On the weekend of Oct. 24, the Clayton Center for the Arts hosted the 46th annual Tennessee Theatre Association conference with the aid of the Maryville College Theatre Department.
The three-day event was organized in part by Dr. Heather McMahon, associate professor of theater at MC, and Jennifer Luck, technical director for the theater department. The Clayton Center staff, lighting and sound directors, and corporate sales and events crew also assisted in making the weekend run smoothly.
Activities at the conference ranged from a high school one-act play festival to professional screening auditions for the Southeastern Theater Conference (SETC) in Mobile, Ala. later this spring.
SETC, the parent event to TTA, is the largest annual gathering of theatre students and professional theatrical companies in the United States. This year, nearly 90 companies will attend the conference to watch the 800 auditionees hoping to attain jobs this summer. This opportunity is highly valued and can only be attained by passing the initial screening auditions at one of several statewide conferences in the Southeast throughout the year.
Over 150 students, including six from Maryville College, auditioned at TTA’s conference this year to vie for one of the highly coveted spots at SETC’s spring auditions. Along with these screenings, hundreds of additional students and educators attended the conference including nine high schools, several universities and three community theatre groups.
Other events at the conference included a community theatre festival, the 24-hour 10 minute play competition and the TTA scholarship auditions for high school seniors. Professional workshops were also available to conference attendees like ETSU Theatre Professor Herb Parker’s popular workshop “BARK LIKE A DOG: Finding the Theatrical in Your Monologue” and a workshop on the LoVetri Method, belting in musical theatre and somatic voice-work by certified vocal coach Deanna Surber.
This is the second year in a row that the conference has been hosted by the CCA. The opportunity to have such a large number of professional opportunities and training in such close proximity to MC is a large enough incentive.
All MC theatre students are also able to attend and participate in conference activities for free as payment for helping. Professional workshops, experience in theatrical organization and show management, and the chance to audition for professional theatre jobs are far more than most students would ever expect to be able to participate in, much less find right on their doorstep.