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.

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About Near West Theatre

Our Mission Statement: "Near West Theatre builds loving relationships and engages diverse people in strengthening their sense of identity, passion, and purpose, individually and in community, through transformational theatre arts experiences." View all posts by Near West Theatre

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