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April 25, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Nashville Children’s Theatre Enters the Global Conversation

NCT has a lot of exciting new works coming up in its next season, and Executive Artistic Director Ernie Nolan is passionate about growing theater for very young audiences.


It’s hard to believe that Nashville Children’s Theatre's (NCT) former and masterful Artistic Director Scot Copeland has been gone for three years now (after 30 years with NCT, he died suddenly in February 2016), but the oldest operating children’s theater in the United States is in good hands today. The skilled and nimble Ernie Nolan serves as executive artistic director for NCT today, and he’s brought a lot of new downtown to the theater space on Middleton Street.

Nolan’s brought new actors onto NCT’s stages during his first two years, crafted new endeavors such as The Snuggery (interactive theater for ages 0 to 5 years) and The Hatchery, an “incubator’’ for new works for children, all while crafting the upcoming 2019 – 20 season including four world premieres and three Nashville premieres that have a "taking action" theme.  (Note: The Snuggery productions for next fall and spring include The Itsy Bitsy Spider (Aug. 10 – Sept. 22, 2019) and The Teddy Bear’s Picnic (March 7 – April 19, 2020. The Hatchery will unveil two Hatchery productions this fall: Return to Sender (Oct. 10 – 27) and Auntie Claus (Nov. 14 – Dec. 29). The Absent Author and Tiger Rising are in the Hatchery pipeline.).

"My favorite thing about coming to Nashville is contributing the two new programs here at NCT, The Snuggery and The Hatchery," Nolan says upon his recent return from Italy where he was speaking at a festival. "I love that I've been able to share this incredible place with new audiences while also contributing new work to the field. It's been exciting to make my mark on this institution. I love that NCT is able to lead conversations in the field now about new work as well as theater for the very young. It really makes us an international player," he adds.

"The Snuggery puts NCT into a global conversation now," says Nolan. "Theater for the very young has been happening in Europe and abroad for years. It's amazing to think that we are in conversation with other artists crafting this work in Italy, Ireland and Australia. This really puts us in an amazing community of artists," says Nolan.

Nolan's career has a long history of creating new works in the "Theater for Young Audiences" (TYA) arena. It's one of his greatest passions.

"The TYA canon of plays is so small. The fact that we are contributing to it and creating a play that will be seen across this country in future productions is thrilling," Nolan says. "It also lets Nashville audiences be the first to see. I love that!" he adds.

Nolan's sophisticated approach has grown NCT's audience since he's come on board. The production of Disney's The Little Mermaid this past December brought in the largest audience ever for an NCT show — more than 25,500 were in attendance during the run!

In addition to producing great theater for young audiences, NCT continues to teach kids the theater arts through its wide menu of drama classes, workshops and seasonal camps for kids ages 4 – 18. Get the list of offerings here.

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