Opia Arts launches an inclusive and diverse artistic program
Art is not exclusive. Opia arts, a new upstate organization, wants to make sure that members of the arts community, both those who create it and those who enjoy it, keep this in mind.
An experience as a child sparked Samantha Eyler’s desire to reach out to people who need more opportunities for the arts in their lives. A deaf friend invited her to a performance of “Grease” at the Maryland School for the Deaf, and she was blown away.
“I thought it was amazing how they incorporated sign language and the performers into the show,” Eyler says. “As I got older, I learned more about raising awareness of other communities, and this created a desire to include everyone in the theater.”
After studying musical comedy at the university, she meets and marries Guillermo Jemmott, also passionate about his mission. Jemmott, who has a business degree, became executive director, while Eyler took on the role of art director.
“For too long, theater has been reserved for people who couldn’t afford it or had to adapt to their daily lives to participate,” Jemmott says. “We want to make sure that people of all ages, colors and creeds have the opportunity to participate. ”
Racial diversity is written into the group’s DNA, Jemmott adds. “Especially with me as the only Afro-Latino director in the state, it’s huge for us. All of the decisions we make are included.
Starting its first full season in 2022, Opia will focus on autism awareness, ensuring that lighting and sound allow people on the spectrum to enjoy the show, Jemmott said. They also plan to include subtitles for the hearing impaired, “the subtitles being part of the show, not just outdated subtitles at the bottom,” Eyler explains.
Collaboration with other theaters in the community is also important to Eyler and Jemmott. The two are involved in productions with other theaters in the upstate – she is currently designing costumes for “Elf: The Musical” at the Greenwood Community Theater, and he is in the Warehouse Theater production of “Sense and Sensibility. “- and they plan to use these connections and these skills merge to benefit everyone involved.
“For too long, theater has been reserved for people who could not afford it or who had to make adjustments in their daily lives to participate.” – Guillermo Jemmott
The group’s first year has been a challenge, as documents and 501 (c) (3) status arrived on the same day that COVID-19 closed in March 2020.
They were finally able to present their first show, “All Together Now”, in November, featuring songs from a variety of Broadway musicals. While they haven’t yet set up captioning or interpretation, they were able to incorporate lighting and sound adjustments and featured a hearing-impaired artist in the show. “We had a lot of positive feedback,” he says.
Upcoming plans include developing a full first season for summer 2022, working on grant applications, and potentially creating fundraising events featuring artists from the region. “Then we will be able to develop and expand the other projects, including awareness raising for children and adults,” says Jemmott. “We just want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the art.”
Get to know
Executive Director, Opia Arts
Also: Interventionist at Greenville Technical College Charter High School
Current concert at the theater: playing Edward and Robert Ferrars in “Sense and Sensibility” at the Warehouse Theater
Education: BS, international business, Central State University; MPA, Northcentral University
Experience: Led improv and performance workshops and worked as a private voice, actor and basketball coach for children and teens
Artistic Director, Opia Arts
Also: costume and prop design, stage management, interpretation, substitute teaching
Current concert at the theater: Costumes for “Elf: The Musical” at the Greenwood Theater
Education: BA in Musical Theater, Marywood University; minor in graphic design and dance
Experience: Has taught 6 year olds to adults, and has led courses in costume and drama as well as visual arts education. She has designed a program called Acting for Dancers and is a Certified Zumba Instructor.