“You have to do it or your soul dies,” says Sharon Ohrenstein,  in her daughter’s—award-winning Sarasota film-maker Kathryn Parks—new documentary The Fabulous Ohs, the Marriage and the Music. The documentary chronicles the marriage and career of her parents, Sharon and David Ohrenstein—a sometimes unsteady, but doubtlessly magical life spent chasing a career in the performing arts. Throughout Parks’ childhood, the Ohrenstein family lived frugally, often without health insurance for Sharon or David. Steady gigs necessitated travel—school years in Sarasota were cut short to make room for summer’s spent playing in Upstate New York. “We tried to make the most amount of money with the least amount of time spent outside of the house,” says Sharon. The Ohrensteins met in Sarasota, where David was working as a part-time composer and concert pianist and Sharon as an actress and singer. A whirlwind romance led to a marriage in which both initially played their own separate shows—until a one-off concert performed in tandem, with Sharon on the microphone and David on the piano, was their most successful gig yet. That inspired a career as a traveling act, performing numbers from Broadway and historical musicals, carving out a career in the arts. The pair spent nearly two decades performing, eventually being dubbed “The Fabulous Ohs” by an agent in Toronto, before transitioning to writing and composing musicals and operas—a long-time dream of Sharon’s.

“It definitely sculpted me into who I am today—I’m a singer, an actor and a writer,” says Parks of her upbringing. “It’s made me really commit to a life in the arts, but at the same time I’ve taken a little bit of a different path. I’ve always worked full-time as well.” The inspiration to tell her parents’ story struck Parks after viewing a similarly focused short film composed of old home videos at the Dunedin Film Festival. While Parks didn’t have dozens of home videos of her parents to sift through, she had something much better: a treasure trove of old VHS tapes of her parents concerts, gigs and original performances. “The process of watching them through the years brought me so much joy. Going back and seeing it now, I just have so much more respect for their level of professionalism and joy they had in creating their work. I have so much pride with what they’ve done. It was like falling in love with them all over again,” says Parks.

The documentary intertwines excerpts of the archived tapes with footage of Parks’ own interviews that she shot with her parents. Directed, edited and produced by Parks, the project — by far the largest yet of her career — took around nine months to complete. “In going through footage of our interviews, I needed to watch them 2-3 times before it really connected. I was trying so many different things and nothing really worked—it was a lot of trial and error,” admits Parks.

Her efforts will make their world premiere at the 2022 Sarasota Film Festival this April. In telling the inspiring story of her parents’ careers and the gifts they gave to her—a passion to chase what feeds her soul —Parks’ efforts will not be for naught. 

“The Fabulous Ohs” speaks to the resiliency and willpower Sharon and David had to make a decision to chase their dreams and never squelch their creative spirit. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed throughout the vibrant artist communities in cities like Sarasota, far away from the art meccas of New York and Los Angeles. “I wanted people, regardless of their age, to see that they can accomplish anything they want to,” says Parks. “My parents are getting older, yet they still have these dreams and I wanted to give them that pedestal. Anyone as an artist can take away that message.”