The Knoxville Children’s Theatre is a great asset to the downtown area – though it’s a bit of a stretch out Central. Once housed closer to downtown proper, in the building on Tyson where you’ll soon find Remedy Coffee at their new location, they’ve moved to 109 E. Churchwell Avenue, which is a few blocks further out Central than Happy Holler. It’s a small theater in a relatively nondescript building. Inside is a small reception area and a small theater with a modest stage.
A range of activities and programs are available to children and the location is particularly handy for children who live downtown or in any of the northern fringe neighborhoods. It’s about a five minute drive out Central from downtown (just over two miles) or a pretty easy bike ride. It’s actually a part of another node that seems to be developing along that stretch of Central which already includes Mid Mod Collective and more I’ll tell you about very soon.
It’s a great outlet for children and young people have such a creative bent. If I’m not mistaken, Urban Daughter took a week-long class many years ago during her Shakespearean actress planning-to-live-in-New-York-City phase, but I’m not sure. If I’m right, it was in a downtown building, which I think may have been a derelict Daylight Building. The accommodations are much better these days.
The group offers classes in acting for various ages and skill levels, including an all-day class (Day of Drama, $100) on the Monday of Fall Break (October 12). Classes are sometimes one day (Master Class: Unarmed Stage Combat, $50, November 14) or a particular day of the week for several weeks (Audtion Workshop, Theatre Dance!, Tiny Thespians and more). Classes are offered for ages four and up. You’ll find a full list here.
While most of those classes and workshops end with some sort of performance, the Knoxville Children’s Theatre also does full-scale productions, as you can see in the photographs included here. The productions include entire casts from local elementary through high schools even the production staff is largely made up of students. The director of “The Little Mermaid,” for example is A.J. Tierney, a senior at West High School and choreographer is Lindsay Howard, a senior at Bearden High School. Both did an excellent job and each are assisted by younger members who will, no doubt, grow into those more advanced roles.
The performances in “The Little Mermaid,” belied the fact that many of the caste members are so young. Of course the lead, Zoe Brookshire-Risley (sophmore at West High) as Ariel, gave a strong performance. Many of the other roles stood out, as well. Derrick Washington, Jr. (freshman at the L&N Station) superbly handled the role of Sebastian. Others who really stood out to me: Olivia Wilson, sophmore at Bearden as Ursula, Luke Carter, 6th grader at Nature’s Way School as Grimsby, Joseph Coram, 7th grader at Halls Middle as Flounder, and Lily Kate Corley, freshman, as Scuttle.
The best recommendation I can give you is that Urban Girl (age six) laughed out loud with delight throughout the performance – and I don’t just mean when it was intentionally funny. She came home from the performance and wanted to dress up as the different characters. She made it clear she did not want to go to the next production, which is “Quoth the Raven” based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, because it would be “scary,” but she was all about the Cinderella Christmas production, so I suspect we’ll be back.
It’s a fun activity and a good group to support. I can imagine that this group really gives certain young people a place where they really feel they belong and can express something inside themselves which might otherwise remain muted. Slip out to this fringe node of downtown and support them. Performances of “The Little Mermaid,” fall Thursday through Sunday (twice Saturday) for each of the two next weekends. Tickets are $12.