World premiere of ‘Which Side Are You On’ at Pellissippi State

Florence Reece Actresses
Pellissippi State Community College will hold the world premiere of the original play “Which Side Are You On: The Florence Reece Story” beginning April 15. Three Pellissippi State students portray the titular character during different stages of her life: from left, Caroline Darwin, Julia Thress and Liel Kirk.

Gun thugs. Activism. Social justice.

These are some of the themes — still relevant today — that will be addressed during the world premiere of the original play, “Which Side Are You On: The Florence Reece Story,” April 15-17 and 22-24 at Pellissippi State Community College.

The play is written by Pellissippi State’s Writer-in-Residence Edward Francisco and is directed by Grechen Wingerter, assistant professor in Liberal Arts. It is a fictional retelling of the life of Florence Reece, an American social activist, poet and folksong writer.

The daughter and wife of coal miners, she penned the song “Which Side Are You On?” during the Harlan County War, a decade-long battle in the 1930s between coal miners and union organizers on one side and the coal companies, gun thugs and law enforcement officials on the other. The war included a series of strikes, skirmishes, bombings, executions and the occupation of Harlan County by both state and federal troops. Reece’s song became a social justice anthem after Pete Seeger recorded it in 1940.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students and are available at www.pstcc.edu/tickets. Show times are 7:30 p.m. April 15, 16, 22 and 23 and 2 p.m. April 17 and 24.

“This will be a very different play than what people are used to because of the scope of it,” said Wingerter. “The play has a huge, epic scope over decades and follows multiple characters. Plus the content of the play itself is all about social change and workers’ rights. We’re pushing the play to the max.”

Wingerter sees parallels between the social activism of the Harlan County War’s battle between coal miners and coal companies as reflective of similar confrontations still happening today.

“Florence Reece and her husband, Sam, wanted life to be fairer and more equitable for everyone, not just coal miners. Her song has been used in social justice movements since it was written in the 1930s,” Wingerter said.

The ensemble cast of 27 includes a number of Pellissippi State students as well as local children, high school students and other community and professional actors. The style of directing, based upon Bertolt Brecht’s concept of “epic theatre,” will include unusual features for plays, such as image projections and actors in the audience.

“Which Side Are You On: The Florence Reece Story” is one of the events that make up The Arts at Pellissippi State, a series of cultural activities including music, theatre, international celebrations, lectures and the fine arts. The play also is part of this year’s Common Academic Experience, a shared reading experience that includes class curriculum and extracurricular activities and events. This year’s Common Book is “The United States of Appalachia” by Jeff Biggers.

Additionally, “Which Side Are You On” is sponsored by an Arts Builds Communities grant administered by the Tennessee Arts Commission.

For more information, visit www.pstcc.edu/arts or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or accommodations@pstcc.edu.

 

Download this press release: Florence Reece at PSCC

TSBDC earns Eagle Award for small business loans

TSBDC director Larry Rossini, left, with Walter N Perry of the U.S. Small Business Association and L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State Community College.
TSBDC director Larry Rossini, left, with Walter N. Perry of the U.S. Small Business Administration and L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State Community College.

Knoxville’s Tennessee Small Business Development Center and Pellissippi State Community College have been recognized for their excellence in facilitating working capital loans to small businesses.

The TSBDC and Pellissippi State recently received the Eagle Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Tennessee District, in recognition of the TSBDC having the highest number of clients assisted with small business loans among all 14 regions within the TSBDC network. The Eagle Award launched in 2013; Pellissippi State’s TSBDC has won the award two of the past three years.

In 2015, TSBDC Knoxville directly assisted seven clients who obtained a cumulative total of more than $4 million in Small Business Administration loans. As reported by the small businesses receiving funding, a cumulative total of 13 jobs were created and 32 jobs retained as a result of the firms receiving SBA loans to finance their capital needs. Four businesses were started with the loans.

“Pellissippi State’s leadership is evident to identify sources of capital for small business owners” said Walter Perry, District Director of SBA’s Tennessee District Office. “And it is through their relationships with East Tennessee lenders that dollars are available to start or expand a small business.” 

 “Pellissippi State’s Small Business Development Center has always been committed to helping businesses in our community find the resources they need in order to be successful” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State Community College. “This recognition by the Small Business Administration is an affirmation of that good work.”

The SBA guarantees small business loans and through a cooperative agreement with Pellissippi State and the TSBDC, provides counseling and training to small business owners. A key component of this assistance is helping small business owners acquire capital through SBA-guaranteed loans made by area lenders. 

 A number of small businesses benefited from this funding, including a veterinarian, winery, restaurant, retail store, transportation services firm, research and development firm and a temporary services agency. Participating East Tennessee lenders assisting Pellissippi State clients included Commercial Bank, Pathway Lending, Peoples Bank, Renaissance Bank and UT Federal Credit Union.

Pellissippi State’s Small Business Development Center serves Blount, Claiborne, Cocke, Jefferson, Knox, Sevier and Union counties.  In 2015, it served 466 clients for a total of 2,135 counseling hours. The TSBDC helped 30 new businesses start up, create 183 new jobs and retain 1,280 jobs. The firms TSBDC aided went on to create more than $11 million in new capital investment into the local economy.

For more information about Pellissippi State’s Small Business Development Center, visit www.tsbdc.org or call 865-246-2663. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

 

Download this press release: TSBDC Eagle Award 2016

Pellissippi State’s Francisco authors original play, ‘Which Side Are You On’

Pellissippi State Writer-In-Resident Edward Francisco
Pellissippi State Writer-In-Resident Edward Francisco

Do good works overcome evil, in the end?

This is the ultimate question posed by “Which Side Are You On: The Florence Reece Story,” an original play that will have its world premiere at Pellissippi State Community College April 15-17 and 22-24.

The play is written by Pellissippi State’s Writer-in-Residence Edward Francisco. It is a fictional retelling of the life of Florence Reece, an American social activist, poet and folksong writer. The daughter and wife of coal miners, she penned the song “Which Side Are You On?” which became a social justice anthem after Pete Seeger recorded the tune in 1940.

“Florence Reece began writing this song when she was just 12 years old,” Francisco said. “She finished it when she was 31, after hiding under a bed with her seven children to avoid the bullets fired by hired gun thugs working for the mining company. She tore a calendar page off the wall and wrote the lyrics.”

That year was 1931, the beginning of the Harlan County War, a decade-long battle between coal miners and union organizers on one side and the coal companies, gun thugs and law enforcement officials on the other. The war included a series of strikes, skirmishes, bombings, executions and the occupation of Harlan County by both state and federal troops. Reece’s husband, Sam, a union organizer, died of black lung in 1978. Reece died in Knoxville in 1986.

The final scene of the play imagines what may have been some of the final words shared between Sam and Florence, among them: Do good works truly matter?

Because so little information exists about Reece’s life apart from her contributions during the Harlan County War, Francisco conflated the fictional retelling of Reece’s life with experiences from his own grandmother, the daughter of a coal miner herself.

“I researched ferociously, everything from journals written by coal miners to historical news coverage of the Harlan County War,” Francisco said. The play took nine months to complete. “For nine months, I just bled on paper.”

Francisco is author of “Death, Child and Love,” “The Alchemy of Words” and “Only the Word Gives Us Being,” among other works. This is his third play, after “Fallout Shelter” and “Schrodinger’s Cat’s Meow.”

Tickets to “Which Side Are You On: The Florence Reece Story” are available at www.pstcc.edu/tickets at costs of $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. Show times are 7:30 p.m. April 15, 16, 22 and 23 and 2 p.m. April 17 and 24. All showings are in the Clayton Performing Arts Center, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The play is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State and the Common Academic Experience, which this year is based upon the book “The United States of Appalachia” by Jeff Biggers. In addition, the play is sponsored by an Arts Builds Communities grant administered by the Tennessee Arts Commission.

For more information, visit www.pstcc.edu/arts or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or accommodations@pstcc.edu.

 

Download this press release: Francisco Florence Reece

Nikki Giovanni speaks to packed house at Pellissippi State

Nikki Giovanni
Nikki Giovanni speaks in the community room of Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Avenue Campus

 

Famed author, poet and Civil Rights activist Nikki Giovanni spoke to a packed house at Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Avenue Campus March 17. Giovanni spoke about her work, “On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History Through the Spirituals,” which studies the heritage of music as a means to escape the injustice and harshness of slavery, as well as on the history of African Americans in Appalachia. She also signed books and met community members and Pellissippi State students and employees during a reception. Giovanni is featured in Pellissippi State’s 2016 Common Book, “The United States of Appalachia.”

Nikki Giovanni
NIkki Giovanni
Giovanni with Wise and Tillman
Pellissippi State Community College President L. Anthony Wise Jr., right, with Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman and author and poet Nikki Giovanni March 17 at Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus.

 

1 12 13 14 15 16