Tennessee Repertory Theatre is now Nashville Repertory Theatre. The name change was announced today at a party in the Emma Bistro Cafe celebrating the group’s three decades as Music City’s flagship Equity theater company and the 2014-15 season that begins in October with Sweeney Todd.
And with the new name there’s a new web address for the troupe: NashvilleRep.org.
In the spring of 2014, the nonprofit arts organization’s board of directors unanimously approved the strategic plan to move forward under the new moniker. The change to Nashville Rep “celebrates the theater’s deep commitment to working with local, professional, actors, artisans, and artists as well as its commitment to fostering the city’s theater ecology,” according to a press release distributed at the event.
In remarks to partygoers Producing Artistic Director René D. Copeland expounded on the thought process behind the new name:
“There’s nothing like turning thirty to make you step back and do a little taking stock of yourself–who you are, what you’ve managed to do so far, what you aspire to. So as we were looking ahead to this time, we found ourselves digging deep into who we really are and how we want to communicate that.
“We have a thirty year history of which we are very proud. Tennessee Rep has from its inception been committed to serving this community through making great professional theater. We certainly aspire to continue to be worthy of that heritage and we intend to honor the dedication of those who went before us by making sure we have a great future. And in thinking forward to our future we came to this strong conviction that the time had come for us to focus clearly and strongly on communicating who we are, locally, regionally and even nationally.
“We are, and have always been a company dedicated to serving Nashville through providing terrific theater. We love that we are a part of a cultural life for Nashvillians who have a plethora of cultural and entertainment options. Since 1985, making sure that everyone who comes to see one of our shows has a stimulating, inspiring, entertaining experience in the theatre has been and will always be our first priority. But besides serving Nashville audiences, we have evolved to become a company of Nashville theater artists and we have come to embrace the idea that it’s part of our job to help drive Nashville’s ‘theater engine.’
“We strive to be an inspiration and a resource and embrace a leadership role in Nashville’s theater ecology. We even state explicitly in our strategic plan that we exist not only to provide great theater to this city, but also to provide a home that enables professional theater artists to live here. We’re Nashvillians. And we thrive on the idea that we are in service to this town.
“Not only are we Nashville Repertory Theatre in our bones, but we believe it says who we are to the world. When I go to the national theater conference, I often meet someone new and say ‘I’m with Tennessee Rep.’ The response is usually ‘Oh, that’s very nice.’ When I follow up with, ‘…it’s in Nashville,’ their eyes light up, and they say ‘Oooh, Nashville!’
“We serve an amazing city. Nashville and Nashville’s reputation is burgeoning—the whole nation is perking right up and noticing that we are a hotbed of creativity and cool culture, and we know that we are an important part of that. For us, with our growing national reputation for our innovative approach to new play development through the flourishing Ingram New Works Project, we are thrilled at the prospect that in tying our identity more specifically to Nashville, we will both benefit from Nashville’s reputation and contribute further to it.
“We are proud of our city, proud to serve it, and as we launch this season, illuminated by Nashville’s bright future, we go boldly into our own, thrilled to bear aloft a new banner representing a proud heritage, and the next thirty years of this company’s commitment to excellent professional theater. We are Nashville Rep!”
Metro Nashville Council Member At-Large Megan Barry read a letter at the event from Nashville Mayor Karl Dean who wrote, “Congratulations as well on embracing your true identity as Nashville’s own regional, professional theater by becoming Nashville Repertory Theatre. This evolution of your name celebrates your rich history along with your commitment to local professional actors, artists, and artisans. I am exceedingly proud to have a professional theater serving our citizens by offering quality theater on par with any other city in this country, all created and produced right here.”
In addition to Copeland and Barry speakers at the party included the theater’s co-founder Martha Ingram, Nashville Repertory Theatre Board President Vicki Horne and Metro Nashville Arts Commission Chair Paula Roberts. The company was founded in 1985 by Ingram and Mac Pirkle. Pirkle was the group’s first artistic leader, followed by David Grapes, David Alford and Copeland.