Category Archives: Volunteers

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.

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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.


Come to our Annual Meeting, Thu., Sept. 18

groundbreakinglogoUpdates on our new theater and our coming season of shows will be featured at Near West Theatre’s Annual Meeting this Thursday, Sept. 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the Atrium of the Gordon Square Arcade Building, 6516 Detroit Ave. We’ll also honor our 2013-2014 volunteers and show some brief snippets from among hours of footage collected by filmmaker Ted Sikora about the art, mission, process and spirit of Near West Theatre. A business meeting of the Board of Trustees will follow. All are welcome! Free parking is available in several Gordon Square Arts District lots and in the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church lot, 6928 Detroit Ave.

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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.

The Near West Theatre construction site in the Gordon Square Arts District, viewed frmo the southeast on Sept. 12, 2014. Photo by Hans Holznagel

The Near West Theatre construction site in the Gordon Square Arts District, viewed from the southeast on Sept. 12, 2014. Photo by Hans Holznagel


‘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


Help us get the theater ready on Sat., Oct. 26

Hot pizza, cold pop and that warm feeling of having made a difference: they’re all benefits of showing up for an hour or the whole afternoon of Near West Theatre’s Community Work Day on Saturday, Oct. 26. We need your help preparing the theater for A Christmas Story, the Musical, which will be in tech rehearsals before you know it.

Molly Andrews-Hinders and Jason Dugger worked on a coffin and other set pieces at the 2011 Community Work Day. Photos by Mo Eutazia.

Molly Andrews-Hinders and Jason Dugger worked on a coffin and other set pieces at the 2011 Community Work Day. Photos by Mo Eutazia.

No special skills are needed. Just show up, sign in and work side-by-side with Technical Director Josh Padgett, Assistant Technical Director Perren Hedderson, Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski and other members of the production staff to get things organized for the show. At an NWT work day you never know till you show up exactly what work is needed. You might paint, sew, organize costumes and props, or just move things around. But you’ll definitely get lunch on us (if you’re not too late!) and get that great experience of being part of the community that makes our art and mission happen. Join us at our St. Pat’s performance site, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. — Hans Holznagel

Roxy Reminick (left) and Katie Medvec (center) were on patch-sewing, costume-organizing duty in 2011.

Roxy Reminick (left) and Katie Medvec (center) sewed patches and organized costumes in 2011.

Sam Utterback immersed herself in set-piece painting in 2011.

Sam Utterback immersed herself in set-piece painting in 2011.

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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.

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A Christmas Story, the Musical

Musical by Joseph Robinette, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul,

 based upon A Christmas Story © 1983 Turner Entertainment Co., distributed by Warner Bros., written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark, and on the book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd.

A Christmas Story, the Musical, is produced by special arrangement with THE DRAMATIC PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC., of Woodstock, Illinois. Produced with permission of Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Inc.


Sign up to volunteer!

Volunteering at a show is great way to support and experience Near West Theatre’s community-building mission. Now we need people of all ages — including you — for May performances of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. There are many ways to help: Join the team that staffs the concession stand, gift shop or ticket table. Greet patrons and hand out playbills. Serve as a house manager or assistant. Bake a batch of cookies or brownies. Pop popcorn. Please consider volunteering for one or more of these performances.  Arrival time is 6 p.m. (or 1:30 on Sundays):

Sue Stewart, our friendly Volunteer Coordinator (shown here at the center of box-office action during the 2012 production of Rent) will sign you up to help in one of many ways.

Sue Stewart, our friendly Volunteer Coordinator (shown here at the center of box-office action during the 2010 production of Rent), will sign you up to help in one of many ways.

  • Friday, May 3
  • Saturday, May 4
  • Thursday, May 9
  • Friday, May 10
  • Saturday, May 11
  • Sunday, May 12
  • Friday, May 17
  • Saturday, May 18
  • Sunday, May 19

Besides the fun and satisfaction of volunteering, you’ll also experience the excitement of show time at the theater – and you can see the show for free (unless it’s sold out!). Please sign up by contacting Volunteer Coordinator Sue Stewart, susanstewart11@aol.com, 216-861-0318.

Running a spotlight (as Noah Utterback did for Children of Eden in 2012) is one of many tasks handled by our volunteer crew.

Running a spotlight (as Noah Utterback did for Children of Eden in 2012) is one of many tasks handled by our volunteer crew.

Crew needed, too. Volunteer backstage and balcony crew members are needed from April 21 through May 19, for the last two weeks of Brel rehearsals and the run of the show. It’s fun, active and team-oriented. To volunteer for the crew, contact Kelcie Dugger, kdugger@nearwesttheatre.org, 216-961-9750.

Don’t forget our new Star Seats! Forty years ago this month, Jacques Brel opened in the State Theatre lobby and helped save Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. Now Near West Theatre revives this iconic musical, not with four performers on cabaret stools but with a diverse castBREL poster 2013 of 32 community actors! Don’t miss these high-energy, dramatic songs and stories of passion, personal struggle and social critique. Consider supporting our art and mission – and ensuring affordable community prices – by enjoying a $20 reserved Star Seat with additional benefits. Our regular community ticket prices are also available, of course: $8 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under (mature themes; parental discretion advised), general admission.  Order online; call 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays; or visit our business office, 6516 Detroit Ave., Suite 9, during those same hours. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the performance site, 3606 Bridge Ave., starting an hour before show time.

Crew members from a couple years back take a break by concessions: (l. to r.) Jason Dugger, Alicia Cleveland, Emily Suma, Rod Cardwell, Leland Pestak, Hayden Neidhardt, Mo Eutazia, Carter Smith.

Crew members from a couple years back take a break by concessions: (l. to r.) Jason Dugger, Alicia Cleveland, Emily Suma, Rod Cardwell, Leland Pestak, Hayden Neidhardt, Mo Eutasia, Carter Smith.


Diverse cast and crew of ‘Ragtime’

The cast of Ragtime during a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

The cast of Ragtime during a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

As Ragtime’s final weekend approaches, here’s a word about the variety of people on stage and backstage. Part of Near West Theatre’s mission is to be a crossroads of diversity for actors and crew members of varied ages, races, neighborhoods, economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, acting experience and other differences. Each production is designed and directed by professionals and is supported by paid musicians and stage management, but otherwise is turned over to an entirely volunteer cast and crew for the run of the show. Here are a few statistics on Ragtime’s cast and the people who work behind the scenes moving set pieces, handling props, running lights and doing many other tasks:

  • Total:  59

    The cast surrounds Andrew Pollis (as Harry Houdini) in the opening number.

    The cast surrounds Andrew Pollis (as Harry Houdini) in the opening number. Photo by Terry Schordock.

  • Cast members:  43
  • Crew members:  16
  • Teens:  19 (nine in cast, 10 in crew)
  • Oldest actor:  age 77
  • Youngest:  ages 6, 9 & 13
  • Persons of color:  22
  • Cleveland residents:  33
  • 
From Cleveland’s three Near West Side ZIP codes:  27
  • Other communities represented:  Cleveland Heights (6), Parma (5), Lakewood (2), Parma Heights (2), Richfield (2), Rocky River (2); and 1 each from Akron, Avon Lake, Berea, Euclid, Independence, Kent (KSU) and Olmsted Township.

And that’s not counting the dozens who volunteer “front of house”:  at the concession stand, gift shop and ticket table, and as house managers, greeters, and bakers of cookies and brownies. Want to help in that way now or for a future show?  Click here for information, then contact Carole Hedderson at chedderson@nearwesttheatre.org.

Tickets are still available online for the 7:30 p.m. performances of Ragtime on Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19, and for the 3 p.m performance Sunday, May 20. Or call our advance sales ticket line (weekdays only) between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.:  216-961-6391.

Director Bob Navis Jr. (back center) prepares the Ragtime cast for a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

Director Bob Navis Jr. (back center) prepares the Ragtime cast and crew for a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.