PRINCESS THEATRE - Raising the Curtain: November 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009


The good times for me this holiday began on Tuesday evening when I attended a strategy meeting with Gary Baker, Bill Landry, and Muse Watson (as outlined in the previous post). Muse was visiting his mom and sister, who live in the area, but he took some time to help out on some Princess Theater and Temperance Building promotional material. He also visited some of the area events while in town (more on that later).

After some interview shooting (Bill on Muse and Muse on Bill), Doug Mills shot some video footage at the “Arts in Motion” dance studio in nearby Kingston, Tennessee, owned and operated by Jennifer Austin. Jennifer is currently rehearsing this year’s “The Nutcracker” production, which is the largest in the state of Tennessee. The show has over 100 performers and dancers. This year’s show will be at the Roane State Auditorium; December 4th and 5th, 7 pm, and December 6th at 2 pm.

The studio was packed with dancers and their families, leaving only room on the dance floor for real movement. Jennifer oversees the program, but leaves the floor direction to Lilia Valieva, formerly from Russia, but now lives in Crossville. Lilia has been in ballet for many years: Lilia graduated from the world-renowned Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she trained for 8 years. She then joined the State Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Bashkortostan in Ufa, quickly becoming a principle dancer. In 1996, she made her United States debut with a leading role in Giselle with the Greeneville Ballet in South Carolina, and continued to dance as a principle dancer for two more years. Her principle roles include Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Pas de Quatre, Coppellia, Don Quixote, and many others.

Lilia, the “ballet mistress”, ran the program from the top and Jennifer brought Muse around behind the dancers and waited for a break to introduce him. After an introduction, Muse politely critiqued the rehearsal, praising the performers, but offering firm instruction on what it means to be on stage and what an audience deserves from their personal performances.

All the time, Doug Mills was filming the dancers and their mentors. Segments of his captures will be seen in future video shorts on upcoming Princess Productions stage shows.

The proposed plans for the restoration and upgrade of the Princess Theatre will include a much larger stage, one that stretches the entire width of the Princess Auditorium. There will an increase in back stage area, professional lighting and sound, as well as large “green rooms” off stage. Jennifer looks forward to the day her productions can be expanded to fit the Princess stage. She may even expand her class offerings to include the Princess facilities.

Roane County should stop and think about what Jennifer Austin, and her studio, means to our children. Think about what a venue such as a beautifully restored Princess will mean to her, her students, and to us!

I’ll tell you about the rest of this week’s excitement soon…

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


We gathered Tuesday afternoon to listen to Muse Watson and Bill Landry share their visions of the Princess Performing Arts, Education, and Conference Center”. I have been a believer in Roane County and the Princess for a long time, but discussions like this still get me excited. I just wish I could accurately convey the “dream” that is coming true for us all.

The new resource for Roane County will be communications,” Bill Landry tells people he meets. He understands that the Center will bring a boost to the local economy as its services get underway, but more importantly, the Center will provide an opportunity to our young people for generations to come.

The programs in arts and communications that Roane State is starting will have a “hands on” facility to enhance the classroom study. Working in a “real” radio and television studio, and producing “live” stage shows will provide our children with the confidence and experience they need to pursue careers in these areas of study. Not only will they gain professional experience in the radio and television media, they will also have had experience in sound, lighting, and stage production. It is one thing to have experience in single area of the arts, but to be able to include such a broad area on their resumes will be invaluable to them.

We are creating a need and creating economy,” Muse told us. The Princess Center will have a need for radio and television technicians and management staff. The live shows from the new expanded stage of the Princess Theatre will need sound and lighting personnel, actors, stage and set designers, as well as producers and directors. The Princess will be a place for our young people to “sprout and grow”! They will fill jobs in the industry across the nation and more and more people will come to Roane County to study and follow their dreams.

The Princess will become a ‘sound space’ too,” Muse pointed out. Muse recounted his first time inside the Princess Theatre, and how he began to sing “The Impossible Dream”. He could not believe the acoustics! Once again music will be performed and recorded inside the Princess. The facility will be fitted with “state of the art” sound equipment.

There is so much musical talent in this area,” Muse continued. The Princess will be a place for young voices to hone their skills and for older folks to continue their love of music, and we, the people of Roane County, will reap the benefits of this entertainment.

Our original commitment was to supplement our school’s education programs,” Muse said smiling, “and will see this dream come true!

The classes that Roane State will be offering in the arts will match those third and fourth year classes at Middle Tennessee State, and other colleges. Our students will have the advantage of “first hand” experience in “live” studios and on stage.

Already many groups and organizations are expressing a desire to move their shows and productions to the Princess venue. There have been expressions of interest from churches, gospel groups, bluegrass and blues bands, Arts in Motion Dance Studio, and many festivals.

Instead of looking at the TVA grant as a blessing, many people still want to blame the Princess program for something it couldn’t help. They would have preferred the $1.7M be given to the people of Roane County. That would mean our 7,000 residents would have gotten a check for $250; enough maybe to buy a month’s worth of groceries.

So why don’t we rejoice in the endowment to our future the Princess Performing Arts, Education, and Conference Center” will provide. The Center will continue giving back to Roane County this investment for generations to come. The event and the decision were made for us, so let’s enjoy it!

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