5 ways to enjoy our dance party this Sat., March 14

DANCE PARTY online adIt’s another first for Near West Theatre as we turn our new performance space into a dance floor from 8 p.m. to midnight this Saturday, March 14. If you’re 18 or over, we hope to see you there for this latest in our series of opening events in the Gordon Square Arts District. Your $20 ticket and anything you spend inside helps support our mission of building community and changing lives through an amazing process and great theater.

We’re really looking forward to getting some crazy energy going as one way of imbuing the place with the fun, communal spirit of Near West Theatre. Here are five tips on what to expect and how to enjoy the evening:

  1. Hot band, hot DJ. Wondering about the music you’ll groove to? Check out this article (with video) on Wesley Bright and the Hi-Lites, and sample some DJ Donkis mixes here. They’ll alternate throughout the evening on the Bob Navis Jr. Stage in the Morrison Hrbek Theater, on the main floor.
  2. What to wear? This is Near West Theatre, after all. Go crazy. Funky. Ordinary. Formal. Casual. Business. Glam. Costume. Drag. Uniform. Preppy. Industrial. Whatever. It’s all good! We just want you. Dancing.
  3. Bring a photo ID. We’ll check ages at the door for this 18-and-over event. We have a system to make sure that only those 21 and older will be sold alcohol.
  4. Food! Drink! Souvenirs! You’ll find them upstairs and down, as follows: Snacks, soft drinks and coffee, $1 each, will be available in our lower-level concession area. The snack menu includes hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and pretzels. Alcoholic beverages for those of age will be available for purchase both there and at a bar in the theater dance area. Drink tickets, available at specially designated tables, are $4 each. Beer and wine are one ticket each. Selected mixed drinks will be available for two tickets each. When you visit the lower level, visit our gift shop for a special opening-event T-shirt or mug featuring the artwork from our colorful lobby mural. Great way to tell your friends, “I was there!”
  5. Plan your parking or transit strategy. There’s free parking scattered around the neighborhood. We’re expecting a crowd, so share a ride and give yourself time to hunt for a spot. Public transit is also a good option. RTA buses stop at W. 65th and Detroit: Route 26 twice each hour on Saturdays, and Route 45 once an hour. Hardy winter bicyclists will find bike racks on Detroit Avenue.

GSAD_ParkingThis map shows lots and streets where you can park free (our theater is the blue square!). You can also use the parking lots at Neighborhood Family Practice, W. 65th and Franklin; or Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 6928 Detroit Ave.

Drop-offs: Here’s how you can help when dropping off passengers: (1) Choose one of two places named below; (2) get your riders ready before you arrive; (3) have them get out the right-hand (curb) side of your vehicle; and then (4) pull away promptly to avoid backups. The two drop-off locations are in front of our still-under-construction plaza, in front of the fence with the Grand Opening signs; and West 67th Street, on the right-hand (east) curb, across from the theater, north of Detroit Avenue. NOTE: West 67th is a one-way street, northbound, and narrowed because of a construction fence that is still there so we’ll really need to work to keep traffic moving!

Enjoy the District: And, of course, we hope you’ll visit one or more of the many neighboring shops, restaurants, galleries and theaters. Say hello to them from their new neighbor, Near West Theatre!

Ready to party, then? Good. In honor of our soon-to-be-staged opening show, let your freak flag fly and dance your, uh — dance your donkey off! See you there. — Hans Holznagel

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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.

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Come see our new theater this Sat., Feb. 28

communityopenhouseimagesmallBWe did it! We took occupancy of the new Near West Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District, 6702 Detroit Ave., just over a week ago. We’ve been moving in ever since, and we’re still at it, but it’s time to throw the doors open. You’re invited to take a look inside and imagine the possibilities during a free Community Open House this Saturday, Feb. 28, from 1 to 5 p.m. There’ll be tours, refreshments, fun photo opportunities, a 3 p.m. ritual in the center of the space, and plenty of time to greet Stephanie Morrison Hrbek, Bob Navis Jr. and other friends, old and new. Come as you are and for whatever part of the afternoon you can. We’re still very much in “moving in” mode, and we’ll have a clearly marked path around the construction fence that’s still up because of continued work on the plaza and front sign. We want you, the NWT family and the wider community, to come inside and help invoke the spirit of past, present and future in this new space. For a complete list of this and other activities that will inaugurate our new home, visit the “Opening Events” page at our website.

GSAD_ParkingGet the most out of your visit to Near West Theatre: plan ahead! There’s free parking scattered around the neighborhood. We’re expecting a crowd, so share a ride and give yourself time to hunt for a spot. Public transit is also a good option. RTA buses stop at W. 65th and Detroit: Route 26 twice each hour on Saturdays, and Route 45 once an hour. Hardy winter bicyclists will find bike racks on Detroit Avenue.

This map shows lots and streets where you can park free (our theater is the blue square!). You can also use the parking lots at Neighborhood Family Practice, W. 65th and Franklin; or Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 6928 Detroit Ave. At Our Lady, please depart by 5 p.m. to make room for a 6 p.m. event.

Drop-offs: Here’s how you can help when dropping off passengers: (1) Choose one of two places named below; (2) get your riders ready before you arrive; (3) have them get out the right-hand (curb) side of your vehicle; and then (4) pull away promptly to avoid backups. The two drop-off locations are in front of Near West Lofts, 6710 Detroit Ave.; and West 67th Street, on the right-hand (east) curb, across from the theater, north of Detroit Avenue. NOTE: West 67th is a one-way street, northbound, and narrowed because of a construction fence that is still there so we’ll really need to work to keep traffic moving!

Enjoy the District: And, of course, we hope you’ll visit one or more of the many neighboring shops, restaurants, galleries and theaters. Say hello to them from their new neighbor, Near West Theatre!

Thank you to our 2015 Season Sponsors, whose generous support is making our Feb. 28 Community Open House and all our opening events possible. Our leading sponsors include the following. Presenting Sponsor: Thompson Hine. Patron: Consolidated Solutions. Producers: American Limousine, Char and Chuck Fowler, Majic Family Fund, PNC, Anonymous. Choreographers: KeyBank, Medical Mutual of Ohio, Panzica Construction Co. Actors: Calfee, Halter & Griswold L.L.P., Euro USA, FirstMerit Bank, Richard Fleischman + Partners Architects, Forest City Enterprises, Inc., Frantz Ward L.L.P., Donna and Stewart Kohl, Geoff and Jan Thrope.

Interested in sponsoring our season? It’s not too late, and there’s an attractive list of benefits that stretch across our opening events and performances. Contact Director of Development Joseph Castellano, jcastellano@nearwesttheatre.org, 216-961-9750.

 

Scenic artist Jenny HItmar Shankland leads a team installing the lobby mural. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Scenic Artist Jenny Hitmar Shankland is leading a team in installing the lobby mural that she and Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski created. Photo by Hans Holznagel

— Hans Holznagel

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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 alumna Mariah Burks

Mariah Burks during a recent benefit performance at Bowling Green State.

Mariah Burks during a recent benefit performance at Bowling Green State University.

Mariah Burks (right) with Molly Nagin in The Truth About Cinderella (2002).

Mariah (right) with Molly Nagin in The Truth About Cinderella (2002).

Mariah Victoria Burks, a 3rd-grader at Cleveland’s Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, was living right around the corner from Near West Theatre when she first took the stage as one of the orphans in Annie (2001). She was a regular cast member for years to come, even after her family moved to North Royalton, where she graduated from high school in 2011. At Near West she played leading roles in The Wiz (2009), Rent (2010) and Miss Saigon (2011), and was most recently seen at NWT in Move On! (2014), our farewell show at the St. Pat’s Club Building. A recent Region II winner of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition, she’ll compete nationally in April in Washington, D.C. She will graduate from Bowling Green State University this spring with a B.A. degree in communications with a specialization in musical theater. This fall she’ll enter the three-year Master of Fine Arts acting program at Case Western Reserve University. We recently asked her three questions.

Mariah as Dorothy in The Wiz (2009) with Pat Ciamacco (foreground) and (from left) Darius Stubbs, Edwin Smith and Cory Zukoski.

Mariah as Dorothy in The Wiz (2009) with Pat Ciamacco (foreground) and (from left) Darius Stubbs, Edwin Smith and Cory Zukoski.

1. What’s something you learned at Near West Theatre that sticks with you, even now, as an advanced student of acting? No matter what you’re going through, you too have a story to tell that can change and impact anybody, anywhere, as long as you, the performer, are open and willing to let your story constantly change something in you. That way, your story never becomes old but consistently refreshed and revived.

Mariah as Kim, with Michael Glavan as Chris, in Miss Saigon (2011).

Mariah as Kim, with Michael Glavan as Chris, in Miss Saigon (2011).

2. Any thoughts on growing up on West 41st Street, then moving away but staying connected to NWT? At first it was a challenge to have moved away from the place I knew I could easily go to just to have fun and let loose. But even after moving, I found that the pull of NWT was even stronger and that I had to be part of it some way, somehow. I could not let myself not be in this closely knit family. Even now, knowing that my collegiate schedule conflicts with the Annual Benefit is always a heart breaker for me. But I know that no matter where I go, I always have NWT family and friends that will welcome me back with open arms and hearts!

3. What are your hopes for Near West as we open a new building and a new chapter in our history? My hope is that for every show that is produced, hundreds and hundreds upon hundreds of people will flock to see what makes NWT not just a diamond in the rough, but the epitome of raw, cultured and love-woven theater. I truly hope that NWT and its people flourish in whatever they do!

Mariah (in headband) in Move On! (2014).

Mariah (left center, in headband) in Move On! (2014).

 — Hans Holznagel

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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 alumna Autumn Smith

Autumn Smith

Autumn Smith

Autumn Smith started hanging around Near West Theatre at age 3. She’s now about to finish college, majoring in East Asian studies and Japanese language. “My family had been doing Near West for a long time, so it was only natural I join in,” she says of her years growing up on Cleveland’s Near West Side. “My mother, Julie Smith, worked in shows and on costumes.” Autumn got on stage at age 7 in Follow the Yellow Brick Road (2001) and many more appearances followed — in Snoopy! (2003), Aladdin Jr. (2006) and Finian’s Rainbow (2008), to name a few. She graduated from St. Martin de Porres High School in 2011; is now a senior at Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio, where overseas studies have taken her to Japan and China (and where she hasn’t been afraid to speak out for justice on campus); and is looking at graduate schools in Colorado and England. “I was interested in Japanese studies because of a draw to the language and the sounds of the language itself. I am pursuing them now with the aim of exploring intercultural relations, identity, and globalization as manifest through Japanese literature and how they can relate to the big-scale cultural gaps between Japan and the United States.”And she’s an accomplished poet. Check out her blog of verse, “I Am Aki,” here. We recently asked her three questions.

1. What’s one strong memory from your years at Near West Theatre?
Autumn Smith (right) as Princess Jasmine in Aladdin Jr. (2006).

Autumn Smith (right front) as Princess Jasmine in Aladdin Jr. (2006), with Jason Dugger as Aladdin.

My strongest memories of Near West are the Annual Benefit and the pumpkin pals/secret pals aspect. I met my best friend through “Meat Pie Pals” during Sweeney Todd (2009) and I am still lucky enough to call her my sister. The Benefit shows, for me, were like one big reunion every year, of people I grew up with and loved, and the opportunity to not only be in one show but in an amalgam of them. They were always my favorite time of the year. I remember one year, a particularly hectic one for me, I came into the Benefit space that was full of hugs and tears and how-have-you-been’s. No matter how many times or how few times I come back to NWT, it’s nice to know that I have people there that will always make it feel like a homecoming.

2. You’re clearly a “words” person. Any connection between your stage experiences and your poetry and language studies?
Autumn (right) belting it out with the Snoopy cast in 2003.

Autumn (right), pencil in hand, in Snoopy! (2003).

I think I mostly got interested in language because it’s a new world you enter when you get the language itself down. Just like poetry, if you get the language down, you can completely transform the way you see the world. When I speak in Japanese, I feel like I enter a different reality, like I can somehow shape it. Obviously, there is a correlation with the stage there. Words give me a medium to interact with the world around me and shape it with the way I use them. It’s my favorite type of Art. People underestimate how much words have brought us to where we are now, but honestly, words have defined everything. Without them, there wouldn’t even be a reality to talk about. Literally though, someone defined reality and made it exist. Think about it.

3. What’s your hope for Near West Theatre now that we’re opening our long-awaited new building and a new chapter in our history?

I’m really excited to see the new and creative ways in which Near West is bound to tackle this new space! I want to see poetry, I want to see one-acts — all the things our old space didn’t really have the room for. I know if anyplace knows how to bring the potential out of the space it is given, it’s Near West! I can’t wait to come home to see the legacy live on in its new reincarnation!

Autumn (left) in Follow the Yellow Brick Road (2001).

Autumn (second from left) in Follow the Yellow Brick Road (2001).

— Hans Holznagel

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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 will also be featured in the March 2015 edition of Near West Theatre’s e-newsletter, The Near West Circle.


In the spotlight: NWT alumnus Daniel Caraballo

Daniel Caraballo

Danny Caraballo

Danny Caraballo first came to Near West Theatre’s stage in Merrily We Roll Along (2006) while a student at St. Ignatius High School. He earned a B.F.A. in musical theater from Kent State University in 2012 and now performs professionally. His credits include the national tour of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Richie Valens), and, this past summer, Celtic Fyre (The Inkeeper, who is the narrator and lead singer) at Busch Gardens, Virginia. We recently asked him three questions:

1. What role did Near West Theatre play in your life as a young person?

I have always considered NWT as the birthplace of my craft. Bob Navis and Stephanie Morrison Hrbek opened my eyes to a form of artistry so fulfilling and wholesome back in 2006. I couldn’t get enough of each cast’s comaraderie and the lifelong friends that would follow. Growing up in Cleveland’s inner city, NWT lit a passion and a flame that still burns bright and helps drive me here in New York City.

2. Now that you’re a professional actor, what’s something that sticks with you even now from those days?

Danny Caraballo (r.) as Bernardo, with Max Kantor as Tony, in NWT's West Side Story (2008).

Danny Caraballo (r.) as Bernardo, with Max Kantor as Tony, in West Side Story at NWT (2008).

Since moving to The City and even while fine-tuning my craft at Kent State, NWT’s process has stayed as my catalyst for every show I’m a part of. I learned to open my heart and allow my peers as well as the audience take the journey with me. I can rock out or show my vulnerability no matter what the stage because NWT made every performance venue a sanctuary for me.

3. What’s your hope for Near West Theatre now that we’re about to open our long-awaited new building and a new chapter in our history?

Jerome, with Doug Bailey as Franklin, in Merrily We Roll Along (2006).

Danny Caraballo (l.) as Jerome, with Doug Bailey as Franklin, in Merrily We Roll Along (2006).

My hope for the new theater is that it becomes the heart and soul of Detroit Shoreway. I grew up a few blocks away from the new venue and when I was a child I hadn’t the slightest idea of what live theater was. My hope is that Near West Theatre becomes one of Cleveland’s most prevalent artistic hubs, a magnet for children and teens to find an outlet to express themselves.

— Hans Holznagel

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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 February 2015 edition of Near West Theatre’s monthly e-newsletter, The Near West Circle.


‘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.


In the spotlight: NWT alumna Katie Klaus

Katie Klaus

Katie Klaus

Katie Klaus’s credits as a Broadway actor include The Bridges of Madison County, Bonnie and Clyde, A Catered Affair, and Inherit the Wind. Her first show at Near West Theatre, while she was a student at Brunswick High School, was Brigadoon (2001). She graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2006 with a degree in musical theater.

1. What’s one strong early Near West Theatre memory you have?
Warmups with Stephanie Morrison Hrbek and Bob Navis are a memory I won’t ever forget. I was nervous to join NWT, but after Stephanie and Bob got in front of the cast and wiggled around with no inhibitions, my nerves instantly melted away. It was so freeing to be around them and the cast.

2. Now that you’re a professional actor, what’s something that sticks with you even now from your Near West Theatre days? 
I always bring myself into my work. NWT gave me a safe place to shatter my boundaries and explore who I am. Because I learned that freedom, the work I do as an actor has a uniqueness found only in trusting yourself and

Katie Klaus with Alex Nosse in The Baker's Wife (2002). Photo by Rob Sommerfelt.

Katie Klaus with Alex Nosse in The Baker’s Wife (2002). Photo by Rob Sommerfelt.

the people around you to create something wonderful together. This is a gift from NWT I am very grateful for.

3. What’s your hope for Near West Theatre now that we’re about to open our long-awaited new building and a new chapter in our history? 
I hope that the summer shows won’t have to perform in 100-degree heat anymore! (just kiddin’!) Although that will be a welcomed perk, I know the NWT, with the group it was when I was there and the people it consistently attracts to do shows, will always give people a place to let their creativity fly free and grow. My hope is that it reaches an even wider group of people in Ohio and shows them what a unique and amazing place it is. Ohio needs more places like Near West Theatre.

Katie Klaus (right) as Pontius Pilate, with Carlos Cruz as Jesus, in Jesus Christ Superstar (2003). Photo by Rob Sommerfelt

Katie Klaus (right) as Pontius Pilate, with Carlos Cruz as Jesus, in Jesus Christ Superstar (2003). Photo by Rob Sommerfelt

— Hans Holznagel

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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.