Eileen Breen has produced eight operas, one of them on a battleship; organized more than 25 events across five of the globe’s seven continents; done publicity for more than 85 recognizable music artists; and penned three books.

Irish people, Google says, have an ability for and love of music; an appreciation for family; a sense of justice; ambition; fondness for a party; and a love of words and learning.

That’s a pretty spot-on description of Eileen Breen, the first-generation Irish American from Buffalo, N.Y., who is Dezart Performs’ first managing director. But that’s just the tip of the Rapa Nui statue. Let’s dig down.

Breen’s mom happened upon a handsome singer and spoon player at an Irish pub in New York—downright magical, considering they’d once shared a dance in England. They married and had “Irish twins,” with Eileen arriving 12 months after Maura.

Maybe it was genetics from her Arthur Murray dance-teacher mom, or perhaps it was the repeat viewings of An American in Paris—but when 9-year-old Breen saw that advertisement for $2 dance classes, she asked for forgiveness, not permission, and signed up.

She told Mom she’d pay for it doing extra chores, or whatever. Mom’s stipulation was she take ballet—the most technical form of dance. If that was meant to discourage her, it didn’t work. Her parents split that same year, and Breen didn’t see Dad again until she was 12. One love found; one love lost.

Twelve-year old Breen auditioned for the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, and gave a resounding middle finger to the Catholic nuns who’d taped her mouth shut in school for talking. She lived, breathed and studied dance 24/7, until …

“I got boobs and a butt,” she says wistfully. “My teacher said, ‘You’re a wonderful dancer, but your body will never be a ballet dancer.’”

Life is often rich in irony. Not Alanis Morissette irony—the real stuff.

“There was an open call for a workshop of A Chorus Line with Michael Bennett,” she says. He’s the original choreographer of the show about hopefuls auditioning for a Broadway show. If you’re familiar, let me direct you to “Paul,” a character who injures his knee during a tap routine. Breen injured hers falling out of a jump.

From 10th grade on, she was a theater kid in a public school. She’d danced, but never before sang nor acted onstage. They cast her as the tough-talking team manager Ben Van Buren in Damn Yankees anyway. That was a flex.

After graduation, she worked at a funky retail store that did fashion shows. But Buffalo winters were brutal, and Breen’s dreams had beaches. Seventeen magazine said she could be in fashion if she went to this school in Florida. She secured grants and a loan (co-signed by Mom), and a year later, she was studying fashion history at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. There was a relationship; it fizzled, and school lasted longer. Breen learned a fondness for a party could get in the way of ambition. Ambition easily won.

California had a beach, warm weather and a musician she’d met and fancied in Toronto. They got a place together in Glendale, and Breen landed an executive assistant position for a restaurant industry CEO until Europe said, “You know, we also have beaches.” After six months backpacking in Europe, a good flat with a working shower sounded swell. Her sister, Maura, had one of those in New York City.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner hired her as “Babs” the singing waitress, and Breen—who had undergone arthroscopic surgery—continued dance classes while auditioning. Although she had the ambition and the talent, the sharp-elbowed, ruthless antics of the “hopefuls” was shockingly sobering. At 26, she moved behind the scenes, and for three years audited entertainment business classes at New York University, and started a job in publicity at A&M Records. Five years later, her roster of artists included Sting, Sheryl Crow, Barry White, ABBA and The Carpenters.

It was early 1990s; the music industry was in turmoil. Prince changed his name to a symbol, and Breen quit A&M (which would shut down in 1999). She’d acquired an interest in Greek philosophy, taking classes at the New School for Social Research (“founded in 1919 as a home for progressive era thinkers”). She traveled to Greece for pre-Socratic studies.

An offer to run a British knight’s estate in West Palm Beach brought her back stateside for eight years. She worked October through April, and during the off-season, she traveled—back to Greece on an archaeological dig, a walk in the actual steps of ancient philosophers; and to Ireland, for an extended stay with Dad’s relatives.

She took an executive assistant position at a private equity firm on Wall Street, and two years later, she not only understood the finance world; she had a $30,000 bonus in her pocket. That was going to put her on the Jersey shore, where she’d teach fitness. Then fate got bitchy: Mom came to town and broke her hip. It was back to Buffalo for them both.

There, she helped incorporate the nonprofit Nickel City Opera (NCO), and for the next three years produced operas with artistic director Valerian Ruminski. In 2011, she resigned and took a job with a flying eye hospital.

If you’re counting, Breen’s checked every Irish box except justice. But you know how justice holds a double-edged sword?

In 2016, Eileen Breen produced Nickel City Opera’s first world premiere, SHOT! by Persis Vehar.

“My job was booking flights and hotels—coordinating the missions,” she says. “(My boss) told me to use a travel agent that was charging outrageous prices. If you went to Delta or American Airlines, it was a fraction of the cost. We were getting ripped off. I went to the CFO; he went to the CEO. I got fired, and then (my boss) got fired.”

That was December 2013. The following June, a truck plowed into her while she was walking to a public-relations client’s office. Less than a year later, Dad died; six months after, Mom died, too.

Breen got active in NCO again, and in 2016, she produced their first world premiere, SHOT! by Persis Vehar. But Buffalo was no longer home without Mom, and by 2020, Breen was in Palm Springs. Last year, Dezart Performs snagged her as their first managing director.

“Her experience, her great passion for even the minutiae of performing arts, makes a perfect match,” gushes Dezart’s co-founder and artistic director, Michael Shaw. “We are extremely fortunate to include her in the Dezart family.”

Breen has produced eight operas, one of them on a battleship; organized more than 25 events across five of the globe’s seven continents; done publicity for more than 85 recognizable music artists; and penned three books.

Badass is actually Breen’s first name, but she doesn’t like calling attention to herself. She’s perfectly happy behind the scenes making everyone else look good.

Screw that.

Learn more at eileenbreenpr.com.

Kay Kudukis is a former lead singer in a disco cover band who then became a Gaslight girl, then an actress, and then the author of two produced and wildly unacclaimed plays—as well as one likely unseen...

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