I put a purple pen to paper and began listing world premieres in ink by region throughout the good ol’ state. There was a lot of purple, folks. Brand new theatre of every variety launched across stages in every holler of Tennessee.
Let’s begin with a whopping four world premieres at one of our country’s leading theatre’s for youth, located in Music City: Nashville Children’s Theatre.
“The world premieres we presented were a combo of stories that I thought needed to be told...” said NCT’s beloved Artistic Director, Ernie Nolan. The Itsy Bitsy Spider written by Nolan himself made its mark on stage in August of last year, followed by Return To Sender by MARISELA TREVIÑO ORTA, Auntie Claus by MARCY HEISLER with music by ZINA GOLDRICH, and Hans Christian Andersen by Frank Loesser and Timothy Allen McDonald.
Why four world premieres? Nolan says, “...The canon of dramatic literature for young people is really just a hundred years old. TYA as we know really started with Peter Pan over a hundred years ago. It’s a VERY young art form. It’s not only up to theatres to help build that canon, but as you can imagine it’s still growing so when you want to explore certain themes or voices those plays (or a great number) just aren’t there. I love creating new work personally, but I’m also committed to it in order to be of service to the field.”
Also committed to serving Nashville audiences for 31 seasons resides ACT 1 Theatre Company. This crew produced a dance-infused retelling of Romeo and Juliet titled Violent Delights by Jim Manning, and The Actors Nightmarium by Eric Butler, seen for the first time at Darkhorse Theater.
The Darkhorse was also home to KENLEY SMITH’s Maidens, produced by Tennessee Playwrights Studio, SistaStyle Productions’ One Last Song for Christmas by Mary McCallum, and Destiny Theatre Experience’s 23/1 and Papa Was by Shawn Whitsell.
Woven Theatre’s Tall Tales by RIVER TIMMS and Garden Theatre Company’s You Are What You by Mora Harris opened at The Barbershop Theater in West Nashville to boot!
Created as an “outlet for opportunity” in the center of the state lives Murfreesboro’s The Where House. Managing Director Donovan Hughes comments on the season, “We produced Reasons to Send Your Child to Summer Camp (written by Hughes) for its simplicity and options for community engagement pre-show. Lulla(Nights) and Good(Byes) by Aaron Johnson was produced in order to help an ensemble member through their grieving. It was a type of memorial.”
Memorializing was exactly what playwright MARY DONNET JOHNSON did, moving east to Maryville. “I wrote the play to revive the memory of Susan Wiley Walker...The college chose to make the world premiere of this play a featured event in their year-long Bicentennial Celebration.” Johnson’s To Know You celebrated the life of a (then) secret benefactor to Maryville College and opened at Clayton Center for the Arts.
In Scruffy City, Marble City Opera debuted Shadow Light commemorating Knoxville-born Beauford Delaney with music by Larry Dillinger and libretto by Emily Anderson. Managing Director and lead actor Brandon Gibson commented, “Delaney was world famous, but hardly talked about in his hometown.”
Knoxville’s rich, growing theatre scene continued with first-time viewings of Light Years: A Journey with Alzheimer’s by LINDA PARSONS and John Ferguson at Flying Anvil Theatre, People Where They Are by ANTHONY CLARVOE at Clarence Brown Theatre, Raft by Carolyn Thomas and HARRISON YOUNG, as well as Amazing Graces by Lea McMahann at Tennessee Stage Company.
In the western region, Playhouse on the Square’s annual New Works Festival presented the world premieres of The Miraculous and the Mundane by Howard L. Craft and When We Get Good Again by JAMES MCLINDON.
Here’s to all world premiere producers, theatres and the like, mentioned and unmentioned in the vast Volunteer state! Write On.