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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

Sloan Takes Reins at Northeast State Theatre

Elizabeth Sloan is the new professor of theatre at Northeast State.
Elizabeth Sloan is the new professor of theatre at Northeast State.

Barter Theatre Alum Returns to Area

December 07, 2009

BLOUNTVILLE, TN — Elizabeth M. Sloan spent her days in Chicago working an entry-level job at a health care communications company and her nights auditioning for plays around the Windy City.

The talents this professionally trained stage actor put on display for directors also got noticed by her day-job bosses who needed a bold communicator.

"They basically goaded me into taking a bigger position with the company," said Sloan, assistant professor of theatre at Northeast State Community College. "That is why I believe in a theatre degree as a huge asset in any career field. It teaches you to be bold, to be a problem-solver, and to be hard-working."

Sloan came to Northeast State last summer as the new full-time theatre professor. She is directing her first production, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, running Dec. 10-13, in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

Her theatre pedigree is impressive. The Nashville native went on to earn her bachelor's degree in theatre from Samford University in Alabama and received her master of fine arts degree in theatre from University of Louisville.

She first attended the University of Georgia, determined to leave theatre behind. However, she missed the stage terribly and opted to turn her passion into a profession.

"I was lucky to have really supportive parents and when I decided to major in acting, they urged me to do it," said Sloan.

After graduate school, she was hired as an intern at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va. Her long hours at Barter won her enough experience to join the Actor's Equity Association — the stage actors and managers union — and launch her professional career in theatre.

"I went 12 to 14 hours day every day, for two years," said Sloan. "I built sets, made costumes, swept floors, taught workshops and did everything else they threw at me."

She went on to play lead roles in Barter productions of Steel Magnolias and The Liquid Moon. Sloan also spent considerable time working behind the scenes in the technical department arranging costumes for actors, buildings sets, and working with lights and sound.

"People think actors make the play happen," she said. "The truth is their jobs are easy. The hard job is building the entire world around them on stage."

The cast of Best Christmas includes many children doing their first stage roles ever. Since Sloan spent a good deal of her childhood performing in plays, she has been able to share and sympathize with her young actors.

"My mother teaches junior high and I always knew I wanted to be a teacher at some point in my life," she said. "A lot of our actors haven't seen plays, but they are ready to act in this one, and that is the first step."

That point came earlier this year when friend and fellow Louisville alumnus Michael Aulick told her he was leaving Northeast State to accept a job at another university. She applied to Northeast State, got the job, and found herself heading to East Tennessee.

Sloan wasted no time networking with area theatres and schools about the season's first performance. Three matinee performances of Best Christmas scheduled next week for elementary school classes from around the region have already sold out.

Sloan believes theatre's relevancy remains strong especially in this region because people needed entertainment beyond the blue glow of a screen. A live performance makes a critical human connection between an audience, an actor and a story, she said.

"You have the Barter, but you also have Theatre Bristol, Johnson City Community Theatre, and others that help each other and draw audiences," said Sloan. "What I love about this area and what makes it so special is how this region supports local theatre."