Suzanne Livesay Named Executive Director of Appalachian Theatre National Search Yields Local Resident to Lead Historic Venue

Last Updated on July 25, 2022 4:13 pm

BOONE, NC – The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country is pleased to announce that veteran
arts professional Suzanne Messenger Livesay has been named executive director of the
venerable landmark on King Street in downtown Boone, NC. She will begin her tenure on August
1, 2022.

Board chair Keith Martin said that Livesay was the unanimous choice of both the search and
executive committees of the theatre’s board of trustees, and praised vice chair Bill Pelto, who
led the national effort that yielded a local candidate for the position. Pelto said of the hiring,
“Suzanne brings to us the verve of an educator, the expertise of a manager, and the instinct of
an artist. I look forward to seeing her energies dedicated to enhancing the quality of the arts here
in the High Country.”

The Sugar Grove resident was formerly the vice president of education and community
engagement at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida, the sixth largest
performing arts center in the United States. In that capacity, Livesay supervised 31 full-time and
50+ adjunct faculty and staff members while administering an annual $5,500,000 budget.
Previously, she served as both the theatre and music chair for the Patel Conservatory, also in
Tampa, theatre/choral director and department chair at The First Academy in Orlando, and fine
arts coordinator and instructor at the Geneva Academy in Deland.

Since Suzanne and her husband, Gil, relocated their family to the High Country during the
pandemic, she has been employed by the Watauga County Schools as a K-8 music educator at
both Bethel and Valle Crucis Schools. She told the App Theatre search committee that she fell
in love with the High Country in the 1990s when she was a featured soloist at The Farm House
in Blowing Rock while pursuing her undergraduate musical theatre degree at Stetson University
in Florida. Livesay also holds a Master of Education degree from Belhaven University in Jackson,

Thirty select community stakeholders interviewed Livesay during the extensive search process,
which involved board trustees, theatre staff and volunteers, elected officials, and representatives
of user groups who program events at the theatre.

L. Wright Tilley, executive director of the Boone and Watauga County Tourism Development
Authorities at Explore Boone, said, “Suzanne has the right personality and understands the
importance of the local community in the success of the theater. Being an educator, she is used
to getting feedback from multiple sources (administration, students, parents, etc.). The fact that
she has already been living and working in our community for a couple of years will be very

Boone Mayor Pro Tem and theatre volunteer Edie Tugman echoed those comments by saying,
“Ms. Livesay is a lovely presenter: articulate, energetic and knowledgeable. She would be a
good representative of the theatre in the business community as well as engaging with the
general public. It is amazing that one with the caliber of Ms. Livesay's experience is so readily

“Suzanne has the right background and personality for the job,” said David Jackson, president
and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “She is someone who can trumpet the
mission of the Appalachian Theatre well, while also thinking about how the organization can be
a benefit to others in our community. The seeds are there for this to be a signature moment in
the theatre's history.”

In accepting the position, Livesay remarked, “I'm delighted to join an exceptional board and
staff to share my leadership, expertise, and appreciation for Boone's unique culture while
molding the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country into a premiere destination for the
performing arts.

“The extensive theatre renovation and restoration took into account every facet of an
outstanding performance venue while honoring the historical integrity of the space,” said
Livesay. “It really is something to experience and behold.”

Speaking from the perspective of the App Theatre's user groups, Julie A. Richardson, Blue
Ridge Community Theatre board chair, was one of over a half-dozen local arts organizations
who met with Livesay during the candidate interview process.

“I'm impressed at how members of the Livesay family have jumped into our arts community since
arriving in the High Country a few years ago,” said Richardson. “Suzanne is a music teacher in
the Watauga Public Schools, and her daughter Micah has performed in shows at both App State
and Lees-McRae College. With an extensive background in producing and directing theatre
productions, Suzanne knows firsthand the challenges that user groups face when mounting their
own plays and musicals; she will be an effective advocate for local performing arts

For information about the theatre, visit their website at

Back to top button