For the past eight years, Paul Savas, executive director and artistic director of the Warehouse Theatre, has brought his passion for presenting top-quality theatrical performances to this city. Although arts funding in the state continues to be in flux, he’s proving there’s a vibrant, entrepreneurial spirit alive and on stage in Greenville. We asked him why theater is important to a community and what’s ahead for the Warehouse.
Have you always been interested in the theater?
It’s always been part of my life for as long as I can remember. In the eighth grade, I attended school in Kuala Lumpur and produced a show to raise money for the school. Running a non-profit theater has always been my dream.
Talk about the theater community’s growth in Greenville.
Four theaters in a town of this size is remarkable. My goal is actually to make fewer and fewer talented theater people leave. We aim to increase the opportunities for theatrical artists to live in Greenville. We want to expand our touring program. We want to expose more young audiences to Shakespeare, and with the National Endowment for the Arts and BMW grants we’ve received, we are increasing our reach of going into schools and performing arts centers around South Carolina.
What do you hope to bring to the Warehouse in the future?
I’m trying to build a theater “industry” here. With our programs, we are building a way for actors to really make a living here. I’ve been meeting with state legislators to get them thinking about theater as an “economic engine.” I’m asking for help in building public-private partnerships. We manufacture cars and tires here; we should manufacture theater, too.
What is the level of acting talent in this town?
The level is super high and is getting better. We are dedicated to using local talent. We want to make the opportunities greater by paying legitimate salaries, and we feel with our diverse approach to education, teaching, and performing, we can create a total system that allows people to become working actors here.
Why is theater important to a community?
For over 2,500 years, people have been attending theater. It brings communities together. It gives people the chance to think about what it means to be a human being, to escape reality or confront reality, sometimes at the same time.
What would you say to encourage people who don’t go to the theater?
If you like good storytelling, thinking about big ideas, or being entertained, all at the same time, there’s nothing like the Warehouse. For whatever reason you are not coming to the theater, I’ve got something that will definitely dazzle you.
What is the average ticket price at the Warehouse?
We are the smallest house in town. Our average ticket price is $30, so even if we sell out every show, it actually does not cover the cost of the production. We offer military discounts and also “pay what you can” matinees. The musicals are $35.
How do you choose a play?
I read constantly and speak to people; unfortunately, I’m too busy to go out of town to see plays. We always want a diverse range of choices: an American classic, a musical, an edgy offering, a comedy. But they all must have literary merit.
Which plays have had the biggest response?
The single most successful one was The Rocky Horror Show, which is coming back for 2015–2016. Also Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfand Macbeth. Our audiences really desire challenging material.