You’ve seen him often at the Ojai ACT box office, producing plays and specials and welcoming audiences, and now his reputation has burst through the city’s borders with a national award.


He’s Herb Hemming, who recently earned the coveted Distinguished Merit Spotlight Award, putting Ojai’s hometown theater in a national limelight.


 “He has raised the standards of the Ojai Art Center Theater in his special way, leading the way for creative and forward-thinking projects which aid the Art Center and the community,” said Gai Jones of Ojai, who “has had the pleasure of working closely with Herb as producer” of shows she has directed.


 The award was a surprise when presented to him during Ojai ACT’s free season preview. He told the audience he particularly loves the “intergenerational” productions that link adult actors with youth, such as “Annie,” “Oliver,” “The Wizard of Oz”,” Shrek”, and “A Christmas Story.”


 The audience gave him a standing ovation.


Jones submitted his name to the American Association of Community Theatre ( which hands out the Spotlight Award “to promote and develop the highest standards for Community Theater.”


 It’s quite a coup for Ojai ACT, which is the longest running theater of its kind in California, and increases its reputation.


“Due to Herb's far-reaching vision, as friendly House Manager for the past eight years, our season tickets sales has increased, and each show's attendance has grown by leaps and bounds,” Jones added.


 Herb has a love for live theater, but when he retired here in Ojai in 2006 he knew next to nothing about how the magic happens from the printed word to a fully develop story worthy of a paid audience. He started out by volunteering on small matters and is now a reelected president of the Ojai ACT board.


“He is the face people expect to see and talk to when they come to our theater,” Jones said, noting he personally returns all calls and makes patrons feel at home.


His deft hand has also co-produced, with his partner Edmund Andreas, a number of fundraisers for the Art Center, notably presenting Lorna Luft, Roslyn Kind, Sam Harris, Sharon McNight, Valarie Pettiford, and Mitzi Gaynor on the main stage and Gale McNeeley in the gallery.