Marc Patterson, the new director of the Marietta High School Performing Arts Center, said he plans to market the theater to a wider audience than just the high school.
“One of the reasons the school brought me on was to have the Performing Arts Center be so much more than an auditorium,” Patterson said. “Our first priority will be to serve the needs of the Marietta city schools, but the other big part is we will also be having a number of outside groups coming in to perform.”
Patterson said he graduated from college with the goal of becoming a teacher. But, after a bad experience as a student teacher, he quickly changed his mind and became a pastor at Grace Bible Church in Lucas, Ohio. After ministering to children and adults at the church for 18 years, Patterson said he moved to be close to his parents and brother, who live in Marietta.
He started at the Strand to delve back into the passion for theater he had developed as a child. Patterson said he learned to play the fife, which is a Revolutionary-era flute, at age 4 and the guitar at 6. Later, he participated in school plays while growing up in Virginia.
“Prior to being a minister, the performing arts were kind of my life,” Patterson said.
Using his experience playing instruments in bands and playing lead roles in musicals such as “Oklahoma,” Patterson said he hopes to show students the value of the arts.
“One of the things that has become very clear to me is that in the classroom a teacher has the opportunity to touch a mind and a heart, but there’s something special about the performing arts that can touch the soul, and I think we all feel that,” Patterson said. “It’s that feeling of being caught up and losing yourself in a story that comes alive on stage. It’s great to see a student come alive like that on stage.”
A bigger audience
His idea for attracting a larger audience could put the 750-seat high school theater in competition with a local stage Patterson is already familiar with. Patterson was most recently the operations director at the Strand before taking on the director role at the high school Aug. 4.
Earl Reece, the recently retired director of the Strand, said he has faith Patterson’s dedication to the community will help Marietta’s theater community grow.
“Our loss at the Strand is definitely their gain. Marc Patterson is one of the finest people I have ever known in my life,” Reece said. “He truly has a great heart and a great spirit. He has a lot of ambition.”
Reece said he sees the potential growth of the 1-year-old Performing Arts Center as friendly competition.
“My philosophy is this: In New York City, when they built the first theater on Broadway, I’m so glad that they didn’t say, ‘Well, we can’t build another theater because we’ve already got one.’ They built another and another, so I just think this makes our entire community a cultural destination,” Reece said.
Patterson said he plans to grow the theater by partnering with theater groups in metro Atlanta and inviting them to perform.
“My job is to develop those relationships,” Patterson said.
The center has already partnered with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, the Georgia Ballet, the Big Chicken Men’s Chorus, the Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theatre and the Atlanta Shakespeare Company to host their performances in Marietta.
“In our partnerships, we’re leaning right now to a classical flavor, but we’re open to anything,” Patterson said.
The Georgia Symphony Orchestra is based out of the high school’s performing arts center, where it has offices and holds regular practices.
Susan Stensland, the executive director of the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, said the partnership allows members of the orchestra to provide special training to students at band practices and classes.
“It’s good for the orchestra and for student musicians and for the community,” Stensland said.
Although he doesn’t teach any classes, Patterson said he has met students already.
“These first couple of weeks, I have looked for opportunities to walk through the halls and meet students and just feed off their energy,” Patterson said.
Marietta High School Principal Leigh Colburn said she is excited to work with Patterson. She said he will continue the vision to expand the theater she always had in mind.
“That’s been a vision behind that center all along,” Colburn said. “We always promised the community that when we asked them to help fund the new center with bond purchases, that we would make it a center for the community, not just for the high school.”
The Marietta school board used $8.5 million of taxpayer dollars to build the Marietta Performing Arts Center, said Randy Weiner, school board chairman. The center took about 9 months to build and opened in August 2013. The board has now paid off the bonds.
Now that the center has been around for a year, Patterson said it’s time to start looking at the big picture.
“We want to be the finest venue for a performing arts education as well as a performing arts experience in Marietta and in Cobb as well,” Patterson said.
Title: Director of Marietta High School Performing Arts Center
Born in: Middleburg, Va.
Education: bachelor’s in English, bachelor’s in urban studies and teaching certification from University of Richmond, master’s in divinity from Ashland Theological Seminary
Family: wife, Kim; two sons, Sam and Ben; two daughters, Elizabeth and Lilly