“Let’s remember the first show here. It was the summer of 1978 and there were 13 kids, 11 to 16 years old. There were basketball hoops here in the space that we had to push out of the way, and all we had was one light. Well, we stand on their shoulders tonight and remember all those who came before us.”
Those dramatic and inspiring words were shared on opening night by Near West Theatre Co-Founder and Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek to the cast of MOVE ON! The last show ever in the St. Patrick’s Club Building, home since 1978. The rise of Near West Theatre is an incredible tale of relentless dedication and incredible resolve by the founding partners. The philosophy of Near West Theatre is the belief in the healing, transformative power of the theatrical arts. Their mission statement states that “Near West Theatre builds loving relationships and engages diverse people in strengthening their sense of identity, passion, and purpose, individually and in community, through transformational theatre arts experiences.” That is a tall order for a theatre that started being Ohio City based and bred. The results are staggering, as the theatre has transformed many, and empowered thousands to move forward with focus and clarity.
As the Artistic Director, Bob Navis Jr. has joined Morrison-Hrbek on this transformative mission, and has provided vital musical direction and inspiration for the institution to move forward, presenting musicals that embrace the audience with visceral energy. Navis has provided one last musical goodbye to the quirky, magical space that has housed the theater for 36 years. Sixty-six cast members of all ages are filling a 90-minute one-act with reflections and music, plus projected pictures and video, which evoke the healing, transformative power of theater.
The music is provided by Assistant Musical Director/Keyboard/Conductor Jordan Cooper, Percussion by Rick Taylor, Trumpet by Juan Ingram, and solo piano by Bob Navis, Jr.
The show highlights the beginnings of the theatre, along with the process that creates the shows themselves. A Revolution section is a powerful testament to the social issues that the theatre has not shied away from and addressed with honesty and truth. A Broadway section serves up show stopping performances from some of the many productions at Near West Theatre. And in the end, it is all about thanking everyone who had something to do with the journey. Present, past and those that radiant from above.
Producing this particular journey are Assistant Director Kelcie Nicole Dugger, Technical Director/Production Manager Josh Padgett, Assistant Technical Director/Video Designer Perren Hedderson, Scenic and Props Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski, Stage Manager Ryan Wolf, Choreographer Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Assistant Stage Managers Roderick Cardwell II and Alexa Jones, Costume Designer David Glowe, Lighting Designers Mike Stein and Rob Wachala, and Sound Designer Joshua Caraballo.
The new home will be located in the Gordon Square Arts District, and will certainly be a crucial addition to the revitalization. There is a lot of joy and celebration that the cast members and staff want to share with returning patrons, and new attendees. Be a part of, and participate in Cleveland theatrical history.
Thursday, June 26 at 7:30pm
Friday, June 27 at 7:30pm
Saturday, June 28 at 7:30pm
Sunday, June 29 at 3:00pm
$8-$20 General Admission
St. Patrick’s Club Building
3606 Bridge Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44113