Tag Archives: annual benefit

Our new home’s the star at our gala this Sat., March 21

led board benefit 2 no place like

Our new home in the Gordon Square Arts District will be the “star,” and two longtime supporters who helped make it possible will be honored, in a high-energy, red-carpet, grand-opening event this Saturday, March 21. Actors, supporters and the community will gather for Near West Theatre’s Annual Benefit and Gala from 7 to 11 p.m. in our new performance space, 6702 Detroit Ave. After years of holding our big fundraising party at such locations as Trinity Cathedral, PlayhouseSquare and the old Cleveland Play House, we can now throw what a local journalist has called “one of the most authentic, genuine and satisfying benefit events of the year” in our own new home. The theme: “No Place Like Home.”

TH_Logo_rev_300dpiAdmission includes plentiful food, drink, dessert, dancing, a silent auction and the evening’s centerpiece: a passionate musical performance by a large, intergenerational Near West Theatre cast. Tickets, $100, benefit Near West Theatre’s mission of using theater as a process to build lives, relationships and community among diverse people of all ages. Tickets are available online in advance or can be purchased the door. They are also available by phone, 216-961-6391, until 4 p.m. Friday, March 20. The March 21 gala runs from 7 to 11 p.m.This event and the entire series of opening events and shows in our new theater are made possible by Presenting Sponsor Thompson Hine and the generous support of other season sponsors listed below.

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Jim and Anne Schoff spok at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new theater on Nov. 27, 2012. Photos by Gregory Wilson

Anne and Jim Schoff spoke at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new theater on Nov. 27, 2012. Photos by Gregory Wilson

Honorees. This year we honor longtime supporters Jim and Anne Schoff. “They first encountered Near West Theatre in 1995,” wrote founding Executive Director Stephanie Morrison Hrbek. “Anne says that is when ‘the love affair began.’ As steadfast supporters ever since, they have been pivotal in making the dream of our new home a reality. Besides their own leadership in giving, they brought us into their remarkable network of relationships, linking us to such generous supporters as Char and Chuck Fowler, Project Management Consultants through Thompson Hine, and the Barrington Wine Classic, to name just a few. They have even opened their home to us. When they lived at Barrington in Aurora, Ohio, they held special getaway parties so our young cast members could enjoy the swimming pool and other amenities there. They hosted special performances by Near West Theatre actors, where their own friends and neighbors were introduced to our spirit and mission. Jim and Anne have both served on our Board of Trustees (Jim as President, 2001-2006), as committee chairs, and as working chairs of our Annual Benefit – all the while, making connections with the people Near West Theatre. They always remind us that relationships with the children, teens, and adults of Near West are what has fueled their passion. They value hearing the stories of struggle and triumph of the people who come through our doors.

“Jim and Anne are one of those outstanding couples who have balanced raising three children – and now are enjoying nine grandchildren – while also being deeply involved as civic leaders. They both now serve on advisory boards at University Hospitals, and between them have served such organizations as the Cleveland Ballet, the Diversity Center, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Social Venture Partners, Sovereign Order of St. John, the Cleveland Play House, City Year Cleveland, and The Centers for Families and Children.”

Parking and transit information. Free valet parking will be available at the corner of Detroit Avenue and West 67th Street, and free self-parking can be found around the neighborhood the neighborhood. There’s a lot going on in the neighborhood Saturday night, so if you self-park, give yourself time to find a spot. The map below 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., after its 6 p.m. Saturday Mass is over. 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.

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Sponsors. In addition to Presenting Sponsor Thompson Hine, the following season sponsors have also provided generous support. Patron Sponsor: Consolidated Solutions. Producer Sponsors: American Limousine, Char and Chuck Fowler, Majic Family Fund, PNC, and an anonymous donor. Choreographer Sponsors: First Federal Lakewood, KeyBank, Medical Mutual, Ray and Katie Murphy, and Panzica Construction Co. We are also grateful to the Actor Sponsors and other Season Sponsors who will be listed at Saturday’s gala.

 — 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.


Construction update: Video and pictures

A coating called "fluid applied air barrier" is being sprayed on this week over golden "dense board." They're they'll be followed by more layers of insulation before metal siding goes on. Photos by Hans Holznagel

A coating called “fluid applied air barrier” is being sprayed this week onto gold-colored “dense board.” They’ll be followed by more kinds of insulation before metal siding goes on this fall. Photos by Hans Holznagel

With cranes gone and steel beams no longer flying overhead, we’ve been able walk through our framed-in future home several times during these latter weeks of summer. With just over four months of basic construction to go, we’re now seeing three-dimensional spaces that in the past we could only visualize with drawings, models and lots of imagination. Filmmaker Ted Sikora, who has been shooting a piece about our art and mission since Move On! rehearsals, took a quick August tour with two guys who will spend long work hours in the new building once it’s done: Technical Director and Production Manager Josh Padgett and Stage Manager and Assistant Production Manager Ryan Wolf. Here’s the fun result. (By the way, actors and staff, that side door, with the ladder: it’ll be a real door with stairs when it’s done!)

Below are still photos of a few emerging features of the building that might help you envision what the theater will eventually look like, even with daylight currently streaming through places that will eventually be sealed up tightly for the sake energy efficiency and the beauty of theatrical lighting.

As for timing: We’re still planning on getting occupancy to the building in early January 2015, holding a series of “sneak preview, theater-in-progress” events and parties there from February through April (including our Annual Benefit on a Saturday in late February), and producing our grand-opening, main-stage musical in April and May. — Hans Holznagel

Donors Chuck and Char Fowler, Board President Jason Bristol, and staffers Stephanie Morrison Hrbek and Josh Padgett toured the auditorium Aug. 21.

Donors Chuck and Char Fowler, Board President Jason Bristol, and staffers Stephanie Morrison Hrbek and Josh Padgett toured the auditorium Aug. 21.

Jason Bristol, president of NWT Board of Trustees, and donors Char and Chuck Fowler pause of an upstage-center picture Aug. 21 on recently completed concrete.

Jason Bristol, president of NWT Board of Trustees, and donors Char and Chuck Fowler paused Aug. 21 for an upstage-center picture on recently completed concrete.

The back wall separating the auditorium from the lobby was becoming visible in this Aug. 25 photo.

The back wall separating the auditorium from the lobby was becoming visible in this Aug. 25 photo. Above it is the balcony.

A ramp from the house to the stage, seen here Aug. 21, is one of the features that will make us compliant -- and gladly so -- with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A ramp from the house to the stage, seen here Aug. 21, is one of the features that will make us compliant — and gladly so — with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One of two sets of stairs connecting lower level, lobby and balcony was being installed Aug. 20.

One of two sets of stairs connecting lower level, lobby and balcony was being installed Aug. 20.

The windows that will serve our lower-level refreshment counter were becoming visible on Aug. 20.

The windows that will serve our lower-level refreshment counter were becoming visible on Aug. 20.

On Aug. 25, only the northwest corner remained to be closed in with "dense board" insulation over the wood that surrounds the steel frame.

On Aug. 25, only the northwest corner remained to be closed in with “dense board” — the first layer of insulation — over the wood that surrounds the steel frame.

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Near West Theatre’s $7.3 million construction project is part of the cooperative Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign, which has raised nearly $30 million not only for the new NWT but also for the renovation of the now-reopened Capitol (film) Theatre, extensive physical improvements at Cleveland Public Theatre, districtwide streetscape improvements and parking. Near West Theatre is also 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 us Sat., Feb. 15, downtown!

2014 Benefit imageIt’s been called one of Cleveland’s best parties of the year. The Annual Benefit for Near West Theatre’s art and mission is Saturday, Feb. 15, from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. Featuring a carnival theme and the title “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round,” this year’s event honors Cleveland attorney Jan Roller, a longtime Near West Theatre Trustee and supporter and a model of professional and civic involvement for the public good.

Jan Roller

Jan Roller

As always, the centerpiece will be a high-energy, 20-minute musical performance at 7 p.m. by NWT cast members of all ages. But Benefit-goers enjoy much more all evening:  buffets of hearty hors d’oeuvres and desserts, open bars with beer, wine and soft drinks, a silent auction, “key” and sideboard raffles, a photo booth, a DJ dance floor and other surprises — all under the gothic stone arches of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, which is transformed into a grand party venue for the evening.

Tickets are $85 ($50 tax deductible) or 10 for $800 ($450 tax deductible). Buy them at the door starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, or in advance through Thursday, Feb. 13, online or by phone, 216-961-6391. Trinity Cathedral is at 2230 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Use the Trinity Commons entrance on Prospect Avenue just east of East 22nd Street.

The lead sponsor of the event is the Majic Family Foundation. Other major sponsors include American Limousine Service, Euro USA, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pogue, RPM International, Char and Chuck Fowler, Rita and Charles Maimbourg, Mansour, Gavin, Gerlack & Manos L.P.P., Panzica Construction Co., PNC, and Tucker Ellis LLP.

Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing program support from the Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares.