HOMER — 2020 was a rough year for everyone. Maybe even more so for the Creative Dramatics Workshop group that owns the Homer Opera House.
Not only was the group unable to host events at the historic building for most of the year, it lost its founder and rudder, Bob Picklesimer, who died March 13, 2020.
With a building as large as the opera house (15,000 square feet), having volunteers who are handy with a hammer and saw would be nice. It cuts down on repair costs. But thespians, the artistic type, generally don’t fit the bill.
Creative Dramatics President Ross Robinson said the group could sure use some donations. That’s why a GoFundMe page has been started to help with repair/replacement of the roof. The “Raise the Roof” fundraiser at gofundme.com/f/new-opera-house-roof has a goal of $50,000.
Checks can also be mailed to Creative Dramatics Workshop, 1009 Maplepark Dr., Champaign, IL 61821.
“Between its size and its age and water damage from the roof leaks, there’s a ton of work to do in there,” Robinson said. “The leaks have been patched before. As it stands now, winter storms ripped off some of the covering of the roof.”
Robinson called it “an uphill fight” to keep the place dry as the wind that comes shooting down the plains in Homer makes it tough to keep the tarps on the roof.
Robinson said it’s been a year to forget.
“It was a rough, rough, rough night,” Robinson said of the day after Mr. Picklesimer’s death. “If I didn’t have some help, I probably would have had a breakdown.”
Robinson, who said he was primarily in charge of the wrestling shows at the opera house, said he didn’t have the background for the other events put on there, including plays and concerts. Not to mention the finances.
“I came in with more of a production skill set,” he said. “I had been doing a lot of the grunt work with the building since we got it.”
Only when insurance can be updated and the building fixed up will it be booked to host events.
“We never had consistent volunteers,” Robinson said. “We had people who came and went for a while.”
He said he has “two or three” handymen he consults for advice.
With a master’s degree in theater, Mr. Picklesimer helped Creative Dramatics host more than 80 plays at its previous home in an old church in Sidney. But the roof of that building collapsed in 2014.
The group bought the opera house in 2015 — a place with a lot of history, where renowned actress Sarah Bernhardt performed on stage in 1905 during her world tour, three years after it was built.
The building has been used for a number of things over the years, including a grocery, a library, a bank, the village’s administration building and a bowling alley. The upstairs area was used for dances, high school graduations, a basketball court, a high school classroom and political meetings and campaigns.
Robinson, who lives in Champaign, said he hopes residents in Homer and around the area step up to help financially or with volunteer work.
“This is a project for the community, but it needs the community to survive,” he said, referring to ticket sales, volunteers and donations.
Homer Mayor Raymond Cunningham said he feels the opera house is still “an important part of Homer.”
He said he believes the community supports it, “and it’s also a draw from other communities.”
“It’s got a good reputation,” Cunningham said. “I think their fundraising efforts, should they be successful, I hope we can also help with a tax-increment-financing grant.”
Cunningham said the village has helped the opera house before, when it was owned by another group.