New Production Company Slips into the Downtown Scene

Danielle Roos and Kerri Koczen of Yellow Rose Productions, Knoxville, January 2014
Danielle Roos and Kerri Koczen of Yellow Rose Productions, Knoxville, January 2014

It was a typical Friday night, for me: I’m sitting in a bar listening to music, minding my own business and two attractive young women want to strike up a conversation. If I had a nickle for every time . . . OK, so it’s never happened before, but it happened at the opening of Scruffy City Hall.

I was doing my nerdy camera guy thing, oblivious to anything outside the stage, when I felt a tap on the shoulder and one of the young women asked, “Why are you taking pictures?” So I told the woman and her friend about my blog and the three of us had a nice conversation.

As it turns out, the story wasn’t me, at all, it was about Danielle Roos and Kerri Koczen, two bright, talented and ambitious young women who are set to make their presence felt on the local theater scene. We met a few days later to talk about where they’re coming from, what they are up to with Yellow Rose Productions and where they hope to take it all in the future.

Appropriately, we met in the Square Room, where the first Yellow Rose Production took place recently. With Danielle directing, they staged “All in the Timing,” a series of six one-act comedies, which they described as, “quirky and character-driven.” I’d actually intended to catch them, but didn’t, for some reason, and now that I’ve met the brains behind the show, I really wish I had attended.

Originally from Iowa, Danielle credits a large part of her drive to her six years in direct sales with Southwestern Books. I’ve written about them a couple of times before, here and here, actually, and we laughed about their motivational dances and general craziness. It turns out Kerri also worked with Southwestern the last three summers. They describe it as lucrative, rewarding and educational. They each learned that they prefer to work for themselves.

Danielle Roos and Kerri Koczen of Yellow Rose Productions, Knoxville, January 2014
Danielle Roos and Kerri Koczen of Yellow Rose Productions, Knoxville, January 2014

Danielle attended Dordt College, a small school in Iowa, where she attained her BA in Theater with a minor in Digital Media Production. While there, she pushed for the production of plays with challenging content, sometimes running afoul of the administration. She says she won a few and lost a few, but it made her more determined to make art that makes a difference. Through conversations with University of Tennessee students with whom she worked in Texas doing direct sales, she decided to move to Knoxville.

She took a position with the Word Players, but ultimately decided she wanted to do her own thing. She stared Yellow Rose Productions, naming her company for a childhood nickname and the meaning of her last name. Eventually, she invited Kerri, whom she’d met through Southwestern, to join her in the venture. Danielle’s been here for two-and-a-half years and she’s ready to make a difference.

Kerri, originally from Long Island, New York, attended State University of New York at Oneonta in upstate New York. Her degree is in theater performance in which she received a good background in all aspects of theater. She also minored in business and communication at her parent’s encouragement. She acknowledged that, given her current endeavor, she’s glad to have some background in business.

While in college she engaged in a bit of guerrilla theater with a group called Improv Oneonta. After college she was accepted to Circle in the Square, a theater conservatory in New York City. She did the “starving artist thing” for two-and-a-half years, longing to start her own theater. Eventually she moved to Charlottesville, but ultimately couldn’t pass up the allure of a similar project in Knoxville, moving here earlier this month.

The two hope to produce theater that is challenging to the audience, and promotes social justice with an eye toward helping their audience feel empathy for others. Lots of projects are looming on the horizon. They’ve been commissioned to write a play for a sponsor in Nashville. The same sponsor is helping them with the Knoxville productions. May 30 they intend to stage a self-penned play about sex trafficking centered around the true story of a particular woman. When they say challenging their audience, they appear to mean it. In the longer term, they’d like to purchase a space for productions, classes and events.


The shorter term project, however, is upon them. Next week they’ll stage “Fiction” by Steven Dietz, a two-act play about relationships and secrets, at the Square Room, February 7 and 8 at 7:30 each night. Follow the link above to purchase tickets, which are $10 advance and $13 at the show. Danielle will direct and Kerri will take the lead female role in the three person production.

I plan to be there and I hope you’ll join me. If you see me, tap me on the shoulder and ask me what I’m up to. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write a story about you next week. In the meantime, keep your eye out for these young women. I expect them to do good things for years to come.