The Ohio State University at Lima

Scarlet and gray shines through in local arts

Ohio State Lima's a capella group Carmony

When you look at the beautiful tapestry of the cultural arts in Lima, the scarlet and gray threads shine through, adding to the depth and vibrancy of the community. In countless partnerships and ways, Ohio State Lima and the local art scene are lifting each other up.

Most recently, when a national touring company featuring the world’s best a cappella singers performed at the Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center, Ohio State Lima’s own a cappella group, Carmony, shared the stage and honed their craft.

“Anytime I can perform like that, it drops the adrenaline into the system,” said Seth Mitchell, one of Carmony’s featured soloists. “If you give me a stage, of course I am going to do what I love to do.”

Performing on the civic center stage to open for Gobsmacked put Carmony in front of a new audience at a time they are working feverishly to prepare for the semifinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella to be held in St. Louis in March.
Beyond the practice, the students are happy to showcase the talent on campus to a local audience.

“We are showing that there is talent here, there is more than what people think here,” said Jonathan Fissel, a senior in theatre of Kenton. “I’m excited to represent the campus again in a different way. We have to show Lima that we are here.”

It is not only the musical talents that are on display when Carmony takes the stage. Most of the singers are also involved with the theatre, both on campus and in the community.

The close-knit nature of the arts on campus enhances all the elements.

“Our set is very theatrical. It’s not just the cookie cutter a cappella that people talk about. We have a meaning behind every song, every set,” Fissel said. “There is so much influence from the arts on us.”

The cross pollination between the theatre and music departments will swing the opposite direction for the spring musical, Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Fissel and Mitchell both have lead roles in the show, along with fellow Carmony soloist, Shaunna Basinger.

Between preparing for competition, performing with Gobsmacked and readying Sweeney Todd, the students are busy, but happy to put in the work necessary to succeed as a team. The skills that develop from the interaction among the arts on campus will serve the students well as they move out into the world.

“People don’t understand the real world applications of training yourself in the arts of theatre and music and showmanship. If you are a teacher, you’re essentially on stage every day. You have to keep the attention of the students, you have to entertain them, keep them involved,” said Basinger, a senior education major from Kalida. “You don’t understand what your body language says to people until you start taking control of it. And how your stance looks and what that tells people about you, whether or not you’re confident, whether or not you’re scared or shy or whatever the case may be. Giving people the opportunity to really explore that side of themselves and find out how can I show myself the best with the world is important.”

The faces that are seen on Ohio State Lima’s stages are also familiar to the audience of Octopus Productions, Lima’s young paraprofessional theatre troupe. The professionalism that the Buckeyes bring to all their endeavors are much appreciated by those who run Octopus Productions. Students and staff have worked in the Octopus shows, both in front of and behind the curtain since its inception.

“The students blew us out of the water. We couldn’t believe their talent,” said Shannon Wannemacher, secretary and co-producer for Octopus Productions. “Above and beyond that, Ohio State Lima students pitched in backstage with set construction. Everyone approached the project with enthusiasm and positivity and professionalism. We appreciated that.”

Margie Anich, lecturer in theatre at Ohio State Lima, has both acted and directed in Octopus shows. She is delighted that the community has a paraprofessional theatre group working to bring a different level of the arts to the area.

“It’s good for me professionally. It’s good for me just to be able to expand and work on other projects with other people,” Anich said. “Beyond that, it is great for the university and for the students. They all got paid. Not like ‘quit-your-job-get-paid,’ but they all got paid something for their work, for their efforts. They got to work with different people other than those at Ohio State.”

When Octopus needed a place to stage Next to Normal, the Martha W. Farmer Theatre for the Performing Arts at Ohio State Lima was a logical choice. The company had worked with Anich and Dan Matthews, assistant professor of theatre who helps Octopus with set design and lighting, before and the Farmer stage provided the level of intimacy perfect for a story of mental illness.

“Being in an academic environment there is the opportunity and maybe even the expectation to push the boundaries a bit. It was the perfect partnership, not only with Margie and Dan but with Ohio State Lima, too,” Wannemacher said. “I can’t thank the university enough for your generosity. You opened your arms to us from the very beginning. You allowed us to rehearse in the same space that we would be performing in. It is a luxury that most people don’t have unless you have a theatre that is exclusively yours, which most people don’t have.”

Next to Normal was a conversation starter about mental health. People are more comfortable talking about the topic when it is playing out on stage versus in their living rooms. Several community agencies had professionals on hand surrounding the performances to answer questions and advance conversation.

The town and gown partnership is working. Octopus is able to draw on local talent and facilities and Ohio State Lima students and employees have another outlet for their creativity. Margie Anich was nominated for and won the 2018 Creator Award from the Arts Advocacy Collaborative of West Central Ohio, in large part for her work in the local theatre community.

While the students are helping to build Lima’s cultural scene, they are also busy weaving dreams of their own. Basinger wants to keep singing, possibly in the Lima Symphony Chorus and work with children in the arts. Fissel plans to work for awhile in video production and start a band that is uniquely Fissel before heading on to grad school. Mitchell is searching out the stage, one that allows him to make people happy.

“I’m at a point now where it doesn’t matter what the stage is as long as there is a stage,” Mitchell said. “I’m out to perform to make people happy. As long as I’m making people happy, I’m grateful.”

Carmony photos are courtesy of Laugh Out Loud Photography.

Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street plays at the Martha W. Farmer Theatre for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m., April 12-14 and 2 p.m., April 15.