“When you hear the whistles blowing eight to the bar,
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far;
Shovel all the coal in; I gotta keep a-rollin’,
Woo-woo, Chattanooga, there you are!” – Glenn Miller
I always had a good feeling about last week’s residency at The University of Tennesee at Chattanooga. We got off the plane having come from the “Great White North” to a beautifully hot and sunny Tennessee. Things were getting off to a fantastic start. They then got better when we were met by our ray of sunshine, Steve Ray, a UTC theatre professor originally from Alabama who crossed the globe as an actor.
He took us to our accommodation, Mayor’s Mansion Inn, a bed and breakfast in the historic district of Fortwood. To say this is a place has character is an understatement. It has more character than us 5 actors in our production of Midsummer. It’s a bit like a trendy boutique hotel without the try-hard effort and with all the ease and hospitality of the American South. Cindy took care of us there. I was extremely happy already and then, during the course of the evening, I found out Chattanooga was the home of Bessie Smith (the Empress of the Blues), Samuel L. Jackson, and Usher! I may never leave Chattanooga!
During the week we worked with fantastic students from both University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Chattanooga State and amazing professors from both. Bryan Hampton and Evans Jarnefeldt were key players in getting us there, and we worked closely with them. They made us feel extremely welcome and everything went off smoothly. The students were bright and enthusiastic, and many of them were theatre majors — which is always fun. Some of the students then worked at the Ward Theatre where we were performing and I do have to give a special shout out to our Stage Manager Joseph, our wardrobe mistress Samantha, and Sharkey (Leigh-Ana), who all looked after us so well in the UTC Fine Arts Center.
In addition to having a wonderful bowling alley, Chattanooga is a great city for outdoor activities
During our spare time, we AFTLS-ers explored Moccasin Bend and Lookout Mountain where there are some trails and some very interesting history relating to the civil war.
Chattanooga was also the start of the Trail of Tears – an event in history when the Cherokee nation were forcibly removed from their lands to present day Oklahoma as part of President Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy.
There was talk of going to Nashville on Sunday but as Chattanooga had been so pleasant we resided there and chose a gentle night on the front porch. The end of the tour is in sight and so “Chattanooga Choo Choo, won’t you take me home?” No! not just yet…Houston (Rice University) and Cleveland (John Carroll University) yet to go…
(Blog post by Ffion Jolly)
I saw your production in Chattanooga on Thursday night with my 9 year old daughter. She can’t stop talking about it. She is the one that said “poor puppy” when the mop on a leash got tossed about. I am impressed by how much of the story she remembers. It was her first experience with Shakespeare performed live. A midsummer Night’s Dream was my first exposure to live theater in 1974 as well. We had a great time. Thank you so much for putting on a great performance.
Thanks so much for this note, especially the “poor puppy” comment. It goes to show that you don’t need elaborate costumes, sets, and special effects to create moving and compelling storytelling. I love that Shakespeare has come full circle for you and your family. Here’s to many more shared Shakespeares!