Monthly Archives: May 2016

Stark County Artist Profile: Amy Sima Dirham

Our Stark County artist profiles continue in May and June with theatre artists. Get to know the talent of our community.

By Stephen Ostertag

In Massillon an enthusiastic and imaginative instructor is shaping the talents of local performers both young and old. Area native, Amy Sima-Dirham operates the Sima Performing Arts Studio (SPAS) under the mission of ‘providing an environment of exploration and discovery for (Performance Artists) to find personal growth and to express themselves through the performing arts.’ Amy explains, “I am a child of the arts and my creative being needed an outlet. In searching for that outlet for myself, SPAS grew into a performing artists haven. I believe each of us is a rising star and we’re here to help you find your sparkle.”

SPAS offers instruction in voice, piano, guitar, flute, and saxophone, as well as lessons in acting, musical theatre workshops, and adult acting intensives. “We even offer music classes for babies and toddlers,” Amy said, “Theater, for me, has become a playground over the years, and I want to open that playground to youngsters of all ages.” SPAS’ youngest students are 6 months old, participating the baby music classes, and the eldest is 76. Amy understands and truly values the importance of early music and theatre experiences, “I started performing at the age of 7 in our church plays, my very first show was “The Littlest Angle,” and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Over the years, since “The Littlest Angel”, Amy has performed in many productions from Massillon to Chicago to Washington D.C. When asked about a formative performance experience Amy said, ‘It was in DC. My colleague, Belinda Bremner had written a new play and I had also written an arrangement of the hymn, Brightest and Best for the production, it was being showcased at the Kennedy Center. I remember standing center stage, before all the hubbub, in the silence, trying to drink in the experience with all my senses. It was quite an experience to be on that stage doing what I love and knowing how many incredible performers had graced that space before us. It was inspiring and humbling at the same time.’

It’s been a few years since her last onstage appearance, as she has focused her creative drive on directing and instructing. “I don’t often think about returning to the stage as a performer.” Amy confessed, “but I guess for me one of the greatest roles I’d love to play would be Goneril from Shakespeare’s King Lear, the depth of the character would be quite a challenge.” As far as directing goes, Amy’s creative magnetism pulls her in vastly different directions. Amy said she’d like to direct things like, “La Cages aux Folles for the beautiful, transcendent story of love, and…. Sweeney Todd,” (yes, that ghastly bloody murder show), “because I believe Stephen Sondheim is one of the greats.” Amy shared part of why she admires Mr. Sondheim, “His contribution to musical theater has allowed us to explore new constructs to the musical such as the song cycle, like Songs for a New World. Amy is currently directing Songs for a New World as SPAS’ first full production opening June 9th (more info at the end of this article.)

Not surprisingly, Amy also lists the wildly creative Julie Taymor, in addition to Sondheim, as a major influence, “I look to both of these innovators to find inspiration.” She said, “Their work helps to fill my creative well. (I really should send them both Thank you letters)” She added with a laugh. Like Taymor, Amy is always looking to engage creativity in her directing, and nowhere is this more evident than in the many youth theatre productions she has staged over the years.
While working at the Players Guild Theatre in Canton, Amy captivated youngsters both onstage and in the audience in productions ranging from classics like C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to contemporary works like The Jungle Book Musical which she co-wrote with area musician Steve Parsons. “I have to admit that working with kids is purely selfish.” Amy confided, “I cannot begin to express the joy I have in my heart listening to the singing and laughing that emerges from the rooms in the (SPAS) Studio.” Amy continued, with a sense of relish, “sometimes I take that Kennedy Center moment from years ago and sit is silence in my office listening to the sounds of students learning, and singing, and giggling. It’s the best!

While perusing the SPAS facebook page, I found this quote from Navarre native Jennica McCleary, “I have worked all over the country as a singer and I will ALWAYS come back to Amy. She is a hidden gem! Extremely knowledgeable and constantly learning and growing herself to be a better performer and coach.” McCleary was recently seen as Winifred Sanderson in the Halloween stage show at Walt Disney World. Another of Amy’s students Jacob Rummell was recently a contestant on NBC’s The Voice (2015.) There simply doesn’t seem to be an end to Amy’s impressive list of credentials, but I’m not telling you about her because she’s impressive. I’m telling you, because she’s here. In stark county, sharing all she has to offer with local performing artists, eager young performers, and anyone who feels they’ve got a gift inside them ready to shine out. Let Amy polish you up and let you sparkle.

SPAS will present Jason Robert Brown’s song cycle Songs for a New World June 9th through 18th at the beautiful Massillon Women’s Club, for tickets please call 330.685.3086 or go online The Sima Performing Arts Studio (SPAS) is located at 520 Cherry Road N.E. Massillon, OH 44646 and can be reach by calling 330.685.3086 or emailing You can also visit SPAS online at and you can also like SPAS on facebook for day to day updates.

Amy 480w" sizes="(max-width: 225px) 100vw, 225px" />

GN1_0595 - Copy 144w" sizes="(max-width: 150px) 100vw, 150px" />
Stephen Ostertag is the costumer and an adjunct theatre professor at Kent State University at Stark.

720 Market Showcases Local Creators, Cooks, and Brewers

by Evan Chwalek

A pop-up market is expected to host over 50 vendors and will feature food, live music, craft beer and more in North Canton. The 720 Market’s inaugural event will take place on Saturday, May 7 from 10:00 to 4:00 in the Hoover District parking lot on East Maple Street.

Modeled after markets in larger cities, The 720 Market aims to provide a diverse selection to attendees, and as such, it is attracting a wide breadth of vendors. The scope of the vendors ranges from apparel to home and garden, vintage and upcycled to bakers and growers, with jewelers, food trucks, and nonprofits also represented.

It will be easy to make an all-day affair out of the market: demonstrations, food and live music will fill part of the Hoover District lot. Cleveland taqueria Barrio will be in attendance, as will Hudson’s Fork Fuel food truck and Louisville’s Sweet Spot truck, who specializes in gelato, paninis, and desserts.

In addition to food, drinks will also be well-represented. Coffees from Cultured and Native Hill will give early attendees a lift while later arrivals can taste a selection of craft beers from Royal Docks.

Two local nonprofit organizations will host workshops, strengthening the air of community associated with the event. Stark Fresh plans to demonstrate seed starting and host a gardening Q&A while The North Canton Public Library will put on a family craft event.

A host of local musicians will play the soundtrack to the event, including Hurgurdler Brian McCoy and Blues artist J.J.Vicars.

Expanding beyond the physical space of the Hoover District lot, The 720 Market’s online presence is becoming a platform for vendors participating in the event. Lynn Shimko, one of the event’s co-organizers, expressed excitement and pride in the local creators and the attention they are receiving online, telling The Canton Repository “It’s a neat community of makers. That’s a cool part of this.”

Local favorites and lesser-known producers share the stage on The 720 Market’s instagram page, including apparel from Little Chicago Clothing, jewelry from Sparrow’s Peak and My Beverly and many more.

The 720 Market will be held on two other dates this summer, July 23 in the Hoover District and September 14 at the Waterside Center on South Main Street.


MassMu Earns OMA “Best Education and Outreach” Award

The Ohio Museums Association has presented the Massillon Museum with the 2015 award for Best Education and Outreach among museums with budgets of more than $500,000. The Artful Living Program, initiated and sponsored by the Massillon Museum, enriches the lives of preschool children throughout Stark County.

The Ohio Museums Association’s Awards of Achievement, presented at its annual conference in Columbus in April, reflect the outstanding quality and caliber of work by Ohio museums and their professionals. The in-depth nomination process helps illustrate how selected institutions and individuals have excelled in supporting their institutions, serving their public, and advancing the cause of the museum community.

“While many institutions do arts programming for early education, the Massillon Museum’s Artful Living Program is an example of how true outreach not only takes programming outside the traditional museum space, but also has a lasting impact on the community it serves,” said Bill Robinson, Curator of Modern Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art and President of the Ohio Museums Association, who presented the award to Chris Craft, director of The Artful Living Program.

The program immerses 1,000 preschool children weekly in a fine arts curriculum through lessons in the visual arts, literature, music, drama, and dance. Artful Living collaborates with 12 community and arts organizations, teaching in 19 elementary schools. Itemploys 20 teaching artists, works with 100 classroom teachers, and provides 176 fine art lessons weekly.

“Through extensive assessment, Artful Living consistently evaluates the impact of the program, with pre- and post-tests showing significant academic improvement in children experiencing Artful Living when compared to preschoolers not in the program—especially in the areas of science and literacy—as well as a better school attendance record for those participating,” Robinson said.

The Massillon City Schools Superintendent Rik Goodright has credited the Artful Living Program for helping Massillon preschools achieve a five-star rating in independent quality assessment. The Ohio Arts Council has noted the program’s strong educational methodology and dynamic impact in the lives of children, their families, and their teachers. And the Ohio Department of Education has praised the program for its proven record of nurturing creative thinking and for providing a foundation for lifelong success.

“The Massillon Museum is proud to lead this collaborative effort that has demonstrated measurable increase in academic proficiency among the children who participate,” said Massillon Museum Executive Director Alexandra Nicholis Coon. “The arts truly make a difference in the quality of life for individuals and communities. This form of cultural enrichment speaks directly to the mission of the Massillon Museum.”

The Artful Living Program started in 2006 as a research endeavor aimed at showing the effect of immersing young minds in the arts, which founders Wilbur V. Arnold and Christopher Craft believed would improve vision, creativity, and leadership characteristics. In action, the program, which meets Ohio Department of Education Early Learning Standards, brings professional artists to preschool classes every day to present arts-related activities that are integrated into the classroom teacher’s lesson plan.

As The Artful Living Program successfully proceeds, educators are realizing its greater implications. “All who are associated with The Artful Living Program realize every positive human endeavor bears value, but there is no more valuable endeavor to any society than the education of its children. Among the greatest powers of the earth is human creativity; among the greatest tragedies—a child who has never been introduced to his/her creative potential. The Artful Living Program is introducing Stark County preschool children to their creative potential and awakening in them an awareness of a world of beauty in the arts they may otherwise never experience,” said Artful Living Program Director Christopher Craft.

The Massillon Museum receives operating support from the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsinStark. It is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in Massillon. For more information, call 330.833.4061 or visit