PRESIDENT, CEO AND BOARD CO-CHAIR
Bierhans is local attorney and consummate community leader
Bruce A. Bierhans, longtime Wellfleetian attorney and community advocate, is the new president and CEO of the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and co-chair of its board of directors. He was recruited to help guide the former seasonal theater company as it evolves into a year-round performing arts center.
“Bruce brings critical leadership and local knowledge to WHAT,” said co-chair John Dubinsky. “The majority of our board does not live fulltime on the Cape. It’s critical that we recruit talented community members like Bruce, who care deeply about WHAT and appreciate how the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater contributes year-round to our region’s cultural identity and economic development.”
Bierhans, who has law offices in Hyannis and Wellfleet, currently is President and Chairman of Outer Cape Health Services and serves on the board of Preservation Hall, Inc. He formerly served as board president for the Payomet Center for the Performing Arts. Bierhans serves proudly as Wellfleet town moderator.
“I am very honored to lead WHAT’s board at this very exciting time.” said Bierhans. “Not only must we nourish its quarter-century, iconic status as an innovative theater, but we must expand WHAT’s year-round offerings to represent the diverse tastes of our many audiences.”
WHAT’s expansion is driven by the $6-million, year-round Julie Harris Stage, which opened five years ago to complement the smaller and seasonal Harbor Stage. In addition to simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera and London’s National Theater, the Julie Harris hosts productions ranging from the Cape Cod Symphony Sounds to Cinema WHAT. This month, it presents A Raisin in the Sun in collaboration with Counter Productions.
“Those who know me understand that I am committed to do everything I can to serve Wellfleet and surrounding towns,” said Bierhans. “WHAT is an integral part of our community fabric and needs local leadership and direction. I have been asked to provide that leadership and am eager to serve.”
Bierhans not only brings business and legal expertise to his board role, but also a background in theater that dates back to the Fisherman’s Players in Wellfleet and Eastham in the early 1970s. “I know what it is to run a business but also have the perspective of a performer.”
“The Players were cutting-edge theater before WHAT was a twinkle in anyone’s eye,” he recalled. “One can engage people and also entertain them. My vision is to ensure that WHAT remains innovative and cutting edge. However, we must also diversify programming so that we put people in the seats.”
“It may not sound exciting, but we have a state-of the-art building to pay for,” Bierhans emphasized. “So, we must combine a package of theater, music and the arts, which culminates in a true performing arts center. I also want WHAT to be there as a venue that contributes to our community. My neighbors and local colleagues love WHAT’s heritage, and it must belong to all of us.”
Bierhans and Dubinsky, along with David Willard, an executive of Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, are leading an effort to recruit new members like Mark Watson, who recently joined the board. Watson, a Harwich resident, is founder and principal of Keel Asset Management, LLC which provides investment advice and non-profit consulting.
“In recruiting new board members, we also must mobilize key committees, especially those focused on fundraising,” said Bierhans. “Tickets only represent half of the money needed to operate WHAT,” he noted.Bierhans brings significant experience leading or serving on numerous local non-profits, including two that have grown significantly – Outer Cape Health Services and Preservation Hall. “I have tried to do whatever I could do to make those organizations successful. I do what I think is best for the organization. Of course, the people you have around you and their commitment always are a key to success. Both Preservation Hall and Outer Cape Health Services are blessed with talented and committed people. ”
Among those at WHAT is Mark Hough, the newly appointed executive director. “Bruce’s arrival at WHAT is exciting news. It is absolutely necessary for staff to have a guiding local light. He brings a unique combination of theatrical experience, business and legal expertise and a deep community network – all critical assets for WHAT to achieve its goals.”
Bierhans also will emphasize partnerships among other cultural groups and the community at large – from schools to businesses to non-profit associations.
“I am a strong believer in collaboration,” he said. “I hope to lead WHAT into collaboration with community, cultural and entertainment organizations on all levels. We just concluded a highly successful fall series with the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, and we have plans for a spring series. In addition more than 200 school children will be at WHAT to see A Raisin in the Sun.
“I would love to see WHAT work with Preservation Hall and Payomet; I’d also like to see us become more involved with other theaters regionally and do more events for community benefit.”
Bierhans graduated Suffolk Law School in 1982 and practiced for many years in Boston before moving his practice to Cape Cod in 2000. He specializes in business and trial law. His wife Nancy is the firm’s office manager.