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Pellissippi State Theatre Arts students preview plays ahead of Scotland premiere

Michael Spurgeon, Breck Fulmer and Ethan Turbyfill, from left, rehearse "The Little White Duck."

Pellissippi State students Michael Spurgeon, Breck Fulmer and Ethan Turbyfill, from left, rehearse “The Little White Duck.”

The third time’s a charm for a group of Pellissippi State Community College students, who will travel to Scotland this summer to perform in the world’s largest arts festival. 

The group, led by Theatre Arts Professor Charles Miller, was scheduled to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2020 and 2021, but had their plans upended by the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now that the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies has resumed its study abroad programs, the students will preview what they will be performing in Scotland on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus this week. 

“Three by Nigro” — three never-before-seen short plays by acclaimed playwright Don Nigro – will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16, in the Goins Building Auditorium. Admission is free, though donations to the college’s Theatre Arts program will be accepted. 

“This preview will give us an opportunity to practice and get some feedback ahead of the festival,” said Miller, who is directing “Three by Nigro” as a world premiere in Edinburgh.  

“Three by Nigro” runs just under an hour, with festival acts allotted 70 minutes to set up, perform and break down, which necessitates having minimal sets. The three plays include “Sappho at the Edge of the Abyss,” “The Little White Duck” and “Popcorn at the Odessa.” 

“There will be probably 50 other shows being performed at the same time at the festival, but Nigro is a very well-known playwright,” Miller said, adding that the 10 Pellissippi State students are not only acting and running tech for the plays, but also will be responsible for “hustling tickets,” dressed in costume and handing out fliers in an effort to get festivalgoers in the door to see the show. 

Edinburgh Festival Fringe includes more than 1,000 acts giving 50,000 performances over a 3 ½-week period in August, Miller noted. The festival, commonly known as the Fringe, bills itself as “an explosion of creative energy from around the globe” including “theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.” 

“Edinburgh is about the size of Knoxville, so picture every available space from UT to Old City converted to theatres,” Miller said. “Bars, church basements, empty storefronts, street corners – there are literally hundreds of venues with performances going on from 9 in the morning until past midnight.” 

The Pellissippi State group will give one performance a day from Aug. 8 through Aug. 15 at the Lime Theatre in the Greenside venue. When the students are not performing, they are required to see other performances to receive academic credit for the study abroad program. 

Students participating include Catherine Blevins, Breck Fulmer, Hannah Fournier, Madeleine Trout, Michael Spurgeon, Caden Elliot, Ethan Turbyfill, D.J. Washington, John Samuel McCrary and Nick Grady. Sound and set design is by Professor Claude Hardy.

“Three by Nigro” is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State, which includes visual arts exhibits as well as theatre and music performances. The series highlights the talents of Pellissippi State students and faculty and provides venues for other artists and musicians to bring their works to East Tennessee. 

To request accommodations for a disability for this or any Pellissippi State event, call 865.539.7401 or email