Jennifer Turner and Tony Marks
The Magic of TPAC
Break out the opera glasses because we’re going to the theater! Jennifer Turner, president and CEO of Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC), and Tony Marks, Vice President of marketing and communications joined the Lipstick Economy Podcast to discuss the magic of viewing live performances, the opportunities of the post-COVID era, and their efforts to curate the shows for Nashville as well as expand program offerings to appeal to new audiences.
Jennifer joined TPAC in 2019 and has more than 20 years of experience in the arts. She previously served as the executive vice president and managing director at Segerstrom Center for the Arts and Acclaimed Arts Institution in southern California where she built a world-class leadership team, led innovative community initiatives, and spearheaded multi-million-dollar capital development projects, including the successful completion of the 56,000 square foot Julianne and George Argyros Plaza.
After beginning his career as a reporter, Tony developed a talent for communication strategies with The Raben Group on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and with Barack Obama’s 2008 Campaign for Change. Tony has been with TPAC since 2012, supporting the center’s diverse presentations, innovative education, and community engagement programs.
What is TPAC’s mission and what kind of impact does it want to make on the Nashville community?
Focusing on inclusion, TPAC champions excellence in performing arts education.
“We are supportive of the wonderful resident companies that use our stages as their performance home… We can be a catalyst for economic prosperity and vitality in the region,” Jennifer Turner says, “we do it through our community programming and our education programs that are statewide. We also focus on our economic impact in the region and all the businesses that we support.”
Some of the resident companies that TPAC proudly supports are the Nashville Ballet, the Nashville Opera, and the Nashville Repertory Theater.
What does it mean from an inclusion and accessibility standpoint to allow students and children who maybe wouldn’t have an opportunity to go to New York and watch a mega performance?
“We want the quality and we want the access,” Jennifer expresses, “having touring Broadway go out on the road, it just opens up this genre for so many people across the state that can’t get to New York or don’t have that opportunity. And so for us, when we’re able to bring a mega-hit and a blockbuster and bring it early and bring it often, that shows the strength of our audience base here in Nashville.”
The network of performing arts centers that can put on large productions is extremely important for accessibility, and Nashville is lucky to have just that. Because of the strong market and former accomplishments, access to these shows has opened up for students and children to be able to experience the wonder of performance arts.
“When they had Disney musicals and schools, which was a program based in New York, and they were looking for a pilot city to take it out into the country. They came to us. So, we were fortunate enough to be a pilot program,” Tony Marks says.
As the performances and the audience grows, how do you approach marketing to each of the different audiences?
For TPAC, collaboration from all departments is key to marketing to new audiences.
“We really try not to be an isolated marketing department. So we’re working with the shows directly, and then we’re working internally to figure out what is the best plan we can put in place,” Tony explains, “what does the social plan look like? What’s the audience engagement piece? How do we get education or the Inside Out podcast to interview a cast member to give us another bite of content? It’s a mix and we have to do that as a team.”
And with COVID increasing the desire for audiences to stay home and stream entertainment, digital marketing has become a great asset to bring back the awe of live performances. Luckily for TPAC though, the Nashville community was already itching for those in-person experiences.
“Anything can happen in a theater… there’s really nothing like it, and it’s an experience that cannot be duplicated in your living room,” Jennifer laughs, “we’re grateful that audiences trust us to come back into our environment. We’re grateful that our audiences are responding to some of the things that we’re bringing to our stages, and we’re grateful that they continue to be excited about what’s next for TPAC.”
Do you have new initiatives on the horizon?
Like most businesses and people, finding the new normal after the impact of COVID is the highest priority, but since finding some footing, TPAC continues to refine its growth to accompany all audiences and department teams.
“The developing audiences for the intentional series. Those are sort of where our priorities are, but there’s also the other piece of just rebuilding the infrastructure of our team within the building, challenging them in some ways to find their own voice and perspective within. We’re essentially recreating a marketing and communications department and making sure that they’re empowered to take risks and ask questions and challenges,” Tony conveys, “this is something that I think comes down from Jennifer as well, which is truly inspiring throughout the organization. We’re in uncharted territory. It’s okay to take risks. It’s okay to make a mistake, learn from it, figure it out, and grow.”
And if you’re interested in the ever-growing magic of TPAC, you’re just in luck. On February 20, 2023, there will be a spellbinding announcement of the 2023-24 HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC season, presented in partnership with Nissan, filled with the hottest titles direct from New York and on tour. Visit tpac.org/broadway to learn more!
Resources and Links
Twitter: TPAC (@tpac)
Facebook: Tennessee Performing Arts Center