Alias Grace, a tale of murder and memory, opens in the UT Clarence Brown Theatre’s Carousel Theatre today.
Based on an acclaimed novel by Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace is the story of one of Canada’s most notorious murderers. In 1843, 16-year-old Grace Marks is accused of brutally murdering her employer and his housekeeper. Imprisoned for years, she still swears she has no memory of the killings. A doctor in the emerging field of mental health arrives to try to find out the truth of the matter.
The novel was adapted for the stage by Jennifer Blackmer. The play premiered at Chicago’s Rivendell Theater in 2017, directed by Karen Kessler,and has earned a 2018 Chicago Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for best new play adaptation.
Here are a few behind-the-scenes facts about the production:
The playwright will be on campus for a panel discussion. Blackmer, the playwright, will participate in a panel discussion with experts in sociology, criminology, and law after the Sunday, September 30, matinee performance. Expected to begin around 4 p.m., the panel discussion is free and open to the public.
The director also directed the play’s world premiere. Directing this CBT show is Kessler, who directed the world premiere in Chicago. Kessler is a professor of directing and Shakespeare at Ball State University as well as an ensemble member of Chicago’s A Red Orchid Theatre company.
Visiting guest actors include a local teacher and a film and TV actor. Katie Norwood Alley will play the role of Rachel Lavell. A UT alumna, Alley is a teacher and director at Bearden High School as well as the co-founder of the Actors Co-op in Knoxville. Tim Decker, who will play the role of Jeremiah, will appear in the soon-to-be released film Slice with Chance the Rapper. His TV credits include Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Empire, and Boss.
Alias Grace was written by author of The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood—a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, and environmental activist—is the author of the novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the basis of a popular series that has won numerous Primetime Emmy Awards, including outstanding drama series in 2017 and 2018. Alias Grace was made into a miniseries that aired on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Television. One of Atwood’s books for kids, Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery, was also made into a series that aired on CBC Kids.
Actors got specialized direction on dialect, fighting, and intimacy. Chicago-area actress Kathy Logelin was brought in as a dialect coach to help the actress portraying Grace hone a Northern Irish brogue and help the other actors work on Canadian accents. John Sipes, an associate professor of theatre at UT, directed actors through the fight scenes. Sipes’s background includes the study of tai chi (a Chinese martial art), Suzuki (a Japanese movement technique), stage combat, fencing, ballet, and mime. Casey Sams, an associate professor of theatre at UT, served as the production’s intimacy director, making sure the actors involved are safe, comfortable, confident and respected as they learn to portray moments of closeness with each other.
UT students with a valid ID see the show for free on September 26 and 27; for $10 on September 28; and for $5 at other performances. UT staff receive a discount of 20 percent on regular adult ticket prices. Call the Clarence Brown Theatre Box Office at 865-974-5161 or order online through Knoxville Tickets at clarencebrowntheatre.com.
For more information about the CBT, this show, tickets, or accessibility accommodations, call the box office or visit the CBT website.
Alias Grace is sponsored by the Clayton Foundation with support from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Mildred Haines and William Elijah Morris Lecture Endowment Fund. Media sponsors are WUOT, WUTK, B97.5, the Daily Beacon, and the Knoxville News Sentinel.