When the final curtain drops on “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which runs April 24-27 and May 2-4, it will close the 50th season for Ole Olsen Theater, a Peru gem that deserves oodles of kudos.
The first-ever curtain went up in March 1965, when Ole presented “Come Blow Your Horn” in the old Peru High School Auditorium.
Ole had been founded in the fall of 1964, named after John Siguard Olsen. He had been born in Peru on Nov. 6, 1892, and gone on to have a noted career in vaudeville with long-time partner Chic Johnson.
Among the cadre of volunteers who have made Ole a shining success for five decades is Kelly Voss.
“Ole is one of the few civic theaters in the state that is maintaining itself,” she said in an email interview.
That’s understandable, considering the quality entertainment offered at affordable prices. General seating is $12. Some productions include dinner for another $20 — excellent food catered by various Peru restaurants.
Since 1996, Ole has been doing shows in the Peru Depot, which the organization bought and restored. The Depot generally seats 65 people comfortably.
Ole Olsen Memorial Theatre Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that owns the Depot, the Cole Porter Birthplace and the “Ole Building” on Ind. 124 used to store sets and costumes, long-time volunteer and performer Tammy Hileman said. Ole is attempting to sell the Cole Porter Birthplace, she added.
Two boards oversee Ole.
A theater board selects plays from those submitted by qualified directors, Voss said. “You must have assistant-directed another Ole production to be a director, according to our by-laws, and the membership votes on the slate for the next season at our annual membership meeting.”
A financial board oversees Ole’s income and expenses, Voss said. “We pay upkeep on the Ole Building, the Depot and the Cole Porter Birthplace. We have insurance and costs of running all the buildings. We have taken on projects that involved renovating the Depot, Peru Toll House, and the Cole Porter Birthplace.”