a real challenge. It typically means shifting when and where we do things and often involves more fast food than we would care to admit. We sometimes eat in the car on the way to rehearsal, homework might come with us to be done in the theatre. We also have a short family devotion each night before bed where we read and then pray together as a family. Jacob’s job has been to remember to bring the devotion book with us so we can read it in the car on the drive home. That has also allowed us to include some of our NWT family at times when they may be with us. We love the experience of being in a show together so we find ways to make it work. Tech week however did involve one day where we allowed our exhausted boys to stay home from school and sleep.

2. What do you like about having all four of you in the show? There are so many activities that kids can be involved in where the parent contribution is just providing transportation and support. Doing a show together gives us an avenue to get to know each other in different ways while experiencing the creative process and also to experience personal growth, together. Phil says when he does a show the music allows him to feel different emotions and to discover another side of himself that we then all get to be a part of. As parents it is nice because we are there when those things happen and don’t have to try to understand something he may have done of felt when he attempts to explain it later. We also know that before we realize it our kids will be grown and moving to another phase in their life. The memories we are building now will be something we will always cherish. Spending the kind of time it takes to do a show, all of us engaged in the same process, is really an amazing thing. Between work, school, friends, video games and all the other parts of daily living, we are incredibly blessed to be able to devote so many hours to an activity as a family.

3. How would you compare and contrast your family with the larger Near West Theatre “family”? We truly do consider NWT to be a family and we have enjoyed inviting them into our family. As Sam mentioned in the Move On! documentary it allows us to be closely involved with a far more diverse group of people than we would normally be and certainly helps all of us to grow as people. The family extends beyond just being in shows together. In the past year some of us got together to see the movie The Sound of Music then enjoyed eating together at a themed party afterwards. At Christmastime we invited everyone to our home for a gingerbread house making party.

Jacob and Christene Pantalone in the Capitol Theatre lobby at the premiere of the documentary Move On!, March 22, 2015. Photo by Ted Sikora

Jacob and CC Pantalone in the Capitol Theatre lobby at the premiere of the documentary Move On!, March 22, 2015. Photo by Ted Sikora

Something that means more to our family than we can ever express is how the Near West Theatre family has embraced Jacob. Jacob has autism and along with that come many challenges. Before Shrek Jacob typically watched rehearsals for other shows and we could not have dreamed of a more loving, accepting and understanding group. He is thrilled to be able to join us on stage and that would not have been possible without the NWT staff being willing to take the risk of allowing him to join the cast. It has not been easy, and several times in the rehearsal process CC was convinced that we should drop the idea. His involvement on stage would absolutely not have been possible without the incredible assistance of Jenn White. Jenn has become like another member of our family and she took on the task of being Jacob’s partner on stage. We love you Jenn!

Having our family be part of the Near West family is an experience that continues to shape us in many ways and we are so happy we have found each other!

Phil Pantalone (Randy) during the bows in A Christmas Story, the Musical (2013). Photo by Terry Schordock

Phil Pantalone takes a bow in A Christmas Story, the Musical (2013). Photo by Terry Schordock

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Near West Theatre’s 2015 opening events, including Shrek the Musical, are presented by Thompson Hine and its subsidiary, PMC. Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating 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.


The moment has come. Excuse us while we get emotional.

This view of our Nov. 27 groundbreaking ceremony graces the cover of our 2012 year-end appeal card. Photo by Gregory Wilson

“We Claim this Ground” ceremony at our theater site, Nov. 27, 2012. Photo by Gregory Wilson

Emotions. You’re not supposed to overdo them on stage or even “do” them at all, depending on your method. “You can’t act an emotion,” the saying goes. Acting is action: wanting something and doing something to get it. You’re supposed to find your character’s intention, be in your body, be alert, be in the moment, connect with the actors around you — and act, passionately! If emotion is present, that’s okay. Characters are people; people have emotions. But feelings are never the main thing you’re playing. You’ve got actions to take, a story to tell. So goes the wisdom.

Theater under construction a year ago, April 23, 2014. Photo by Hans Holznagel.

Theater under construction a year ago, April 23, 2014. Photo by Hans Holznagel.

Pardon us for a moment, then, while we get emotional. It’s tech week — always filled with all kinds of emotions! — but we need to say a word to mark this particular opening week, this once-in-a-lifetime moment Near West Theatre. We’ve been doing musical theater since 1978 as a way of building community and transforming lives — in rented space. We started searching for a home of our own in 1999, shortly after we became an independent nonprofit. And now — how do we say this with enough gravity and celebration? — IT’S HERE: Grand Opening Night! On Friday, April 24, in true, grand, Near West Theatre style, an affordable-price-paying audience will be seated in our brand new theater at 6702 Detroit Avenue in the Gordon Square Arts District. At 7:30, a cast of more than 60 children, teens and adults — ordinary people, all volunteers, from many races and backgrounds — will take the stage in Shrek the Musical. When that happens, well, forgive us if we shed a tear of joy. It won’t be the first time. We’ve been feeling it all winter and spring: on Feb. 13, when we got our certificate of occupancy and wandered around in awe of this roomy, comfortable, accessible space of our own; on Feb. 28, during our Community Open House; on March 14, with a Dance Party that filled the place with fun energy; on March 21, as we held our Annual Benefit and Gala in our own home for the first time ever; on March 22, as Move On!, a documentary about us, debuted in the Cleveland International Film Festival. Truth be told, we’ve also been getting a huge musical up all the while, so there hasn’t been a lot of time to get emotional.

Our new building as it appeared on April 14, 2015. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Our new building at sunrise on April 14, 2015. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Imagine, though, how it will feel this Friday to see an opening-night curtain go up for the first time in this new space. For those who’ve been on this journey the longest, we predict a weepy mix of nostalgia and hope: bittersweet memories of those no longer with us and how proud they would be. Giddiness as we reflect on the potential we face in a new building, in a new neighborhood, with partners new and old. Melting, weak-kneed being-in-love with the astounding variety of people who continue to create our art, individually and collectively, onstage and backstage: the hues of the faces, the shapes of the bodies, the timbres of the voices, and the humanity and commitment that all of them bring to the task. Breathlessness at the always-beautiful visual and aural art of our production staff, now amplified by fly space and new technical capacities.

Gratitude is perhaps the deepest among our emotions right now. Gratitude to the generous donors to the Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign, which built this building and so much more. Head-shaking amazement at the tireless leadership of Gordon Square’s Board and staff and the courageous, visionary toughness of our partners in that journey: Cleveland Public Theatre, the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, and Councilman Matt Zone. Memories, pleasant and otherwise, of the struggles we all faced together, even surviving a Great Recession in the middle of that campaign. Indebtedness to decades of sacrifice and support from Near West Theatre’s own Trustees and supporters, who now lead us into a continued future of musical theater that matters.

It is all about action, isn’t it? Thirty-seven years of action and intention. Wanting something, trying to get it, connecting with actors around you. Thank you for acting with us, all of you, longtime Near West Theatre family members and partners and newcomers alike. Wherever you are — behind the curtain, in the wings, in the audience — dab those tears and take a deep breath. “Places!” — Hans Holznagel

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"Shrek the Musical" production image 2015Opening night is now sold out, but plenty of tickets are available for the remaining performances of Shrek the Musical through May 17. Purchase online or call 216-961-6391 weekdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Any tickets not sold in advance are available at the door starting one hour before show time. A reserved Star Seat, which helps support Near West Theatre’s art and mission and comes with additional benefits, is $20. General admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children.

TH_Logo_rev_300dpiNear West Theatre is grateful to its 2015 Presenting Sponsor, Thompson Hine, and to many other generous season sponsors; for ongoing operating support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares; for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


In the spotlight: NWT actor Patrick Ciamacco

Patrick Ciamacco

Patrick Ciamacco

Look closely and you may recognize the leading ogre in Shrek the Musical, the first-ever main-stage show in Near West Theatre’s brand-new performance venue, opening April 24. He’s played by Patrick Ciamacco, who since 1996 has made dozens of appearances at Near West’s old Ohio City venue and on many other Cleveland-area stages. Perhaps you’ve seen him at his very own Blank Canvas Theatre, which he founded in 2011. He even played Shrek once before, in Mercury Summer Stock’s 2013 production of the musical, alongside Justin Woody, who likewise is reprising the role of Donkey at Near West.

Patrick with Katie Klaus in The Baker's Wife (2002)

Patrick with Katie Klaus in The Baker’s Wife at Near West (2002)

Patrick and buddy Joe Kenderes came in from suburban Brunswick to audition for Near West’s youth production of South Pacific in 1996. It was the start of a long relationship with Near West, where both of them have performed many times since and where Patrick has also directed and assisted in other capacities over the years.

Patrick as Che Guevara in NWT's producton of Evita (2002)

As Che Guevara in Evita (2002)

“I remember walking up to St. Pat’s for that first audition and not being sure if we were in the right place,” Patrick says. “When we got upstairs, I was scared, thinking, ‘There are so many teens here.’ I ended up getting cast in the ensemble and had no idea it would change my life like it did: performing in so many shows, directing, working with some amazing kids, and now seeing those kids all grown up. It has brought so many friends and ‘family’ into my life.”

As one of the four narrators in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2004), with, from left Kristy Cruz, Trinidad Snider, Carlos Cruz, and Ralph Pack as Jacob

As one of the four narrators in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2004), with, from left, Kristy Cruz, Trinidad Snider, Carlos Cruz, and Ralph Pack as Jacob

Patrick graduated from Brunswick High School in 1998 and recently became the youngest inductee into its Alumni Hall of Fame. He now lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, close to Near West’s new Gordon Square theater and Blank Canvas’ West 78th Street venue, where he spends long hours. “I love that I can produce smaller musical and non-musical shows there that can also provide entertainment and community outreach. We are about to open Extremities, a searing play about an attempted rape and its aftermath as the victim turns the tables on her attacker. It explores themes that are part of a national conversation about domestic abuse, rape and assault. We’ve even partnered with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. They’ll be doing talk-backs after some of our shows.”

As Mr. Bumble in Oliver! (2011), with Skipper Rankin as Oliver and Gwen Stembridge as Mrs. Bumble

As the Beadle in Oliver! (2011), with Skipper Rankin as Oliver and Gwen Stembridge as Mrs. Bumble

He answered an e-mail in the middle of the night, in a week filled with Near West rehearsals and Blank Canvas tech, to answer three questions about Shrek the Musical. It’s on stage April 24 through May 17 at 6702 Detroit Ave. Tickets are available online or by calling 216-961-6891, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

1. What’s unique about Near West’s take on Shrek the Musical? The actors and staff who are telling the story. The process of developing any production at Near West Theatre allows the cast to really put themselves into the story: their experiences, their feelings, their heart. You’ll see that on this wonderful new stage. All of them, from the Donkey to the Gingerbread Cookie, are pouring their souls into the show.

2. What’s the greatest challenge in playing the role of Shrek? Living up to the expectations people have while still exploring the role from an actor’s point of view. It’s a character we all know and love. My goal is to put my own nuances into the role while balancing what the audience comes expecting to see and hear. I don’t want to reinvent Shrek. Kids, especially, want to see the green ogre they have watched over and over again. The smile on their faces after a show is better than anything.

3. What kind of an era do you hope you’re helping to launch with this first show ever in this brand-new venue? This show is a giant fairy tale. It quite possibly could be one of the largest shows NWT has ever done. Ogres, donkeys, dragons, castles — it’s huge! This show will bring in the era of Broadway-esque spectacle and magic that this neighborhood has not yet ever seen.

— Hans Holznagel

As Harold Hill, with Joe Kenders as Marcellus, in The Music Man (2006)

As Harold Hill, with Joe Kenderes as Marcellus, in The Music Man (2006)

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Near West Theatre’s 2015 opening events, including Shrek the Musical, are presented by Thompson Hine and its subsidiary, PMC. Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating 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.


Near West Theatre documentary at the film fest tonight

You’ve got one more chance tonight to see Ted Sikora’s energetic documentary about Near West Theatre at the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival. It’s at 8:45 p.m. at Tower City Cinemas. Advice to first-time festival-goers: Act now. Get on the Festival’s box office page, get your ticket, get downtown early to park (or better yet, take the RTA) and find the right color-coded line to stand in. The showing’s code is MOVE24.

Near West Theatre's Move On!, June 2014. Photo by Terry Schordock

Move On! on stage, June 2014. Photo by Terry Schordock

You’ll be glad you did. Ted started coming to rehearsals in the spring of 2014 for the musical Move On!, our farewell to the St. Pat’s Club Building, our home of 36 years. His goal was an 8- to 10-minute fundraising piece. He was so taken with our process and our people that he kept coming back for dozens of hours of shooting. The result was this 88-minute documentary that really does catch the spirit of how we use theater to bring people together, build community, and by the way, stage a darned good, professionally produced show with a huge cast of ordinary people. Theater critic Andrea Simakis gave the film an “A” in The Plain Dealer (March 23, Page A2) and online at Cleveland.com.

CIFF_39season_stampTonight’s screening follows a packed neighborhood showing at the Capitol Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District on Sunday, March 22, and a screening downtown on Monday afternoon, March 23. Audiences seem to be liking it. If you do, too, don’t forget to tear off that little “excellent” corner of the CIFF ballot you’ll receive tonight. And say hi to Ted. He’ll be there for a director’s Q&A. — Hans Holznagel

– – – – –

The film Move On! was made possible by special support from Char and Chuck Fowler and from The George Gund Foundation. Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares; for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences; and to our 2015 Presenting Sponsor, Thompson Hine.


Our new home’s the star at our gala this Sat., March 21

led board benefit 2 no place like

Our new home in the Gordon Square Arts District will be the “star,” and two longtime supporters who helped make it possible will be honored, in a high-energy, red-carpet, grand-opening event this Saturday, March 21. Actors, supporters and the community will gather for Near West Theatre’s Annual Benefit and Gala from 7 to 11 p.m. in our new performance space, 6702 Detroit Ave. After years of holding our big fundraising party at such locations as Trinity Cathedral, PlayhouseSquare and the old Cleveland Play House, we can now throw what a local journalist has called “one of the most authentic, genuine and satisfying benefit events of the year” in our own new home. The theme: “No Place Like Home.”

TH_Logo_rev_300dpiAdmission includes plentiful food, drink, dessert, dancing, a silent auction and the evening’s centerpiece: a passionate musical performance by a large, intergenerational Near West Theatre cast. Tickets, $100, benefit Near West Theatre’s mission of using theater as a process to build lives, relationships and community among diverse people of all ages. Tickets are available online in advance or can be purchased the door. They are also available by phone, 216-961-6391, until 4 p.m. Friday, March 20. The March 21 gala runs from 7 to 11 p.m.This event and the entire series of opening events and shows in our new theater are made possible by Presenting Sponsor Thompson Hine and the generous support of other season sponsors listed below.

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Jim and Anne Schoff spok at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new theater on Nov. 27, 2012. Photos by Gregory Wilson

Anne and Jim Schoff spoke at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new theater on Nov. 27, 2012. Photos by Gregory Wilson

Honorees. This year we honor longtime supporters Jim and Anne Schoff. “They first encountered Near West Theatre in 1995,” wrote founding Executive Director Stephanie Morrison Hrbek. “Anne says that is when ‘the love affair began.’ As steadfast supporters ever since, they have been pivotal in making the dream of our new home a reality. Besides their own leadership in giving, they brought us into their remarkable network of relationships, linking us to such generous supporters as Char and Chuck Fowler, Project Management Consultants through Thompson Hine, and the Barrington Wine Classic, to name just a few. They have even opened their home to us. When they lived at Barrington in Aurora, Ohio, they held special getaway parties so our young cast members could enjoy the swimming pool and other amenities there. They hosted special performances by Near West Theatre actors, where their own friends and neighbors were introduced to our spirit and mission. Jim and Anne have both served on our Board of Trustees (Jim as President, 2001-2006), as committee chairs, and as working chairs of our Annual Benefit – all the while, making connections with the people Near West Theatre. They always remind us that relationships with the children, teens, and adults of Near West are what has fueled their passion. They value hearing the stories of struggle and triumph of the people who come through our doors.

“Jim and Anne are one of those outstanding couples who have balanced raising three children – and now are enjoying nine grandchildren – while also being deeply involved as civic leaders. They both now serve on advisory boards at University Hospitals, and between them have served such organizations as the Cleveland Ballet, the Diversity Center, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Social Venture Partners, Sovereign Order of St. John, the Cleveland Play House, City Year Cleveland, and The Centers for Families and Children.”

Parking and transit information. Free valet parking will be available at the corner of Detroit Avenue and West 67th Street, and free self-parking can be found around the neighborhood the neighborhood. There’s a lot going on in the neighborhood Saturday night, so if you self-park, give yourself time to find a spot. The map below shows lots and streets where you can park free (our theater is the blue square!). You can also use the parking lots at Neighborhood Family Practice, W. 65th and Franklin; or Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 6928 Detroit Ave., after its 6 p.m. Saturday Mass is over. Public transit is also a good option. RTA buses stop at W. 65th and Detroit: Route 26 twice each hour on Saturdays, and Route 45 once an hour. Hardy winter bicyclists will find bike racks on Detroit Avenue.

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Sponsors. In addition to Presenting Sponsor Thompson Hine, the following season sponsors have also provided generous support. Patron Sponsor: Consolidated Solutions. Producer Sponsors: American Limousine, Char and Chuck Fowler, Majic Family Fund, PNC, and an anonymous donor. Choreographer Sponsors: First Federal Lakewood, KeyBank, Medical Mutual, Ray and Katie Murphy, and Panzica Construction Co. We are also grateful to the Actor Sponsors and other Season Sponsors who will be listed at Saturday’s gala.

 — Hans Holznagel

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating 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.