FAIRBORN – Jim Harworth believes that everyone should have their own “Actor’s Theatre” in life.
After all, he sees it, isn’t life but like one huge play?
Having fulfilled the dying wishes of a cousin a near quarter of a century ago, the Actor’s Theatre in Fairborn is where it all started for Harworth.
One day, he says, it’ll be where it all ends.
“Life is short,” Harworth said Feb. 11, after the first performance the Actor’s Theatre has seen in about five years. “We hear it a million times — but it’s so true.”
Harworth bought the Actor’s Theatre in early 2016, after he saw a “for sale” sign on the facility when driving by it on New Year’s Day.
He bought it and exactly one year later was able to renovate it for Saturday night’s open house, which saw great success.
“It was overwhelming to see all these people here,” Harworth said. “Everyone enjoyed the show. I was guessing we’d have about 60 people. But we packed the place out with more than 100.”
Four of Harworth’s friends in the community and himself performed for the one-hour show, which was dubbed loosely “evening of old time radio” skits.
The story of how all of it came into being is one that dates back decades, when Harworth never dreamed of acting.
“I was 33 years old in 1992, when a cousin who was very close to me passed away,” he said. “Before she died, she told her mom, my aunt, to tell me to get on stage.”
She wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on him, he explained, to keep him out of trouble so she thought of acting and theatre to keep him busy, as he had performed some in his early years.
“I decided I would honor her wish,” he said. “The next day I opened the Dayton phone book and flipped to the letter ‘A’ for actors. The first name that came up, I called.”
As a result of that call, Harworth was called in to audition. He landed a role. And it led to more roles.
However, this story is not without irony.
“The very place I went to that day all those years ago to audition is the very building we stand in today,” he said.
“I was just honoring her wishes,” Harworth added as the open house died down, friends and family members leaving. “It was just meant to be.”
In the future, Harworth sees the theatre becoming a community treasure, where people can go in the evenings to watch performances and such, and perhaps even consider trying a role on the stage.
“I am open to having people in the community trying acting,” he said. “These are my friends on stage. Look at the look in their eyes. This is a great place to have fun — we’re all having a blast.”
Such is why Harworth said he believes everyone should have an “Actor’s Theatre” in life. A local business owner, a father and a very active member of his community, Harworth has a demanding schedule in life.
“I work tons of hours at the shop,” he said of his business, which is Harworth Tire and Auto on West Second Street in Xenia. “And the shop is a great place. But this place — man.”
He said everyone should have something they do that fulfills them and makes them feel this way.
“It is more than a joy,” he said. “It’s a gift. It was meant to be. It’s part of a bigger picture. And I am just a pawn.”
One of the last people out of the theatre at the end of the open house, as Harworth closed the place down, was his childhood friend, Kenneth Sheets of Xenia, who was also a cast member.
“Everybody has some connection with this theatre,” Sheets said. “This is such a good thing for the community, and the community has been very supportive.”
Jim Hammond of Yellow Springs agreed.
“He did this same show at our hotel four times,” Hammond said. “It’s good. Jim is a natural. I heard the mayor was here. This is going to be great for downtown.”
Harworth say he has no serious plans for the future just yet, aside from a possible Halloween show. The rest, he said, will come to him as he continues to fix the place up.
“I just take it one day at a time,” he said. “You know it’s like Bob Dylan said: ‘Keep your eyes wide open. The chance won’t come again.’ ”
Brian Evans is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.