From Iowa to the Rainbow Bar and Grille, the auditorium of the Montpelier Exempted Village Schools building underwent a number of transformation over the course of two days.
With the Ohio Community Theater Association’s Northwest chapter making its way into town, along with several representatives from other regions throughout the state, eleven different theatres and playhouses performed excerpts from a wide variety of works on Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7. With twenty-four production companies currently on the roster of the Northwest Region, nearly half of the area was represented at the first theatre festival of the organization’s traveling season.
Patrons of the event were given a window into several different times and places throughout the weekend. The Amil Tellers of Dramatics, centered in Lima, took the audience to pre-Civil Rights era Chicago, displaying the hardships faced by an African-American family as they attempt to move into a Caucasion neighborhood after receiving a sizable life insurance check from the death of their late patriarch in A Raisin in the Sun. From a completely different end of the spectrum, the Van Wert Civic Theatre gave a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world in the situational comedy Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grille, which saw God himself step into the establishment to offer him immortality if only he would just write a new, more accurate bible.
There were some more introspective pieces demonstrated at the festival as well. The Fremont Community Theatre put on the emotionally charged and divisive musical The Last Five Years, telling in reverse order the story of a couple as they fall in love and grow apart, forcing the male lead into a difficult decision. One of the more touching excerpts was put on by the Williams County Community Theatre who told the story of a son returning his father’s ashes to the family farm in Iowa after three years, leading to a series of flashbacks about his joys and memories there in the piece Leaving Iowa.
Each excerpt was judged and critiqued by three different responders, who spoke independently of one another while the two not speaking at a given time were isolated from the auditorium. Bruce Jacklin, who can claim involvement in more than one-hundred productions over the course of the last quarter century, is a certified adjudicator for both the Ohio Community theater Association and the American association of Community Theater. Dee Anne Bryll, holding a Master’s Degree in Theatre from Kent State University, has served on the faculties at the university level, including The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory and Northern Kentucky University, where she currently resides. Deb Wentz brought extensive experience as a director, performer, and a production staff member to the judging, has directed several award winning productions at the state level.
It was these responders who not only named the winners of the awards handed out at the conclusion of the festival, but created them as well. So impressed were they with the performances they had witnessed throughout the event, that they needed sixty-six awards to properly honor them all. Also awarded was patron Jim Toth, who received the Spirit of Community Theatre Award.
Three theatres earned the honor of representing their region at the state level, earning the title of Outstanding Example in the Northwest Region. The Amil Tellers and Van Wert Civic Theatre were joined by The Village Players, located in Toledo, for their excerpt from Looking. Gaining alternate status for the honor was the Williams County Community Theatre.
Overall, the Northwest Ohio Community Theatre Association brought imagination and creativity with it when they chose to visit Montpelier for their festival, and the area was treated to a series of great shows as a result.
T.J. Hug can be reached at