National Reports

Tennessee by C. Kay Andy Landis

Photo of Jennifer Brown
Jennifer Brown, Artistic Director of Tiger Lily Theatre – photo by Soaring Oak Photography

Tennessee by C. Kay Andy Landis

Jennifer Brown’s a very passionate woman at the helm of a theatre company dedicated to furthering opportunities for women playwrights and other theatre artists in the Knoxville arts community. A 2002 graduate of Appalachian State University in theatre, Jennifer is the Artistic Director of Tiger Lily Theatre, which she founded in 2012. Together with like-minded people, Brown brings performance, directing, writing and design opportunities for plays that engage the audiences in their community. Tiger Lily Theatre works with local playwrights and theatre artists to help them produce their “passion projects” while seeking to expand their mission by offering support to other performance organizations. 

Tiger Lily doesn’t have space of its own so Jennifer and her associates utilize “found space,” places not originally intended for theatre. They overcome the limitations and hurdles of these spaces by transitioning places like dance studios and warehouses into a theatre, creating stages and backstage areas using pipes, drapes, curtains — whatever they can find that works. Then they bring in sound and lighting equipment and work tirelessly to create the most effective configuration for the needs of the play. 

TLT has lent equipment, props, costumes, and people power to numerous other theatre companies including Tennessee Stage Company’s New Play Festival, which TLT has co-produced since 2014. Brown considers it a duty to provide a consistent “venue for emerging playwrights, particularly those in the Knoxville area.”

Andy Landis: What drives you to create theatre?

Jennifer Brown: (laughing) I was a quiet kid. Shy, almost awkward. But in my first semester of my freshman year in high school, there was an announcement over the intercom. They were auditioning for the school play and I decided for some reason to try out for it. I only got a tiny part but just felt “right” and it changed me. I’ve been involved in theatre ever since.

AL: How many new plays do you do a year?

JB: Between six and ten. Probably eight on average. We do a series of new plays called “A Night of Shorts.” I’ve lived in other places, including Atlanta, and realized the local theatres weren’t producing a lot of local playwrights so I decided to make sure it happened here. I won’t go into how hard it was to get our not-for-profit status, or how long it took, but once we got it we didn’t look back.

AL: What do you enjoy about working with new playwrights? 

JB: While getting my theatre degree at Appalachian State University I was in three or four plays a year. ASU was dedicated to bringing in playwrights with new plays for us to work on and I found being around them was a completely gratifying experience. I loved it!

AL: Do you ever want to direct the new plays you bring to life?

JB: Oh, my passion is more about fostering playwrights and directors. I love offering opportunities that surprise them. 

AL: You’re inspiring! 

JB: (laughing) Thank you!

AL: Do you take scripts from playwrights outside of Knoxville?

JB: Yes, we welcome the works of playwrights from out of our area because, of course, we want our audiences to experience the best possible nights of theatre we can offer. Actually, we’re excited to consider the works of playwrights from anywhere. However, we always make sure Tennessee playwrights, particularly those in East Tennessee, are well represented.

AL: How would a playwright submit a play to you?

JB: There’s no pay, so there’s no submission fee …

AL: Thanks for that!

JB: A playwright can email a short script in PDF to tigerlilytheatreTN@gmail.com. We stop taking submissions at the end of the year because we begin preparing for our Spring series right after the January 1. We don’t accept scripts until after the series is complete, around the end of April.

AL: So why the name Tiger Lily Theatre?

JB: If you look around Knoxville in the springtime, or the state of Tennessee, or really just about anywhere in the south, you’ll see patches of tiger lilies in bloom. They’re notoriously hardy, growing on mountains, along major freeways, and in my yard despite my complete inability to garden. Tiger lilies bloom where they land, no matter the conditions. They are a flash of brilliance against a uniform backdrop of green. I can think of no better metaphor for the incredible women and artists we work with.

It’s clear that Jennifer Brown offers the Knoxville arts community a beautiful flash of brilliance of her own. To learn more visit: www.tigerlilytheatre.org