Tag Archives: st. pat’s

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

– – – – –

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.


Theater stuff on sale July 31, Aug. 1

Our St. Pat's tear-down as it looked on July 8. Photo by Josh Padgett

Our St. Pat’s tear-down as it looked on July 8. Photo by Josh Padgett

As we complete the tear-down of our 36-year home in the St. Pat’s Club Building, we’re ready to part with items that won’t make the trip to our new theater. We’re selling speakers, lights, monitors, a lighting console, tools, casters and more this Thursday, July 31, and Friday, Aug. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 3606 Bridge Ave., third floor. We can only accept cash and company checks, and you’ll need to take the items away with you when you buy them. All sales are final! Questions? Send an e-mail to Near West Theatre Technical Director Josh Padgett, padgett_josh@hotmail.com.


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.

Near West Theatre has left the building

Fr. Mark Dinardo of St. Patrick's Church offers thanks and best wishes to NWT before the final performance June 29. NWT Founder Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek holds the mike. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Fr. Mark Dinardo of St. Patrick’s Church offers thanks and best wishes to Near West before the final performance June 29. NWT Founder Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek holds the mike. Photos by Hans Holznagel

A downpour started near the end of the final performance of Move On! Sunday afternoon and caused a planned outdoor farewell gathering to be moved inside the St. Pat’s Club Building. We didn’t get to join hands in a circle around St. Pat’s to say goodbye to the building that has been our home since 1978, but perhaps it’s just as well. The hundreds of people who instead formed a “messy circle” indoors, spanning the stage, the floor and the risers, were a lovely mosaic from over the years: The cast, crew and staff of Move On! Father Mark Dinardo of St. Patrick’s Church. Gordon Square Arts District leaders and longtime NWT supporters Dick and Pat Pogue and Tom and Sandy Sullivan. Actors from every decade of past productions — longtime participants like Joanie Hoover, arguably NWT’s poet laureate. Parents and families of the Move On! cast. Volunteers from the house that day. And members of the community who simply answered the public call to show up for the post-show farewell moment. Young, old, participant, supporter, hand in hand, arm over shoulder — there couldn’t have been a moment that was more “NWT” in style, and maybe especially because it was indoors on a muggy, sweaty June afternoon.

A lovely litany written by Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr., which he led with founding Executive Director and choreographer Stephanie Morrison Hrbek — complete with the chant, “Ho, ho, hey, hey, Near West Theatre moves on today”– was a fitting tribute of well wishes and blessings upon the building that will forever contain memories of 36 years of relationships and art.

Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek leads the Move On! cast in a warmup before Near West's last-ever performance at St. Pat's.

Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek leads the Move On! cast in a warmup before Near West’s last-ever performance at St. Pat’s.

But it was really a coda to what had already functioned as the major blessing of the day: An off-the-hook grand finale of Move On!, a high-energy collection of music, big-screen projection and spoken word that somehow went to a new level in its ninth performance. The cast might understandably have gone all weepy, given how much this place has meant to everyone involved. But something else happened instead. To be sure, there were tears shed on stage, and there was nothing fake about them. But mostly, from the downbeat of “Merrily We Roll Along” to the company exit on “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” you could tell everyone onstage was in the zone: giving and receiving energy from each other, improvising within a well designed structure, nourished by (and returning) the appreciation given them by an audience that stood, shouted, joined in when invited, and interrupted the performance with applause like never before — in a run that had already featured remarkably appreciative audiences. That’s what happens when community is built on stage in each production, and when connections with the wider community are built over the years. That’s Near West Theatre.

The Move On! reaches skyward before the last show ever at St. Pat's.

The Move On! cast reaches skyward before the last show ever at St. Pat’s.

Another downpour is no doubt happening as this post is being written. It’s the last hour of the last farewell cast-crew-staff gift circle on a stage that has seen dozens and dozens of them. Tears of release, sadness, gratitude and love are the stuff of these goodbye circles, where folks who have seen way too much of each other for many, many weeks now realize it’s suddenly over. This group knows it has the added task of saying goodbye in behalf of hundreds and hundreds of participants, each of whom has left a bit of his or her spirit embedded in the floorboards and wafting through the ether of the third-floor ballroom of the St. Pat’s Club Building. Whether or not they’re conscious of it, they and the wider community that gathered there today will be the ones to carry a large measure of that spirit into the future — first in our fall 2014 production at West Side United Church of Christ (soon to be announced) and then, in 2015, in our new theater now under construction in the Gordon Square Arts District.

For now, though, Near West Theatre has left the building. Long live the memories and legacies of the St. Pat’s years. — Hans Holznagel


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.

Join hands June 29 in a farewell circle of love around St. Pat’s

NWT-2013-14-Brochure-CoverThis is it. Our last week of performances at the St. Pat’s Club Building, our home of 36 years, has arrived. Will you join us in saying a communal goodbye to this grand old place? Sunday, June 29, at about 4:45 p.m., after the final matinée of Move On!, you’re invited to join an outdoor community circle around our beloved building at 3606 Bridge Avenue. Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. is creating a brief farewell ritual in which we’ll join hands and raise voices to say goodbye to this place where so many lives have been touched, so many relationships formed, so much passion shared.

You’re encouraged to join the circle (it’s a free, public event) even if you’re not in the audience that day, though we do hope you’ll help us fill the house Thursday through Sunday. Tickets for shows at 7:30 p.m. June 26, 27 and 28, and 3 p.m. June 29, are available online anytime or by phoning 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.

And what of the future?

First, the cast, crew and staff of Move On! will go back inside after MOVE ON poster 4the outdoor gathering and carry out an important Near West Theatre tradition. It’s almost unbearably emotional to think of the last potluck and gift circle — experienced by so many participants over the decades — taking place on those risers and that stage Sunday night.

Then the transition begins. Our Tech Work Session participants, led by Technical Director and Production Manager Josh Padgett, Assistant Technical Director Perren Hedderson, and Stage Manager Ryan Wolf, will spend the summer dismantling our set, risers and theatrical equipment, taking inventory, and storing much of it to await the move in early 2015 to our future home, still under construction in the Gordon Square Arts District. In this way, our equipment can be readied for transit as soon as the interior of our new theater becomes available, even as we put on a fall show elsewhere.

The familiar West 38th Street side door of West Side UCC, where our fall show will be. Photo by Hans Holznagel

The West 38th Street side door of West Side UCC, where we’ll be this fall. Photo by Hans Holznagel

And there will be a fall show! Auditions for a musical soon to be announced will be Sept. 2, 3 and 4. For cast members ages 7 through adult, the production will be rehearsed September through November and performed Nov. 21 through Dec. 7 in the sanctuary of West Side United Church of Christ, 3800 Bridge Avenue, right across West 38th Street from St. Pat’s. It’s a familiar place to past KLAMOR participants and audiences and a long-time rehearsal site for our Annual Benefit. We’re grateful to the folks at West Side UCC  for making room for us during what promises to be an exciting transitional half-season. — Hans Holznagel


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.

See this goodbye, even if it’s your first hello

If you’ve never seen a show at Near West Theatre, you may wonder: Why bother with a farewell show in a third-floor church ballroom?

The cast of Move On! at a June 12 rehearsal. Photo by Mo Eutazia

Standing for justice during a June 12 Move On! rehearsal. Photo by Mo Eutazia

My advice: do bother. Go climb the stairs and see Move On!, and not just because it’s Near West’s last production ever in the St. Pat’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave. Don’t even just go for the good reason that it’s a piece of Cleveland arts history: founding Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek and almost-founding Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. have shaped the show, and they join a cast of 65 in performing it in the same place where it all started back in 1978. No, see it above all because it’s fun, passionate and satisfying. It’s a mix of music, the spoken word and projected images a that form a grand, interesting, moving artistic experience. It’s about the power of theater — and this theater in particular, in this part of Cleveland — to change lives and build community.

Move On! presents Broadway and popular songs in a concert style and intersperses them with original poems, video interviews and testimonials written or voiced over the years by people who have seen and felt the impact of Near West’s mission. The production showcases the power of Near West Theatre’s process to build relationships and create great art, while also explaining its socially conscious roots and its place as an institution in an unusually rich, MOVE ON poster 4diverse, challenged, changing neighborhood. It’s embodied by a diverse cast of ordinary people ranging in age from 7 to 60, and augmented in a delightful way by video interviews and still images assembled by Assistant Technical Director Perren Hedderson.

Soloists, duos and the entire ensemble belt, croon and harmonize beautifully, backed by the strong work of assistant musical director Jordan Cooper on keyboard, drummer Rick Tyler and trumpeter Juan Ingram.

Hang around afterwards to enjoy refreshments, greet the actors, check out the many Near West artifacts displayed throughout the space by Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski, and say goodbye to St. Pat’s, even if it was your first hello. Come back one more time if you can, around 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, June 29, after the  final matinee, to join hands with the community as we encircle St. Pat’s for a brief farewell ritual. We’re moving on to a transitional half-year of theater across the street at West Side United Church of Christ and then into our new building in the Gordon Square Arts District in early 2015. With you, I hope. — Hans Holznagel

The cast, crew and staff of Move On!, pictured on June 12, 2014. Photo by Mo Eutazia

The cast, crew and staff of Move On! on June 12. Photo by Mo Eutazia


Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares.


‘Move On! Chronicles’ No. 4: As auditions begin, a poem

Poetry has been a part of Near West Theatre for a long, long time. It has been read from our “Coffee and the Arts” and “Party in Gordon Square” stages. It has been shared in the cast party and gift circle that happens after each production, where my friend and veteran NWT actor Joanie Hoover has often described the cast and show in a special poem. It’s not unusual for cast members themselves to bring poetry to those circles, too.

"Move On!" season imageAs we head into our last auditions at St. Pat’s this week — and if you’ve ever been in one of our shows, I do want to see you there this Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday! –here’s a poem written a few years back by Darius Stubbs, who has served on our crews, as an assistant director, and onstage in such NWT productions as Finian’s Rainbow, Into the Woods and The Secret Garden. He offers a candid glimpse of the NWT experience in the verses below. Thanks, Darius, for letting us reprint this. I’m only sorry this blog format won’t quite mimic the indentations you use on the page.

Don’t forget, everyone: We need actors from all of our eras, all the way back

Darius Stubbs (center) in "Finian's Rainbow," 2008.

Darius Stubbs (center) in Finian’s Rainbow, 2008. Photo by Rob Sommerfelt.

to 1978, to make Move On! all it can be. Auditions for kids through age 13 are at 6 p.m.; teens and adults, 14 and up, at 7:30; all at 3606 Bridge Ave. Pick one night; arrive 15 minutes early to register. More information is at this web page and in editions No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 of the Chronicles. See you at St. Pat’s! — Bob Navis Jr.


“Untitled NWT Poem,” by Darius Stubbs

Precious hearts


to the point of bursting.

Precious beings hunger,



For the chance,

The chance

to be reached,

to reach out

to reach in and look

and find

and feel

and understand.

To find that push that drives them.

To know that what helps define them

lives within these walls.

Roams throughout these halls.

Now, we cannot touch it

(No one can)



can we feel it.

Feel it

from the moment

that those frightened, first – timers

fall fully


those private tunnel auditions

(and, oh yes, Mr. Kelly,

he will make you be a tree)

From that first

to the final

tear – soaked

Gut – wrenching

Gift – giving


You can feel it.




purely positive force

that consumes

and comforts

and consoles.

And though this energy

cannot be named

Or boxed up

Or labeled

Or categorized

It is there.






the reason


Despite the pain

And the hurt

And the anger

And the injuries

And the insults

And the disappointments

Despite the last – minute changes

And the “We haven’t staged this yet!”

Despite the quick tempers

And the harsh words

Despite the ego trips

And the power trips

And the power struggles

And the struggles to keep sane

And the sheer insanity

Of the hugeness of the shows

And the massive number of bodies we try to


into this tiny

intimate space


all of it,

That force,

That feeling,

It resonates

And draws us in

And we come back

And we stay

And though we will

have to say


We will never




Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares.

‘Move On! Chronicles’ No. 3: Script in progress (for those thinking of auditioning)

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.

seasonbrochure1314The 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.


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.


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 …”


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.


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.


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.


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 CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares.