Ohio University's Tantrum Theater: An encore performance

Richard Ades
Michael Lincoln, head of the OU Theater Division, Rachel Tillman Cornish, founding producing director, and Daniel C. Dennis, artistic director

Local theater fans were taken by surprise when Ohio University launched a professional troupe called Tantrum Theater in Dublin last summer. Among the questions raised: Why is OU putting on plays in OSU's backyard? Can a suburb of Columbus

support a professional theater company? And why, pray tell, is the troupe called Tantrum Theater?

The last question is the easiest to answer: A “tantrum” is a group of bobcats, which is OU's mascot. The other questions require a bit more explanation. Daniel C. Dennis, artistic director of the troupe—which will open its second summer season May 30—says Tantrum was born due to a “very interesting set of circumstances.”

The first was that OU ended its 57-year relationship with Monomoy Theatre in Cape Cod. Dennis explains that as a member of the National Association of Schools of Theatre, the university is obligated to have a connection with a professional troupe, but it decided to have a relationship with an organization in its home state.

But why Dublin? Margaret Kennedy-Dygas, then-dean of OU's College of Fine Arts, explains that by 2014, “Ohio University's new relationship with the city of Dublin was beginning to flower” thanks to its medical campus and other initiatives in the Columbus suburb. Two years later, Tantrum Theater sprang to life in the Dublin Community Recreation Center's Abbey Theater.

From a critical standpoint, Tantrum was an immediate success, earning praise for its elaborate productions of an eclectic trio of works: “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Tammy Faye's Final Audition” and the Irish drama “Dancing at Lughnasa.” From a seat-filling standpoint, it was far less successful. “We've decided that one of our big goals for this next season needs to be to really cultivate audience members,” Dennis says.

This season, Tantrum will continue to present an eclectic collection of works. And once again, the finale will feature an Irish play, a choice Dennis says is made to complement the Dublin Irish Festival held each August in nearby Coffman Park.

When Tantrum was first introduced, the plan was to expand to a year-round schedule by its fifth year. That now seems unlikely, Dennis admits, due to logistical problems associated with running a theater in Dublin when its leaders are based in Athens. But he remains optimistic it'll happen someday. “That's more on the order of our 10-year plan,” he says.

Coming Soon

Tantrum Theater's 2017 season:

May 30–June 17:“A Midsummer Night's Dream” by William Shakespeare

July 5–22:“Caroline, or Change” by Tony Kushner (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music)

Aug. 1–19:“Into the West” by Greg Banks

Ticket prices range from $28 to “pay what you will” for preview