Q&A with Lattie Brown

Lattie Brown attended TPAC’s first performance for student audiences in 1983: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Ever since, Lattie has continued her relationship with theatre and with Tennessee Performing Arts Center, where she now serves as Senior Director of Special Projects since 2000.

Q: Does your first experience with TPAC stand out?

Lattie Brown: Absolutely. As a senior in high school, I came with my class to see a play in the then brand new Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The Glass Menagerie was my first chance to see live professional theatre. I think I walked around in a spell for the entire day. To be given such insight into someone’s life and struggles was very moving, raising important questions in my teenage worldview about personal responsibility and empathy.

Q: Had you been involved in the arts before?

LB: Oh, yes, my first play was The Velveteen Rabbit. I was lucky to attend a school with an arts-rich environment. Harpeth Hall offered strong theatre, music, dance, and visual arts study. I learned the power of creative expression through the arts and its impact on both artists and audiences. Theatre and music, in particular, had such a positive influence on me and led to a career, but looking back I see the benefits for all my classmates in their various lives and pursuits.

Q: What was the first Broadway show you saw at TPAC?

LB: Annie. That tour was amazing! I sat in the very last row in the balcony, completely mesmerized. The performances, the music, the production values were beyond what I had ever seen, and I was utterly blown away by a full-on Broadway show. The most important part, though, is it had such heart and hope. I love all theatre whether it’s intimate and spare or an enormous show, but at that time, I had no conception of the full range of possibilities. TPAC gave me that first taste, as well as my first opera, my first symphony, and first ballet.

Q: When did you begin to work professionally in the arts?

LB: I had done some theatre at Vanderbilt, but really took the professional plunge with a training program offered by Tennessee Repertory Theatre (now the Nashville Repertory Theatre) in my mid 20s. Believe it or not, one of my first teachers was the brilliant Mary Jane Harvill, who had starred as Laura in that production of The Glass Menagerie. With Tennessee Rep, I was able to come full circle and perform for TPAC’s Humanities Outreach in Tennessee student audiences – exciting and deeply satisfying for me.

Q: What brought you to TPAC?

LB: I was working as a professional actor and doing additional jobs – some related to the arts and some not – when a dear friend, Carol Ponder, suggested I audition as a teaching artist for a program in Nashville called ArtSmart. I was immediately and completely hooked. I could combine my enthusiasm and experience in the arts with an ability to engage students, helping them as I had been helped, to open up their own creativity and to discover all of the possible ways to express it. When the Nashville Institute of Arts, which administered the teaching artist programs, merged with TPAC I was offered the chance to administer the Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts program. Here was another way to affect children by directly focusing on the arts as learning tools for early childhood development goals. Because TPAC’s education staff works as a team, I am able to participate in and contribute to all the arts approaches that I love including our InsideOut and Disney Musicals in Schools programs. It’s a dream job.

Q: What’s your last word on why the arts are vital to education?

LB: There’s no last word, because we always discover more. At its core, education is the opening of new worlds of knowledge and understanding; the arts do the same thing: inspiring, enlightening, challenging students to find their own personal meaning in what they learn and experience. Arts and education together are my favorite combination.