Reminisce: Farmer made an impact on the theater scene in Lima

January 1977 brought winter to its worst in northern Ohio. In Lima, stubbornly freezing temperatures – the average for the month was around 12 degrees – and a parade of doozy-topped snowstorms at the end of the month nearly brought life to a standstill. Fuel supplies ran low and persistent winds piled snow into dune-like snowdrifts on the roads.

It even slowed down Martha Farmer, the ever-energetic one-man theater department at Ohio State University-Lima, who was directing Maxwell Anderson’s romantic tragedy “Winterset” at the campus theater.

In late February, Farmer, relentless as winter, tried to make up for lost January rehearsals as the play’s early March opening loomed. “

‘Agreed. Everything in place. Act 1, Scene 1,’” Farmer directed his students and actors, according to a Feb. 27, 1977, article in The Lima News. “’Come on, it’s early morning. They got you out of bed, and you’d rather be somewhere else.”

With that, wrote The Lima News, the 50-year-old farmer jumped “three feet onto the stage at the OSU-Lima auditorium, working hard…”

Unlike the stage characters she directed, Farmer was exactly where she wanted to be.

Between 1950 and her death in 2011, Farmer was involved in all aspects of local theater as an actress, producer, director and teacher, often working alongside her husband, Robert Farmer. She even, on occasion, applied makeup.

In 1970, Farmer established the theater department at OSU-Lima and served as a theater teacher there for 15 years. She established the MW Farmer Theater Scholarship Endowment in 1984 and established the Martha W. Farmer Endowed Professorship in Theater in 2010. OSU-Lima’s Reed Hall auditorium, where Farmer worked hard preparing “Winterset” in February 1977, was dedicated as the Martha W. Farmer’s Theater for the Performing Arts in 2004.

Farmer has also been involved with the Lima Art Association (now known as ArtSpace) and Encore Theater, and she has served on the boards of the Lima Symphony Orchestra and St. Rita’s Medical Center.

She was born on November 26, 1926 in Toledo to Cletus V. and Vera Smith Wolfe. His father, born in Seneca County, had been a teacher and high school principal in Bloomville, Prospect, and Urbana before graduating from law school in 1921. He was a professor of government and law at the University of Toledo and was also director of the Morris Plan. , a system created to help middle-class customers obtain loans, in a Canton bank and reorganized the United Association of Savings and Credit of Toledo.

In 1944 Wolfe became president of Gramm Trailer Corp. in Delphos and moved his family, which then included his daughters Helen, Marilyn and Martha, and his son Frederic to a house at 104 Rosewood Drive. He later served as president of the Western Ohio Lumber Co. and founded the Lima Lumber Company.

His daughter, meanwhile, was a student at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, pursuing her passion for acting.

“Miss Martha Wolfe, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. CV Wolfe, 104 Rosewood Drive, a sophomore at Vassar College, leads the properties team for Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’, which premieres Friday at the Vassar Experimental Theater and on Saturday nights,” reported The Lima News on March 10, 1946. During her years at Vassar, she would take part in many productions.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in drama in May 1948, and in the fall of that year worked toward her master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, graduating in June 1949.

A year later, in June 1950, she was engaged to Robert Madison S. Farmer of Cleveland Heights, the engagement being announced at a dinner party at the Wolfe family home, then at 1624 Shawnee Road.

“Miss Wolfe received her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College. She earned her Masters of Arts and Masters of Fine Arts from Western Reserve University, where she was on staff as manager of the Mather Curtain Players. M Farmer attended Wayne University in Detroit, graduated from Western Reserve University, and earned his Master of Arts there,” reported The Lima News.

The couple married in July 1950 and settled in Lima, both working at Lima Lumber and raising their children, Megan and Robert Jr. They also threw themselves into the cultural life of Lima.

Robert, a WWII veteran, was an accomplished artist and potter and used his skills to become a set and lighting designer. Martha, who joined the American Association of University Women and the Junior Service League, has spoken, taught, performed, produced and directed theater seemingly all over Lima.

From dramatizing the stories of O’Henry and Stephen Laycock for an AAUW Christmas reunion in mid-December 1951 to holding a theater makeup workshop at her home at 1555 Crayton Ave. in November 1955, Farmer did what she loved. She also co-wrote and helped produce musicals and revues to be performed by members of the Junior Service League.

In the 1960s, Farmer was also acting in Encore Theater productions. In 1961 alone, she appeared in “The Crucible,” Henry Miller’s tale of the Salem witch trials, and Lewis Gilbert’s romantic comedy, “The Admirable Crichton.”

In February 1965, she took over the role of Madame Lyubov Ranevsky in Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” in Northern Ohio when the original actress had to drop out. Farmer, the News columnist Hope Strong wrote on February 16, 1965, “has found a way to be a successful homemaker and mother, while pursuing certain ‘hobbies’, generally interpreted as ‘arty’ like the theater and art.

The hobby grew into something more in 1970 when she was appointed a theater teacher at the OSU-Lima campus. She continued to appear in Encore productions and pursue her other “arty” hobbies.

At the end of 1984, Farmer announced that she would be resigning.

“For the past 15 years, Martha Farmer has been a one-woman theater department at OSU-Lima,” wrote The Lima News on December 30, 1984. “In 1970, she founded the Lima Campus Theater and over the past decade and a half, she has taught every drama class offered by the school.She has produced and directed nearly 50 plays during that time, and she has also acted in a number of productions.

However, The Lima News added, “when the leading lady ends her 15 years as campus theater matriarch, she will not leave without leaving her mark.” This mark was a scholarship fund, endowed with $20,000 from the retired associate professor.

Farmer added to this legacy in March 2000.

“Martha W. Farmer remembers rare times for the theater department at OSU-Lima. In the early 1970s, performance halls had no curtains, no curtains and limited space,” wrote The Lima News announcing Farmer’s donation to renovate the Reed Hall auditorium.

“I dreamed of a real theater,” she told the Lima News. “Now this is the place to come and see Shakespeare.”

In August 2002, a “breaking the wall” ceremony marked the start of the $1.3 million auditorium renovations, funded by Farmer.

She died on January 12, 2011 at her home. She was 84 years old. Robert Farmer had died two years earlier, on January 22, 2009, at the age of 88.

“It is no hyperbole to say that Martha Farmer was one of the greatest patrons the artistic community of Lima has ever known,” wrote The Lima News on January 13, 2011. “But friends will tell you that this It wasn’t the checks she wrote that made the real difference, it was her unwavering belief that Lima was worthy of great art.

Martha Farmer, left, practices her lines for ‘The Admiral Crichton’ with Harry Lobdell, Gerald Giles and Ron Powers at the Encore Theater in Lima in 1961.

Contact Greg Hoersten at info@limanews.com.

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