(Plain Press, November 2017) Near West Theatre has hired Mike Obertacz to fulfill the role of Managing Director to succeed founder and executive director, Stephanie Morrison Hrbek. Obertacz began his tenure on October 11, 2017 as the theatre commences its fortieth season. Obertacz will lead Near West Theatre in partnership with Bob Navis, Jr., who will continue in his role as Artistic Director. Obertacz and Navis will carry forward the theatre’s mission to offer theatre arts experiences that are inclusive and transformational for performers and audiences alike.
Obertacz previously served as Director of Programs for the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning (CAL), where he managed a staff of 10 and provided oversight to a roster of over 75 teaching artists. Prior to his role with CAL, Obertacz served as Director of Programs with Career Gear, a social service nonprofit agency providing holistic services to better prepare formerly homeless, incarcerated, and chronically unemployed men to re-enter the workforce and support their families. Obertacz earned his Bachelor of Science in Education from Bowling Green State University, spent a decade as a professional actor performing in over 45 productions nationally, and then dedicated the last ten years to leading and directing programming for nonprofit organizations in Cleveland and New York City.
“We are all thrilled that our search resulted in the hiring of such an outstanding person. Mike Obertacz brings an incredible depth of expertise, life experience, and knowledge of theater, as well as a lifetime commitment to social justice,” commented Board President Jason Bristol.
Bristol also praised founder Morrison Hrbek for her enduring vision and leadership over the past four decades. “On behalf of the board and all who have been involved with Near West Theatre, I would like to thank Stephanie for the vision, talent, drive, and passion she has brought to this organization and the community,” he said. “Her work and the programs of Near West Theatre have provided opportunity for and transformed the lives of so many children and adults in Cleveland. I am grateful she will continue to be involved with the theatre in a new capacity.”
Morrison Hrbek has agreed to continue in a part-time role to partner with Obertacz on a forthcoming endowment campaign that will position the theatre for long-term sustainability. “I am excited to see where Mike takes Near West Theatre, and how he builds on the almost 40 years of our artistic and social justice mission,” said Morrison Hrbek. “I look forward to continuing to move in and among the generations of alumni who populate our community and whose relatives are now getting engaged at Near West Theatre. This longevity of involvement is a testimony to the power of the performing arts to heal, bind, and create community. I cannot wait to see what comes forth over the next 40 years!”