Columbus Makes Art Presents Robert Cooperman on Alternative Theater in Columbus
Robert Cooperman is the founder and president of Stage Right Theatrics, the country’s only conservative theater company. Now in its fourth year, Stage Right produces original plays with conservative points of view. Its motto is “Disagreement Does Not Equal Hate!”® Ariel Wiles, a local producer, director and playwright, spoke with Robert as he prepared for his annual Conservative Theatre Festival®, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2.
Ariel: Conservative theater? What’s that?
Robert: Originally, it was all about mocking the Left, but I quickly realized that we need to be so much more than that. Today I define conservative theater by two major components: 1) as a legitimate response to cultural issues. Theater has a long history of reacting to issues in society that artists find troubling. I did not see much of this reaction offered by conservative writers and believe me, it’s not because we were fine with the status quo. So, conservative theater presents an alternative viewpoint into the marketplace of ideas; 2) as an alternative to today’s “doom and gloom” outlook. We are not Pollyannaish, but we do recognize an outlook where characters can find redemption and show appreciation, rather than simply embrace despair.
Ariel: When did you become involved with theater?
Robert: I realized I loved theater in the third grade when I went on a class trip to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City (I was born and reared in Queens; I moved to Columbus in 1991). I didn’t really do anything about theater, though, until high school, when I started performing in school productions and writing plays. I didn’t get involved in Columbus theater in any meaningful way until I started working with The Evolution Theatre Company, which took a chance on producing a couple of my original pieces. I started Stage Right Theatrics in 2016. Today I am on the executive board of the Central Ohio Theatre Roundtable and I really enjoy being a part of the local theater scene.
Ariel: What’s the best thing about the Columbus arts scene right now? Is Columbus a good theater town?
Robert: Well, it’s not New York, but then again nothing is New York. There is plenty of exciting theater going on outside the major US cities. Columbus has a great diversity of theater where patrons can get what they’re looking for (or see something new). We have musicals, improv, LGBTQQIA theater, Black theater, South Asian theater and the tried-and-true plays from the likes of Shakespeare and Williams. I’d say that for the arts in general, Columbus has it!
Ariel: What are you most proud of in theater?
Robert: I have had two original plays produced in Manhattan, which was a thrill. But I am truly most proud of founding Stage Right Theatrics and the kind of positive response I have received from playwrights across the country, thankful to have a place to submit their work without ridicule or wholesale dismissal just because they put forward another point of view.
Ariel: What theater person — alive or dead — would you most like to meet?
Robert: Eugene O’Neill. I have always loved his work and I emulated him when I started playwriting.
Ariel: O’Neill? Wasn’t he all “doom and gloom”?
Robert: He was no conservative. But he tried to create an American mythos, based on classical texts, which is a very conservative way of doing things! Very little of today’s writing has such depth.
Stage Right Theatrics invites you to attend the Fourth Annual Conservative Theatre Festival®, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, at The Shedd Theatre, 549 Franklin Ave., Columbus, OH 43215. Discounted tickets available for seniors, students and veterans; call (614) 562-9105 or email [email protected] for discount information. For more information about Stage Right, visit conservativefestivaloh.com.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.