Band of stage fighters at Pellissippi State takes on Renaissance Festival

2 people fight with swords in Renaissance attire
In the photo, Steve Trigg, left, engages in a mock sword fight with Thomas Crout. Crout plays character Captain Pickle and Trigg plays Beryl Plectrum Codpiece Knackberry Folderol.

Stage-fighting students at Pellissippi State Community College took their unique combat skills to the next level when they performed recently for the East Tennessee Renaissance Festival.

“Our stage-fighting course is unique in Tennessee,” said Charles R. Miller, the college’s Theatre program coordinator and a professor of Liberal Arts. “We have one of the top two-year Theatre programs in the country.”

Students in the stage-fighting course learn the skills to perform mock combat for theatrical purposes. Participants are a mix of full-time students and people from the community enrolled only in the class.

The fighters from Pellissippi State—Greg Congleton, Jordan Cook, Carolyn Corey, Thomas Crout, Julianna Meyers, Steve Trigg and Debi Wetherington—worked as “street characters” at October’s Renaissance Festival in Harriman. Several also performed on stage twice a day in “In a Pickle,” a comedy stunt show, and all honed their skills in “Human Combat Chess,” featuring theatrical sword fighting.

“We were aiming for the highest level of quality and safety available,” said Barrie Paulson, vice president/manager and entertainment director of the East Tennessee Renaissance Festival. “These students from Pellissippi State were cast in lead roles. The word after the performances was that even though the student actors were new, they more than held their own beside other professional stage acts.”

Earlier this year, 10 students at Pellissippi State passed the skills proficiency test of the Society of American Fight Directors. It was the first time the test had been administered in the state in almost 20 years.

In the video, Debi Wetherington and Jordan Cook take part in the Human Combat Chess Match. Jordan plays William Black and Debi plays Mary Tailor, two characters who are engaged to be married, but pitted against each other in the chess match. The video shows their unwillingness to hurt each other even as they are forced to appear to battle.

The college’s stage-fighting course is taught by Bob Borwick, the only SAFD certified instructor in Tennessee. Borwick teaches exclusively at Pellissippi State. Paulson served as a volunteer fight assistant in the course. She, too, passed the SAFD exam earlier this year.

Miller, who taught the stage combat class for years, says he gladly stepped aside for Borwick’s expertise: “Bob has so much great experience, and the quality of our Theatre program comes first.”

“It turned out to be a great opportunity for me to keep current with my stage-fight skills and to scout quality actor-combatants for the Renaissance Festival,” Paulson said.

Paulson and the Pellissippi State students tested with Dale Girard, an SAFD fight master and director of stage combat studies at North Carolina School of the Arts. By passing the exam, the students earned a much sought-after skill status in the world of professional theatre.

The course to prepare for the SAFD skills proficiency test is THEA 2222 Special Topics (Stage Combat), and it will be available again in spring 2015. Business and Community Services also is offering a non-credit Stage Combat course.

“I would love to see Pellissippi State’s Theatre program become the place for stage combat training in East Tennessee, and the place talent scouts target for expertise,” Paulson said.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State: Orientation sessions set for new spring enrollees

Students who have been accepted to attend Pellissippi State Community College for the spring 2015 semester should make plans now to attend a New Student Orientation session. Two orientation dates include special sessions for international students.

The sessions are required of all first-time degree-seeking freshmen and are recommended for transfer students. Reserve a space as soon as possible.

Orientation gives new enrollees the opportunity to meet with Pellissippi State students, faculty, and staff; learn about what they can expect in college and what the college expects of them; learn strategies for college success; explore degree, major, and transfer options; and discover campus services and resources such as financial aid, tutoring, and computer resources.

New Student Orientation campuses, dates and times:

  • Hardin Valley Campus—Dec. 2, 5-8:30 p.m.; Jan. 8, 1-4:30 p.m.; Jan. 16, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • Blount County Campus—Jan. 15, 1-3:30 p.m.
  • Division Street Campus—Jan. 16, 2-5:30 p.m.
  • Magnolia Avenue Campus—Jan. 14, 1-4 p.m.
  • Strawberry Plains Campus—Jan. 12, noon-3

The Jan. 16 orientations at the Hardin Valley and Division Street campuses include a special session for international students.

Students can attend any of the New Student Orientation sessions; however, it’s best to attend an event at the campus you will attend. Pellissippi State encourages parents, spouses and others supportive of the student to attend New Student Orientation. The application deadline for spring semester is Jan. 9. Classes begin Jan. 20.

To sign up for an orientation session, visit or call (865) 694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact Disability Services at or (865) 539-7153.

Two Pellissippi State students state’s only Grainger Scholarship winners

portrait of male in jacket
Isaiah Maylott

Pellissippi State Community College students Jeffrey Roller and Isaiah Maylott have each earned a $2,000 Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship—the only recipients in Tennessee to receive the award this academic year.

Both Roller and Maylott are in the Engineering Technology degree program’s Electrical Engineering concentration.

The Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship supports technical education and promotes careers in technical areas of work. Grainger is an Illinois-based distributor of facilities maintenance supplies. Upon graduating, recipients also receive $2,500 worth of Grainger hand tools, each with a lifetime replacement guarantee.

“Pellissippi State is the only college in Tennessee that has students who receive this scholarship,” said Peggy Wilson. Wilson is vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the Pellissippi State Foundation, which oversees the awards.

“Grainger classifies Pellissippi State as a ‘veteran-friendly college,’ and each student who receives a scholarship from Grainger must be a veteran.”

Portrait of male in hat and hoodie
Jeffrey Roller

Roller, who served in the Marine Corps and as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan, plans to finish his associate’s degree at Pellissippi State in 2015.

“This scholarship has allowed me to continue going to college full time,” he said. “I can concentrate on keeping a high GPA so I can be more competitive for jobs when I graduate. It’s definitely helped.”

Maylott joined the Air National Guard in 2011 and is a radio frequency transmissions systems technician. He plans to graduate from Pellissippi State in 2015.

“I was excited to find out that I got the scholarship,” said Maylott. “I’ve never earned a scholarship based on military service and my grades. It was really an honor to be recognized for that. I’m also definitely looking forward to getting the tool set—that will be really helpful as I look toward my future career.”

“Grainger is investing in the future of American industry and local communities through the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship Program,” said Russell Rumpp, Grainger’s market manager in Knoxville. “We are proud to partner with Pellissippi State and believe business and community college partnerships are one solution to building a stronger workforce.”

The Pellissippi State Foundation works to provide student scholarships and emergency loans, as well as to improve facilities and secure new equipment. For more information about the Foundation, visit or call (865) 694-6528.

For more information about Pellissippi State and its programs, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State students compete in Math Bowl

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Pellissippi State Community College students once again compete against other Tennessee college students when the institution hosts its yearly Math Bowl, Saturday, Nov. 22.

Pellissippi State’s Math Bowl is part of the annual State Mathematics Competition, sponsored by the Tennessee Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges. In 2013, four Pellissippi State students finished in the top three in the state for their respective subjects: Zachary Jerome placed first in calculus A, Charles Garrett first and Ben Aptaker third in basic algebra, and Thao Nguyen Strong first in precalculus.

“We’re very proud of our winners from last year and look forward to seeing more top-level competition from Pellissippi State students in 2014,” said Bobby Jackson, an associate professor of Mathematics.

The State Mathematics Competition takes place each year at locations across the state. On Nov. 22, Pellissippi State hosts two site competitions, one at the Hardin Valley Campus and one at the Blount County Campus.

In the Math Bowl, students are tested in basic algebra, statistics, precalculus, and two levels of calculus, A and B. Each contest exam consists of 25 multiple-choice questions. Students can use a calculator but no notebook or textbook.

TMATYC awards cash prizes to the top three students in each subject. In addition, Pellissippi State—thanks to a grant from Oak Ridge Associated Universities—rewards its top finishers in each subject with additional cash prizes.

For more information about the Math Bowl or Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

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