By GUY D’ASTOLFO
As part of its ongoing restructuring to meet the financial challenges that threaten all community theaters, the Youngstown Playhouse board of directors has hired a marketing consultant and appointed an interim director of operations.
Pat Foltz, a marketing-public relations expert with a strong background in theater management, will help the Playhouse develop fundraising strategies and build community partnerships, said Tom DeToro, board president.
Bernie Appugliese, who was the director of the Playhouse’s Youth Theater, has been named interim operations director.
Both actions were taken by the board Monday night.
Appugliese will take over day-to-day control of the theater, including promoting the current season and hall rentals. The position came open last month when the board released Mary Ruth Lynn, the former executive director.
DeToro said the two new hires will help position the Playhouse for a strong future, while allowing for a seamless mid-season transition.
The restructuring dovetails into the theater’s upcoming 90th anniversary season celebration, which begins in the fall.
“The Youngstown Playhouse has always been a leader in community theater, and we feel this restructuring process will provide the necessary direction to continue,” said DeToro in a statement.
The board felt fortunate to find someone with Foltz’ background.
“We were pretty impressed,” said DeToro. “She has a Ph.D. in theater and has been doing consulting work with major corporations.”
Foltz also had been the managing director of a theater in Columbus.
“She will revamp our thinking on how to market ourselves and in public relations,” said DeToro.
Her contract is open-ended and not full-time. “She travels a lot [for her job] but we will use her when she is in town,” said DeToro. “We didn’t define how long we will retain her, but will keep her as long as we can.”
Foltz is married to Matthew Mazuroski, professor of theater at Youngstown State University.
“I have been involved in community theater since 1968,” she told The Vindicator. “Knowing nothing, but possessing a lot of energy, I started my first community theater in the Philippine Islands on a naval base in 1969. It’s been a passion of mine ever since. I’ve lived all over the U.S. and always found that when I moved to a new place, finding a community theater was as important as unpacking my belongings.
“I am thrilled to be able to do all that I can to help nurture and support this community of amazing talents,” she continued. “The Youngstown Playhouse is a jewel and I am so excited about helping in any way I can to move forward with this rich tradition.”
Appugliese has been involved with the Playhouse in a managerial capacity for the past few years. In addition to his duties with the Youth Theater, he also directs musicals and has organized a play writing festival.
A Mahoning Valley native, Appugliese worked in professional theater as a playwright, director and actor in Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh before returning to the area.
DeToro said the operations manager is an interim position for now, as the theater continues its transitional phase. “We’re not entirely sure if the job responsibilities today will be the same six months from now,” he said.
“We’re trying to revamp ourselves and we have to come up with new processes to implement changes. The position will morph over time and at some point we will know the job description. At that point, if [Appugliese] remains on board and performs well and is still interested, he would be a good fit.”
Five candidates were interviewed for the post, said DeToro.
Appugliese said he is honored the Playhouse selected him to help. “I owe the Playhouse more than it can ever owe me,” he said. “What I succeeded in doing outside of Youngstown would not have happened were it not for my training and mentoring at the Playhouse.”
Appugliese first appeared on stage at the Playhouse 40 years ago, when he was 9.
“The board’s new approach will reignite us,” said Appugliese. “Sometimes we need some negative criticism to step up our game.”
DeToro has been on the board of directors since 2011 and took over as president last summer. An Austintown native and graduate of Youngstown State University, he is a financial advisor with Huntington Bank, and has long had a passion for the arts.