Take a bow Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2008

Jan L. Roller has been an ardent supporter, leader, donor, fund-raiser, cheerleader and visionary for Near West Theatre for more than 14 years. Whenever she sees a critical challenge facing the organization, she helps organize a way through.

Roller stepped into the role of organizational leader for the theater in 1994, when she approached Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek with the desire to improve the Near West Theatre advisory committee. By 1996, the theater was guided by a new board with a variety of professionals from the Cleveland community.

From there, Roller and the advisory board began to explore the possibility of becoming an independent entity. Under her leadership, Near West underwent a three-year process, at the end of which the theater achieved independence from the financial affiliate with which it had been engaged. From that point on, Roller worked with the advisory board and the staff to form a governance structure for the fledgling organization.

Roller, a partner with Davis & Young LPA, was the driving force behind Near West’s first annual benefit event. As the leader of a newly independent organization, Roller realized creating some sort of fund-raising event was necessary for the continued operation of the theater.

Roller obtained corporate sponsorships and leveraged the organization’s relationships to ensure the fund-raising pieces of the puzzle were in place. She helped to define the event, proposing a location in a handicap-accessible downtown venue because, while accessibility is a core value of Near West, its current home is not handicap accessible.

The first benefit was a great success, and Roller has remained involved. For the past 10 years, she has helped organize and stage all 10 of the annual benefits — both as benefit committee chair and in other roles with the benefit committee.

Roller went on to serve as the president of Near West’s board of trustees, a board she helped form and grow. Responding to the need for an accessible space, she became actively involved in Near West’s building committee. She helped spearhead a search for a building that could become the theater’s future home. Roller then began working with the Gordon Square Arts District and its economic development project to help it achieve its fund-raising goal — which will allow Near West to move into a brand-new, accessible building.

HOW TO REACH: Near West Theatre, (216) 961-9750 or www.nearwesttheatre.org