Ocean City —
For the last five years, the Greater Ocean City Theatre Company has made do rehearsing for their amateur and professional-level shows by hopping from one rehearsal space to the next.
Last summer they rehearsed in the Peter Lumber Co. space in Ocean City. They’ve also rehearsed in a community space located by a playground on Eighth Street and Haven Avenue, said Founder and Artistic Director Michael Hartman.
Some days they’d rehearse in one spot, break for lunch, and relocate.
On Friday, May 4, the GOCTC held the grand opening for the company’s first permanent locale at 854 Asbury Ave.
The second-floor space is the former site of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, but has been unused for about four years, Hartman estimated.
Hartman, his family and volunteers renovated the space in five weeks. They ripped up carpeting, removed a wall, painted and installed new flooring (materials donated by Avalon Carpet, Tile and Flooring) to make the space usable.
The location includes a larger rehearsal space, a smaller space suitable for 15 to 20 people and front and administrative offices.
“This is my first time seeing the space and my mind’s a little blown,” said Justin D. Maciejewski, who does graphic design work for the GOCTC. “I had no idea it was even here... It’s a really great space, but obviously for the summer this will be really helpful having this space close to the performance venues... This is a huge benefit.”
The GOCTC plans to hold the first rehearsal there in mid-June and the space will also be open regular hours to sell merchandise.
“Now that we have the space we have a plan for a year-round company,” Hartman said. “I think before it was very segmented. I would just worry about these few months and then I’d worry about the high school.”
Hartman works with several high schools in Pennsylvania, and has toured seasonally with the GOCTC in West Chester, Pa.
He will continue to work out of Pennsylvania, but plans to downsize his out-of-state work to focus on developing the GOCTC into a year-round company.
However, the GOCTC will also continue to perform outside of Ocean City.
Hartman said that through connections through his involvement and from the GOCTC’s Pennsylvania performances, the GOCTC was able to perform in this year’s National Cherry Blossom Parade in Washington, D.C. The company’s newly formed show choir is also invited to perform in Philadelphia’s Fourth of July Parade this summer.
“It’s definitely taking on a bigger life,” GOCTC Production Stage Manager Laura Bretherick said. We’re always trying to get a bigger audience and get more people interested and let them know we’re here.”
The GOCTC will also perform this summer at Convention Hall in Cape May and the Chester County Cultural Center in West Chester, Pa.
“It’s what we need to stay on top of our growth and everything that’s being offered,” GOCTC Business Manager Janice Hartman said. “I hope our activity adds to the neighborhood and the businesses. That will be really important to us and we hope we have that contribution to the avenue.”
John Shirk, president of the GOCTC Board, said that the space will give the GOCTC a “downtown presence.”
“It gives us a fantastic presence right across from City Hall... And it allows us to help the community,” Shirk said. “If the community needs to use our space in the summer for Asbury Avenue’s events, they can use it.
“Every year it’s gotten more professional and more organized and we’re just reaching a larger and larger audience,” Shirk said. “Audiences walk away from each performance commenting on how great the performance is and how they can’t believe a town like Ocean City has a theater company as professional and successful as we have at this point.
“I feel like in five short years, we’ve made a lot of progress.”
For more information, see oceancitytheatrecompany.com.