Near West Theatre has always found its identity in being inclusive. But the community theater's home for 37 years on the third floor of St. Patrick's Club Building in Ohio City lacked an elevator. So unless disabled people were carried up three flights of stairs, they were deterred from seeing shows and participating in productions.
Now thanks to a new 24,465-square-foot building in the Gordon Square Arts District, Near West is fully accessible with wheelchair ramps and an elevator. "It allows us to welcome a whole other population of people in its physical accessibility," says artistic director Bob Navis Jr. "Diversity of all kinds is essential to who we are." A vibrant mural also makes it more visible, and a super energy-efficient design features solar panels and extra-thick walls.
A free open house Feb. 28 showcases the building and its main theater, which features a main stage and a circular, moveable stage. There's also a loft with balcony seating and a sound booth as well as a lower level that includes concessions and a bohemian-style cafe where music and poetry will be performed.
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