Meet Next Act Theatre’s New Managing Director

Kerri Kilbourne is the first to fill the position in eight years.

After a two-month national search for the new Managing Director of Next Act Theatre, a perfect match was found in former board member Kerri Kilbourne. And today is her first official day on the job.

When she moved to Milwaukee in 2013, Kerri Kilbourne needed to get involved in theater. “I love theater, I love attending, I love just understanding what goes on within the theater community,” she says.

She found Next Act Theatre to be a good fit, serving as a board member for four years until 2018. “We’ve got really long-term patrons, so I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some that I haven’t been in contact with recently,” she says.

Coming from a background in marketing, finance and development in Fortune 500 companies, Kilbourne plans on using her unique perspective to build up the arts in her new role.

“[Next Act has] a wonderful staff of very competent people who almost exclusively grew up in the theater community” she says. “Me coming from the private sector in Corporate America – that point of view is something that Next Act has not seen in a very long time.”



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Kilbourne is the first to fill the position of Managing Director in eight years, succeeding Producing Artistic Director David Cecsarini, who is retiring this year. “David has been there for so many years and gave so much to the theater,” she says. “He was managing director, artistic director, production designer – just filling all those roles.” 

Artistic Director Cody Estle was hired last December to partially fill Cesarini’s role, and Kilbourne is eager to start their collaboration. “It will allow Cody to really focus 100 percent on the creative aspect of Next Act while I focus on the business side” she says. “I think the partnership is what’s really going to be so incredibly beneficial to Next Act.”

Her goal for Next Act is for it to become a prominent piece of Milwaukee’s flourishing theater scene, one that reaches further into the community. “I’m looking forward to hopefully bringing content – along with Cody’s vision – to a younger audience,” she says. “It’s a destination that many people don’t know about,” she said. “It’s a difficult one to draw attention to.

Though the theater is undergoing a big change in direction, Kilbourne knows the importance of maintaining the original charm of Next Act and the impact it makes among audiences. “That’s what I love about Next Act Theatre,” she says. “You walk away either having an internal conversation with yourself or having conversation with somebody else – it just provokes thought.”