As promised, in this third edition of the “Move On! Chronicles” I throw caution to the wind and share an outline of the script-in-progress for Move On! I cannot stress in progress enough. Nothing you will see here is finalized. All of it is in creative discussion. Some of it is simply conceptual and needs lots of fleshing out. Much of it awaits confirmation that we can sing these works under our license with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
The cast will be asked to write and contribute lots of it during the rehearsal process. After all, these are our memories, our histories, our creative and communal legacies that this show is about! We will fashion this show together. That said, as you read this outline, you will get a taste of what’s planned. I hope it will persuade you to audition — if, until now, you haven’t been sure. We are going to need actors from all decades of NWT’s history to make this final show at St. Pat’s as rich and satisfying as possible. I hope you see you at auditions, this coming Monday, April 14, Tuesday, April 15, or Wednesday, April 16: 6 p.m. for kids ages 7 through 13; 7:30 p.m. for all other teens and adults. If you can’t make it on those dates, see Chronicle #2 and contact me! — Bob Navis Jr.
Move On! — a rough draft, by sections
The show is conceived as approximately 90 minutes in length with no intermission. Audience members enter the front door of the St. Pat’s Club Building. As they make their way from the ticket table and up the stairs into the theater, they become aware that the entire building has become a scrapbook of three-and-a-half decades of theater that has happened in that space. Playbill covers, memorabilia (much of it gathered and donated by the cast members themselves), set pieces, costumes, testimonials, photos, etc., are all over the walls leading up the steps, behind the risers, and on the wall of the theater itself, including the stage and set of the production. The band is upstage center. The acoustic piano is downstage in the well. The lights dim.
In the darkness, a soundscape begins … We hear actual sound snippets, voices of past casts, a variety of music representing the multi-dimensionalism of our musicals. This music swells, builds, overlaps and reaches a crescendo as STEPHANIE appears in a light, isolated. She is listening. The soundscape fades out slowly and we become aware of the live piano. BOB is playing the opening phrases of “Memories” from The Way We Were.
STEPHANIE (singing): “Memories light the corners of my mind, Misty watercolor memories of the way we were…”
Projection accompanies the song – a collage of photos of the early years: the people, the building, the shows – and the CAST joins in.
CAST members come forward, one at a time, speaking a brief sentence or two about the circumstances of their first coming to NWT: year, show, etc. The CAST turns to the audience and sings the title song from Merrily We Roll Along.
“…Yesterday is done. See the pretty countryside. Merrily we roll along, roll along, bursting with dreams…”
The song continues, leading to a parody section yet to be written. Then STEPHANIE delivers a monologue about the early years. Singing resumes, including numbers such as “I Gotta Keep Movin’,” from insert title of show here
A series of thematic sections begins.
As Bob leads an improv in the background, STEPHANIE leads a dance warm-up, KELCIE leads a gift circle and JORDAN leads a musical rehearsal. Actors step out of this rehearsal process and give testimonials: My first encounter with NWT: what I brought, what I was looking for, what I found; the doubts, the wounds, the baggage I brought to NWT. These alternate with songs such as “Being Alive” from Company, or the title song from Anyone Can Whistle:
“… It’s all so simple: relax, let go, let fly. So someone tell me why can’t I?…”
A testimonial is offered in poetry, perhaps “Untitled NWT Poem” by Darius Stubbs, with lines delivered by various actors. Darius’s poem is a beautiful expression of the Near West Theatre experience; I’ll share it in the next edition of the “Chronicles.”
A SOLOIST begins to sing a familiar musical number about welcome, freely and expressively. The CAST builds a trust mountain. One by one, actors share their experience of trusting others and having others rely on them.
THEATER MAKING SOCIAL CHANGE HAPPEN
This huge section highlights NWT’s activism through shows, original oral histories, etc.: Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; The Me Nobody Knows; Peoples of Cleveland; Breaking Through; Harvesting My Dreams; Coffee and the Arts; Ragtime; and more. It is built around a songs from these productions.
BATTLE OF THE NWT DIVAS
A big, splashy, comic dance number with various NWT stars battling for the spotlight. Possible actors include Kelcie Dugger, Lindsay Pier, Maggie Stahl, Patrick Ciamacco, Joe Kenderes, Kevin Kelly, Jordan (“Edna”) Cooper, Eric Fancher, Perren Hedderson, Carolos Cruz, Cory Markowitz and more … you know, the divaaaaaaahs! Their number: “Buenos Aires,” from Evita.
“…Stand back, you oughta know whatcha gonna get in me: Just a little touch of star quality …”
NWT’S TOP 10 NUMBERS FROM THE PAST
This list is in progress. Cast will weigh in and it will be finalized during rehearsals. Songs under consideration include “Thank You Very Much” from A Christmas Carol; “Morning Glow” and “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin; “Fighting for Pharoah” from Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; “O Bless the Lord My Soul” from Godspell (the Tina Turner version); “Nobody’s on Nobody’s Side” from Chess; “Everybody Rejoice” from The Wiz; and the title song from Children of Eden.
IN MEMORIAM: A PHOTO COLLAGE
CAST sings a slow, reflective version of “We Go Together” from Grease, accompanied by projected photos of beloved actors, volunteers, staff and members of the NWT community who have passed away.
“We go together … Remembered forever … That’s the way it should be … You’re one of a kind … Our names are signed … We’ll always be like one …”
The list of those remembered — a list, of course, still in progress — will include names such as Stephanie Taylor-Ayers, Anthony Ayers, Vicky Karnafel, Natalie Graham, Alvin Slivka, Dan Morris, Stu Persons, Ken Gordon, Mary Caldwell, Theresa Navis, Ryan Smith, Jeanne Maile, Terri Gelzer, Laura and John Kish, Chuck Schwinn, Carol Stringer, Roy Legg, Pat Dolan, Ray, Mr. Ellington, Steve Cafini and more.
REFLECTIONS ON THIS SPACE
Numbers may include “That’s Near West Theatre,” “This House” from I Do! I Do!, Move On from Sunday in the Park with George, and testimonials in spoken word, such as “These Four Walls” by Chris Byrom.
FINAL SECTION: MOVING ON
Possible numbers: “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line, with STEPHANIE and BOB at the acoustic piano downstage; “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music; “In the Beginning” from Children of Eden; and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from The Sound of Music. On this last number, the CAST, dressed and equipped for travel, exits up the middle aisle and eventually leaves the theater.
A reunion party will follow every performance, with food and drink, music, and an hour for the audience and cast to get together, reminisce, view 36 years of history on the “scrapbook walls” – and party!
Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares.