CEO hopes TPAC leaves theatre footprint in Nashville and beyond

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – For nearly four decades, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center has brought Broadway to Nashville.

And now, TPAC is putting its own brand on the shows it brings to the stage.

Kathleen O’Brien is the woman behind TPAC’s new direction, and her vision for the performing arts center is a larger theatre footprint in Nashville and beyond.

O’Brein said TPAC will continue to present touring Broadway shows, but having more skin in the game is not just good for TPAC, it’s a good investment for the arts community and all of Nashville.

“Nashville is a changing city and how the arts are delivered is different from 20 years ago,” she explained.

O’Brien joined TPAC 30 years ago as Director of Public Affairs. She’s now worked her way up to president and CEO.

“I didn’t know everything I was going to get into, but it sounded and it felt right,” she recalled.

Kathleen O’Brien began working at TPAC 30 years ago. (Photo: WKRN)

Seventeen years after being hired, O’Brien found herself at the top of Tennessee’s largest performing arts venue.

“We can be above $60 million a year just in what TPAC delivers in its programming,” she said. “There is quite a workforce in Nashville to support the acts, so that economic impact translates into jobs, taxes, just that big churn.”

Under O’Brien’s leadership, TPAC has taken a greater role in creating the kind of theatre it wants to showcase.

“If we can create something here that’s special and wonderful and put people to work and put the stamp on Nashville on it, haven’t we done something amazing?” she said.

That amazing opportunity came two years ago with “Part of the Plan,” an original store scored with music and lyrics of the late singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg.

“I read the script and listened to the music,” she said. “I was just captured. I said, ‘We’ve never done this before. I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we wanted to be involved and we want to put some skin in the game.”

Part of the plan made its world premiere at TPAC’s Polk Theatre on Sept. 8. Carrying with it, the hopes of local actors and musicians, set designers, lighting and sound technicians as it makes it way to Broadway and beyond.

“As part of the plan travels all around the community, outside of Nashville and New York, we will always have in the bio a tie to Nashville, Tennessee. Yeah, we negotiated that,” she said.

O’Brien said it’s part of her plan for TPAC to leave a bigger footprint in Music City.

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