Theatre at the University of Tennessee began in the early 1900s. Dr. Paul Soper was a teacher in the English Department since 1936 and was appointed Theatre Director in 1939. Dr. Soper laid the foundations of the present program and introduced a one-year course in theatre that offered the study of acting, stagecraft, play interpretation, and directing in 1940-41.
As the program began to grow, so did the need for an adequate performance facility. In the summer of 1951 the University, the Junior League, and other community volunteers erected a tent and named it the Carousel Theatre because of its arena design. December of 1951, UT trustees approved the financing for a building designed based on the Carousel tent.
During the next two decades the Carousel Theatre program expanded to include thirteen productions annually. The department produced over two hundred shows and total attendance was in excess of seventy thousand people.
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 in November of 1970.
Clarence Brown was nominated for six Academy Awards as ‘Best Director’ during the 1930’s. 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.