Paul Moser's Summer Theater Hits Its Stride
Feb. 02, 2013
Julia Melfi '15
Associate professor Paul Moser is the producing artistic director and creator of the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival. His production of Don Nigro’s Lucia Mad runs February 7-9, 2013 in Hall Auditorium as part of Oberlin College Theater’s mainstage season. Tickets for the production are available for purchase online.
In only four seasons, the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival (OSTF) has made a significant mark on greater Lorain County, with no larger impact than this past summer, when the festival drew record audiences. William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Inge’s Bus Stop, and Marc Blitzstein’s musical The Cradle Will Rock, surpassed previous seasons’ attendance by more than 30 percent. Producing Artistic Director and creator of OSTF, Paul Moser attributes this success to the hard work he and his team have put in reaching out to the surrounding community and having “sewn the seeds” during the festival’s first three seasons of operation.
As a child, Moser grew up attending free performances in Rhode Island. It was a part of his own education, and now a part of his vision for OSTF, which aims to present “free productions of meaningful theater classics” to Lorain County and the larger northeastern Ohio community, making the experience of attending live professional theater “available to everyone in our community, regardless of age or socio-economic background.”
With encouraging statistics like 32% and 36% increases in attendance from inhabitants of Oberlin and Elyria respectively, OSTF has greatly expanded the extent to which it can make theater accessible. Not only were these audiences numerous, but as Oberlin alumna and company member Courtney Merrell (‘08) noted, they were also uniquely engaged. “I have never played to such an appreciative and enthusiastic audience anywhere,” Merrell recounts. “They go on a journey with us.”
The Festival’s acting company consists of a combination of professional actors, recent alumni and current Oberlin students. OSTF hopes to build a core intergenerational acting ensemble, composed mostly of Oberlin grads who can return to Oberlin as their summer artistic home to do meaningful work with a supportive community of like-minded professional artists.
Ellie Phillips (’12) reflected upon her most recent season after having just graduated as “a nice way to stay in Oberlin a little while longer and ease the transition into ‘real life’.” She also noted, “OSTF was my first paid acting job, which probably won’t happen again any time soon.”
While the summer-stock schedule is highly intensive, with three productions performed in repertory during July and August, the experiences and opportunities for students are invaluable. For Billy Ferrer (’12), OSTF connected him with an ensemble of professionals that extends beyond the summer. “I'm constantly meeting and collaborating with former company members in New York, and I plan on maintaining those relationships in my professional career,” explains Ferrer.
It’s these experiences and opportunities that make OSTF unique. The success of OSTF would not be possible without the tireless work done by Moser and his team of staff, returning alumni, and current student interns. Oberlin’s President, Marvin Krislov, has been an unquestionably important arts advocate and is also to thank for his generous support. If last season was any indication of the future, hopefully OSTF will help to market Oberlin as a year-around center for the arts in the Northeast Ohio Region.
Details for the 2013 festival including titles, performance dates, and audition opportunities for current students, alumni, and community members will be released in the late spring. To read more about the festival, or to donate, visit www.oberlin.edu/ostf.
Julia Melfi is a sophomore Theater and Art History major at Oberlin College from Seattle, WA.