That’s what Cal MacLean, artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre, told supporters to expect from the Theatre starting Sept. 5. And he brought the goods to prove it at the preview party held at the Southern Depot earlier this month.
Actors rose from the audience to perform snippets from most of the eight plays set for the upcoming Theatre year.
“We are about to start a new adventure,” MacLean related. “And tonight is the first step.”
The artistic director said a season is “an expression of who we really are.”
“It’s about our desire to bring to our community a conversation about what’s important,” he added.
Liz Stowers, chair of the Clarence Brown Theatre’s advisory board, noted that the organization is very much in the news these days with talk of possibly building a new facility on World’s Fair Park. “It’s great for Clarence Brown Theatre to be on the front page of the News Sentinel and on the radar of the highest echelons at UT and the city of Knoxville,” she said. “We need to be sure our students have the best possible training to start their careers.”
The Clarence Brown is both a professional theater company serving the community and the University and a learning laboratory for students and graduate students in the University of Tennessee’s acclaimed Department of Theatre. MacLean serves both as artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre and as head of the Department of Theatre.
The preview party also served as an occasion to introduce David Byrd, the new managing director of the Clarence Brown Theatre. Byrd, who came to Tennessee from Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT, is a North Carolina native with extensive experience in the operation of theater groups and dance companies.
The Clarence Brown season will start with “Noises Off,” which MacLean described as “one of the funniest plays ever written.”
Opening Oct. 5 in the Carousel Theatre next door to the Clarence Brown will be “Our Country’s Good,” which MacLean himself will direct. He said it is another play about theater, but this time “a drama of the first order.” It is about the founding of Australia and is based on real events. MacLean said it is about a play performed by convicts and it demonstrates “the transforming power of theater.”
Opening Oct. 24 is “Ctrl+Alt+Delete,” said to be “a sharp satire on commercialism, greed and corporate ambition.”
“A Christmas Carol” will return. MacLean said it will be the same production as last year “but with some new things.” Hmm. Guess we’ll have to wait and see what those are. It will run Nov. 27 through Dec. 15.
“The Whipping Man” will play at the Carousel Jan. 30 through Feb. 16. MacLean said it is about “the essential contributions of African Americans and Jewish Americans to our culture.” Set in Richmond after the Civil War, it involves a badly wounded Confederate soldier and two former slaves. “This is a part of our national story that needs to be recounted,” MacLean said.
Feb. 20 through Mar. 9 brings “A Trip to Bountiful” featuring Carol Mayo Jenkins in a role MacLean says she was “born to play.” After that, WRENS, inspired by the playwright’s own involvement with the British Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRNS) as a young woman in war-torn England, is Mar. 27 through Apr. 13. In their cramped Orkney Islands barracks on the eve of VE Day, seven women confront the prospect of peace, which also means an end to their new-found wartime independence. Sounds good.
Planning committee members were: Barbara Apking, Amy Morris Hess, Brenda Madigan, Peggy Turner, Robin Turner, Melanie Wood and Wendy Wortham (chair).
I join Cal in being very excited about this season. We are buying opening night tickets. To order your tickets, click here. See you there!