Tag Archives: stephanie morrison-hrbek

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.


In the spotlight: NWT alumnus Daniel Caraballo

Daniel Caraballo

Danny Caraballo

Danny Caraballo first came to Near West Theatre’s stage in Merrily We Roll Along (2006) while a student at St. Ignatius High School. He earned a B.F.A. in musical theater from Kent State University in 2012 and now performs professionally. His credits include the national tour of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Richie Valens), and, this past summer, Celtic Fyre (The Inkeeper, who is the narrator and lead singer) at Busch Gardens, Virginia. We recently asked him three questions:

1. What role did Near West Theatre play in your life as a young person?

I have always considered NWT as the birthplace of my craft. Bob Navis and Stephanie Morrison Hrbek opened my eyes to a form of artistry so fulfilling and wholesome back in 2006. I couldn’t get enough of each cast’s comaraderie and the lifelong friends that would follow. Growing up in Cleveland’s inner city, NWT lit a passion and a flame that still burns bright and helps drive me here in New York City.

2. Now that you’re a professional actor, what’s something that sticks with you even now from those days?

Danny Caraballo (r.) as Bernardo, with Max Kantor as Tony, in NWT's West Side Story (2008).

Danny Caraballo (r.) as Bernardo, with Max Kantor as Tony, in West Side Story at NWT (2008).

Since moving to The City and even while fine-tuning my craft at Kent State, NWT’s process has stayed as my catalyst for every show I’m a part of. I learned to open my heart and allow my peers as well as the audience take the journey with me. I can rock out or show my vulnerability no matter what the stage because NWT made every performance venue a sanctuary for me.

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?

Jerome, with Doug Bailey as Franklin, in Merrily We Roll Along (2006).

Danny Caraballo (l.) as Jerome, with Doug Bailey as Franklin, in Merrily We Roll Along (2006).

My hope for the new theater is that it becomes the heart and soul of Detroit Shoreway. I grew up a few blocks away from the new venue and when I was a child I hadn’t the slightest idea of what live theater was. My hope is that Near West Theatre becomes one of Cleveland’s most prevalent artistic hubs, a magnet for children and teens to find an outlet to express themselves.

— 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 February 2015 edition of Near West Theatre’s monthly e-newsletter, The Near West Circle.


‘Shrek the Musical’ to feature 68 adults, teens, kids

Page-7 of 2015 BrochureSixty-eight children, teens and adults have been cast in Shrek the Musical, the first production ever to be staged in Near West Theatre’s new performance center in the Gordon Square Arts District. The show runs April 24 through May 17 in the new theater, still being completed at 6702 Detroit Ave. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office, 216-961-6391, weekdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. A cast list appears below.

A remarkable 134 people auditioned — 128 of them Jan. 20-22, plus six more by special arrangement during Jan. 24 call-backs. That left Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr., who will direct the show, Assistant Director Kelcie Dugger, and Executive Director Stephanie Morrison Hrbek, choreographer, with an abundance of choices. It also left them with the always-difficult task of sending “regrets” notices Jan. 29 to dozens of those who auditioned, including some who have been in past shows but won’t be in this one.

“We want everyone to know how grateful we are that they turned out,” Navis said. “Our auditions are events unto themselves. Having such diverse groups of participants engaged on on all three nights was important to the process. We hope everyone got something out of it, whether or not they were chosen for this cast.”

A Jan. 30 view of the new theater still under construction. Photo by Hans Holznagel

A Jan. 30 view of the new theater, still under construction. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Rehearsals start Feb. 15, but not yet in the space where the show will be performed. Near West Theatre expects to receive its Certificate of Occupancy for the new theater in early February and to begin moving its offices and theatrical equipment into the building the same week that rehearsals start off site. The public is invited to get a first look at the space during a free Community Open House on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 28. Shrek rehearsals will move there sometime in March. — Hans Holznagel

Cast of Shrek The Musical, Near West Theatre, Spring 2015

Specific roles cast so far — Patrick Ciamacco (Shrek), Cassandra Mears (Princess Fiona), Justin Woody (Donkey), Kevin Joseph Kelly (Lord Farquaad), Gus Mahoney (Pinocchio). Ensemble — Charles Adams, Felix Albino, Neha Arjunji, Connie Becker, Angie Bendahan, Sara Danielle Chapman, William Crosby, Delaney Cunningham, Sharron DeCosta, Cole Emerine, Nadia Evans, Micah Evans, Sydney Fieseler, Warren Franklin, Venchise Glenn, Lindsay Hajostek, Corinne Howery, Sophie Hull, Angelise Irizarry, Bethy Jarus, Rachel Johanek, Louis Johnson II, Meg Kilbane, Bryen Kilbane, Richard Knight, Mike Knobloch, Madeline Krucek, Britt Lamoureux, Christine Larson, Giovanna Layne, Elliot Lockshine, Cory Markowitz, Maureen Martin, Amaya Moore, Kevin Myers, Cara Myers, Yumi Ndhlovu, Sophie O’Leary, Finn O’Malia, Dawon Owens, Sam Pantalone, Christene Pantalone, Jacob Pantalone, Phil Pantalone, Jocelyn Perkins, Aaron Phillips, Statia Rankin, Yousef Raslan, Eric Reising, Lucia Robbins, Angel Svacool, Erich Schnack, Michael Stolar, Cole Tarantowski, David Turner, Kyanie Vazquez, Rafael Velez III, Colin Wheeler, Jennifer White, Anthony Williams, Morgan Williams, Calista Zajac, Bob Zombar.

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Shrek the Musical

Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig

Shrek the Musical is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. 421 West 54th St., New York, NY 10019. Phone: 212-541-4684. Fax: 212-397-4684. http://www.MTIShows.com

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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.


Construction update: Video and pictures

A coating called "fluid applied air barrier" is being sprayed on this week over golden "dense board." They're they'll be followed by more layers of insulation before metal siding goes on. Photos by Hans Holznagel

A coating called “fluid applied air barrier” is being sprayed this week onto gold-colored “dense board.” They’ll be followed by more kinds of insulation before metal siding goes on this fall. Photos by Hans Holznagel

With cranes gone and steel beams no longer flying overhead, we’ve been able walk through our framed-in future home several times during these latter weeks of summer. With just over four months of basic construction to go, we’re now seeing three-dimensional spaces that in the past we could only visualize with drawings, models and lots of imagination. Filmmaker Ted Sikora, who has been shooting a piece about our art and mission since Move On! rehearsals, took a quick August tour with two guys who will spend long work hours in the new building once it’s done: Technical Director and Production Manager Josh Padgett and Stage Manager and Assistant Production Manager Ryan Wolf. Here’s the fun result. (By the way, actors and staff, that side door, with the ladder: it’ll be a real door with stairs when it’s done!)

Below are still photos of a few emerging features of the building that might help you envision what the theater will eventually look like, even with daylight currently streaming through places that will eventually be sealed up tightly for the sake energy efficiency and the beauty of theatrical lighting.

As for timing: We’re still planning on getting occupancy to the building in early January 2015, holding a series of “sneak preview, theater-in-progress” events and parties there from February through April (including our Annual Benefit on a Saturday in late February), and producing our grand-opening, main-stage musical in April and May. — Hans Holznagel

Donors Chuck and Char Fowler, Board President Jason Bristol, and staffers Stephanie Morrison Hrbek and Josh Padgett toured the auditorium Aug. 21.

Donors Chuck and Char Fowler, Board President Jason Bristol, and staffers Stephanie Morrison Hrbek and Josh Padgett toured the auditorium Aug. 21.

Jason Bristol, president of NWT Board of Trustees, and donors Char and Chuck Fowler pause of an upstage-center picture Aug. 21 on recently completed concrete.

Jason Bristol, president of NWT Board of Trustees, and donors Char and Chuck Fowler paused Aug. 21 for an upstage-center picture on recently completed concrete.

The back wall separating the auditorium from the lobby was becoming visible in this Aug. 25 photo.

The back wall separating the auditorium from the lobby was becoming visible in this Aug. 25 photo. Above it is the balcony.

A ramp from the house to the stage, seen here Aug. 21, is one of the features that will make us compliant -- and gladly so -- with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A ramp from the house to the stage, seen here Aug. 21, is one of the features that will make us compliant — and gladly so — with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One of two sets of stairs connecting lower level, lobby and balcony was being installed Aug. 20.

One of two sets of stairs connecting lower level, lobby and balcony was being installed Aug. 20.

The windows that will serve our lower-level refreshment counter were becoming visible on Aug. 20.

The windows that will serve our lower-level refreshment counter were becoming visible on Aug. 20.

On Aug. 25, only the northwest corner remained to be closed in with "dense board" insulation over the wood that surrounds the steel frame.

On Aug. 25, only the northwest corner remained to be closed in with “dense board” — the first layer of insulation — over the wood that surrounds the steel frame.

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Near West Theatre’s $7.3 million construction project is part of the cooperative Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign, which has raised nearly $30 million not only for the new NWT but also for the renovation of the now-reopened Capitol (film) Theatre, extensive physical improvements at Cleveland Public Theatre, districtwide streetscape improvements and parking. Near West Theatre is also 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

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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.


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

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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.

 


Catching up: NWT family news

Catching up on Near West Theatre staff and family news…

Eleanor Morrison

Eleanor Morrison

A memorial service for the mother of Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, the Rev. Eleanor Morrison, was held April 26. Eleanor died Feb. 12 in East Lansing, Mich. She was 92. An obituary is here. Eleanor played many important roles in the lives of Stephanie, her siblings and countless others. She and Stephanie’s late father, the Rev. Truman Morrison, had a particular influence on Stephanie’s artistic development, as explained in this Cleveland Arts Prize video. The memorial service was at Edgewood United Church of Christ, East Lansing, co-founded by Eleanor and Truman.

Joseph Castellano

Joe Castellano

NWT welcomed two new staff members in April: Joseph Castellano, Director of Development, and Amy Clausen, part-time Office Specialist.

Joe arrives with extensive experience in arts management. With major talent agencies and through his own business, Castellano Artists LLC, he has worked with conductors, instrumentalists and composers in all matters of their daily artistic lives, from long-term strategic planning to monitoring finances and handling logistics. He has also worked with touring productions, overseeing more than 50 performances throughout the United States and in eight other countries. After living and working in New York City and San Francisco, he arrived in Cleveland in 2013, when his partner was appointed Director of Artistic Planning with the Cleveland Orchestra. A native of Verona, N.J., Joe  holds a degree in communications from Iona College.

Amy Clausen

Amy Clausen

Amy recently switched to the administrative side of nonprofit work after seven years in camp work with children with disabilities and as a children’s bereavement counselor. St. Edward’s High School and Ohio City, Inc., are among the nonprofits that have benefited from her administrative skills. She holds a B.A.in psychology and computer applications and a master’s degree in nonprofit administration, both from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and a Master of Social Work degree from Case Western Reserve University. She’s an active athlete at Two Ravens Fencing Club, where she also lends her administrative and marketing expertise.

Lindsay Doerr (center) surrounded by staffers Steph, Bob and Perren at a Jan. 17 farewell lunch. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Lindsay (center) surrounded by staffers Steph, Bob and Perren at a Jan. 17 farewell lunch. 

Lindsay Doerr, Development Director at Near West Theatre since September 2010, left Jan. 17 to join Chicago-based CCS Fundraising Consulting. Among Lindsay’s many gifts to NWT’s fundraising work: a remarkably organized and detailed approach to the extensive calendar of grant applications and reports that are important sources of support for Near West Theatre’s art and mission … strong leadership in our annual winter Benefit, and in our first two experiences as the recipient of funds raised at an August event at the Barrington Golf Club in Aurora, Ohio … helpful contributions to the day-to-day financial, human-resources and front-of-house aspects of our work … and a cheery, can-do attitude toward any task the office team needed to tackle.

Bob Navis (left) and Tony Saar on a recent European trip

Bob  (left) and Tony on a recent European trip

Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. and longtime partner Tony Saar were married Jan. 24 at the Selby Hotel in Toronto, where they had first met on that same date in 1997.

Two former NWT staffers who still work on our e-newsletter, The Near West Circle, have each given birth to daughters. Circle writer Julie Cajigas and Israel Cajigas welcomed Hazel Josephine Cajigas on Dec. 7, 2013. Circle designer Sara Radak and Christopher Radak are parents of Nora Rebecca Radak, born Jan. 22, 2014.

Julie and family

Julie, Israel and Hazel

Sara and Nora Radak

Sara and Nora