Event serves as fundraiser for summer theater festival bringing New York theater professionals to Columbus to create new work in partnership with local actors, directors

Mike Faist has noticed that there are a lot of Ohio-born and Ohio-trained theater artists working in New York City. That the Gahanna native and Tony Award-nominated “Dear Evan Hansen” star is one of them might make him more likely to notice, but the talent pipeline exists.

Faist would like to add a layer to the relationship between the theater communities in the Buckeye State and the Big Apple via the Ohio Artists Gathering, a still-in-development festival that would bring New York-based actors, writers and directors to Columbus for a weeklong festival during which new work would be created. The festival would feature workshops for theater artists, open rehearsals and public performances.

“I've been living in New York for almost a decade,” Faist said in a recent phone interview, “and I've come into contact with so many people in this industry, onstage or backstage, with ties to Ohio. It's mind-boggling.”

That Faist's acting career was fostered on school, youth and community theater stages in Central Ohio is just part of why he'd like to bring OAG into being. Much of the theater on stages both on and off-Broadway was developed under similar circumstances, in festivals and workshops outside of the city where there isn't as much pressure and the opportunity to create exists for its own sake.

“It's just about making a safe space for artists to develop new work, where people like myself can work on a new piece in the hopes of bringing it back to New York,” Faist said. “It's a passion project. I've always wanted to bring people back to Columbus as a way to give back. There's a reason why [Columbus] has been able to produce talent. I'd like to put the New York theater community and the Columbus theater community together.”

After a few years of kicking the idea around, mostly informally, Faist found a willing partner in Short North Stage.

“In our seven seasons, we've been lucky to host a lot of Ohio-born Broadway wannabes,” SNS Executive Director Tim Valentine said. “This is a great program to bring all those Ohio-born Broadway people back. Part of our mission is to foster new works and up-and-coming writing. It's very exciting.”

Rapid Transit, a fundraising event to support the Ohio Artists Gathering, will be held at the Garden Theater on Friday, March 16. Live music by Public, hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar and appearances by Faist and fellow Broadway actor Corey Cott will be featured.

“I really need to do this for my own personal and professional growth,” Faist said. “I believe in [Columbus] so much. I have to believe there's still more untapped talent, so we just need to expand on it and give it a shot of adrenaline.”