Ottawa Hills has a rich history in the theatre, dating back to the 1950s when the newly formed Village Players performed its very first production, "The Great Sebastians," at Ottawa Hills High School. In the decades since, thespians of all ages have graced the stage at Ottawa Hills, and even others have continued their theatrical endeavors on community stages across the country, including in Toledo.
This September OHHS grad James Norman directed the Valentine Theatre's production of "The Full Monty," the cast of which included Village thespians Lydia Schafer and Jill Reinstein.
Norman is the Director of Operations and Productions for the Toledo Opera. This was his fourth production of the now comedy classic, based on the Academy Award-winning movie of the same name. "The Full Monty" is a musical that follows the journey of two unemployed steelworkers desperate to make a living. When the search for work becomes hopeless, they decide to assemble a male striptease act and recruit other displaced workers to join them.
"I directed this three times for the Toledo Repertoire Theatre before, but this was the first time I was able to direct on the main stage at the Valentine Theatre," Norman said. "It was just fantastic to do this in such a welcoming space."
This was also the Valentine's first production in a decade that featured a local cast and a large orchestra.
"It was exciting because we had a full orchestra pit," Norman said. "The atmosphere there was really special. The chandelier there was just beautiful and added to the grandeur of being on stage there. I have been involved with other performances for the Rep there, but never on the main stage. This was special."
The larger, more palatial stage also required some special requirements for the production's sound, Norman said.
"The actors at one point are nude," Norman said. The actors were all amenable to it. They were all professionals. In that way, this was the easiest production I have done. The problem was, on a smaller stage, we did not need body mics. On this bigger stage we had to have them. Where do you put body mics on people who are nude? We had to be creative and use a shoulder harness for them."
Norman was involved in theater as a student at OHHS. Although he earned a bachelor degree in Business Administration and a Master's Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Toledo, the stage has always drawn him back. He directed numerous productions at OHHS from 1986 to 1991. He also serves as a part-time instructor at the University of Toledo.
Norman was involved in the production of the Toledo Opera's production of "The Pearl Fishers" last month and is doing the costumes for the Toledo Rep's production of "A Christmas Carol," this December.
Schafer will be reuniting with Norman for "A Christmas Carol" as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Also a 1980 OHHS graduate, Schafer earned her PhD in Pathophysiology at UT and was an assistant professor at the Medical College of Ohio. She retired in 2006 and has since been bitten by the acting bug, again.
"Jim (Norman) asked me to try out for his production of Mame for the Findlay Orchestra several years ago," Schafer said. "Jim and I have been friends since third grade and I was nervous since I had not been on stage since the '80s. He cast me as Vera and I just have kept working on stage ever since."
Schafer has since appeared in several local commercials as well as productions for the Toledo Rep, The Crosswell Opera House, The Village Players, The Valentine Theatre and 3 B Productions.
"Jim is a wonderful director and I can't wait to work with him again," Schafer said.