BEACHWOOD, Ohio — Beachwood’s Theatre camp has been a home to hundreds of students over the past 39 years. Paige Schiller, a former theatre camp student and staff member, still calls it a second home.
“There is no place like a theatre for people. You are welcomed with open arms,” she said. “ I don’t think I’d be who I am today, at all. I have immense confidence in what I do. I work in sales and I always say my experience on stage has made me a better salesman.”
It’s a family affair.
“All of my family grew up with the Beachwood Community Theatre,” said Cheryl Eitman, a Beachwood Theatre parent.
In times of trouble, like the cancellation of this summer’s camp and the firing of longtime director Jill Koslen-Freireich, the family came together.
“I was in shock and disbelief,” said Eitman. “The theatre community is an incredibly passionate group of people and we felt that this decision was just so wrong”
Dozens of former students, current students, and parents marched into Beachwood City Hall on May 2 to make their voices heard and share their disapproval of the decision in front of Mayor Justin Berns, city council members, and Community Service Director Derek Schroeder.
Berns said he thought canceling the camp was the best option in April when the announcement was made.
“I had a discussion with our Community Services Director, Derek Schroeder, who advised me of having some staffing issues and he thought it was best, initially, that we cancel the camp because we couldn’t have the proper staffing,” said Berns. “Before we had canceled this, I said to Derek ‘Are we sure we have done everything that we can?’ and he had thought that we had.”
Berns said it came down to staffing and logistical issues. He couldn’t discuss the firing of Koslen-Freireich.
But after the city council meeting, he reconsidered.
“I listened to the people. I listened to city council,” he said. “There are certain things, being the mayor of the city, that are difficult decisions to make and they’re not always necessarily the most popular, but any decision I’ve ever made, I do it with my heart and feeling that I’ve made the best decision for the city of Beachwood, whether that’s canceling camp or bringing it back.”
The camp is back, as scheduled, this June and Koslen-Freireich will be the director of the camp this summer.
Berns said he sent out an email to the 53 families who had children enrolled in the camp.
Eitman said while she is thrilled it’s back, it’s a bittersweet feeling.
“The email that went out to families was kind of vague and it was kind of cold and it left parents feeling kind of confused. It didn’t mention Jill’s name, so there was a lot of confusion about that,” she said. “But the important thing is it’s back and I want people to know that it’s back.”
Schiller echoed her sentiments.
“Ultimately, the benefit of it is for the kids and they’re coming back that’s all that matters and they get to be there, but there’s still so much that wasn’t done correctly and had we not put the pressure would he have done anything? I don’t think so,” she said.
Berns said moving forward, he will have more discussion and collaboration with city council and staff when decisions arise.
“I give everything a lot of scrutiny. Depending on the matter, though, I think we will probably have more communication and more discussion with my staff prior to making a decision such as this,” he said. “The theatre camp is very important to me. It’s important to the people who partake in it.”
Koslen-Freireich sent News 5 a statement that read:
“When conceptualizing Beachwood Theater Camp in the mid 80’s it was my hope to create a ‘special place’ for kids to study the arts. I wanted to provide high end instruction in a warm, fun, nurturing environment. It was all about the kids! Today, as I enter my 40th summer it still is all about the kids. So many of my students are now grown up with children of their own and now have the opportunity to share the spotlight with them. This truly is special and I’m elated and amazed at the support I’ve received over the past 2 weeks. The show will go on for this one last summer and after that…only time will tell.”
There’s still no information about the reinstatement of camp on city websites but If your child was enrolled in theatre camp and you haven’t received a refund from the city, you don’t have to do anything, they are still enrolled. If you have received a refund but still want your child to participate or have questions just call: 216-292-1970.