Debbie Litch is a Memphian with the Midas touch for our arts community. Theatre Memphis, the second-oldest arts organization in the city, gained new life when Debbie was named executive producer in 2004. Within her decade plus of leadership there, ticket sales and sponsorships have increased 100 percent with 11 years of consecutive balanced budgets and sold-out crowds often in attendance. Previously, Debbie served the arts community in other noteworthy roles, such as director of development for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Meet this dedicated, enterprising Memphian with a passion for the arts, today’s FACE of Memphis, Debbie Litch.
Have you always called Memphis home?
No, I am from Kentucky originally and was in Florida for many years with a theater production company. However, I have been in Memphis for 34 years, and it truly is home. From the moment I moved here, I realized this was one of the friendliest, most vibrant communities anywhere. If you want to be involved, everyone encourages and embraces you.
You have made an impact as a leader in the arts community in Memphis, yet we see that your degrees are in mathematics (Eastern Kentucky University) and guidance counseling (University of Kentucky). Can you connect the dots by sharing a few benchmarks that attracted you to the arts?
I have always been involved with theater and music since I was a child. I guess you could say that my right and left sides of my brain continue to play ping-pong back and forth. It was great to have a background in mathematics since I have been so fortunate to have developed a career in arts management.
Since arriving at Theatre Memphis, what are three key changes you have made to move this long-standing Memphis venue forward?
Now I will have to say what key changes have WE made to move this theater forward. You see, I believe in a concerted team effort. So, if I can be a good judge of great people who are smarter than I am, then that is the first vital step toward achieving our following goals:
- Continue to uphold our basic strategic mission … consistent artistic excellence with financial stability and growth in all productions, outreach/education programming and events
- Continue to balance annual budgets and be good stewards of the generous gifts of our much-appreciated patrons, funders and audiences
- And, most importantly, assemble a stellar and appreciated staff, volunteers and board to help us achieve our aggressive goals to present the best in entertainment and education
Does your husband enjoy the theater and share your passion for the arts?
I have been married to Dr. Mel Litch for 34 years, and we have one four-legged daughter, a West Highland Terrier named April in Paris. As you can imagine, the hours are long because you must take care of business during the day and be at the performances in the evening. Fortunately, Mel loves this theater and is most understanding and supportive of this crazy business that all of us involved cannot begin to live without.
How do you recharge after a busy day at work?
As much as I thrive and adore being with people, I love to actually go home and watch old movies, especially MGM musicals, as well as catch up on my reading.
Have you read a good book lately that you would recommend to others?
What are some basic words of wisdom you can offer based on your professional experience?
You must ALWAYS do more than expected and give everything your best; never take anything for granted; appreciate every day and everyone, and you make your own luck when opportunity meets preparedness. Always do everything with great passion and enthusiasm. Remember, always look at every situation through the eyes of those around you, so that you have a clearer understanding of their point of view.
Do you have a specific mentor? How has that person influenced you?
I did have a mentor who was my high school theater teacher. His name was Sam Simpson. He taught me to learn everything there was about theater. Learn to build a set, learn to sweep a floor and appreciate all of those who work so hard to design, build and work behind the scenes … this way you will truly appreciate if you ever have the chance to be on stage in the spotlight. He instilled confidence, self-esteem and the importance of team responsibility.
Describe yourself in four adjectives.
Enthusiastic, passionate, driven and fair
Do you have a favorite beauty product you can’t imagine not using?
Concepts Now Super Moisturizer and Concepts Now Porcelain Unveil Foundation
Do you have any favorite fashion trends or must-have clothing items/accessories on your list for fall 2015?
I love to dress, but approach fashion from a classic perspective with heels, scarves and pins, all a must for most occasions, with a few sequins and feathers thrown in for evening.
Tell us a bit about your current show, “The Producers,” from your perspective, including your favorite part of the performance.
“The Producers” is truly a Mel Brooks Tony Award-winning, satiric musical masterpiece that Brooks and Thomas Meehan adapted from Brooks’ 1968 film of the same name. As in the film, the story concerns two theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop. Complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be successful. The humor of the show draws on Mel Brooks’ equal opportunistic satire. He pokes fun at everyone and everything. However, as I say, he uses his greatest gift of humor as his weapon to combat prejudices.
It is one of the largest shows that Theatre Memphis has produced, with over 216 costumes and 19 locations in regards to sets. We have a dynamic cast and crew, as well as a fabulous director and design team. We have set the bar high to achieve our overriding goal of consistent artistic excellence. I urge everyone to see this most entertaining production on stage at Theatre Memphis through September 13.
My favorite parts of the show are the incredible performances by a stellar cast, our production values that include sets, costumes and lighting, and the dancing pigeons and the entire presentation of the show-stopping number, “Springtime for Hitler.”
What three lighthearted things could you not live without?
Unsweetened ice tea (daytime) and Pinot Grigio (nighttime), sequins and feathers and, hopefully, a great sense of humor
Thank you, Debbie! And we cannot wait to see “The Producers!”
Today’s photos at Theatre Memphis were taken by Micki Martin.