OFC Creations performance series debuts

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OFC Creations Theatre Center’s new subscription model and performance series, “Broadway in Brighton,” will bring national talent to Rochester for six musicals. It is expected to help expand and anchor the company’s offerings in the community. 

The six-show lineup opened last month with “Dance Mums: The Drag Parody Musical,” an original work by Eric Vaughn Johnson, OFC founder and executive director. The season continues through May 2024 with shows not commonly produced locally, including “White Christmas,” “Kinky Boots,” and “The Producers.” 

The second show of the series, “The Rocky Horror Show,” directed by Johnson, is currently on stage and runs through Oct. 31. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the show, this production is performed at OFC’s Old Farm Cafe venue. 

The star of this production is actor Garrett Clayton, of “Teen Beach Movie” and “Hairspray Live!” fame, in the role of Dr. Frank N Furter. Bringing talent of Clayton’s caliber to Rochester is a stepping stone to revamping the theatrical arts scene within the city, Johnson believes.

“Having Garrett Clayton involved with the show is amazing for us as performers and artists,” he says. “He wants the show to be the best it can be, and he’s so involved in the process. I feel like this show has been one of the most unique projects I’ve been involved with.

“I’ve told community partners that if we come together as a community and show up for opportunities like Garrett Clayton performing in this show by buying tickets and filling spaces, this could be the beginning of a new chapter for Rochester theater in having big-name stars who come in for a long process. We are hoping this can be a continued thing for future seasons and give Rochester something unique to look forward to.”

An acronym for Opportunities For Creativity, OFC Creations has been a part of Rochester’s performing arts scene since 2005. The company grew its footprint by producing musical theater in venues throughout Rochester, including the Kodak Center, the Lyric Theater, the East End Theater, Nazareth University, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and School of the Arts.

As word of mouth grew, the company was eventually approached to manage in-school drama programs at local elementary and middle schools. Demand continued to grow until the company was running summer camp programs and out-of-school lessons alongside developing professional adult productions. 

The community’s need motivated OFC Creations’ desire to open its own performing arts center. In February 2020, the company found a long-term lease at Winton Place Plaza. When the pandemic hit the following month, effectively shutting down all operations, Johnson decided to take advantage of this time rather than abandoning the lease.

OFC Creations has a 260-seat theater. (Photos: OFC)

Johnson and his husband renovated the space through the pandemic, creating the 260-seat theater the company operates in today. Since returning to operations, Johnson has been able to build a full-time administrative team of eight to meet the demands of the company, in addition to part-time teaching artists and production assistants. 

While finding its footing alongside 48 other theatrical organizations that have existed in Rochester over its history, Johnson says OFC Creations has achieved its success through listening to the community’s need and responding to it. Rather than reinventing the wheel, OFC Creations grew by creating opportunities to meet people’s interests in the arts, whether that was through educational offerings or producing shows not seen that often in Rochester.

Today, OFC Creations operates four branches and produces three series of shows. OFC Rentals provides costume packages and rentals of backdrops, sets, and puppets to productions across the country. Rentals from the company have reached stages in musical productions in New York, California, Nevada, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Its Storybook Touring Theater Company is a troupe of professional adult actors who are booked to perform classic children stories across the Rochester region.

OFC’s largest branch is its Roc Summer Theater Experience, which runs annually from July through August. As the largest theater summer camp program in Upstate New York, the program serves thousands of children, producing 20 shows in eight weeks.

Students travel far and wide to attend the summer educational program, including out-of-state and international students. 

OFC’s fourth arm is its restaurant, the Old Farm Cafe, which opened in August 2022. Located next door to the performing arts center, the cafe was designed as a place for parents to wait for their children while they attended classes and for students to grab snacks and food pre-rehearsal. 

The Old Farm Cafe serves as a restaurant and a performance venue.

Open to the public seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Old Farm Cafe also includes a miniature stage space that has held a variety of shows, including cabaret acts, comedians and live musicians.

Typically, OFC produces three series: the Student Performers Series featuring students aged four through 18; the Think Outside The Box Series featuring local local and touring talent through cabarets, stand up comedy, and interactive theater; and the new Broadway In Brighton Series, which brings professional actors to Rochester for musical theater productions.

Between these series, OFC puts on shows each weekend through the fall. Johnson also has  found that this setup keeps the community engaged, and those involved in OFC coming back for more.

“Our students see professional shows happening featuring one of their teachers and they go see it with their families. Then our professional staff goes and sees their students perform in a show they aren’t working on,” says Johnson. “It’s created a community within itself. You get into this positive spiral of getting involved with countless different programs and learning how you can become a better performer. All of these things are happening in the same place.”

In the auditions held for this season’s productions, OFC received 800 video submissions from professionals in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle and other cities. A few hundred performers from Rochester and from neighboring states also came to the performing arts center to audition in person.

“Broadway in Brighton is that next step for us,” says Johnson. “In this series, we’ve moved towards smaller cast sizes featuring out-of-town talent. We have people coming in and elevating our shows by focusing only on the show for a short period of time. That’s the new model—finding a way to expand our season like a regional theater does.”

Evan Coleman is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and a recent University of Rochester graduate. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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