Ch@t: Theater vet Taphorn outlines plans for new live performance center at Mosaic

Posted 1/17/20

Chatham County has an active and vibrant arts community, but a planned performance arts center in Mosaic in Chatham Park will greatly expand the stage — literally and figuratively — for live …

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Ch@t: Theater vet Taphorn outlines plans for new live performance center at Mosaic

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Chatham County has an active and vibrant arts community, but a planned performance arts center in Mosaic in Chatham Park will greatly expand the stage — literally and figuratively — for live shows. This week, we talk with Peggy Taphorn, who’s in her 12th season as the Producing Artistic Director of Temple Theatre in Sanford. Taphorn has been tabbed to serve as the Artistic Director and to help with design and fundraising for the nonprofit entity that will operate the as-yet-unnamed Mosaic theater.

An award-winning actress, director, and choreographer, Taphorn spent 22 years based in New York City and has six Broadway shows to her credit. Over the years, she’s worked with theatre luminaries like George Abbott, who cast her to star on Broadway in the revival of “Broadway!” Other Broadway shows followed, including the Tony Award winners “Me And My Girl,” directed by Mike Ockrent; “Showboat,” directed by Hal Prince and choreographed by Susan Stroman; “Smokey Joe’s Café,” directed by Jerry Zaks; and “Urinetown,” directed by John Rando. Taphorn was the dance captain of the first National tour of “Little Women — The Musical,” starring Maureen McGovern and directed by Susan Schulman and choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld (who serve as the creative team for “Stardust Road” this season.

Taphorn has also appeared Off-Broadway, on London’s West End, and toured the U.S., Canada, South America, and the Far East, and left the National Tour of “Sweet Charity,” starring Molly Ringwald, in May 2007, to take the helm of Temple Theatre. During her tenure, she has earned many accolades, including the Kevin Kline Awards at Stages St. Louis for Charity in “Sweet Charity” and Lola in “Damn Yankees,” and for her production of Showboat at the MUNY; Drammy and Pamta Awards for “Hairspray,” “The Music Man,” “West Side Story” and “The Addams Family” at The Broadway Rose Theatre in Portland. She was chosen to direct, choreograph and produce “The Music Man” and “Annie” selections with the North Carolina Symphony.

She has been named a North Carolina “Mainstreet Champion” for her work on, and dedication to, the revitalization of downtown Sanford. In 2016 she was honored with The Sanford Herald’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her work at Temple Theatre, where she has produced over 100 shows, providing Broadway-caliber shows to Central North Carolina at a fraction of the cost.

Before we address the plans for the performance arts center in Mosaic in Pittsboro, let’s touch on what’s going on at Temple Theatre in Sanford. Aside from the track record of incredibly-high caliber performances (most of which you’ve produced and/or directed), can you address the impact Temple makes in Lee and surrounding counties, and what it adds to the quality of life there? And how is the business model working for you and your board?

This season Temple Theatre is celebrating 36 years of bringing professional live theatre, quality children’s programs and world class special events to Historic Downtown Sanford since its resurrection as a live theatre venue in the mid 1980s!

Temple Theatre promotes the City of Sanford and Lee County as a cultural destination, last season bringing 40,000 people from 63 different counties as well as Virginia and South Carolina to downtown Sanford. It’s been proven again and again that Temple is good for local businesses. The local restaurants rely greatly on the influx of visitors and residents that eat in their establishments on Temple Theatre show days/nights.

Temple’s patrons spend $30.66 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission in Sanford and Lee County, invaluable revenue for local commerce and the community. Our economic impact to the local economy is over $4 million annually. And, we also pay taxes so we contribute to the county and the state in that manner as well.

Temple Theatre greatly enhances the quality of life and makes Sanford unique. Statistically, counties with higher proportions of workers in arts-related occupations are more likely to retain current residents and attract new ones (according to The Temple Theatre also offers huge incentives for both homebuyers and sellers. Our business model of providing Broadway-caliber entertainment at a fraction of the cost is very successful. We are also firm believers in collaboration.

This season we have already, or will be, collaborating with Hoagy Bix Carmichael on his homage to his father, songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, which brought in Broadway alum Susan Schulman and Michael Lichtefeld as the creative team and a Broadway cast to do a pre-Broadway mounting of the show. In the remainder of the season, we have collaborations with Rhinoleap Productions, based in Asheboro, and with the Sunrise Theatre in Moore County. These collaborations allow us to produce at a higher level while sharing production costs.

Mosaic is a part of Chatham Park, and it’s specifically being promoted as “an entertainment and lifestyle destination.” How did conversations about bringing you on board to help with the 350-seat performing arts theatre (and the black box theatre) come about?

I met with Kirk Bradley and John Fugo, who are developing Mosaic, in the summer of 2017 to discuss the Temple business model, to offer insight into how theatre producing succeeds in this region and to give them a tour of the facilities.

Kirk’s mom is a season ticket holder and his company, Lee-Moore Capital, has been a production sponsor for many years, so we already had a connection. At that time they had a theatrical consultant/producer with whom they were planning the theatre. After our initial meeting, and walk through the Temple’s facilities, we met a few more times to discuss budgeting, and other matters. Soon thereafter they asked me to come on board officially as a consultant. I was thrilled because I would rather be a collaborator than have a competitor in the region and I have learned a lot in my 12 years producing at the Temple that I think will be very helpful.

[Bradley is part-owner of the News + Record.]

At what stage — in terms of development — are those specific parts of Mosaic right now, and what’s the timeline from here?

The capital campaign will kick off shortly as the theater will need funding not only for the physical plant and operating expenses, but also production expenses before we can launch a season. We are hoping to have programming in the outdoor amphitheater, which anchors the village green, in the fall of 2021. The mainstage 350-seat theatre and black box will begin producing in 2023!

Share with us your vision for the performing arts in Chatham County — what do you see unfolding there in the years to come, and how will Chatham County benefit? What will the experience of those theatres be like for those who become a part of the audience?

Our goal with Mosaic is to be a cultural center, collaborating with and enhancing the arts scene that already exists in Pittsboro and Chatham County while at the same time creating new opportunities and experiences! We hope to offer space not only for live theatre but concerts, civic and church meetings, dance classes, acting classes, private voice and piano lessons and whatever else the residents and citizens of Chatham County are interested in learning. I know that Chatham County will reap many rewards by having Mosiac in its midst.

The economic impact will be immediate as ticket sales are taxed and the state and county each get a percentage. The theatre will act as a magnet to get people to come and explore the restaurants, bars and shops before and after the performances. Our audience will be treated to a state-of-the-art theatrical experience beginning when you enter the lobby! There will be ample on-site parking and a safe environment for people of all ages. It will be another place in Pittsboro and Chatham County where everyone is welcome to be themselves and share their talents, as we are an inclusive organization and encourage individuality and self-expression while serving the needs and wants of the community.

One area of major growth for Temple Theatre is its work in creating and growing youth programs. With things like JMArts and Pittsboro’s Youth Theater at Sweet Bee, Chatham County has had a taste of that. What’s your vision for youth programs at Mosaic, and why is that so important to you?

Again, we hope to collaborate, enhance and maybe offer a shared space to existing organizations that are already doing great work. My main passion has always been teaching and giving back to the community that we serve. I want to offer classes and opportunities for young people as well as the young at heart.

Growing up in a small town in Illinois these weren’t available to me as a kid, but as an adult who’s experienced some success in the business, I am ready, willing and able to share ideas, practices and resources to make Pittsboro and Chatham County an even greater arts destination than it already is!

When I started at Temple in 2007, there was one summer camp that served 23 area youth. Our youth programs now serve more than 10,000 kids annually with our combined programs. We enhance arts education and awareness through our summer conservatory programs, year-round Temple Academy classes, main stage student matinees and in school tours. Temple Theatre fills in the gaps that exist between government services, educational opportunities and community needs.

The personal growth kids experience by participating in theatre heartwarming and important in these days where personal connection and the ability to speak in public are becoming things of the past! The statistics prove that young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one full year are:

• 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement

• 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair

• 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance

• 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem

• 4 times more likely to perform community service




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