By Kayla Pinnix
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Edward P. Fiscella Jr., founder and president of Mainstage Center for the Arts, created a theater program that has grown to serve performers and audiences throughout South Jersey.

Fiscella started as a middle school teacher at Gloucester Township, where he directed its shows. He grew quite a bond with the theater students and realized his students were looking for a theater program to participate in during their summer vacation because none was around. Fiscella stated, “I was approaching my 40s and all I had done was teach. I needed to do something for not only myself but my kids.”

Mainstage Center for the Arts started off as Summer Stage. It took off in 1989 when Fiscella created the Summer Stage program in Gloucester Township to fulfill their needs. The summer program started running year round as people were enrolling from all over the community.

The program continued to grow as it began to offer dance, voice and acting classes. As the learning opportunities increased, the company needed a better name to fit what it was providing, thus becoming Mainstage Center for the Arts. It came to its new home of Camden County College in 2003.

Its mission is to promote self-expression and artistic growth while enriching the South Jersey community in the performing arts. “Not a lot of people can say they did in their life everything they wanted to do, and I did,” said Fiscella.

By the time Fiscella was old enough to retire, Mainstage was in a position where it needed to hire a full-time arts manager and Fiscella fulfilled that position. He stated, “I can never see myself retiring until I see myself getting in the way. The look young people give you when you’re not making sense anymore. My job right now is to create the vision. I hire people to make that vision come true. As long as I can keep looking ahead and make that come true, I’m good.”

Fiscella admits it wasn’t always easy. He had to convince people to help him and convince himself he could do it. He also had to adjust to the political realm of business, having to say the right things to the right people. With the expansion of his company and growth in employees, it wasn’t just about the children anymore. It was about people’s jobs. Fiscella stated, “When you’re a teacher you have an obligation to your students. You go into your classroom and you close your door and you do what you believe is right. When you run a business and you have 90 employees, all of a sudden the question of what is right gets complicated because you know if you make a mistake it can affect people’s jobs, the lives of families. It can change a program.”

A man of many passions and a love for Hawaiian culture, Fiscella’s newest task is to learn the ukulele. So it is no surprise that Mainstage is sponsoring Jake Shimaburko, whom Fiscella calls the greatest ukuleleist alive, to perform at Camden County College. The concert will be 7:30 p.m. April 19. For tickets, go to http://www.mainstage.org.

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