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The Clarence Brown Theatre is the recipient of a prestigious $20,000 “Art Works” award from the National Endowment for the Arts in support of its spring production of A Lesson Before Dying.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to receive a sizable grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for our upcoming production of A Lesson Before Dying,” said David B. Byrd, CBT managing director. “In addition to raising the profile of the CBT on a national level and celebrating Knoxville’s robust arts community, these monies will be of great assistance as we create the production in early 2016. Like all CBT productions, A Lesson Before Dying is built right here in Knoxville, using local and national talent in addition to vendors and materials from our area.”

The play, written by Romulus Linney and adapted from the novel by Ernest J. Gaines, tells the story of the friendship between an African-American schoolteacher and an uneducated African-American man who has been wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to death in the pre–civil rights movement South.

Several ancillary events designed to engage the greater Knoxville and East Tennessee communities in dialogue on issues of civil rights, social justice, racism, and the legal system have been planned in conjunction with the Knox County Public Library’s The Big Read program. Additional community partners include Knoxville Area Urban League, UT’s College of Law, Community Law Office, Beck Cultural Center, and many others. More information on specific events is available online.

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support give Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities.

The “Art Works” category supports the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts through thirteen arts disciplines or fields.

“The arts are part of our everyday lives. No matter who you are or where you live, they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Supporting projects like the one from the Clarence Brown Theatre offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

With a dual mission to train the next generation of theater artists and to provide top quality professional theater, the Clarence Brown Theatre is one of only thirteen academic LORT (League of Resident Theatre) institutions in the nation. Under the leadership of Byrd and Producing Artistic Director Calvin MacLean, the CBT season runs from August through May and features eight productions ranging from musicals to drama.

The CBT provides a cultural resource for both the university and the larger East Tennessee community and affirms diversity and inclusivity in all their forms.

The 2015–2016 remaining season productions include: “A Christmas Carol,” “The Santaland Diaries,” “Titus Andronicus,” “A Lesson Before Dying,” “The Open Hand,” and “South Pacific.” For more information or tickets, call the CBT Box Office at 865-974-5161 or visit clarencebrowntheatre.com.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)