By Kevin Kelley
A little more than a year ago, Olmsted Performing Arts was raising money in an urgent effort to remain at its Columbia Road headquarters. The theatrical organization owed a large mortgage payment on the 43,000-square-foot former church building it had purchased in 2012 and at which it had rented space since 2004.
Fundraising efforts fell short. In August 2015, OPA sold the building to a Middleburg Heights church, which launched a new congregation, Hope Church, at the facility. However, OPA remained at the building as a tenant.
But the arrangement grew problematic within a few months.
“(Hope Church) grew much faster than they thought they would,” explained Angela Boehm, OPA’s founder and artistic director.
The church’s needs for more space would have required OPA to cancel its Wednesday and Thursday night classes, which attracted 100 students, Boehm said.
In December, OPA announced a move to a new location in Berea. Last month, the organization began holding its classes at Helwig Whistle Stop, an upscale retail/office center on West Bagley Road. OPA offers classes in theater, film, dance, music, art and gymnastics.
“The new location is more ideal for education and training for kids,” Boehm said. In announcing the move, OPA leaders noted the move to the new location doubled its classroom space.
While the new space is ideal for holding classes, it lacks a stage/auditorium. OPA’s Columbia Road building included a 1,300-seat theater used for performances. OPA has talked to Hope Church about holding its performances there, Boehm said, but it’s unclear at this point if the congregation’s growing need for space will allow that.
For nearly all of 2016, OPA will focus on youth productions, which will be performed in the auditorium of the Parma-Snow Branch Library, located at 2121 Snow Road. Although the theater only seats 300, Boehm said it offers an intimate setting. OPA’s youth-oriented 2016 season starts next weekend with “Beauty and the Beast Junior.” Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. March 18, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 19, and 2 p.m. March 20. Tickets cost $15 in advance, $16 at the door.
In December, OPA will return to community theater shows with a production of “White Christmas” at a yet to be determined location, Boehm said. 2017 will see OPA return to its regular mix of youth and adult plays and musicals, she said.
Boehm acknowledged a few OPA families disliked the move, but she said enrollment in its classes has remained steady as it gained some students from some southern suburbs.
Despite the move to Berea, OPA leaders have decided not to change the organization’s name, Boehm told West Life. “A lot of our families are from Olmsted Falls,” she explained.
The public will have the opportunity to see OPA’s new location and meet teachers during an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. OPA is located at 611 West Bagley Road in Berea.