(Cheviot, Ohio) The Drama Workshop received a prestigious Rehabilitation Award from the Cincinnati Preservation Association on Sunday, Nov 10, 2013. The award recognizes The Drama Workshop’s efforts to repurpose the former Glenmore Bowl building, located at 3716 Glenmore Avenue in Cheviot. TDW president Ray Persing, along with TDW members John Netzley, Karen Romero, and Elaine Volker accepted the award on behalf of the community theatre group. Cheviot City Council member Kitty Zech, Cheviot-Westwood Civic Association president Ray Kroner, and Mike Sexton from Rebold, Rosenacker, and Sexton Funeral Home joined TDW at the event.
The building now known as The Glenmore Playhouse was opened in 1928 as Bueche Lanes, owned by Lawrence and William Bueche. Lawrence was already established in the movie theater business, and the goal was to set his younger brother up in business. Bowling was becoming very popular, and they decided this provided a good opportunity for the younger brother. Their father, a master mason, built the structure for them. Because they were concerned that bowling may just be another passing fad, the building was constructed so that it could be converted into a movie theater should bowling not work out. Bueche Lanes was the first bowling house in the greater Cincinnati area.
The business passed through several hands over the next eight decades, including Fred Kessler, Jim Winston, Les Horstman, and Cynthia Shanks. The Horstman family, especially, is strongly connected to the Glenmore Bowl, with a family member working there in some capacity for over 50 years, until the bowling alley closed for good in August 2010 – doomed by declining league participation and competition from larger, better-equipped bowling houses.
In April 2011, The Drama Workshop membership voted to attempt to acquire the property. TDW had been looking for a permanent home for many years, and the size, configuration, and location of the building fit the needs of the group very well.
Mary Stone, then TDW’s president, spearheaded the plan which saved the building from demolition. TDW worked closely with Cheviot Savings Bank, the City of Cheviot and the local Cheviot business community, in particular Mike Sexton and Jerry Rosenacker of Rebold, Rosenacker, and Sexton Funeral Home to enable the purchase in November 2011.
Sexton and Rosenacker were excited to help save the historic structure which stood just down the street from their business. Sexton said, “We’re happy that The Drama Workshop saved the building, rather than having the space become another parking lot!”
After hosting a “Last Bowl at the Glenmore” party in January 2012, TDW members removed all bowling equipment, and gutted the building. They replaced decades-old wiring, and installed a theatrical lighting system. A 22 foot high arched ceiling, hidden for years, was uncovered. Windows that had similarly been covered by paneling were exposed, providing natural light in the new lobby area. A stage was constructed where the pinsetters once stood. The CPA commended TDW for exposing and preserving many of the original building features. The award was presented by Margo Warminski, CPA’s Preservation Director, Arthur Sturbaum, CPA Trustee, and Richard Duval, President of the CPA Board of Trustees.
Over 100 volunteers have contributed more than 8,000 hours converting the building to a performance venue, which opened in October 2012. In addition to TDW members’ efforts, T.J. Williams contributed expert electrical assistance, Give Back Cincinnati provided manpower to help install dozens of sheets of drywall, and the Cheviot-Westwood Civic Association donated carpeting.
“The Cheviot Westwood Community Association is glad to be a part of The Drama Workshop’s success,” offered CWCA president Ray Kroner. “We know the impact community theater has on its surrounding area, and we welcome TDW’s enthusiasm and contribution to our neighborhood.”
More recently, TDW has focused on upgrading the building acoustics. Artswave awarded TDW a grant towards that end, and Mr Richard Lemker of Spectra Tech, Mr Ralph Larocco, and Mr J. R. Dignan provided acoustic testing and guidance to help prioritize improvements.
“The Glenmore Playhouse is still very much a work in progress,” said TDW president Ray Persing. “We want to install a handicap ramp and build handicap-accessible restrooms. We want to upgrade our HVAC system. We’re trying to do this while remaining true to the character and history of the building, and are thrilled that CPA has recognized that. With the help of our members and the Cheviot community, we’re making steady headway on making this a great performance venue.”
The hard work is paying off. TDW set a production attendance record with its recent staging of the musical “Nunsense”. The number of season ticketholders has more than doubled in the last year.
“We’re beginning to talk about adding more performances,” said Persing. “Word is getting out that there’s something special happening here. It’s very exciting!”
TDW’s next show is “A 1940’s Radio Christmas Carol”, opening December 6.
THE DRAMA WORKSHOP was founded in 1954. TDW is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to advancing education and promotion of the theatrical arts. Based at the Glenmore Playhouse in Cheviot, The Drama Workshop is widely recognized as one of greater Cincinnati’s most accomplished community theater organizations, garnering dozens of awards annually from the Cincinnati Association of Community Theatres. TDW productions have been regularly selected to represent the Southwest Ohio region at the Ohio Community Theatre Association annual conference, and TDW was also honored to represent the state of Ohio at the American Association of Community Theatre regional conference in 2013. Prospective members, and individuals or businesses interested in becoming involved or in helping advance TDW’s mission are encouraged to contact the group through our website at www.thedramaworkshop.org, or by phone at 513-598-8303.