The inception of Top Hat Productions came about when a small group of teenagers recognized the need for addressing issues facing the youth of today. Armed with a small portable sound system, the group began mentoring through music and small skits at social service organizations, keeping at a level that preteens would accept. Before long, the group was appearing at church festivals, after-school programs and with various civic organizations. This allowed us to continue participating in programs dealing with conflict resolution, drug awareness and cultural diversity.
Under the umbrella of The Lost Then Found Ministries, Top Hat formally became an organization in 1992 and with only one used followspot and a borrowed sound system, produced our first Passion play, The Earth Trembled in Conneaut, Ohio. Operating as a touring production company for more than ten years, Top Hat traveled throughout Ohio using a core group of Top Hat performers as main characters and members from churches visited in supporting roles. Some performances saw as many as 85 cast members on stage at one time.
As our volunteers increased, so did our donations including a full-size Mack truck. Thanks to the support of generous donors, we were able to purchase equipment to improve the technical aspect of the Passion play as well as implement some of our apprenticeship programs.
Our prayers for a building were answered four years ago when the generosity of the Trumbull Baptist Association allowed us to embark on a new journey with the Baptist Association and Neighborhood Ministries, giving us a permanent “home” at The Fairview Arts & Outreach Center. The efforts of a well-known area architect, a dedicated crew chief, a Cleveland artist and several area businesses enabled dozens of hard-working volunteers to transform a former church into the multi-purpose building that it is today. In addition to the Passion play, which is still presented each Easter season, we now offer a full theater season – including some “dinner theater” productions. Our seasons are varied; with Broadway hits like Man of la Mancha, Blood Brothers and Aida, as well as fun-loving shows Disney’s Aladdin and Smokey Joe’s Café. Our talented casts feature numerous Marquee Award nominees and winners.
Remaining a non-profit, completely volunteer driven Christian organization, we have sponsored children’s programming the past two summers, apprenticeship programs for youth and adults in restaurant catering and technical theater, participated in “Make A Difference Day” and held community outreaches.