Performing arts abound in Rocky Hill

Beth KinnaneOur Town Arts, West Knoxville

When considering seeing a play, opera or symphony, the Knoxville venues that first come to mind are likely going to be the Tennessee and Bijou theatres or other locations in and around downtown. But look a little further and you’ll find a thriving performing arts community in the heart of Rocky Hill.

The Flying Anvil Theatre moved into 1300 Rocky Hill Road in 2017 and hit the ground running. The Marble City Opera also has an office in the building and sometimes schedules performances there.

Jayne Morgan is a writer, actor and co-founder and artistic director of Flying Anvil, starting the company in 2012. But it took getting a permanent home before she could plunge feet first into full-time production. Things had been progressing pretty well for two years before Covid-19 showed up and put the quietus on everything.

“We canceled the 2020 season last March,” Morgan said. “But we didn’t want to just stop, so we decided to try doing some things online. It was exciting and scary, not really knowing what we were doing but making it up as we went along. Everybody pitched in. There was a lot of joy as well as panic, but that’s theatre in a nutshell.”

Now more than a year since the pandemic began, Flying Anvil is back to live performances, with Covid precautions in place. The current show is the classic Neil Simon comedy “The Sunshine Boys,” starring David Dwyer and Steve Dupree. The shows run Thursday – Sunday at 7:30 p.m. through Oct. 10.

Morgan, a Loudon County native, said she is thankful for donors who helped keep things going while the doors were closed. And while she is excited to have live performances with an audience again, the only way to safely go forward is at 50 percent of a 125-seat capacity, with mask requirements and proof of vaccination or recent negative test result.

“I don’t see that being a problem,” she said. “We’ve developed a following that appreciates what we do, and I don’t see them taking issue with that.”

Brandon Evans and Kathryn Frady in Marble City Opera’s production of “Tosca.”

The same safety measures will be in place for the upcoming show by Marble City Opera. The one-woman musical drama “Lily” uses the music of Kurt Weill to tell the story of a fictional cabaret singer named Lily Weiss. Created by and starring award-winning mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock, the multimedia production will be the piece’s first performance outside of its premiere in New York City. The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29-30 at the Flying Anvil Theatre and will also be available for streaming.

Kathryn Frady is Marble City’s founder and executive artistic director. The Dallas native made her way to Knoxville when her husband, James Marvel, was named director of opera at UT. She said the move here was good for both of them as they’d spent many years living and working on the road together.

“I love Knoxville, the size of it, the people,” Frady said. “It’s a beautiful place.”

Marble City has been able to keep productions going throughout the pandemic, performing in outdoor and otherwise more open spaces where social distancing could be maintained. In June, its production of “Tosca” was presented at St. John’s Cathedral downtown, utilizing different areas of the church for scenes.

“We’ve been all over town,” she said. “We’ve always been nomadic and will continue to do so.”

Beth Kinnane is the community news editor for

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