Mary Catherine Hughes ’10 Builds Support for Theatre through Compassion and Communication

Hutchison Now highlights graduates early in their careers who embody how a Hutchison education can lead anywhere you can imagine. We spoke with Mary Catherine Hughes ’10, a development associate at the Nashville Repertory Theatre.
How did your Hutchison experience help you get to where you are today?

I built my confidence at Hutchison. I graduated with a strong academic foundation and a respect for values-based institutions. I credit my integrity, compassion, and determination to teachers and staff who emphasized the importance of those traits and others.

You previously worked in human resources. How have the skills you honed in HR helped in your transition to development and fundraising?

My five-year tenure at Common Desk was an educational experience — working at a startup meant learning by doing. Having studied theatre in college, I was unsure if a career in human resources was the right long-term fit, but I used my time there to develop transferable skills. I consider effective communication, data analysis, relationship building, and strategic planning as integral to my daily work. In my current role, I am assessing fundraising trends, understanding campaign effectiveness, articulating the organization’s mission, and building relationships with donors, which are all skills that find their roots in human resources.

Your job requires a lot of organization. Looking back on your Hutchison experience, do you remember building these skills at Hutchison?

Absolutely. I remember time management being specifically emphasized, which was a key learning for students with time-consuming extracurricular activities. I had rehearsal most nights and weekends, so understanding how to be an effective, proactive student while balancing a demanding schedule was important.

What does it mean to you to be fundraising to support local theatre?

Theatre is storytelling — a way for communities to share and maintain culture. Despite a challenging national landscape for theaters, Nashville Repertory Theatre continues to employ over 200 actors, playwrights, designers, directors, musicians, technicians, and educators each year, making the Rep the leading employer of theatrical artists in Middle Tennessee. We can see our direct fiscal impact, and that is something I’m incredibly proud of.

More importantly, we are preserving local theatre. I want to make sure that there’s a vibrant local theater for the next generation — this is where artists like the Audra McDonalds, Kelli O’Haras, and Lin-Manuel Mirandas of tomorrow will get their start.

Why is it important to be able to pursue your interest in acting during your free time?

Acting in community theater productions is a continual source of learning, a collaborative effort with a diverse group of individuals, and a creative outlet that enriches my life outside of work — one that prevents me from singing loudly for my coworkers, which I hear is a win for everyone involved.

Mary Catherine Hughes ’10 is a development associate at the Nashville Repertory Theatre. She previously served as the Head of People and Culture at Common Desk, a coworking space provider, working her way up to the leadership role after serving as a community manager in Dallas. She graduated from New York University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and a minor in Entertainment Business. 

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