Tag Archives: Ragtime

Enjoying a little ink

We’re smiling today about a headline — “‘Hairspray’ staging gets cool support” — at the top of the Metro section of Cleveland’s daily paper, The Plain Dealer (Sat., July 28, Page B1). “Tipoff” columnist Mike McIntyre got interested in our air conditioning story when he came to Hairspray, the Broadway Musical opening weekend, saw the bodacious equipment attached to the side of the building, and, once inside, heard how hot it usually is and how much we’re enjoying the rare and generous treat of not sweltering through a summer youth production. (He enjoyed the show, too, by the way.)  The online version of his column is here, complete with the picture below, which we were happy and eager to let him use. It’s a fun column and we’re glad for it. We’re also grateful for a mention in Julie Washington’s “Pop Ten” in The Sunday Plain Dealer on July 22.

Ink is good as black gold to a nonprofit theater with a small promotional budget and almost no advertising dollars. Cleveland is theater-rich, and a daily like The Plain Dealer has to limit what its arts staff can cover and review. Our professionally designed and directed NWT shows offer a high quality of art that, we regularly hear, far exceeds audience expectations. But our actors are volunteers, so we fall in the community-theater category and thus outside arts coverage and reviews in Northeast Ohio’s largest daily. The “community” label is not bad; our mission, after all, includes building relationships and serving the community with transformational theater arts. It’s just that we’re doggoned proud of the art, too. We dream that someday we will less often hear a stunned first-time patron say, “That show was amazing.  You’ve been here almost 35 years? How come I never heard of you?”

But let us not gripe. The work of promotion is ours, not journalists’.  We need to make the quality of our shows and the social impact of our work with kids and adults from the city and suburbs better known. We remain extremely thankful for the valuable free listings we get in places like the PD’s “Friday!” sectionScene Magazine, and coolcleveland.com, which help theatergoers find us. Our spring production of Ragtime had a wonderful radio segment on WCPN’s “Around Noon.” We do our best to promote our art, mission and impact via this blog, our website, Facebook, an e-newsletter and so on. Advertising, and a budget for it, need to be in our future. Meantime, we’ll keep honing a mix  of social media, word of mouth, direct mail, neighborhood fliers, news releases, window posters and relationships — and smiling at every major column or feature story like today’s.

AC and generator, July 21, 2012

This picture of our rented Hairspray air conditioning system made the online edition of The Plain Dealer July 28. Photo by Hans Holznagel


Actor Chris Byrom on NWT

Chris Byrom of Cleveland is shy and hadn’t been on stage since high school, but Near West Theatre’s group-oriented audition process and rehearsals made him feel at home.  He’s in the cast of Ragtime, closing this weekend with three performances, May 18 and 19 at 7:30 and May 20 at 3 p.m. Get tickets and info here, or call 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (weekdays only). “Giving yourself permission to be yourself — just letting yourself go in front of a lot of people and then having the people respond in a positive way: I’m glad that happened, because I’m quite shy,” Chris says in the video interview below. “It was just a big welcome for me. … I feel more open and more confident in myself.” 

Diverse cast and crew of ‘Ragtime’

The cast of Ragtime during a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

The cast of Ragtime during a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

As Ragtime’s final weekend approaches, here’s a word about the variety of people on stage and backstage. Part of Near West Theatre’s mission is to be a crossroads of diversity for actors and crew members of varied ages, races, neighborhoods, economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, acting experience and other differences. Each production is designed and directed by professionals and is supported by paid musicians and stage management, but otherwise is turned over to an entirely volunteer cast and crew for the run of the show. Here are a few statistics on Ragtime’s cast and the people who work behind the scenes moving set pieces, handling props, running lights and doing many other tasks:

  • Total:  59

    The cast surrounds Andrew Pollis (as Harry Houdini) in the opening number.

    The cast surrounds Andrew Pollis (as Harry Houdini) in the opening number. Photo by Terry Schordock.

  • Cast members:  43
  • Crew members:  16
  • Teens:  19 (nine in cast, 10 in crew)
  • Oldest actor:  age 77
  • Youngest:  ages 6, 9 & 13
  • Persons of color:  22
  • Cleveland residents:  33
From Cleveland’s three Near West Side ZIP codes:  27
  • Other communities represented:  Cleveland Heights (6), Parma (5), Lakewood (2), Parma Heights (2), Richfield (2), Rocky River (2); and 1 each from Akron, Avon Lake, Berea, Euclid, Independence, Kent (KSU) and Olmsted Township.

And that’s not counting the dozens who volunteer “front of house”:  at the concession stand, gift shop and ticket table, and as house managers, greeters, and bakers of cookies and brownies. Want to help in that way now or for a future show?  Click here for information, then contact Carole Hedderson at chedderson@nearwesttheatre.org.

Tickets are still available online for the 7:30 p.m. performances of Ragtime on Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19, and for the 3 p.m performance Sunday, May 20. Or call our advance sales ticket line (weekdays only) between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.:  216-961-6391.

Director Bob Navis Jr. (back center) prepares the Ragtime cast for a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

Director Bob Navis Jr. (back center) prepares the Ragtime cast and crew for a May 2012 dress rehearsal. Photo by Terry Schordock.

‘Ragtime,’ its mothers and Mother’s Day

Skipper Rankin (Little Boy) and Ryann Angelotti (Mother) in Near West Theatre’s May 2012 production of Ragtime. (Photo by Laura Carlson Tarantowski)

Theirs are beautiful, poignant stories, two of many that intertwine in Ragtime. One character, known simply as Mother, is part of the wealthy, white establishment in New Rochelle, N.Y., 100 years ago. As her husband goes to sea she wishes for a journey of her own. A jarring circumstance arises in her own backyard, she makes a courageous choice, and we see her engage a changing world with grace, anxiety, good humor and resolve. By the time of Mother’s Act II solo, actor Ryann Angelotti has literally let her hair down to sing “We Can Never Go Back to Before.” The other character, Sarah, from Harlem’s African American community, faces more severe challenges, including a crisis pregnancy. She too musters courage as she comes to terms with her role as a mother and discerns whether to reunite with her child’s father. Actor Nicole Sumlin gives bittersweet voice to Sarah’s struggle in her Act I solo, “Your Daddy’s Son.” And there are others: Harry Houdini’s mother (played by Sarah Michalski) appears briefly, but lives on mystically in her famous son’s mind. Immigrant mothers appear and move on, babies in arms.

Join us on Mother’s Day for the 3 p.m. performance of Ragtime on Sunday, May 13. It’s only $8. Tickets are available weekdays at 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Or you can order online here. Our advance-sales box office is closed weekends, but any remaining tickets are available at the door starting one hour before show time at our performance space, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. There are also six other performances between May 10 and 20:  see all the dates here.

Nicole Sumlin (Sarah) in Near West Theatre’s May 2012 production of Ragtime. (Photo by Terry Schordock)

‘Ragtime’ on the radio, May 9, ‘Around Noon’

Ragtime actors Geoffrey Short (Coalhouse) and Nicole Sumlin (Sarah), Director Bob Navis Jr., and Near West Theatre Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek will be featured on a live segment of “Around Noon” Wednesday, May 9, on WCPN (90.3 FM), Cleveland’s NPR affiliate. Host Dee Perry will interview the guests. Short and Sumlin will sing. “Around Noon” airs from 12 noon to 1 p.m. ET.  The 20-minute Ragtime segment is scheduled to start at 12:35 p.m. (subject to change). Listen over the air, by live webstream, or via archived podcast afterwards.

Geoffrey Short and Nicole Sumlin sing “Wheels of a Dream” at an April rehearsal of Ragtime.

Ragtime’s Tony Award-winning score includes compelling solos and duets by Coalhouse and Sarah.  They are sung powerfully in the Near West Theatre production by Short, a local singer, actor, director, band member and video producer, and Sumlin, who teaches music in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst City Schools.

Tickets are available for this week’s 7:30 p.m. performances of Ragtime (Thursday, May 10, through Saturday, May 12); for the 3 p.m. show on Sunday, May 13; and for the three final performances the following weekend. Purchase online anytime or phone 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m weekdays.

Prop specialist Leland Pestak on NWT

Leland Pestak says growing up at Near West Theatre has made a difference in her life. She’s managing props again for the current production of Ragtime, now through May 20, 2012. Tickets for tonight’s 7:30 show (May 5) are available at the ticket table, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland, starting at 6:30 p.m. House opens at 7:00.

‘Ragtime,’ behind the scenes

We’re grateful to Geoff Short for this 11-minute, behind-the-scenes glimpse of our May 2012 production of Ragtime, opening this weekend for a nine-show run. If you like his camera work, just wait till you see him on stage in the lead role of Coalhouse Walker. Tickets: 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET weekdays, or online anytime here.