Leah O’Hara, a graduate of Central High School who could “sing before she could talk,” is currently one of the stars in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” at Stagecrafters in Chestnut Hill.

by Rita Charleston

Much Ado About Nothing,” one of Shakespeare’s perennial favorites, continues at Stagecrafters, 8130 Germantown Ave., through April 20. The plot is brimming with deceptions of all kinds including masquerading, eavesdropping and trick playing, in which Shakespeare has created enough romance and villainy to have delighted audiences for more than 400 years.

The play tells the tale of how two sets of lovers are put to the trying test of assorted misunderstandings and obstacles that others, and they themselves, throw into their paths. The continuing focus of attention in the biting war of the sexes waged by one of the duos, Beatriz and Benedick, features some of the author’s wittiest wordplay.

Leah O’Hara takes the role of Beatriz, a feisty, cynical, witty and sharp lady who was once in love with Benedick, but their relationship has since ended. And although Beatriz appears hardened and sharp, she is actually quite vulnerable.

“Although it’s been produced many times, I never saw the play before,” O’Hara said. “In fact, I read the script just before I auditioned for the role, but I never saw it performed beforehand because I don’t want to be influenced by another’s performance. I want to bring my own flavor to the role, make it my own, and keep it new and fresh, both for me and for the audience.”

Born in Los Angeles, O’Hara moved to the Philadelphia area with her family just in time to attend Central High School. Saying she could “sing before she could talk,” and admitting she grew up in a family who loved the classics and the theater in general, her next stop after high school was the University of Connecticut, where she studied voice and eventually received her bachelor’s degree in music.

“I then came back to Philly, married my high school sweetheart and embarked on a career as an actress,” O’Hara explained. “And because of my husband, Andrew Brown, a firefighter who works hard at his job, I have the privilege of working full time as an actress,” although that full time pursuit was interrupted briefly but happily when O’Hara took time off to have and raise two children. “But now that my son is 16 and my daughter is 10, and they don’t need constant supervision, I have returned to pursue my love of the theater.”

While she won’t give her own age — “let’s just say I decided to turn timeless” — she is happy to praise her cast mates and take the time to explain why, in her estimation, it is important to play Shakespeare. “I think exploring the classics is important and something I think ever actor should try doing at least once in their career. But don’t feel bad if you discover it’s just not for you.”

Now back working full-time for the past three years, O’Hara, who lives n Mayfair, continues making her theatrical mark on stages throughout the area. Next up is a staged reading of a new play on May 4 at Old Academy, the late Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues” at the Village Players of Hatboro in June, a possible audition for the Philadelphia Soul organization to sing the National Anthem, and the list goes on.

“I’m so happy to be able to do what I love to do,” O’Hara said. “It’s something I not only wanted to do all my life but something I needed to do. It’s what fuels me and makes me want to get up in the morning and excited for the next day. I think in order to be in this business, you have to have that sort of passion because you have to deal with so much rejection. You get told ‘no’ so many times that you just have to brush it off because maybe the next time you’ll hear that wonderful ‘yes!’”

For tickets and information, call 215-247-8881 or visit thestagecrafters.org

...