About Near West Theatre

[For the text of Bob Navis Jr.'s 2012-2013 "Plug in" message, scroll down to the bottom of this page.]


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.


The soul of Near West Theatre is belief in the healing, transformative power of the theatrical arts. The personal and communal growth possible when participating in an acting, singing, dancing ensemble is most fully realized with both skilled leadership and loving collaboration.

Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Theatre

There is no cultural arts program in Greater Cleveland like Near West Theatre (NWT). Based in the Ohio City neighborhood, it has a unique identity as a grassroots, intergenerational theatre with an emphasis on serving youth.


Building personal, professional, and artistic relationships in which mutuality, trust, authenticity, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, growth, and gratitude inspire and motivate committed investment;

Fostering an open and affirming environment; maintaining affordability; acknowledging disabilities and special needs; honoring differences in race, culture, economic background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, spirituality, age, skill, mental health, physical ability, experience, education, and size;

Striving and learning, diligently; setting goals to consistently exceed expectations;

Producing something new through imaginative skill: new solutions, methods or devices, or an artistic object or form. An originality of thinking. An appreciation for the apparent chaos, contradiction, void, and imbalance out of which new things are born;

Being vigorous advocates of healing and social justice to create a world and community where all voices are valued and welcomed;

Facilitating personal and professional growth with unfailing reliability; providing an enduring home away from home, always welcoming at any stage of life and career.

Bob Navis Jr. invites you to "plug in" @ NWT

Here's the full text of a message from Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr., a teaser for which appears in Near West Theatre's 2012-2013 Season Brochure, "Plug in."

            It’s July 5, 2012. I’m at a little bar in Lakewood, having been lovingly badgered by Sara H. to go out for drinks after a draining and hot Hairspray rehearsal. I almost didn’t go. I was depleted. Now it’s just before midnight. People I have directed and loved over three decades begin walking through the door. First Doug B. flying solo, then Luke W., Ben H. and his sister Sara H. herself enter and light up the room. Word begins to spread that NWT’s own legend, Trinidad S., is in from Chicago and at a bar next door, soon to be stopping over. Kevin K. is working the room and leading NWT and Beck Center actor/singers in his locally famous karaoke night.
            Fast-forward one hour. Dan B., whom I haven’t seen on our stage in years, has told me he came out in 2007. He is glowing -- a man now, clearly having come into his own. Luke W. has been at the mic ripping his shirt off and galvanizing the room with some rock anthem as I think, ‘God, not only has he delivered some of the best acting I’ve ever seen from a teen on the NWT stage, but he could be a rock star, too!?!” I momentarily leave the bar, impatient to see Trinidad, and she is on the street, running down the sidewalk and screaming into my arms with a crushing hug. Later in the evening, I’m talking with Rachel D., who is celebrating her 21st birthday. I’m spilling my worries about the cast of Hairspray and the lack, so far, of a strong sense of unity and transformation. She holds my hands and looks deep into my eyes and with the wisdom and beauty of a much more mature soul, assures me that I have traveled this road before and that miracles always do, and will, happen. With a knowing smile, she reminds me that creating theatre of meaning is what I’ve always done, and I feel her deep thankfulness. Later, Kevin calls my name out as the next singer. I have not filled out a card and have no intention to sing as I have laryngitis. The NWT crowd is insisting I go up there and on the screen before me pops “Edelweiss.” Trinidad takes a chair in front of me, looking up, eyes tearful. After, she tells me that she knew I was a “genius” when she was Maria in The Sound of Music along with a cast of 84! Sara H., by the way, was little Gretl in that production over 15 years ago.
            So there they were, children from my past, grown, thriving, part of each other’s lives and mine. If I needed a little wind beneath my wings that night, with Pat C.’s friendship, Matt A.’s quiet, grieving presence and all the rest of these lovely, dear people, I surely got it. I cried as I croaked my way through “Edelweiss” and later, too, all the way home in the car. Suddenly, unexpectedly, more than 30 years of life at NWT had just passed before my eyes. It was a transcendental experience: jolting, enveloping and defining at once. Past, Present and Future condensed into a moment.
            Want in on any of this?  The season ahead is another opportunity for you to plug in. We can’t wait to get to know you better.