By Nicole Hennessy
Angela Boehm grew up participating in shows at area theaters.
Later, as an adult, she continued working with theater, cultivating a love for it in her own children. However, she never intended to found her own company, Olmsted Performing Arts (OPA). Yet that’s exactly what she did; and throughout the 10-year-long journey, she’s continually been surprised by its growth. Now in a new building – the theater’s first permanent home – OPA will hit its 10-year mark in April.
“Now, we get kids from everywhere,” Boehm said, “all the way from Highland Heights to Sandusky.”
After purchasing the old Journey Church building in July 2012, Boehm said, even more people have taken notice of her organization. Over this past holiday season alone, 10,000 people came through the doors to see productions.
What she describes as “an absolutely gorgeous building” that sits on 2 acres, OPA includes theater, gymnastics, dance, art, fitness, and music programs, as well as a whole curriculum designed specifically for home-schooled students.
For the past nine years, Boehm and her team have been operating out of the basement of Olmsted Falls’ community center.
“We were just outgrowing the space, and we knew it was hindering our growth,” she said.
Another thing that made their operation difficult is that they rented the Journey Church for shows but had to rehearse in the community center, so transitions were always a bit hectic when it came time to set up and perform.
When the building went up for sale, she thought about how great it would be to purchase it, but was sure that wouldn’t be an option with her limited budget. Luckily she was wrong, and everything worked out.
Immediately people said to her, “We’ve heard such amazing things about your program, but we were waiting for you to get your own place.”
Or, “We went once, but (the community center basement) was so dark and dim, so we never came back.”
There are other theater companies around town, but Boehm says what sets hers apart is that OPA is faith-based. Not that they talk to the kids about religion “in any way,” but they’re very strict on the material that runs on stage. They put on very clean shows, and won’t work with shows they can’t edit.
She says she respects other theaters and the liberties art provides people, but for families who don’t want potentially inappropriate or racy subject matter, they can feel safe at OPA. One example she uses is the outfits the dancers wear, which do not show much skin.
Though her theater company is growing, Boehm said, “it’s a labor of love.” People assume that since they have a nice building on 2 acres of land, they must be doing very well financially; but she attributes the success to dedicated volunteers and staff.
“It’s a big family. Our slogan is building character on stage and off,” she added. “We really invest in life and we invest in a bigger picture. It’s not just about training their skills. It’s about investing in our kids.”
SIDE BAR: Olmsted Performing Arts will host a tenth anniversary party on April 26. For tickets call 440-235-6722