Producing Director Jim Crabtree directs Christopher Sergel’s acclaimed dramatization of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story of growing up and the loss of innocence, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, opening Sept. 6 at the Cumberland County Playhouse.

Set in rural Alabama in the 1930s, this classic tale is told through the eyes of a young girl, Scout, who learns grownup lessons when her small town is hit by a storm of controversy, as a black man is wrongly accused of an unspeakable crime, and Scout’s father Atticus must defend him.

Novelist Lee recalled her own youth to create a rich atmosphere filled with the voices of the South. Lee once stated, “The novel is a love story pure and simple. My love of the South, a father’s love for his children and the love they give in return.”

Under the guidance of Assistant Director and Choir Director Nicole Bégué Hackmann, the play’s church choir uses spirituals, hymns, and the traditional instruments of the Deep South to underscore the story and bridge transitions.

“Music of diverse cultures enriches the communities they share,” Crabtree said. “Music of the time and place reflects the shared—and contrasting—lives of the people of the South, both white and black.”

The cast includes over 50 diverse, multicultural professionals and volunteers, with several lead roles played by young Tennessee actors who are experienced veterans of many shows at the Playhouse, Cookeville Children’s Theater, and other groups. The cast includes Britt Hancock as lawyer Atticus Finch, Jason Ross as accuser Bob Ewell, Michael Ruff as the accused Tom Robinson, Illeana Kirven as housekeeper Calpurnia, Lindy Pendzick and Caitlin Schaub as Ewell’s daughter, Greg Pendzick as the trial prosecutor, and Keith McCoy as Pastor Sykes. Carol Irvin recreates her role of Stephanie Crawford from the 1992 production and Patty Payne portrays Maudie Atkinson.

Smoke on the Mountain veterans Daniel Black, Austin Price, and John Dobbratz bring their musical skills to the choir and the show’s gospel songs. Three girls share the role of 11-year old Scout: Sammy McKenzie and Emma Rhea Sells of Cookeville, and Emery Smith of Pleasant Hill. Alternating in the role of Dill are Crossville’s Joe and Josh Norris, and Cookeville’s Eli Choate.

Cookeville’s Jayden Gabel and Knoxville’s Ransom Pryor play Scout’s older brother Jem. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, sponsored by Kenneth and Carol Ann Chadwell / Looney, Looney & Chadwell, PLLC, is rated PG (for limited use of a racist epithet.)


KingandI_SlideWe are proud to announce that award winning choreographer, Barbara Flaten will be joining us for THE KING AND I. Over the past 21 years Babs has worked with The Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables, Florida in many capacities; actor, dancer, choreographer and director. She has received 4 Carbonell Awards for her work on The King and I, Joseph…..Dreamcoat, Aida and West Side Story. She has also worked with the Caldwell Theatre Company, GablesStage, Upright Citizens Brigade, Sierra Rep, the NCJCA, StageDoor, Maui Performing Arts, Parker Playhouse, Jenny Wiley, University of Miami, York Prep, and the Hollywood Playhouse. Directing Credits: Aida (Magic City Actors’ Theatre), Altar Boyz, and co-direction Fiddler on the Roof and Hairspray (Actors’ Playhouse), My Way (Sierra Rep), Maui Performing Arts, and Stage Door Manor, NY. Babs was the Resident Director/Choreographer for Musicana, Inc and for Peter Grey Terhune at the Naples Dinner Theatre, and the Mississippi Queen Steamboats. She traveled the world as Assistant Choreographer for 10 years with Cunard, Silver Seas, Regency and Premiere Cruise Lines. Dancing since the age of three her career on stage began with The Milwaukee Ballet under the direction of her mentor, Sir Basil Thompson, the Omaha Ballet, the Scottish- American Ballet and with Carnevale a Venenzia in Italy. She has also trained with the legendary Luigi in NYC and with Colin Donaldson (Ballroom Dancing) in London, England.

BWW Reviews: Pendzick and Sells Shine in Cumberland County Playhouse’s THE MIRACLE WORKER Read more about BWW Reviews: Pendzick and Sells Shine in Cumberland County Playhouse’s THE MIRACLE WORKER by

Helen Keller is a name that many people know and recognize. Robbed of her sight and hearing when she was a baby, she lived in a world of darkness and silence until she was let out of that world by a teacher named Annie Sullivan. The Miracle Worker, written by William Gibson, is Annie Sullivan’s story. The Cumberland County Playhouse production, directed by Donald Fann, graces the stage in ways of honesty, simplicity and realities of the time in which this story takes place.

The show opens with the Keller family finding out that their child has lost her hearing and sight and we then see them several years later, trying to deal with a young girl who is lashing out at the world that she can neither see nor hear. When we meet Annie Sullivan, we find she is barely an adult herself, and also having had issues with blindness, only regaining partial sight after several surgeries.

We see Annie deal with the memories of her own past, her flashbacks coming as projections on the stage floor. The projections were a very creative and interesting turn on the typical flashback scene on stage, and projecting them on the floor of the stage was an even more creative spin on the idea.

Lindy Pendzick takes the character of Annie Sullivan and pulls out her stubbornness and determination, while showing the progression of her feelings for little Helen Keller. Helen goes from being a job, to being someone that Sullivan truly cares for, and Pendzick shows this growth beautifully.

Emma Rhea Sells plays Helen Keller, a child who speaks only one word the entire show. But Sells acts the daylights out of the role. Every emotion, every feeling, every frustration and fear is easily seen through Sells’ movement and facial expressions. It would be easy for a child actor to over act this role, but Sells gets it right. I am even inclined to say that we may have seen the beginnings of a star on The Playhouse stage.

We must also take into account the time in which the story takes place. The early nineteen hundreds was a time in which many things were different. Britt Hancock plays Mr. Keller, the stubborn former Confederate with a soft spot for his wife Kate. Mr. Keller is unsure how to deal with the daughter he’s been given, and his much younger wife, Kate, wants to try every avenue to restore Helen’s sight and hearing, rather than having her “put away” in an institution. Kate Keller is played by CCP newcomer Meg McWhorter. Kate Keller knows she has her husband wrapped around her finger, and McWhorter gives Keller just the right amount of Southern grace and style to bring that across to the audience.

The interaction between Mr. & Mrs. Keller and Annie (and with their daughter, for that matter) is quite interesting. Both adult Kellers want nothing more than for Helen to be well-behaved and happy. Annie wants Helen to be able to understand the things happening around her. In order to do that, a stubborn Annie and a very spoiled Helen go head to head. The time fame of the show means the discipline of children was very different from what we deem acceptable now. There were a few times I was very taken aback by an action, only to remind myself of both the time and the circumstances that made the show most authentic. Annie also goes head to head with Mr. and Mrs. Keller, certain that there is more to expect from Helen than simple good behavior.

Seeing the development of the relationship between Annie and Helen was eye opening to the nature and personality of both characters. While the relationship was forced by Annie in the beginning, Helen came to trust Annie enough to understand the “finger games” that Annie played with her were actually a way to understand what words meant and a way that would eventually lead Helen out of her dark and silent world.

A beautiful and talented ensemble cast rounds out the show, including Mr. Keller’s adult son James, played by Daniel Black, house maid Viney, played by Dee Bell, and a host of other CCP regulars.

If you’re looking for a show to give you a glimpse of history and a dose of heartfelt relationships, you will love The Miracle WorkerThe Miracle Worker plays in the Adventure Theatre at The Cumberland County Playhouse through May 17th. For more information call 931-484-5000 or visit

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More King and I auditions!

CCP is holding a 2nd audition for kids for THE KING AND I. Particularly seeking boys age 9-13!! but boys and girls who enjoy musical theatre are welcome. 3pm Friday April 19. All interested must call Meka Doxtator Barrier at 931-484-4324, between the hours of 9:00 am – 5:00 pm to register. Join us for a fun summer! Rehearsals begin May 14, show closes Aug 30.KingandI_Slide


trailer park pic


The tongue-in-cheek musical comedy, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL debuted off-Broadway in 2004 and has had multiple successes across the country. The Playhouse will present a one night only concert performance of the show to gain audience feedback on a possible production.

Sparkling like aluminum siding, this campy, caustic musical fable is ripe with lovers, hysterical pregnancy, strippers, murderous ex-boyfriends, Costco, and the Ice Capades. Complete with a trashy “Greek chorus” of trailer park divas, Armadillo Acres is Florida’s most exclusive mobile home community, where having your baby kidnapped isn’t half as tragic as getting a bad perm. But when a hot young stripper on the run comes between an agoraphobic housewife and her tollbooth collector husband, the hurricane of laughter begins to brew.

Set in Starke, Fla., at the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL tells the tale of high-school sweethearts Norbert and agoraphobic Jeannie. Their nearly 20-year marriage is jeopardized when newcomer Pippi begins an affair with Norbert. Meanwhile, Pippi’s jealous boyfriend, Duke travels from Oklahoma City to Starke seeking his runaway lover. Helping the story along are Armadillo Acres residents Betty, Linoleum “Lin” and Donna “Pickles”, three women who introduce themselves and their neighbors in song while setting up the story and its themes.

The show is filled with comedy and the talented singers we’ve cast bring to life the bluesy, country-rock, R&B and disco score. Even though it’s very silly, GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL has heart. Music and lyrics for “Trailer Park” are by David Nehls and the book is by Betsy Kelso. Composer David Nehls also wrote It’s A Wonderful Life, which CCP has twice produced. Concert is directed by Bryce McDonald, musical direction by Ron Murphy and is produced by Sam Hahn. Talkin’ Broadway says “this wheel-spinning, mud splattering good time of a show is the equivalent of a bag of Doritos. You can’t get enough.” The New York Post calls it “undeniable fun…a delicious new musical.”

Cast includes Playhouse favorites Weslie Webster, Lauren Marshall, Anna Baker, Nicole Begue Hackmann, Britt Hancock, Leila Nelson & Austin Price.

The performance is Rated PG-13 for “Southern sass and saucy language.”


Join us for a great time as we explore the possibilities for next season. You can have an impact! Stay for the talkback discussion with the cast and the director following this unique concert performance and give us your feedback. Would you like to see a full production?

CCP salutes long time sponsor Dr. Stanley Bise

Dr. Stanley Lawrence Bise has had a love affair with the Playhouse since 1982 when a patient who was CCP intern asked, “Have you ever been to the Cumberland County Playhouse? It’s really a great theater. Here are some free tickets. Check it out.”

Stan and his family (wife Dara, daughter Erin and son Justin), saw Tennessee USA  and were hooked. The next year, Erin was appearing on stage. While bringing Erin (now a Los Angeles screenwriter) to rehearsals, Jim Crabtree asked Stan, “When are you going to be in a play?” Taken aback, Stan said, “When you produce Annie, I’ll play FDR.”  When asked why FDR, he replied, “Because he doesn’t sing, he just emotes.  And if he’s in his wheelchair, he’s in the right spot.”

Two years later, CCP produced Annie. As Stan was leaving after Erin’s audition, he heard a roar from the front row. “Stanley Bise! I remember what you said!” It was Jim Crabtree, who said, “Convince me you’re FDR.” Remembering recordings of the late president’s speeches and fireside chats, Stan launched into an FDR speech.


He won the part, beginning a thirty-one-year devotion to CCP, which has included being a patron, a volunteer, an actor, a sponsor, and a board member. He helped oversee the expansion of the Playhouse in 1993, built the concession stand (with Roger Pearson), and along with fifteen fellow volunteers, helped build the “Kidsfest” outdoor theater for the first “Tennfest” in 1995.  In 2000 and 2001, he served as board chairman.

After completing a special seven-year college/medical degree program, a B. A. in Chemistry from Lipscomb and his M.D. from the UT Center for Health Sciences in Memphis, Stan (already a Naval Reservist) was commissioned a Lieutenant. He began his internship at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia followed by flight school training in Pensacola, Florida before shipping out for active duty as Flight Surgeon with Marine Aircraft Group 26 of the 2nd Marine Division.

After his discharge from active duty in 1977, he returned to Memphis for four years of residency in Otorhinolaryngology.  While there, a friend encouraged him to visit Crossville. He and Dara fell in love with the town and promptly relocated. A civic-minded citizen, Stan joined Rotary International and became a founding member of the Rotary Breakfast Club.

Stanley Bise marks his 20th year as a Playhouse sponsor by once again sponsoring the season’s first show, Steel Magnolias.

Don’t miss the final opportunities to see STEEL MAGNOLIAS,  March 20- 1:00pm, March 23 – 7:30pm, March 24 – 2:30pm, March 26 – 7:30pm, March 27 – 1:00pm, March 29 – 7:30pm. Call 931-484-5000 for reservations and information or visit



They’re back! After CCP gigs as Lancelot and Guinevere in CAMELOT, Beast and Beauty in BEAUTY & THE BEAST, newlyweds Nicole Bégué Hackmann and Nathanial Hackmann gave a concert two years ago before Nate left on a National tour. They are back onstage in LES MISERABLES at CCP, opening March 8, and due to the wonderful sold out success of their first duet concert, they are presenting another. Join them on March 30th, 2013 as Nate & Nicole perform GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY SONGBOOK – PLAYHOUSE SONGS OF YESTERDAY & TOMORROW.   The brilliant vocal styles and delightful repartee will make this an evening not be missed.

Nate has just returned from the National tour of LES MISERABLES and is starring as Jean Valjean in the brand new Playhouse production. Nicole is portraying the lovely Fantine. Their stunning vocal work and acting prowess are highlights of the show.

Nate & Nicole met and later dated as a result of their participation in the company at CCP. They have returned with their beautiful nearly one year old son, Alexander James (named in honor of Playhouse Producing Director James Crabtree!) and are continuing their love of performing together here in Crossville.  The concert will provide a fantastic opportunity to hear these favorites stretch their vocal wings and provide a variety of styles of music. Last time they sold out the house, so buy your tickets early!

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY SONGBOOK – PLAYHOUSE SONGS OF YESTERDAY & TOMORROW is sponsored by Bruce & Carmen Wyatt. Call 931-484-5000 for tickets and information or visit us on the web at

CCP is an exciting place to be of late. FOOTLOOSE has been selling like hotcakes, with an added performance this Sat night 7pm to address the demand. STEEL MAGNOLIAS has audiences smiling with a slight tear in their eyes at the end. and down in the rehearsal hall, LES MIS is being staged, with its powerful music and incredible story.

We have three married couples in the cast…Nate and Nicole, playing Valjean & Fantine...Greg & Lindy, playing Marius & Cosette, and Skip & Teri in the ensemble. Perfect for a Valentine’s day rehearsal.

It is one of the many perks of working in or with a resident company. Couples can work side by side, making art and enjoying life in our beautiful town. It is a unique opportunity.13_LesMiz_sm



As a new staff member at the Playhouse I had the pleasure of talking with Rob Harrison this week, and it became immediately apparent how deep his ties are not only to the City of Crossville but directly to the Cumberland County Playhouse. He and his cousin, Cosby Stone, are longtime sponsors of the Playhouse and are continuing that tradition this season with FOOTLOOSE, opening Feb 1 and running through Feb. 24th. Their relative, Margaret Keyes Harrison was one of three original incorporators of the theatre. Cosby and his Mom appeared onstage in the Playhouse’s early flagship show, TENNESSEE USA, along with several other relatives. Rob’s mom, Grace W. Harrison, was a founding member of the Playhouse family and a close friend to Mary Crabtree (both hailed from Pittsburgh and had much in common).

Grace did the original sketches of what the theatre building might look like, after Paul Crabtree gave her his thoughts on the technical aspects. A professionally trained artist, she worked in many mediums including watercolor and sculpture.  One of her watercolors graces the back wall of the theatre to this day. The Playhouse utilized her artistic abilities for numerous set designs, including the very first show, PERILS OF PINOCCHIO. Rob remembers his Mom designing Pinocchio in papier-mache on the dining room table at home. He recalled many set models on the dining room table and told of her delight in finding a home for her artistic endeavors. He quoted her as saying that the Playhouse was “the best thing that ever happened to her.”

Rob recalls carrying paint buckets over a gravel filled area where the seats are now.  From a young age, his life was filled with escapades at CCP. At the age of twelve Paul Crabtree entrusted him with running the lights for a show. He credits Paul with fostering his self-confidence and esteem through many experiences. His cousin Cosby joined him in the lighting booth over the years, and when they got bored, he confessed  they would wheel the spot lights to the window and find couples necking in the parking lot. At a perfect moment, they would shine the spot on those youngsters. Once when wheeling the spot light back to its proper position, it toppled over and created an enormous crash during a show.

Rob went on to tell of his Mom painting final touches on sets minutes before curtain, along with her friends and colleagues Martha Hill, Helen Byrd, Bettye Evans Halverstadt and Mary Crabtree. He said “Growing up I thought every town was like this.”

His two daughters carry on the tradition of involvement at CCP, as does his wife, Lisa. Last season she performed in shows at the Playhouse with both of her children, though she admits to preferring small roles.  Their daughter, Grace W. Harrison, a senior at Stone Memorial High, is playing the role of “Wendy Jo” in FOOTLOOSE and their younger daughter, Katherine Lee Harrison is in the ensemble. Both girls have been involved in the Cumberland County Playhouse’s Triple Threat Dance & Education Program for years.

Lastly Rob discussed his commitment to sponsoring productions at the Playhouse. “It is important for the economy of this town to attract families,” he said, “and it’s a lot of fun.”Image