THE KALAMAZOO CIVIC THEATRE BOARD SELECTS LAURA ZERVIC AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Laura Zervic, a seasoned marketing and advertising attorney, brings proven leadership, business, and relationship skills combined with a lifetime involvement in community theatre and arts.
Kalamazoo, Michigan, June 13, 2021 - The Board of Directors of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre has selected Laura Zervic as its next Executive Director. Zervic, who has practiced marketing and advertising law for more than 20 years, will succeed Interim Executive Director Ben Zylman. Ben has been a cherished volunteer and esteemed staff member of the Civic Theatre for 20 years, and the Board thanks him for his invaluable contributions to the Kalamazoo Civic, especially for coming out of retirement to shepherd the organization through a very challenging period.
"Our selection of Laura Zervic is the outcome of an extensive and deliberate national search process. The search, undertaken with ACG (Arts Consulting Group, Chicago), attracted a diverse group of over 90 candidates from across the country. When Laura's candidacy was advanced, the search committee concluded that she is the right leader to guide the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre into its next century as the premier community theatre in the country, truly embodying the vision of Theatre for All,"" said Sid Ellis, incoming Board Chair and Search Committee Chair.
Laura understands the power of community theatre to change people's lives, both patrons and volunteers, on stage and behind the scenes. Laura brings with her proven abilities in collaboration, process development, risk mitigation, relationship building, and, of course, her passion for community theatre and the arts. In every role, professional and volunteer, she has had an exceptional record of performance, results, ethics and dedication.
Laura joined the Board of Directors of the Civic Theatre in June 2020, at a time when the board was navigating the impact of the pandemic, trying to respond to the justified demand for action around Black Lives Matter and other social justice issues, and managing an internal leadership void. New to the Board, Laura did not hesitate to accept the challenge, volunteering to serve as Acting Executive Director. She literally unlocked the doors that had been closed since mid-March and started putting things in order.
Laura's authenticity, enthusiasm, and determination in finding solutions impressed Civic staff, volunteers, and board members. In addition to handling day-to-day operations, she quickly set about contacting royalty houses, refunding tickets, and applying for much-needed funding. Under Laura s leadership, the Civic put plans in place for the first half of a truncated season, including an outdoor, social-distanced cabaret show, which was presented in October.
During her short time as Acting Executive Director, Laura surpassed the expectations of the Board with her ability to structure and organize the business and financial aspects of the theatre, optimize contracts, oversee the maintenance and safety of all facilities, gain trust from staff, engage with volunteers and funders, prioritize and contingency plan in a time of crisis, and keep her eye on the mission of the theatre and its importance in the lives of so many people in the Kalamazoo community.
Said Zervic, "I am thrilled and honored to be entrusted to lead the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre into its centennial. The Civic is a pillar of our community and means so much to its staff, patrons, volunteers, sponsors, and benefactors. The role of the Civic and the arts in general takes on greater meaning as we look to restore and enrich our lives. I am excited to be part of this reawakening of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre."
About Laura Zervic
Originally from Cincinnati, Laura and her family have lived in the Kalamazoo area since 2005. She and husband Christopher just celebrated their twenty-year wedding anniversary, and they have two children, Charlotte (17) and Cooper (15).
Laura Zervic received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Cincinnati University and her Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Laura focused her career in marketing, advertising and promotions law, and intellectual property for such companies as Chobani, Inc., the Kellogg Company, two prestigious law firms in Chicago, and, most recently, BISSELL Homecare, Inc..
In addition to her work as an attorney, Laura has remained highly engaged with and dedicated to the community and to the arts. She has been honored for everything from "outstanding commitment" to pro bono legal services to "outstanding contribution" to summer youth theater programs. Laura serves as a community leader - from Trustee and Treasurer of the Gull Lake Community Schools Board of Education to President of the Gull Lake Community Schools Fine Arts Foundation, among other public service distinctions.
Laura s love for and involvement in the theatre has been a constant in her life. She began her theater "career" in a sixth-grade production of Robin Hood, as the Even Irater Villager. Over the next 40 years, she appeared in dozens of productions, from West Side Story to Company, from Brighton Beach Memoirs to The Grapes of Wrath, Noises Off and Lend Me a Tenor. Laura first appeared onstage at the Civic in 2009 as May in the Civic's production of The Affections of May.
Laura also has experience on the production side, as director, stage manager, and producer. Most recently, her production efforts have focused on bringing more art and performance opportunities to the students in the Gull Lake Community Schools, including directing talent shows and starting a musical theatre program at the middle school. Laura was also instrumental in bringing performance to the Richland Art Hop in 2019, directing, producing and performing in an evening of one acts, an effort she aims to continue for this year's event.
Laura believes that this role is something that she has been preparing for her entire life. It's a perfect blend of her professional background and her passion for and experience in theatre.
About the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre's Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion - "Theatre for All"
Across the country and around the world, the summer of 2020 brought an outcry to recognize and address racism, bias, and other social justice issues that had long been ignored. We thank our volunteers, staff, patrons, funders, and other community members for accompanying the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre in making strides towards becoming a "Theatre for All." To continue this journey, Civic board members and staff are participating in training with local organizations whose shared mission includes eliminating racism in Southwest Michigan - ERACCE (Eliminating Racism and Claiming/Celebrating Equity) and the YWCA of Kalamazoo - to learn about racial equity and critical cultural competency and how to apply insights gained at the Civic Theatre. The Community Outreach Committee is dedicated to ensuring that theatre is accessible to all in Kalamazoo County. The committee is currently working with North and East Side community members to encourage and facilitate youth involvement in all aspects of theatre. The Kalamazoo Civic also proudly participates in the Penguin Project, "empowering children with special needs through theatre."
Executive Director Laura Zervic and the entire board and staff are committed to being the local community "Theatre for All" where people of every background, race, age, ability, and gender identification can feel that they are part of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre family.
About the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre Board of Directors
The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre Board of Directors is comprised of nine members: Dannie Alexander, Kathy Breyfogle, Troy Cuvelier, Sid Ellis, Mike Higdon, Zaf Khaja, Kathleen Weissert, Jihan Young, and Maggie Zahrai. Art Nemitz is an active emeritus board member.
ACG (Arts Consulting Group) assisted with the search process.