The Bard returns to downtown Knoxville next week as the Tennessee Stage Company kicks off its latest season of “Shakespeare on the Square,” and veterans of the Blount County stage will be well represented this year.
The annual production, now in its 29th year, features alternating nights, from Thursdays through Sundays, of works by William Shakespeare, performed on the stage in Market Square. The shows are free, but donations are gratefully accepted, and for good reason: They’re professional presentations by some of the area’s finest actors, five of whom in this year’s shows have ties to Maryville College.
If you’re planning on heading over Knoxville way to take in one of the performances, here are the MC alumnae you should get to know:
H. Caitlin Corbitt
FAVORITE MARYVILLE COLLEGE ROLE: Emily in “Our Town” that kicked off the opening of the Clayton Center for the Arts, closely tied with May in Alpha Psi Omega’s production of “Fool for Love.”
ROLE(S) WITH THIS YEAR’S “SHAKESPEARE ON THE SQUARE” PRODUCTION: Director of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” associate producer for the company
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” SCENE: Now now, I can’t start picking favorites! As the director, I know part of me ends up in every scene, but I’m very lucky in that my cast has truly brought their best.
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” LINE: “I’ll put a girdle round about the Earth in 40 minutes.” — Puck
TIP FOR STAYING COOL AND NOT PASSING OUT WHEN YOU’RE ACTING IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONCRETE CANYON FOR THREE HOURS IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER: As a patron, an actor, a back-stage worker, and a front-of-house representative, I can honestly tell you — wear a hat, grab some dinner from Market Square and get a VIP seat in the shade. That’s where I’d rather be sitting — even if I’m on stage! And as an actor, I’m really nice to the costumier — so I always have the best breathable costumes!
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MARYVILLE COLLEGE/BLOUNT COUNTY? I miss that Vienna (Coffeehouse) is right down the street; that rehearsal was always in the same place, (Room) 201 in Thaw Hall; I miss that the two best bars were Two Doors Down from each other.
WHAT’S NEXT ON YOUR THEATRICAL/ACTING AGENDA?: We are coming into the 30th season of Tennessee Stage Company. As soon as we close this season, we’ll start planning our 30th season celebration. This fall, Tiger Lily Theatre will be doing a production of “Lysistrata.” Planning for that is in full swing, so check Tiger Lily Theatre for details.
FAVORITE MARYVILLE COLLEGE ROLE: Ensemble, “String of Pearls.” I actually came back after graduation to work in this show.
ROLE IN THIS YEAR’S “SHAKESPEARE ON THE SQUARE” PRODUCTION: Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” SCENE: The ending
FAVORITE LINE: “And as I am an honest Puck!”
TIP FOR STAYING COOL: Hydration, hydration, hydration
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MARYVILLE COLLEGE/BLOUNT COUNTY? Maryville College has one of the most beautiful campuses anywhere, in my opinion. I loved being on campus. I also really enjoy the process of learning something new, so I miss that as well.
WHAT’S NEXT? Hopefully, directing
HOMETOWN: Cottontown, Tennessee (a little holler north of Nashville)
FAVORITE MARYVILLE COLLEGE ROLE: Set designer and member of Alpha Psi Omega, the theater honors society
ROLE(S) IN “SHAKESPEARE ON THE SQUARE”: This year, I am playing “Snug the Joiner” in “Midsummer” as well as working on the production team as the props master and set designer.
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” SCENE: So in classic Shakespeare fashion, there is a “play within a play;” my character really comes out of her shell here from reluctant to roaring. (Because I’m a lion.)
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” LINE: “Have you the lion’s part written? Pray give it to me for I am slow of study.” This line is the first thing Snug says, and I find it endearing since I too struggle with learning lines.
TIP FOR STAYING COOL: Being that I’m not as young and spry as I once was, the biggest thing besides water is having an ice pack for your wrists. You have the most veins there and thinnest skin, so you can cool your blood by placing an ice pack smack dab on your wrists. Also, comfy shoes ... make like Mario Battali and bust out those Crocs.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MARYVILLE COLLEGE/BLOUNT COUNTY? Maryville College was the first place where I got to be myself and that was OK. To me, it will always be a place of knowledge, growth and acceptance. Knowing such a place exists makes it near and dear, as well as miss it with what’s going on in our current climate.
WHAT’S NEXT? Besides strike (the completion of her work with “Shakespeare on the Square”), it will either be doing “Rocky Horror Shadowcast” with the Transit Beams, or planning the set for Shadow Cats’ premiere show of “Reefer Madness” next April.
Raine Elizabeth Palmer
FAVORITE MARYVILLE COLLEGE ROLE: I was part of an amazingly funny, student written and directed six-woman show called “Greek Mythology Abridged” at MC. All of us were tasked with playing around 10 characters as we abridged and satirized famous Greek myths. I particularly liked playing Achilles during the Trojan War, if only because I got to run around with a sword in a fluffy bathrobe.
ROLE(S) IN “SHAKESPEARE”: Peter Quince in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Luciana in “Comedy of Errors.”
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” SCENE: The final scene of “Midsummer,” where the Rude Mechanicals (led by Peter Quince) put on a well-intentioned but uproariously and hilariously bad play for the Athenian nobles and faeries. It’s made all the better because in our version, my character not only directed and acted in the show but wrote it, too! Poor Peter Quince.
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” LINE: “Pat, pat; and here’s a marvelous convenient place for our rehearsal. This green plot shall be our stage, this hawthorn-brake our tiring house; and we will do it in action as we will do it before the duke.” It’s arguably Peter Quince’s most famous line and near and dear to theatrical performers familiar with the show.
TIP FOR STAYING COOL: This is my sixth summer performing in “Shakespeare on the Square,” and I have one word for you: hydration. You can never have enough water, and it’s one of the most important things to have when singing and acting in sometimes 90-degree weather.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MARYVILLE COLLEGE/BLOUNT COUNTY? I miss getting to work on the entirety of the show sometimes. These days I’m primarily an actor, but as a student at MC, I was actually working backstage more often than not on the school’s shows (while simultaneously acting in shows in Knoxville). I was afforded the opportunity to learn a lot of theatrical skills and dabbled in every area of theater possible, from being in charge of props for MC shows to building sets and even rigging lights.
WHAT’S NEXT: I’m not sure yet. I’ve been in rehearsals and performing literally nonstop since January (Foothills Community Players’ “The Crucible” (Elizabeth Proctor) followed by Seventy Thirty Creative’s “Romeo and Juliet” (Romeo) and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (Mistress Quickly) before “Shakespeare on the Square”). Maybe I’ll take a breather or maybe I’ll throw myself right back into more auditions. There are a ton of excellent shows that will be produced in and around Knoxville and Maryville this fall that I’d be infinitely lucky to be involved in.
MARYVILLE COLLEGE ROLE: Too many memories there. But, if I had to pick one: Lynn Redgrave from “Shakespeare for My Father.”
ROLE WITH THIS YEAR’S “SHAKESPEARE ON THE SQUARE” PRODUCTION: Hermia in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” SCENE: The fight with Grey (Helena)
FAVORITE “SHAKESPEARE” LINE: “Thou drivest me past the bounds of maiden’s patience!”
TIP FOR STAYING COOL: Peppermint oil! Add it to your water, and it also cools your skin.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MARYVILLE COLLEGE/BLOUNT COUNTY? The creative minds there and all the support and friendship from the professors and students.
WHAT’S NEXT? I have some auditions in the fall, so we’ll see.
Steve Wildsmith was an editor and writer for The Daily Times for nearly 17 years; a recovering addict, he now works in media and marketing for Cornerstone of Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Blount County. Contact him at wildsmith email@example.com.