Great news! “Knoxville” is coming to Knoxville!

A poster for the Clarence Brown Theatre production of “Knoxville: The Musical.”

In a sweet little lunch gathering this past Saturday, Clarence Brown Theatre leadership gave supporters an update on construction on the new Jenny Boyd Carousel Theatre and announced plans for the upcoming theater season.

And that’s where the big news occurred. The play, “Knoxville: The Musical,” which was commissioned by Knoxville’s own lottery winner, Roy Cockrum, will be the season opener this fall.

The play, a moving musical based on the James Agee novel “A Death in the Family” and a subsequent movie, “All the Way Home,” had its debut in Sarasota, Florida, two years ago. Alan and I were on that fantastic trip and Cockrum said at the time that he would like to see the play come to Knoxville and then, hopefully, go on to Broadway. So, this is perhaps the beginning of that dream coming true!

Ken Martin, artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre and head of the University of Tennessee’s Department of Theatre, described the play as a powerful examination “of the forces that shape who we are.”

“It’s a sweeping musical, must-see event,” he said. Martin also said the cast has not yet been finalized, but will include “top-level acting talent.”

He announced that Josh Rhodes will direct and choreograph the production; Robert Perdziola will handle scenery and costumes; Caleb Hoyer will be musical supervisor; and UT’s own Joe Payne will fill the role of sound designer.

In other news from the lunch, architect Brandon Pace, who is spearheading the design of the new Carousel Theatre, said groundbreaking is set for next month with completion scheduled for fall of 2025. He said the new building will be similar in size and scale to the current Carousel Theatre, but will be outfitted with the latest technology, something theater students need to prepare for their future careers. It will seat 400.

Clarence Brown’s artistic director Ken Martin, left, with Shelly and Joe Payne. Shelly is external relations manager for the Clarence Brown; Joe is an associate professor who will be sound designer for “Knoxville: The Musical.”

It was a good crowd of supporters at Bridgewater Place.

From left, Susan Sgarlat, LeAnn Dougherty, and Margie Nichols, who has been instrumental in helping raise money for the Carousel. She called it “a passion project.”

Susan Kornegay, left, and Liz Stowers, who is chair of the capital campaign committee.

From left, Sara Phillips, Maureen Dunn McBride, and Melanie Wood.

Alison and Wendel Werner.

Michael Combs and Marsha Hollingsworth. (Love the hardhat centerpieces on the tables!)

Nancy Voith and her granddaughter, Kennedy Voith.

John Sorey, left, and Tom Cervone, managing director of the Clarence Brown Theatre.

From left, John Gill, Jan Simek, and Lee Riedinger.

Georgiana Vines, left, and Gayle Burnett.

Alexander Waters, left, and Andrew Sheehy.

Liz Stowers, chair of the capital campaign, said the original Carousel Theatre buildiing, constructed as a temporary structure 73 years ago, would be dismantled and reassembled in Greeneville, Tennessee. “So, if any of you feel an intense desire to see it, you can drive up there!” she said.

Interestingly, Stowers cited a recent study that has shown the four factors that contribute to human longevity are:

  • Having gratitude;
  • Having an attitude of acceptance;
  • Investing in the future — especially future generations;
  • Participating in community activities of an artistic nature, including symphonies, choirs, and theater.

“So, all of you will live to 120!” she laughed.

Architect Brandon Pace, of Sanders Pace Architecture, said the original Carousel Theatre was built in a neighborhood of houses. So, it was “residential in feel and scale.” The new building will have the same “warmth and intimacy,” he said.

A drawing of the exterior of the new building.

The interior during a performance.

Another interior view.

The lobby.

It will have two levels and an extensive series of platforms that will allow the space to be reconfigured from play to play.

The plaza.

The centerpieces on the tall tables at the luncheon on Saturday were adorable! Little models of construction materials.

Here’s my friend Steve Drevik acting all serious, listening to the presentations like a mature adult.

But, you just can’t take the boy out of the man! He couldn’t resist those little centerpieces!

I wonder what he eventually constructed!

Here’s the rest of the Clarence Brown season:

“Cry it Out,” which will be in the Lab Theatre. Called “a comedy with dark edges,” it takes an honest look at the absurdities of being home with a baby, the power of female friendship, the dilemma of going back to work, and the effect class has on parenthood in America.

“How to Defend Yourself.” Martin said this play is “an important show for everybody, but particularly for our students.” The plot involves seven college students at a DIY self-defense workshop who face the insidious ways rape culture steals one’s body and sense of belonging.

The fourth play of the season. Need I say more?

For the 100th anniversary of the “Scopes Monkey Trial,” Martin said this will be a fresh production of “Inherit the Wind” “boldly re-enacted for today.”

Back in the Lab Theatre, “Failure: A Love Story.” According to one reviewer, “A magical, musical fable where, in the end, the power of love is far greater than any individual’s successes or failures.”

According to Martin, “Clue” “will leave you dying with laughter!” A good way to close out the season.





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6 Responses to Great news! “Knoxville” is coming to Knoxville!

  1. Gay Lyons, on February 19th, 2024 at 5:50 pm said:

    Great news!

  2. Georgiana Vines, on February 19th, 2024 at 9:57 pm said:

    Great summary of the brunch and announcements.Glad you were there to capture, I was inspired.

  3. Alan Carmichael, on February 19th, 2024 at 10:05 pm said:

    As mentioned, we saw the production in Sarasota. I wondered in advance how the story could be translated into a musical. It was excellent. In my view, it was Broadway worthy as performed in Sarasota.

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on February 19th, 2024 at 11:21 pm said:

    Gay: Absolutely agree! Can’t wait to see it again — and for all my friends to see!

    Georgiana: I thought the event was great! Very sweet. Good turnout!

    Alan: I was skeptical about it being a musical, too. But they did a great job turning it into one!

  5. Larry Pennington, on February 22nd, 2024 at 12:53 pm said:

    As a newcomer to this site, I’ve had the fun of telling others about Bluestreak.
    My favorites have been the coverage of Blount Mansion— where I once volunteered; the Cassidy video; and the Stowers system for long- living, although I’m not sure I’m that altruistic..
    When I meet with friends, they will ask me ‘ what’s happening on Bluestreak’.

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on February 27th, 2024 at 8:16 am said:

    Larry: Thanks for reading — and for sharing! I love Blount Mansion myself and am happy to support it. And, I might be a bit in agreement with you on the longevity hack!

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