Southeastern Theatre Conference means ‘curtain up’ all over Chattanooga
For the past 65 years, various cities throughout the Southeast have hosted the Southeastern Theatre Conference’s annual convention—and this week, Chattanooga is hosting the 66th.
The Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) is one of the largest networks of theatre practitioners in the country. Its range covers ten states, and it aims to provide resources and opportunities for its members—actors, design and technical professionals, educators, students, producers and, well, basically anyone involved in theatre.
With more than 4,000 attendees, the conference is certainly going to keep the Chattanooga theatre world busy for the next few days. But Chattanooga’s theatre folks are more than ready for the conference. George Quick, executive director of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre (CTC), provides some insight: “Chattanooga is a great city to host SETC, and they’ve been coming here for years. The last time they were here was 2012, and at that point they decided they wanted to come back in 2015.”
When asked why Chattanooga is an ideal city to host SETC, Quick explains, “I think the central location, as far as all of the Southern states are concerned, is one of the things that’s really great. And, of course, there’s the town itself. I think people really enjoy being here. The convention center and the theatrical venues that we have are perfect for SETC.”
The CTC is one such venue. They will be hosting SETC’s Community Theatre Festival, which includes 13 theatrical productions from across the Southeast. The companies behind these productions have already competed at the state level in order to make it into the regional level at SETC.
As Quick reveals, companies competing have to meet certain rules and requirements. “One of the rules is that your set and your actors have to fit into a 10-x-10-foot square box,” he says. “Another is that they have 10 minutes to set up, and then they have an hour to perform, and then another 10 minutes to take down. So they’ve rehearsed it that way.”
But wait. Most plays are longer than an hour in their original form, right? Quick says, “The companies have to get permission from the license holder of the play to cut it down to a length that can be performed at the festival.” So the performances at the festival are abbreviated versions of the originals.
CTC just closed their run of “Into the Woods” last weekend, so they have been busy getting their venue ready to host the Community Theatre Festival. With a chuckle, Quick describes the transition as “crazy quick.” Preparations include striking the “Into the Woods” set, painting the stage floor black, and setting up new lighting—not to mention bringing in the sets and equipment of the 13 different groups involved in the festival.
But if all goes as planned, the Community Theatre Festival will officially commence today, March 5, at 12:30 p.m. with a performance of “Red” by the Tanner Theatre in West Virginia. Luckily for the theatregoers of Chattanooga, the festival is open to the public. “It’s $5 at the door, and you don’t have to buy tickets in advance,” Quick says. “But everyone should know that since this is a competition, the doors definitely close right when the show starts. If you’re late, you can’t get in.”
SETC’s convention is only five days long, and the Community Theatre Festival itself is only three. So how will CTC squeeze in thirteen performances? Since each performance is an hour long, the plays will be performed into groups of three or four.
Quick uses an example from the schedule to explain how admission will work: “On Thursday afternoon, there are three plays back-to-back. The first starts at 12:30, and the other two come directly after it. If you paid to get into the first play, you wouldn’t have to pay again for the other two. And then there’s another block of plays in the evening, and it’s the same thing. So you can see each block for $5.”
You can find the full schedule for The Community Theatre Festival at setc.org/community-theatre. But of course, with 4,000 SETC convention attendees, the Community Theatre Festival isn’t the only game in town this week. There are a total of five festivals as part of the convention, and the High School Theatre Festival, which is also open to the public, is being hosted at the Tivoli.
For more details about SETC’s schedule or the convention, visit setc.org