Monday, July 1, 2013

THEATER: Studio Tenn

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  I love Broadway in New York.  Love it.  However, as I’m sure you know, just to see one show is no small fee.  I just added it all up with the current prices.  If I wanted to leave today and head to the Big Apple, it would all cost me about $500 and that’s for a cheap flight, cheap hotel, not the best seats in the theater and going alone.  Also, I would have to leave my husband and children to “fin for themselves” for more than a day, and the world just seems to fall apart when Momma’s gone!  So I’ve been thinking of writing a letter…

Dear Broadway,
 I love you, but I have a mortgage and children to feed.  Could you please send some of your finest actors to Franklin, Tennessee?  We have some great theaters, and I think you’ll especially like the one on Main Street.  Oh, and I really want to only pay about 10% of the price that I costs me to come to you.  Is that too much to ask?
Your Frugal Fan in Franklin

Well, it seems that someone beat me to it.  Well, maybe not the letter, but the same idea; and from that, Studio Tenn was born.  I recently had the privilege to sit down with Studio Tenn’s Matt Logan (Executive Vice President and Artistic Director) and Jake Speck (President and Managing Director) to really dive in to what Studio Tenn is all about and what makes it so unique.

Matt and Jake both have extensive experience on Broadway, including production, acting and casting.  They love it but wanted to come back to their Tennessee roots to bring Broadway quality shows to Williamson County.  They do audition locally.  The last season has been predominately Nashville actors, which they are proud of.  However, they want the best cast possible so they pull from Broadway, when they feel it is necessary. For The Sound of Music, Ben Davis (Les Miserables, La Boheme) and Jessica Grove’ (A Little Night Music, Les Miserables) were brought in to play Captain and Maria Von Trapp.  Conrad John Schuck, who is currently on Broadway in Nice Work If You Can Get It, was in Studio Tenn’s Twelve Angry Men.  Jake actually performed in Twelve Angry Men, as well; and he played Bob Gaudio in Broadway’s Jersey Boys.  “We have found that it’s a beautiful blend to have the best of the best here and the best of the best there,” Matt said.  “The magic that happens with that is pretty exciting.  The actors that have made TN their home and have a renewed sense of why they do it.”  

Matt and Jake agree that plays written in the South are much more successful on stage here.  The most deeply gratifying show that Matt has directed is The Glass Menagerie.  “Tennessee Williams is never going to get better than the South,” he said.  “New York can’t pull it off like the South can.”  This season’s Smokey Joe’s, which cast included Melinda Doolittle (see MUSIC), is another great example of that statement.
Matt’s hope is that the actors of Studio Tenn never try to be a copy of a person.  For example, he did not want Jessica Grove’ to be Julie Andrews.  He wanted her to own the role and make it her own.  “In the age of Pro Tools and Photoshop,” he said, “this city beckons for authenticity.”  He says he directs “in riddles”.  He doesn’t just tell the actors what to do.  He wants them to be in the driver seat and own it.  Hiring professionals make that possible.  I think a little bit of that theory is just Matt being humble.  Jake says, in Twelve Angry Men, he relied a lot on Matt’s direction.  He didn’t think the show would be easy, but he thought he knew it.  “ Matt never stops directing, when the show is already running,” Jake said.  “The general rule is to stop at opening night, but if Matt sees that something can be better, he will change it.”
Next on the bill for Studio Tenn is My Fair Lady, and I can’t wait to see it.  Matt and Jake are excited that this is the first musical that has been an all Nashville cast.  Playing Eliza Doolittle is Laura Matula.  “She’s one of the most talented ‘under the radar’ musical theatre talents in the country,” Jake said. “And she lives right here in Nashville!”

It was such a pleasure to spend time with Matt Logan and Jake Speck.  I could say so much more about them, but I will leave you with this…

These two incredibly talented men’s combined forces of theater greatness make Studio Tenn a great big diamond at the top of the box holding all of Williamson County’s treasures. 

Find out more about Studio Tenn at 

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