Amani Green (she/her) is the lead teaching artist for the RISE! Program and in-school programming. She grew up in Cairo, Egypt, and has a bachelor's and master's degree in psychology from Stanford University. She has been involved in several casts and production teams of shows at Near West Theatre since 2017. Part of why she loves Near West Theatre is its commitment to its youth participants. She worked in higher education prior to her role as Program Manager at Near West Theatre. She is so excited to introduce young people to the magic of theatre!


Abigail Collinsworth (she/her) is ecstatic to be joining the Near West Theatre staff as Teaching Artist. New to the Cleveland area, Abigail grew up in Columbus, Ohio where she grew a love of theatre through school and community theatre groups. After high school she continued working on her theatre career at the University of Mount Union where she graduated with a BA in Theatre in 2022. This is her first time working with Near West Theatre but has had previous teaching experience at HBTI in Shaker Heights. On her time off Abigail enjoys long walks in nature and making artwork.


Carlos Cruz (he/they) is a Cleveland-born, San Lorenzo, Puerto Rican-raised actor and teaching artist who has collaborated to develop and perform educational theatre works all over NEO and Puerto Rico. They have performed with Near West Theatre, The Beck Center, Karamu House, Cleveland Playhouse, and many other organizations. Carlos has a deep belief that the tools for making theatre should be accessible to everyone. It has been a joy spreading their love for the creative process by working with both like and differing-minded artists. Carlos learns just as much from their students as they hope their students learn from them. 


Sarah Farris (she/her) has been performing on the Near West Theatre stage since 2018, and it immediately became like a second home to her. She is absolutely thrilled to now be a teaching artist at Near West Theatre! Sarah graduated from Baldwin Wallace University in 2021 with a degree in Communications: Public Relations and a Minor in English. Previously, she has worked as a Technical Writer at Union Home Mortgage and as an Assistant Account Executive at Falls & Co. She is a strong advocate for arts education, and looks forward to teaching students the many different aspects of theatre while serving the Near West Theatre community.


Blessing Gee (they/she) has been a part of Near West Theatre since 2017 when she started in the RISE! Program. Shortly after, they were in Xanadu! They have done 13 shows in total at Near West Theatre, and were recently seen in Bring it On: The Musical as Nautica. Blessing is currently a rising sophomore at Cleveland State University where she’s double majoring in Arts Management and Pre-Dentistry. When she’s not on stage or in school, Blessing enjoys thrifting and picking up on new crafts! Near West has been a huge part of Blessing’s life and has helped in shaping them into the artist they are today. She is ecstatic to be working at Urban Community School and passing the art and skills they’ve gained while working in RISE! as a participant and being in productions!


Xavier Heipp (he/him) is a recent Kent State graduate. He graduated with a major in Theatre Performance as well as a double minor in Pre-law and Philosophy. He loves the arts and has a special place in his heart for Shakespeare. He has written and published his own Shakespearean-inspired work called A Midsummer Day’s Awakening, complete with Iambic Pentameter, prose, verse, and a full 5 acts. He is also currently working with Dr. Yuko Kurahashi to write and publish Conjuring Shakespeare’s Kings, Witches, and Fools, a book dedicated to making it easier to teach and learn Shakespeare in the classroom. 


Madi Pelle (he/they) is a recent graduate of Kent State University, and Madi is elated to be working with Near West Theatre for the school season. Madi has been teaching for as long as he can remember, so he is so excited to expand his craft and learn further through the awe inspiring youth. Madi is known to wear many hats in the theatre space by working in many different areas of the field such as scenic building/painting, directing, stage managing, and teaching, so he feels that his knowledge is very useful in a teaching environment. For fun, Madi likes to draw, paint, and spend time with his friends and family.


Quinlan Owens (they/he) is a college student majoring in theater at Colgate University, with extensive theatrical experience in academic, community, and professional settings. They have been a performer in productions at Near West theater since 2018, and worked as a RISE! youth mentor from 2019-2020. Their most recent theatrical projects have included performing in university plays, as well as assistant directing two new off-Broadway shows in Summer 2022. They are excited to be rejoining the Near West community and rejoining the RISE! program as they move forward in their career as a performer and teaching artist.


Cassie Perlatti (she/her) is so happy to be a part of the Near West Theatre team! She grew up in Cleveland and has performed and worked on many shows in the area. She just graduated from Otterbein University April of 2023 with her BA in Theatre with focuses in directing and hair and makeup. Cassie enjoys crocheting, painting, spending time with her cats, and collaborating with other artists.  She loves working with children so she is absolutely thrilled to be a Teaching Artist and help foster a safe space for young theatre artists to be creative!


Cody Swanson (he/him) is a professional actor, teacher, stage manager, and fight choreographer, who is ecstatic to be joining the teaching artist team with Near West Theatre!  Cody has a BFA in acting and a minor in musical theatre from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is an Advanced Actor Combatant with The Society of American Fight Directors, proficient in eight weapon disciplines.  He has been teaching theatre arts both in school and at camps for over 12 years, and believes that learning is life long, and wants to learn from his students everyday!

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