Knoxville may not be a theater town, at least not the way New York, Chicago or even Louisville, Ky., are theater towns. That doesn’t stop people in the community from giving it the old college try, especially when the college is the University of Tennessee.
The University of Tennessee’s Theatre program grew out of its English Department when Dr. Paul Soper was appointed as Theatre Director in 1939 by the English Department Head, Dr. John Hodges. Decades later the Department has a full-time faculty of 12, and offers a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre and Master of Fine Arts degrees in Acting and Theatre Design.
More importantly to those who love watching a good play, the Department of Theatre operates the Clarence Brown Theatre, located on the university’s campus.
The Clarence Brown Theatre is a 581-seat proscenium theater that was built in 1970. The facility is named after acclaimed film director and university alumni Clarence Brown, who was nominated for six Academy Awards for Best Director during the 1930s.
The Clarence Brown Theatre Company produces a variety of plays each season, many of which feature nationally and internationally known guest artists. Clarence Brown Theatre has hosted numerous productions over the years, including “A Christmas Carol,” “Tommy,” “The Crucible,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Catfish Moon.” Shakespeare productions are also common. The theater is located near the center of the University of Tennessee campus at 1714 Andy Holt Boulevard, about three blocks south of Cumberland Avenue.
Besides the Clarence Brown Theatre, the University of Tennessee’s Department of Theatre operates two other performance theatres: the Ula Love Doughty Carousel Theatre and the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre.
The Carousel Theatre is a smaller, more intimate 400-seat arena space. Located just next door to the Clarence Brown Theatre, the venue features flexible seating and staging.
The Clarence Brown Lab Theatre is a 100-seat black box venue housed inside the Clarence Brown Theatre. The Lab Theatre’s productions tend to be more experimental and avant-garde. The theatre is the home of the undergraduate student group All Campus Theatre. Past productions include “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” and “Motion: In Theory.”
The Clarence Brown Theatre offers a variety of community outreach programs. There are student matinee performances, backstage tours, workshops and in-school artist residencies. Volunteer opportunities are available for assistance with tasks like scenery, costumes and ushering.
For more information about the Clarence Brown Theatre, including purchasing tickets, parking and upcoming productions, visit Clarence Brown Theatre or call 865-974-5161.
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