2016 Fall Arts Sneak Peek

By Karen Wilson

From beloved characters skating on ice to the celebration of cinema, Chattanooga’s arts and entertainment lineup is full and varied this fall. Humorists, musicians, dancers, actors, painters, and visual artists will grace Chattanooga’s performance venues and museums in the coming months. Here’s a sneak peek of 10 highlights.


Photo by Christopher Wilson

Band of Horses
October 22, Track 29

Grammy-nominated Band of Horses returns to Track 29 this October. Bringing its “Why Are You OK” tour to Chattanooga audiences, the band promises to span its catalog of works, breathing new life into old favorites and introducing new sounds.

With each performance viewed as a new opportunity, the band challenges themselves to perform their tracks better each time – and sometimes in reinvented ways. “Throwing in some deep cuts or reworked versions of favorites for the superfans is very fun for us,” says lead singer and founder Ben Bridwell. “I’m not sure if we’ve ever played the same set list in 12 years. Every show is looked at as an opportunity to be unique to that venue on that night.”

Debuting at no. 9 on the U.S. album chart, their fifth album “Why Are You OK” was written by Bridwell at home among family. It’s that inspiration that shines through in the edgy-yet-charming album, rich in what Entertainment Weekly calls “bright, indie-rock gems.” And the band is fired up to introduce their newest work to audiences, Bridwell says. “The new songs have been a shot in the arm. The sense of accomplishment of having put out a record that we really love has put a new fire in our bellies.”


Harvey Dunn (1884-1952), Empty Rooms, 1938. Story illustration for “Leave the Past Behind” by Frederick Merrill Tibbott, The Saturday Evening Post, May 21, 1938. Oil on canvas. South Dakota Art Museum Collection., Gift of Marion J. Kaye in memory of her mother, Helen M. Kerns.

Masters of the Golden Age
Now through October 2,
Hunter Museum of American Art

Take a walk through the Hunter Museum’s latest exhibit and experience the bold, colorful, iconic images of Harvey Dunn, one of America’s foremost artists in the late 19th and early 20th century. Dunn painted depictions of current news in the days before photographs graced magazine pages. Considered the Golden Age of Illustration, it was a time when mass media was gaining popularity and illustrations provided a visual framework for the news of the day. Dunn’s work, which was regularly featured in the Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s Magazine, and Ladies’ Home Journal, ranges from portraits of rural America and illustrations for murder mysteries, to portrayals of battlefields through his work as a commissioned war artist during World War I.

How does this exhibit speak to today’s audiences? Cara McGowan, director of marketing and communications at the Hunter Museum, believes it speaks to the American identity. “Works of art present particular points of view about the nation, and, even now, shape our perceptions of our past,” says McGowan. “These works celebrate an idealized view of America, one that in times of uncertainty and turmoil can be comforting. What does a view of our best selves look like?”

Masters of the Golden Age: Harvey Dunn and His Students is a collaboration of Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings, South Dakota. 

fa-fiddlerFiddler on the Roof
September 9-25, Chattanooga Theatre Centre

Chattanooga Theatre Centre’s 93rd season opener is all about family, community, and tradition. The iconic musical’s relatable characters and situations have made it a favorite for generations. Hit numbers like “If I Were a Rich Man,” “To Life,” and “Tradition” provide the soundtrack for the story of a family facing challenges from within and from society at large.

Universal themes like faith, family rituals, independence, and culture are seen through the eyes of Tevye, a father of five, who responds to his three eldest daughters as they reject the family tradition of matchmaking. Tevye’s world is full of changing social mores and the anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia.

“Even though the story is set almost a century ago, it speaks to us today as we look at the world around us,” says director Allan Ledford. “When you leave the show you are reminded of what is really important in life – and you’re left humming the songs!” 


Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight
September 23, Tivoli Theatre

It was February 2, 2001, when Hal Holbrook last brought Mark Twain to Chattanooga. Now his 2016 performance promises to remind us why Mark Twain still provides an astute commentary on American life. Hal Holbrook has been enlivening Twain for more than 60 years, and he believes the show retains its relevance as much today as in decades past.

“The show continues to connect with American audiences. We didn’t set out to run so long, it just happened,” Holbrook says. “People see it again because it changes its colors just like our country. I’ve gone through about 12 hours of material, discarded some and changed some around. All of it speaks to things we recognize, what’s happening to the country, or what might happen if we don’t think about it.”

Asked why Twain’s material is so appropriate for today’s audiences, Holbrook points to politics. “Twain said ‘There is evidence this inebriated country thinks it has a Democracy.’ We’re going to have an election this fall. Twain could have a field day.”

fa-csoChattanooga Symphony & Opera/“Beethoven Choral Fantasy”
October 20, Tivoli Theatre

This Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Masterworks concert is a blend of Beethoven and Beethoven-inspired works. The evening begins with Beethoven’s powerful and dramatic “Egmont Overture,” followed by the world premiere of modern composer Kendra D’Ercole’s “Wie die Blätter des Herbstes herabfallen.” Based on the “Heiligenstadt Testament,” a letter written by Beethoven to his brother expressing his distress for increased deafness and other ailments, the piece borrows themes from various Beethoven works. Baritone Robert Barefield will sing the text along with the CSO Chorus and Lee University Chorale.

The finale of the evening is “Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy,” a work written for piano, solo voices, chorus, and orchestra. CSO Conductor Kayoko Dan speaks to the power of Beethoven’s work. “He had a remarkable ability to convey drama and emotion through craftsmanship,” Dan explains. “He was also a revolutionary who explored the boundaries of the art. His spirit is still alive through his music, and we hope to channel that energy.”  

fa-cineramaArt House Theater
September 24, Cine-Rama

As the official headquarters of the Chattanooga Film Festival, Cine-Rama will host Chattanooga’s first Art House Theater Day. This national event celebrates the legacy of independent theaters. “In an age where media has become more digital than tangible, more solitary than social, art house theaters remain the physical spaces where film lovers congregate and connect with intrepid, creative filmmaking,” say national organizers.

“Having Cine-Rama open means that Chattanooga, just like Nashville and Atlanta, gets to take part in a cultural celebration of film and filmmaking,” says Chris Dortch, the Chattanooga Film Festival’s executive director. The all-day event includes screenings, filmmaker Q&A’s, film memorabilia, live music, and parties. Screenings will include “Danny Says,” the new music documentary about the longtime manager of the Ramones (one of America’s greatest punk bands), and “Time Bandits,” Terry Gilliam’s restored fantasy film classic.

“We hope that local audiences will come celebrate Art House Theater Day with us and be reminded that in a post-Netflix world, something as simple as going to the movies is a cultural tradition that should be fought for. Seeing a film with an enthusiastic audience is where cinema truly comes alive,” says Dortch.


An Evening with David Sedaris
October 21, Tivoli Theatre

One of America’s preeminent humorists brings his sardonic wit and social critiques to Chattanooga this October. David Sedaris is the author of numerous bestsellers, with more than 10 million copies in print, translated into 25 languages. Considered one of the most observant writers on the human condition, he is a regular on late-night comedy and public radio.

“David Sedaris holds a unique place among American writers. His books and New Yorker pieces have a large and loyal following – but there is also a devoted audience that flocks to hear him read. I can’t think of another writer who thrives on public performance of his own work and is so good at it,” says his manager Steven Barclay.

Sedaris’s themes of family and shared humanity allow him to intelligently entertain audiences who appreciate his clever, original sense of humor, explains Barclay. “He manages to turn a ‘reading’ into a real performance. I think this is why people go to see him again and again.”

fa-disneyDisney On Ice
October 27-October 30, UTC McKenzie Arena

Tinker Bell is your magical host when Disney On Ice presents their newest show, “Dream Big,” at the UTC McKenzie Arena. Beloved Disney characters Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Anna, Elsa, and Jasmine are few of the many who remind the audience of the importance of dreaming big while remaining strong, kind, and fearless.

Creative Director Patty Vincent believes the ongoing appeal of Disney On Ice is its ability to showcase favorite characters in one show, weaving their stories into a new narrative. “We continue to deliver surprising special effects, gorgeous costumes, athletic skating, brilliant lighting, and transformative moments that make the experience incredibly memorable,” she says.

Disney On Ice is a theatrical experience where the entire family can get together and enjoy their favorite songs and see their favorite characters come to life,” she continues. Her favorite part? “When we open the doors and all the children wearing their favorite Disney costumes come rushing in. The lights fade, the music hits, and its show time!”

Cirque de la Symphonie
October 28, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium

This fall, the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera will bring the magic of a cirque performance to the music hall. This one-night only Halloween-themed performance will combine aerial flyers, acrobats, dancers, jugglers, contortionists, balancers, and strongmen – all to the backdrop of CSO musicians performing both classical and contemporary music. Attendees can expect to hear a mix of exciting and spooky pieces like Dukas’ “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre,” Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue,” and more.

CSO Conductor Kayoko Dan says she’s looking forward to the magic of the collaboration between musicians, choreographers, and artists. “It is going to be one of the most exciting special events in Chattanooga this fall, for sure,” she says.


Parsons Dance
November 1, UTC Fine Arts Center Patten Performances

This energetic and world-renowned modern dance company makes a return appearance in Chattanooga this November. Appreciated by professional dancers and the general public alike,  Parsons Dance promises an evening of emotional intensity and eye-catching movement.   

The company’s style is a fusion of the gestures and movements that make up modern dance, mixed with the discipline and precision of a classical company. “The energy that radiates from the stage during a Parsons Dance performance is infectious,” says Todd Burnsed of CAMI Spectrum. “For more than 30 years the company has showcased the dancers’ physical strength, athletic beauty, and sheer passion for the joy of dance.”

“The buzz of energy backstage before the curtain comes up is tangible,” adds company dancer Sarah Braverman. “It’s an incredible high that’s unique to any other experience I’ve had. It’s because we care about the integrity of the work, doing it justice, and giving the best show we can to the audience and each other.”


Bob Dylan
November 13, Tivoli Theatre

Few musicians have a touring schedule extending across nearly 30 years, but Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour” is precisely that – an ongoing celebration of Dylan’s artistry. Inside the Tivoli Theatre, Dylan will perform work from his latest album, “Fallen Angels,” along with his iconic songs that have defined more than five decades of American music.

Dylan is undeniably brilliant, and his music has the ability to tell a story that evolves with the times and continues to connect with audiences in new ways. Each performance promises to be entirely different.

“Fallen Angels,” Dylan’s 37th album, covers classic American songs written or performed by legends such as Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, and Frank Sinatra. The record showcases Dylan’s artistic ability to breathe new life into past hits, and it’s this talent that makes each show – whether at the Tivoli Theatre in 2016, or a folk music festival in 1965 – unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

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