My Ohio: At age 81, retired scenic designer works in theater at Oberlin retirement center

Former theater scenic designer still loves stage

OBERLIN, Ohio - When William Shakespeare penned the well-known phrase, "All the world's a stage and all the men and women players," he could easily have been describing a retired theatrical and television scenic designer who, at age 81, is on a mission to build sets for an Oberlin, Ohio, retirement center.

For many decades, Bob Cothran, a resident at Kendal at Oberlin, designed and built sets for theatrical productions and television stations in several communities. When he moved to Oberlin from Tennessee, where he had been a professor of theater at two universities, he found his passion again.

"There's bound to be occasions when they need things made," said Cothran, who saw opportunities to build sets for the theatrical productions for the several hundred elderly residents who live at Kendal. Cothran heard there were plans for a celebration of the Winter Solstice. So he volunteered to build a set highlighting the sun, moon and stars.

"All the choral members and actors processed in carrying the sun and the moon and the stars," said Cothran, who beams with any discussion of his work.

During an interview, his fingers were stained with paints of varying colors. He was in the process of painting a mural he plans to hang outside the dining area for the residents. In his painting are people on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages who are leaving their city, in search of something.

"I call it 'The Journey in Search of Curious Herbs and Spices," said Cothran, who added the herbs and spices for which all people search are the things which give meaning to life.

His eyes sparkle at any mention of art or design. He said he sees theater all around.

"We are surrounded by it," insists Cothran, who has also performed as actor early in his career. "You've got a chance to dig into and do it," said Cothran, with a broad smile. "That's what life is for."

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