What to Expect

You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. If you’re new to the theatre or an infrequent visitor, the information below can help walk you through what to expect and some of the etiquette for seeing a show. Also, at the bottom of this page you’ll find some helpful shortcuts to additional information about the play, the venues, and the services we offer.

It’s Alive!

Although it may seem obvious, it is important to realize that theatre is a live event. The actors and technicians are right there in the same room with the audience, hearing, seeing, and responding to everything that is going on. many are not aware that the actors rely on an audience to bring a play to life. As an audience member its important to stay focused on the action and words because there is no rewind button. You are experiencing a once in a lifetime performance every time you join us.

What is Theatre?

“It has been said that the myth is a public dream, dreams are private myths. Unfortunately we give our mythic side scant attention these days. As a result, a great deal escapes us and we no longer understand our own actions.” – from Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman

Theatre in its essence is a communal dream brought to life. We explore the darker side of our psyche, we revel in our own child-like joy, and we cling lovingly to the moments that make us human. Like our dreams, some shows will leave you light on your feet while others might stay with you for days or weeks. As a public dream, theatre provides us an opportunity to share joy and sadness with each other and to look into both personal and social questions that make us who we are as individuals and as a community. To continue the quote above:

“It remains important and salutary to speak not only of the rational and easily understood, but also of enigmatic things: the irrational and the ambiguous. To speak both privately and publicly.”
– from Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman

In more ways than one, audiences are the power plant that drives the art forward. Theatre feeds on the concentration and energy an audience brings to the room. It also feeds on the questions and ideas of its community. Our lives help inform this art form as theatre at its core is about people.

On Your Own Terms

Your response to a show may be very different from others. Each person brings something special and personal to the theatre experience–your own experiences informing how you interpret this “public dream”. There are no right or wrong responses. The philosopher and aesthetician Suzanne Langer states: “The whole qualification for participation in the arts is responsiveness.” Your own positive anticipation before the play, coupled with your undivided attention during the play is the key to a rich theatre experience.

I’m Still Not Sure

There are lots of excuses for not coming to the theatre, but most of them are based more in myth than fact. Some of the myths we here most commonly are listed here:

Theatre is too expensive. Actually, tickets to our professional shows at the Clarence Brown are less than the price of many concerts and sporting events. For students, tickets are actually less than the price of a movie ticket.

Theatre is too fancy. Many people think you have to dress up in a coat and tie to attend a show. We have a “come as you are” policy though and while some patrons do dress up for a night out on the town, many of our patrons come in their day to day wear.

It’s just a college theatre. Due to our location on the UT campus, many people assume that our productions are “low quality”. The Clarence Brown Theatre is actually a member of the League of Resident Theatres and one of just 13 professional theatres located on college campuses. Most of our productions feature professional actors, directors, and designers from across the globe.

I’ve heard about the shows there… While we think theatre is for everyone, not everyone will enjoy every production. Our season offers a wide variety of works to provide opportunities for everyone in the community to engage. Our patrons cover every demographic in our community and we thrive off of the energy we get from engaging with each of you. You can check out the information about our plays online and if you still aren’t sure, give us a call at the CBT Box Office 865 974-5161 and we’ll do our best to help you pick a production that’s right for you.

Theatre Etiquette

Rather than stressing the Don’ts of audience behavior, we encourage you to:

Concentrate. If you talk during the performance you will disrupt the concentration of everyone around you and also that of the actors on the stage, and you’ll miss whatever is going on at that moment.

Relax. Let your cares and worries go. Listen and watch for the tiniest of details and be ready to enjoy

Come with an open mind. Theatre often discusses very poignant social and psychological topics. Be ready to leave with more questions than you came with.

Enjoy new experiences. Some of our shows might present ideas that are new to you or use tell the story in a way you haven’t experienced before.

Let go of reality. As storytellers we ask that you let go of reality–that you “willingly suspend your disbelief”. We may ask you to accept a piece of fabric as an impassible river and to imagine the scene outside an invisible window as an actor look across the audience and describes it. Follow us on this adventure and we’ll take you to places you never dreamed of.

Disconnect from the outside world. Part of the magic of theatre is that we can take you somewhere else; however, we can only do that with your help. Please remember to turn off (not just silence) all cell phones, pagers, talking wristwatches. Interruptions from the outside world can ruin the night for everyone.

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