Who: Jimena Shepherd is the director of “Oliver!” and co-founder with her husband, Jonathan, of Ovation Performing Arts. The two formed the company in 2018 to serve young pianists, vocalists and actors in the Bend area. Its first licensed production, “Oliver!” stars Joel Newman, Lucinda Mone and Micah Garner among a cast of 41. It performs at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, as well as 7 p.m. Feb. 22-23 and 3 p.m. Feb. 24, at Pinckney Center for the Performing Arts, 2600 NW College Way, on Central Oregon Community College’s Bend campus. Tickets are $12.50 at oliverbend.eventbrite.com. Contact: ovationpa.com.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about Ovation?
A: It’s kind of a rebranding, actually. About 20 years ago, a lady started it as the Homeschool Choir of Central Oregon. That kind of morphed into something that was a hybrid of choral music and small skits that were historical, and that was called History Performers. Just last January we rebranded to Ovation Performing Arts, which gives us a little more liberty and freedom to do full licensed productions, do theater classes and still be able to do some educational, historical productions as well.
Q: Is “Oliver!” the first big production you’re doing?
A: It is the first licensed production, yes.
Q: Is Pinckney going to become a regular performance space for Ovation?
A: We are hoping so. We’re actually doing our next production, “Free Congo,” up there. … That is going to be the end of June. My husband’s actually writing the script for that, and a lot of the music for it, as well. That one’s more in our history performer tradition, where we’re taking a certain culture and a certain time period and the kids spend a lot of time learning about that culture and true events that happened during that time. My husband Jonathan’s created a story around that. So the kids get a lot of theater and a lot of historical education as well.
Q: How big is the cast of “Oliver!”?
A: We have a cast of 44 home-school kids.
Q: They’re all home-school kids?
A: Yep, they’re all home-schoolers. My husband and I have our private studios after school hours, so during the day was our only time to build a theater production, so we drew off the home-school community — which was what History Performers was, originally.
Q: There are a lot more home-school kids in the community than I thought.
A: I know. I was home-schooled, and it has grown exponentially since even I was in school — enough for a theater program. … They love socializing. They love creating together.
— David Jasper, The Bulletin