HIGH POINT — To audiences and other supporters, Pedro Silva represented the public face of the now-defunct North Carolina Shakespeare Festival.
Not only did Silva serve as the High Point-based organization’s longtime artistic and managing director, he appeared as Ebenezer Scrooge in several annual productions of “A Christmas Carol.”
Last Friday night, he died at age 71 from complications stemming from his battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Pedro’s passing marks the end of an era,” said Debbie Lumpkins, executive director of the High Point Arts Council.
Local theater directors expressed sadness at Silva’s death.
“He was a legend in the North Carolina theater community,” said Preston Lane, the artistic director at Triad Stage in Greensboro.
To Lane, who co-founded Triad Stage with Richard Whittington, “Pedro was a friend and a colleague to Rich and me as we created Triad Stage. ... Pedro’s impact on the arts in the Triad is a powerful legacy.”
Mitchel Sommers, the former longtime executive director of Community Theatre of Greensboro, described Silva as “humble and hardworking and kind.”
Silva was the first person to help CTG have more professional-looking sets, built by his team in High Point, Sommers said.
“I will always be so grateful to him for that kind of support,” Sommers said. “It taught me the meaning of partnership and collaboration.”
The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, a nonprofit organization that was colloquially known as NCShakes for short, started in High Point in 1977.
In addition to its popular production of “A Christmas Carol,” NCShakes produced at least one play each fall by the English playwright.
Some years, “A Christmas Carol” went on tour. There was also the traveling Shakespeare to Go performances for schools.
Silva came to the organization in 1977 as an actor, then later became a play director and administrator.
Onstage, Silva could take on a role and be verbose, said Leah W. Ryan, the daughter of Pedro and Linda Silva.
“That’s not who he was as a person,” Ryan explained. “He was humble and soft-spoken and kind, almost to a fault.”
Silva resigned from the festival in 1993, exhausted from the challenges of running a nonprofit.
He became sales manager at Furnitureland South. But Silva missed the arts. In 2001, he returned to the organization as its managing director.
In 2010, NCShakes launched Festival Stage, an affiliated theater company in Winston-Salem.
But for many years, the organization struggled financially.
In 2014, those struggles finally prompted the organization’s board of trustees to end operations after 37 years.
“I wish I could embrace and express gratitude to each and every one who purchased tickets and donated funds that supported our service in High Point for more than a generation,” Silva said at the time.
Later this summer, High Point will express its thanks to Silva.
The High Point Community Foundation already had commissioned Greensboro sculptor James Barnhill to create a larger-than-life bronze bust of Silva. It will be installed in the High Point Theater, home to countless Shakespeare Festival productions.
A bust dedication and celebration of Silva’s life will be held in late August or early September.
“He had a huge heart for High Point,” said James Lessard, president of the High Point Community Foundation. “He’s going to be very much missed.”