The curtain goes up for new Opening Nights director Jennifer Wright Allen
Like a chef who’s thrilled that you’re tasting what he’s cooked, or the talented teacher who’s curated a dozen books he knows you’ll love, Jennifer Wright-Allen, the new Director of Opening Nights at Florida State University, says, “I look forward to bringing incredible talent to the Ruby Diamond stage – performers who, with raw emotion and passion, will connect directly with audiences, touch the lives of others. from the stage, which will create memories.
For this 25th anniversary of Opening Nights, there is a quiet enthusiasm in the voice of Wright-Allen, who herself brings more than 20 years of experience in theater direction and management to Tallahassee.
Taking on the job of opening night manager from her predecessor, Michael Blachly, Wright-Allen has only been in town eight weeks, but the Kansas native has already fallen in love with what she’s seen.
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“Railroad Art Park, the museums, the history…I can’t wait to explore more,” Wright-Allen said. For now though, she’s gearing up for initial production on opening nights of 2022-23 when ABBA: The Concert, a tribute show, comes to town on August 3.
The second offering, on September 21, will be equally music-filled and colorful when Iranian dance company staibdance performs “fence.”
Measured, optimistic and clearly enjoying the build-up to the new season, Wright-Allen seems happily in control. As daunting as it sounds, detailed budgeting, planning and arranging bookings and performing artist presentations is what Wright-Allen seems made for. Maybe it’s in his genes.
“My mother is a visual artist, my father was a theater and opera enthusiast who enjoyed his retirement working as a guide in a museum. I played the piano. I didn’t go into the arts as a profession right away,” she laughs, “but I got there as soon as I could.
After working for a few years after college as a paralegal, she pursued a master’s degree in communications at Wichita State University and was soon hired into the marketing department of the performance venue, the Orpheum Theater. of Wichita.
Encouraging younger audiences, using social media and eventually helping plan more varied programming, it didn’t take long for Wright-Allen’s organizational skills to be noticed, or for her to be promoted to manager. General, where she spent the next 13 years. years renovating and updating the 1922 theater building along the way.
The 36-year-old’s horizons had widened as she took on another role that would challenge her for the next half-decade. “I moved to Lufkin, Texas as director of the Angelina Arts Alliance, which oversaw productions at the 898-seat Temple Theater and the 450-seat Pines Theater.”
There, with a budget of $1.3 million, Wright-Allen brought top-notch programming and emphasized community arts education as a staple.
Education and “roads of performance”
And so, what are Wright-Allen’s goals for his new home, Tallahassee?
Well, education is definitely a component. “Artist residencies, masterclasses, interactions involving local students open up the arts to so many others,” Wright-Allen said. She remembers a play, with its own textbook she produced in Texas – “Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad” which both entertained and educated.
Although most of this year’s programs were pre-booked earlier, Wright-Allen’s goals are as both an arts scholar and a businesswoman. “I hope we will present productions that represent the community,” she says. “And certainly those who sell tickets.”
She indicates that she will take advantage of “performance routes”, choosing artists who will be on nearby stages to keep an eye on the budget.
She hopes to offer a “mix of genres” to appeal to many tastes. And she’s excited about emerging artists without big names — which are the very ones people will be clamoring for in a year or two.
A place for “local talent”
“I understand that there is also a wealth of local musical talent in Tallahassee,” she says. “There’s no reason there isn’t a place for them here too.”
And even though Opening Nights has Florida State University in its title, Wright-Allen says most of its budget will come from the public — from ticket sales, sponsors and donations.
“Government support would certainly be welcome too, of course. This would support tourism, put “the head in bed” and only add to economic well-being.
But for now, her goal is to put “people in seats,” bring the vibrancy of the performing arts to a “wonderful” place, and engage Tallahassee theatergoers for the next wonderful year. .
If you are going to
What: ABBA The Concert, a tribute to ABBA
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 3
Where: Ruby Diamond Auditorium, Florida State University
Cost: $45-$30 opening night.fsu.edu
Contact: 850-644-7670 or [email protected]
Opening nights at Florida State University
25th Anniversary Season – tickets on sale now at
Marina Brown is guest editor for the Council on Culture & Arts. COCA is the Capital Region’s umbrella agency for arts and culture (www.tallahasseearts.org
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