The Johnstown Historical Society is preparing for its next Third Saturday Series at the Johnstown Opera House in January.

The Johnstown Historical Society is preparing for its next Third Saturday Series at the Johnstown Opera House in January.

Outgoing historical society president Marvin Block said the society came up with the idea for the series in July, when it sat down with Columbus arts patron Michael Hurwitz to brainstorm themes for the nine-month program.

"Michael Hurwitz has been sort of our mentor on this thing," Block said. "He's been very active in the arts in Columbus for 30 or 40 years. He's written a few books, including one on opera houses."

Since October, the opera house has been open for 7 p.m. programs on the third Saturday of the month, with ticket prices of $10 to cover the cost of performers. Eventually, Block hopes, the series will raise money to pay for renovations on the 1865 building, which is owned by Monroe Township.

"A theater refers to a facility where the theater is on the first floor, and an opera house is always on the second floor, including the seating and the stage," Block said.

The building is in good shape, but the historical society hopes to raise money to repair plaster and install a modern lighting and sound system.

"I'm afraid to say how much it is, but it's probably going to be more than $200,000," Block said.

To date, after shows in October, November and December, the series has broken even. Block said the full year should show a small profit.

"This first year, if we can finish the year breaking even we'll be happy," Block said. "The second year, we hope to make a profit of $5,000 to $10,000."

Eventually the series will seek corporate sponsors for the monthly events, but Block said they would like to establish the program as a success before seeking outside sponsors. Expenses so far have been advanced by the historical society.

The first event in October featured a Model A show on Bigelow Square and barbershop quartets performing at 7 p.m. In November, in honor of Veterans Day, the series show was a performance by Swing's the Thing Big Band.

"We had a 16-piece band on stage," Block said. "We had some veterans and some others dancing in the front rows. We did a salute to the veterans, where any current military or veterans got in free. Our local American Legion presented a color guard, and it was really quite a show."

In December, the Johnstown Monroe High School choir performed, helping offset the loss of the high school's performing arts center, which suffered a lighting failure last fall and is currently undergoing repairs.

In January, the series will feature "Hollywood Comes to the Opera House," including a silent movie yet to be chosen, along with music.

"We're asking people to dress up as their favorite performer," Block said.

In February, Bigelow Square will host a Civil War reenactment with tents and an encampment on the square, and the evening show will be "An Evening with Harriet Beecher Stowe," featuring a conversation between Stowe and President Lincoln, performed by Hurwitz and his wife Jackie.

The March show will feature a Celtic band from Dublin, Ohio, and April will be a rock and roll show, "Motown Returns to Johnstown." The season will end with "Johnstown's Got Talent," for which local residents are invited to audition.

"I announced that Saturday to the high school choir and they were pretty excited about that," Block said.

After taking a summer break, the historical society will commence the second season in September.

"Summer is a hard time to get people indoors for entertainment," Block said. "Historically, after May it's hard to get people inside, unless it's a nationally known band. We might do some free concerts on the square outside after May. We have not decided that yet."

Because the opera house is accessible only through stairs, a chair lift is being installed to help people reach the second floor performance area.

Anyone seeking more information about the series or performance may reach Block at (740) 967-4591.