Category Archives: Auditions

‘Shrek the Musical’ to feature 68 adults, teens, kids

Page-7 of 2015 BrochureSixty-eight children, teens and adults have been cast in Shrek the Musical, the first production ever to be staged in Near West Theatre’s new performance center in the Gordon Square Arts District. The show runs April 24 through May 17 in the new theater, still being completed at 6702 Detroit Ave. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office, 216-961-6391, weekdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. A cast list appears below.

A remarkable 134 people auditioned — 128 of them Jan. 20-22, plus six more by special arrangement during Jan. 24 call-backs. That left Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr., who will direct the show, Assistant Director Kelcie Dugger, and Executive Director Stephanie Morrison Hrbek, choreographer, with an abundance of choices. It also left them with the always-difficult task of sending “regrets” notices Jan. 29 to dozens of those who auditioned, including some who have been in past shows but won’t be in this one.

“We want everyone to know how grateful we are that they turned out,” Navis said. “Our auditions are events unto themselves. Having such diverse groups of participants engaged on on all three nights was important to the process. We hope everyone got something out of it, whether or not they were chosen for this cast.”

A Jan. 30 view of the new theater still under construction. Photo by Hans Holznagel

A Jan. 30 view of the new theater, still under construction. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Rehearsals start Feb. 15, but not yet in the space where the show will be performed. Near West Theatre expects to receive its Certificate of Occupancy for the new theater in early February and to begin moving its offices and theatrical equipment into the building the same week that rehearsals start off site. The public is invited to get a first look at the space during a free Community Open House on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 28. Shrek rehearsals will move there sometime in March. — Hans Holznagel

Cast of Shrek The Musical, Near West Theatre, Spring 2015

Specific roles cast so far — Patrick Ciamacco (Shrek), Cassandra Mears (Princess Fiona), Justin Woody (Donkey), Kevin Joseph Kelly (Lord Farquaad), Gus Mahoney (Pinocchio). Ensemble — Charles Adams, Felix Albino, Neha Arjunji, Connie Becker, Angie Bendahan, Sara Danielle Chapman, William Crosby, Delaney Cunningham, Sharron DeCosta, Cole Emerine, Nadia Evans, Micah Evans, Sydney Fieseler, Warren Franklin, Venchise Glenn, Lindsay Hajostek, Corinne Howery, Sophie Hull, Angelise Irizarry, Bethy Jarus, Rachel Johanek, Louis Johnson II, Meg Kilbane, Bryen Kilbane, Richard Knight, Mike Knobloch, Madeline Krucek, Britt Lamoureux, Christine Larson, Giovanna Layne, Elliot Lockshine, Cory Markowitz, Maureen Martin, Amaya Moore, Kevin Myers, Cara Myers, Yumi Ndhlovu, Sophie O’Leary, Finn O’Malia, Dawon Owens, Sam Pantalone, Christene Pantalone, Jacob Pantalone, Phil Pantalone, Jocelyn Perkins, Aaron Phillips, Statia Rankin, Yousef Raslan, Eric Reising, Lucia Robbins, Angel Svacool, Erich Schnack, Michael Stolar, Cole Tarantowski, David Turner, Kyanie Vazquez, Rafael Velez III, Colin Wheeler, Jennifer White, Anthony Williams, Morgan Williams, Calista Zajac, Bob Zombar.

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Shrek the Musical

Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig

Shrek the Musical is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. 421 West 54th St., New York, NY 10019. Phone: 212-541-4684. Fax: 212-397-4684. http://www.MTIShows.com

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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. A version of this article was also featured in the January 2015 edition of Near West Theatre’s monthly e-newsletter, The Near West Circle.

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Make history: audition for the 1st show in our brand-new theater

Shrek the Musical, with book and lyrics by David Limndsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, will be onstage April 24--May 17.

Shrek the Musical, with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, will be the first-ever main-stage show at Near West Theatre’s performance center at Gordon Square, April 24–May 17, 2015.

It will be a year of firsts as we open our new theater in the Gordon Square Arts District, featuring fly space above the stage, new lighting and sound equipment, and all kinds of theatrical possibilities we’ve never had before. The first of those firsts is this month: auditions for Shrek the Musical, on Tuesday, Jan. 20, Wednesday, Jan. 21, and Thursday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. for ages 7 through 12 and at 7:30 p.m. for teens and adults of all ages. Full details about our friendly, fun audition process — no experience or preparation necessary! — are at the end of this article. (Note: the new building is still being completed, so auditions will be elsewhere!)

“It’s the opening show in our brand-new building, and we are looking to cast a large, racially diverse ensemble — more than people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, sizes and physical abilities and challenges,” says Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr., who will direct Shrek. “There are multiple principal roles, and the company plays a large range of characters, from fairy-tale creatures to an angry mob, guards, rats, knights and much more. There are huge production numbers throughout the show. This will be true ensemble theater.” All roles are open.

“I can’t emphasize enough that this will be the first giant musical in our new, $7.3 million building,” Navis says. “For the first time in our history we have a fly system over the stage, a pipe grid above the house with state-of-the-art lighting and sound, even a scene shop so we don’t have to build set pieces on stage during the rehearsal process.” For 36 years at Near West Theatre’s rented church ballroom, casts were accustomed to cramped conditions backstage, and, with unreliable heat and no air conditioning, a lot of discomfort during hot or cold weather. Now there will be wing space and a changing area backstage, a multipurpose room downstairs for more changing and green-room space, and cast rest rooms that don’t have to be shared with the audience. And full climate control in a super-energy-efficient building. And space for more multiple rehersals at once. “I really hope all of that — in addition to the content and story line of the show — will inspire people to audition.”

Based on the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek and William Steig’s 1990 book Shrek!, the musical is a good match for Near West Theatre’s mission of bringing together diverse people from all walks of life — and from all levels of theatrical experience, including none at all — to encounter each other and build relationships around a piece of theater. The story involves an ogre, a donkey, an imprisoned princess and a gang of fairytale creatures exiled from their home for being freaks. With music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, the show ran for over a year each on Broadway and in London’s West End and also had an extensive national U.S. tour.

If you’re intrigued but not sure about auditioning — perhaps you’ve never auditioned for anything before — know that Near West Theatre’s process is designed to be friendly, inviting, and low in anxiety, whether you’re 7 or 77 years old. Participants are led as a group through exercises to build teamwork, experience movement, improvise, sing and let their best selves shine. Bob and his production staff look less for trained singers and dancers than for a person’s spark, willingness to go on an emotional journey, and interest in engaging the people around them as part of an ensemble. Below are audition details a few recent videos about the audition experience. — Hans Holznagel

Audition information for Shrek the Musical, 2015

Place: West Side United Church of Christ, 3800 Bridge Ave., Cleveland 44113. Ages eligible: 7 through adult. Dates: Tuesday, Jan. 20; Wednesday, Jan. 21; Thursday, Jan. 22. Pick one of those evenings. No advance reservations necessary. Stay for the entire time for your age group. Times: Ages 7 through 12, arrive 5:45 p.m. to register; audition 6 to 7 p.m. Ages 13 through adult, arrive 7:15 p.m. to register, audition 7:30 to 10 p.m. Rehearsals for those who are cast begin Feb. 15 and will typically be Sunday afternoons, Sunday evenings, and Monday through Wednesday evenings. Performance dates are listed here.

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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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Shrek the Musical

Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig

Shrek the Musical is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. 421 West 54th St., New York, NY 10019. Phone: 212-541-4684. Fax: 212-397-4684. http://www.MTIShows.com

 


‘Superstar’ cast announced, volunteers sought

JCS publicity imageA record number of children, teens and adults – 118 of them,  including 68 newcomers! – turned out this month to audition for Near West Theatre’s fall 2014 production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Director Bob Navis Jr. broke the casting news to all of them by e-mail on Friday, Sept. 12. A postal letter was also mailed the previous day. Principal roles will be assigned after further callback auditions are held between now and the start of community-building activities and rehearsals on Sept. 21. The entire ensemble is listed below.

Picking an intergenerational cast of 58 people is a delight, but also bittersweet when 60 more hopeful people have to be told no. “We’re grateful to the actors of all ages who brought such energy and vulnerability to the auditions,” Navis said. “Several went out of their way to tell us the audition itself was a great experience, and we’re always delighted to hear that. Even a single night of auditions should be a way of carrying out our mission. The turnout was one more sign of vitality as we look ahead to the future in our new theater.”

“Thank you, NWT, for affecting change in me in just one night,” wrote one adult who auditioned. “I haven’t felt this ‘OK-to-be-all-me’ in a really long time. Even if tonight’s audition is as far as my JCS journey goes, it was just like Bob Navis said he hoped it would be for us all: a special, stand-alone experience.”

“Well, I didn’t chicken out last night,” wrote another. “I went to a very different audition where, for two-and-a-half hours, I had no idea what was going to be thrown at me next. At one point, Kelcie Dugger, the assistant director, said to me, ‘That was so great! I forgot your voice could do that!’ That meant the world to this middle-aged ‘teen’ who is still trying to bust out of his shell.”

Navis is particularly pleased with the balance of ages, genders and neighborhoods that were represented at auditions for the rock opera, to be staged at West Side UCC this November and December. The Superstar cast members, diverse in racial identity, range in age from 7 to 57. Just under two-thirds of them live in the City of Cleveland; the rest are from surrounding communities, mostly inner-ring suburbs. There are 16 girls and 12 boys, ages 17 and under; and 15 men and 15 women, ages 18 and over.

Now Near West has backstage and front-of-house Superstar roles to fill. Click here to learn more and volunteer. Also, tickets are now on sale for performances, Nov. 21—Dec. 7, at 216-961-6391 (weekdays, 11 to 4) or online anytime, here. — Hans Holznagel

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Near West Theatre’s community theater production of

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Lyrics by Tim Rice       Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Cast: Felix Albino, Edie Barcelona, Angie Bendahan, Raymond Boyd, Jeffrey E. Braun, Sara Danielle Chapman, Bridget Chebo, Kevin Conroy, Carlos Cruz, Sharron DeCosta, Lauren Dockery, Cole Emerine, Angela Galarza, Venchise Glenn, Lindsay Hajostek, Chris Holovacs, Hannah Horton, Hillary Horton, Corinne Howery, Sophie Hull, Angellise Irizarry, Rachel Johanek, Louis Johnson II, Kevin Joseph Kelly, Meg Kilbane, Bryen Kilbane, Sabrina Kim, Alice King, Jason Knauer, Mike Knobloch, Jonas Kukelhan, Christine Larson, Elliot Lockshine, Shannon McPeek-Korth, Amaya Moore, George Morgan, Finn O’Malia, Dante Palmer, Jocelyn Perkins, Aaron Phillips, Jesse Phillips, Mary Prucha, Eric Ritter, Daniel Ross, Lillian Ross, Nathan Rutz, Jennifer Ryan, Brandon Schumacker, Tonya Smith, Darius Stubbs, Cole Tarantowski, Ava Trevino, Nora van Lier, Kyanie Vazquez, Colin Wheeler, Connie Wynn, Lawrence Young, Bob Zombar.

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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.


In the spotlight: NWT actor Carlos Cruz

Carlos Cruz

Carlos Cruz

When a friend asked him to tag along to auditions 2003, Carlos Cruz did – and unexpectedly wound up with the lead role in Near West Theatre’s summer youth production of Jesus Christ Superstar. A second-generation Puerto Rican, Carlos was born here but split his childhood between Cleveland and Puerto Rico. He graduated from Lincoln West High School, having attended there only during his senior year. Since his NWT debut, Carlos has been involved in theater here and as far away as New York City. In early 2014, he moved back to Cleveland and participated in Move On! Now he’s planning to audition for Superstar for a second time.

Q: How did you first get involved with Near West Theatre?

A: I was raised Pentecostal and always loved the music in church, but when I was no longer allowed to actively participate, I found myself searching for a new place to make music. During my senior year of high school I was involved with a production of The Wiz, and a friend from the show asked me to come audition with him at NWT for moral support. I said “OK, but I’m not doing the show.” When I walked in, I thought, “Oh, no – I am walking right back out of here.” In that particular audition group, I saw predominantly people who were not of color, so that intimidated me. I auditioned anyway. In my wildest dreams, I never thought my first role would be Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar, but Bob took a chance on me. I went in there blind, and it turned out to be one of the most life-changing experiences.

Carlos Cruz in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2003.

Carlos Cruz in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2003.

Q: Wow, you played Jesus your first time out? What was that like?

A: It was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. It pushed me to extreme limits. The cast was just the most amazing cast that I ever could have worked with. The experience was gut-wrenching, emotional, just really inspirational. It was awesome – challenging as hell – for me as an individual who comes from a very worship-and-gospel background. To be confronted with some of these things in an in-your-face, doesn’t-let-down rock opera was just overwhelming and daunting. When I was told that I was going to be Jesus we were already well into the rehearsal process. My immediate reaction was, “No, you have the wrong one, choose someone with more experience.” But Bob saw something in me. The experience brought the best out of me, and it was a success because of what we all did.

Q: Are you auditioning for this year’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar?

A: Yes, I’m auditioning for it, but not expecting too much. For me, this is just coming full circle. A lot has happened since I first auditioned. My last NWT performance before Move On! was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2004. I left to do theater in other places; I studied vocal performance at Cleveland State University, went to New York City, and moved back to Puerto Rico for a while. There were always people from Near West who reached out.

Q: What do you have to say to others who might be considering auditioning for Jesus Christ Superstar?

A: Go audition! If there’s one show you want to experience, it’s Jesus Christ Superstar, especially at Near West Theatre. Actors have fewer limitations because Near West is open-minded in their casting. Near West is creativity, and I love it. They are going to do amazing things with this show. The fact that it will be performed in the sanctuary of a church is very exciting.

Q: You came back for Move On! What was it like saying goodbye to St. Patrick’s?

A: When I heard about Move On!, I had to come back. I owe NWT a debt of gratitude for everything they’ve done to push me along in the arts. It was a wonderful opportunity to come back and see everyone that I’d been missing, and to meet all these people who I should have crossed paths with, but for some reason I never had. It was a mixture of making new friends, revisiting old ones and getting back into the game as well. I feel blessed that I got to do that.

It was very bittersweet; that’s the word that continually keeps coming to mind. You never know how attached you are to a place until you walk back in and all these memories flood your mind. First kisses – I had my first kiss there; I fell in love for the first time there. I also had some falling-outs and some intense dramatic experiences. It was sweet in that I could give back to NWT a little of what it gave me and better in that some memories that came back were overwhelming, but Move On! was insanely amazing. To learn that many songs in that short a time, and the amount of people on stage – well, that was just the magic of NWT.

— 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.


‘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


‘Move On! Chronicles’ No. 4: As auditions begin, a poem

Poetry has been a part of Near West Theatre for a long, long time. It has been read from our “Coffee and the Arts” and “Party in Gordon Square” stages. It has been shared in the cast party and gift circle that happens after each production, where my friend and veteran NWT actor Joanie Hoover has often described the cast and show in a special poem. It’s not unusual for cast members themselves to bring poetry to those circles, too.

"Move On!" season imageAs we head into our last auditions at St. Pat’s this week — and if you’ve ever been in one of our shows, I do want to see you there this Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday! –here’s a poem written a few years back by Darius Stubbs, who has served on our crews, as an assistant director, and onstage in such NWT productions as Finian’s Rainbow, Into the Woods and The Secret Garden. He offers a candid glimpse of the NWT experience in the verses below. Thanks, Darius, for letting us reprint this. I’m only sorry this blog format won’t quite mimic the indentations you use on the page.

Don’t forget, everyone: We need actors from all of our eras, all the way back

Darius Stubbs (center) in "Finian's Rainbow," 2008.

Darius Stubbs (center) in Finian’s Rainbow, 2008. Photo by Rob Sommerfelt.

to 1978, to make Move On! all it can be. Auditions for kids through age 13 are at 6 p.m.; teens and adults, 14 and up, at 7:30; all at 3606 Bridge Ave. Pick one night; arrive 15 minutes early to register. More information is at this web page and in editions No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 of the Chronicles. See you at St. Pat’s! — Bob Navis Jr.

 

“Untitled NWT Poem,” by Darius Stubbs

Precious hearts

filled

to the point of bursting.

Precious beings hunger,

yearning,

thirsting,

For the chance,

The chance

to be reached,

to reach out

to reach in and look

and find

and feel

and understand.

To find that push that drives them.

To know that what helps define them

lives within these walls.

Roams throughout these halls.

Now, we cannot touch it

(No one can)

but

Oh,

can we feel it.

Feel it

from the moment

that those frightened, first – timers

fall fully

into

those private tunnel auditions

(and, oh yes, Mr. Kelly,

he will make you be a tree)

From that first

to the final

tear – soaked

Gut – wrenching

Gift – giving

Circle

You can feel it.

This

potent,

pulsing,

purely positive force

that consumes

and comforts

and consoles.

And though this energy

cannot be named

Or boxed up

Or labeled

Or categorized

It is there.

It

Is

And

It

is

the reason

That

Despite the pain

And the hurt

And the anger

And the injuries

And the insults

And the disappointments

Despite the last – minute changes

And the “We haven’t staged this yet!”

Despite the quick tempers

And the harsh words

Despite the ego trips

And the power trips

And the power struggles

And the struggles to keep sane

And the sheer insanity

Of the hugeness of the shows

And the massive number of bodies we try to

Cram

into this tiny

intimate space

Despite

all of it,

That force,

That feeling,

It resonates

And draws us in

And we come back

And we stay

And though we will

have to say

goodbye,

We will never

really

leave.

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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.


‘Move On! Chronicles’ No. 2: Auditions are 1 week away!

This is the second edition of the “Move On! Chronicles” – messages of invitation and inspiration sent to you from me, Bob Navis Jr.

Moving through the past eight weeks and allowing ideas and memories to flow from the past decades at St. Pat’s, I have been on a wild emotional ride of feeling blessed, overwhelmed, misty, thankful, awed and continually surprised at the staggering wealth of people, goodness, outrageous fun, art and music and – well, so, so much. A lifetime of art and heart!

Capturing all that in a show that does justice to all those years, all that sweat, all that creativity, all those friendships … well, it cannot be done!  Yet, it has to be done. And we’re going to need the actors who lived it to bring it with all the force and truth we can gather onto the stage for this one final farewell to the third floor. And I’m encouraging you to be a part of it and hope you can.

Auditions, for NWT veterans only (meaning you have to have appeared in the cast of one of our productions), are next week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – April 14, 15 and 16. Kids at 6 p.m.; teens and adults at 7:30 p.m., at the theater, 3606 Bridge Ave.! Detailed audition can be found below or at this location at the NWT website.

"Rent School Edition" 2010Let’s circle up and tell the stories of NWT … our stories … your story.

By the way: if you are among those who want to be considered in the casting of Move On!  but cannot come to any of the auditions, call me at 216-281-6879 or e-mail me at rnavisjr@aol.com. We will put you on a list that already includes Eric Fancher, CoCo Smith, Kristy Cruz and others, and we’ll definitely consider you in the casting process.

Many of you have asked what the show will be like. In the next edition of the Chronicles, I’ll throw my writer’s caution to the wind and share the script in progress!

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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.