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Part & Parcels: A servant's heart is essential for local actor

Dr. John Parcels, an emeritus Georgia Southern faculty member, has kept busy by contributing to local plays. Parcels took the time to talk with Grice Connect's Jeneane Brown to discuss his unlikely post-retirement acting career.
Dr. John Parcels, far right, as the candy man in the Averitt Center's 2023 production of Willy Wonka.

John Parcels has been in myriad plays, student and short films, and even a few ballets over the years. Since 2014, he has played various roles locally in well-known shows including The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, and most recently, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He has enjoyed speaking roles as well as contributing to the chorus or ensemble cast.  

"If I can be helpful, I'll give them all I've got," the octogenarian says of his theater experience.

One of the things Parcels loves about his tenure with the theater is the teamwork, pulling together to make something good. 

"I always think in terms of the sports analogy. You want a win. A win would be for the audience to think it was worth their money and to want to come back," Parcels explains. 

Having spent his first years in Valdosta, GA, Parcels moved to Bordentown, NJ, when he was a child, where his father could be close to New York, which was the necessary location for his career as an artist. The senior Parcels founded Dixon and Parcels Associates, and was the designer of iconic logos such as the famous Campbell's soup label, the Nittany Lion for Penn State University's athletic department, and Georgia Southern's logo, which began representing the university in 1982. 

Parcels attended Drew University, then migrated south to attend Emory University, where he did his graduate work. Georgia Southern was looking for a professor who could teach both English and philosophy, and, in 1972, Parcels filled this role for the Eagle Nation.

Although his academic background prepared Parcels to speak in front of large audiences, memorizing and acting lines was not in his foreseeable future.

Parcels as Professor Marvel with Dorothy (Julian Schwarz) in The Wizard of Oz

"Believe me, I never in my wildest thoughts thought I would ever do something like this," he says. "My first time on the Averitt stage was giving a lecture on Islamic art as part of a university grant."

Having retired in 2005, Parcels made his debut on the theatrical stage nine years later, when he was asked to fill a ballet role that had become vacant two weeks before the show was to open. 

"I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but when someone needs help, I try to be there," Parcels says. 

That initial Averitt Center role developed into several more over the next decade, including shows at East Georgia College and in Savannah, Sylvania, and elsewhere in the region. 

"I've done 39 plays in the last nine years," Parcels recalls, “along with nine more ballets.” 

Recently, Parcels was cast in the role of Grandpa Potts in the Averitt Center's upcoming summer show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which will be open last week of July. When he is asked what part he might be interested in, he replies, "Whatever's helpful." 

Parcels carries his service-oriented philosophy off stage into all areas of his life.

"I like things to be better;" he shares. "If I see a way to help make something better, I'll try to do it."

For more information about the Averitt Center of the Arts, please visit their website