Maybe you live under a rock and haven’t heard the news, but recently on April 19th the Chattanooga Theatre Centre appointed Todd Olson as its executive director. This is great news and is certain to have a positive effect on the direction CTC takes under its new leadership. Considering you’re en vogue enough to be a reader of ScenicStage.com, we’ll assume you don’t however live under a rock, and that by now you’ve probably heard quite a bit about him, his qualifications, and the many great things he brings to CTC. Which is why we decided to sit down with Todd in order to dig deeper in finding out who he is on a personal level, asking the tough questions that even the hardest hitting journalists might be too afraid to ask. Such as “What is your favorite color.” The answer is blue. A dark, deep blue, specifically. Hey, color is important! Especially in the creative fields. And according to this study in Psychology Today, color can tell you a lot about a person. Ok, seriously now… Originally from Sioux City, Iowa, Todd became involved with theatre at an early age. On a dare he auditioned for his school’s production of Rock ‘n Roll (not the 2006 Tom Stoppard play.) When both he and his friend were cast, Todd gave up wrestling and his friend gave up basketball to be part of the production. “Theatre people are just cooler. Girls talked to me, I made a lot of friends, and found a really supportive environment in theatre.” Todd says of his first experience in theatre. This sparked something great within him and he decided then that theatre would become his life’s work.  After high school he enrolled in Tarkio College, in Tarkio, MO, where he earned his BFA in Musical Theatre. He then went on to earn his MFA in Acting and Directing from the University of North Carolina, in Greensboro, NC. If that isn’t enough, he then earned a certificate from Harvard’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at American Repertory Theatre where he studied directing and at Harvard he directed a total of 13 different plays. Needless to say, he knows his stuff. Talking about theatre with him is an extremely educational experience. He is a wealth of knowledge. His professional accolades are a list at least as long as I am tall. They include being the Managing Director of Cultural & Performing Arts and an Associate Professor of Theatre in West Shore Community College, Scottville, MI, Associate Artistic Director & Director of Education for the Tennessee Repertory Theatre, in Nashville, TN, and Producing Artistic Director of the American Stage Theatre Company, Tampa Bay’s largest producing professional theater company. In total, this is the 13th state he has lived in and plans on making this his permanent home. Which, this is Chattanooga. Do you blame him? A city that offers some of the best of culture with a scenic beauty to boot! Of course, considering his talent, knowledge, and skills, Chattanooga is equally lucky to have him call our city home! “The Chattanooga Theatre Centre really impressed me. It has a talented board with a lot of affection for the theatre, a commited staff, and an ambitious schedule with good plays. Any change we’re going to take slowly.” Todd said of his impression with the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. We then asked him about what he envisioned for the future of CTC and his goals for the historic community theatre. “I’d like to think long term. The Chattanooga Theatre Centre is coming up on its centennial. For a theatre to have that kind of longevity is nearly unheard of anymore. My first priority is that I want to ensure that we have the stability to continue for another 100 years. I want to not only satisfy our audience but also want to wet a new appetite.”   Some other interesting things I learned about him during our conversation:
  • Favorite drama: A Skin of our Teeth by Thornton Wilder.
  • Favorite musical: Sweeney Todd by Steven Sondheim.
  • Favorite comedy: The Foreigner by Larry Shue.
  • Favorite Shakespeare: A toss up between Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, and The Merchant of Venice.  
  • Favorite play: “The one that I’m working on at the time.”
I also learned that he is a dog person, and that he rescued both of his dogs. One of which was abandoned tied to a pole in Tampa FL. Not really theatre related, but being a dog person myself this really touched me. I feel confident about the Chattanooga Theatre Centre’s future with Todd as its leader. His talent and experience mean many good things are in store for this cherished theatre where many, including myself, were first inspired to be part of the theatre community.