Clarence Brown Theatre patrons donated $16,306 to the Highlander Center during the run of the theatre’s world premiere production of Anthony Clarvoe’s “People Where They Are” in the Carousel Theatre October 2-20, 2019, directed by Calvin MacLean and Dee Dee Batteast.


Using the “pass-the-hat” philanthropy model, actors from the production were on hand following each performance to collect donations as patrons left the theatre. Also, half of the proceeds from the CBT’s Pay What You Can performance held Wednesday, October 2, 2019 went to the Highlander Center.  Additional donations were collected following a Highlander Benefit Concert featuring inspirational folk music by Michael and Carrie Kline prior to the evening performance on October 19, 2019.
“We are enormously grateful and could not imagine a better outcome – either for the donations or for the miracle of the new play itself!  Many, many thanks to the CBT patrons, playwright, directors, actors, crew, sponsors and staff,” said Barbara Mott, Highlander Center Development Director.

According to Mott, the funds will be used for rebuilding and restoring offices which were burned down earlier this year due to arson and also for current Highlander Center educational programming.  In appreciation, the Highlander Center installed a plaque commemorating the new play to one of their famous rocking chairs.


“People Where They Are” dramatizes the Highlander Center’s expansion into the Civil Rights movement, and more.  All the actions depicted in the play actually happened and all the characters are based on actual people.  But the timeline of events has been rearranged and telescoped and the named characters are amalgams of several different historical figures.  The play also takes aim at our own time, by dramatizing our ongoing discussions about race, “otherness,” and the eruption of violence our nation has endured.


The new play was very successful at the CBT Box Office, exceeding the sales goal by 106%.


“The journey that we have taken in developing this play for the past two years has spanned many dramatic events in our country and within the Highlander Center itself. The fire motivated us to contribute however we could to the rebuilding efforts and to support Highlander’s important work. We are grateful to the author, Anthony Clarvoe, the cast and crew, our audience, and the Highlander Center for the outpouring of support during the run of “People Where They Are,” MacLean said.


The full script of “People Where They Are” is forthcoming from Broadway Play Publishing, Inc. as a book and an e-book. Applause Books, Inc. plans to publish excerpts from the play in their anthology “100 Monologues from New Plays 2020.” And, theaters across the country are currently considering the play for production in the 2020-21 season.


“It has been an honor to share the story of Highlander and its fight for justice and democracy. The astonishing generosity of the Clarence Brown Theatre and its audiences will help this necessary work to continue. But what moved and encouraged me was the willingness of all kinds of people to stay after the show, and share their own stories, and acknowledge people with different experiences than theirs. I think this is how we give ourselves the chance to change,” Clarvoe said.


In 1932, Myles Horton, Don West, Jim Dombrowski and others founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. They focused first on organizing unemployed and working people, and by the late 1930s Highlander was serving as the de-facto CIO education center for the region, training union organizers and leaders in 11 southern states. During this period, Highlander also fought segregation in the labor movement, holding its first integrated workshop in 1944.

Highlander’s commitment to ending segregation made it a critically important incubator of the Civil Rights movement. Workshops and training sessions at Highlander helped lay the groundwork for many of the movement’s most important initiatives, including the Montgomery bus boycott, the Citizenship Schools, and the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1961, after years of red-baiting and several government investigations, the state of Tennessee revoked Highlander’s charter and seized its land and buildings. The school reopened the next day as the Highlander Research and Education Center. From 1961-1971, it was based in Knoxville, and in 1972 it moved to its current location near New Market, Tennessee. Since that time, Highlander’s radical popular education work has helped people obtain the information and skills they need to solve their own problems and to strategize for building the world we all deserve. In March 2019, Highlander lost its main office and part of its archive, which included documents from the Civil Rights era, in a fire.  Racist graffiti was found at the scene.


With a dual mission to train the next generation of theatre artists and to provide top quality professional theatre, the Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee Knoxville is one of only 12 LORT (League of Resident Theatre) institutions in the nation with a professional theatre on its campus.  Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Calvin MacLean and Managing Director Tom Cervone, the CBT season runs from August through May and features eight productions ranging from musicals to drama.


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