The mission of the Clarence Brown Theatre and the Department of Theatre shall be to achieve regional, national, and international distinction by:

  • Providing quality programs of study at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
  • Supporting a resident professional theatre to foster professional standards of production and performance.
  • Enriching the study and practice of theatre with projects and pursuits which facilitate national and international artistic exchange among teachers, students, and professional artists.
  • Providing a cultural resource for both the university and the larger East Tennessee community that affirms diversity and inclusivity in all their forms.

The Master of Fine Arts in Theatre shall provide:

  • An educational and artistic foundation for a life of work and research in theatre.

The Bachelor of Arts in Theatre shall provide:

  • An education firmly rooted in the liberal arts, teaching students to think critically, communicate fully, creatively, and effectively; and explore life and literature through the theatrical event.
  • The development of collaborative and practical skills in problem-solving that are a foundation for a variety of career paths.
  • An appropriate preparation for those students wishing to pursue professional graduate training in theatre.


Theatre at the University of Tennessee began in 1939 when Dr. Paul Soper, a teacher in the English Department, was appointed Theatre Director in 1939. In 1940-41, he laid the foundation for the current program and introduced a one-year Theatre course offering the study of acting, stagecraft, play interpretation, and directing.

As the program grew, so did the need for a performance space. The summer of 1951 saw the University, the Junior League, and other community volunteers erect a tent and name it the Carousel Theatre, based on its arena design. In December of 1951, UT trustees approved financing for an actual building based on the design of the Carousel tent.

Over the next two decades, the Carousel Theatre program expanded to include thirteen productions annually. The department produced more than 200 shows and total attendance was more than 70,000 patrons. In November of 1970 and through the generous support of Clarence Brown, legendary filmmaker and 1910 alumnus of the University of Tennessee, the Clarence Brown Theatre for the Performing Arts at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was formally dedicated.

Clarence Brown

Clarence Brown

Clarence Brown was an American film director. Born in Clinton, Massachusetts, to Larkin Harry Brown, a cotton manufacturer, and Katherine Ann Brown. Brown moved to Tennessee when he was 11 years old. He attended Knoxville High School and the University of Tennessee, both in Knoxville, Tennessee, graduating from the university at the age of 19 with two degrees in engineering. An early fascination in automobiles led Brown to a job with the Stevens-Duryea Company, then to his own Brown Motor Car Company in Alabama. He later abandoned the car dealership after developing an interest in motion pictures around 1913. He was hired by the Peerless Studio at Fort Lee, New Jersey, and became an assistant to the French-born director Maurice Tourneur.

After serving in World War I, Brown was given his first co-directing credit (with Tourneur) for The Great Redeemer (1920). Later that year, he directed a major portion of The Last of the Mohicans after Tourneur was injured in a fall.

Brown moved to Universal in 1924, and then to MGM, where he stayed until the mid-1950s. At MGM he was one of the main directors of their female stars; he directed Joan Crawford six times and Greta Garbo seven.

He was nominated five times for the Academy Award as a director and once as a producer, but he never received an Oscar. However, he won Best Foreign Film for Anna Karenina, starring Garbo at the 1935 Venice International Film Festival.

Brown’s films gained a total of 38 Academy Award nominations and earned nine Oscars. Brown himself received six Academy Award nominations and in 1949, he won the British Academy Award for the film version of William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust.

He worked with some of the brightest stars of the golden age of Hollywood, including Clark Gable, Rudolph Valentino, Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jimmy Stewart. He made the transition from silent films to talkies with such classics as The Yearling, Intruder in the Dust, National Velvet, Ah, Wilderness! and Anna Christie.

In 1957, Brown was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film. Brown retired a wealthy man due to his real estate investments, but refused to watch new movies, as he feared they might cause him to restart his career.

Through the generous support of Clarence Brown, the Clarence Brown Theatre for the Performing Arts at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was formally dedicated in November of 1970.

CBT Experiences

From Behind the Scenes Sunday events to tours and workshops, we offer several opportunities for you to learn more about the world of theatre and how we make the magic happen.

Venues & Rentals

The Clarence Brown Theatre and the Lab Theatre are available for rent when not in use by the Clarence Brown Theatre company and the Department of Theatre. Each year, our venues host more than 40 rental events—dances, lectures, concerts, comedians, coffee houses, receptions, conferences, and shows.


Interested in auditioning or employment? 

We hold general auditions two to three times per year.  And we value potential team members who embrace a culturally diverse and equitable working environment.