‘Courageous’ is a natural

Larry Van GuilderOur Town Leaders

Jonathan “Courageous” Clark is The Carpetbag Theatre’s newest executive/artistic director. It’s a role he’s prepared for much of his life.


Clark became a member of Carpetbag’s Youth Theatre Ensemble at age 13. Since then his creativity has blossomed as a writer, poet, playwright, actor and director. He’s also become a seasoned road warrior, performing as a spoken word poet in numerous colleges and universities.

The creative journey of the Knoxville native and UT alumnus began at Northwest Middle School. In his own words, he was “shy at first,” but his confidence grew enough for him to land a leading role in “Let it Shine,” the renowned history of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Margo Miller was scouting for performers for the Youth Theatre,” Clark recalled, and he was offered a role. That year he was too young join, but the following year he became a member of the Youth Ensemble. Since then, he’s been a mainstay with the theatre.

Along the way he picked up that memorable nickname. Audience members who watched him recite at age 13 in Barley’s were impressed enough to dub him “Courageous.” The name stuck.

The thread of creativity in his lineage stretches back at least seven or eight generations. Isaac Dockery, born in 1832, became a master brickmason and builder. A native of Sevier County, Dockery built the New Salem Baptist in addition to making the bricks for the Sevier County Courthouse. The entrepreneurial Dockery passed on his skills to his sons and grandsons.

Clark sees potential in his seven-times-removed great-grandfather’s story to inspire young people. It’s possible to pull one’s self up by the bootstraps, and the testaments to what may be accomplished are standing in Sevierville today.

The new director looks forward to putting together a troupe of military veterans.

“Creating art is fundamental,” he says, and could be therapeutic in dealing with PTSD.

He’ll spend a great deal of time over the next year or so “learning how to be an executive director,” he says. There’s every reason to believe he’ll be a shining success – “Courageous” is a natural.

Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for KnoxTNToday. Contact him at lvg@knoxtntoday.com.

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