Park Theatre hires CEO

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Last modified: Monday, February 15, 2016
The Park Theatre hit another milestone Monday with the hire of its first employee. Stevens Pell Jackson Jr., of Jaffrey, joins theater as CEO managing director. Board Chair Caroline Hollister said the next big marker, opening night, is 18 months away.

It was 10 years ago Monday that the then-nascent nonprofit purchased the historic theater on Main Street, with the vision to bring the entertainment venue that got it’s start in 1922 back to life — it had been closed since 1976. The old Park Theatre was torn down in December 2013 when Board trustees made the hard decision that building from the ground up is the way to go.

Jackson was enthusiastic in an interview Monday about what a new theater can do for the town, region and state; he was also reverent of the theater’s past.

“It can raise the reputation of the arts in the area,” he said, and revitalize the downtown, which will have a ripple effect. “It’s really continuing what was begun in 1922. ... [Romolo Vanni] had a vision that the area needed entertainment.”

Jackson’s background

Jackson may be new to his post, but he’s been behind the Park Theatre cause since 2013, assisting trustees in branding the theater and giving advice about the design.

Jackson comes to the theater after a career in advertising and marketing. He also founded a performing arts and film center in Cape May, New Jersey. Most recently, he was director of marketing for the Peterborough Players.

Jackson founded the Beach Theatre Foundation in 2007 to help save the historic theater in Cape May, New Jersey. He managed the fundraising development and operation of the theater. Through his efforts, Bruce Springsteen signed on to contribute to the theater’s fundraising by allowing Springsteen’s epic Live in Barcelona concert film to be presented multiple times with 100 percent of ticket sales going to the foundation.

For more than 20 years, Jackson managed the Anheuser-Busch account at DDB, one of the largest award-winning advertising agencies in the world. His team’s advertising campaigns for Budweiser and Bud Light won every major industry award, including Cannes Gold Lions, Effies, Clios and Emmys. The “Whassup!?” and “Spuds MacKenzie” campaigns have become cultural icons. His team’s work was showcased most notably at every Super Bowl Sunday and consistently won USA Today’s “Super Bowl AdMeter.”

Since 2010, Jackson has operated his own marketing consultancy firm, Pell Partners. Clients have included nonprofits, entertainment properties and Peterborough-based PeoplesVC.

Jackson also served on the Government Relations Committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Marketing Council of one of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Williams College.

The vision and financial plan

Plans for the new theater include two auditoriums seating 475 people for independent, classical and educational movies, live theater — including children’s productions — concerts lectures, meetings and community gatherings for the Monadnock region. Groundbreaking is set for May 2016.

Accessibility for the community and affordable ticket prices is a top priority, said Hollister. Fundraising and grants will continue to be part of the funding formula to help keep the cost of admission affordable as much possible, she said.

“We’re going to bring arts and culture in to elevate our communities and inspire our young people,” she said.

The opening of the theater will provide a large enough venue for the community gather for all sorts of events, including political campaign stops, Hollister said. “It’s meant for the people of our community,” she said, referencing all of the towns in the region.

The design also has performers in mind, with state-of-the-art facilities that allow all kinds of shows to take place, from local student productions to top-billed performances, Hollister noted.

Jackson said volunteers will continue to be important to the running of the nonprofit.