Ohio Theater nears opening

LIMA — Michael Bouson and Joe Correll have been working on the Ohio Theater for about two years. They decided to leave television in Los Angeles and return to the world of theater.

They took 12 flights during the worst of COVID, looked at 200 properties, and made two offers before looking at the Ohio Theater. Bouson recalls, “It seemed too insurmountable. Just too many things wrong with it, too big and we didn’t know anything about the community.”

They ended up having dinner with Bart Mills and members of the Lima arts community. Sally Windle offered a tour of ArtSpace. The rest is history.

Bouson related, “We literally made an offer at the Columbus airport on our way out of town. So here we are.”

The first business that will be open to the public will be “The Stage Door Canteen.” There is a stage with nice lighting and a professional sound system where smaller performances will be held. It’s scheduled to open two weeks from the arrival of a liquor license which has been approved. Poetry slams, magic, stand-up comedy, and drag bingo are possible events for this location.

“We want it to be a place where everyone is welcoming, everyone gets comfortable.” Bouson warns, “Not everyone’s going to like everything we do but there will always be something that you will get to enjoy.”

The next to open will be the Playwright Bakery and Café in the storefront on North Street where one can get soups, salads and sandwiches. It will look like a British pub with collages of playwrights that have changed the course of theater over the past few years. The soups, salads, and sandwiches will have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. The menu will change regularly.

The third business will be a dinner theater that will open one week after the last Lima Senior Spartan home football game. “Our first show is called ‘Fatal Follies of 1927.’ It’s an audience participation murder mystery.”

The previous owner, Larry Comer had a lot to do with the Ohio Theater being available. Bouson said that if Larry had not purchased the building when he did, it probably would have been bulldozed. In the building, Comer hung fabric to cover murals on the wall, trying to make people forget they were in a theater. This fabric protected the artwork by absorbing smoke and collecting dust. When the material was pulled down during renovation, four nearly pristine murals were found behind the fabric.

Bouson continued, “We are very, very excited about being here in Lima with community support. The city government support has been overwhelming. It is an impossible task and we fail more days than succeed. And that’s the truth of it. But what keeps us going is, you know, somebody will just show up and say ‘Hey, I’m here to help today.’ And not only are they amazing help with the contributions that they bring, but they’re just another amazing, vibrant community member. We are so happy that we picked this town. I just have no words to tell you. I’ve lived all over the country and traveled all over the world and I have not been in a place where there was so much energy and so much kindness and intellect and culture.”

Dean Brown joined The Lima News in 2022 as a reporter. Prior to The Lima News, Brown was an English teacher in Allen County for 38 years, with stops at Perry, Shawnee, Spencerville and Heir Force Community School. So they figured he could throw a few sentences together about education and business in the area. An award-winning photographer, Brown likes watching old black and white movies, his dog, his wife and kids, and the four grandkids - not necessarily in that order. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0409.