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​“The Whipping Man” to play in the Carousel Theatre

the whipping man
"The Whipping Man" will feature visiting guest artist, Daver Morrison and two UT Theatre Department graduate students, Daver Morrison and Steve Sherman. Image courtesy of Clarence Brown Theatre.

The Clarence Brown Theatre opens the second half of its season with Matthew Lopez’ highly acclaimed “The Whipping Man” running January 30 to February 16 in the Carousel Theatre and directed by John Sipes. The production is sponsored by BB&T, Knoxville Area Urban League, Knox County Tourism Consortia, Tennessee Arts Commission, and the City of Knoxville.

In April 1865, a wounded Jewish Confederate soldier returns to his home in Richmond only to find it ruined and abandoned, except for two former slaves also raised in the Jewish faith. As the three men celebrate Passover, they uncover a tangle of secrets and grapple with an uncertain future brought on by the end of the Civil War. The production contains strong language content and strobe lighting.

Called “haunting, striking, and powerful” by “The New York Times,” the production premiered Off-Broadway in 2011 at the Manhattan Theatre Club, for which Lopez was awarded the John Gassner Playwriting Award from the Outer Critics Circle. Having rapidly gained in popularity, it is currently being widely produced throughout the country.

Lopez said he experienced a “eureka moment” during his research for “The Whipping Man” when he came upon a reference that on April 9, 1865, General Lee surrendered at Appomattox, and one day later on April 10, 1865, Passover began. “As the slaves were being freed in the American South,” he noted, “there was this ancient observance of the Exodus story.” It was the discovery of this extraordinary simultaneity of events—one modern and one ancient—that inspired him to write “The Whipping Man.”

“When I became aware of its background narrative, my interest in the play began and then deepened when I heard the voices of the characters. Characters who spoke passionately about issues of faith, morality, ethics, status, and above all, the right of personal freedom—all topics as pertinent today as they were long ago,” said director John Sipes.

Sipes is an Associate Professor in the UT Department of Theatre. Before joining the UT faculty, he was a Director and the Resident Movement Director for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 15 seasons. Prior to his residency at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, John was a Director and Movement Director for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival for 12 seasons, and served as the Festival’s Artistic Director for five seasons. CBT directing credits include: “Red,” “Fuddy Meers,” “Woyzeck,” “Oedipus the King,” “ Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “ All My Sons.” He also has directed in regional theaters across the country. He received his MFA in Acting from Indiana University. He is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique (AmSAT), and a certified actor/combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors. He also trained in corporeal mime with Étienne Decroux in Paris, and studied with Tadashi Suzuki in Japan.

The production will feature visiting guest artist, Daver Morrison and two UT Theatre Department graduate students.

Daver Morrison (Simon) has performed regionally with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, The Guthrie Theater, and Charlotte Rep, among others. His television appearances include “24,” “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.” He was the voice of Haywood Patterson and other figures in the documentary film “Scottsboro: An American Tragedy” which won the Emmy for Best Non-Fiction Special for its airing on PBS’ “The American Experience.”

Tramell Tillman (John) is a third year MFA acting candidate and native of Largo, MD. His CBT credits include: “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “The Little Prince,” “On the Razzle,” “Our Country's Good” and “A Raisin in the Sun” directed by Woody King, Jr. He has performed at New Stage Theatre, Jackson State University, Alabama State, and Xavier University. New Stage Theatre awarded him the Best Male Actor award for his role as Yusef El-Fayoumy in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.”

Steve Sherman (Caleb) is a first year MFA Acting candidate and was last seen in “Our Country’s Good.” He received degrees in Theatre and Education from Western Washington University where his original play “Brian and Joe” won an award from The Kennedy Center where he was invited for acting & playwriting. He has worked on a national tour, at regional theaters including the Tony winning O'Neill Theater Center, in New York City with Blue Man Group and in numerous plays and indie films. In L.A., he performed improv and stand up at venues like The Hollywood Improv, iO West and The Comedy Store. As a writer, his plays have been produced in New York City and regionally.

Designers on the production include: Poua Yang (costume designer); Jason Ammons (scenic designer); Kenneth Foster (lighting designer); and visiting guest designer Curtis Craig (sound designer). Klaus van den Berg (dramaturgy), Terry Weber (dialect coach) and Deya Friedman (stage manager) also are assisting with this production.

Published January 31, 2014

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