Record Audiences @ Northeast State
New Facility, Three Plays Helped Increase Attendance
May 28, 2009BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — The perfect marriage of a new performing arts center, new cultural arts performances, and a superb theatre program brought thousands of new cultural events patrons to Northeast State Technical Community College during the 2008-2009 academic year.
The College officially opened the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts (RCPA) with a multi-purpose 500-seat theatre last fall. The region's response exceeded the College's expectations. Data collected by college officials this spring found more than 10,800 people attended cultural events held at Northeast State this year – an amazing increase of approximately 58 percent over audience numbers from the previous year.
"With the opening of the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts Northeast State has been able to provide a new venue for more elaborate productions along with the ability to accommodate larger numbers of attendees," said Duncan Parsons, dean of Wayne G. Basler Library. "The numbers demonstrate the kind of response you get when art gets space to breathe."
Driving this rise in attendance was the Northeast State Department of Theatre with three spectacular plays that drew sellout crowds and an unprecedented level of production quality and set design.
"Frankenstein" became the theatre's inaugural event when it opened on Halloween weekend in October. The production played to packed houses every night during its performance run.
"The Sound of Music" production proved so popular an additional evening performance was added to accommodate demand. The intimate, beautifully performed play "The Laramie Project" also drew near capacity crowds when it opened in April with limited seating for 110 people.
"The audiences were nothing short of incredible," said Michael Aulick, assistant professor of Theatre at Northeast State. "It was very gratifying to see students demonstrate their talents in front of a live audience of that size."
The RCPA also hosted a series of musical events that showcased the theatre's sound and lighting capabilities.
Symphony of the Mountains gave a command performance at the theatre in November. Accompanied by the Charles Goodwin Orchestra, the symphony delighted a capacity crowd with classical and jazz arrangements. Guitarists Ed Gerhard and Bill Mize returned to Northeast State in December for what has become a semiannual Christmas concert event. The Johnson City Civic Chorale performed in February featuring some of the region's top musicians.
Guitarist Muriel Anderson also returned to Northeast State last summer. Anderson performed popular Christmas concert. Her performance packed the Northeast State Auditorium. She also held an instructional workshop that attracted more than 30 guitarists interested to learn more about her finger-style playing.
Jim Kelly, assistant professor of History and chairman of the College's Cultural Activities Committee, said Northeast State continued to expand students' cultural experiences with authors and experts in a variety of academic areas.
"We've had movie actors, musicians, poets, historians presenting a variety of subject matter from women inventors, baseball history and musical compositions," said Kelly. "We were very proud to give our students, staff, and community a diverse selection of cultural activity events."
The College also featured several cultural events at other campus venues that played to smaller but no less enthusiastic audiences.
Legendary action film actor Danny Trejo filled the Northeast State Auditorium with a special evening performance in October. Trejo's cult appeal played at Northeast State with more than 200 people turning out to meet a man as gracious in person as his characters are menacing on screen.
Baseball historian Phil Dixon visited Northeast State in February's Black History Month commemoration to speak about the influence and confluence of the Negro Baseball League on 20th century American sports and history.
Perhaps the year's most moving presentation came from Sandra Roberts, a teacher at Whitwell Middle School, where her history students created the Paper Clips Project. Roberts spoke about how a simple school project became a quest for students to understand history by collecting paper clips representing the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
The Center for Performing Arts ushered in a new era in cultural opportunities for Northeast State. The College strives to give students an insight into historical and cultural significance as part of their educational experience.
Northeast State's commitment to educate, enlighten, and entertain through cultural experiences will not diminish. As the College continues to grow, Northeast State will remain responsive to offering diverse cultural learning opportunities for students.
"I am thrilled that Northeast State has become a cultural activity destination for the region," said Kelly. "We expect to get bigger and better next year."
"The Laramie Project" wrapped up a phenomenal year of events at Northeast State.