Deep Roots for Arts

Paul Pierce to celebrate 25 years of Springer work, Dusty Wellborn gets star

sokamoto@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 1, 2012 

When the 2012-13 Springer Opera House season begins in September, Paul Pierce will have spent 25 years of his life here in Columbus.

We’re very lucky here. We have three executive directors of arts organizations that have been here 20 years or longer.

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s conductor and music director, George Del Gobbo, is celebrating his 25th year right now.

Columbus Museum director Tom Butler is in his 20th year.

This is great because the national average for is seven to 10 years. Our guys are staying double that.

I think it’s because they establish roots here.

Last Thursday, Paul made the season announcement. He calls it the year of the musical, and it’s his effort to keep building the audience at the Springer.

But there was one other announcement Thursday.

It was the Springer Celebrity Award. The recipient gets a star in the sidewalk in front of the Springer, paired with someone who had appeared on the Springer stage.

It went to my friend Dusty Wellborn.

Dusty, Paul said, keeps the message of the Springer alive in so many ways.

She’s been a member of the board and is now a trustee. She’s put together special events. She’s been a docent and she’s taught in the Springer Theater Academy. She’s been director of development. And she’s been on the stage.

I first met her when we were board members of the Anne Elizabeth Sheppard Home. Then we were both cast in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” in 1991.

Every time we see each other, we promise to have lunch together. We just talk about it.

But last week, we actually set a time to do that. And what fun we had.

“What do I say, when I’m overwhelmed,” Dusty said. “You don’t get a star when you’re in your prime.”

She chose Lillie Langtry as the star she wants represented with her. Langtry appeared at the Springer more than 100 years ago.

One reason she chose Langtry is her oldest son, Marshall, shares Langtry’s birthday (Oct. 13).

“She was a very independent woman,” Dusty said. “She was always reinventing herself.”

Paul wasn’t surprised Dust chose Langtry.

“Lillie Langtry was a renegade, and so is Dusty,” he said.

Renegade might not be the word Dusty would chose, she said, but it might fit.

“I love her quote,” Dusty said. “She said, ‘I hate to have my life disrupted by routine.’ So do I.”

And that’s why she travels so often with her husband, Sam, a retired CB&T president, she said.

“It’s big,” she said of the award. Three others have a star in the sidewalk -- Janice Biggers, Clason Kyle and Dot McClure. The three were part of the group that helped save the Springer from the wrecking ball in the early 1960s.

“I was just put in that company,” Dusty said. “It’s pretty overwhelming. People will be stepping on it to get inside the theater. I feel like Shakespeare entombed.”

During the ceremony, Dusty said when Paul first called her, she thought it was a joke and hung up on him. Now, she said it’s written in stone and they can’t take it back.

For tickets to the year of the musical, call 706-327-3688.

Sandra Okamoto, or 706-571-8580.

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