Remembering Debi Ballas, beloved Augusta Players director
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A driving force behind the arts community in Augusta died yesterday after a long battle with illness. Debi Ballas brought the arts to life on stage as director of the Augusta Players for nearly two decades. Now family and friends are remembering her legacy.
If the world is a stage Debbie Ballas was the lights for the Augusta theatre community.
“She was so passionate about what she believed in and when you think of Augusta players you can’t help but think of Debi Ballas and her leadership,” said Roy Lewis, Artistic Director of the Augusta Junior Players
Ballas’ 19 year career as the executive director of the Augusta Players started back in 1998 when the group’s future was in peril. In a 2017 interview about her retirement she took a moment to reflect.
“It seemed just an impossible task at first because they were financially in trouble, and the doors were closing,” said Ballas.
But along with her good friend Richard Justice the two helped save the organization and kept the arts alive for Augusta.
“She had a way with people. She had a way with getting the most out of people and helping them find their passion,” said Lewis.
In 2017 she was forced to step down from her role to focus on her health, one of the hardest decisions of her life.
“The only thing I can equate it to is putting your baby up for adoption. And I know that’s probably melodramatic, but I’m melodramatic. But, it’s my passion, it’s my baby,” said Ballas.
And her passion was palpable, but she was most passionate about her work with kids.
“There’s a part of Debi Ballas in each and every one of them as well as there’s a part of her in each and every one of us,” said Lewis.
Helping countless young actors find their own passion. Aside from her children, her greatest legacy she says – Camp Wonderland – a theater camp she started for kids with autism.
“And she cast a very wide net of loving people supporting them and encouraging them and just embracing them with just her wonderful hugs, her smile and her words of encouragement,” he said.
As the curtains close on a life that touched so many, her legacy lives on.
“She was so important and so vital to the life of this organization and she will be greatly missed,” he said.
There is also a Debi Ballas Scholarship Fund where the Augusta Players give two, $1,000 dollar scholarships each year to graduating seniors.
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