Current Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Hans Holznagel, Near West Theatre 216.961.9750 -

Diverse kids from city, suburbs offer Once On This Island Jr. April 10-13

Musical about class, culture and love features cast of 31, ages 9 to 15

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CLEVELAND (March 17) – Boys and girls in Near West Theatre's "Kids Loud and Musical Organic Revue" program are preparing a lively, mystical musical about two young people who cross lines of class, culture and race and how the communities around them react.

Caribbean-themed song and dance are featured in Once On This Island Jr., on stage Thursday, April 10, Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 13, at 3 p.m. Performances will be at the theater's longtime home in the St. Patrick's Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. It will be the next-to-last production in that location before Near West makes a transition to its new home, now under construction in the Gordon Square Arts District.

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Cathedral to be transformed into stage, dance floor for a night

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CLEVELAND – A downtown cathedral will become a stage and a carnival-themed dance floor on Saturday, Feb. 15, when a local theater holds its festive annual fundraiser.

Near West Theatre’s Annual Benefit, this year titled "Love Makes the World Go 'Round," will be from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Ave. It will feature a high-energy, original performance by NWT cast members as well as food and drink, a DJ and dancing, a silent auction and raffle, and other surprises. This year’s honoree is Cleveland attorney Jan Roller, a longtime Near West Trustee and supporter.

Through scenery, decorations and actors' costumes, the cathedral's gothic surroundings will take on circus- and carnival-like colors and imagery. The visual themes of Near West's recent productions of the musicals Side Show and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris will inform the look and feel of the evening.

The Benefit is the most important fundraiser of the year for Near West Theatre, which builds community among ordinary people by staging classic musicals with large, diverse casts of all ages and also offers children’s and youth programming. Companies and individuals are invited to consider Benefit sponsorships at levels of $10,000, $7,500, $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000. As of Jan. 9, sponsors include American Limousine Service, Douglas G. Bugie, Euro USA, Char and Chuck Fowler, Gypsy Beans & Baking Co., Chuck and Rita Maimbourg, the Majic Family Fund, Panzica Construction Co., Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pogue, and The Sherwin-Williams Company.

Besides the evening's entertainment, a ticket to the event at $85 (or 10 tickets at $800) buys full access to beer, wine, soft drinks, and a festive spread of food provided by Spice of Life Catering and desserts by Gypsy Beans & Baking Co. Tickets can be purchased online here; by phoning 216-961-6391, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; or in person during those same hours at NWT’s business office, 6516 Detroit Ave., Suite 9. $50 of each ticket is tax-deductible. Details are at has called Near West Theatre's Annual Benefit "one of the best parties of the year" and "a near perfect synthesis of a fun event that also manage[s] to showcase artistic expression and the social issues that Near West is grounded in."


New stage musical, opening Nov. 15, kicks off holiday celebration of movie’s 30th anniversary

Cleveland premiere of A Christmas Story, the Musical, features diverse hometown cast of 55

CLEVELAND (Oct. 3, 2013) – Citywide events this holiday season will mark the 30th anniversary of the classic movie, A Christmas Story, filmed in Cleveland. Near West Theatre leads the way with the local premiere of A Christmas Story, the Musical, featuring a singing, dancing cast of 55 Greater Clevelanders. Thirteen performances are offered Nov. 15 through Dec. 8 at the theater’s Ohio City performance space, 3606 Bridge Avenue. Friday and Saturday shows (plus one Thursday) are at 7:30 p.m.; four Sunday matinees are at 3 p.m.

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Dramatic sign language interpretation offered Dec. 5 at A Christmas Story, the Musical

CLEVELAND (Sept. 26, 2013) – The American Sign Language troupe The HeArd will offer its interpretation of A Christmas Story, the Musical alongside an energetic cast of 50 children, teens and adults at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at Near West Theatre, 3606 Bridge Ave. The spotlighted, seated interpreters will face a section seats where audience members can view the stage show and the dramatic sign language performance at the same time.

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Near West Theatre presents the Cleveland premiere of A Christmas Story, the Musical

Near West Theatre presents the Cleveland premiere of A Christmas Story, the Musical, November 15th through December 8th. Performed by a cast of 35 children, teens and adults, it’s part of a citywide celebration of the 30th anniversary of the classic film which inspired this 2012 Broadway hit. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (with one Thursday evening show and four Sunday matinees) at the St. Patrick’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Avenue, in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. Tickets are just $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under; or support the theater and get special benefits with a $20 Star Seat. Purchase by phone at 216-961-6391 or online at

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Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio Honors Three Individuals for Leadership and Example in Arts, Education and Entrepreneurship

Mayor Frank Jackson Receives Special Leadership Award for Vision and Leadership in Transforming Public Education in Cleveland

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Three individuals have been selected by Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio to be honored with the first Arts, Education, and Entrepreneurship Awards: Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Anna Arnold, and Jeff Lachina. The awards were created in celebration of Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio’s 60th anniversary and will be presented at Icons of Art Party: Decades at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel on Friday, September 27, 2013.

In addition, Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio will present a special leadership award to Mayor Frank Jackson recognizing his commitment to improving opportunities for Cleveland’s children by leading the transformation of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and integration of the arts into the school curriculum. Award winners will receive a framed photograph created by 2013 Apprentices participating in Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio’s arts-based job and college readiness program, ArtWorks, as well as a contribution made in their honor to Young Audiences’ board-designated endowment fund. Additional donations in honor of the award winners may be made by calling 216-561-5005 or visiting

Award Winner Biographies:

Mayor Frank Jackson, City of Cleveland

Mayor Jackson is a tireless supporter of quality education and believes “Every child is your child.” He is the driving force and primary architect of Cleveland's Plan for Transforming Schools, and is deeply committed to its successful implementation. Mayor Jackson is committed to making Cleveland's schools a recognized model for education, a model where every child has the opportunity to excel, where the classroom experience has the power to transform lives, and where education beyond high-school is attainable for all. He calls for everyone to become ardent supporters of and advocates for a quality education for each child. In addition, he firmly believes in the vital role the arts play in the education of our children, and has partnered with Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio to provide an arts-integrated curriculum for students across Ohio.

ARTS: Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Founder and Director of Near West Theatre

Ms. Morrison-Hrbek is the driving force behind Cleveland’s Near West Theatre, which was founded on the principle of providing access to all interested in experiencing professionally directed theater, regardless of economic status. She assumes a variety of roles to assure the success of the theatre, including actress, director, choreographer, playwright, and producer. Morrison-Hrbek has also been part of the leadership team responsible for the development of Gordon Square Arts District, which will result in a new home for Near West Theatre accessible to all members of the community. Near West Theatre has become an integral component of the neighborhood—many children who are struggling with their identities find themselves, and their voices, through their participation.

EDUCATION: Anna Arnold, Visual Artist and Director of Florence O’Donnell Wasmer Gallery

Ms. Arnold is a recognized artist and educator working in Northeast Ohio for nearly 30 years. She holds a master’s degree in Art Education from Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art. She has exhibited in more than 200 gallery and museum shows and events across the United States. Ms. Arnold is also an innovative and engaging educator who has been invited into schools throughout Cleveland and Ohio and taught hundreds of children and adults though residences, visiting artist programs, and workshops. Works of art created by Anna and her students grace many public venues and private collections in Northeast Ohio. She has worked with some of Cleveland’s most at-risk children, encouraging them to formulate and positively express their thoughts through visual art.


Mr. Lachina’s creative achievement is evidenced through the many successes of his company, Lachina. Founded in 1989, Lachina applies the creative use of technology to develop and produce education media for publishing clients, biotechnology companies, hospitals, and related healthcare enterprises. Mr. Lachina embodies the intersection of innovation and entrepreneurship, as demonstrated by his willingness to constantly modernize his business model to remain at the forefront of the creative use of technology in educational products. In 2006, Lachina formed a biomedical illustration department to blend the worlds of illustration and science, in effect foreseeing the coming digital explosion of science education and communication. He actively recruits from Cleveland Institute of Art and other area universities to keep his technology young and fresh, while demonstrating to students that an active career in the arts is possible and can happen right here in Cleveland. Lachina offers an internship program to high-school and college students allowing them to actively participate in the creative development of the company’s educational products.


About Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio

Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio enriches the lives of children and promotes creative learning by uniting arts and education. Organized in 1953, the Northeast Ohio chapter of Young Audiences is the only multi-arts resource for schools in the region whose primary purpose is to make learning through the arts an essential part of young people’s education. Programs take place in public, private, and parochial schools, reaching more than 240,000 young people each year—nearly 7 million students throughout its 60 years in Northeast Ohio. For more information about Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio, please visit

Director of Marketing
Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio
(216) 633-1051

A Christmas Story House & Museum hosts Christmas in July Event to Kick-off the 30th Anniversary


July 10, 2013

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Hans Holznagel, Near West Theatre 216.961.9750 -

A Christmas Story House & Museum hosts Christmas in July Event to Kick-off the 30th Anniversary

Celebration of A Christmas Story – Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 10:00am.

CLEVELAND – July 10, 2013 – A Christmas Story House & Museum will be hosting a Christmas in July event, at the iconic house used in the filming of A Christmas Story movie. The kick-off event will formally announce all upcoming events planned for the 30th Anniversary Celebration of A Christmas


A Christmas Story, released November 1983, is a delightfully funny holiday classic that tells the story of

Ralphie Parker, a 1940's nine-year-old who pulls out all the stops to obtain the ultimate Christmas present. The movie is based on the childhood memoirs of humorist Jean Shepherd (from his hilarious book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash).

This year's focus is to showcase Cleveland, Ohio as the destination for "All things A Christmas Story". A Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland in the early 1980s and many of the infamous filming locations can be found around the city and enjoyed. Fans of the classic film will be quick to add Cleveland to their holiday travel plans after hearing all that is in store!

Events planned for the 30th Anniversary Celebration of A Christmas Story are as follows:

- 30th Anniversary A Christmas Story Convention – Thanksgiving weekend, November 29th and 30th

. Convention will feature appearances by original cast members, author signings, tours of the A Christmas Story House & Museum, bb-gun range, and much more! Convention schedule of events and locations can be found at

Mrs. Parker's Little Piggy Luncheon – Grand Ballroom, Renaissance Hotel, November 30th. An exclusive opportunity to enjoy a traditional meatloaf, mashed potato and red cabbage meal, just like Mrs. Parker made, while dining with cast members from A Christmas Story movie.

Entertainment provided by Cleveland Play House and Near West Theatre. Tickets are limited – get yours before you say "Ohhh Fuuudge!" Tickets will be available for purchase September 1st.

- Grand Opening of newly expanded A Christmas Story House & Museum Gift Shop. After over a year of construction and renovations, the A Christmas Story House & Museum will open its new 3,500 square-foot gift shop to the public.

- Cleveland's Winterfest 2013 – Downtown Cleveland, November 30th

Cleveland is invited to "create nostalgia for now" at this all-day street festival and celebration that kicks off the holiday season in Cleveland. Featuring a spectacular, epic lighting display that will be the talk of the town!

- A Christmas Story – The Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare, November 29th to December 22nd. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the beloved film, we bring back one of the most popular shows in Cleveland Play House history in a sparkling new production. The perfect holiday treat for the entire family. Purchase your tickets to A Christmas Story in the month of July and save $10 per ticket! Cleveland Play House is also thrilled to announce the return of the Festival of Trees! Create new memories with this beloved holiday tradition, as the Festival of Trees fills the lobbies and hallways of our new home at PlayhouseSquare during the run of A Christmas Story.

- A Christmas Story, The Musical – Near West Theatre, November 15th, 16th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 29th, 30th, December 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 2013. Near West Theatre presents a multi-cultural, intergenerational cast in A Christmas Story, the Musical. Cleveland's first-ever production of this new musical based on the classic 1983 movie which recently was honored with 3 Tony Awardnominations. Performances at 3606 Bridge Avenue in Cleveland's Ohio City. Here's what audiences say about their experience of Near West Theatre: "We were amazed! I have seen performances on Broadway that weren't as well done. Stage set, costumes, orchestra, singing voices, and acting; all were top notch.", "Near West has an energy all its own. The experience is always unique and fabulous." Call 216-961-6391 for tickets or buy online at

- A Christmas Story Run 5K/10K - Cleveland, December 7th

Be a part of history for the first A Christmas Story Run, to celebrate this classic movie's 30th anniversary. Proceeds will benefit the A Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project, located Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood.

- Cleveland Indians A Christmas Story House & Museum Night – Progressive Field, September 25th. The Cleveland Indians play the last home game of the season against the Chicago White Sox at 7:05pm. Brian Jones, owner of A Christmas Story House & Museum, will throw out the first pitch to start the game! Order tickets through the promotional link:

Special Offer Code: CHRISTMAS. $1 of each ticket sale will be donated to the A Christmas Story Run 5K/10K charity partner, A Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project.

- A Christmas Story Convention Hotel Special Room Rate – Renaissance Hotel, Cleveland. The historical Renaissance Hotel, also seen in the movie A Christmas Story, will be offering a discounted room rate for your stay during the 30th Anniversary A Christmas Story Convention.

This beautiful 4-star hotel is situated right on Public Square, and located only 5 minutes from the A Christmas Story House & Museum, so fans can be close to all of the festivities! Page 3 of 3

The Kick-off for the 30th Anniversary Celebration of A Christmas Story will take place on Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 10:00am. Main events will commence on the front porch of the A Christmas Story House & Museum. Representatives from both the Cleveland Play House (play) and Near West Theatre (The Musical) will be in attendance. In support of all the Cleveland events, there will be special appearances from The Cleveland Indians mascot, "Slider" (dressed as Santa) along with other very special guests. As a bonus, get a "sneak peak" at the new A Christmas Story House & Museum Gift Shop, which will be soft-opened to the public.

Local media, businesses, and the general public are invited to come down and share in the festivities. In addition to the main events there will be entertainment for the entire family. Take a tour of the A Christmas Story House & Museum, and visit with Santa Claus himself! You might even see the

"Deranged Easter Bunny" stop by. Admission to the A Christmas Story House & Museum will be discounted to $5 on July 25th. Wear an ugly Christmas sweater and be entered into a raffle to win your very own "Major Award"! This event cannot be missed!




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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Hans Holznagel, Near West Theatre 216.961.9750 -

EDITORS and PRODUCERS: Here are two versions of a listing for Near West Theatre’s July production of Side Show, a show based on the true story of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, who became stars. Please include these in your theater listings or announcements. We welcome interviews, advance stories, reviews, photos and other coverage. Just call or e-mail to make arrangements. – Hans Holznagel


Near West Theatre makes a bold choice and casts two actors of different races to play conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton in its production of Side Show, July 19th through August 4th. Told almost entirely in song, the show is a moving portrait of two women, joined at the hip, whose extraordinary bond brings them fame but denies them love. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (with one Thursday evening and one Sunday afternoon performance) at the St. Patrick’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Avenue, in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. Tickets are just $8; or support the theater and get special benefits with a $20 Star Seat. Purchase by phone at 216-961-6391, online at, or at the door.


Near West Theatre. Side Show. July 19-August 4. St. Pat’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. Fri. and Sat. 7:30; Thu., Aug 1, 7:30; Sun., Aug 4, 3 p.m. General admission $8. Star Seat, $20, supports the theater and offers special benefits. Tickets 216-961-6391 weekdays 11 to 4 or online at


Near West Theatre home page:
Show info page:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Hans Holznagel, Near West Theatre 216.961.9750 -

In Cleveland, a global environmental first

Gordon Square Arts District to be home to world’s first theater featuring super-insulated ‘passive’ design

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The new home of Near West Theatre, soon to be under construction in the Gordon Square Arts District, will be the first performance hall in the world to use a super-insulated “passive building” design. Commonly found in Europe but rare in North America, the method will reduce the theater’s energy consumption by at least 35 percent, its energy bills by more than $1 million over 50 years, and still keep a full, brightly lit auditorium just as comfortable as in a conventional building.

It will also be the third of three theater projects in the Gordon Square neighborhood, where, already, the restored Capitol Theatre has been showing movies since 2009 and Cleveland Public Theatre is updating the oldest standing theater in Cleveland. Near West’s brand-new 275-seat performance space at West 67th Street and Detroit Avenue, which will get added energy bang from rooftop solar panels, will scream not only earth-consciousness but also the kind of sustainability that means this West Side nonprofit – itself a hybrid of professional direction and community-volunteer energy – plans to continue changing the lives of young and old participants for generations to come. The first performance in the new theater is planned for the fall of 2014.

Passive building elements will appear early in the construction process, currently scheduled to begin July 1, 2013. An 8-inch-thick insulating barrier will be laid under the basement slab. A trench of geothermal tubing will surround the foundation. Walls and roof will be a foot thick and virtually airtight, with a conventional steel frame surrounded by additional wood framing, gypsum sheathing and mineral wool insulation. The walls will be twice as thick – and the insulation value (R40) twice as high – as those of a conventional building.

Once the structure is finished, audiences will be kept comfortable by a “heat recovery ventilation” system, pumping fresh air in, stale air out, and, in the process, transferring heat between the two.

Based on predicted rate increases and an engineering firm’s conservative estimate of 35.2 percent energy savings, the theater expects to avoid electricity costs of at least $1.2 million over 50 years by using passive design. An even more-generous estimate by passive technology experts pegs energy savings at 44 percent, which would avoid at least $1.5 million in expenses over the same period. And it could get even better over time as standard, hot theatrical lamps are gradually replaced with cool, energy-efficient LED lighting.

Developed in Germany (and known there as Passivhaus), the passive building method is used widely in Europe for homes and in public buildings, such as supermarkets, schools, clinics and recreation centers. In the United States it is used rarely, and mostly in homes. In Cleveland in 2011, thousands of visitors to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History saw the method on display in the PNC Smart Home, which has since been moved and is a private residence.

A theater presents special challenges, with its heat-generating lights, a stage filled with dancers and singers, and seats densely filled with warm bodies. Comfort is a particular concern for Near West, which has been producing “extraordinary theater with ordinary people” since 1978 in a third-floor ballroom next to St. Patrick’s Church in the Ohio City neighborhood – including sweaty summer shows without air conditioning. The designer of the new 23,000- square-foot theater, Richard Fleischman + Partners Architects of Cleveland, assures Near West Theatre-goers they will be comfortable year-round, thanks to the super-insulation, paired with a heat-recovery system in the theater’s basement that will regulate temperature and humidity, zone by zone, throughout the building. Fleischman developed the design in consultation with passive building specialist Adam Cohen of Roanoke, Va., Karpinski Engineering of Cleveland, and Panzica Construction of Cleveland, the construction manager. Near West hopes to seek prototype certification for the building from Passivhaus Institute U.S.

Beyond the savings realized through the passive building elements, more will come from a 75,000-watt generating system powered by solar panels to be installed by an investor on the theater’s south-sloping roof. This will provide a portion of the building’s electricity at 1 cent less per kilowatt-hour than the electricity drawn from the regular utility grid.

Near West has been aided by a special gift earmarked for the passive method from philanthropists Chuck and Char Fowler, among the $2 million they have provided for the building through the Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign. “Chuck and Char really care about sustainability of our theater’s work and of the earth,” said Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Near West’s founder and executive director. “We are extremely grateful for their leadership, and for the amazing outpouring of support we’ve received for this project from so many sources. We’re working to be careful stewards of these gifts and more that are still coming in, and we’ll continue to look for creative ways to minimize the future costs of operating this facility.” She also expressed appreciation for the leadership of GSAD Campaign Co-Chairs Tom Sullivan, Albert Ratner and Richard Pogue; for lead gifts to the Near West Theatre portion of the campaign by Tom and Sandy Sullivan, Jim and Anne Schoff, Eric Kennedy and the Gund Foundation; and for the partnership of GSAD Board Co-Chairs Pogue and David Doll, Cleveland Public Theater’s Raymond Bobgan, Jeff Ramsey of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development, City Council Member Matt Zone, and GSAD President Judi Feniger in the ongoing, district-wide capital campaign.

“This passive building is great news for our neighborhood,” said Zone, who represents Ward 15. "Near West Theatre’s programs, housed in this beacon of environmental sustainability, will add to the quality of life on the West Side and beyond and to Gordon Square’s profile as a national leader in economic development and the arts.”

The theater has $850,000 more to raise toward its $6.8 million goal within the larger $30 million Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign, which concludes Dec. 31, 2013. Near West then plans additional fundraising to finish teaching and performance spaces in the new building’s basement and purchase lights, rigging and curtains for the main stage.


Since 1978, Near West Theatre has engaged youth and people of all ages from Cleveland’s Near West Side and beyond in a positive activity that taps into their energy, allowing them to discover their creativity and present themselves as contributing members of the community. Professionally led but with diverse volunteer actors from all walks of life, the theater uses large-scale musicals to build relationships through an intense, challenging and transforming process. They share their unique life stories and experiences to find their own voices and make personal connections with the production and each other. With productions for participants of all ages as well as specifically for children and youth, the theater offers low ticket prices ($8 for adults, $6 for children, with a special voluntary $20 “Star Seat”) to keep great live theater affordable to the community.

Near West Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization are partners in the collaborative Gordon Square Arts District, a powerful combination of housing, new businesses, the arts and neighborhood beautification that is sparking the development of new jobs for residents. To date, the project has helped infuse more than $500 million in economic development in the surrounding community.

[EDITORS AND REPORTERS: Interviews are available with Near West Theatre and Gordon Square Arts District leaders as well as passive building experts. Call Hans Holznagel, Near West Theatre, 216-961-9750, or Judi Feniger, Gordon Square Arts District, 216-961-4242, ext. 239.]

[NOTE: Near West Theatre’s next production, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, runs May 3 - 19, 2013, at the theater’s longtime performance space in the St. Patrick’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave., in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. Tickets: 216-961-6391. Information: 216-961-9750.]

PR Contact

Hans Holznagel
Near West Theatre 
6516, Suite 9 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 961-9750