It’s been 30 years since Paul Pierce first stepped into the Springer Opera House, and it’s no secret that during that time his career has seen it all: growth, trials, controversy and triumph.
Now, his colleagues are honoring him at the annual State Theatre Gala hosted by the Springer Opera House this month.
In his earliest days at the Springer, Pierce was no stranger to controversy. According to those at the Springer, his first acts at the theater included orchestrating a complete restructuring of the organization, condensing an awkward collection of seven boards with different missions into a single governing body. It was not an easy task, with a number of volunteers and board members speaking out against the changes first instituted by Pierce.
Pierce is credited across the community for having an ambitious commitment to grow the Springer into its potential, regardless of the hurdles he has met along the way. He has worked to upgrade Springer production quality, expand programming and open up auditions nationwide to professional actors whenever strong choices were not available locally.
In a recent press release, the Springer’s board reminisced about Pierce’s earliest days at the theater: “On the night of his first season audition in 1990, a raucous crowd of local actors set up a picket line outside the theatre, chanting and carrying signs,” the release said. “The police arrived to provide security for actors attempting to cross the picket line and enter the auditions. A rain storm set in and tensions rose. Characteristically, however, once the auditions were over, Pierce invited the rain-soaked protestors inside for barbecue.”
Board chairman Newton Aaron points to Pierce’s many successes. “In 1998, the Springer conducted a comprehensive $12 million renovation and historic preservation project that prepared the theatre for another hundred years of service,” Aaron is quoted in the release. “I was fortunate to be project manager on that renovation.”
Aaron continued: “In addition to the renovation, add to the list Pierce’s founding of the Springer Theatre Academy, the creation of a national touring company, the construction of the Dorothy McClure Theatre and education center and, most recently, the advent of the new Georgia Repertory Theatre partnership with CSU and you begin to see the full scope of Paul’s leadership and vision.”
It is for all of these reasons Pierce has been chosen as the honored guest at this year’s State Theatre Gala. The annual gala is a fundraiser for the Springer and celebrates the theater’s history and sustained success.
Pierce will be honored by his colleagues at the gala on Jan. 13. The event will be hosted at the Springer and will feature a live performance by Hollywood character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, known for his role as Ned Ryerson in “Groundhog Day,” which starred Bill Murray. Tobolowsky has appeared in over 250 movies and TV shows.
Prior to coming to work at the Springer in 1988, Pierce was managing director of Virginia’s Wayside Theatre in the Shenandoah Valley, producing artistic director of the Harbor Playhouse in Corpus Christi, Texas, and associate artistic director of the Repertory Theatre of America.
For more information on the State Theatre Gala or to secure tickets to the event, visit www.springeroperahouse.org or call 706-327-3688.
If You Go:
What: State Theatre Gala Honoring Paul Pierce
When: Jan. 13
Where: Springer Opera House