Celebrating the completion of the Broward Center’s multimillion dollar renovation, CEO Kelley Shanley leads the performing arts center into its 25th season, ensuring that it will be one of its best yet.
Kelley Shanley credits his start in show management to a lucky phone call.
After countless dead-end attempts calling regional theaters, he finally got through to someone at a Boston playhouse. It just so happened that the woman who picked up knew of an entry-level opening as a box office ticket seller. She hired him, and just like that, Shanley was on his way to building a lifelong career in the arts.
Fast forward a few decades, and it’s obvious that Shanley’s success is due to a lot more than luck. As the CEO of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, he serves as a tenacious, forward-thinking leader.
Since taking over the top spot in 2009, the Coral Springs resident has led the Broward Center through a $58 million dollar renovation—making it a destination, rather than a place to see a show. Along the way, he’s helped it earn national recognition as the 10th busiest theater in the country for its size.
Both are milestones worth celebrating, especially during a time when digital channels like YouTube and dwindling funding have challenged the arts. It’s Shanley’s clear vision—to connect artists with audiences—that has allowed the Broward Center to thrive despite the circumstances.
“If you can create that moment, connect with the artists, then we’ve succeeded,” Shanley says.
In September, the Center completed the renovation of The Amaturo Theater concluding the seven-year expansion project. Now patrons can enjoy waterfront dining at Marti’s New River Bistro, sip cocktails at the Intermezzo Lounge pre-show or catch the performance from the new Club Level that offers luxurious seating and premium food and drinks. The goal is to attract a new and younger audience to the theater.
So far, Shanley says, the feedback has been phenomenal.
But for Shanley, it’s not the updated theater or the glitzy cocktail bars that make him most proud. For a man who grew up in upstate New York in a family of educators (his father was a school superintendent and his brother currently serves as one), he believes that after entertainment, a theater’s top priority is education.
That’s why a third of the campaign was dedicated to a new education center. Shanley calls it “the daily heartbeat” of the theater.
The education center builds on the theater’s 25-year partnership with Broward County Public Schools, offering summer camp programs, Broadway workshops and a reading readiness program to more than 150,000 children annually. The idea is to both educate and engage students in the arts.
Shanley says that teaching students about the arts and encouraging them to actively participate in the arts is the key to sustaining them.
“Art survives from generation to generation—we’ve got to think differently about art and art forms,” Shanley says, adding that last season the Broward Center welcomed to its stages a handful of artists who got their start on YouTube.
And most importantly, Shanley says that the live performance still has great value. “Art centers don’t need to be afraid. They just have to understand,” he says.
This season, theater-goers can look forward to a new and improved experience while catching acts such as Tony Bennett or Kathy Griffin. Also this season, “The Book of Mormon” returns along with family-favorites like Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Less traditional performances include shows from the Slow Burn Theater Company—one of Shanley’s favorites. “They find great ways to tell stories on the stage,” he says. “Pay attention to these guys.”
All in all, Shanley hopes that the Center inspires people to “unlock something inside of them or just make them feel happy.”
“[I hope] that the spaces and the people made them feel like they belong at the Broward Center,” he says. “[I hope] that the show was great, that the people were great and that the experience was great.”