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Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" opens at Clarence Brown Theatre

From new technology to a new artistic director, the Clarence Brown Theater is bringing the future to the stage.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A new show is taking the stage Thursday night at the Clarence Brown Theatre. There's new leadership and new technology helping everything come together.

Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" is showing now, with show dates until October 2. Every piece of the set and background, from the old phones, table settings, locks on the doors and lighting choices, was picked with purpose.

"I wanted it to be very precise and meticulous," said DJ Pike, the scenic and projection designer.

Pike is a graduate student, who is excited for audiences to see what he and his crew have been working on for the past eight months.

There are a lot of moving parts, especially when you have a train on stage for the majority of the show. There are cars off to the side in the wings, and the design makes sure each piece moves on and off with ease.

To pull it all off, Pike used a new piece of technology.

"One of the most useful tools for myself was including the design team, the director, and everybody associated actually walking through a VR version of the set, so that we could get a sense of the scale and how things move and work on stage and off stage, before anything was built and before anything was finalized," Pike said.

Credit: Clarence Brown Theater

The VR headset tech is part of Pike's thesis for graduate school. Being able to walk through what the stage design will look like before any money or sweat is poured in is invaluable.

It's a way to bring these stories on stage to life. Something that's important to new Clarence Brown Theatre Artistic Director Ken Martin.

"This type of storytelling can be very powerful, and very meaningful," Martin said.

He started his new role at the theater and at UT as the new department head of theater on August 1. He's focusing on the future of the theater and how to get the overarching community involved.

"I would love to see us expand our reach into communities that don't typically come to the theater," Martin said. "How that manifests itself over the next couple of years, well, we'll have to see. I have lots of plans, but we'll see which ones come to fruition."

The hard work in the wings will come to life once the train takes off with each show.

If you want to see the show, you can buy seats online here through October 2.

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