Youth Theatre Festival encourages creativity

Friday, the community’s youth showed why art remains worthy of celebration at the 29th Annual Youth Theatre Festival. The festival revolved around the theme “I can do that,” a reoccurring notion in the festival’s history. Seeing others their age sing, dance or play the guitar encourages children to believe in themselves and think “I can do that, too.”

The first half of the festival featured performances by the young artists. The Kuumba Watoto and Knoxville Children’s Theatre (KCT) gave special performances. KCT demonstrated three types of dance performances: ballet, “Reflection of God” and jazz.

“We make sure to focus on youth performers and young people performing for young people because it makes a difference,” Jonathan Clark, executive support manager of The Carpetbag Theatre, said.

In 1989, the founders of Carpetbag, a local ensemble company devoted to original works, partnered with the Kuumba Festival to create the Youth Theatre Festival. The festival helped the community’s youth gain accessibility to the arts without worry about the cost.

The festival offered workshops for children from age 5 to 18. Some of the workshops included a hip hop dance class, painting and hip hop writing.

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The festival shows children that different opportunities exist in the world beyond  traditional occupations like medicine or law. Carpetbag wants them to understand their artistry and to sustain a viable and professional career within the theatre.

Kisha Rockette, the event coordinator of the Youth Theatre Festival, said, “We have to let our youth understand that they can survive with being an artist. It is important to tap into the youth so that they don’t feel as if there is no hope or that their dreams are lost.”

Both Clark and Rockette believe that arts programs have improved through the years, but Clark has not seen many art activities inside schools.

“The upcoming STEM academy is cool, but the arts get left out a lot, and that is usually the first place to get funding cut or redistributed,” Clark said.

Children can, however, find arts education through Carpetbag initiatives. Carpetbag received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund fall and spring break youth camps. Children in the camp will receive a stipend for joining and participating. Participants will also have a chance to help with the production of Carpetbag’s upcoming play, “Ce Nitram Sacul,” in September.


Images by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little




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

Opinion: “Chicago” razzle dazzles at the Tennessee Theatre

On Sunday, Feb. 19, “Razzle Dazzle” was more than just a song as the cast of “Chicago” took the stage at the Tennessee Theatre. “Chicago,” the longest running Broadway production in history, takes place in the 1920s and centers around the murderous women of the Cook Country Jail. Filled with scandal, murder, greed, corruption and so much more, the Broadway touring cast proved that “Chicago” will never get old.

As patrons poured into the Tennessee Theatre, the stage was simply set with a chair and a hat. The lights lowered in the sold-out theatre and the curtain rose to reveal the orchestra positioned on the stage. The orchestra was in a tiered structure on the stage. This served as the background throughout the production instead of changing set backgrounds. While the set remained the same, the lighting helped give dimension to the stage.

The cast consisted of about 20 different members. This all-star cast has plenty of impressive credits. Lana Gordon, who plays Velma Kelly, is a Broadway regular performing in shows such as “Jesus Christ Superstar” and the original production of “The Lion King.” This seasoned veteran’s talent took center stage for many numbers, but stole the show during “I Can’t Do It Alone.”

Dylis Croman played the other leading lady of the night, Roxie Hart. Croman most recently played Roxie Hart on Broadway in New York City. Croman captured Roxie’s spunk and spirit. Other standout performances came from Paul Vogt, who played Amos Hart, and Roz Ryan, who played Matron “Mama” Morton.

This talented cast featured a complete line-up of triple threats. Every performer was not only extremely vocally talented, but all displayed immense athletic ability throughout the many lifts and splits of the show.

With classic hits like “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango” and “Roxie,” “Chicago” is sure to remain on top for years to come.

For more information on “Chicago” or for tickets to the show check out their website.

Featured image by Tennessee Theatre

Edited by Katy Hill

Opinion: Top 5 date ideas for a Valentine’s Day at the theatre

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Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us, so that means it’s time to start making those plans for a romantic date night. While dinner and a movie is always a classic choice, it can never hurt to try something new. This year, check out one of these theatre events in and around the Knoxville area:

  1. Valentine’s Day Weekend with Erick Baker– When Erick Baker graduated from UT in 2011 with a public relations degree, he never thought he’d make his living as a singer-songwriter. However, a gig opening for John Legend in 2007 changed his path. His soulful lyrics and tender voice will create the perfect romantic mood for you and your significant other. Baker will be returning to his Tennessee roots at the Bijou Theatre for two shows on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. Visit the Bijou’s official website for ticket information and more about Baker. Tickets are $25.
  2. “The Last Five Years”– “The Last Five Years” is a play that chronicles five years in the life of a couple, Cathy and Jamie, as they experience the ups and downs of their relationship. This two-person show is told in reverse chronological order, starting at the end of their marriage and ending a few days after the two meet for the first time. While this may have the potential to be sad, the show is romantic, poignant and relatable. “The Last Five Years” opens Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. at Theatre Knoxville Downtown and will run every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Feb. 28 at various times. For more information about the show and to purchase tickets for $15, visit Theatre Knoxville’s Downtown website.
  3. “Saturday Night Fever”- Audiences are probably familiar with the iconic 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever” starring John Travolta, but now they have a chance to see it like they’ve never seen it before: as a live musical at the Tennessee Theatre. The story focuses on Tony Manero, a young man who’s stuck in his life. However, his weekends at the local discotheque seem to make all of his troubles disappear. Fun choreography, Bee Gees hits and an all-around nostalgic vibe will have you and your significant other dancing in your seats. “Saturday Night Fever” opens at the Tennessee Theatre on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. and will have two additional shows on Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For more information and ticket prices, visit the Tennessee Theatre’s website.
  4. “Cantus: The Four Loves” – Cantus, one of the nation’s only full-time vocal ensembles will be performing a new show just in time for Valentine’s Day. “The Four Loves” celebrates the Greek idea that there are four types of love: spiritual, romantic, familial and friendship. Cantus is known for its innovative concerts, so couples can expect a unique viewing experience. They will be performing at the Clayton Center for the Arts in Maryville, Tenn. for one night only on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. For ticket prices and more, visit Clayton Center for the Arts’ official website.
  5. “Titus Andronicus”– William Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” isn’t exactly romantic. In fact, it’s tragic play about revenge and violence. However, according to the Clarence Brown Theatre, this play is rarely performed. This unique experience would make for a great date night that is sure to shock both you and your date. “Titus Andronicus” opens on for previews on Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m., but officially opens on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. The show runs though Feb. 28 at various times. For more information about show times and tickets, visit the Clarence Brown Theatre’s website.

Featured image by bottled_void via their Flickr account obtained using

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ comes to the Clarence Brown Theatre

William Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be playing at the Clarence Brown Theater from Feb. 20 to March 8.

This timeless play tells the story of four young Athenians trying to navigate the ways of love and marriage. When a romantic scheme leads them into the woods, they find themselves under the influence of mischievous fairies. Inevitable chaos ensues among the players.

“I like the nonsense part of the play,” said Rebecca Wright, a UT student who plans to attend the play. “Things are always moving and you have to pay close attention.”

The comedic play is directed by John Sipes, an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at the University of Tennessee. Sipes is well experienced with Shakespearean plays, having worked for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival as a director and movement director, as well as working as a director and the resident movement director for the Oregon Shakespeare festival.

“I never tire of the charming inventiveness of this story and its colorful, multifaceted view of one of life’s great mysteries: Love,” said Sipes in a press release from the Clarence Brown Theatre.

Ticket costs range from $15 to $32 with senior and student discounts available. They may be purchased online or at the box office from noon to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and will also be available two hours prior to each of the shows.

Edited by Jessica Carr


Senior thesis project gives play a modern twist

The set of True West
True West was shown outside in the HSS Amphitheater.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4  in the Humanities and Social Sciences Amphitheater, the All Campus Theatre presented “True West”, a play written by Sam Shepard about brotherhood and the lure of the Wild West.

All Campus Theatre is UT’s undergraduate theatre association and produces four plays a year. However, this play was the thesis project of a senior theatrical performance major, Cody Beyer.

Beyer’s thesis was complex and required the careful attention of the audience to succeed.

“My thesis was to take this show and see how far I could twist the elements of theatre and still have the audience understand the story,” said Beyer. “Which was quite a challenge.”

In the show, there were two brother characters Austin and Lee. Austin plays the youngest brother and Lee plays the older brother. These characters were played by Beyer and and Erik Schllier, a UT grad and current intern. To twist the elements of theatre, Beyer and Schllier would switch the roles of Austin and Lee throughout the play around three times, which involved changes in costume, relationship, demeanor and behavior.

This was a difficult task, but both actors agreed it helped them to understand the characters more and more.

“We basically had to each memorize an entire play,” said Schllier. “Although I was initially more comfortable playing one character[Austin], in switching roles I found parts of myself that could relate to Lee, which was a pleasant surprise.”

Beyer expressed the same sentiment but about Lee, which was a far cry from reality, where Beyer is the youngest of three brothers and Schllier is the oldest of his.

“That’s why I was drawn to this play, actually,” said Beyer. “I was drawn to the theme of brotherhood and the connection of brothers, no matter their distance.”

Though Tuesday night was the last showing of True West, All Campus Theatre produces four shows a year, so if you missed it, you can check out more opportunities and information here.