A 60-year-old theater group finds home in SpringboroBy Laura Leavitt
Actors and actresses learn to be many different people, wearing the hats they need to wear in order to get the job done. A plucky, can-do spirit is valuable in many contexts, but in live theater this spirit can create a legacy. Such is the case for the 60-year-old community theater group that has recently found its home in downtown Springboro’s brand-new Performing Arts Center, which opened in mid-September.
The group has gone by many names: Playhouse South, Kettering Community Theatre and more. Over the years since its founding in 1960 this group has seen the value in continuing to produce high-quality performances even when it had to operate in unusual spaces and places before settling down in Springboro.
“I don’t know that other theater companies around here have moved as frequently as we have while staying in business,” says Jim Brown, president of Springboro Community Theatre. “It’s a significant accomplishment to have the long history of our organization and to have finally found this thing we’ve been aspiring to for decades.”
Over the years it’s performed outdoors and indoors, in a bowling alley and in a retirement center, and while not every location has been easy every location has proven the resilience of the team and its vision.
“It’s symbolic of this organization that we are always finding a way to keep putting theater out to the community. This means adapting and taking advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves,” says Brown. “We have always chosen to continue exploring new avenues, including nonconventional locations.”
The move to Springboro began with a positive connection between the leadership of Playhouse South and the city management of Springboro.
“Springboro had built North Park Amphitheater and we have taken outdoor theater to North Park and Springboro for the last 12 years,” says Brown. “Over the many years we’ve had an ongoing dialogue with Chris Pozzuto, now city manager of Springboro, about the idea of us eventually moving to Springboro because of the strength of our partnership.”
This partnership led to the brand-new Performing Arts Center, which is located in the heart of downtown Springboro. The benefits of a brand-new building are substantial and are likely to have rippling positive effects on the company. Among the advantages are having a dedicated area for box office and concessions, climate control for storage and better wing space.
“We brought a theater design consultant here and he helped the designers and the theater and the city all collaborate on what makes good technical sense for the facility itself,” says Brown. “It is specifically designed with a theater audience in mind, from the stage to the seating to the space where the orchestra will be performing. The design elements are done intentionally to provide the optimal atmosphere.”
The first show to open in the new Performing Arts Center is The Marvelous Wonderettes, a musical jukebox show, meaning that the cast will go through a storyline but along the way they will sing favorite songs that will be recognizable to audiences.
“It’s about four women who are together at the end of high school, as well as a look at how their lives have changed 10 years later,” says Brown. “It’s a great feel-good kind of show that explores a variety of topics and we have some incredible singers.”
After the first show the theater company will gear up for an ambitious, glamorous performance of Chicago: The Musical in November. The larger stage, wing space and cast areas will make it possible to put on ambitious, large-cast shows like Chicago in future seasons as well. Brown credits the team it’s built over the years as a major source of the high production value it can showcase.
“We have an intact music team for our productions so it’s like having a band that continues to play together over the years and gets better and better. It’s going to be really fun for them to tackle the music in Chicago,” says Brown.
Through it all, the leadership of Springboro Community Theatre has been integral in holding both artistic passion and business sense in high regard.
“We’ve been able to assemble a team that has a unique mix of passion for the theater, while their vocations are in something complementary,” says Brown. “I, for example, work for an investment company and I’ve run my own business and have an MBA specific to operations management, but at the same time I’m a performer myself and I have been a professional singer. I think that’s the case for everyone on our board and leadership team; they bring real-world experience and combine it with passion for the theater to provide a balanced course of direction.”
The city of Springboro’s Pozzuto sees real value in anchoring downtown Springboro with a source of high-quality theatrical performances.
“The Springboro Community Theatre will be a great addition to the Performing Arts Center and the new Wright Station development because they will offer an opportunity for residents to see some live entertainment and then go out after to our many eateries, such as Warped Wing, that are planned for Wright Station, or the eateries and shops in our historic downtown area, which is within walking distance right down South Main Street,” says Pozzuto. “Anytime you can offer live performances or live entertainment in a certain area that will always have a positive impact on businesses that are in close proximity.”
With a committed board, passionate and experienced leadership staff and a local downtown that is a canvas full of potential the future looks bright for Springboro Community Theatre. It will also share the building with both the Chamber of Commerce and Center Stage Academy for the Arts, which offers dance programming.
“The city is so crucial to making this happen,” says Brown. “By having organizations collaborating together it really creates this amazing core of opportunity right in the heart of the city.”