Pellissippi State: Hollywood playwright’s world premiere of ‘The Ladder Plays’

Friday, March 23, marks the opening night of another world premiere by regional playwright Lisa Soland. This time she sits in the director’s chair.

Soland will be directing Pellissippi State Community College’s students, working alongside other local actors, in her new series of one-act presentations called “The Ladder Plays.” In them, the playwright explores the ups and downs of being human.

Some may remember Soland’s “Meet Cute,” which premiered at Pellissippi State’s Clayton Performing Arts Center in October 2010. Her romantic comedy “Thread Count” was part of that evening and has been chosen for inclusion in “The Best American Short Plays 2010/2011,” to be published by Applause Books.

Three years ago, playwright Soland moved to the Knoxville area from Hollywood, Calif., where she had directed and produced more than 80 shows, 55 of which were original. Upon her arrival, Charles R. Miller, the head of Theatre at Pellissippi State and producer of “The Ladder Plays,” began to discuss with her ways in which she could contribute to local theatre.

“Students need this sort of experience, and they might not get it again during their careers,” said Miller. “There’s just no better training than working with the playwright firsthand and getting to watch a play being developed right before your very eyes.

“These actors get to play a significant role in that development. You just couldn’t ask for a more exciting and educational opportunity.”

“Quite honestly, we’re having a ball,” said Soland. “It seems to be a win-win situation for everyone. I have venues willing to produce my new plays, and the local actors have an opportunity to participate in the process of creating new works.”

Soland’s world premiere of “The Ladder Plays” opens at Pellissippi State’s Clayton Performing Arts Center on March 23. It plays Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through March 31, with a Sunday performance on April 1 at 2 p.m. The Clayton Performing Arts Center is located on the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

Tickets are $12 for general admission and $8 for students. Tickets may be purchased at the door. All proceeds go to the Pellissippi State Foundation on behalf of the Theatre program.

To find out more, call (865)-694-6400 or visit To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

Pellissippi State instructor helps students overcome fear of public speaking

When it came time to present her speech, Meaghan Marsh sang.

The Pellissippi State Community College student belted out the first line of “O Canada,” the national anthem of Canada, and that was enough to get her started.

In Larry Dearing’s public speaking class on Wednesday night at the college’s Blount County Campus, the speeches ran the gamut: travel, addiction, work, disease, health-care precautions, the dangers of texting while driving. Like Marsh’s humorous musical opener, the other students’ props and approaches were unique and creative.

Dearing, who has taught public speaking at Pellissippi State for more than a decade, sat in the back of the room listening, making notes. During the day, the adjunct faculty member works full time off campus, and four nights a week, he teaches public speaking for Pellissippi State.

That schedule can make for a long day, but when Dearing sets foot in the classroom, he gets a second wind.

“When I get in class, I’m energized. All that tiredness goes away,” he said. “The day job is work—the night job is not.”

One of the reasons Dearing likes teaching in the evening, he says, is the mix of students: Students returning to college to finish a degree after several years’ hiatus from the classroom. Younger students and adults who juggle jobs, family and school. Career changers who work at jobs in which they see little hope for advancement or growth.

Returning to school after a hiatus can be a struggle. And public speaking can be especially daunting. That was something Dearing and the class addressed early in the semester.

“When we first started, we each talked about how this class was going to be for us, or how hard it was going to be for each one of us, because a lot of people have a problem with public speaking,” said Marsh, a Pellissippi State freshman and 2010 Alcoa High School graduate who wants to teach art.

Dearing has had students step in front of the class for the first speech and grow so nervous that they shake and turn red. Sometimes they apologize for the way they sound. He remembers his first public speaking class at the University of Tennessee, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theater and speech.

“I see me up there the first time and recall how hard it was for me,” he said.

Dearing started teaching public speaking initially in 1978, in the evenings at the Division Street Campus. He taught part time for three years and then embarked on a career in business. Twenty years later, he was still thinking about the classroom.

Ten years ago, Dearing started again in the place he originally taught: Division Street. He returned as an adjunct faculty member, and it all seemed as familiar as his first teaching experience at Pellissippi State.

“You know, Thomas Wolfe was wrong,” said Dearing. “You can go home again.”

With the semester nearly halfway over, his students seemed to have overcome many of their initial fears and appeared relaxed on Wednesday night. Marsh opened with the song and made the transition into her speech about work. She is not shy, but beginning with the song helped her get over the first hurdle.

“Yes, it was kind of like breaking the ice,” said Marsh. “Also, [Mr. Dearing] tells us that we need to have an introduction that draws people in, so I always try to start with something that makes people pay attention.”

Pellissippi State offers return of popular multi-fandom weekend

Pellissippi State hosts Pellicon, a multi-fandom convention for fans of anime, gaming, role playing and sci-fi, the weekend of March 24-25. Pictured: Pellicon 2011 attendees.

Over the course of one weekend last March, there were Jedi warriors and all sorts of other characters roaming the campus of Pellissippi State Community College. The scene will be repeated this year, during the second annual Pellicon convention on March 24 and 25.

Pellicon is a nonprofit, multi-fandom convention for fans of anime, gaming, role playing and sci-fi. The event features presentations by faculty from Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program. Pellicon is hosted by S.U.R.G.E. (Sci-fi, Ultima-anime, Role playing, Games and Everything else), a Pellissippi State club focused on multi-fandom—a collective of fans of sci-fi, games and the like—and hobbies.

A wide range of guests, panels, contests and events will be featured at Pellicon. Special guests include the MidSouth Garrison of the 501st Legion, a group that celebrates the “Star Wars” films through costuming, and My Parents Favorite Music, a band centered on gaming and other “nerd culture.”

Panel topics include Cosplay, Lolita fashion, anime, ’90s cartoons, Doctor Who, Xadune live-action role playing, the Legend of Zelda, Xbox Achievement Hunting and more. Contests include a Cosplay competition, nerd Jeopardy and Nintendo trivia.

A game room will be open all weekend for free play, and there will be tournaments for games such as Marvel VS Capcom 3, Street Fighter IV and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. There also will be a dealer room where artists sell their wares.

All Pellicon activities take place at the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. Event hours both days are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Panels and other activities take place in the Goins Building, with faculty presentations being offered in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art.

Admission fees range from $10 to $20, with discounts for students who present a valid student photo ID card.

For additional information, call (865) 694-6400 or visit Updates can also be found at

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

Public invited to Pellissippi State’s ‘Women in Film’ lecture

Katie Lovette, a Video Production Technology instructor at Pellissippi State, presents the lecture “Women in Film” on March 21. The community is invited to the free event.

In the cartoon program “The Dudley Do-Right Show,” Snidely Whiplash was always tying Nell Fenwick to the railroad tracks, keeping Do-Right busy rescuing her just in the nick of time. Nell was the perfect damsel in distress, but, of course, she was a just cartoon character.

According to Katie Lovette, an instructor at Pellissippi State Community College, women have historically been a staple not only on TV but also in the movie industry, beginning with silent films. But times they are a-changin’, and so is the role of the female in Hollywood, says Lovette.

Lovette discusses female roles in a March 21 lecture at Pellissippi State. “Women in Film” is 1-2 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Goins Administration Building on the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The community is invited to the free event, which is part of the college’s ongoing Faculty Lecture Series.

Lovette takes a chronological look at film, beginning in the 1930s and moving up through the decades. She examines the image of the starlet, the shift toward older actresses and roles women are now playing in the making of films. She also looks at the opportunities the internet has made available to budding filmmakers, including her own students.

“Women have come a long way from being tied on the railroad tracks,” she said.

For more information, contact Trent Eades at or Keith Norris at

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

Pellissippi State lecture tackles ‘Science vs. Religion’

The ongoing Faculty Lecture Series at Pellissippi State Community College is meant to provoke thinking, discussion, debate. The March 28 lecture on science and religion—supported by the Faculty Lecture Series and sponsored by Gnosis, the college’s student service-learning club—is guaranteed to be no exception.

In “Science vs. Religion,” David Howell, a Liberal Arts professor at Pellissippi State, addresses the incompatibility of the two. The presentation is 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Goins Building Auditorium on­ the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The community is invited to the free event.

“Many people believe that you can be religious and scientific at the same time,” said Howell. “I believe that the news is worse than that. Much as we’d like that to be the case, it’s not. You have to choose between science and religion.

“The conflict between science and religion is a real conflict and cannot be made to go away. Religion says that the world is a creation of a loving God. Science says it’s obviously not the case. People of good will want to say we can be religious and scientific and don’t have to give up one or the other. Unfortunately, they’re mistaken.”

Howell will refer to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, a philosopher and theologian; Sir Isaac Newton, a mathematician and scientist; and Stephen Gould, an evolutionary biologist and historian of science.

The Gnosis service-learning club hosts educational events throughout the year, and its members do volunteer work in the community. The college has recognized Gnosis as its top student organization for the past two years. The Faculty Lecture Series showcases the talent of the college’s faculty members.

For more information about this event, contact Gnosis club sponsors Annie Gray,, or Trent Eades, To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

Pellissippi State purchases East Knox site for Strawberry Plains Campus

Pellissippi State Community College has purchased the former Philips Consumer Electronics’ East Tennessee headquarters for the site of its new Strawberry Plains Campus, said Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise today.

“We are very excited about the acquisition of the new campus at Strawberry Plains,” said Wise. “This project has been part of the college’s master plan for several years and will allow us to increase access to our programs and to work toward the fulfillment of the goals of the Complete College Tennessee Act.”

The 32.6-acre property is located at 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike in East Knox County, off Interstate 40.

Pellissippi State bought the property for $10 million, an acquisition that required approval of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the college’s governing board, as well as the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the State Building Commission. A state program that funded community college capital projects contributed $8.5 million toward the cost. The Pellissippi State Foundation paid the remaining $1.5 million through private donations.
Pellissippi State plans to open the Strawberry Plains Campus fall semester.

The college has long recognized the need for more effective outreach in the east, north and south parts of Knox County. It’s a need driven in part by the area’s educational demographic. In West Knox County, 43.6 percent of residents have college degrees, according to a report the college compiled with U.S. Department of Census data. In the rest of the county, 22.9 percent of residents have a degree.

Pellissippi State became aware of the availability of the 223,000-square-foot facility in 2010. Philips constructed the building in 1980, a project that took two years, then completed a major renovation and remodel in 2002. The facility has been vacant since 2006 when Philips moved out.

The three-story main building is partially furnished and makes up most of the square footage on the property. The facility also has open office space, gathering areas, private offices, a full-service cafeteria and kitchen, a theater-style presentation room, a warehouse area with loading dock, and a design wing once used by company engineers.

“One of the reasons the property was attractive to us is that it already has the feel of a college campus,” Wise said. “It has large open office spaces that can be transformed fairly easily into classroom space.”

The addition of the Strawberry Plains Campus will give the college a total of five campus locations.

The Pellissippi Campus, which is the main site, is located on Hardin Valley Road in West Knox County. The Division Street and Magnolia Avenue campuses are located in Knoxville as well. The Blount County Campus is at 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway (U.S. 321).

Learn more about Pellissippi State at

Public invited to Pellissippi State’s ‘Children’s Literature in Africa’

Parents who want to give their small children a boost in reading will not want to miss Catherine T. Shafer’s lecture, “Children’s Literature by African Authors and Illustrators,” at Pellissippi State Community College.

Shafer speaks Monday, March 19, 10:45-11:45, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

Shafer is a passionate advocate for early childhood literacy. An adjunct faculty member in the college’s Early Childhood Education, she says that reading to young children is of utmost importance. She also believes that when parents choose literature from other cultures, their children can become more accepting of their global peers.

The free event is part of this academic year’s Common Book activities, which revolve around “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope” by William Kamkwamba. Kamkwamba was a 14-year-old in Malawi, Africa, when he built a windmill out of spare parts in order to get electricity into his parents’ home.

For more information about this event, contact Pellissippi State’s English Department at (865) 694-6708 or call (865) 694-6400.

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

Pellissippi State’s Annual Student Art Show begins March 26

2011 Student Art Show in a Bagwell gallery
Pellissippi State’s Annual Student Art Show showcases the works of the college’s most talented student artists. The juried exhibit is in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art gallery. Exhibit dates are March 26-April 12, with a closing reception and award ceremony scheduled for April 12. All exhibit activities are free and open to the public. Pictured is the 2011 exhibit.

Slated for March 26 through April 12, the Annual Student Art Show at Pellissippi State Community College showcases the best work of students at all levels of art studies. The juried exhibit gives hot Inflatable Movie Screen students not only the opportunity to share their art with the community but also the chance to be awarded prizes for their creations.

This year’s exhibit offers a diverse selection of art, including drawings, paintings, watercolors, sculptures, ceramics and blacksmithing pieces, as well as 2D and 3D designs. Awards include the Pellissippi State Community College Purchase Award.

The Annual Student Art Show, which is free and open to the public, is at the Bagwell Center for Media and Art gallery on the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. Exhibit hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays or by appointment.

A closing reception and award ceremony, also free and open to the public, takes place in the gallery on April 12, 3-5 p.m.

For additional information, call (865) 694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

Two-for-one special on handgun carry-permit class at Pellissippi State

Always a popular course, the Tennessee Handgun Carry-Permit Class at Pellissippi State Community College is sure to fill up quickly, thanks to special two-for-one pricing on the March 17 session.

The non-credit course is being offered at the rate of $75 for any two students who register at the same time. Space is limited, and one person must register both students simultaneously in order for the special $75 two-for-one rate to apply.

Those who satisfactorily complete the eight-hour course earn a certificate to apply for a state carry permit. Completion of this or another training course is required before applying for a Tennessee handgun carry permit.

The Pellissippi State course covers handgun parts, function, and operation; safety, cleaning, and storage; legal responsibilities of carrying a handgun; course review and testing; and firing range exercises.

Included are four to five hours of classroom instruction and approximately three hours of range training. The instructor is certified both as a firearms instructor with the National Rifle Association and as a handgun instructor with the state of Tennessee.

The course meets at the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, for classroom instruction. Range training takes place at the John Sevier Hunter Education Center, 2327 Rifle Range Road. Class hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Students must supply their own gun and ammunition. A $5 range fee for each student is payable to the instructor during class.

To register for the carry-permit class or other courses offered through the Business and Community Services Division of Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 539-7167.

Pellissippi State hosts expert on religion, culture, politics in Africa

The strife in Uganda is worlds away for most Americans, just something they hear about occasionally on the news. But when University of Tennessee professor Rosalind Hackett went to the East African country for the first time in 2004, she was totally rattled by the realities of the ongoing civil war.

Hackett, who is also the head of UT’s religious studies department, decided to do something to help. Since then she has spearheaded efforts to bring relief and healing to Uganda and has made many return trips.

She discusses her experiences in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa at Pellissippi State Community College on Monday, March 12. The community is invited to “Africa Matters: For Whom and Why,” 11:50 a.m.-12:45 p.m., in the Goins Building Auditorium at the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The free presentation is one of Pellissippi State’s 2011-2012 Common Book events. Each school year a new Common Book is incorporated into classes in many disciplines to serve as a springboard for discussion and activities.

This year’s book choice is “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope,” by William Kamkwamba. As a teenager in Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries, Kamkwamba used his ingenuity to build a windmill to bring electricity into his parents’ house.

Hackett says the same kind of resourcefulness William Kamkwamba applied to his situation is apparent in Uganda.

“Since the early 1990s, the Lord’s Republic Army in northern Uganda has abducted women and children,” said Hackett, “pillaging villages and homes, and stealing anyone and anything beneficial to ensure the success of the rebel movement against the Ugandan government.

“I don’t want to downplay Africa’s problems—underdevelopment, resource exploitation, poor government,” she said, “but at the same time I want to show that Africans themselves, sometimes working in partnership with people overseas, are generating creative, pragmatic responses to these challenges.”

Hackett lectures widely in the U.S. and around the world. She is frequently consulted by government, development, and media organizations on religious conflict in Nigeria and the war in northern Uganda.

For more information about this event, contact Pellissippi State’s English Department at (865) 694-6708. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville, TN