Arts and Entertainment

Per Sherwin takes center stage at BPA

Per Sherwin flashes a smile outside the Playhouse, where Sherwin assumed the duties of BPA’s director of operations June 17.  - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Per Sherwin flashes a smile outside the Playhouse, where Sherwin assumed the duties of BPA’s director of operations June 17.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Per Sherwin, who wore a black

Stetson as villain Lank Hawkins in the recent Bainbridge Performing Arts production of “Crazy for You,” has donned a new hat for the theater company.

Sherwin has been named BPA’s director of operations and development, replacing Joanne Ellis, who resigned as managing director in May.

The board confirmed Sherwin for the full-time paid position unanimously on June 11 and Sherwin formally assumed his new role on June 17.

“I’ve been there every day,” Sherwin said. “I want to get a good overview; there’s a lot to learn, a lot of people to meet.”

Sherwin is already well-acquainted with BPA’s staff, however: it was the theater’s employees, led by lighting designer Mark Sell, who brought the notion to hire Sherwin to the board.

“This whole process is from Mark listening to the community and having an ‘open ear,’” Sherwin said. “We’ve always had a pretty good relationship. And then, all of a sudden, it was kind of a mutual ‘Aha,’ a mutual realization. Then we talked about my ideas for the company and it just seemed to gather a lot of energy and ricochet upwards.”

Board president Dick Daniel emphasizes that the grass-roots support for Sherwin made him a particularly attractive candidate.

“We are very pleased to be able to get a person who has been advanced by the staff and has that synergy already established,” Daniel said. “It should bode well for the quickness with which we can get move in our new strategic direction.”

Sherwin had already been doing unofficial marketing to promote BPA.

When Sherwin decided he wanted “Crazy for You” to sell out, he painted a sign and hung it across Winslow Way. He also harnessed email in a new ways, scanning the show’s poster and distributing it electronically.

“It seemed more cost-effective than a mailing,” Sherwin said.

Sherwin’s background in both theater and music dovetails with BPA’s expanded mission to bring more of both to the theater.

As director of operations, Sherwin will be responsible for the nuts-and-bolts of the office system and for tracking and managing the organization’s funds.

On the development side, Sherwin says he will focus on “branding” BPA, finding grants, fund-raising and “letting people know how many different avenues there are for getting involved with BPA as a volunteer.”

“There’s a huge workload of 50-plus hours a week for the first six months, to start,” Sherwin admits, but says he can cope with the task: “I can do it; I have a lot of energy. I used to commute.”

A fan of community

theater, Sherwin views his new job at BPA as a chance to re-enter the field he considered as a young person and to put energy into the community in which he grew up.

Raised on Bainbridge, he can remember BPA’s “Oklahoma” done in a circus tent and the early days in the Storefront Theater (where RiteAid stands today).

“I played ‘Tiny Tim’ when I was still a tenor, before my voice changed,” he said.

In college, Sherwin considered studying at the University of California at Los Angeles drama school of theater management, but dropped the idea.

“I never wanted to be an actor and have that life,” Sherwin said.

He spent two years at University of California at Santa Barbara and finished at University of Washington, majoring in communications and working as director of operations for several companies.

Sherwin says he will collaborate with the existing staff, board members, and volunteers, an approach that emphasizes team-building rather than hierarchy.

“Everyone there has a mutual passion to celebrate the arts,” he said.

It’s a passion Sherwin shares.

“It’s coming home in more than one way, for me,” Sherwin said. “I want to see BPA become a celebration of the whole community – a place of ‘wonderful surplus.’”

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