6702 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102
Who we are header db37b3d0fcd7934f925abd454a96cb3cbe334a8314d834460583b41e4b7004ed

Staff

Michael Obertacz
Managing Director

Mike is honored to be joining the Near West Theatre team and looks forward to serving the Detroit Shoreway Community. Working with NWT perfectly aligns his passions and experiences with youth development, arts and education, social service, nonprofit leadership, and musical theatre, an art form he credits for his own personal and professional growth. Mike has a Bachelor of Science in Education from Bowling Green State University, spent a decade as a professional actor performing in over 45 productions nationally, and has spent the last ten years leading and directing programming for nonprofit organizations in Cleveland and New York City. Before coming to Near West Theatre, Mike spent four years as the Director of Programs with the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning (CAL). There, he was the architect behind a Resident Teaching Artist Initiative, which evolved the organization and increased capacity by adding professional teaching artists to full-time staff positions. He was also responsible for leading a formalized professional development series for artists, which resulted in new and innovative residencies that better serve and engage Greater Cleveland students through STEM, ELA and social-emotional integrated programs. Prior to his role with CAL, Mike served as the Director of Programs with Career Gear, a nonprofit social service agency providing holistic programming to prepare formerly homeless, incarcerated, and chronically unemployed men to reenter the workforce and successfully support their families. Mike received youth development training through the MyCom Youth Work Institute at Case Western Reserve University, was designated a 2008 United Way Junior Fellow through Baruch College in New York City, and is a recent alumnus of the Civic Leadership Institute through The Cleveland Leadership Center, where he now serves on their Alumni Advisory Committee. He also serves on the Education Committee with the Cleveland Museum of Art, and on the City of Shaker Heights Public Art Committee. Mike currently resides in Shaker Heights with his wife, Leta, and their two sons.


Bob Navis Jr
Artistic Director

Bob has been with Near West Theatre since 1980. He became Near West Theatre’s first Artistic Director in 1993, and in this role he is responsible for all arts programming and program development, and the formation and facilitation of a creative theatrical process that gives flesh and bones to the mission and values of Near West. He is a member of the Executive Team, and is involved in short and longterm planning, events, and conceptualizing marketing and publicity graphics and language. He has also directed the three main stage musical productions annually. For the first 32 years of his tenure, Bob served as Musical Director, Conductor, and Accompanist for all productions. Bob was also a leading artistic force in the exterior, plaza, and interior artistic design for the new theater. For the past 14 years, Bob has also designed, written and directed a musical revue which is performed for the Annual Benefit. Starting in 1967, at the age of 17, he served as Music Director/Pianist/Organist of St. Francis Church on Cleveland’s near east side for 17 years where he also taught music grades K thru 8. Together with Charlotte Ilc he founded and acted as Artistic Director of the St. Francis Community Theatre for 10 years. In the late 70’s, Bob became the Director of the Music/Theater Dept. at Erieview Catholic High School for seven years. He has been Music Director at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church since 1987 to the present. Bob was pianist/vocalist at the Harmony Bar & Grill’s Open Mic Nites from 1997-2003 and has acted as Director and/ or Music Director of over 300 theatrical productions for St. Francis CYO, St. Jerome CYO, Signet Players, Southeast Summer Theater, Chagrin Valley Little Theater, Erieview Catholic High School, WSEM’s Spotlighting Me, Cleveland Public Theatre, Bratenahl Players, and Cleveland Play House.


Alvis Ashley
Maintenance Technician

Alvis first began working on and off on special projects at Near West Theatre dating back to 2008. He began in his regular tenure at Near West Theatre just after the new facility opened in February, 2015. In his current role, Alvis takes care of the building’s interior and exterior. His tasks vary from set-up and tear-down of the stage, audience risers, cleaning and maintaining the facility and plaza, as well as construction projects in the main theater.


Amy Clausen
General Manager/Facilities Manager

Amy joined the staff in April 2014 bringing her experience with performing arts, social work, and nonprofit administration into her work here. She oversees the operations, human resources, and finances of the organization, and contributes to projects in a number of areas of the theater. Amy holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Masters in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Notre Dame as well as a Masters of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University. Amy experienced the powerful benefits of performing arts a youth and is honored to help create those opportunities for the next generation.


Kelcie Nicole Dugger
Associate Artistic Director

Kelcie joined Near West Theatre in 2002 during the production of America Through the Looking Glass. Since then, she has appeared on the Near West stage in countless productions. Though her time on the stage has been nothing short of a thrilling and exciting ride, Kelcie feels called to pursue all the different aspects that go into making each show a success. She spends her days at Near West Theatre as the Office Coordinator and Box Office Manager. Kelcie has directed a few KLAMOR productions at Near West Theatre, including two original plays, Angels & Demons and Startin’ Somethin’, as well as a production of Once on This Island Jr., and the Cleveland premiere of The Snow Queen. She has also assistant directed a number of Near West Theatre’s main stage productions, including Hairspray, Children of Eden, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, A Christmas Story, the Musical, Jesus Christ Superstar and Shrek, the Musical. Kelcie has walked away from each production with a higher understanding of art, creativity, and community. “Nothing will ever be able to replace the love I have for Near West Theatre, and the family I’ve been fortunate enough to find here.”


Reyes Feliciano
Box Office Manager/Office Coordinator

Reyes (Rey) was born and raised on the West side of Cleveland, and was in the last class (1995) to graduate from West Technical High School. She has 2 daughters and 1 son that she also raised here in Cleveland, and wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Rey loves her city, and is a big fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians and tries to attend as many games as she can. She learned most of her administrative work at Buckley King LPA wearing many hats for over 9 yrs. Rey also worked at Playhouse Square for 7 yrs as a Ticket Service Representative, where she was introduced to theatre, attending numerous musicals and plays, and she instantly fell in love! She knows that this is where she belongs, and is humbled and honored to now be part of Near West Theatre!


Lori Fiorelli
Development Associate

Lori discovered the wonderful world of Near West Theatre while attending the Community Open House for the new venue in February 2015, and felt immediately as if she had come home. Thus began her love of all things associated with Near West, and she has worked as a front of house volunteer in many capacities since attending that first event. Having spent her professional career in health care administration as a medical staff services manager, Lori now enjoys experiencing the fun and creativity that working within the theater community affords. Grateful for the opportunities that have already been afforded her, Lori joined the staff as Development Associate in March 2017, and is excited to continue expanding her knowledge of theater operations and development as she spends more time with the organization. The aura of warmth and acceptance from everyone associated with Near West Theatre is unparalleled, and the feeling of community and family is just simply amazing! 


Perren Hedderson
Technical Director

Perren has been involved at Near West for many years as ATD and video effect producer. Recent shows include A Christmas Story, the Musical and Jesus Christ Superstar. He also acts; roles include Eddie in Texas Chainsaw the Musical and Billy Bibbit in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Blank Canvas Theatre.


Cory Markowitz
Marketing Manager

Cory has worked with Near West Theatre since early 2005, and is thrilled to now be on staff in a position that enables her to help broaden and build the unique voice of the organization. With twenty years’ experience in theater, Cory has worked as a performer, director, teacher, and writer in various venues in the Cleveland area, Atlanta, GA and the UK, but Near West holds a special place in her heart for its unique blend of brilliant theatrical vision and inclusive, socially conscious community development. Favorite directing/writing credits include Unlucky for Some, a collaboration created at the University of Hull in Scarborough, England (winner of the UK's NSDF Award for Innovation), and 8 years as the annual Creative Director and Marketing Manager of Kringle's Inventionasium at Tower City Center. In 2007, Cory earned her Actor's Equity card as Eden (Faith u/s) in RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women at the 14th Street Playhouse in Atlanta. Other favorite performing credits include Anita (West Side Story), Sally Bowles (Cabaret), Sandy (Grease), Rosie (Bye Bye, Birdie) and Donna (Tina u/s) in Playhouse Square's Tony n' Tina's Wedding. Cory has also performed in many Near West productions, including The Baker’s Wife (Into the Woods), Florence (Chess), Charity (Sweet Charity), and Ellie May Chipley (Show Boat). She has also assistant directed such Near West shows as Side ShowTommyThe Music Man, and Merrily We Roll Along. Cory has a passion for positive living, mind-body wellness, and individual and organizational social-emotional leadership, and recently received her Certification in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) from NYC’s Flourishing Center. Pairing CAPP with her theater training, she also recently jumped back into teaching, running a "Mindful Theatre: Character Development" workshop at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, AZ.


Deanna Rankin
Development Director

Deanna joined Near West Theatre in August 2017. She has worked in the nonprofit field for more than 25 years where she managed an international yoga organization, ran campaigns for a local federation, and did fundraising for an out-of-school time program. In each, she was part of a team that helped the organizations grow. And that excites her. With Near West Theatre, Deanna feels she has the opportunity to merge her skills and passions. “I am blessed to work where life-changing opportunities await—both for the youth and adults creating the shows produced by NWT, and for the audience members, volunteers, and donors who share the experiences created.”


Michael Stein
Production Manager/Rentals Manager

Michael returns to Near West Theatre as the Production and Rentals Manager. Previously, he was Lighting Designer for several Near West shows and benefits including Once On This Island, The Wiz, The Secret Garden, Willy Wonka, Rent, A Christmas Story, the Musical, and Move On! Michael's 40+ year career in theatre has taken him across the U.S. from Maine to California, but mostly in Ohio as the Stage Manager/Production Manager/Lighting designer at the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, OH. Prior to returning to Near West Theatre, he was the Production Manager/Technical Director at the Palace Theater in Wisconsin Dells, WI. Michael most recently added Urinetown, the Musical to his list of Lighting Designs for Near West Theatre, as well as Co-Lighting designer for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Mary Poppins.


Ryan Wolf
Stage Manager/Asst. Production Manager

Ryan graduated from Wright State University in April 2013 with a BFA in Theatre Design & Technology with an emphasis in Stage Management. He began working with Near West Theatre the summer of 2012 when he stage managed Hairspray and then returned on staff in 2013 to stage manage all Near West shows, including Side Show, A Christmas Story, the Musical, Near West’s 2014, 2015, & 2016 Benefits, Once On This Island, Jr., Move On!, Jesus Christ Superstar, Shrek, the MusicalHAIR, and Scrooge! the Musical.


Support Staff

Michelle Gregorczyk
Contractor: 
Accountant

Michelle received her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, majoring in accounting, from Cleveland State University in 1991 and passed the CPA exam in 1992. Since beginning her accounting career in 1991, Michelle has worked for numerous prestigious firms such as International Management Group and the Cleveland Ballet.  Since 2003, Ms. Gregorczyk has served as the founder and chief executive of In Balance, a local accounting firm with notable clients such as:  Near West Theatre, Verb Ballets, national ballet company, Progressive Arts Alliance, Cleveland Tenants Organization, Zygote Press, Inc., Y-Haven, Ten Thousand Villages, The ARC of Greater Cleveland, and Bellaire Puritas Development Corporation. Michelle has earned a reputation throughout the non-profit community as a trustworthy accountant with an uncanny ability to stabilize and assist in the turn-around of struggling agencies.


Stephanie Morrison Hrbek
Senior Development Consultant

Stephanie grew up in East Lansing, Michigan where her parents, both ministers, built and served Edgewood United Church of Christ. The involvement of her family in the struggle for human rights shaped who Stephanie is today and her calling to a life’s work that engages her in building community rooted in justice. Near West Theatre reflects Stephanie’s commitment to living and serving in an urban setting rich in diversity. Stephanie founded Near West Theatre in 1978 on the principle of providing access to theatre arts to all interested, regardless of economic status. Over the years of Near West’s development, Stephanie has served as Executive Director, director, actress, playwright, choreographer and producer. She has co-authored several award-winning oral history productions. Stephanie stepped down from her role of Executive Director in October 2017 and is now supporting the development efforts of the theatre.  She is thrilled that the organization now has a fully accessible facility as a result of the formation and development of the Gordon Square Arts District where she represented Near West Theatre as a founding partner from 2001 to 2017. The level of participation already demonstrated by the community and partners, new and former, has continued to inspire since the building’s opening. She looks forward to continuing to support Near West’s 40 year track record of “creating extraordinary theatre with ordinary people.” Stephanie is the recipient of a 2010 Cleveland Arts Prize for her work with the Gordon Square Arts District, a 2009 Cleveland Arts Prize for Distinguished Service to the Arts, and a 2001 Lifetime of Idealism Award from City Year. Stephanie has been married to Rev. George T. Hrbek since 1978. They are homeowners in Ohio City since 1979. They are delighted that their two sons, Seth (wife Bridget and daughter Fiona) and Noah (with daughter Lydia) have chosen to make their home in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood which, as Near West Theatre alumni, they share with many other Near West alums.


Kevin Kelly
Contractor: Fundraising & Administration

Kevin is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Business Administration. He is an avid tennis player and spent 16 years working for the mutual fund firm Federated Investors, Inc. as a Customer Service Supervisor and Wholesaler. At Near West Theatre, Kevin is responsible for the playbill ad sales and assists with other occasional fundraising projects. 

 
 

What's Happening Now at Near West Theatre?