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When Candide is presented on UT’s Clarence Brown Theatre stage August 29–September 16, it will be an unprecedented celebration of local theater.

Leonard Bernstein’s acclaimed operetta, based on Voltaire’s 1759 satirical novella, premiered in London in 1956. After several reincarnations, this funny and poignant version debuted on Broadway in 1989.

For ticket information call 865-974-5161 or visit the Clarence Brown Theatre website.

Here are five reasons the CBT’s Candide is a must-see production:

1. Candide is being produced through a grant from the Roy Cockrum Foundation.

Receiving this support puts the CBT in very good company.

Cockrum won a $153 million lump-sum payout in the Powerball lottery in 2014. The Knoxville man has an interesting resume: always a theater lover, he worked as an actor for several years. He also spent six years as a monk.

After hitting the lottery jackpot, Cockrum used his riches to create the Roy Cockrum Foundation “to support world-class performing arts projects in not-for-profit professional theatres” throughout America, enabling them “to reach beyond their normal scope of activities and undertake ambitious and creative productions.”

Cockrum has funded productions at prestigious theaters across the country, including the Goodman Theatre and the Steppenwold Theatre Company in Chicago; the New York–based Acting Company; Washington, DC’s Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company; and the Two River Theater in New Jersey.

“We’ve been helping theaters all over the country make their dreams come true,” Cockrum said. “I’m very glad to help make this amazing project possible right here in my hometown and look forward to the production.”

2. Happy birthday, Leonard Bernstein!

This presentation is an official part of Leonard Bernstein at 100, the two-year global celebration of the American maestro’s life and work that kicked off in September 2017 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

Bernstein was born on August 25, 1918. He died in 1990.

3. The cast and crew are noteworthy.

image of actor James Onstad
James Onstad as Candide. Photo by Elizabeth Aaron

Candide boasts a cast of 24. About half are members of Actors Equity, some with ties to Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera.

Visiting professionals on the production crew include Tony Award–winning lighting designer and MacArthur Fellowship (“genius grant”) winner Jennifer Tipton, who is a graduate of Knoxville’s Central High School; Michael Ganio, a 25-year veteran scenic designer who is now an assistant professor of theater at Dartmouth University; and award-winning sound designer and composer Curtis Craig, who is head of the BFA program in design and technology in Pennsylvania State University’s School of Theatre.

4. This marks the third collaboration between Clarence Brown and the Knoxville Symphony.

The theatre and symphony teamed up on well-received productions of Amadeus in 2010 and Sweeney Todd, starring alumna Dale Dickey, in 2012.

Candide will be co-directed by Cal MacLean, head of the Department of Theatre and artistic director of the Clarence Brown, and James Marvel, UT’s director of opera.

At UT since 2006, MacLean previously held a similar position at Illinois State University and served as artistic director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. He has directed productions at Chicago’s Famous Door Theatre Company and Victory Gardens Theater, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre, the Asolo Theatre in Florida, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, and the University of Illinois.

A UT alumnus who has been the university’s director of opera since 2011, Marvel is an internationally acclaimed stage director who has directed more than 100 productions worldwide.

5. CBT combines a rich history and a vibrant present.

From its inception, the Clarence Brown Theatre has had a rich history and a mission focused equally on enriching the culture of Knoxville and training the next generation of great artists.

It’s one of 74 LORT (League of Resident Theatres) companies across the country—and one of only 13 LORT academic theaters. Being a LORT theater means the Clarence Brown is able to bring in professional talent to appear in productions and work alongside student actors.

UT has received national recognition for its Master of Fine Arts in theatre, with the Hollywood Reporter ranking the program 16th among the 25 best MFA acting programs in the United States and the United Kingdom.


Robin Conklin, CBT, (865-974-2497,

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,