Stephanie grew up in East Lansing, Michigan where her parents, both ministers in the United Church of Christ, 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 live out a life's work that engages her in building community rooted in justice. NWT reflects Stephanie's commitment to living and serving in an urban setting that is rich in diversity. NWT is founded on the principle of providing access to all interested, regardless of economic status, to an experience of professionally directed theatre. Over the years of NWT's development, Stephanie has served as director, actress, playwright, choreographer and producer. She has co-authored several award-winning oral history productions. Today, as Executive Director, she is responsible for its overall operations and remains involved artistically through the role of choreographer for all productions. She represents NWT in the development of the Gordon Square Arts District where NWT is a partner in this dynamic collaboration that will result in a new home for NWT that will be accessible to all members of the community. The move to a new home will allow NWT to serve more community residents and to diversify its programming. Stephanie received a 2009 Cleveland Arts Prize Martha Joseph Award and in 2010 received a Cleveland Arts Prize as part of the Gordon Square Arts District leadership. Stephanie is a graduate of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2001 and also received a Lifetime of Idealism Award that year from City Year.
Robert Navis Jr.
Bob has been with Near West Theatre since 1980. In addition to the responsibilities involved with managing/producing all NWT programming, he functions as Director for three mainstage productions annually as well as Musical Director, Conductor, and Accompanist. For the past
decade, Bob has designed and directed a musical revue involving 85-100 cast members
for Near West Theatre's Annual Benefit. He served as Music Director 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 7 years. He has been Music Director at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church since 1987. 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 Playhouse.
Chief Operating Officer
Hans serves with Stephanie and Bob on NWT’s executive team. He has
management responsibilities in the areas of personnel,
development, communications, marketing, finance, and advancing
the theater’s mission and vision as a community arts
organization serving children, teens and adults. He attends to
the theater’s cooperative relationship with the Gordon Square
Arts District and the campaign to construct a new building for
NWT at the corner of West 67th Street and Detroit Avenue. He
joined the staff in 2011 after more than 25 years of
fundraising, public relations, news, administrative,
community-life and mission education work with the national
ministries of the United Church of Christ. Originally from
Forest Grove, Oregon, Hans holds a bachelor’s degree in
communications from Lewis and Clark College, Portland, and a
master’s degree in religious studies from Columbia University
and Union Theological Seminary, New York City. A resident of
the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, he has performed in 10 Near
West musicals since 2000 and served the theater as a volunteer
Josh Padgett has been with Near West Theatre since
September, 2008. Josh is well-versed in scenic production,
having worked over ten years as a master carpenter and metal
worker and is proud to use his skills to continue NWT's
reputation of professional quality theatre. Josh was born and
raised in Berea and received a Dramatic Arts Degree from
Cleveland State University in the Technical Direction Track. He
has worked in numerous scene shops including: Arena Stage, Great
Lakes Theater Festival, Oberlin College, and the University of
Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music.
Assistant Technical Director
Perren Hedderson returned to Near West Theatre in
the capacity of Assistant Technical Director a year ago after
working in film in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 2 years. He starred
in a sci-fi comedy, Horror in the Wind by writer/director Max
Mitchell, Revision Studios and worked on Year One starring Jack
Black, along with other big budget films. It's good to be back
Kelcie Dugger developed her love and passion for theatre arts on the stage of Near West Theatre. At the tender age of 12, Kelcie realized that she was quite lucky to have found her home away from home, a place that would be a driving force in her growth as a performer, but more importantly, as a person. Eleven years later, and though her role in the organization has shifted significantly, the impact that it continues to have on her life is still the same. Kelcie is involved with many different aspects within the organization, from directing KLAMOR, to running box office, assistant directing main shows, and finding time to take to the stage every once in a while.
Assistant Production Manager
Ryan serves as stage manager for all of Near West Theatre’s main-stage productions as well as its annual benefit, pARTy in Gordon Square and other off-site performances. He also assists with theater set-up and tear-down, with carpentry work and in other areas. Originally from North Olmsted, Ohio, Ryan graduated from Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theatre design and technology with an emphasis in stage management. Before joining the staff in May 2013 he had already been stage manager for Near West Theatre’s Hairspray (2012) and had worked on over a dozen shows elsewhere, including the Dayton Opera’s Romeo and Juliet and Lucia de Lammermoor and the Human Race Theatre Company’s Oliver! and Next to Normal.
Laura Carlson Tarantowski
Laura joined the staff in July 2013 in this newly created, part-time design capacity, combining
what she had been doing under more than 11 contracts a year with Near West Theatre. Her
varied work includes set design for main-stage shows and the KLAMOR children’s program,
artwork for posters, post cards and signs, and artistic design of certain exterior and interior
aspects of NWT’s new building. Laura has a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater from Brenau
University, a Master of Fine Arts in set design from the University of Wisconsin--Madison and
over 20 years of professional experience designing and painting shows. Besides her work on
over a dozen NWT shows, her scenic design has been seen at Dobama Theatre, Baldwin Wallace
University and other Cleveland-area stages.