Paul T. Couch, who has extensive experience in venue management and once served as general manager of the historic Ryman Auditorium, has been hired by the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County as interim executive director for the Franklin Theatre.

He is replacing current Executive Director Dan Hays, following Hays’ last day on Friday, June 7. The Franklin Theatre is a division of the Heritage Foundation, along with the Downtown Franklin Association.

Couch is a longtime veteran of the theater industry and was executive producer of the Heritage Foundation’s 2017 50th anniversary celebration.

“Paul brings a tremendous amount of experience, energy and a thoughtful, collaborative nature to The Franklin Theatre,” Bari Beasley, CEO of the Heritage Foundation, said. “From national touring productions to local theater, he understands what it takes to be in the sometimes-difficult show business but also how to maximize partnerships, sponsorships and the local community to better the entertainment experience for everyone.”

While he was with the Ryman Auditorium, Couch booked and promoted a variety of shows, including country, pop, rock, bluegrass and classical music concerts. He also produced the musicals Always … Patsy Cline, Lost Highway — The Music and Legend of Hank Williams, and Bye Bye Love — The Everly Brothers Musical, and the Ryman’s first season of repertory musicals.

From there Couch ventured to Savannah, Georgia, where he directed the renovation and opening of the Lucas Theatre for the Arts in the city’s historic district. While there, he presented successful seasons of Broadway shows and classical performances as well pop, rock, country, bluegrass and comedy shows.

Not long after, Dollywood theme park hired Couch as its director of entertainment and executive producer where he became one of the theme park industry’s most award-winning entertainment producers. Dollywood won over 20 Brass Ring Awards and six Golden Ticket Awards during his tenure, from 2003 to 2014. He was also responsible for managing the operations of the park’s eight performance venues. It was there that Couch and Dolly Parton began a creative partnership that includes several major musical productions and a Hallmark Channel television special.

For the past five years Couch has been a Franklin resident where he continues to create and produce musicals. Most notably, he is collaborating with Dolly on the new musical Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol, an original adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. The work recently sold out three showcase performances at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota. Couch graduated from Muskingum University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a minor in Theater and received his MBA from Belmont University.

Couch said that even when he was living in Sevierville while working at Dollywood, he closely followed the updates while the Franklin Theatre was being renovated and reopened a number of years ago. He and his wife have visited the theater numerous times since moving to Franklin.

“We’ve always enjoyed the kinds of shows they brought,” he said. “The Franklin Theatre just adds a lot to the experience and the culture of downtown Franklin.”

To learn more about the Theatre’s upcoming shows and movies, visit


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