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'People Where They Are' playwright discusses his original play

"People Where They Are" runs through October 20 at the Carousel Theatre next to the Clarence Brown Theatre
Credit: Clarence Brown Theatre
It took two years to bring the play from concept to opening night

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee commissions professional playwrights to create works specifically for their graduate student actors.

The playwright responsible for the current production, "People Where They Are," visited Knoxville for opening night. 

"I had to write something for this group. I had to write something set in Tennessee, that was the request. Something that this audience would find interesting. And something that I myself could write," Anthony Clarvoe said. 

Credit: WBIR
Playwright Anthony Clarvoe

The California playwright researched possible Tennessee stories and happened upon the Highlander Folk School. It was founded in Grundy County in 1932. Thirty years later it closed then reopened as the Highlander Research and Education Center in Knoxville before moving to New Market. 

Credit: WBIR
The Highlander Folk School supported workers and Civil Rights

The Highlander Folk School trained union leaders and fought segregation. It focused on social justice and was an incubator of the Civil Rights Movement. 

"They became one of the foundation places of the Civil Right movement, training people for non-violent resistance and social change," he said.

Clarvoe set the play in 1955, the same year Rosa Parks attended a workshop there. Everything in the play really happened, though some of the characters blend several different real people in history. 

Credit: Clarence Brown Theatre
Actors in the play People Where They Are

"They are also very much based on the concerns and the personae, sort of the dramatic personalities of these actors. And they were integral to the writing of it. I met with them and began working together before I had written a word of the play itself," he said. 

Creating the play for the Clarence Brown Theatre took about two years from conception to opening night. 

"It's a contemporary play with contemporary political concerns set in a historical time partly to say this is part of American history that we are living thought right now. We have our part to play in it so let's think about how we can," he said. 

"People Where They Are" runs through Oct.20 at the Carousel Theatre next to Clarence Brown Theatre on campus. 

Credit: Clarence Brown Theatre
People Where They Are October 2 through 20 at Carousel Theatre

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