Tag Archives: carlos cruz

In the spotlight: NWT actor Patrick Ciamacco

Patrick Ciamacco

Patrick Ciamacco

Look closely and you may recognize the leading ogre in Shrek the Musical, the first-ever main-stage show in Near West Theatre’s brand-new performance venue, opening April 24. He’s played by Patrick Ciamacco, who since 1996 has made dozens of appearances at Near West’s old Ohio City venue and on many other Cleveland-area stages. Perhaps you’ve seen him at his very own Blank Canvas Theatre, which he founded in 2011. He even played Shrek once before, in Mercury Summer Stock’s 2013 production of the musical, alongside Justin Woody, who likewise is reprising the role of Donkey at Near West.

Patrick with Katie Klaus in The Baker's Wife (2002)

Patrick with Katie Klaus in The Baker’s Wife at Near West (2002)

Patrick and buddy Joe Kenderes came in from suburban Brunswick to audition for Near West’s youth production of South Pacific in 1996. It was the start of a long relationship with Near West, where both of them have performed many times since and where Patrick has also directed and assisted in other capacities over the years.

Patrick as Che Guevara in NWT's producton of Evita (2002)

As Che Guevara in Evita (2002)

“I remember walking up to St. Pat’s for that first audition and not being sure if we were in the right place,” Patrick says. “When we got upstairs, I was scared, thinking, ‘There are so many teens here.’ I ended up getting cast in the ensemble and had no idea it would change my life like it did: performing in so many shows, directing, working with some amazing kids, and now seeing those kids all grown up. It has brought so many friends and ‘family’ into my life.”

As one of the four narrators in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2004), with, from left Kristy Cruz, Trinidad Snider, Carlos Cruz, and Ralph Pack as Jacob

As one of the four narrators in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2004), with, from left, Kristy Cruz, Trinidad Snider, Carlos Cruz, and Ralph Pack as Jacob

Patrick graduated from Brunswick High School in 1998 and recently became the youngest inductee into its Alumni Hall of Fame. He now lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, close to Near West’s new Gordon Square theater and Blank Canvas’ West 78th Street venue, where he spends long hours. “I love that I can produce smaller musical and non-musical shows there that can also provide entertainment and community outreach. We are about to open Extremities, a searing play about an attempted rape and its aftermath as the victim turns the tables on her attacker. It explores themes that are part of a national conversation about domestic abuse, rape and assault. We’ve even partnered with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. They’ll be doing talk-backs after some of our shows.”

As Mr. Bumble in Oliver! (2011), with Skipper Rankin as Oliver and Gwen Stembridge as Mrs. Bumble

As the Beadle in Oliver! (2011), with Skipper Rankin as Oliver and Gwen Stembridge as Mrs. Bumble

He answered an e-mail in the middle of the night, in a week filled with Near West rehearsals and Blank Canvas tech, to answer three questions about Shrek the Musical. It’s on stage April 24 through May 17 at 6702 Detroit Ave. Tickets are available online or by calling 216-961-6891, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

1. What’s unique about Near West’s take on Shrek the Musical? The actors and staff who are telling the story. The process of developing any production at Near West Theatre allows the cast to really put themselves into the story: their experiences, their feelings, their heart. You’ll see that on this wonderful new stage. All of them, from the Donkey to the Gingerbread Cookie, are pouring their souls into the show.

2. What’s the greatest challenge in playing the role of Shrek? Living up to the expectations people have while still exploring the role from an actor’s point of view. It’s a character we all know and love. My goal is to put my own nuances into the role while balancing what the audience comes expecting to see and hear. I don’t want to reinvent Shrek. Kids, especially, want to see the green ogre they have watched over and over again. The smile on their faces after a show is better than anything.

3. What kind of an era do you hope you’re helping to launch with this first show ever in this brand-new venue? This show is a giant fairy tale. It quite possibly could be one of the largest shows NWT has ever done. Ogres, donkeys, dragons, castles — it’s huge! This show will bring in the era of Broadway-esque spectacle and magic that this neighborhood has not yet ever seen.

— Hans Holznagel

As Harold Hill, with Joe Kenders as Marcellus, in The Music Man (2006)

As Harold Hill, with Joe Kenderes as Marcellus, in The Music Man (2006)

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Near West Theatre’s 2015 opening events, including Shrek the Musical, are presented by Thompson Hine and its subsidiary, PMC. 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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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.


In the spotlight: NWT actor Carlos Cruz

Carlos Cruz

Carlos Cruz

When a friend asked him to tag along to auditions 2003, Carlos Cruz did – and unexpectedly wound up with the lead role in Near West Theatre’s summer youth production of Jesus Christ Superstar. A second-generation Puerto Rican, Carlos was born here but split his childhood between Cleveland and Puerto Rico. He graduated from Lincoln West High School, having attended there only during his senior year. Since his NWT debut, Carlos has been involved in theater here and as far away as New York City. In early 2014, he moved back to Cleveland and participated in Move On! Now he’s planning to audition for Superstar for a second time.

Q: How did you first get involved with Near West Theatre?

A: I was raised Pentecostal and always loved the music in church, but when I was no longer allowed to actively participate, I found myself searching for a new place to make music. During my senior year of high school I was involved with a production of The Wiz, and a friend from the show asked me to come audition with him at NWT for moral support. I said “OK, but I’m not doing the show.” When I walked in, I thought, “Oh, no – I am walking right back out of here.” In that particular audition group, I saw predominantly people who were not of color, so that intimidated me. I auditioned anyway. In my wildest dreams, I never thought my first role would be Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar, but Bob took a chance on me. I went in there blind, and it turned out to be one of the most life-changing experiences.

Carlos Cruz in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2003.

Carlos Cruz in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2003.

Q: Wow, you played Jesus your first time out? What was that like?

A: It was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. It pushed me to extreme limits. The cast was just the most amazing cast that I ever could have worked with. The experience was gut-wrenching, emotional, just really inspirational. It was awesome – challenging as hell – for me as an individual who comes from a very worship-and-gospel background. To be confronted with some of these things in an in-your-face, doesn’t-let-down rock opera was just overwhelming and daunting. When I was told that I was going to be Jesus we were already well into the rehearsal process. My immediate reaction was, “No, you have the wrong one, choose someone with more experience.” But Bob saw something in me. The experience brought the best out of me, and it was a success because of what we all did.

Q: Are you auditioning for this year’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar?

A: Yes, I’m auditioning for it, but not expecting too much. For me, this is just coming full circle. A lot has happened since I first auditioned. My last NWT performance before Move On! was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2004. I left to do theater in other places; I studied vocal performance at Cleveland State University, went to New York City, and moved back to Puerto Rico for a while. There were always people from Near West who reached out.

Q: What do you have to say to others who might be considering auditioning for Jesus Christ Superstar?

A: Go audition! If there’s one show you want to experience, it’s Jesus Christ Superstar, especially at Near West Theatre. Actors have fewer limitations because Near West is open-minded in their casting. Near West is creativity, and I love it. They are going to do amazing things with this show. The fact that it will be performed in the sanctuary of a church is very exciting.

Q: You came back for Move On! What was it like saying goodbye to St. Patrick’s?

A: When I heard about Move On!, I had to come back. I owe NWT a debt of gratitude for everything they’ve done to push me along in the arts. It was a wonderful opportunity to come back and see everyone that I’d been missing, and to meet all these people who I should have crossed paths with, but for some reason I never had. It was a mixture of making new friends, revisiting old ones and getting back into the game as well. I feel blessed that I got to do that.

It was very bittersweet; that’s the word that continually keeps coming to mind. You never know how attached you are to a place until you walk back in and all these memories flood your mind. First kisses – I had my first kiss there; I fell in love for the first time there. I also had some falling-outs and some intense dramatic experiences. It was sweet in that I could give back to NWT a little of what it gave me and better in that some memories that came back were overwhelming, but Move On! was insanely amazing. To learn that many songs in that short a time, and the amount of people on stage – well, that was just the magic of NWT.

— 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.