(Plain Press, March 2014) Near West Theatre transformed Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland into a carnival themed stage and dance floor for its annual benefit on Saturday February 15th. The benefit titled, “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” featured dancing, plenty of food and drink, a silent auction and raffle.
Sixty Near West Theatre performers entertained a crowd estimated at 450 people with an original performance that Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. says began with performers developing monologues in response to the question “Who will love me as I am?” Performers explored issues of accepting people who are different and the treatment by society of people who are different.
Near West Theatre honored Jan Roller, a long time Near West Theatre Trustee and supporter, for her contributions. Near West Theatre Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek said Roller was instrumental in the theatre becoming an independent organization, forming its own board of trustees, and receiving wider recognition in the Greater Cleveland community through benefits at Playhouse Square and Trinity Cathedral. Morrison-Hrbek said Roller helped facilitate the participation in the Gordon Square Arts District and to transform Near West Theatre from an organization with a $167,000 annual budget to one with a $767,000 annual budget.
In accepting the honor, Roller said praised Near West Theatre for the quality of performances it brings to the community, but says she fell in love with the organization because of its social justice mission and its practice of inclusion. She said, “Age, color, gender preference, doesn’t matter, you are welcome at Near West Theatre.” Concerning her involvement with Near West Theatre, Roller said, “It makes me a better person.”
Funds raised by the benefit go to Near West Theatre’s operating budget. The theatre is celebrating its last full season at the St. Patrick’s Club building at W.38th and Bridge Avenue. Near West Theatre plans its first performance in its new theater, at W. 67th and Detroit Avenue, in the spring of 2015. The new $7.3 million theatre building will be 24,000 square feet and have a seating capacity of 275.