Next Act Theatre Hires Kerri Kilbourne as Managing Director
Former Board Member, Corporate Leader is Theatre’s First Managing Director in Eight Years

Milwaukee, WI – Next Act Theatre announced today that Kerri Kilbourne has been hired as its new Managing Director. Kilbourne was hired after a two-month national search and will assume the role on Wednesday, February 23, 2023. She is the first person in the position of Managing Director at Next Act Theatre since 2014.

Kilbourne joins Next Act Theatre after spending several years in the private sector with Fortune 500 companies including Corning, Avery Dennison, BEHR Paints and Bostik (formerly Findley Adhesives). She brings experience beyond engineering and design (with a BSEE from Clemson University); she has also worked in strategic marketing, led customer service teams and worked cross-functionally with finance, research and development, product management, sales and marketing communications.

From 2014-2018, Kilbourne served as a board member of Next Act Theatre. As an employee of Bostik, she volunteered as a United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) campaign leader for several years. She also served as an Advisory Panel Member for Milwaukee Repertory Theater in 2016 and 2017. Prior to that, Kilbourne served as a board member for Habitat for Humanity in Ohio and California and as a community mentor in the Finger Lakes Region of New York.

“To say that I am excited to join Next Act Theatre in a full-time capacity is an understatement! Next Act is one of the first, and most compelling companies, theater or otherwise, to which I was introduced when I moved to Milwaukee in 2013. I have never lost my passion for this theatre and I am thrilled and honored to join Cody, the staff and the board of directors in seeing Next Act Theatre continue its excellence in delivering thoughtful content that inspires discussion,” said Kilbourne. “I look forward to leveraging the skills and experience I have gained from years in corporate leadership to build on Next Act Theatre’s already rich history.”

Kilbourne joins Cody Estle in the leadership of Next Act Theatre. Estle was hired as Next Act’s Artistic Director in October 2022, succeeding Producing Artistic Director David Cecsarini. As Managing Director, Kilbourne will share responsibilities with Estle to develop and execute the strategic plan for Next Act Theatre.

“I am thrilled to begin this exciting partnership with Kerri,” said Estle. “I’m grateful for the breadth of experience she brings to Next Act Theatre through a variety of pivotal leadership roles critical to ensuring the future of this organization for many years to come.”

Next Act Theatre’s previous Managing Director was Charles Kakuk. A former Marine, restaurant manager and concert promoter, Kakuk joined Cecsarini to lead Next Act Theatre in 1992. Shortly before the 2014-2015 season, after 22 seasons at Next Act, Kakuk lost his long battle with cancer. Cecsarini was the company’s sole administrative leader until Estle was hired in October 2022; Cecsarini’s retirement followed in January 2023.

Next Act Theatre’s staff and Board of Directors are excited to welcome Kilbourne.

“The decision to hire Kerri was pretty straightforward,” said David Anderson, President of the Next Act Theatre Board of Directors. “She has successfully managed sales units, marketing groups and customer service centers. She has managed budgets and people. She brings a tremendous wealth of business experience to the position of Managing Director. I believe she and Cody will be a terrific pair leading Next Act forward.”

Next Act’s 2022-23 season continues with THERE IS A HAPPINESS THAT MORNING IS by Mickle Maher. The play opens on February 24 and closes on March 19, 2023. Additional season offerings include the world premiere of GOD’S SPIES by Bill Cain, April 27 – May 21, 2023.


The mission of Next Act Theatre is to engage the hearts and minds of audiences with compelling and intimate theatre productions intended to stimulate thought, foster the exchange of ideas and promote the development of new perspectives. Next Act Theatre celebrates 32 years of professional theatre. Next Act Theatre is a proud member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).

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