Elizabeth Pearson, a longtime resident and former foundation executive, was hired as development director of the Laguna Playhouse, it was announced this week.
As a former mayor and current City Council member, Pearson has become one of the city’s most effective and influential leaders, while also forging strong relationships throughout Orange County.
Pearson believes her nearly two decades of public service along with her professional marketing, management and communication skills can be redeployed to burnish the Playhouse’s standing locally and regionally.
“I want to work with the board of directors to expand Playhouse membership and add another support group to its existing ones,” she said.
Hurt by the recession, the nearly century old Playhouse has retrenched its programming in recent seasons, liquidating real estate holdings and opening its stage to arts presenters hungry for a venue. Pearson’s hiring also represents the third new addition to the playhouse’s management team in recent months.
Last fall, Pearson founded the Players Club, an annual membership and support group designed to bring South County theater and arts lovers together and also provide networking opportunities for Laguna residents interested in bolstering the Playhouse. She deployed similar outreach tools as executive director of the now defunct South Coast Medical Center Foundation, where she rebuilt eroded support for a beloved institution.
Pearson envisions expanding Playhouse support groups into south county and beginning a volunteers auxiliary group who may not be able to contribute financially but would like to donate their time as ushers or assist with special events.
Last August, Pearson’s firm ADworx was hired as a Playhouse consultant. She assumed the development post officially Jan. 1. “Initially my prime focus was to engage people into the theater, and the Players Club was a good beginning. Now I am planning to work closely with the board and look at programs that are already in place and expand on them,” she said.
Playhouse board member Joe Hanauer enthuses over Pearson’s talents. “Elizabeth understands fundraising. Her marketing ability will enable her to successfully interface with potential supporters of the Playhouse, and she should be extremely effective since she knows how to communicate with a wide audience,” he said.
“The Laguna Playhouse is at an exciting moment in our evolution,” said Executive Director Karen Wood in a statement. “So it is the perfect moment to have Elizabeth take the leadership role in philanthropy and outreach. With Elizabeth’s partnership with the board of directors and the community we can already feel a positive impact,” wrote Wood via e-mail.
Pearson will remain on the City Council but will not vote on issues pertaining to the theater. The theater, which operates on city owned property, last month received a rent break, lowering its costs to $1 a year from $15,000.
A self-described arts lover, who has also served as a Laguna Art Museum trustee, Pearson said, “I love the arts, it’s one of the reasons why I am here. To support a treasure like the Laguna Playhouse is an ideal fit for me,” she said.