The Laurel Theater

Friday night Suzanne and I went to the Laurel Theater to see R. B. Morris with Daniel Kimbro (L) and Greg Horne (R). The trio sounded great; some familiar songs and quite a few I’d never heard before, from a group of highly talented musicians. R. B., Knoxville’s first Poet Laureate, was in fine form, sometimes playful (his first comment was “You could have been listening to Art Garfunkel tonight” referring to the concert at the Bijou a few blocks away), sometimes  serious, and the packed house was clearly enjoying itself. 

The Laurel is a fine venue and has a significant place in my own history. Several decades ago, as a college student and for several years after that, I made sure to make it to the Jubilee Festival every year. The Laurel, just a couple of blocks off campus, played host to music that often went on into the wee hours. I remember thinking on more than one occasion that what I was hearing was easily the equal to what I could buy in the local record store. What I heard there certainly helped point me in the direction of playing music, which still brings me great pleasure and, I’m told, is good for my mental health (which can use all the help it can get). 

It was also where Suzanne and I were married a little over 38 years ago (some of the more unusual details of what led up to that ceremony are in one section of my book “Glimpses”). It was a quick ceremony; a play was scheduled there for later that same evening. The Laurel has often been a busy place.

I was sitting there Friday night, not far from where I stood when I got married, and thinking about all the things that have happened in my life so far that centered around this building. If you have a place near you that celebrates local artists, whether they are musicians or writers or painters or whatever else, please make sure to support it in an active way. Our attention and presence and ticket purchases and the like are important in ways that may not seem to be so on the surface. Art is what both comforts and challenges us, nurtures us and angers us, and helps us see things we otherwise would miss. We are richer and more complete because of it, so buy a ticket to a play or a concert, buy a book by a local author, or pick up a a painting or a piece of jewelry or ceramics. Cast your bread upon the waters. You’ll be rewarded in ways you didn’t expect.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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