Springer and CSU Merge Missions in Theatrical “Marriage”


COLUMBUS, Ga. --- After a long courtship, the Springer Opera House and Columbus State University have taken their relationship to the next level by creating a more perfect union called the Georgia Repertory Theatre.

In a Memorandum of Understanding signed in December, the CSU Department of Theatre and the 145-year-old State Theatre of Georgia have merged their missions to create a professional theatre company with a focus on artistic excellence and finding jobs for graduates.

“The Georgia Repertory Theatre offers a dynamic new operating model that we expect to have a national impact on the American theatre industry,” said Paul Pierce, producing artistic director of the Springer Opera House. “We are creating a partnership that provides unsurpassed artistic excellence for audiences, astonishing professional advantages for students and an innovative service program for every child in our public schools.”

The goal of the Georgia Repertory Theatre (GRT) is to be “America’s professional teaching theatre,” featuring the nation’s finest stage talent, teachers and blue chip students  and making Columbus a national hotspot for artistic innovation and training, said Pierce.

The concept is modeled along the lines of teaching hospitals, which allow student physicians to work alongside the world’s top doctors before they graduate. The Georgia Repertory will do the same for theatre with CSU students, making them immediately employable in the theatre and film industries.

“Over the years, Columbus has carefully assembled a theatre infrastructure that is virtually unmatched anywhere in the country,” said CSU President Chris Markwood. “With the advent of this partnership, I hope we will use these programs and these great facilities to further launch Columbus into the national spotlight.”

“Within two blocks, CSU and the Springer collectively own four state-of-the-art theatres, 250,000 square feet of amazing production and education facilities and employ 34 of the nation’s finest theatre practitioners,” explained CSU Department of Theatre Chair Larry Dooley. “Separately, we are better than average operations. Together, we are among the best in the world. It’s time to rally all of these resources together to make history.”

“It’s all about artistic excellence, audience building and workforce development,” said Richard Baxter, dean of the College of the Arts at CSU. “We want to leverage the investments that have already been made at CSU and the Springer to expand enrollment and make CSU the first choice for America’s best theatre students. Columbus has an opportunity to become a prominent voice in shaping America’s rising creative economy. And that’s our overall goal.”

The bonanza for students is that the GRT will provide new opportunities to collect professional resume credits while still in school and receive job placement counseling that will allow them to graduate with jobs waiting for them in theatre and film.

CSU Theatre and the Springer Opera House have been gradually combining parts of its operations for several years.

“CSU students are serving internships with us, working as stage technicians and stage managers and performing in our shows," said Pierce. In addition, CSU theatre professors are working as guest artists and designers and teaching classes in our theatre academy. We are also sharing equipment. Simultaneously, Springer staff have been serving as adjunct faculty and guest lecturers in the department. The Georgia Repertory Theatre enterprise dramatically expands a collaboration that has been building organically for several years.”

“CSU is committed to expanding enrollment,” said Baxter. “When Paul Pierce came to us and asked, ‘What can the Springer do to help CSU increase its capacity?’ I knew it was a game-changing moment. Once we put all of our assets on the same table, we quickly realized we were inventing America’s next great theatre company.”

The Georgia Repertory Theatre’s goals include:

-- Make Columbus ground zero for top-ranked theatre and film training in America
-- Invest in artistic excellence to make GRT a professional theatre with a national profile
-- Recruit first-tier professional guest artists for performing and teaching on all stages
-- Expand enrollment to make CSU the largest and best theatre department in the South
-- Present world premieres of new plays by Georgia playwrights
-- Fund a broad range of scholarships, internships and assistantships
-- Establish formal paths to employment for students in theatre and film
-- Provide subsidized tickets for all students in every school in every district
-- Provide free performances for all Title I schools in the Muscogee County School District
-- Establish a national audience development conference hosted by GRT
-- Create student showcases for agents, producers and directors in Atlanta and New York

“This is not a bricks-and-mortar project,” explained Tom Flournoy, chairman of the Georgia Repertory Theatre’s joint advisory committee. “Columbus’ generous donors have already invested in the finest facilities in America over the past 20 years. Of course, the partnership will require new funding to realize the full scope of this vision, and the community will learn more about that in the future. For the moment, we are going to concentrate on putting these amazing assets to work to transform CSU, the Springer and the theatre industry in the U.S.”

The Georgia Repertory Theatre will feature twin programs working in tandem:

  1. Georgia Repertory Theatre - Springer
    The Spring GRT is a professional theatre with mainstage, studio and children’s theatre, national touring shows and theatre/film training for students K-12. CSU faculty and students will be integrated into all aspects of these professional programs.

  2. Georgia Repertory Theatre - Riverside
    The Riverside GRT is an educational theatre with mainstage, studio and children’s theatre, summer stock, regional touring shows and conservatory education in theatre performance, design, technical skills, arts management and drama education. Springer artists and staff will be integrated into all aspects of these programs.