Opinion: Clarence Brown Theatre helps students, Knoxville residents get in the holiday spirit

The winter season is upon us. Weather is getting cooler, lights are going up all over town and finals are just around the corner. To help get everyone into the holiday spirit, the Clarence Brown Theatre is producing their annual rendition of “A Christmas Carol.”

“A Christmas Carol” is an age-old holiday story following Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve to change his life. While there are many versions of “A Christmas Carol,” such as the Mickey Mouse version from the 1980s, the Clarence Brown production stays very close to the classic story line of the show.

Jed Diamond, professor in the theater department of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, returned this year as the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, with a performance to wow any audience. The rest of the cast also helped to create an astounding performance. This show features many children playing young roles, and each of them were “real” and mature actors when on the stage. “A Christmas Carol” features a truly amazing cast this season.

The crew for “A Christmas Carol” blew away the audience with its elaborate set for this year’s show. Every scene featured intricate sound and lighting effects and unbelievably realistic set pieces. One recurring feature that I really enjoyed was the use of a trap door in the stage. In just a few seconds, a bed could arise from or descend into the stage.

At one point in the show, the ghost Marley, Scrooge’s late lifetime work partner, made his entrance by coming up from the floorboards of the stage, and his exit by descending back into the stage. The added fog effects made it really feel like a ghost was entering the theatre that night.

If you get the chance, make your way to the Clarence Brown Theatre sometime before this show closes. The Clarence Brown is conveniently located on campus, in between the music building and the Humanities and Social Sciences building. Shows are just $5 for UTK students to see. “A Christmas Carol” runs from now until Dec. 17.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Edited by Vanessa Rodriguez

From cows to comics and everything in-between: TEDxUTK 2017

Cows, robots, medicine and comic books were all subjects of conversation at the University of Tennessee’s independently organized TEDx event, hosted at the Clarence Brown Theatre Lab on Saturday, Feb. 11.

The 100-member audience listened, took notes and later discussed the new ideas and emerging trends explained to them by working professionals in fields stretching from environmentalism to education.

TED, which stands for “technology, entertainment and design,” operates as a global non-profit organization whose mission is to spread “ideas worth sharing.” This usually takes the form of large, televised conferences in which lectures are recorded and published on TED’s website for further viewing.

Essentially, TEDx is an extension into locality for the larger organization. The distinction between TED and TEDx would be that the latter is a program established to aid universities, communities and individuals in the organizing of TED-style events. Since the program’s inception in 2009, more than 19,000 TEDx events have taken place. TEDxUTK has facilitated four; one for each year they’ve been on campus.

Students coordinating the event wanted to attract as diverse an audience as possible, which motivated their search for speakers covering such a wide spectrum of topics.

TEDxUTK co-president Avanti Rangnekar said that when acquiring speakers, they continually reflect on the idea that speakers should appeal to the child, grandfather, college student and college student’s parent.

“By then end of it, there’s something for everyone: the engineer; the doctor; the artist…everyone will have the chance to exercise their curiosity,” Co-president Amany Alshibli said, “that’s the thing about a TED conference…you’re not coming to hear about a specific topic…you’re coming to get a taste of a bunch of different disciplines.”

Rangnekar and Alshibli described their pool of potential speakers as seemingly inexhaustible. The process begins with developing an awareness of what might interest their audience by scanning social media, viewing local news sources and even taking recommendations from students on campus.

“There’s more to life than our sphere of influence,” Rangnekar said, “…the conference give us the opportunity to stay cognizant of what else is out there.”

Once members of the TEDxUTK staff understand the audience’s points of inquiry, they scour their list of nominations and find the best set of speakers to meet their preferences.

At the program’s conclusion, TEDxUTK hosted “coffee and conversation” in which audience members were encouraged to discuss the themes of the day with the presenters themselves. Conversation centered on exploring how the information explained in the earlier sessions might relate to their day-to-day lives.

Discussion wasn’t the only interactive element of the day’s festivities, however. Prompted by a sign that read, “if you had the power to change one idea/concept/word, what would it be” participants were invited to write their answer on a piece of paper, clip it to a display in the lobby of Clarence Brown and then share their thoughts with fellow attendees.

Members of TEDxUTK saw the day as a “great success” and noted that they look forward to beginning the planning process for next year’s event in just one week.

The group is accepting new members. If interested, visit their website for more information.

 

Edited by McKenzie Manning

Featured image by HeisenbergMedia

UT brings back annual “A Christmas Carol”

The University of Tennessee’s own Clarence Brown Theatre welcomes their annual production of the classic Charles Dicken’s play, “A Christmas Carol,” this month perfectly in time for holiday entertainment.

With a cast of over thirty local adult and child actors consisting of both current and graduate students of UT, “A Christmas Carol” will surely delight families and people alike. Audiences have the opportunity to channel their holiday spirit into this riveting tale of Ebenezer Scrooge as he travels into the past, present and future with the help of four compelling ghosts that lead him on his journey.

With a new director, set, props and costumes, there is a new look to the play this year that will improve the play from those of years past, according to the Clarence Brown Theatre’s website.

To further enhance the holiday experience, there will also be holiday treats sold at concessions, as well as a “Christmas Carol’s Ghost” cutout display to pose with for pictures.

Kathleen F. Conlin, this year’s director, has previously worked for twenty-two seasons at the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespearean Festival directing many Shakespeare plays, as well as modern American dramas and comedy plays such as, “The Tempest” and “Richard III“, both of which earned her praise for her creativity in the designs of the performances.

Jed Diamond will play Ebenezer Scrooge. He is currently the head of acting at the University of Tennessee. Previously, Mr. Diamond lived in New York City as an actor and director working in plays such as, “Of Mice and Men” and “All the Way Home.” He also taught at NYU, Fordham University and Stella Adler Studio, and was also a part of the faculty at the Actors Center and the Shakespeare Lab at New York’s Shakespeare Festival.

Shows are currently playing and will do so until Sunday, Dec. 18, just in time for a last minute holiday festivity for the whole family. Ticket prices differ depending upon the day of the week and ages. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the price for adults is $26, children from age 5-10 are $10, UT students can buy tickets for $5 and non-UT students for $15.

Weekend shows will be $32 for adults with the ticket prices for children and college students remaining the same. There are also senior, military and UT faculty and staff discounts available along with deals for groups with 15 or more people. Children under the age of five are not permitted.

Featured Image courtesy of the Clarence Brown Theatre

Edited by Katy Hill

Opinion: Clarence Brown Theatre presents a haunting performance of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”

Born in the mid-1950s, Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” draws parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and the Red Scare of the 50s. The show first debuted in 1954 in London, England and was adopted for the screen in 1996. The show tells the story of a period in American history filled with fear, hysteria and witches that all began in Salem, Mass.

The Clarence Brown Theatre’s production takes place in the Carousel Theatre. The intimate setting and simple set allows the gritty story to take center-stage.

The all-star cast brings life to the production. Grant Goodman, who plays John Proctor, perfectly captures Proctor’s rough and complicated personality. Goodman’s stellar performance is epitomized in his heartbreaking delivery of the infamous line, “I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” In her Clarence Brown Theatre debut, Jenny McKnight embodies Elizabeth Proctor’s kindness and goodness. Goodman and McKnight feed off of each other and add depth to the production.

Lauren Pennline plays Abigail Williams and bears a striking resemblance to Winona Ryder, who famously played Abigail in the film production. Pennline is hateful and manipulative, embodying the perfect Abigail and makes audience members everywhere hate Abigail even more. Other notable performances come from Gracie Belt, who plays the emotional Mary Warren and Clarence Brown Theatre veteran, David Brian Alley, who plays the conflicted Reverend John Hale.

The show is extremely well produced from the lighting, to the set, to the costumes; no detail is spared. The audience on Saturday night was enthralled in the performance and gave the show a standing ovation at the end.

“This is the best performance I have ever seen at the Clarence Brown Carousel. The cast is incredible and really brought the story to life,” long time Clarence Brown attendee, John Michaelson, said.

From longtime fans, to theatre newcomers, the Clarence Brown Theatre’s gritty production of “The Crucible” is sure to be a show you will never forget.

For tickets to “The Crucible” and more information on the Clarence Brown Theatre, visit their website.

Featured image by Gabrielle Harman

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

‘Mr. Burns’ intrigues audiences at Clarence Brown Lab Theatre

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Imagine a post-apocalyptic world, where the electricity grid has gone down and everything is slowly engulfed with radioactivity, and the most important thing for the survivors to remember is…. an episode of “The Simpsons?” This unusual world is the one presented in “Mr. Burns: a Post-Electric Play” at the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre.

The idea for the play, written by Anne Washburn, actually came from locking a theater troupe inside a bank vault and asking them to discuss the episode of “The Simpsons” that they could remember most. Interestingly enough, the group chose to recount the episode titled “Cape Feare.” This episode becomes the center story piece for the entire production.

The episode centers around Bart Simpson receiving death threats from an escaped convict called Sideshow Bob, who eventually captures the entire Simpson family on a houseboat on Terror Lake before he is finally caught and sent back to prison. However, in the production, the character of Sideshow Bob is actually represented as Mr. Burns, owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

This story, combined with the story of nuclear terror and destruction taking place in the “real” world within the play, are told and retold over a span of 82 years. This results in the stories completely morphing together and becoming so twisted that no one really knows what the original tale could have been.

“The protagonist of the play isn’t really any of our characters, it is the storytelling, the theatre, and keeping culture alive as a whole,” said Ethan Roeder, who plays Mr. Burns.

“Mr. Burns” actually made its journey to the University of Tennessee all the way from London’s West End. A group of 11 UT students, led by English professor Misty Anderson, originally saw the production at the Almeida Theatre in July 2014 and were intrigued by the concept.

“When we all came out of the show, our first reaction was what in the world did we just see,” said Stephanie Lee, one of the students who attended the London show. “It was such a bizarre and confusing concept, but even if we didn’t really understand it at first, we knew it was something amazing.”

Anderson and another member of the group, Kerri Considine, brought the script home, and were adamant about making “Mr. Burns” part of the CBT schedule for the 2015-2016 season.

Director Casey Sams immediately fell in love with the show after only one reading of the script, and was thrilled to be a part of the experience.

“Having the opportunity to work on a play with that kind of message has been one of the most spectacular opportunities of my life,” Sams said.

Sams said that she gains something after watching each performance.

“The part that I take away from this show every night is that as we do face a world that’s very scary right now, even in the face of huge loss, life goes on and there’s still so much to be thankful for even when it seems impossible,” Sams said.

“Mr. Burns” finishes its run this week with six shows, and will close on Nov. 15.

For more information, visit the official Clarence Brown Theatre website.

Featured image by Alley Loope

Edited by Taylor Owens

‘Of Mice and Men’ sees success during opening weekend

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UT’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men” opened this weekend at Clarence Brown’s Carousel Theatre. The play, directed by Paul Barnes, follows the story of two migrant ranch workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, and the struggles they encounter as they journey across California to find work during the Great Depression.

Trouble quickly finds the duo at a ranch headed by “The Boss,” but George is adamant about helping Lennie keep his strength under control and preventing him from doing anymore “bad things.” The play’s tragic ending is sure to tug the heartstrings of anyone unfamiliar with the novel and who know the story by heart.

“Of Mice and Men” is considered one of the great American classics in literature, and is often required for students to read. UT junior Shannon Michel has been assigned this novel three times in her 15 years of schooling.

“Every time I had to read the book, I really just didn’t like it at all. I never could get into it, and it just seemed like a slow read,” Michel said. “But seeing it on stage changed my opinion a lot. The actors made it very easy to follow the story and created very lovable characters, and I really enjoyed that.”

Donna Irwin, 64, has read the novel over 10 times and very familiar with the novel.

“This has been my favorite book for ages, and even though I know the story by heart, seeing it performed was a whole new thing,” Irwin said. “I knew what was going to happen but that ending still shocked me, just because the actors did such a good job at making me feel like I was hearing the tale for the first time.”

Steve Sherman stars in the production as the sharp tongued and quick witted George, and Kyle Maxwell plays Lennie Small, George’s rusty companion who is mentally disabled and possesses great physical strength.

Due to popular demand, “Of Mice and Men” will run until Oct. 18 every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., along with weekend shows and added performances.

For a full show calendar and ticket pricing, visit Clarence Brown Theatre’s website, by clicking here.

Featured image by Allie Norris

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt