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?
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?
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
Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating support from the Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga 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.