In a time of multiple transitions at Near West Theatre, including one to a new space, the need for financial efficiency, a strong business model, new operational systems and expanded programming has never been greater. As part of this, we welcome three new staff members: Don Carlson, Ryan Wolf and Laura Carlson Tarantowski. We’ve added three positions and yet reduced our overall budget by creatively pooling production and administrative dollars for the assistant production manager and designer positions. “We are happy to welcome these professionals,” said Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek. “Their presence and hard work will strengthen our programming capacity while also simplifying and adding efficiency to the theater’s creative side.” Here are notes on the three and their roles.
Financial management is always an important priority, and especially so in transitional times. The new position of finance director was created in May to focus on financial analysis, planning and measurements. Retired business and nonprofit executive Don Carlson, a certified public accountant, is now in our office about three days a week. His projects include updating our business plan, monitoring our budget and financials, recommending fund investments for increased earnings, preparing for our annual audit, and, based on years of past audits, documenting our strong stewardship of funds received. A graduate of Kent State University, Don has 45 years of business experience in the Cleveland area, having most recently served as chief financial officer and treasurer of Vocational Guidance Services for more than 10 years. Don has a long history of volunteerism in the community and has served on the boards of directors of a number of community organizations and nonprofit,s including the Beck Center for the Arts. He and his wife, Jenean, live in Lakewood.
With Technical Director/Production Manager Josh Padgett increasingly called upon for his construction expertise during preparations for our future home, we have engaged Ryan Wolf as assistant production manager. Ryan will serve as stage manager for all our main stage productions as well as our annual benefit, pARTy in Gordon Square and other off-site performances. He also assists with theater set-up and tear-down and provides much-needed help in carpentry and other areas. Ryan is from North Olmsted, Ohio. He graduated this year from Wright State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theatre design and technology with an emphasis in stage management. He was stage manager for Near West Theatre’s Hairspray (2012) and has worked on over a dozen shows elsewhere, including the Dayton Opera’s Romeo & Juliet and Lucia de Lammermoor and the Human Race Theatre Company’s Oliver! and Next to Normal.
In a step that streamlines our design resources, Laura Carlson Tarantowski has joined the staff in the part-time capacity of designer. The new position combines what Laura was doing under more than 11 contracts a year in the past, including such varied work as set design for main stage shows and for KLAMOR, poster and postcard artwork, and artistic renderings for the exterior of our future home. Our current production of Side Show is her 14th collaboration with the team at Near West Theatre. Her scenic design has been seen extensively on Cleveland-areas stages, including recently in The Lyons at Dobama Theatre and The Turn of the Screw at Baldwin Wallace University. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater from Brenau University, a Master of Fine Arts in set design from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and over 20 years of professional experience designing and painting shows. — Julie Cajigas