Georgia Repertory Theatre donates free programming for Columbus schools

A Georgia Repertory Theatre program will enable each of the 29 Title I schools in Muscogee County to receive free theatre programming this year.

The Title 1 School Project will provide free admission to performances, teacher’s guides and the cost of transportation.

The Georgia Repertory Theatre is a new professional theater combining the efforts of the Springer Opera House and the Columbus State University Department of Theatre. The creation of the Georgia Repertory Theatre was approved earlier this year by The Georgia Board of Regents.

Paul Pierce, producing artistic director for the Springer Opera House, said he is elated about the Title I School Project.

“It is one very important element of something we are building here that is going to be very big,” he said.

Pierce pointed out that the Georgia Repertory Theatre will be unlike anywhere else in the country.

“We are essentially building a new kind of theater model,” he said. “We don’t know of anything else like it. The mission of it is to be America’s professional teaching theater. We are a professional theater company, but we are assuming the mission of workforce development.”

At the Muscogee County School Board meeting on Monday, Pierce and Larry Dooley, chairman of Columbus State’s Theatre Department, explained the Georgia Repertory Theatre concept and announced the Title 1 School Project.

Dooley said he is proud to be a part of the project and believes in its success.

“Besides our mission to make major economic, workforce and educational impacts in Columbus with the Georgia Repertory Theatre, we feel like it is important to provide an enduring service for at-risk students in the Title I schools,” he said.

Pierce confirmed later that the goal is for the GRT to provide this service from now on, and he explained why the Georgia Repertory Theatre decided to begin this initiative this fall.

“We have a pretty robust arts and education program, but schools and their PTA programs have to pay something to have access to it,” he said. “We realized after talking to the superintendent that we haven’t been serving the Title 1 schools to the extent that we wanted to be. So we made the decision to just make it happen.”

The Title 1 School Project is just one piece of a bigger picture. The Georgia Repertory Theatre is working on a four-part series of initiatives for Columbus, including development the film industry, bringing top professionals and celebrities to Columbus to educated and engage CSU and Springer students, a new effort with the CVB to create a summer theatre festival to increase tourism this summer and a progressive move toward intelligent lighting in all of the performance spaces used.

Pierce was eager to share that these programs are being funded by a series of donors who have been nothing but enthusiastic.

“We’ve launched a $10 million capital campaign to fund all of these programs,” he said. “We have already begun raising money and donors have been so excited that some have asked us, ‘Do we have to wait to start until the entire amount is raised, or can we start some of these things immediately?’ We decided to focus on beginning now with the Title 1 schools. We already have the money in hand. They’ve asked us to start serving these students immediately.”