When planning to see a play, opera, or symphony, the Knoxville venues that come to mind first are likely to be the Tennessee and Bijou Theaters or other places in and around the downtown area. But look a little further and you’ll find a thriving performing arts community in the heart of Rocky Hill.
The Flying Anvil Theater moved to 1300 Rocky Hill Road in 2017 and got up to speed quickly. The Marble City Opera also has an office in the building and sometimes schedules performances there.
Jayne Morgan is a screenwriter, actress, co-founder and artistic director of Flying Anvil, which launched the company in 2012. But she had to find a permanent home before she could get into full-time production. Things had been going pretty well for two years before Covid-19 appeared and brought calm to everything.
“We canceled the 2020 season last March,” Morgan said. “But we didn’t want to just stop, so we decided to try and do some things online. It was exciting and scary, not really knowing what we were doing but making it up as we went along. Everyone participated. There was a lot of joy and panic, but it’s drama in a nutshell.
Now more than a year since the start of the pandemic, Flying Anvil is back to live shows, with Covid precautions in place. The current show is Neil Simon’s classic comedy “The Sunshine Boys”, starring David Dwyer and Steve Dupree. The shows take place Thursday through Sunday from 7:30 p.m. to October 10.
Morgan, from Loudon County, said she was grateful to the donors who helped keep things going while the doors were closed. And while she’s thrilled to have live performances with an audience again, the only way to safely move forward is 50 percent of a 125-seat capacity, with demands of mask and proof of vaccination or recent negative test result.
“I don’t see this as a problem,” she said. “We have developed a clientele that appreciates what we do, and I don’t see them taking care of it.”
The same security measures will be in place for the upcoming Marble City Opera show. The solo musical drama “Lily” uses music by Kurt Weill to tell the story of a fictional cabaret singer named Lily Weiss. Created by and starring award-winning mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock, the multimedia production will be the first performance of the piece outside of its New York premiere. The show will take place at 7:30 p.m. from October 29 to 30 at the Flying Anvil Theater and will also be available to stream.
Kathryn Frady is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Marble City. The Dallas native traveled to Knoxville when her husband, James Marvel, was appointed director of opera at UT. She said the move here was good for both of them as they had spent many years living and working together on the road.
“I love Knoxville, its size, the people,” Frady said. “It is a beautiful place.”
Marble City was able to maintain productions throughout the pandemic, occurring in outdoor and otherwise more open spaces where social distancing could be maintained. In June, his production of “Tosca” was shown at St. John’s Cathedral in the city center, using different areas of the church for the stages.
“We went all over town,” she says. “We have always been nomads and will continue to do so.
Beth kinnaborn is the Community News Editor for KnoxTNToday.com