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New Mailing Address:

6516 Detroit Ave., Suite 9

Cleveland, OH 44102

Dec. 2012 Issue:
Quick Links

In the Spotlight:

3 Questions with...

Christine Thompson

christine thompson

The Rev. Christine Thompson loves the interplay between art forms and artists, and finds her experience at Near West Theatre to be a beautiful study in that interplay. She has performed in four Near West Theatre productions: The Secret Garden and Willy Wonka in 2010, and Ragtime and Children of Eden in 2012. Her storefront ministry at 1910 West 65th Street, Just As I Am: Faith, Art and Service, is a space for conversation, art displays and more. See more, including a video conversation with her, here.

1. How has Near West Theatre changed your Cleveland experience?

I haven't been here quite three years yet, but I must say that my experience with the people and the art of Near West has really been a place of safety and home for me. I'm so grateful for the artists who are there, who have been intentional in creating something that continues to build community and that enhances the community.

2. What is unique about expressing yourself through theatrical arts in Near West Theatre productions? 

For me, especially in my experience with Near West, I have found that the art helps me speak my faith, and that my faith is even more engaged when I am dealing with the art... the questions that come from the art... Various people with various faiths and ways of thinking  can all engage in this piece of art at the same time and come away empowered, healed, enlightened... just because they've shared in this art.

3. What is your take on Near West Theatre's groundbreaking?



I'm just excited about the possibilities now, having more space and more opportunity to be even more engaged with even more organizations [and people]. I think it's going to lift the spirituality of the community even more.

SEASON 2012-2013

May 3 - May 19, 2013

July 19 - August 4, 2013

July 25, 27 & 28, 2013

arts and culture shares 2 ohio arts council

The Near West Circle 
Editor: Hans Holznagel
Writer: Julie Cajigas
Designer: Sara Radak

claimgroundWe claim this ground

Near West Theatre breaks ground on first permanent home


"We dedicate this new building to be a place where children, teens and adults from all walks of life come together and find their voice, their solidarity and their collective determination," spoke Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek. Her voice grew to a strong, vibrant shout; "And so, we claim this ground to be the new home of Near West Theatre!" The words rang out on the corner of W. 67th St. and Detroit Avenue, in wintry yet glowing air.

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, Near West Theatre began the most significant phase yet in the journey to its first permanent home after more than 35 years of presenting professionally led musical theatre in rented spaces on Cleveland's Near West Side. The new 25,550 square foot theatre building with 275 seats is scheduled to open in the heart of the burgeoning Gordon Square Arts District in the fall of 2014. The new space, designed by Richard Fleischman + Partners Architects of Cleveland, will be fully accessible and ADA compliant, truly welcoming people of all walks of life.


The groundbreaking was an especially rapturous occasion, in part because the new theater represents a huge victory in fundraising and planning, but perhaps more so  

bob groundbreaking
Bob Navis Jr. incites the crowd to "claim this ground."
Photo by John Stuehr

because the new building will create room for sharing the transformative power of theater with more actors and audience members alike. That dream of accessibility, healing and a sense of connectedness for all became tangible as the ceremonial stakes were driven into the soft earth.

"We are gaining amazing visibility and prominence in our new location in Gordon Square. The dynamic sign on Detroit Avenue will call attention to our thriving theater and the civic plaza in front of our building will be alive with people of all ages every day," said Bob Navis, Jr., Near West Theatre's artistic director. "Visibility and recognition were two of the claims we staked as part of our groundbreaking ritual."

The ceremony, held with 200 people circled around turned soil and a small fire, featured a "we claim this ground" litany invoking many aspects of the theater's legacy and values. Among them were truth, beauty, freedom, love, barrier- breaking, diversity, art for social change, financial support, and thinking big. Two sections from the litany spoken by Stephanie and Bob follow.

Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek: "We stand today on the ground upon which we will build our new home... we will build it on a foundation that includes the legacy of inclusion and belonging that has been alive and well for more than three decades. This groundbreaking is the result of countless hours of meetings, visioning, fundraising, planning and prayer. This groundbreaking is evidence that the people of Cleveland value our past, our present and are committed to ensuring our place in Cleveland's future."

Bob Navis Jr.: "We claim this ground for the invisible child... the bullied teenager... the marginalized adult. For all those at risk on our city streets and in our suburban homes, Near West Theatre pledges to be a beacon of light and safe shelter for soul, mind and body. We seek to grow in our programming, workshops, classes and productions... so that we might offer year round opportunities for connection and support to those searching for a safe place to belong. And so, we claim this ground for those among us and around us who are at risk!"

The final words of the litany rang clear and true, spoken by the two: "And so, we claim this ground for love!" After a beautiful rendition of

Dawon Owens and Amy Kazanowski plant their stake "for love."
Photo by John Stuehr

"Part of the Human Heart" by Kelcie Nicole Dugger, the crowd processed down the sidewalk making a joyful, chaotic, heartfelt and tribal noise with bells, drums and chanting.

After arriving at the Capitol Theatre, the revelers were treated to a wonderful projected mural of images from the past, present and future of Near West Theatre, words from Stephanie and Bob, kudos from dignitaries including Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Council Members Matt Zone and Joe Cimperman, cast members from the current production of Children of Eden performing "In the Beginning" and the honoring of Gordon Square Arts District leaders and lead donors who have given 87 percent of the $6.8 million that has been raised.

Lead donors to Near West Theatre's new building are: the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, MAJIC Family Foundation, Jim & Anne Schoff and Tom & Sandy Sullivan. Groundbreaking event support was made possible by Grant Thornton.  

The Cast of Children of Eden performs for groundbreaking attendees.
Photo by Sara Radak

Groundbreaking newsgroundnews


Not only was the groundbreaking big news in the Gordon Square Arts District, it was also big news around Cleveland.

Reporter Steven Litt of The Plain Dealer wrote about the upcoming groundbreaking and the new permanent home of Near West Theatre on November 23.


Fresh Water Cleveland also wrote a piece about the coming groundbreaking.

Take a listen to the Nov. 28 edition of WCPN-FM's "Around Noon" to hear more about NWT's first permanent home (NWT segment starts 19:40, ends 29:10).


CoolCleveland.com posted this story, with pictures. 

steph groundbreaking
Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek quiets the energetic crowd at the Capitol Theatre during the second half of the groundbreaking.
Photo by John Stuehr

Supporting Near West Theatre:  

more ways than ever


The greatest financial support you can offer Near West Theatre right now is with a gift toward our Annual Fund. This helps cover our year-round work to "build loving relationships and engage diverse people in strengthening their sense of identity, passion and purpose, individually and in community, through transformational theatre arts experiences." Our winter goal, for individuals, is $55,000 by Dec. 31. Please respond generously to our Annual Appeal card with the message, "In the present moment, claiming the future," being mailed in early December. Or give online here. Sponsorships and gifts toward our Annual Benefit on Feb. 16 (see separate article) also support the operating budget for our ongoing art and mission.  


In addition, please consider giving in these important ways:

  • We still need about $900,000 to complete the Near West Theatre portion of the Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign, toward our future home at West 67th Street and Detroit Avenue.  
    • Major gifts of up to that amount (and more, toward the remaining $4 million in the wider Gordon Square campaign) are of course still being sought through December 2013.  
    • Also announced at our Nov. 27 groundbreaking was a Community Campaign. Gifts of $10,000, down to $100, will get your name on a mural that will be in the main auditorium of our new building when it opens, and in the performance caf´┐Ż we'll create in the basement in a future phase. The community campaign lasts till October 2014, so consider saving up towards a significant gift or a pledge that can be paid over time. Watch for more in the coming months on this grassroots effort to raise $200,000.   
    • Contact Mary Hromyko at the arts district office,
      (216) 961-4242, ext. 222, mhromyko@gordonsquare.org about capital campaign gifts of any size.  
  • Another way to give now, with a lasting impact, is through our newly started Near West Theatre Fund at The Cleveland Foundation. Opened this fall with a gift by Chuck and Rita Maimbourg and a matching gift from KeyBank, totaling $10,500, this fund is designed to grow over time and function as an endowment, yielding proceeds to support the theater's work. This fund can accept life-income gifts that pay you a return, as well as gifts through wills, trusts and other forms of planned giving - a whole new area of opportunity for Near West Theatre. Contact Development Director Lindsay Doerr, 216-961-9750, ldoerr@nearwesttheatre.org, for more.  

When mailing contributions, please use our new office address: 6516 Detroit Ave., Suite 9, Cleveland OH 44102. 

It won't look exactly like this, but Laura Carlson Tarantowski's art from the set of Rent (2010) gives a flavor of the donor mural planned inside the new theater.

benefitAnnual Benefit, Feb. 16:  

You Can't Stop the Beat


As the holidays approach, and the winter cold sets in each year, everyone knows that just around the corner awaits an enchanted evening at Trinity Cathedral, and this year is no different. You Can't Stop The Beat, our 35th Anniversary Benefit is Saturday, February 16, 2013, at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. The evening will include a powerful performance by Near West cast members, Edna Turnblad from Near West Theatre's Summer production of Hairspray as emcee, great food and drink, music from the 60s, dancing, a Green Stamp raffle, a silent auction, and an effusive energy not found at other events.  


Longtime friends of Near West Theatre and leadership gift givers Char and Chuck Fowler will be the guests of honor at the NWT 35th Anniversary Benefit. "We want to lift Char and Chuck up for their incredible generosity, which has contributed to our 87 percent attainment of our $6.8 million goal with the Gordon Square Arts District, making our new space possible," says Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Executive Director of NWT. 


Tickets and sponsorships for the benefit are available now! Call or email Lindsay at 216-961-9750 or ldoerr@nearwesttheatre.org for more information!




Here are the thoughts of some of the theater world's most honored and respected actors, directors, designers, choreographers, composers and writers.  My hope is that this feature will offer inspiration to all the NWT family for living each day with radical expectation, eternal zest and joyous satisfaction.   - Bob Navis Jr, Artistic Director       


This month's Creative Edge is from me to all my NWT friends and family. I wrote this little song in 2010 and it continues to make me happy. I hope it brings you an inner smile. For your meditational enjoyment...."Thoughts for a Winter's Night"  


Thoughts for a Winter's Night
(Sing to the tune of "Over the River and Through the Woods")

Over the river and through the woods
My heart so longs to go
To places warm and wondrous bright
Alive with fire's glow
Cold surrounds and pulls me in
To nestle snug and still
The fire within compels me now
To clear my mind and will

Darkness gathers and winds rush in
I pull my blankets tight
The past is gone and what's to come
Seems nowhere now in sight
Yet Lo! a healing "knowing" grows
Beyond my fears and fright
I've lived a SILENT NIGHT before
And all will turn out right!!!

Winter comes and stings and blows
The sun seems far away
My Spirit starts to sing again
My Soul begins to play
Solstice breathes a warming dawn
And clarity of sight
Creatures of the darkness, we
Creatures of the light!!!

For you....with wishes for fertile chaos
and creative curiosity in the New Year!!!
Ho! Ho! Ho! - Bob

Near West Theatre is an open and affirming organization.