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College of Wooster to keep Light Opera company

By admin Published: August 6, 2011

After an 18-month study, the private College of Wooster has decided to maintain its relationship with the Ohio Light Opera.

College officials said this week they will continue to house the professional company at Freedlander Theatre under the existing arrangement.

John Hopkins, associate vice president for college relations and marketing, said the college originally thought the company would have more flexibility if it were independent of the liberal arts college of 1,800 students.

In June 2009, it gave the organization two years to prepare to be spun off as an independent nonprofit that would receive some operational assistance from the college.

“After we dug down into the tax law, it became clear that if they were to incorporate, there would have to be more of a hard-and-fast separation” between the college and the opera company, Hopkins said, and officials decided they didn’t want that.

By keeping the arrangement basically as is, “we wind up in a good place for everybody.”

The college long has praised the Ohio Light Opera as the only professional company in the country devoted to operetta. Former College of Wooster President R. Stanton Hales hailed it as a “summer jewel.”

Two years ago, though, current President Grant Cornwell told the campus by email that he wanted to “significantly improve” the performance of the college’s auxiliaries — a nine-hole golf course, the adjoining Wooster Inn and the Ohio Light Opera. By that point, the college already had sold the Guest House, an annex to the Wooster Inn, to the Montessori School of Wooster for $650,000.

Hopkins said the college has no interest in getting rid of the nine-hole “duffer” golf course because it is “the only substantial piece of undeveloped land on our campus.”

He said the college probably will find a different use for the land long term, “and in the meantime, there’s no harm in continuing to run it as a golf course,” as it’s close to breaking even.

While the school continues to own the Wooster Inn, it has farmed out management.

The college has owned the Ohio Light Opera since its inception in 1979, and provides financial support, housing and meals for company members, campus services and administrative leadership, according to its website.

About 20,000 people attend the seasonal productions of 19th- and 20th-century operettas and Broadway musicals, according to the company website. Performers are chosen from auditions held each fall and winter nationwide. The current season ends this month.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at or 330-996-3729.

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