Franklin-based Studio Tenn, an award-winning regional theater company, is no stranger to presenting blockbusters. On Wednesday, it announced yet another, this one being the naming of Patrick Cassidy as its new artistic director.
From the hills of Hollywood to the hills of Middle Tennessee, he arrives with a lifetime of arts experiences in film, Broadway production and teaching.
“He’s theater royalty,” said Tony McAlister, chairman of the board of directors for Studio Tenn.
A lifer in the arts, Cassidy is the son of Shirley Jones and the late Jack Cassidy and brother to Shaun, Ryan and the late David Cassidy.
“Not only does he know theater inside and out, he has a huge Rolodex of contacts both in L.A. and New York,” McAlister said. “He’s going to take us to new heights with what already is an extremely well-known brand, Studio Tenn.”
The announcement came at a news conference at Academy Park Performing Arts Center. It was clear that the handsome, silver-haired Cassidy was right at home as he strode across the stage to a podium. He was in his natural habitat.
“I feel like I am Jimmy Stewart in Bedford Falls,” Cassidy said in reference to the small-town setting for the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “Franklin is a charming and friendly place. People say ‘good morning’ and ‘have a great day.’ That’s unheard of in L.A. and New York.
His 40-year career as an actor has included starring in Elton John’s “Aida” (as well as the national tour, for which he won the 2002 National Broadway Theatre Award for best actor in a touring musical), “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Pirates of Penzance” and “Leader of the Pack.” In 2006, he assumed the title role in the national tour of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” with his wife, Melissa Hurley Cassidy, playing the role of Mrs. Potiphar. Their two sons were even involved, performing in the children’s chorus.
In addition to acting, Cassidy has extensive experience directing, having previously directed “The Music Man” at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The obvious question: How did he end up here?
“It was divine intervention,” he said. “A terrific set of circumstances fell into place. My son had signed a record and publishing deal here, so I drove him out here to get him settled in the Franklin area. I was captivated. Never missing an opportunity to see live theater wherever I am, I went to see Studio Tenn’s production of “Mama Mia.” I was hooked. I saw in the playbill that the company had an interim artistic director. I wasted no time in contacting Studio Tenn to throw my hat in the national search ring.”
McAlister and the board have been in a months-long search for a permanent artistic director after the departure of Matt Logan. Logan had been in that role from day one of Studio Tenn, which was founded a decade ago.
“We marveled at the resumes we received from all across the country,” he said. “Jake Speck and Matt Logan built a strong brand for Studio Tenn. It’s recognized nationwide. We had plenty of great people from whom to choose. But when Patrick showed up, we were awestruck.”
Hours of phone calls between Franklin and Los Angeles had the proverbial happy ending.
“We could not be more excited about Patrick joining us,” he said.
Cassidy said he and his wife had been talking about downsizing and leaving Los Angeles for the past 10 years.
“We just hadn’t made it happen, but once we saw and came to know Franklin and Studio Tenn, the decision to come here was easy.”
Most recently, Cassidy served as artistic director for 5-Star Theatricals, the resident musical production company at Civic Arts Plaza, the largest theater between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore was on hand at the Wednesday’s news conference to welcome and congratulate Cassidy and Studio Tenn.
Afterall, this was indeed a blockbuster announcement.