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Making the ‘human connection’

South Boston News
New Prizery Executive Director Claude Giroux with, from left, Francis Harrell, Joyce Willis and South Boston Council member Sharon Harris at a meet-and-greet reception Friday at the performing arts center. / July 19, 2021
How does someone decide to move across the continent — actually, move in from a different country — to lead a community arts center in a small Southern town?

For Claude Giroux, The Prizery’s new executive director, the clincher was the Prizery’s potential and the passion of those who are working to bring it the back to life after the pandemic.

“Mostly the facility is screaming for successful strategy to make it sustainable and [I’m a] small-town boy who was wooed by the nice people in this community who are so committed to seeing the place thrive,” said Giroux of his decision to take the job as only the second Prizery executive director, succeeding longtime maestro and artistic muse Chris Jones.

“Passion is an important ingredient for success in the not-for-profit sector, and there is a lot of that in SoBo, and I’m eager to provide shape and direction to all that passion,” said Giroux.

He arrives from North Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, where Giroux most recently directed First Impressions, a theatre company operating out of the Deep Cove Shaw Theatre in North Vancouver. Giroux is a veteran producer of live theater, festivals, concerts and other cultural events. He said The Prizery job offered just the kind of opportunity he was looking for: a chance to build a vibrant artistic community based around a successful performance venue.

“It’s places like this building around the world where people make a human connection,” said Giroux.

A Canadian, Giroux, 55, was born in Quebec City and migrated to Canada’s Pacific coast, most recently residing in the Deep Cove community of North Vancouver. His wife, Tiffany, is a costume designer, and they have a nine-year-old daughter, Madeline. They will be joining him in South Boston in the coming year, allowing time for Madeline to finish fifth grade and Tiffany to tie up loose ends.

The family’s arrival next year also allows time for Giroux to immerse himself in The Prizery’s operations, the community and the region.

“This is a big job with so much to do. I will be consuming myself with The Prizery to get things in motion,” he said.

As a child Giroux enjoyed sports and theater.

“I was a jock that sneaked away to hang out with the theatre geeks,” said Giroux, who played both hockey and rugby all through school. Roughhouse sports both, Giroux said he got a lot of stitches but didn’t lose any teeth.

After high school, Giroux continued to play hockey and took time to travel around Europe before attending college to study history and theatre, among other subjects. Giroux holds a bachelor’s of fine arts in theater and art history from Victoria College in British Columbia. He earned his master’s degree in theater production and director from the University of Maine.

A member of the American Association of Community Theatre, a professional association of arts center directors and leaders, Giroux saw the job posting for The Prizery opening and decided to apply. Since being hired, Giroux has had multiple meetings with Prizery board members to lay the foundation for the future. Among his many goals, Giroux wants to strengthen theatre arts educational programs for all ages and demographics.

“We want these classrooms to be filled with students learning art, music and dance all year long,” said Giroux.

He plans to establish after-school programs that will culminate with stage performances by enrolled students. He mused that it would be nice to see 100 kids run through the facility in the afternoons and on weekends.

“The building has lots of space. I still have not got a full appreciation [of it],” said Giroux.

Aside from theater, he loves history — Giroux said he is looking forward to learning more about Virginia — and cooking. His father was executive chef for Fairmont Hotels, and Giroux said he is the type of cook who will search far and wide for the best ingredients.

How much time he’ll have in the kitchen remains to be seen. Giroux said the first eight months will be spent laying the foundation for new programs that will kick off next summer and lead into the fall.

Giroux said he does have one other related matter on his mind — meeting Chris Jones, the person who has guided The Prizery since its founding and led it to creative heights that few small venues can match, notably Summer Theatre, The Prizery’s professional summer stock series.

“It’s at the top of my list; I look forward to meeting him,” said Giroux.

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