2019 Spring Arts and Entertainment Preview

By Holly Morse-Ellington


From Billboard chart toppers to witty bestsellers, sculptors, filmmakers, and more, Chattanooga’s spring arts and entertainment calendar packs a medley of diverse and engaging talent. Here’s a sneak peek at 9 highlights.



(Above) Psychedelic-rock band Dr. Dog returns to Chattanooga for an overdue visit at The Signal on March 6; Photo by Ryan McMackin

Photo Courtesy of Derek Eller Gallery, New York; Photo by Patty Urlaub; Alyson Shotz [b. 1964], Laws of Motion #9, 2015, Bronze, 15.5 x 17.5 x 16 in

Alyson Shotz: Un/Folding

March 1 – May 27, Hunter Museum of American Art
Forces of Nature

Sculptor Alyson Shotz, whose work is among collections at the Guggenheim Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, explores the interplay of materials and nature in her solo exhibit Un/Folding at the Hunter Museum of American Art.

“Alyson works both with innovative technologies – 3D modeling and printing, digital mapping, and more – and with time-honored handcrafting traditions,” says Nandini Makrandi, chief curator for the Hunter. “This mix of old and new, and the fact that she uses both equally in her work, is remarkable.”

The exhibit is designed to let imaginations roam. “Visitors may want to pay attention to the metaphorical similarities between Alyson’s sculptures and natural phenomena, including topography and black holes, and her active use of physical forces like gravity and pressure,” says Makrandi. “She often uses scientific concepts as springboards for her artwork, which feature experimentation with pattern and chaos.”

In conjunction with the special exhibition, the Hunter unveils a permanent installation Shotz created for the grand foyer – the museum’s first major commission in 10 years. “It was important for us to choose an artist who would use a medium that embraced the ever-changing light in that space,” says Makrandi. “Her work will enliven the first space that museum visitors encounter, creating a welcoming, dynamic atmosphere for everyone who passes through.”

Dr. Dog

March 6, The Signal
Venturing Out

Hitting the road with 10th studio album Critical Equation and songs off their vast, critically acclaimed catalogue, Dr. Dog returns to Chattanooga for an overdue visit. “Generally, the whole tour is couched in cool areas we’ve failed to get to for too long,” says Scott McMicken, singer-songwriter and co-front man. “Chattanooga was one of the first places that really struck me.”

The psychedelic-rock band shook things up with Critical Equation, recorded and produced by Gus Seyffert (Beck, Michael Kiwanuka) in L.A. instead of in-house at their Philadelphia studio. “It was a newfound curiosity about what it would be like to do things differently. That’s the main thing that went under the scalpel,” says McMicken. “The reality of being challenged, especially in a collaborative situation, brings about all kinds of juicy bits.”

Fought-over musician Michael Libramento joins Dr. Dog as special guest for this tour. “We’re really stoked,” he says of Libramento, who’s played with Grace Potter, Floating Action, and others. “He’s just that guy everyone wants to have in their band. We got him this time around.” 

Photo by Richard Lovrich

RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles

March 15, Tivoli Theatre
Something in the Way They Connect

Love the legendary Fab Four? Described as the next best thing to seeing the Beatles, RAIN celebrates the 50th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road in 2019. Together for six tours, the current cast reprises the music and connection of the dynamic foursome. “Almost like the Beatles, we do everything together,” says Paul Curatolo who, you guessed it, performs as Paul McCartney. “You can feel that camaraderie the same way the Beatles had it.”

Inspired by his father, RAIN’s original Paul, Curatolo learned by example. “I grew up watching him and his band members play these songs, so I always related the Beatles’ music to my father and my pseudo uncles. It always felt like the Beatles were my role models.” 

The show draws fans of all ages. “The Beatles wrote about peace and love mostly. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t want to advocate for peace and love,” says Curatolo. “That really is something every generation can relate to.”

Curatolo’s favorite part of the show? Seeing entire families together. “From the grandparents down to the little kids and everyone in-between, they can share in the majesty of the Beatles and their legend.”

Photo by Cameron Powell

Ben Rector

March 21, Memorial Auditorium
Emerging Reflections

Singer-songwriter Ben Rector, whose 2015 album Brand New debuted at #9 on Billboard’s Hot 200 chart, released an equally enchanting compilation of music and lyrics last year. Magic – released by OK Kid/Activist and produced by John Fields (Goo Goo Dolls, Daryl Hall) and Tony Hoffer (Beck, The Kooks) – headlines his tour coming to Memorial Auditorium.

A conversation with his mom sparked childhood memories and inspired the lyrics of one of the album’s hit songs, “Old Friends,” a revel in lifelong connections pulsated by piano. Rumor has it, it’s one of his favorite songs to sing on tour, so Chattanooga fans can expect to join in gleefully.

His show will continue to take you on a back-in-the-day journey with other songs like “I Will Always Be Yours” that evoke comparisons to Huey Lewis and the News and other favorites.

As much as the music can stir nostalgia, it also celebrates beginnings. Writing the album while welcoming the birth of his daughter, “Love Like This” is a dedication that can move hearts – Rector’s admitted he looks forward to singing it when he’s away.

Those attending the Chattanooga show will be in luck. Tickets for Rector’s show at the Ryman in Nashville sold out three times.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

March 30 – April 7, Chattanooga Theatre Centre
What Magic Grows

Curious what those critters in the garden are up to? Author Beatrix Potter brought a magical inner world to life in The Tale of Peter Rabbit. In this theatrical adaptation directed by Scott Dunlap for the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, audiences meet the loveable yet mischievous Peter on his adventure with sisters Flopsy and Mopsy and friends Squirrel Nutkin and Cawdy the Crow.

Potter’s illustrations inspire three-dimensional ideas. “I want to incorporate as much of her artwork as possible in the scenery,” says Dunlap, who’s considering using periaktoi, or revolving set devices. “We can create pages of the book that literally turn on stage.”

A “for youth, by youth” production, cast members range from grades 4 through 12. “We have kids from all walks of life. The thing that bonds them is their love of theater,” says Dunlap. And they gain big responsibilities. “They work backstage and run the lights. It really is participation on every level to create a piece of theater. Everybody has different talents, so we find how to best use those talents to come together to tell this story.” 

Jonathan McReynolds

April 4, Songbirds
From Heart to Souls

Expanding upon his 2018 Grammy-nominated album Make Room, singer-songwriter Jonathan McReynolds launches the Make More Room Tour. Recorded live, the original album and its extended version meld inspirational lyrics and music with audience energy. “We term the type of environment we try to create the life room,” says McReynolds, who received a GMA Dove Award in 2016 for best contemporary gospel song. “The lyrics are very normal, human stuff, not super Christian-with-a-cape-on stuff.” 

As the headline suggests, Make More Room is all about bringing people together. “I’ve seen at the end of a show new friends being made and people walking out with a new confidant just because they met each other in a vulnerable place somewhere in one of those songs,” he says.

Special guests will be revealed, but you can count on McReynolds’ band to get the crowd going. “They’re future legends in their own right,” says McReynolds, adding with a heartfelt nature, “I think there’s always 10, 15, 20% of the room that comes primarily to see my band.”   

A common bond drives their performance. “We’re excited about really flexing some musical muscles with our Chattanooga performance but making sure the message and the authenticity remain.”


April 11 & 13, Tivoli Theatre
An Opera Sensation

Difficult to imagine, but the Paris debut of Georges Bizet’s Carmen in 1875 shocked French audiences because central character Carmen and her gypsy friends smoked on stage. A story of passion, seduction, and jealousy, the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera presents this enduring classic and welcomes the return of beloved conductor Robert Bernhardt. “It feels so good to be back conducting a genre that I adore in the Tivoli, which is a truly wonderful opera house,” says Bernhardt, CSO Principal Pops Conductor and Music Director Emeritus.

This production reunites Bernhardt with former college classmate Helena Binder, stage director. “In most every way, this will be a ‘traditional’ Carmen with costumes and sets from the day,” says Bernhardt. “And with our wonderful director Helena Binder’s vision and concept, it will be emotional, natural, and riveting.”

Carmen is a favorite among opera enthusiasts but also a great first for newcomers. “Seeing and hearing a jilted lover descend into rage isn’t for the young. But for teens and up, if you’re wondering if opera is for you, Carmen is one that will tell you everything you need to know,” says Bernhardt. “The music is glorious, start to finish, and the story gripping.”

And according to Bernhardt, women seen smoking wasn’t all that sparked a scandal. But that plotline carries “a big spoiler alert” best saved for the show.

Photo by Sania Kahn

Chattanooga Film Festival

April 11 – 14, Chattanooga Theatre Centre and The Moxy
Southern Exposure

Praised by Southern Living as “the Southern Sundance,” the Chattanooga Film Festival returns for its sixth year. The four-day festival debuts feature-length films and shorts by American and international filmmakers. “We always try to have a mix of movies that are brand new, giving our audiences the chance to be the first to experience them,” says Chris Dortch II, executive director. “But we also include a carefully curated selection of films that are out on the worldwide festival circuit that wouldn’t have the opportunity to be screened in Chattanooga otherwise.”

While flattered by the Sundance comparison, the CFF also strives to stay true to its roots. The vision is a “back-to-basics idea of what a film festival is,” says Dortch. “It’s a film festival that is more about the movies themselves than the movie business.”

Festival goers can partake in Q&A talkbacks with filmmakers, workshops, contests, and parties. “Every great city has a strong need for arts.”

David Sedaris

April 19, Walker Theatre
So Funny, So True

Storyteller David Sedaris has a knack for humorous twists of phrase. His essays and short stories are published in The New Yorker and in his 10 books, most recently The New York Times bestseller Calypso. Five-time Grammy nominee for Best Spoken Word Album, Sedaris is a writer whose voice jumps off the page – and you can hear him live.

Sedaris writes with an ear for delivering words from page to stage. “When I’m sitting at the desk, it’s not anything I’m really aware of, but I’m told that I sort of mumble and read it out loud to myself as I go,” says Sedaris. “Sentences that are eight syllables long can sound really clunky. You kind of have to stitch them together to create a rhythm you can read out loud.”

His punchlines intertwine with social commentary. “Writing helps me make sense of the world, but it’s not cathartic. That sounds contradictory, but it doesn’t cure anything for me, it just sort of puts it into perspective,” says Sedaris. “I think my goal is to make a reader or listener feel good more than to make myself feel good.”

Have copies in hand for signings before and after the show. “After I’ll stay until everybody’s book is signed,” says Sedaris. “I don’t care how late it is.” CS

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