When Ron Baumanis moved to Horizon West from Michigan this summer, there was one thing missing to make him feel more at home — a community theater.
Baumanis, a neuropsychologist, always has loved the area and watched his housing complex built from the ground up. A theater aficionado since age 12, Baumanis has directed more than 50 musicals and has never gone long without being involved in a production.
“I moved down here, and within six or eight weeks, I realized this is the longest I’ve gone in 40 years without doing something theater-related,” he said. “I’ve directed, sat on boards in community and professional theaters and worked across the board, primarily up in Michigan. I moved down here and started looking around and thought, ‘Where’s our community theater in this immediate area?’”
Although Winter Garden has the professional Garden Theatre and Mimi’s Community Theater, Baumanis wanted something the Horizon West community could call its own and wouldn’t have to go far to find. After doing some research, he decided to build a community theater from the ground up.
“The arts are so vital in a thriving community, and there’s so many new people who moved into this area, (many with) lots of talent and those who come from communities where they have large theaters,” he said. “Theater is all forms of art — performing and drawing and painting, even volunteering. We’ve been getting remarkable responses and people excited about this theater. Really, we’re not just building a community theater — we’re building community.”
Baumanis posted on a Horizon West Facebook page to gauge interest and was able to gather enough people to get a theater board up and running. Things have proceeded quickly, and within the last month, board members have identified a venue, filed paperwork and taken care of legalities. Just like that, the Horizon West Theater Company was born.
“There’s so many people that have been craving seeing and performing theater,” Baumanis said. “There’s a reason the high-school shows are selling out — people from the community are going to see them. … We wanted to create something right here. Rehearsals are here, things are built and made here and performed in Horizon West. … We specifically wanted to incorporate youth in the theater, as well. Having a venue to have your kids go learn and get an education and present a well-known piece — we thought that’d be vital for a community theater.
“It’s quite amazing how quickly this is coming together,” he said. “We’re at the point where we’re ready to sign contracts, and we need to get fundraising right now. We’re looking at things to do for physical fundraising and community partnerships, groups that want to be a part of that could donate money, and resources or space.”
“There (are) people interested in being creative and doing something together and building. They’re building a community of art infrastructure. Everyone I’ve talked to about this has been instantly excited about it.” — Ron Baumanis
The theater company currently is aiming to launch its first season, complete with both a large-scale musical and a youth-theater production, in 2019-20 to accommodate for a first year of fundraising and building community. There are still a few spots remaining on the board, and the company is looking for community partnerships and sponsorships.
The overall goal is to be a group that encourages performing artists and volunteers to create quality theater, Baumanis said. Anyone from theater newbies to those with professional experience are welcome to jump in, learn and participate.
“It’s happening; it’s no longer a dream,” Baumanis said. “It’s happening, and it’s because of our wonderfully talented people here. People are so enthused — they jump in to volunteer and help. They’re craving something here. Horizon West is growing and growing, and it’s so exciting. There (are) people interested in being creative and doing something together and building. They’re building a community of art infrastructure. Everyone I’ve talked to about this has been instantly excited about it.
“It’s one thing to dream and talk about it,” Baumanis said. “It’s another to actually say, ‘Let’s make this happen,’ and from the first day that’s been the philosophy.”