PRINCESS THEATRE - Raising the Curtain: May 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009


In the second of a planned entertainment series for Roane County and the surrounding area, Princess Productions, in conjunction with Lycan Entertainment, and Roane State Community College, will present Brooks Benjamin's "Boys of Summerville" at the college theater at 7 PM on June 26!

Tickets will be $5 and available at the Rocky Top General Store and the Jewelry Exchange in Harriman soon.

Brooks, a local filmmaker and educator, has been taking the indie movie to film festivals this past year and has gotten great reviews. The film is Brooks' tribute to his father, who passed away in 2000.

“One of the characters in the movie, Charles “Buddy” Davis, was based on my father, Charles Davis Benjamin, who passed away from cancer in 2000. I wanted to make a movie as a tribute to him, and since he loved comedies and softball so much, I thought this would be a perfect movie to make."

The film was shot right here in Roane County and many of the buildings and locations will be easily recognizable by area residents.

Brooks Benjamin was born in east Tennessee and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Since college, Brooks has written and directed several commercials and short films, including his award-winning feature thriller, "Point of Fear".

Brooks and his wife, Jackie Barnes, who were married in the Princess Theater, are the owners of Lycan Entertainment, their production company.

On hand, to honor and help celebrate the hometown” showing of “Boys of Summerville” with Brooks, will be Muse Watson and Bill Landry. After the show, the audience will be permitted to ask questions about the movie, movie production in general, upcoming shows, and about progress being made on the Princess restoration.

See the movie trailer below...

Thursday, May 28, 2009


It was pure fate that made Mark Tiedje and John Coles pull off the Interstate and drive up to the Princess Theater. Posted on the ticket booth window was a poster advertising “Appalachian Dreams”. Just then a tall man in a cowboy hat walked up looking for the show. It was Marshal Andy, who was mistaken about the location of the show, and together they drove on to Roane State. Mark and John finally found tickets and they watched the entire show in awe of what people had done in support of their beloved theater.

There is no explanation for our decision to pull of the interstate at Harriman except my childhood memories*. We really believe these things happen for a reason,” Mark told us in an email earlier today.

He and John write and operate a website called “South Carolina Movie Theaters”, and have a great love for old single screen theaters. We had such a great time at the show on the 16th in Harriman. It was a total surprise to us. We just happened to stop in Harriman that day on our way to Nashville from Charleston, South Carolina. We have a web site about the old single screen movie theaters of South Carolina. It’s been evolving for the past six years. We just posted a feature on the Princess Theater and the wonderful show we saw at Roane State Community College. The show was first rate and we know the effort it takes to mount such a large show.

After the show, the audience was so gathered around the stage and the isles leading down, that they could not get back to their new friend Andy Smalls, nor did they get to meet Gary Baker or Bill Landry. However, both Gary and I have invited them back. We’re sure they have learned a lot of valuable lessons in bringing back old theaters from their travels throughout the south. We also promised to let them know when the “grand re-opening” occurred!

It’s little things like this story and the fate that pulled them into our lives that prove to us the Princess project will succeed, and that the Princess Theater is destined to return to us.

*I asked them (John and Mark) to explain their comment about “childhood memories” later, and John replied in an email with the following explanation:

Hi Paul,

This is John typing. I was born in Nashville in 1944. I remember taking the last passenger run of the Tennessee Central Railway from Nashville to Harriman and back in 1955. My mother and I made the trip with our next-door neighbor. The massive engine shook the ground at Union Station when the train pulled in. It was the most exciting thing I had ever done. In Carthage, a woman boarded with her son. He was my age and we became friends. We were pen pals for several years until we eventually lost contact. A porter on the train came along and entertained the children with a “jack limber legs” which he made dance on a paddle while he whistled some old tune. I was mesmerized by this toy. The man said he would make one for me. My mother cautioned me that this would probably not happen. To my delight, a tall black man appeared on our front porch in Nashville a week later. It was the porter from the train. In his hand was a “Jack limber legs.” He said he hadn’t had time to make one so he was giving me the one he used on the train. I still have it. Since Harriman was the terminus for that historic train ride, I’ve always associated the town with happy childhood memories. I posted the story with a photo at”

Please make a special effort to visit Mark and John’s websites and read about all the wonderful theaters they have visited. If you have the time, email them (address link is on the main web page) and thank them for featuring our theater on their page.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Please watch this space for upcoming news on the Roane State Theater showing of local film maker Brooks Benjamin's "Boys of Summerville".

The indie film has been making the rounds at film festivals this past year and has gotten great reviews. The film is Brooks' tribute to his father, who passed away in 2000.

“One of the characters in the movie, Charles “Buddy” Davis, was based on my father, Charles Davis Benjamin, who passed away from cancer in 2000. I wanted to make a movie as a tribute to him, and since he loved comedies and softball so much, I thought this would be a perfect movie to make.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Saturday's matinee and evening show called "Appalachian Dreams" was, without a doubt, a grand success, but it wore us all out! Filming, planning, rehearsing, and editing had been going on since mid-January and everyone was whipped by the time it was all over around 9PM Saturday night! I even had blisters on my feet from all the running around it did backstage. Still photography is hard work!

The dream for this show began with Gary Baker (local business man) and Muse Watson (star of TV and film), but then the fire jumped to Bill Landry (local celebrity host of the "Heartland Series") and Michael Golebiewski (Dept. Head of Humanities at RSCC)! Without their parts, the show would not have been as coordinated and professional as it was.

My personal congratulations to everyone involved...I know exactly how hard you worked, and it paid off! We all know how much Bill, Michael, and Gary put into the show, but I have to acknowledge cameramen Doug Mills, Andy Garrett, Matt Mullins, and Lee Ellis for their patience throughout the "on location" interview filming, all the rehearsals, all the editing, and, of course, both shows Saturday!

We must not forget Jon Chemay and Cody
Hazelwood, and the others in and feeding sound to the sound booth.

There was Jimbo Duncan and company providing sound to the performers, Bill Farnham directing the curtains and acts off stage, and Angie Buck Skidmore marking the cues for everyone, and those hard working folks up in the lights above.

There was make-up, ushering, and, of course, Jean Penley selling tickets!

Then their are the acts themselves to recognize, Jenny Ballard and Maggie Kholbusch, Elizabeth Rose, the Lantana Drifters and especially Audine and Edd Webb, the Pickn' Grin house band, the Babahatchie Community Band and especially to its founder Dr. Joe Williams and the conductor McCall Bohanan, the Sister's of the Silver Sage (Donna, Rhonda, and Janet), The Chickadees (Sandra, Linda, and Ferrell), and the wonderful Phillippi Primitive Baptist Church choir, featuring Jerry Eskridge, April Chrisco, and Barbara Moore! And, last but not least, all the actors and dancers directed by Jennifer Austin of "Arts in Motion"!

Oh, I mustn't forget all you wonderful folks that came out to support the Princess Theater Foundation and its goal to restore the Princess Theater to cultural importance to Roane County. Our hope is that your contribution to the show was paid back in an entertaining evening. Please come again and again!

What a show were outstanding and audience was more than impressed with your dedication, hard work, and talent! I apologize if I've left out anyone by name, but you all were important and can now add a big paragraph on your resumes!

Now begins the post-production endeavor to make a professional looking DVD of the "Appalachian Dreams" show. From what I saw, there will be loads of wonderful footage from which to chose, so it too will undoubtably be a great hit as well. I can hardly wait to buy my copy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Congratulations to Gary Baker, Bill Landry, and Michael Golbiewski on their success with the “Appalachian Dreams” show (shown here with wives Becky and Claudette), held at Roane State Theater last evening. I have yet to hear a negative comment and the feedback, in comments and applause, after the show warmed the hearts of all 120+ participants in the show. Everyone worked very hard behind the scenes to ensure attendees were entertained.

The most mentioned acts were the “Lantana Drifters” and Edd Webb’s train whistle during the song “Wabash Cannonball”, and the voices of the Phillippi Primitive Baptist Church.

However, all the acts were top notch and very professional, and the show would not have been the same without them. Each added its own unique flavor to the show and the over all enjoyment of the show. The audience, both the matinee and the evening show, got into the show by clapping time to the music and applauding the acts, sometime even in the middle of their performances.

If you missed the show…shame on you, but rest assured there will be more coming. As a matter of fact, once the Princess is restored, you could be privileged to have shows performed weekly! That’s just one of the reasons to back the project! Roane County needs entertainment, and there are no better performers than our own to provide it. The talents showcased in Saturday’s program just scratched the surface of the talent in our area!

The matinee at 2PM Saturday was a near sellout, while the evening show was completely packed! So, it’s evident that a lot of you got the message, were entertained, and are 100% behind the Princess Project.

To paraphrase what Chris Mason has said, “The Princess will not be showing first run movies, but will instead be providing arts education, conferencing, and live entertainment to the area! The 900 seat auditorium will be a place for live entertainment, while the buildings on the right and left of the theater building will house facilities for teaching the arts, a TV and a radio station operated by the students of Roane County.

With such an “arts center” in place and functioning, other businesses will come to the cities of Roane County. As Muse Watson said in his address to the audience Saturday night, “We can do this!

Among the dignitaries photographed after the show were: Ron Ramsey (Lt. Governor of Tennessee) and his wife Sindy, State Senator Ken Yager and wife Malinda, Sue-Ellen Gamble Mosler (r) shared the show with Mona Wright (l), David Webb and wife, Harriman Mayor Chris Mason and good friend Scott Adcock.


Saturday, May 16, 2009


Friday evening, while rehearsal for today’s “Appalachian Dreams” show continued in the auditorium, Relay for life – Roane County, held its event on the grass and in front of the main building, and inside the alumni of Harriman City Schools met and ate. What a busy place! I never knew the campus was utilized to that extent. It made me feel good to see that many Roane County people out of a spring evening.

The Harriman City Schools Alumni invited Gary Baker, Chris Mason, and Lonnie Wright in to update them on the city’s progress over the past year.

Gary brought everyone up to date on the Princess Theater and the “Appalachian Dreams” show, telling them that he is already seeing the Princess project and the association with the schools in Roane County helping young people from the area learn about the arts. The young people working in the stage production are experiencing things they never would have had otherwise.

Chris told the crowd about his progress in cleaning up Harriman, and his goal of removing the stigma that Harriman is a dirty city. The Princess Theater will bring a focus to Harriman that will revitalize the downtown area.

Lonnie assumed the gathering that “no city money” was going into the restoration of the Princess Theater; but that he and other law makers believe the project will bring good things to downtown Harriman.

The big show is today…sure hope to see you all there! There may still be some matinee tickets at the door.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The cast and crew again hit the stage at Roane State again Thursday evening to rehearse.

Outside the rain pattered and the thunder boomed, but inside it was “hit your mark”, “step into the microphone”, “pull the center riser”, and “lights”! Michael Golebiewski directs the “Appalachian Dreams” rehearsal with heavy attention to detail. Tonight he got a unique perspective on the job Bill Landry has on stage. Bill was out for the evening and Michael filled that gap too!
New to the rehearsal stage were the “Lantana Drifters”. You’ve read about them here before, but this was the first time we got to meet and watch the full band. Yes, they are a “pick’n grin” band too, but with more of a mountain flavor and “buck dancing” to boot! What a show it will be Saturday evening!
Elizabeth Rose was back Thursday too, but this time with a more tailored story for us. It is wonderful how quickly she can grab your imagination and hold it until the punch line! I can’t wait for you to hear her!
There is only one more rehearsal night and then it’s “Break a leg, and on with the show!” This means you only have one more day to find a ticket!
On the way back through town, I noticed that someone left the lights on the marquee of the Princess. So, I just had to take advantage of the wet street to get a night shot! Thanks…whoever.  You can buy this photo HERE!

Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them!
See you there!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The cast and crew hit the stage at Roane State again Wednesday evening to rehearse.

New to the rehearsal stage were Larry Mathis and Bud Brewster, a fundamental part of the Pick’n Grin Band”. Larry and Bud have been together since 1959, and played bluegrass on the Cas Walker show.

Also, as a surprise to some attending the rehearsal, was Elizabeth Rose. Elizabeth shares stories woven with wit, humor, and expressive enthusiasm. She has the ability to mesmerize her listeners, transporting them through her image-laden tales of other times and cultures. She has thrilled children and adults alike with her vivacious storytelling in classrooms, festivals, and conferences around the country. She is truly captivating in voice and presentation!

Elizabeth taught elementary and middle school for 19 years, and is currently the Principal at Cherokee Middle School in Roane County, TN.

The Chickadees”, continue to practice with the “Babahatchie Community Band”.

It’s rehearsal every evening this week, but the days are winding down. Soon it will be show time and I think those of you attending one of Saturday’s “Appalachian Dreams” performances will be truly entertained.

Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them!

See you there!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


The cast and crew hit the stage at Roane State last evening to rehearse the “Appalachian Dreams” show, and everyone had a grand ol’ time!

The “Arts In Motion” dancers and the actors, in full dress, seemed to have a great time. And why wouldn’t you, a good time can’t be avoided when you have good looking young people dancing and twirling around on stage!

The Chickadees”, the full contingent with Linda in from Florida, met the three “Sisters of the Silver Sage”, and even shared a couple of singing moments to the “Babahatchie Community Band” music.

Then the Phillippi Primitive Baptist Church had everyone in tears, clapping, and saying Amen”! You will not believe what you are going to hear from them!

It’s rehearsal every evening this week! Hard work for sure, but it’s all for you!

Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them!

See you there!

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