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

Pellissippi State Announcements: Choral Concert, Design Showcase

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Pellissippi State Community College will hold its final musical performance of the year April 28. The Spring Choral Concert will feature musical performances by the college’s students in Concert Chorale and Variations Ensemble. The free concert will begin at 7 p.m. in the Clayton Performing Arts Center, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The concert is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State, which brings to the community cultural activities ranging from music and theatre to international celebrations, lectures and the fine arts. 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.

 

The work of Pellissippi State Community College students in the Communication Graphics Technology program will be on display at the CGT Student Design Showcase April 18-May 1. A reception will be held from 4-8 p.m. April 21, giving community members the opportunity to meet students and discuss their design work. The free exhibit and reception will be held in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The exhibit is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State, which brings to the community cultural activities ranging from music and theatre to international celebrations, lectures and the fine arts. 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.

 

Pellissippi State Community College will hold a non-credit course on dueling banjos through May. “Dueling Banjos for the Adult Beginner” is open to anyone over age 13 and will be held 6-7:30 p.m., Tuesdays, April 12-May 17 at the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus, 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike. Class participants must provide their own banjo. Cost is $99 plus additional materials fee. For more information or to register, call Pellissippi State Business and Community Services at 865-539-7167. 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: PSCC Briefs Concert_Showcase

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

Community invited to Festival of Cultures at Pellissippi State

This year's Festival of Cultures will feature performances by dance troupes and other entertainers, like these dancers who performed at another Pellissippi State Access and Diversity event last year.
This year’s Festival of Cultures will feature performances by dance troupes and other entertainers, like these dancers who performed at another Pellissippi State Access and Diversity event last year.

Celebrate nine years of Festival of Cultures with Pellissippi State Community College April 8.

The Festival of Cultures will be held in the College Center of the Goins Administration Building on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The event is free and the community is invited.

Festival of Cultures opens at 4 p.m. with Hardin Valley Thunder, Pellissippi State’s bluegrass band. Additional performers include Debka and the Oasis Dancers from 5:15-6 p.m., Pasion Flamenca featuring Lucia Andronescue from 6:15-7 p.m. and the Caribbean Dancers of Atlanta from 7:15-8:15 p.m.

The family-friendly event also will feature multicultural exhibits; face-painting, crafts and balloon art for children, and a tasting of international foods.

Festival of Cultures is sponsored by Pellissippi State’s Access & Diversity Office. The event also is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State, a yearlong series that brings to the community cultural activities ranging from music and theatre to international celebrations, lectures and the fine arts. 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu 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: Festival of Cultures 2016

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