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3News' Maureen Kyle reveals special connection to Cassidy Theatre in Parma Heights

Former Parma Heights Mayor Paul Cassidy had a vision for the suburb where he served for 43 years. One amenity, a theater where people could thrive in the arts.

PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio — We kick off our GO! morning show series -- Homecoming -- where we are highlighting places around Northeast Ohio that are important to the GO! team and their families. 

Up first... 3News' Maureen Kyle grew up in Westlake, but spent a lot of time in Parma Heights, where her grandfather, Paul Cassidy, served as mayor for 43 years. There's one building that bears his name and a very special meaning.

The Cassidy Theatre opened in 1974 as the “Greenbriar Theatre” in the heart of Parma Heights.

But at the heart, its history goes back decades before that.

Cassidy was studying law when he decided to take acting lessons at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights as a way to fine tune his public speaking skills for when he would argue cases in front of a jury.

The acting teacher was a fiery woman who would later become his wife, Elise. She was a regular on stage and loved theater.

“We obviously know this space is a love letter from your grandpa to your grandma,” says Michael Caraffi, Board President of the Cassidy Theatre.

Elise Cassidy believed a community couldn't be whole without culture at its heart... So, Paul had a theater built. It started as part of the city, but then was privatized and re-named "Cassidy" theatre.

And since its start, a countless number of performers have been a part of its productions, including Caraffi.

“I started doing shows when I was 16 years old playing in the pit orchestra," he says. "Over the years I continued playing in pit orchestra and then getting involved as an actor. In high school I was always an actor, so that kind of bug was instilled in me very, very early."

"The bug" as actors call it, is hard to shake. Most people don't end up in Hollywood or on Broadway, but they still love the thrill of production.

It’s not just people from Parma Heights who are a part of the theater. Caraffi says people come from all over Northeast Ohio to act or help in the production. And it’s not about the spotlight. There’s something more meaningful that brings people to the stage year after year.

“Some place to call home outside of their home, I think that's the foundation of it all. You know, we think of theater or casts in general as chosen family. And you do, you become a mini family unit if you will when you're in a production because you're with these people day after day rehearsing. You're putting together something that you all enjoy and celebrate together. So, I think it's very much home.”

A home, a place to goof off and act out shows like Elf The Musical, a place where you form life-long relationships and memories.

“I know there's something kind of magical about being able to come into a space and just let go of life. Like you could have had the worst day at work and whatever the case may be, and you come into rehearsal and suddenly you're in this group of incredibly loving people who are encouraging and supporting. And you get to play this awesome character that you've had the opportunity to create and that's incredibly therapeutic,” says Caraffi.

The Cassidy Theatre is planning a big year in programming next year with all the momentum leading up to its 50th anniversary year. Tickets are almost sold out for Elf The Musical, but there are still some available. 85 percent of the revenue goes back into the programming. Buying tickets helps keep it going and so do donations.


Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated story on Oct. 20, 2022.

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