Fayette Opera House: “Keeping The Lights On”

KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON … An eternal light has been placed over the picture of Tom Spiess at the Fayette Opera House to honor the man who poured so much of his life into the community theatre. (PHOTOS BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)

By Rebecca Miller

“Promise me you’ll keep the lights on.” These words were spoken during his last few weeks here on this earth, by Tom Spiess, the name associated with Fayette Opera House from 1974-2018. Two of the board members of the Opera House, Steve and Tina Snider, shared in a recent interview that his words are being honored literally this summer, as the lighting for the stage and the outside door are part of an ongoing remodel.

The planning stages for the lights started about 6 months ago with the actual remodel starting near the beginning of July. “We are installing a whole new stage light system,” Steve said. “We also had an electrician fix the two awning lights outside, so now when people come for the shows they will be able to see the building lit up and ready.” All of it is being changed to LED lights, and the new technology which has been introduced to them by the gentleman doing the majority of the work, Brad Bloomer, is a huge upgrade. “Brad is our contractor, consultant, engineer and designer,” Tina added.

Back in the late 1970’s Spiess took number 10 vegetable cans from the cafeteria at the old school, painted them black, duct taped them together and wired them for bulbs. Unlike the new LED bulbs which are color changing, the old lights were all white. Three weeks ago, Steve took down all the old ones, raised the ceiling fan up above the bar where they had been hung and the new wiring is started. Creighton Electric out of Archbold did the rewire for the lights and Bloomer will run the cables.

“We went from 24 lights to a bank of 12,” Steve said. The money for this project has come in partially from the fundraising events plus ticket sales and whatever they make after they pay the entertainment but a great windfall happened that was a wonderful boost. Tina shared the story, “Kerry Patrick Clark is a singer song writer and his father in law was friends with Tom Spiess.”

“When Kerry was here for a performance the lights were bad and he told us that the Roach Family Foundation in Delta gives out grants for arts projects! He and his wife are on the board, so after speaking with her about it, he emailed us the application.” Tina wrote the grant application and Susan Burke who used to be on the board, and writes grants, proofread and suggested changes. She submitted it and in three days they got a grant for $5000.

Since the Sniders have joined the programming committee, the productions which used to number around 7 per season moved up to 24 last year and 22 are scheduled for this year. The thirteen member board has kept it rolling and are proud of how beautiful the building is becoming.
There used to be more plays, but as Jay Purdue, who has been so faithful in directing, is not well at present, all the productions this year are music based. “We love to have singer song writers,” Tina said, “plus we have the two Down Home at the Opera fund raisers in October and April.”

The Sniders shared that there are no productions in the summer due to lack of air conditioning in the auditorium. That is a future project, as well as the roof replacement, the repair of the player piano, the auditorium ceiling needs to be painted, and possibly a new digital led sign for out front of the building.

Many projects which have already been done include the beautifully painted checkerboard floor in the front room, the lovely donated rugs in the same room, the freshly repaired north wall of the auditorium, the delightfully decorated Box Office, and the kitchen upgrade which included a new convection oven and refrigerator. Due to a generous donation they were also able to purchase new padded folding chairs for the Roric Room which is the dining hall and is used for a lot of meetings, dinners, receptions, showers.

This season, as always, tickets are $12, for seniors and students $10 and for special events such as Siberian Solstice $15. The Schedule this year:
•Saturday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m. Tim Oehlers – Singer/Songwriter
•Saturday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m. Pantasia Steel Band
•Sunday, Oct. 20, 2 p.m. Reed Organ concert with featured organists Michael Hendron and Pam Robison
•Saturday, Oct. 26,7 p.m. Down Home at the Opera House featuring local artists and special guests The Galbraith Clan
•Sunday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m. Silent Movie Steamboat Bill Jr. starring Buster Keaton
•Saturday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m. Elvis Tribute with Artist Colin Dexter
•Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m. to noon Santa Clause is coming to coming to town
•Friday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m. A Trans-Siberian Solstice (Special Event – tickets $15)
•Saturday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m. A Kerry Patrick Clark Christmas
•Thursday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m. Bean Creek Coffee House (If you would like to perform, please call 419-237-2721 to reserve your place)
•Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 7 p.m. 1950’s Sock Hop Dance with music by Gene H. Zeno
•Thursday, Feb. 6, 7 p..m. Bean Creek Coffee House (If you would like to perform, please call 419-237-2721 to reserve your place)
•Saturday, Feb. 15, 7 p.m. Stateline Chorus
•Sunday, Feb. 23, 3 p.m. Tapestry Duo
•Thursday, Mar. 12, 7 p.m. Annual Full of Boloney Night
•Sunday, Mar. 22, 3 p.m. Ben Bedford- Singer/Songwriter
•Sunday, April 5m 12 p.m. Palm Sunday – Spring Reed Organ Concert dinner noon and concert at 2
•Sat. Apr. 18, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sons and Daughters of Thunder (Special Event)
•Sat. Apr.25, 7p.m. Down Home at the Opera House featuring local artists and special featured guests Hey Wire Toledo
•Sat. May 9, 7 p.m. Returning to our stage – Mare Wakefield and Nomad – Singer/Songwriters

Looking ahead to 2021, the board has been contacted by a singer from England who heard their show on Worldwide Bluegrass Show. He was impressed and asked if he could come here to perform! So as remodeling gets done to the building and as the season’s schedule is set, get ready to go out for some great music, at the Fayette Opera House.

Rebecca can be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

© 2019, Newspaper Staff. All rights reserved.

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