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In the spotlight: NWT alumna Amanda Krupman

Amanda Krupman

Amanda Krupman

In 1996, on West 48th Street between Sunnyside and Fulton Parkway in Old Brooklyn, Ohio, a friend invited J.F. Rhodes High School student Amanda Krupman to audition at Near West Theatre. Before she knew it, she was cast as Minnie in Hello, Dolly! She returned for two 1999 shows: Bye Bye Birdie and Seasons of Love. What she may not have known at the time was how these experiences would impact her future.

Today, Amanda is a writer and nightlife performer in Brooklyn, N.Y. She writes short fiction, serves as a mentor for teenage writers through the organization Girls Write Now, and has a great day job in communication for one of the schools at City College of New York. She credits her experiences at Near West Theatre with making a lifelong impact, especially when it comes to mentoring teenagers with creative passions. The Near West Circle interviewed her recently.

Q. What was one of your best NWT memories?

A: As I’m sure you’ll hear from countless other NWT alumni, I found Near West Theatre at a time when it was especially crucial I find structured support, creative validation, and a loving community. It is hard to focus on just one memory. I was cast mates with some singularly hilarious and memorable people, and I could relay a variety of formative experiences and bonds.

What I can say is that I associate my time with NWT as one that taught me about what I like to refer to as the power of kith: that is, of chosen family. As a member of the LGBTQ community, over the years I’ve continually reflected upon my time with NWT as one that introduced me to a functional family model. At the time, I was often overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless love, which infused a solid structure that valued interdependence, accountability, and taking on creative challenges.

Q: You mentioned that mentorship was an important part of your NWT experience – who mentored you and how?

A: Going back to the family model, I consider it to have been a collective mentoring experience; my emotional and creative growth can be traced back to my relationships with Bob Navis, Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Carole and Bruce Hedderson, Trinidad Rosario, Stephanie Taylor-Ayers, and so many others.

Q. How did NWT prepare you for your current ventures? 

A. As a performer, NWT offered me the building blocks for stage confidence and craft. But more importantly, as I would become an advocate and activist for social justice, I credit NWT with pulling me in close to my fellow Cleveland West Side community members. Through those relationships I exercised my developing senses of empathy, solidarity, humble curiosity (in the face of not knowing answers but still asking questions), and I began to develop the capacity to translate internal passion into external good works.

— 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.


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.


‘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

Catching up: NWT family news

Catching up on Near West Theatre staff and family news…

Eleanor Morrison

Eleanor Morrison

A memorial service for the mother of Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, the Rev. Eleanor Morrison, was held April 26. Eleanor died Feb. 12 in East Lansing, Mich. She was 92. An obituary is here. Eleanor played many important roles in the lives of Stephanie, her siblings and countless others. She and Stephanie’s late father, the Rev. Truman Morrison, had a particular influence on Stephanie’s artistic development, as explained in this Cleveland Arts Prize video. The memorial service was at Edgewood United Church of Christ, East Lansing, co-founded by Eleanor and Truman.

Joseph Castellano

Joe Castellano

NWT welcomed two new staff members in April: Joseph Castellano, Director of Development, and Amy Clausen, part-time Office Specialist.

Joe arrives with extensive experience in arts management. With major talent agencies and through his own business, Castellano Artists LLC, he has worked with conductors, instrumentalists and composers in all matters of their daily artistic lives, from long-term strategic planning to monitoring finances and handling logistics. He has also worked with touring productions, overseeing more than 50 performances throughout the United States and in eight other countries. After living and working in New York City and San Francisco, he arrived in Cleveland in 2013, when his partner was appointed Director of Artistic Planning with the Cleveland Orchestra. A native of Verona, N.J., Joe  holds a degree in communications from Iona College.

Amy Clausen

Amy Clausen

Amy recently switched to the administrative side of nonprofit work after seven years in camp work with children with disabilities and as a children’s bereavement counselor. St. Edward’s High School and Ohio City, Inc., are among the nonprofits that have benefited from her administrative skills. She holds a B.A.in psychology and computer applications and a master’s degree in nonprofit administration, both from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and a Master of Social Work degree from Case Western Reserve University. She’s an active athlete at Two Ravens Fencing Club, where she also lends her administrative and marketing expertise.

Lindsay Doerr (center) surrounded by staffers Steph, Bob and Perren at a Jan. 17 farewell lunch. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Lindsay (center) surrounded by staffers Steph, Bob and Perren at a Jan. 17 farewell lunch. 

Lindsay Doerr, Development Director at Near West Theatre since September 2010, left Jan. 17 to join Chicago-based CCS Fundraising Consulting. Among Lindsay’s many gifts to NWT’s fundraising work: a remarkably organized and detailed approach to the extensive calendar of grant applications and reports that are important sources of support for Near West Theatre’s art and mission … strong leadership in our annual winter Benefit, and in our first two experiences as the recipient of funds raised at an August event at the Barrington Golf Club in Aurora, Ohio … helpful contributions to the day-to-day financial, human-resources and front-of-house aspects of our work … and a cheery, can-do attitude toward any task the office team needed to tackle.

Bob Navis (left) and Tony Saar on a recent European trip

Bob  (left) and Tony on a recent European trip

Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. and longtime partner Tony Saar were married Jan. 24 at the Selby Hotel in Toronto, where they had first met on that same date in 1997.

Two former NWT staffers who still work on our e-newsletter, The Near West Circle, have each given birth to daughters. Circle writer Julie Cajigas and Israel Cajigas welcomed Hazel Josephine Cajigas on Dec. 7, 2013. Circle designer Sara Radak and Christopher Radak are parents of Nora Rebecca Radak, born Jan. 22, 2014.

Julie and family

Julie, Israel and Hazel

Sara and Nora Radak

Sara and Nora


Staff news: a warm welcome

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.

Don Carlson, Finance Director Image

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.

Ryan Wolf, Assistant Production Manager Image

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.

Laura Carlson Tarantowski, Designer Image

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


‘pARTy’ in our tent, Sat., June 8

Performances by Near West Theatre kids who are no longer kids — plus your chance at live Broadway karaoke — will be among the featured attractions on our stage at the pARTy in Gordon Square street festival Saturday, June 8, from 2 to 8 p.m.  Join us under the tent at West 67th Street and Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, for performances on the half-hour from 2 to 6 p.m. Then, from 6 to 8 p.m., have fun on stage (or just listening ) during Broadway Open Mike, led and accompanied by Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr.  Popcorn and NWT balloons will be available.  It’s all free!  (We’ll have a donation jar on hand to help cover the snacks and balloons.)

Our stage is part of a wider neighborhood bash that brings thousands of people to the Gordon Square Arts District the first Saturday each June for live entertainment, art exhibits, vendors, food trucks, a beer garden and the built-in fun that already exists: restaurants, pubs, the Capitol Theatre at West 65th and Detroit (for movies) and Cleveland Public Theatre, on Detroit just east of West 65th, where there’ll be another whole outdoor stage of fun.  pARTy in Gordon Square is deliberately held the same day as University Circle’s annual “Parade the Circle” on the East Side; shuttle transportation is available between the two.

Featured in the afternoon are performers who were children or teens when they first joined casts at Near West Theatre and have remained connected as adult volunteers, staff, supporters, etc.: Mariah Burks, Trinidad Snider, Mo Eutazia, Kelcie Dugger, Sarah Hess, Shekinah (CoCo) Smith, and Patrick Ciamacco, who will bring actors from his own Blank Canvas Theatre. Also joining us are Kevin Marr, who helped choreograph our recent production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, and Ryann Angelotti, seen in our 2012 productions of Ragtime and Children of Eden. Jordan Cooper will accompany many of the acts on the keyboard. The NWT Stage schedule is below. Hope to see you there! — Hans Holznagel

Time segment Near West Theatre Stage Schedule, 6/8/13
2:00 to 2:20 Kevin Marr – Movement & dance. Watch or join in!
2:20 to 2:30 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
2:30 to 2:50 Mariah Burks – Broadway/popular songbook (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
2:50 to 3:00 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
3:00 to 3:20 Trinidad Snider – Broadway/popular songbook (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
3:20 to 3:30 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
3:30 to 3:50 Blank Canvas Theatre – Selections from recent Blank Canvas Theatre productions
3:50 to 4:00 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
4:00 to 4:20 Mo Eutazia and Kelcie Dugger – Guitar & vocals
4:20 to 4:30 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
4:30 to 4:50 Ryann Angelotti – Broadway/popular songbook (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
4:50 to 5:00 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
5:00 to 5:20 Sarah Hess – Music and fun (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
5:20 to 5:30 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
5:30 to 5:50 Shekinah (CoCo) SmithBroadway/popular songbook (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
5:50 to 6:00 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
6:00 to 8:00 “Broadway Open Mike” with Bob Navis Jr. at the keyboard. Pick a song!
Stop by or stay a long time, as people did variously for our 2012 performances.

Stop by or stay a long time, as people did variously for our 2012 performances.

Our corner is near the center of street-festival action along Detroit Ave.

Our corner is near the center of street-festival action along Detroit Ave.

"Get up, stand up" during  DJ dance breaks between acts.

“Get up, stand up” during DJ dance breaks between acts.


Thank you, Carole

As Near West Theatre prepares for a year of transition to its new building, our needs and opportunities in the areas of finance and statistical analysis have caused us to restructure our staff responsibilities.  The position of Business and Operations Director came to an end on March 20, 2013, and so we say goodbye, with regret, but with gratitude for her nearly 14 years of staff service, to Carole Leiblinger-Hedderson.

Carole first became involved at Near West as a parent, when her son, Perren Hedderson, then a teenager, was in the cast of Godspell in 1994.  Since then she has touched thousands of people through her involvement in many aspects of Near West Theatre’s life and work:  as actor, stage manager, volunteer recruiter, front-of-house manager, ad salesperson, motivator of cast playbill campaigns, leader of parent meetings, formatter and distributor of publicity materials, cash flow bills manager, and so much more. We are grateful for all that Carole has offered to Near West Theatre and her commitment to our art and mission.  Carole asked that no event be held to  honor her, but we hope that you, as individuals, if you feel so moved, will join us in thanking Carole and wishing her the best in the midst of this difficult time.  If you have questions or need contact information, please e-mail or call me (hholznagel-at-nearwesttheatre-dot-org; 216-961-9750). — Hans Holznagel

Carole Leiblinger-Hedderson (second from right) with members of the 2012 Annual Benefit cast

Carole Leiblinger-Hedderson with Annual Benefit cast members (from left) Jocelyn Perkins, Faith Green, Mary Halm, Madelyn Lockshine, Christine Larson, Isaac Jarrell, Jeffrey Braun and Louis Johnson II, Jan. 28, 2012, at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland. Photo by Terry Schordock

Carole Leiblinger-Hedderson (third from right) at a restaurant gathering with colleagues (from left) Perren Hedderson, Lindsay Doerr, Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Bob Navis Jr. and Kelcie Dugger, Oct. 30, 2012. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Carole Leiblinger-Hedderson (third from right) with colleagues (from left) Perren Hedderson, Lindsay Doerr, Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Bob Navis Jr. and Kelcie Dugger, Oct. 30, 2012, at a restaurant in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District. Photo by Hans Holznagel