Actors John Cullum and Carol Mayo Jenkins after she presented him the Clarence Brown Theatre Artistic Achievement Award.
The Clarence Brown Theatre’s annual gala last year held in downtown Knoxville at The Standard was so successful that Alan and I wondered to ourselves how in the world it could be as outstanding again. (Click here for a report on it.)
Well, here’s how. This year the event was moved to the lovely RT Lodge in Maryville. And, since it’s on a Sunday night to coincide with the Tony Awards, guests were offered the opportunity to stay overnight. It succeeded on every front.
Icing on the cake was that the event honored the beloved Knoxville actor John Cullum who himself has won two Tony Awards but is probably best known for his TV role as bar owner Holling Vincoeur in the quirky CBS series Northern Exposure. Those who spent the night could have breakfast with Cullum on Monday morning.
Cullum is a charming, generous man with a million stories about everything from growing up in Knoxville to his television, movie and stage career and all the celebrities he has known. He’s a huge fan of the Clarence Brown Theatre. “I’m very proud to receive this award,” he said when his friend Carol Mayo Jenkins presented him with the CBT Artistic Achievement Award that night. “But I’m more proud of the Clarence Brown Theatre. If I’d stayed in Knoxville, I’d be working any time I could at the Clarence Brown Theatre.”
He talked about how much he enjoyed the performance of Amadeus a few years ago, which was a collaboration between the Clarence Brown Theatre and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. “I was thrilled to see something at the University of Tennessee that was better than anything I’d seen on Broadway,” he said. Wow.
Here’s a look at the fun, fun event.
From left, John Cullum, Mary Johnson, Betsey Bush and Rick Johnson in the garden for cocktails. Mary once was in a play with Cullum.
Carol and Joe Pelliccia.
I told myself these passed appetizers were healthy because they have asparagus in them. Never mind that puff pastry the asparagus is wrapped in!
Georgiana Vines, the current chair of the Clarence Brown Theatre Advisory Board, left, with former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe and his wife, Joan.
Jennifer Crake Roche and Alexander Waters attended law school together. Today, she plays French horn with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, in addition to practicing law.
Jeannie Dulaney with Gary Doyle, the general manager of RT Lodge.
Some, like me, tried to stay inside the RT Lodge to avoid the heat. Here, from left, are Milton and Mimi Turner with Maggie Erickson.
David Byrd, the Clarence Brown Theatre’s managing director, with Carol Mayo Jenkins.
Gil and Edie Volk.
Cal MacLean, artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre, and his wife, Rebecca.
Maja Djorcev Roy conducted the “wine pull” inside. These affairs, where you plop down a set amount of money and pick a random bottle of wine, are increasingly popular at local fundraisers.
Maggie Erickson, left and Brenda Glanville, right, with Robin Wilhoit, of WBIR-TV who, with her co-anchor, John Becker, emceed the evening and provided periodic updates on Tony winners as they were announced.
The inside soon became packed. I found an air conditioning vent on the floor in a corner and stood over it for a long part of the cocktail hour!
Elegant nibbles were placed about the rooms.
Soon, we were called to move to a huge tent in the back of the lodge. Fortunately, there was good air flow. Our table, “lucky 13,” was on the edge and there was a breeze. Yay. Aren’t all the tables simple but elegant?
Each centerpiece featured a cute little bird.
I told you it was a big tent! Screens were set up to let us tune in to the Tony Awards from time to time, including the big opening number.
From left, Steven Smith, Alan Carmichael and WBIR-TV’s John Becker.
Victor Ashe and Katharine Pearson Criss.
From left, Patricia Robledo, representing the city of Knoxville, and Christine Jessel and Michael Grider, representing Knox County.
Amanda Middleton, center, of Clarence Brown Theatre, greeting Tom and Konomi Wolf.
I thought the place cards were clever.
Executive Chef Trevor Stockton, who honed his skills at Blackberry Farm before joining RT Lodge in 2010, chose to serve dinner family style, which worked well. Here’s the delicious summer melon salad with lime-chile vinaigrette and mint. A green salad also was passed and a plate of house-made charcuterie, pickles and sourdough was placed in the center of the table.
Townes Osborne and her fiance Bob Marquis. Don’t they look happy? She’s a past chair of the Clarence Brown Theatre Advisory Board.
From left, Tom and Melanie Wood and Russ and Florence Johnston.
Rebecca and Nick Cazana.
Back at our table were Brooks Clark, the chair-elect of the advisory board, and Lacy Wallace.
Here’s more from our table: from left, Terri Lelardy, Janette Burgin, Valerie Privette, Lacy Wallace and Laura Slyman.
Just look at this! It was cooked perfectly, which was surely a challenge for this many folks. Whole roasted Wagyu eye of ribeye.
Grilled Scottish salmon with grape tomatoes, lemon and basil was excellent, as well.
I loved the grilled early summer vegetables. We also had skillet potatoes with Vidalia onions.
Alice and Dean Michael Wirth of the College of Communication & Information.
Deb and Dr. Joe DiPietro, the president of the University of Tennessee.
Doug and Melissa White. Their car dealerships, Toyota of Knoxville and Lexus of Knoxville, were major sponsors of the gala.
Theotis and Jonida Robinson.
Jeff Stanley, left, with David Byrd. Jeff had one of my favorite lines of the night when he walked into the tent. “It’s like a Tennessee Williams play in here,” he cracked, referring to the heat.
Dessert was a skillet of strawberry rhubarb crumble served with a big bowl of whipped cream.
Here’s John Cullum receiving his award.
And making his sweet remarks.
Auctioneer Blake Wilson sprang into action next, selling everything from a seven-night stay at a home in Costa Rica to a walk-on appearance in a Clarence Brown Theatre play.
Robin Conklin, left, and Julie Summers of Clarence Brown Theatre tried to keep track of all the bids.
After dinner, Alan, left, posed with Sherri Gardner Howell, a columnist for the News Sentinel, and Chef Trevor Stockton.
Here’s Chef Stockton, left, with Becky and Bob Luper and John Cullum. The Lupers, as you probably know, own Naples restaurant on Kingston Pike in Knoxville. Becky is Cullum’s niece.
It was time to say goodbye to those who were not spending the night. Kat Stoutt and Howard Filston bought one of the centerpieces.
Board member Charlie Brakebill with his granddaughter, Erin Pate.
Carol saying goodbye to Neil and Maureen Dunn McBride.
Cal made a quick change of clothes, and he and Rebecca decided to take a load off for a few relaxing minutes.
Konomi Wolf had other priorities. The fire pit was set up for s’mores!
She and Tom got right to it!
Jeannie took hers inside to enjoy. In fact, I think she sent someone out to make it for her!
After a great night’s sleep, we got up Monday to a bountiful buffet — and lots of coffee.
From left, me, Alan, John Cullum and Georgiana Vines at breakfast. It was a very memorable event. (Photo by David Byrd)
The Clarence Brown Theatre has an excellent season coming up. There still are good seats. Click here to read about the season and buy tickets online.
Also, Cullum and his wife, dancer Emily Frankel, have a series of 6-minute videos that they post to YouTube every week. In them, they discuss everything from politics to the theater scene. They are really sweet and interesting and make you feel as if they are talking just to you. Click here to see those.