LIMA — While Jan Miller was involved in her high school plays and belonged to the drama club, she said she mainly took smaller, background roles. A teacher at Crestview Elementary School for 28 years, she taught mostly in the fourth grade. Since retiring from her job teaching, she has become very involved in community theater.
She and several of her friends even formed the Northwest Ohio Theatre Fraternal Association several years ago. “There were six of us that became very good friends through the theater,” she said. “We all regularly went out to lunch. We had such a good time, and enjoyed each other’s company so much we thought we should form a fraternal club, and invite everyone from every theater in the area to belong. So, that is what we did and that was how NOTFA was formed.”
The group developed several shows, one of which will be playing as a dinner theater at Old City Prime at the end of April. Find out about NOTFA by visiting http://notfa.net.
1. How did you get involved in theater?
I actually always loved theater, and I sat in the audience for probably 20 years enjoying the productions, always wishing I could be on the stage. A good friend of mine, Perry Luhn, invited me to help with one of the shows, and so I did. I helped with that, and I met a few people. Then I got my nerve up, which was the biggest thing. I auditioned for a show and got the part, and the rest is history. I got bitten by that bug so many of my fellow thespians have been bitten by.
2. Did you do any additional training?
No. Honestly, the training has come from good directors. My first director was George Dunster. How lucky am I? So, he taught me most of what I know. Other directors along the way helped.
3. What theater are you primarily involved in?
Probably Van Wert Civic Theater I would consider my home theater. I’m on the board of directors there. As we all do, we move around to where the shows are that we are interested in doing. I’ve worked at Encore Theater, Wapak, Findlay. I’m doing dinner theater right now with NOTFA. That is “On Golden Pond,” which is being presented at Old City Prime as a dinner theater. We actually did a weekend a month or so ago. It totally sold out and the waiting list literally had 90 people, so he’s bringing it back again. We’ll open that show at the end of April.
4. What all do you do at the theater?
One of my primary jobs is I am the box office manager, so I take care of all the reservations. I’m the face you see when you get there, unless I’m in the show. I’m also the secretary of the board of directors and that’s a lot of work. You know, theater people, we do it all. We paint the set, we sweep the floor, whatever needs to be done at the theater, the volunteers — and usually the volunteers are the actors — are the ones behind the scenes doing all the odd jobs. I think people don’t understand that community theater is entirely volunteer. I often get asked how much I get paid for my acting and I just chuckle because it usually costs me money. Gas money driving back and forth. You usually buy your own makeup and sometimes your own costume.
5. How many productions do act in every year?
In a typical year, I’ll do three. Some years I’ll do more, some years less.
6. What are the biggest challenges?
Memorizing lines, especially as I get older. It’s always a challenge to identify with your character and develop your character in a way that the audience can relate to.
7. What do you enjoy the most about it?
The camaraderie is certainly important. My best friends are theater people. Also, it’s very enjoyable to see a new person walk in the door and bring them along and see them develop. I would so encourage people to give community theater a try. Don’t sit in the audience like I did for 20 years thinking, “Gee, I wish I could be up there.” It’s not that scary.
8. Favorite part you’ve played?
My favorite character has to be Daisy Wertham from Driving Miss Daisy.