Tennessee Playboy: A Day with the Playwright

Tennessee Playboy is a raucous play about a man who stirs up a small community with his wild stories. Anderson University’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance recently put on the collegiate premiere of the play, and Preston Lane, the playwright’s, visit to campus followed a similar arc.

I was given the opportunity to sit in the Master Class hosted by Lane and David Coolidge, Director of the Musical Theatre Program, and you could feel the energy from the students as we sat and waited for it to begin. As soon as Lane and Coolidge took to the front of the room, the murmurs turned to whispers and then to eager silence.

Lane has a long list of credits to his name – including acting, writing, directing, and even running his own production company in North Carolina – and the students devoured the information he shared with them.

I don’t know that I would walk away with the same highlights as a student would – they might revel in Lane’s stories of working with people whose names I didn’t recognize or on shows I hadn’t heard of – but I left the Master Class encouraged by what he had to tell the students.

First, Lane told the students that although there are places that are usually thought of as the hubs of theatre – Broadway, London – these aren’t the only to find or tell stories. People everywhere want to see and hear stories told, and they want them to be told about people who live next door and people who live on the other side of the world.

Lane also discussed theatre as a path to empathy. He told the students that embodying a new character can lead to understanding more about people who are different from ourselves. He believes that this is one of the greatest benefits of theatre – it leads to new ways to connect with the world.

Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.

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