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Holly Theatre picks two former board members as interim directors

POSTED: June 4, 2009 12:01 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Holly Theatre camp counselor Kacey Willis, 16, talks with camper Emilie Green, 6, Wednesday during the Mini Music Man camp in Dahlonega.

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DAHLONEGA — Just five months after taking the executive director position at Dahlonega’s Holly Theatre, Jay Constantz has turned in his resignation.

His reasons are personal — he told the Holly’s board of directors late last month he needed to relocate near family in Maryland. But his departure leaves the nonprofit, community-based theater navigating recession-infested waters without an official captain.

Taking the helm in the interim are David Rothel, a past board member who is now directing the new musical production at the theater, "The Music Man," and Michael Arens, another former board member who has also been a benefactor to the theater and performed in several productions, too.

The two have volunteered their services, Rothel said, during the process of finding a new executive director.

"One of the features of a community theater is the fact that it is just that — it’s a theater for our community. And to the greatest degree possible, you want it to function with volunteers rather than paid staff," he said. "With that spirit in mind, Michael and I have agreed to serve in this interim period at no salary."

Constantz contacted Rothel and Arens personally, Rothel said, asking if they could serve in the interim director position while the board began the process of finding a new director. The duties of the theater’s executive director include setting the season’s calendar and working out licensing agreements, among other behind-the-scenes logistics.

"We seemed to be the closest people at hand, and both have had a considerable amount of theater experience," he said "Therefore we were called upon and said we would serve until a new executive director can be secured."

At this point, the Holly is in the planning stages of its next season, which begins in the fall. The next major event is the annual gala fundraiser Aug. 15, when it will be celebrating its 10th year.

Arens said they two will now focus on bringing the Holly "back to basics." That is, adding programming that is more accessible to a wider audience, and generally better reflects the needs of the community.

"I’m looking at getting the Holly back to basics, which means back to what it’s supposed to be for the community, a place for the community to have a place for music, movies, concerts, at a reasonable price," Arens said. "My job is basically sort of a manager of the ‘health operations,’ managing the clean-up and organization of the physical building."

Rothel is good at focusing on the artistic side, Arens said while he enjoys coordinating volunteers and cleaning up the space. There will probably be some changes — possibly with programming — to be announced soon. The Holly staff is still working on the details of the next year’s schedule.

Attendance at recent performances, which range from dramatic productions to concerts to movie screenings, has been consistent, Rothel said. But he emphasized the importance of volunteers, especially during a turbulent time such as this.

"Always in a community theater, we’re looking for volunteers. Maybe people to perform on stage, but maybe to search for props or help build sets," he said. "One of the features of a community theater is the fact that it is just that — it’s a theater for our community."

On Wednesday, kids gathered for an afternoon of painting during the Mini Music Man Camp. Counselor Kristin LaCount, 16, said she isn’t paid much for leading the camp sessions, but it’s all part of helping out at the Holly.

"It’s such a good theater," she said, rattling off about a half dozen performances she’s been in recently. "I know everyone and they’re so nice."



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