Thursday, October 30, 2003

Tennesee Theatre Association 2003 Conference - Part 1

First some definitions:

The Tennessee Theatre Association is Tennessee's official advocacy and informational organization for the theatrical arts. All state colleges/universities, secondary schools and community theatres are invited to join and participate. TTA presents an annual conference that brings together these groups from all around the state to perform, audition, attend workshops, and network with like professionals and amateurs from all levels of the art.

I have a BA in Theatre from the University of Tennessee, and as long-time visitors to the Inn know I still participate in theatre activies in East Tennessee, mostly at the Oak Ridge Playhouse. I'm a director, musical director and actor primarily though I have dabbled in accompanying and sound design. I love theatre, and I love drama in many forms. If you've never attended a play or haven't in a long time it's an experience that will stay with you for a long time - frequently longer than your average movie-going experience.

For a long time I've wanted to be more involved than just the hobby level - I do have a degree in it, after all - but work and family responsibilities have not allowed me to do more than one of maybe two shows a year. A good friend of mine who lives in Knoxville is the president-elect of TTA, and in the course of conversations he offered me the chance to design the TTA website. I agreed, and in the course of designing the site I realized that the organization was a perfect way to become more involved in the theatre business without sacrificing a lot of my already small but extremely valuable free time. He mentioned that there was an opening on the Board of Directors for an East Tennessee Representative - basically someone who keeps in touch with the various theatrical groups in East Tennessee, and serves as their liason, advocate and communicator to and from the organization. I jumped at the chance, and began serving a two-year term back in the summer.

The Conference is the highlight of the year for the Association, and most of the annual activities and plans are based on this conference. As I said before, there are competitions, auditions, and an atmosphere of networking and fellowship among people who love theatre and the theatrical arts. This year the conference was held in Clarksville, TN on the campus of Austin Peay University.

My friend, Les and I left last Wednesday afternoon (the 22nd) and drove straight out there. There were a few early birds that arrived early like us - the Conference didn't officially start until the next day - and we spent the evening having dinner and getting ready for the big weekend.

Our hotel was the Quality Inn. Um, an interesting place - some of the hallway floors weren't level, apparently due to some sinkholes, or perhaps the San Madrid fault, I'm not certain, but we would walk up a rise, then down a slope, then lean to the left, then the right...well, you get the picture. It was all the fun of walking drunk, but none of the hangovers.

Les, as President-Elect, is in charge of the whole Conference and as such was constantly checking on last-minute details: accomodations for attendees and special guests, badges, registration, etc. He's an Electrical Engineer by trade and has a lovely wife, a 1-1/2 year old son and another on the way and the poor guy was so stressed his stomach was bothering him for the first three days of the conference. I felt sorry for him, and was planning on helping with registration as much as possible but being a rookie I didn't have a lot of prior experience. I wish I could have helped more, but I was able to learn as I went.

Next up: Thursday, Day 1 (officially). Sometime later this afternoon....

UPDATE: Oh, one more thing. We stopped at the Nashville airport on the way down to pick up an adjuticator who was flying in from Florida by way of Charlotte. All the play festivals are judged and a winner is announced later in the conference for each category: community, college/university, and secondary schools. They are graded and commented on as well, which helps improve their performances. The adjuticator we picked up is the Producing Director for a community theatre on an island in Florida near Sarasota. On the drive to Clarksville, we got to talking about my background, and how I have musical directed several shows. She mentioned that she was needing a musical director for "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" for two weeks in February, and would I be interested? Well, the offer was to fly me down, put me up for 2 weeks in a condo on the beach, pay a salary and it wouldn't even be a full production but a staged concert - me playing piano and a pre-cast group of players to do the show. I said that sounded very interesting, and I'd love to talk some more about it later. Ohhhh, yes. We'll talk about it later. Absolutely we will talk about it later!

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