(Plain Press, March 2015) The Cleveland International Film Festival announced that its 2015 program would include a new documentary by local filmmaker Ted Sikora about Cleveland’s own Near West Theatre.
The film chronicles the June 2014 rehearsal period and performances of Near West Theatre’s final production in its rented, gritty home of 36 years—the 3rd floor ballroom of the historic St. Patrick’s Club Building in Ohio City.
The production, titled “Move On!” was Near West Theatre’s final show in the rented space before heading to its new $7.3M performance venue at 6702 Detroit Avenue in the dynamic Gordon Square Arts District, the first permanent, owned and operated facility in its history.
According to Sikora, the collaboration with Near West Theatre was originally conceived as an 8-10 minute short film to commemorate their final production in St. Patrick’s Club. However, once he started shooting, he was quickly drawn into Near West Theatre’s creative process and stories of the volunteer cast and crew, including adults, teens and children of all ages and backgrounds.
“I was so captivated, I kept going back for more,” said Sikora. “Before going into film, my background was in theater and I felt like I was getting tuition to a wonderful and bizarre actor’s studio. I thought the interviews would get repetitive after 30 or 40 people, but the stories were all so deep and rich, I just kept shooting. I knew eight minutes would never do it justice, so I filmed until the final curtain and, in the end, we had enough material—and generous sponsorship support—to produce a 90-minute feature.”
Made possible through support by the George Gund Foundation and Producers Char and Chuck Fowler, the film tells the story of Near West Theatre’s unique creative approach through the experiences and stories of individual cast members. “There were 65 people in the cast and every story was so deep and personal revealing what Near West, and theater in general, had meant to them,” Sikora explained. “I was also fascinated by Stephanie’s (Morrison Hrbek, Executive Director) holistic approach and Bob’s (Navis Jr., Artistic Director) enigmatic energy. The way they complement each other and the impact it had on the cast was really beautiful.”
Titled “Move On!” the performance at the center of the story was a retrospective featuring musical memories and images honoring St. Patrick’s as a special place that brought so many people together. “We decided to keep ‘Move On!’ as the name of the film because it represents how Near West Theatre is moving on to a new home and how the people involved move on with their lives through this transformational experience,” Sikora said.
“We are incredibly humbled and honored that Ted chose to make this film and that it was selected by CIFF for this year’s festival,” said Morrison Hrbek. “We couldn’t imagine a more profoundly meaningful way to celebrate the move into our new theater. This film is a tribute to our passionate community of volunteers and supporters who have made our work possible for the past 36 years and are enabling the growth of our mission in our new home.”
Sikora had a chance to see Near West Theatre’s new venue for the first time this week. “I still can’t believe the new facility – it’s incredible,” he said. “I do feel like it was important to document what Near West Theatre is about as they go into this new space. Who they are could be fragile as they move from their home of 36 years into this new venue and we explore that in the film.”
CIFF “Move On!” Screening Schedule: Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 5:00 PM (Neighborhood Screening @ Capitol Theatre! ) Monday, March 23, 2015 at 2:10 PM Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 8:45 PM Visit www.ClevelandFilm.org for more schedule and ticket information about “Move On!” as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival March 18-29.