Coldwell Banker's Julia Wesselkamper Presents The Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre, Unveiled in the 2019-2020 Season
From left: Woody Taft, Board President; Blake Robison, Artistic Director; and Julia Wesselkamper, Board Member.
Photo by Tracy Doyle
Julia Wesselkamper’s love of live theatre set the stage for her ongoing passionate pursuit of diversity, community and charitable outreach to ensure all people not only have access to Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, but are represented in every way possible through the work of the Board of Trustees and the Playhouse’s Diversity Committee.
“The Playhouse has always had a piece of my heart,” says Wesselkamper, who heads the Julia Wesselkamper Group, one of Coldwell Banker/West Shell’s leading real estate teams. “I am a proud Playhouse Board of Trustees member, and this is my second year serving with this wonderful organization. One of the reasons I am so proud to partner with the Playhouse is its dedication to diversity and inclusion. From our outreach efforts to policies that govern both board composition and hiring, there is a deliberate focus on creating and sustaining a diverse culture at all levels.”
Playing an integral role in that diverse culture is Playhouse Pride Night, in its fifth year come June 2019, which provides an opportunity for LGBTQIA community members and allies to gather at the Playhouse and enjoy a live theatre performance, hors d’oeuvres and an after party. A portion of each Playhouse Pride Night’s proceeds benefits a non-profit organization that provides an accepting atmosphere and services for the LGBTQIA community. Each year a different and deserving organization is carefully chosen. Last year it was the Transgender Health Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“It’s always a wonderful evening of celebration with the LGBTQIA community,” Wesselkamper notes.
For Wesselkamper and her spouse, Julie Johnson, Playhouse Pride Night represents their genuine concern for the LGBTQIA community as well as an awesome opportunity for outreach.
“It’s such meaningful work, and a fun time, focused on providing world-class theatre coupled with compassionate community service,” adds Wesselkamper, who is no stranger to working to promote diversity along all her life’s journeys, both personally and professionally.
She received her At Home With Diversity (AHWD) certification from the National Association of Realtors, a program designed to support the changing face of the real estate industry. The AHWD program has, since 1998, prepared more than 20,000 Realtors to work effectively with and within today’s increasingly diverse pool of homebuyers. The certification conveys to clients that they’re working with a dynamic real estate professional possessing expertise that transcends cultural barriers.
Transcending cultural barriers is the foundation of the Playhouse Pride Night initiative, a star born under the direction of the late David Herriman, a philanthropist, arts leader and Playhouse board member. Wesselkamper and Jim Conway currently co-chair the annual event. The Playhouse’s outreach includes presenting in-school theatre workshops and taking theatre to underprivileged schools in the Greater Cincinnati area. They’re reaching 66,000 children a year who otherwise wouldn’t have access to world-class live theatre.
“Julia has been a stellar addition to the Playhouse Board of Trustees,” says Woody Taft, board president. “And the enthusiasm and contacts she brings to the Pride event have been key to its success.”
“What began as an initiative has become more than an event, it’s a commitment to being welcoming to everybody,” says Blake Robison, now in his seventh year as Playhouse artistic director. “We believe the Playhouse belongs to everyone, and everyone should be able to come here and see themselves and hear their stories on stage. So, for the past seven years we’ve had an ongoing commitment to telling stories about and by diverse communities. The Playhouse Pride Night initiative extends not only to the Playhouse, in terms of our staff and board makeup, but it also includes the various collaborations and partnerships we have with other organizations.”
Robison credits Wesselkamper and Conway with successfully leading the Playhouse Pride Night charge the past four years.
“Julia is an exemplary board member,” he adds. “You’ve probably heard the adage, ‘Bring your time, talent and treasures.’ Julia brings all of those, every week. She’s a tremendous ambassador, not just for the Playhouse, but for the work we’re doing with our education programs and the leadership we’re showing in terms of diversity and inclusion.”
And she’s a “bit of a Pied Piper” for the Playhouse’s new building project, Robison notes. “She’s making sure everyone in the Greater Cincinnati area is aware it’s a civics project that will improve the quality of life for all Cincinnatians, and that makes us a better place.”
Theatrical History in the Making
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park began performances in 1960 after a park shelterhouse was converted into a theatre, and in 1979 it was christened the Thompson Shelterhouse Theatre after local philanthropist Jay Thompson. A few years later, to accommodate regularly sold-out houses, the Robert S. Marx Theatre – named after another well-known Cincinnati philanthropist – was constructed, allowing Playhouse in the Park to present two theatrical works simultaneously.
The Marx Theatre is the oldest never-renovated mainstage facility at any regional theatre in the country, Wesselkamper points out. No major improvements have been made since its construction half a century ago.
“The theatre, perched in the middle of beautiful Eden Park, is a really cool structure. It’s a Cincinnati gem, highly respected across the country and internationally, but it is extremely dated,” notes Wesselkamper.
Winner of two Tony Awards, the Playhouse is hailed as the region’s pre-eminent professional theatre with a history of presenting performances by some of the country’s finest actors, directors and designers. Its last capital campaign took place from 1994 to 1996, resulting in a major renovation to the public and production support spaces in 1997. That project included a new administration wing, an additional rehearsal hall and expanded lobby space, but didn’t include any significant improvements to either the Marx or Thompson Shelterhouse theatres.
In February 2017, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park announced a major capital campaign to build a new $39.5 million state-of-the- art mainstage theatre complex to maximize its iconic Eden Park location. The project will expand what can be done on stage via the newest theatre technology, enhancing the audience experience with better
comfort, sightlines, acoustics and more easily accessed entry/exit. The project will result in a more intimate theatre with support facilities, including new dressing and rehearsal rooms, a green room, costume shop and improved backstage areas.
In October, Taft, serving as Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park capital campaign co-chair, and Rob Reifsnyder, trustee, announced the Rosenthal Family Foundation’s significant pledge to the capital campaign. The gift included naming rights to the Shelterhouse Theatre. Hence, The Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre is slated to be unveiled at the beginning of the 2019-20 season after interior seating improvements allowing more leg room are completed as the initial phase of the project.
“It’s not about having a fancier building,” Wesselkamper emphasizes. “It’s about being more accessible and welcoming to people of all ages and abilities, and it’s about being more reverent of the beautiful location, environment and community Playhouse in the Park is set in. It’s more than a building project. It’s creating the Playhouse of the future, a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
Wesselkamper is embarking upon her 31st year in real estate as a licensed Realtor. A certified Stager, the Cincinnati native has earned hundreds of professional titles and accolades over the years, including the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors Circle of Excellence and the Ohio Association of Realtors President Sales Club Award. The other members of her team include Sharon Packer, Wesselkamper’s 21-year business partner and mother; Julie Johnson, client liaison, president of Stage It by Julia, and Julia’s spouse; Christina Wegford, Realtor, and Operations Manager for four years; Wendy Furbay, Realtor, past selling and buying client, and member of the Staging Support team; and Melissa Takas, Staging Support Team member and multi-transaction life-time client..
Coldwell Banker/West Shell Regional is located at 9321 Montgomery Road, Suite C., Cincinnati OH 45242. For more information, call 513.720.4496 or 513.891.8500, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cbws.com