Our 30th anniversary is a special time for our organization, a time to celebrate the history and contributions of Tennessee Repertory Theatre while staking a claim in Nashville’s future as its own Nashville Repertory Theatre.
“A lot of time, thought and discussion went into our decision to change our name from Tennessee Repertory Theatre to Nashville Repertory Theatre. We are a mission-driven organization, and nothing should be pursued of this magnitude without holding it up to our mission and asking whether it serves that mission. It is that question that has led us to the conclusion that the most compelling reason to evolve to Nashville Repertory Theatre. It’s actually who we are now. A key piece of both our mission and our identity is that as an organization we make great efforts to support and foster local theatre artists and the Nashville theatre ecology. And we are very proud of that.”
- René D. Copeland -
Producing Artistic Director
Nashville Repertory Theatre exists to serve through creating “Ah-ha!” moments that inspire empathy, prod intellectual and emotional engagement, and expand the creative capacity of audience and artists though the dynamic connection unique to live theatre.
To be a strong and vital professional regional theatre that is an indispensable part of our community's creative life, widely embraced and deeply valued as an essential source for illuminating artistic experiences and exciting entertainment, and recognized as a model of sustainability that is home for a thriving community of professional artists and whose name is synonymous with excellence in every aspect.
Artistic Leader’s Statement
We believe artistic inspiration is a gift whose purpose is the betterment of humanity, and artists are called to be of service by being the conduit for that gift. In the moment of spiritual connection between artist and receiver, transcendence occurs—a state of spiritual communion—which makes us better individually and better collectively. In that successful moment of spiritual connection a real feeling happens and the first step toward betterment occurs: empathy is created. An “ah-ha!” moment. Humans who cannot feel empathy are doomed to do evil without remorse--empathy is the thing which teaches us to be human. Nashville Rep seeks to create those connective moments with audience members collectively and individually who look for intellectual stimulation and spiritual nourishment through provocative entertainment. We are drawn to produce work characterized by a strong story, whether play or musical, that that can best take advantage of our highly skilled actors and the talents of the company’s extraordinary designers, and through which a compelling spiritual connection can be made.
Nashville Repertory Theatre's History
Nashville Repertory Theatre was founded in 1985 by Martha Ingram and Mac Pirkle, as an outgrowth of a production company formed in 1983 to produce the first work for the education program for the new Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC). For the first 14 years of its existence, under the artistic direction of Pirkle, Tennessee Rep sought to produce plays and musicals for a broad range of audiences in Middle Tennessee in addition to its providing educational programming for TPAC. During this time before TPAC had its own Broadway Series, the Rep’s mission grew to include the development and creation of new works, with an emphasis on new musicals. Through Pirkle’s distinguished leadership Tennessee Rep produced 70 shows, a notable regional tour, and a musical revue that subsequently appeared on Broadway.
In 1999, David Grapes became Tennessee Rep’s executive producing director, marking the beginning of a new chapter for the professional company and a return to producing more “traditional” regional theatre. Grapes saw the need for a second-stage production series in addition to the main stage productions to explore more innovative and challenging work. Tennessee Rep experienced growth and the birth of new education programs. In 2002, Tennessee Repertory Theatre and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) agreed to consolidate certain operational functions to achieve efficiencies and synergies for both companies. The goal of the consolidation was to allow Tennessee Rep to become more financially stable and it successfully continued the company for three seasons.
David Grapes departed by the end of 2003, followed by a six-month period during which David Alford served as “interim” artistic director. Then, in July 2004 Alford came on staff as Tennessee Rep’s third artistic director. Not long into their first season with Tennessee Rep--the third year of the consolidation with TPAC--the consolidation was proving to be problematic for both organizations. After much discussion and close examination of the situation, ultimately the decision was agreed upon to “de-consolidate” and return Tennessee Rep to its prior status of an autonomous entity in residence at TPAC.
The 2005-06 season kicked off the next exciting phase for the company, under the leadership of Nashville actor, writer, and director David Alford. His commitment to excellence and service, with the assistance of Producing Director René D. Copeland, provided Tennessee Rep with the optimum artistic vision, programming, and philosophy needed for increased stability and growth. Tennessee Rep moved the office/shop/rehearsal facilities from the long-time location in warehousing on Chestnut Street to a new location under the same roof with Nashville Public Television. Focusing on presenting the best of regional theatre fare created by outstanding local theatre artists, the company proudly continues to serve the middle Tennessee area by producing live professional theatre with excellence.
At the beginning of the 2006-07 season, Alford’s position shifted from artistic director to executive artistic director and Copeland shifted from associate artistic director to producing director. The day-to-day running of the company was handed to Copeland at that time, while Alford still maintained general oversight responsibilities but focused on his relationship with the Rep as artist and advocate/spokesman. By the dawn of the current season, 2007-08, Alford was named the first recipient of the newly established Ingram Fellowship for New Work and shifted position and title to become the Rep’s Artist-in-Residence. Copeland was then named producing artistic director, officially assuming the chief leadership role.
Under Copeland’s guidance, the company has managed to advance its artistic reputation, and to grow programming with the creation of the REPaloud series (launched during the 2009-10 season), the evolution of the Ingram New Works Project (launched in 2009-10), which has featured an array of Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winners as New Works Fellows and the expansion of the professional internship program.
As the company celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, it embarks on a new phase in its history: a new identity with the same values and commitment to excellence. The company changed its name to Nashville Repertory Theatre to reflect the community it serves and the source of its talent. With professional actors who make their homes in this city and professional artisans who design and build the company sets and costumes, the company is truly a product of Nashville.