Tag Archives: mariah burks

Near West Theatre documentary at the film fest tonight

You’ve got one more chance tonight to see Ted Sikora’s energetic documentary about Near West Theatre at the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival. It’s at 8:45 p.m. at Tower City Cinemas. Advice to first-time festival-goers: Act now. Get on the Festival’s box office page, get your ticket, get downtown early to park (or better yet, take the RTA) and find the right color-coded line to stand in. The showing’s code is MOVE24.

Near West Theatre's Move On!, June 2014. Photo by Terry Schordock

Move On! on stage, June 2014. Photo by Terry Schordock

You’ll be glad you did. Ted started coming to rehearsals in the spring of 2014 for the musical Move On!, our farewell to the St. Pat’s Club Building, our home of 36 years. His goal was an 8- to 10-minute fundraising piece. He was so taken with our process and our people that he kept coming back for dozens of hours of shooting. The result was this 88-minute documentary that really does catch the spirit of how we use theater to bring people together, build community, and by the way, stage a darned good, professionally produced show with a huge cast of ordinary people. Theater critic Andrea Simakis gave the film an “A” in The Plain Dealer (March 23, Page A2) and online at Cleveland.com.

CIFF_39season_stampTonight’s screening follows a packed neighborhood showing at the Capitol Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District on Sunday, March 22, and a screening downtown on Monday afternoon, March 23. Audiences seem to be liking it. If you do, too, don’t forget to tear off that little “excellent” corner of the CIFF ballot you’ll receive tonight. And say hi to Ted. He’ll be there for a director’s Q&A. — Hans Holznagel

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The film Move On! was made possible by special support from Char and Chuck Fowler and from The George Gund Foundation. Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares; for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences; and to our 2015 Presenting Sponsor, Thompson Hine.

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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.


‘pARTy’ with NWT @ Gordon Square, Sat., June 14

pARTYlogoThe Near West Theatre outdoor stage returns this Saturday, just a few feet from the steel rising above the site of our new theater in the Gordon Square Arts District. Our stage on Detroit Avenue at West 67th Street will be among the featured music venues during the annual pARTy in Gordon Square festival on Saturday, June 14. Brief performances every half hour, from 2 p.m. until shortly before 6 p.m., will include a kids’ ensemble singing selections from Once On This Island Jr. and a half-dozen familiar NWT soloists sharing Broadway and other popular and original tunes, accompanied by pianist Jordan Cooper. In the past, when our site was not yet excavated, we had room under the NWT tent for a DJ, dancing and various activities, ranging from games to a cookout to kids’ crafts. This year — because we’re FINALLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION — we’ve got less space. But it’ll still be fun: a stage, a tent, some chairs, lots of great music, and a constant stream of “pARTy”-ers going by the space that will soon become a plaza in front of our new buidling. (Sorry, no Broadway karaoke with Bob Navis Jr. this year: we all have to get over to St. Pat’s for a 7:30 p.m. show!)

Singer Mariah Burks and accompanist Jordan Cooper, seen here in 2012, are among the performers returning to the NWT outdoor stage on June 14.

Singer Mariah Burks and accompanist Jordan Cooper, seen here in 2012, are among the performers returning to the NWT outdoor stage on June 14.

The fun throughout the Gordon Square Arts District starts in the morning in and around the Capitol Theatre, with cartoons, face painting aand shuttle rides to Cleveland’s East Side for Parade the Circle. It continues throughout the afternoon and evening with music, vendors and activities in several Gordon Square locations, especially at the main stage in Cleveland Public Theatre’s parking lot. Of course, you’re also encouraged to make your way over to Bridge Avenue and West 38th Street for Near West Theatre’s 7:30 performance of Move On!, as our farewell to the St. Patrick’s Club Building continues. Below is the Near West Theatre Stage lineup. Stop by and see us! — Hans Holznagel

 Near West Theatre Stage Schedule, Sat., June 14, 2014:

Song from Broadway and the great American songbook!

Time Performer(s)
2:00 to 2:15 Once On This Island Jr. ensemble
2:30 to 2:45 Mariah Burks
3:00 to 3:15 Once On This Island Jr. ensemble (repeat)
3:30 to 3:45 Eric Fancher
4:00 to 4:15 Trinidad Snider
4:30 to 4:45 Kevin Joseph Kelly
5:00 to 5:15 CoCo Smith
5:30 to 5:45 Mo Eutazia and Kelcie Dugger

‘pARTy’ in our tent, Sat., June 8

Performances by Near West Theatre kids who are no longer kids — plus your chance at live Broadway karaoke — will be among the featured attractions on our stage at the pARTy in Gordon Square street festival Saturday, June 8, from 2 to 8 p.m.  Join us under the tent at West 67th Street and Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, for performances on the half-hour from 2 to 6 p.m. Then, from 6 to 8 p.m., have fun on stage (or just listening ) during Broadway Open Mike, led and accompanied by Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr.  Popcorn and NWT balloons will be available.  It’s all free!  (We’ll have a donation jar on hand to help cover the snacks and balloons.)

Our stage is part of a wider neighborhood bash that brings thousands of people to the Gordon Square Arts District the first Saturday each June for live entertainment, art exhibits, vendors, food trucks, a beer garden and the built-in fun that already exists: restaurants, pubs, the Capitol Theatre at West 65th and Detroit (for movies) and Cleveland Public Theatre, on Detroit just east of West 65th, where there’ll be another whole outdoor stage of fun.  pARTy in Gordon Square is deliberately held the same day as University Circle’s annual “Parade the Circle” on the East Side; shuttle transportation is available between the two.

Featured in the afternoon are performers who were children or teens when they first joined casts at Near West Theatre and have remained connected as adult volunteers, staff, supporters, etc.: Mariah Burks, Trinidad Snider, Mo Eutazia, Kelcie Dugger, Sarah Hess, Shekinah (CoCo) Smith, and Patrick Ciamacco, who will bring actors from his own Blank Canvas Theatre. Also joining us are Kevin Marr, who helped choreograph our recent production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, and Ryann Angelotti, seen in our 2012 productions of Ragtime and Children of Eden. Jordan Cooper will accompany many of the acts on the keyboard. The NWT Stage schedule is below. Hope to see you there! — Hans Holznagel

Time segment Near West Theatre Stage Schedule, 6/8/13
2:00 to 2:20 Kevin Marr – Movement & dance. Watch or join in!
2:20 to 2:30 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
2:30 to 2:50 Mariah Burks – Broadway/popular songbook (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
2:50 to 3:00 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
3:00 to 3:20 Trinidad Snider – Broadway/popular songbook (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
3:20 to 3:30 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
3:30 to 3:50 Blank Canvas Theatre – Selections from recent Blank Canvas Theatre productions
3:50 to 4:00 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
4:00 to 4:20 Mo Eutazia and Kelcie Dugger – Guitar & vocals
4:20 to 4:30 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
4:30 to 4:50 Ryann Angelotti – Broadway/popular songbook (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
4:50 to 5:00 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
5:00 to 5:20 Sarah Hess – Music and fun (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
5:20 to 5:30 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
5:30 to 5:50 Shekinah (CoCo) SmithBroadway/popular songbook (Jordan Cooper, accompanist)
5:50 to 6:00 Dance break with DJ Karluis / stage transition
6:00 to 8:00 “Broadway Open Mike” with Bob Navis Jr. at the keyboard. Pick a song!
Stop by or stay a long time, as people did variously for our 2012 performances.

Stop by or stay a long time, as people did variously for our 2012 performances.

Our corner is near the center of street-festival action along Detroit Ave.

Our corner is near the center of street-festival action along Detroit Ave.

"Get up, stand up" during  DJ dance breaks between acts.

“Get up, stand up” during DJ dance breaks between acts.


That wacky ‘Hairspray’ poster

We love our publicity images at Near West Theatre, and the crazy-colorful one below for Hairspray, the Broadway Musical — opening Friday, July 20 — is an exceptionally good example. Director Bob Navis Jr. and Scenic Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski came up with the concept.  Photographer Geoff Short took lively face shots of the actors, with makeup by Heather Brown (and assistance from her husband, Nick), against a plain white background in our costume room.  Laura then designed and produced the entire image, including the over-the-top, graphically added hairdos and headgear and the words, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” the title of one of the show’s musical numbers.  Ann Palotta Nagin used the image as the centerpiece of our publicity poster, postcard and fliers, which are now up in West Side windows and arriving in mailboxes. Versions of the image also appear at our Facebook page and website. You’ll see a black-and-white version on the playbill when you come to the show.

Pictured (left to right) are, top row, Oliver Deak as Corny Collins, Mariah Burks as Motormouth Maybelle, Anna Kukelhan as Prudy Pingleton; middle row, Jordan Cooper (also the show’s musical director) as Edna Turnblad, Jacqueline Uhlik as Tracy Turnblad, Perren Hedderson as Wilbur Turnblad; bottom row, Justin Woody as Seaweed Stubbs, Becca Frick as Velma Von Tussle, and Hayden Neidhardt as Little Inez.

Advance tickets are available online anytime or by phoning 216-961-6391 weekdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., during which hours you can also stop by our business office, 6514 Detroit Ave., and purchase in person. Any remaining tickets will be sold starting at 6:30 p.m. at the ticket table at our performance space, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 20, and Saturday, July 21, as we kick off an eight-performance run through Aug. 5. See performance times and show info at this page at our website.

"Hairspray" poster 2012

Director Bob Navis Jr., photographer Geoff Short, and, mostly, designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski came up with the publicity image for Hairspray, running July 20 through Aug. 5, 2012.


Come to our outdoor stage Saturday, June 9

Free public performances in the afternoon and a free public “open mic” in the evening will be featured on the Near West Theatre Stage at Discover Gordon Square Arts District Day, this Saturday, June 9, 2012. The stage will be under a tent along West 67th Street just north of Detroit Avenue (near the festival’s beer garden), on the future site of the theater’s new performance center. A picnic next to the tent will offer hot dogs and the “cornhole” bag-toss game. Afternoon stage performances, in 20-minute segments on the hour and half-hour, will include excerpts from recent Near West Theatre musical productions and performances by young NWT actors and alumni. DJ Karluis will fill in the gaps with danceable tunes. The evening open mic, from 7 to 9 p.m., will feature Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. accompanying on the piano. He’ll have Broadway and pop collections, or bring your own sheet music to sing from; or read a poem or accompany yourself on guitar. The schedule below features Jordan Cooper as musical director and accompanist from 2 to 6 p.m. and Bob Navis Jr. in the evening.

[SCHEDULE CORRECTED 6/5/12: We had inadvertently left out the “Into the Woods” segment! And corrected again 6/6/12: Molly’s now at 4:30 and Luke at 5:30.]

2:00 p.m.: Selections from Ragtime, the Musical. Performers include Geoff Short, Nikki Sumlin, Hans Holznagel, Skipper Rankin and Winter Castro. Selections include “Gliding,” “Wheels of a Dream,” “Sarah Brown Eyes.”

2:30: Solos by NWT actor Mariah Burks. A veteran of NWT’s children’s, youth and intergenerational shows who will be appearing in this summer’s production of Hairspray, the Broadway Musical, Mariah is a student at Bowling Green State University.

3:00: Selections from Oliver! Performers include Jeffrey Braun, Faith Green, Jonas Kukelhan, Skipper Rankin, Winter Castro, Edwin Smith, Gwen Stembridge, Perren Hedderson and Kelcie Dugger. Selections include “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” “Where is Love,” “Who Will Buy?”

3:30: Selections from Miss Saigon. Performers include Anthony Williams, Izzy Sansom and Mariah Burks. Selections include “I Still Believe” and “Bui-Doi.”

4:00:  DJ break. Picnic continues while DJ Karluis cranks dance tunes under the tent.

4:30: Performance by Molly Andrews-Hinders. A veteran of NWT children’s, youth and intergenerational shows and a theater graduate of Wright State University, Molly is an actor (currently appearing in Cleveland Public Theatre’s Akarui), playwright and stage manager.

5:00: Selections from Ragtime, the Musical. Same program as 2:00.

5:30:  Solos by Luke Wehner. Luke’s NWT credits include The Who’s TommyThe Secret Garden and Rent.

6:00: Selections from Into the Woods.  Performers include Patrick Ciamacco, Joe Kenderes, Luke Wehner, Kelcie Dugger, Faith Green, Jonas Kukelhan, Skipper Rankin and Winter Castro. Selections include “Agony,” “Giants in the Sky” and “Children Will Listen.”

6:30:  Original music by Perren Hedderson, Noah Hrbek and Alexis Hedderson. Perren is NWT’s Assistant Technical Director. All three performers are veterans of NWT’s children’s, youth and intergenerational shows.

7:00 to 9:00 p.m.: Open mic! The featured act is you! All are welcome to take a try at our open mic. NWT Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. will accompany all comers. Bring your own sheet music for him to play, or make a selection from a few Broadway and pop collections he’ll have on had. Or accompany yourself on guitar. Poetry readings are also welcome. Or, of course, bring your own coffee, relax under the tent and listen. Invited performers you might see at the mic include comedian Matt Allard, poet Autumn Smith, and singers/actors Kelcie Dugger, Mo Eutazia, CoCo Smith and Xavier Reminick.