In Our Own Words CCP

New Writings About the Cumberland County Playhouse (site © 2015 by CCP) Email submissions to:

Month: May, 2015

I Am Rarely Considered a Straight Man

Brenda Sparks’ memory evokes the image of Jim Crabtree’s formidable mother, the late Mary Crabtree, about whom the stories are plentiful thanks to her long history of performances and productions at CCP:

“There are so many [memories]! How to choose? The most memorable thing ever said to me was by Mary Crabtree herself. For my CCP debut, I was hired to direct a production of Over The River and Through The Woods.

Mary Crabtree had already been cast as one of the grandmothers. When I arrived in Crossville, I was warned by some well-meaning Playhouse regulars that Mary had not been directed by anyone other than her late husband Paul or one of their children in years. She was a quirky, yet intimidating, character. I had such immense respect for her career and what she had built on the plateau, but I knew I had to direct the show, and that meant every member in the cast.

We definitely locked horns in the beginning. It wasn’t a contentious relationship, but there was definite friction there as she tested my mettle. I’m not sure when or why the tides turned in my favor. But before moving into the theatre for tech. rehearsals and after an individual character meeting with her, she pointed at me and said, ‘Not since the late Bud Abbott has there been such a great comedic mind.’ I believe she worked with Mr. Abbott. I took it as a compliment.

Over the years, it has struck me odd that she didn’t say Lou Costello. I am rarely considered a straight man. Regardless, it was one of the most memorable things anyone has ever said to me in the theatre. From that day forward, we got along famously. I directed her again in the same show, and it was like butter. Maybe because I knew she trusted me, maybe because she knew I trusted her. Either way, she was a remarkable woman and I consider myself lucky to have received such high praise from her.”

© Brenda Sparks and Jeffrey Ellis
Used by Permission

This post first appeared in a January 27th, 2015 Broadway World article by Jeffrey Ellis entitled “THE GOLDEN PLATEAU: Celebrating Cumberland County Playhouse’s 50th Year.”

Missing Lines to a Camp Ozone Song

I grew up near Detroit, Michigan. As a teen, I visited Camp Ozone in Cumberland County with a work group from Royal Oak First Presbyterian Church. I don’t remember the year, but it was during the mid-60s. At the camp, we were assigned various maintenance tasks to do during the week we were there. The highlight of the trip was attending a performance of “Tennessee USA” at the Playhouse. I remember seeing Kwame Braun (son of Dr. Braun) perform in it. A few years later, I returned to Camp Ozone as a counselor. Once again, we went to the Playhouse, which was a welcome respite from our week of hard work.

In 1979, I moved to Sparta, TN, with my husband and children. We visited the Playhouse often over the years and saw many wonderful plays, musicals, and concerts.

I wonder if someone could help me with an unusual request. I’m trying to remember all the words to Camp Ozone’s theme song. It was sung to the tune of “Ashgrove” and started out like this:

Camp Ozone, Camp Ozone,
Her bright sparkling waters,
Trees reaching to Heaven,
Bright sunlight and shade.

____ ____ ____ ____
____ ____ ____ ____
And birds sweetly singing
In each forest glade.

On Cumberland Mountain
Where morning comes early,
I long there to wander
In wildwoods so free.

There’s peace and contentment,
And always a welcome.
Camp Ozone, Camp Ozone,
Is joy to me.

Can anyone help me fill in the blanks, or direct me to someone who can?

Pamela Sanders
Sparta, TN
© Pamela Sanders
Used by Permission

Making Friends, Gaining Confidence, and Learning Responsibility

When she was young, my daughter Krystal Collins always wanted to try acting. When we moved to Crossville, TN we found the opportunity to enroll her in a summer program at the Playhouse.

With no prior experience, she was fortunate enough to learn the art of acting from Jim & Annie Crabtree! She was cast in two leading roles in “The perils of Pinocchio,” and loved every minute of it! That experience helped her gain confidence in herself, learn responsibility (which has helped her in many areas of her life), and make friendships that will last a lifetime. She went on to be in three more productions at the Playhouse, including her favorite “The Music Man.”

I had the honor of being able to serve as a backstage helper during “The Music Man.” I learned so much about theater and also created friendships that will last a lifetime! Krystal is a now in 11th Grade at Cumberland Co. High School. She is a straight A student and has just been voted President of (Beta) National Honor Society! We feel so grateful to have been a part of the Playhouse family and will always love and support the Cumberland County Playhouse and all the wonderful work that they do!

Judy Collins & Krystal Collins
© Judy Collins & Krystal Collins
Used by Permission

CCP Goes to Dayton

Jim and the CCP Family,

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the Playhouse and Scopes Festival joined forces to produce “Front Page News” in Dayton.

The new music, plus the talented direction, cast members, and stage crew from the Playhouse, combined with the compelling story of the Scopes Trial produced the quality performance for which we have been aiming for many years.

Getting to know some of the Playhouse regulars has been a behind-the-scenes treat for us on this side of the mountain. With the love they have for theatre – and for the Playhouse specifically – it’s no wonder that Cumberland County Playhouse is one of the premiere theatres in Tennessee and the Southeast.

I’m excited about this year’s show and helping bring top-quality programming to Dayton once again.

Best wishes,
Tom Davis
Scopes Festival Chairman

© 2015 Tom Davis
Used my Permission

13 Year Old Harvey Johnson Addressing the Court

In my senior year of high school, I had the pleasure of playing Danny Zuko in the “Jet Theatrix” production of Grease…some of the most fun I’ve ever had working hard.  But when I think about the importance of CCP in my life, a production Bye Bye Birdie several years prior comes to mind first.

I was probably 13 at the time, when I managed to finagle my way into that cast.  Kirk Shanks had the role of Harvey Johnson and was great.  He always got laughs with a perfectly placed crack in his voice when asking Mrs. Hinkle if he could speak to Debra Sue.  I was several years younger than Kirk, but tall for my age and probably had a natural “crack” in my voice (although not has comical as Kirk’s) I became alternate Harvey.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget how nervous I was the only time I remember that Kirk couldn’t be there, and I certainly thought my performance that night suffered from it.  But despite my personal disappointment, I remember only encouragement from everyone involved in that production.

The Playhouse helped me grow up, contributing to the skills and confidence I would need in my continued pursuit of work in the arts as well as business.  The term “Play” is such a misnomer…with each production being the product of so many long days and late nights of tweaking and perfecting.

Now a 44 year old lawyer, when I’m preparing a case for trial, I stay up late, perfecting my words…dress rehearsal.  When I approach the podium to address the court or jury, I’m still that 13 year-old Harvey Johnson.  But because of all the work that’s gone into my “production” the nervousness is now the good kind…the kind that keeps you sharper than you would be without it.

The Crabtrees, along with the many other uber-talented folks who have graced those stages and backstages over the years, have nurtured many a Harvey Johnson…and we are grateful.

Earl Patton
Attorney at Law

© 2015 Earl Patton
Used by Permission