PEMBROKE — James Bass was a sophomore at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke when he was cast in his first major production at Givens Performing Arts Center.
The play was Noises Off. The year was 1991.
Fast forward 24 years and Bass can still recall idiosyncrasies of his character, Lloyd Dallas.
After the show, it was praise he received from the play’s director, William Biddle, then GPAC director, who altered Bass’ career path.
“That was the turning point for me,” Bass said. “He saw what I did on stage and asked if I would be interested in the Arts Management program. That’s when I realized that this is what I wanted to do.”
For the next 20 years, the Lumberton native honed his skills in leadership roles in higher education in teaching, research, public relations and administration.
On Nov. 7, Bass began his new job as executive director of the Givens Performing Arts Center.
Bass will be responsible for overall management and operations for the 1,600-seat stage. UNCP presents two major series at GPAC — the Broadway and More Series and the On Stage for Youth Series — as well as University Theatre.
Bass, a two-time UNCP graduate, is no stranger to the Pembroke campus. He previously served 12 years at UNCP, first as assistant director of Student Activities and then as director of Alumni Relations.
Floyd Locklear, president of the GPAC advisory board, said Bass’ years of experience will allow him to continue providing GPAC with the leadership needed to provide students and the community with excellent shows, service and performances.
“James will be committed to providing the community and the students with the highest quality of performances available and will be an attentive listener to the needs of both the students and the community.”
For the past 13 years, he has taught courses as an adjunct professor in the Departments of Mass Communication and English, Theatre and Languages. He has also served four years on the GPAC advisory board and last year he was the faculty advisor to The Pine Needle.
As a student, Bass worked as a stage tech for national touring productions and acted in several stage productions at GPAC. He performed in University Theatre shows and worked “front-of-house” and backstage for national touring productions.
During summers he served in various capacities as an administrator and actor for the local outdoor drama “Strike At The Wind!”
“UNCP has been my home away from home,” he said. “I am very happy to be coming back.”
Celebrities and artists have graced the GPAC stage, including Dave Chappelle, Ray Charles, Tammy Wynette, Glen Campbell, Dick Vitale, Danny Glover, En Vogue, The Commodores, Tracy Morgan, Bob Woodward and The Four Tops.
Bass booked many of those sold-out performances when he worked at the university, including performances by Chappelle, D.L. Hughley, Kevin Hart, and Rickey Smiley.
Bass is confident that the high caliber of performances, Broadway shows and musical guests will continue to thrive under his direction.
“I would like to say mine is a shared vision,” he said. “It’s not going to be about who I would like to bring to GPAC, but more importantly, the community I am serving.”
Bass said he will collaborate with students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the GPAC Advisory Board.
“It’s about finding out what they want to see,” he said. “It’s about the community and the people I am serving.”
Bass previously served as director of Student Success and Leadership at Robeson Community College. He earned a doctorate degree in Education Leadership from Fayetteville State University.
He and his wife, Paula, have three daughters, Layna, 9, Annika, 7, and Quinlyn, 3. They reside in Lumberton.
Mark Locklear is a public communications specialist for UNCP.