Greenville Business Magazine August 2010 : Page 52

Glenda Manwaring takes Centre Stage

Neil Shurley

The end product may be a lot more fun, but on a nuts and bolts level, running a theatre is much like any other business. And like any other business, making the transition to new management can be both exciting and challenging.<br /> <br /> When Glenda Manwaring stepped into her new role as Executive/Artistic Director of Centre Stage in May, she came in on the heels of an artistically and financially successful theatre season. But the economic downturn has seen grants to non-profits shrink and corporate sponsorships become more elusive. Yet this changing landscape also provides new opportunities for more creative problem-solving.<br /> <br /> “We’re trying to increase our bond with the community,” says Manwaring. While continuing to foster existing partnerships with the Greenville Symphony, the Metropolitan Arts Council, Greenville Tech, the Greenville News, and other corporate partners, Manwaring plans to bolster less traditional avenues of funding and awareness. For instance, Centre Stage works with businesses to plan special events, including private staged play readings. Art exhibits accompany each show in the theatre’s season. And the hosting of symphony events will soon expand to include performances by the new Greenville Light Opera Works.<br /> <br /> “We’ve got some wonderful things in place,” Manwaring says.<br /> <br /> Manwaring succeeds BJ Koonce, who became Centre Stage’s interim Executive Director in March 2004 after founder Douglas McCoy suffered a debilitating stroke. When McCoy passed away the following year, Koonce’s temporary call to service became more permanent. She planned to stay in the job for a transition period, probably no more than a year. She ended up staying for six. She calls it one of the most challenging and rewarding things she’s ever done. She’s also quick to credit a lot of other folks for the theatre’s continued success. “Our volunteers are essential,” she says.<br /> <br /> Koonce, a popular local actress and voiceover artist, also brought a business background to Centre Stage, a background she relied upon to make tough decisions – like hiring a full-time technical director, Guy Perticone. “A lot of non-profits hesitate to take a bold step and bring in what they need to do the job,” she explains. But hiring Perticone, she says, ended up creating a huge cost-savings for the theatre, since he could perform routine maintenance duties as well as construct elaborate sets for virtually no money. Koonce staffed a few other key positions as well, all while trying hard to reduce a sizeable debt in a fast-changing economic climate.<br /> <br /> Over Koonce’s tenure, donations grew, season ticket sales more than doubled, and attendance and revenues increased. “We’ve been very fortunate,” she says.<br /> <br /> Glenda Manwaring’s challenge is to build on this momentum while working to increase corporate and other community sponsors. It’s a challenge Manwaring feels more than ready to tackle.<br /> <br /> “I already have three- and five-year goals in place,” she says. “I’m very excited about the future.”<br /> <br /> Manwaring is a fixture in the local theatre scene, having worked in numerous capacities on stages across the Upstate. Centre Stage’s Development Director, Allen Evans, first met Manwaring when they acted in a show together at Greenville Little Theatre. “She played a meek woman, desperately fearful of confrontation and picked upon by her no-good husband, me,” Evans recalls. “Glenda was quiet in rehearsals and performances, keeping her energies focused on the task at hand. I assumed that she was somewhat the same in real life. Boy, have I learned differently in the past month.”<br /> <br /> Manwaring brings a diverse background to her duties. She’s been, among other things, a business consultant, financial analyst, and church youth program director. “Glenda’s got the right blend of creative and business experience,” says BJ Koonce. Koonce first worked with Manwaring during Centre Stage’s annual New Play Festival and later brought Manwaring in as creative director for the blockbuster show, “Rock and Roll Heaven.” Around that time, Koonce decided to step away from Centre Stage and return to her duties as President of Ferncreek Creative, a marketing communications company. When Centre Stage’s board of directors contacted her, Manwaring felt the opportunity and timing was just right. “It’s almost like all my jobs have led to this,” she says.<br /> <br /> Allen Evans feels energized after only a short time working with Manwaring. “She’s a dynamic business leader who is focused on making this theatre the absolute best it can be,” he says. “She has enough theatre experience and enough business sense to know where to focus her energies – on the obstacles we do have control over.”<br /> <br /> “I’m always planning ahead,” Manwaring says. “I’ve got the seasons worked out for the next two years.” She flashes her infectious smile. “Centre Stage has a great future.” <b>GBM</b>

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