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James Patrick

Curtain Up for Morrison Center's new Executive Director


James Patrick wanted to be an actor but his parents knew better. Having a doctor for a brother and an accountant for a sister, Patrick said he knew going into the arts was "a little rogue." His parents said they weren't going to pay for an arts degree so he went to Rutgers University and got a degree in accounting. But that didn't completely cure him of the acting bug.

What were some of your early acting jobs?

I worked at an equity theater in Augusta, Mich., and I eventually moved to New York City, where I studied acting for about six years. Some of the plays I was in were so far off Broadway that they were in Pennsylvania. I had a recurring role in a soap opera, Another World, as a doctor.

Did you eventually realize that acting wasn't going to be your lifelong career?

After a while, I thought my folks weren't that wrong, because I was happiest when I was using my business skills with my artistic sensibilities. I got a job with the Celebrity Cruises managing large groups of entertainers, cruising the world for three years. I eventually got a master's in fine arts management from Brooklyn College. I followed that with jobs as budget manager for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, director of the City University of New York's theater center and as executive director of the Warner Theater in Torrington, Conn.

What are your broad-stroke goals for the Morrison Center?

To fine-tune the general operations and build on the strong foundation that already exists here. I know that sounds mundane, but you've got to get into the trenches to see what we do and how we do it. I'm talking about the patron experience: how we sell a ticket, how we book a show and how we sell tickets. It's a complicated business.

Do you want to book more events?

Yes. Absolutely. That's right on my to-do list. That's a big mandate.

What do you think we could see at the Morrison that we're not seeing now?

Certainly more live entertainment. I don't think there's a genre that we wouldn't consider.

Is there some influence--formal or informal--from Boise State on what you book?

No, that's not in my job description. I see this more as the people's theater. I've always been kind of a populist. I want to push the envelope a little. A performing arts center needs to cast a wide net.

What's done well here?

The Broadway series. There's a definite niche market for those shows. It seems to me that more family-friendly entertainment has great potential here.

Does a particular brand of music sell better than others here?

I'm told that country sells very well here. There are certain artists who would do very well in this venue. Jazz is a very hard sell.

Are there shows that may be big hits in New York that may not travel well west of the Mississippi?

Absolutely. That's going to be a learning curve for me. There are certainly things that are very East Coast that may not resonate here.

Will Wicked in April, be a big deal?

It's phenomenal for us. It will be here for two weeks.

Do Wicked's producers have different expectations?

They have their own infrastructure, and they're very protective of their brand. Our Broadway in Boise subscriptions are definitely higher thanks to Wicked.

What's the advantage of being the new kid on the block?

I think it's great that I'm not the only new guy in town. There are new directors at Ballet Idaho, the opera and the philharmonic. We're all coming into this fresh.

A lot of people who have been here their entire life still don't fully understand the relationship between the Morrison Center and Boise State.

That's actually one of my points on my to-do list: to integrate the center's branding and marketing with Boise State. I'm not going to lie to you, my first entree to Boise State was hearing about the football team. I really want to be a part of that engine and a part of what Dr. [Bob] Kustra is doing to make this university nationally visible. It's exciting to know that I have his full support to open up and unleash all this energy to make this a major destination for arts and culture.