Franklin-based Studio Tenn theater company is now in its sixth season. It’s been quite an explosive year for Studio Tenn, so we sat down with Managing Director, Jake Speck, who spends countless hours ensuring all of the behind-the-scenes elements run smoothly.
From Williamson County to Broadway
After graduating from Christ Presbyterian Academy, Speck stayed in the Nashville to pursue a music career performing with Nickajack with Asylum Records.
“I thought I was going to be the next big thing,” he said.
But after the record deal fell through, another opportunity presented itself when a friend told him about an American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) audition taking place in Nashville.
After receiving the highest national scholarship, Speck moved to New York where he spent two years at AMDA. Upon graduation, he signed with an agent in New York and started working regionally all over the country which led to a role in “Jersey Boys” on Broadway.
“I was very fortunate, I never had to have a survival job but always had a job in acting,” said Speck.
Returning Home to Williamson County
Speck admitted that he never thought he would return to Tennessee after making it on Broadway at the age of 27.
“Sometimes achieving what you want doesn’t turn out the way you think,” said Speck. “What I realized is that I didn’t want to do eight shows a week every week the rest of my life.”
Matt Logan, Artistic Director for Studio Tenn, and Speck knew each other from Christ Presbyterian Academy. They were even in New York working around the same time and just as Speck was questioning what would be his next step, Logan had just moved back to Nashville.
“I had a dream one night that Matt and I started a theatre company,” said Speck. “The thought just kept coming back to me so I finally sent a long email to Matt saying ‘please tell me I’m crazy and that you would never do this.'”
Unknowing to Speck, Logan just had lunch with a friend who tried to convince Logan to start a theatre company here instead of moving to Los Angeles. Studio Tenn was formed in 2009 with Logan, Philip Hall and Marguerite Hall while Speck was still in New York and assisting as much as he could from afar.
The first show was “Our Town”, performed at the Loveless Cafe to a sold out audience. Speck moved back to Tennessee in 2010 to become the Managing Director. After a few shows at Belmont, a show at the old City Hall in Franklin, three seasons at the Franklin Theatre, and now three seasons at The Factory- Studio Tenn has moved from a dream to a reality.
Speck’s entire career before Studio Tenn was acting and singing. As a Managing Director, his experience is unique in that way. But it has also been a challenge to learn how to run a non-profit.
From the day-to-day accounting to negotiating contracts with actors to managing the house and casting a vision for the next five years, Speck is in charge of all things business related.
Highlights for Studio Tenn this Year
Studio Tenn had quite a big year with some monumental events. The two biggest shows were “Evita” and “Battle of Franklin”. Studio Tenn was the first local production company to open “Evita” at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. With “Battle of Franklin”, Studio Tenn brought a completely original work to audiences, in just six months.
“Battle of Franklin was the most successful show we’ve ever done,” said Speck, “We sold out every single performance.”
As it was Studio Tenn’s first attempt at an original work, Speck wasn’t sure how well it would be received.
“I didn’t know what to expect from “Battle of Franklin”, but the subject matter was interesting to this community, and they really came out to support it.”
A Studio Tenn Christmas
Right now, you can enjoy “A Studio Tenn Christmas,” which pays homage to the 60s.
“It’s like inviting the audience to our Christmas party, only everyone at our party is a really amazing singer,” said Speck.
Like some of Studio Tenn’s previous music legacy shows, there is no dialogue, but you’ll see group songs, duets and solors including two solos by Speck- “You’re a Mean One Mister Grinch,” and “Christmas Song.”
“The true heart of who I am is a performer. When I am on stage performing, I feel I am who I am meant to be.”
“A Studio Tenn Christmas” continues on Friday and Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm. Purchase your tickets online at Studio Tenn.