Don’t Tell Henry

From "Vengeance is Mine, Sayeth Dolores"

Tennessee Stage Company begins its 35th year by presenting new plays by local East Tennessee playwrights

Every night from February 2 to February 11, a cast of 10 actors from the University of Tennessee and the wider Knoxville community will be presenting a series of original works at Theatre Knoxville Downtown for its 2024 New Play Festival. The Tennessee Stage Company has been putting on New Play Festivals for 30 years, but something is different this year, a change that Artistic Director Tom Parkhill thinks will make a positive impact on local creatives.

“After 29 years of being open to all and having playwrights from all over the world, we are going to be a strictly local event,” says Parkhill. “There are really fine playwrights living and working here, and we want to be helping develop and present Knoxville playwrights’ works.”

The main event of the Festival is the Night of Shorts—or rather, 6 Nights of Shorts starting Friday, February 2. Parkhill calls this event “a theatrical variety show,” and for good reason. The Night of Shorts features nine short works, chosen from 29 submissions, each of which is bound together by only two things: the theme of change and the line “Don’t tell Henry.”

“All of the plays in some way reflect or incorporate change in people’s lives: change circumstances, change in the world. It’s nine different looks into this overarching theme,” says Parkhill. “And if one play isn’t to your taste, it will be over in a few minutes, and the next one will come along.”

The performances are directed by David Ratliff and H. Caitlin Corbitt, two long-time veterans of the local theatrical community, and are expected to run around 10 minutes each, for an event approximately two hours in length. The pieces were curated to provide a variety of different interpretations of the prompt, and audiences can expect a mix of comedy, drama, and even some horror.

In addition to the Night of Shorts, the Festival is also featuring table readings of Potential by Emily Pope and Grief by Steve Sherman, two long-form original works by local playwrights. One of last year’s table readings, Cuba Libre by Jeannette Brown, is currently being produced as a staged reading this year as well, with the potential to go on to become a world-premiere full production next year. “That’s all part of the process of helping playwrights develop their plays,” says Parkhill.

The Night of Shorts begins Friday, February 2 and ends February 11, with showtimes at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Potential will be showcased on February 3 at 2 p.m., Cuba Libre on February 8 at 8 p.m., and Grief on February 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale now here for $20, but you can also purchase them at the door.

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