Show Goes On For Theatre Company’s Building

Show Goes On For Theatre Company’s Building

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Erik Wagner and Ruby Doran perform in the Ocean City Theatre Company's 2019 production of "Little Shop of Horrors." (Photo courtesy of Erik Wagner)

By MADDY VITALE

The Ocean City Theatre Company has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic with shows canceled and shrinking funds.

But with a program that has helped shape and hone so many local talents and delighted audiences at venues throughout the city, the City Council came together to show its support.

In a 7-0 vote, Council gave preliminary approval to a five-year extension of the Ocean City Theatre Company’s lease during a meeting Thursday night.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several members of the theatre company said a few words about what the organization and the building means to them.

Emile Chevere, 19, of Ocean City, is a performing arts student at Atlantic Cape Community College.

Chevere moved to New Jersey four years ago and joined OCTC to help him get involved in the community and get to know people, he said.

“I saw how impactful this organization was on my life,” Chevere told the Council members.

The Ocean City Theatre Company has leased the space at 1501 West Ave. since 2015.

OCTC leases a city-owned building at 1501 West Ave. It has been home to countless rehearsals over the years of novice and veteran performers, singers and dancers.

“I think this is excellent,” City Council President Bob Barr said of the lease extension. “It gives the theater company time for long-term planning and to grow their program. This is exactly the type of thing that local governments should do.”

In addition to safely securing the building for another five years, there is also wording that states there is an option for two additional five-year lease extensions.

Effectively, it becomes a 15-year lease, Barr said.

The final vote and public hearing for the lease extension are scheduled for the March 25 Council meeting.

City Councilman Jody Levchuk noted that not everyone is into sports at school and the theatre company is a place for artistic talents to shine.

“The theatre company offers an outlet for everyone. Not everyone is into sports,” Levchuk noted. “I fully support this, and hopefully in 15 years we will be talking about another 15-year lease there.”

Some current OCTC members showed their appreciation to city officials for extending the lease.

One of them was Erik Wagner, 18, a senior at Ocean City High School who starred in the theatre company’s 2019 production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“I have been performing with the OCTC for 10 years,” said Wagner, who lives in Ocean City. “I would like to thank the mayor and the Council for your constant support.”

He also spoke of how the theatre company has been a gateway to performing arts for young students.

Wagner said the OCTC is essential for nurturing the “creative practices” of performers.

Ocean City Theatre Company member Erik Wagner addresses City Council during Thursday’s meeting.

Fellow theatre company member Mark Faverzani, who attends St. Augustine Prep, said, “OCTC has had the greatest impact on me. All of the skills I have learned have been completely from the OCTC.”

He continued, “We feel so strongly about the theatre company and having that space.”

Faverzani also said it is not only important for current members but for future members of OCTC to keep the building at 1501 West Ave.

He noted that there could be talents that come from the Intermediate and Primary Schools who have yet to step on the stage.

“I hope that you will continuously support the theatre company at 1501 West Avenue,” he added while addressing the Council members.

Michael Hartman, a former city employee who founded OCTC, said in a previous OCNJDaily.com interview how vital the theatre company is to the kids and the community.

“As always, OCTC provides a safe space for performers of all ages to push their creativity and develop confidence,” Hartman said.

For more information, contact OCTheatreCo@yahoo.com or to make a donation, mail checks payable to OCTC to 1501 West Avenue, Ocean City, N.J. 08226.

Pre-pandemic instructors teach students about performing.