The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Focus on the Arts

July 29, 2012

'It has brought a lot to the community'

Being executive director of Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center involves more than introducing performers from the stage before a show.

Duties are many and varied and haven’t changed much since the arts center opened on the Pitt-Johnstown campus in 1991.

The arts center is owned and operated by Pitt-Johnstown, and the executive director is an employee of the university.

There have been two executive directors in the center’s 21-year history.

Patricia Carnevali came on board before the center was built, and Michael Bodolosky took over in 2006.

When Carnevali, a native of Rochester, N.Y., came to Johnstown in 1990, she worked with university president Frank Blackington and Frank Pasquerilla, whose monetary gift made the center possible, to make their joint vision come true.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to come here to create and build something from the ground up,” Carnevali said.

“It has brought a lot to the community. You wonder how we survived without it.”

Carnevali received a bachelor’s degree in drama/literature from Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., and a master’s degree in arts administration from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

Before joining the Pitt-Johnstown staff, she was assistant company manager of the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass.

“With the programming, I presented possibilities and recommendations and worked within a budget for the university calendar year,” Carnevali said.

“I brought dance, theater, classical, jazz and children’s programming, which has been carried on through Mike (Bodolosky). The programming fills a need in the community.”

In addition to planning programming and marketing responsibilities, Carnevali was in charge of the center’s internal system, even purchasing furniture and equipment.

“We were under institutional advancement at the time,” Carnevali said. “Now, it’s under auxiliary services. This is a university-based arts center, so it has a dual purpose.”

From the beginning, the arts center has had willing tenants.

Perfect fits

Johnstown Concert Ballet and Johnstown Symphony Orchestra took up residence for their performances, and when River City Brass Band was looking for a regional home, the arts center was a perfect fit.

The UPJ dance ensemble came into being because there was space to practice and perform, and the university’s theater department found a new home.

Musicals could be performed on the larger presidium stage in the main auditorium, and a smaller black-box theater provided a more intimate setting.

“Rodney Eatman enjoyed the two theaters,” Carnevali said.

“On the presidium stage, the nearest audience members are 25 feet away, and in the black box, they’re 6 feet away.”

Previous location

Carnevali said before the arts center was built, the theater was in the basement of the student union building, with the game room on the other side.

The corridor inside the front doors was meant for art gallery space, and in 1993, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Johnstown took up residence.

“Every day was different,” Carnevali said.

‘Part of the fun’

“That was one of the beauties of it. I would deal with students, artists and road shows. It was all part of the fun.”

As the arts center developed, there were three full-time employees, including Carnevali, students to help in the box office and as technicians and volunteers to serve as ushers.

Before Carnevali left her post at the arts center in 2005, she had the 2005-2006 season set up.

While at Pasquerilla, the one item on Carnevali’s wish list that didn’t get fulfilled was bringing a production of the Broadway musical “Cats” to the area.

Bodolosky was able to make that wish come true in March.

“There are touring companies now, but then a production wanted to stay for multiple days, and we couldn’t afford it,” Carnevali said.

“With Johnstown’s location not far from Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and New York, we’re in a beautiful spot for tours.”

In 2010, she became associate vice president of external relations and events at Johnstown Area Heritage Association.

The hefty title means Carnevali handles operations and events such as the opening of Peoples Natural Gas Park, the annual heritage dinner and behind the scenes at AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival.

“For the music fest, I keep it all on the right track,” Carnevali said.

“I handle contracts and coordinate departments, site logistics and the pubs. It’s not much different from the arts center. This is more concentrated into one weekend instead of nine months for the season.”

Double duty

Bodolosky didn’t retire as band director at Richland Senior High School until 2007, so when he came to the arts center in 2006, he was pulling double duty.

“I was at the twilight end of my career at Richland,” he said.

“The new high school was being built, and I had a lot of input into handcrafting the new theater.”

With retirement coming in two years, Bodolosky considered whether he wanted to pack up to move to the new high school, then pack up again when he retired.

“The position was open, and I felt the time was right,” Bodolosky said.

“I wasn’t going to apply, then I thought about it some more and talked to some people. I got the job, and it’s perfect. It filled the gap.”

He began his new position as executive director by operating the season Carnevali had prepared and getting the lay of the land.

“Patty did an excellent job,” Bodolosky said.

“I moved away from the classical because we have JSO and the Chamber Music Series.”

A second guess

At first, Bodolosky wondered if he had done the right thing in taking this new position.

“You have to be able to read the audience,” he said.

“Each year, the audience demographic changes. Shows that you think will be OK are blockbusters, and shows you think will be blockbusters are just OK here.”

His take on arts and entertainment in the Johnstown market in dealing with the arts center is difficult to have arts without entertainment.

“In larger markets like Pittsburgh, D.C. or Baltimore, they have more arts. In this area, Bottle Works and Arts Works do a good job. They’re unique in the area,” Bodolosky said.

Surveys say the audience at Pasquerilla loves Broadway.

“I’ve done more Broadway in the past three years than when I first started,” Bodolosky said.

“I’d like to jump to the next tier of shows, but I’m limited by the size of the house. Some shows are beyond my reach financially.”

The auditorium at the arts center seats 1,000, and Bodolosky said he can usually fill 80 percent of the seats.

Some of the shows Bodolosky is striving for include productions of “Young Frankenstein” and “Spamalot.”

He agrees with Carnevali that    Johnstown is in a sweet spot for touring companies.

“Johnstown is the crossroads, right in the middle from east to west and north to south,” Bodolosky said.

“That’s why I sometimes get shows midweek. Monday through Wednesday I don’t have to pay a weekend fee.”

Bodolosky said show prices at Pasquerilla are 15 to 20 percent lower than shows in Pittsburgh.

“There are no parking fees here, the price of a meal isn’t outrageous and you don’t have to pay for gas to travel,” he added.

“I partner with other performing arts centers to get a block booking.”

New shows

To scout new shows, Bodolosky attends two conferences a year with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, meeting new artists and agents and viewing showcases of full or partial performances.

Bodolosky also meets with Pennsylvania Presenters twice a year, finding out what companies are good to work with and what productions are good.

“I look at similar markets, the trends, what sold, what was liked,” he said.

“It bothers me when people say there’s nothing to do in Johnstown. You need art and education in any community, and the arts center is fulfilling its mission for this community.”

Bodolosky also receives numerous emails, sometimes as many as 150 a day.

He goes through them all, hoping to find a new artist or marketing person, and wishes he had more staff to talk about ideas.

The staff at the arts center continues at three, with Bodolosky, a box office and business manager and a technical director.

Beverly Walerysiak, who has worked for the arts center from its beginning, recently retired as box office and business manager.

‘A great friend’

“I lost a great friend and colleague, plus a lot of history and knowledge,” Bodolosky said.

Kimberly Lang has taken over that position.

Tom Brubaker is technical director, in charge of all physical aspects of the building.

“He does show production, lights, sound, everything backstage,” Bodolosky said.

“He also deals with all the details of technical riders.”

There also are student employees and about 40 active volunteers.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Bodolosky said.

As executive director, Bodolosky is in charge of all artistic developments.

He also oversees finances, works on audience development, oversees marketing, is in charge of educational development and programs and works with grant writing. All other operations ultimately come to him.

“It can be challenging and difficult,” Bodolosky said.

Bodolosky taught concert band and a history of jazz class at Pitt-Johnstown since 1993, and has served as conductor for the university’s musicals.

What he misses most about teaching at Richland is his students.

“This is totally different than being a teacher, but the people skills are similar,” Bodolosky said. “I’ve changed responsibilities, and it’s very refreshing. I have a new lease on life. I’m having fun and feel younger.”

 

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