FAIRBORN – Although it was John Lennon who coined the phrase “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans,” local business owner Jim Harworth has adopted the famous lyrics as his mantra today, as he finds himself the owner and manager of the Actor’s Theatre in Fairborn – a role he’s never played before.
Located at 23 E. Main St., Harworth said big plans are underway for a fundraising performance at 7 p.m. Friday, April 14 and Saturday, April 15.
A pillar and leader in the theatre community in Dayton and the Miami Valley, Greg Smith, who is also in the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, is returning to the theatre for the performance, which is known to “sell out houses.”
Harworth said the performance is a reunion of many sorts in that Smith has not been on that stage in decades. He used to manage the place more than 30 years ago; it’s where he performed his first show, before he went on to local stardom as a well known actor, director and leader in the community theatre community – performing throughout Ohio and Texas.
“What Greg has given to community theatre over the years has enhanced the level of performance; he’s as good as they get,” Harworth said. “He cares. He’s articulate. He demands the best performance. And his shows fill the house.”
Harworth and Smith are reuniting as well, as the two worked together many years ago, yet haven’t seen each other in more than a decade.
“There is no cost to theatres for the actual production of this,” Smith said of the fundraiser, explaining that they still have to promote the show and do the work behind the scenes. “I have a passion for [theatre]. I am retired, so I have time to do it and I am happy to do it. It’s fun and it’s funny. Each time I agree to do it, it gets me wondering ‘why am I doing this again?’”
The show itself – “Precious Heart” – is a “one woman comedy with an all male cast,” Smith said. It was written by Ted Karber Jr. in the 90s.
Smith portrays the character Miss Fleeta Mae Bryte – a country woman in her mid-sixties who lives life to the fullest in a small town in southwest Texas. It’s about two hours long.
“He is as artistic as anyone I’ve met,” Harworth said of Smith. “I did a lot of shows. I did shows with him and he did shows with me until I dropped out. When I bought the theatre a year ago, he immediately reached out to me about the one-man show.”
With that call, and the countless hours of work that ensued, it’s finally coming together for Harworth, as the 90-year-old theatre finishes final inspections with the city, following a thorough renovation. The place was originally a silent movie house but has changed hands over the years and been modified countless times.
Harworth had an open house and performance that filled the house in mid-February. His plan is to provide a place in town for people to go and have a night out.
“Enjoy yourselves right in Fairborn,” he said. “It’s not in Cincinnati. It’s a fun place for people to go. Give it a try once. Take a break from the reality of life and go into someone else’s world.”
Although its preliminary, Harworth talked about having “Of Mice and Men” in August, and a monster-themed play for Halloween. He also looks to have a Christmas show.
“Shows take an enormous amount of time for a lot of people,” he said. “They have to rehearse and build setting. … But when you go in and watch a two-hour show, you have no idea how much work went in to it.”
“Precious Hearts” will also benefit the Ohio Community Theatre Association, in addition to the Actor’s Theatre.
Brian Evans is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected]