(Plain Press, June 2014) It all started in 1978 with 13 teens, an $800 budget, a young director named Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek and a production of Godspell in the St. Patrick Catholic Church Club Building in Ohio City. Near West Theatre has grown and grown since then and is headed for a new home in the Gordon Square Arts District. But not without one last musical goodbye to the quirky, magical space that has housed the theater for 36 years.
Sixty-six cast members of all ages will stage an original production, Move On!, June 13-29 in the venerable ballroom at 3606 Bridge Ave. Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. and the actors are filling this 90-minute one-act with reflections and music, plus projected pictures and video, that evoke the healing, transformative power of theater, and of NWT’s special impact and way of building relationships. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.nearwesttheatre.org or by calling the box office at 216-961- 6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. Reserved Star Seats with special benefits are $20; general admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under.
The show’s music, intimacy, and fun are designed to be enjoyed even by Near West newcomers. But it will undeniably also be “a festival of memory, honor, song and circle” that honors “the place, the home, that brought so many of us together,” Navis says. Over the years, 116 NWT shows have brought thousands of volunteer actors, backstage personnel and front-of-house helpers, not to mention tens of thousands of audience members, to a third-floor walk-up whose challenges include no air conditioning and a tiny dressing room. Audience members are invited to stay after every performance of Move On! to mingle and share refreshments and memories. At about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 29, after the closing matinee, the community is invited to encircle the building for an outdoor farewell ceremony.
A new venue for Near West is under construction at West 67th Street and Detroit Avenue, thanks to the Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign, a collaboration involving Near West, Cleveland Public Theatre, and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. The 275-seat theater is scheduled for “substantial completion” in December 2014, to be followed by many weeks of installing theatrical equipment and seating. In early 2015, Near West Theatre hopes to hold a sneak-peak gala. In the meantime, it will stage its fall 2014 programs, soon to be announced, at other locations.
Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares.
Move On! Cast: Felix Albino, Joshua Bevel, Jeffrey Braun, Mariah Burks, Patrick Ciamacco, Sara Chapman, Carlos Cruz, Sharron DeCosta, Rachel Drotar, Kelcie Dugger, Cole Emerine, Eric Fancher, Warren Franklin, Edward Gale, Quin Galvin, Sandra Gay-Chapman, Venchise Glenn, Nigeria Gould, Lindsay Hajostek, Maggie Halm, Mary Halm, Alyssa Holznagel, Hillary Horton, Corinne Howery, Noah Hrbek, Rakim Huff, Hannah Jarrell, Rachel Johanek, Louis Johnson II, Kevin Joseph Kelly, Sabrina Kim, Julianne Kurdila, Christine Larson, Madelyn Lockshine, Elliot Lockshine, Cory Markowitz, Sharron McPherson-Foxx, Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Bob Navis Jr., Dawon Owens, Sam Pantalone, Christene Pantalone, Phil Pantalone, Jocelyn Perkins, Scott Pyle, Skipper Rankin, Eric Reising, Michelle Robinson Kennedy, Akeem Rollins, Stellina Scacco, Andy Schumann, Grace Schumann, CoCo Smith, Trinidad Snider, Gwen Stembridge, Cole Tarantowski, Christine Thompson, Jordan Thompson, Nora van Lier, Kyanie Vasquez, Rafael Velez III, Colin Wheeler, Jennifer White, Anthony Williams, Morgan Williams, Bob Zombar.
Near West Theatre Production Staff: Director and Musical Director: Bob Navis Jr. Assistant Musical Director: Jordan Cooper. Assistant Director: Kelcie Dugger. Choreographer: Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek. Technical Director and Production Manager: Josh Padgett. Assistant Technical Director and Video Designer: Perren Hedderson. Stage Manager and Assistant Production Manager: Ryan Wolf. Scenic and Properties Designer: Laura Carlson Tarantowski. Assistant Stage Managers: Roderick Cardwell, Alexa Jones. Lighting Co-Designers: Mike Stein, Rob Wachala. Costume Designer: David Glowe. Sound Designer: Joshua Caraballo. Properties Mistress: Jessica Rosenlieb. Properties Assistant: Kate Atherton. Scenic Artist: Jen Hitmar-Shankland.
Performance Listing: Near West Theatre. St. Pat’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. 216-961-6391 or http://www.nearwesttheatre.org. “Move On!” June 13, 14, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m.; June 22 and 29 at 3 p.m. Star Seat, $20; regular tickets, $10 adults, $8 ages 12 and under.