UTK’s educational programs are unique in the nation because they are seamlessly integrated with the operations of a professional theatre: the Clarence Brown Theatre (CBT). We believe that the best way for actors to learn the art of theatre is to study in the studio and then to practice alongside first-rate professionals. This dual mission informs everything that we do.
The Department is a member of the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA) and the CBT is a LORT D Equity theatre (League of Resident Theatres). CBT has a professional staff of more than 25 full and part-time employees and offers a September to May season of new and classical works that are vital to the cultural life of the region. The Department currently has two venues for CBT and student productions: the Clarence Brown mainstage (574 seat proscenium/thrust) and the Lab Theatre (125 seat black box). A new state of the art venue, the Jenny Boyd Carousel Theatre, is slated to begin construction in 2023. MFA and BA students acquire production experience in these spaces in a professional context, with a wide range of dramatic material, under the guidance of faculty and alongside professional guest artists and staff.
Each year, the Department engages in an extensive season selection process to ensure adherence to the dual mission, soliciting and reviewing ideas for shows from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members. With two theatres currently in operation, we are producing six shows per season, four on the CBT mainstage and two in the Lab Theatre. MFA actors may be cast in any of these productions. In the first year of training, MFA actor casting is typically limited to one or two shows to favor training priorities. MFA actors may also be assigned understudy duties for CBT shows. In the second year, MFA actors are regularly cast in CBT shows, akin to resident company members. In the third year, the season selection process aims to place a greater priority on providing casting opportunities for MFA actors.
Auditions for most Clarence Brown Theatre shows are held periodically during the academic year, typically at the beginning and near the end of each semester. MFA actor casting is handled by the Artistic Director and the director of each production, with input from the Head of Acting. This process is designed to ensure appropriate training opportunities for graduate actors and adherence to the dual mission. The requirements for auditions vary, and may involve monologues, prepared song, readings of sides, improvisation, and dance.