Edith O’Hara’s Passion For Theater Still Going Strong At Age 100

Edith O’Hara
Edith O’Hara

Passion and creativity have no age limit is the message of our Active Aging Stories video productions. These short documentary videos, broadcast on Manhattan Neighborhood Network in New York City, tell the stories of extraordinary seniors whose enthusiasm for productive living exemplify our message. On our YouTube channel you will find powerful videos of documentary filmmaker George Stoney, T.V. newsman Gabe Pressman, Kon Tiki sailor Captain Norman Baker, Omaha dancing granny Katie Kelly (former WNBC movie critic), music impresario Charlotte White, concert pianist Roy Eaton, and many other “third age” older adults showing an irrepressible zest for living.

One of our proudest stories is about Edith O’Hara, who founded the 13th Street Repertory Company theater in Greenwich Village in 1972. Edith’s passion for the theater helps explain why theater in the United States survives despite challenging economics and diminishing government and institutional support.

When we interviewed Edith eight years ago at age 92 she was active in all aspects of her company’s productions. After our interview in the theater, Rita Satz (producer/writer), Gloria Messer (videographer), and I (producer/director/narrator) huffed and puffed our way up the long narrow staircase to Edith’s apartment above the theater. She was far more agile than us navigating the stairs. In her apartment, she eagerly showed us memorabilia spanning the history of her theater and then talked enthusiastically about the upcoming season.

So it’s no wonder that we were delighted to see The New York Times feature on September 1, 2017, about Edith O’Hara at age 100. How inspiring that despite infirmities she continues to reign over her lifelong venture.

Proving that acts of kindness and generosity are rewarded, the formerly struggling and homeless actors, authors, and playwrights whom Edith adopted over the years still participate in the theater’s productions, which are led by artistic director Joe Battista. Six of the originals, now mostly seniors themselves, reside in a living space above the theater.

Tom Harlan, who Edith took in twenty- five years ago, not only developed as a creative set designer, but currently provides most of Edith’s care.

In our video you can see some of Tom’s earlier imaginative designs. And you can hear Edith tell in her own words the intriguing chronicle of her journey from her early upbringing in rural Northern Idaho to the New York theater scene. You can join her as she walks down the aisle of her 65-seat off-off Broadway theater past the seat where Tennessee Williams once sat to the stage where we interviewed her.

Bernard Starr, PhD, is a psychologist and Professor Emeritus at CUNY (Brooklyn College), where he directed a graduate program in gerontology. His latest book is “Jesus, Jews, And Anti-Semitism In Art: How Renaissance Art Erased Jesus’ Jewish Identity & How Today’s Artists Are Restoring It.”

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