Lyena Strelkoff – It’s Not About the Chair

Lyena Strelkoff is an inspired, creative artist and innovative educator.  A professional dancer and actor, Strelkoff’s life was forever altered after a fall left her paralyzed from the waist down.  Forced to re-examine the very essence of her life, she discovered new pathways of artistic and personal expression, reflecting a rare spirit of grace and courage, gratitude and compassion.

Northeast State welcomes Strelkoff to campus on Thursday, Oct. 27 for two presentations of It’s Not About the Chair, an engaging, entertaining, intimate look at life with paralysis. Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious, Strelkoff lays bare her disability, inviting the audience into her experience – from trauma to transcendence, bathroom to bedroom, doctors to dancing – with an insightful, personal connection that is deeply impactful and truly unforgettable.

Lyena Strelkoff

In this blend of lecture and performance, Strelkoff delivers an unflinchingly honest account of becoming paralyzed, and building a life of happiness, success and love anyway.  In the process, she debunks and demystifies our preconceptions of life in a wheelchair and creates an environment of openness where no question is too personal and no answer is too private.

In the face of her injury, artistry offers a means to understand and integrate her experience, while also providing a way to connect with the hearts and minds of other people. Through her journey, she offers an approach to life that paves the way for happiness and success, no matter what the obstacle.

Performances are at 12 noon and 7 p.m. in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts Theater.  Both events are free and open to the public.  Her appearance is sponsored by the Northeast State Center for Students with Disabilities.

Foundation honors scholarship recipients

The Northeast State Community College Foundation honored scores of new scholarship recipients on Tuesday evening at a scholars’ reception that united students and their scholarship sponsors.

Northeast State Foundation Executive Director Heather Cook welcomed students and friends who established annual and endowed scholarships at the College.

Northeast State student scholars met their scholarship donors at a reception in the Humanities Building.

“We want students to know the people beyond their names on a scholarship,” said Cook. “We want them to know why these generous friends of Northeast State felt education was important enough to establish these student scholarships.”

Held at the College’s main campus, the reception gave students the chance to meet with the donors and the families of those donors who established the academic scholarships those students received.  First-year students also met many of the faculty members that will be teaching them in class as they continue at Northeast State.

The Northeast State Foundation launched the “Because of You” campaign on Oct. 24 to create awareness for the programs and departments on campus and increase campus participation.

The “Because of You” campaign continues through Celebration Day on Nov. 15 where the Foundation will announce winners from the participating programs that raise the most scholar donations. The top ten programs will each receive $1,000 to go towards scholarships in their program.

Many Northeast State full-time faculty and staff contribute to scholarships administered through the Foundation. Northeast State scholarships are made possible by the charitable gifts to the Foundation from businesses, organizations, and individuals.  Scholarship recipients are selected by the Northeast State Scholarship Committee.

If anyone is interested in providing assistance for students at Northeast State, they may designate their donation to any specific Northeast State Foundation scholarship of their choosing.  To learn more about donations to the Northeast State Foundation and helping students, please contact Heather Cook at 423.354.2439 or

Behind the masks…Oedipus Rex opens Thursday night

Staging Oedipus Rex represents the Northeast State Theater Department’s biggest technical production ever.

But bringing Sophocles’ tragic spectacle to life falls to the cast of actors taking on the roles of King Oedipus, Queen Jocasta, the supplicants of Thebes and the chorus.  Kyle Walter won the titular role of the troubled king during auditions in September.

“This is the first title role I’ve ever played,” says Walter, a Knoxville native. “I love the challenge of bringing something on paper to life on stage.”

A theater major at East Tennessee State University, Walter has appeared in previous Northeast State productions Bus Stop and The Wizard of Oz.  Greek theater isn’t all Greek to Walter – he appeared in ETSU’s production of Lysistrata last year.

The cast also takes on the challenge of performing with designer Richard Curtis’s character masks.  Surprisingly light but intricate in detail, the masks provide a stunning first impression of the characters.  Walter notes that the actors define their characters through physical movements and vocal nuance.

“Oedipus is the king so his physical movements represent distinct things,” he said. “The masks define the characters somewhat but an actor must represent who the character is through his or her creativity on stage.”

Playing Oedipus’s wife Jocasta is Sarah Murray, a speech pathology major at Northeast State, making her first appearance on stage for Northeast State Theater.

“I am super excited to be a part of this show,” says Murray, of Bristol. “It gives you a true appreciation of Greek drama.”

The chorus provides episodic structure in much of Greek drama.  The chorus from Oedipus reflects the cursed plague that has ensnared Thebes, the prediction of Teiresias, and ultimate fate of the king.

While most actors wear masks unique to their character, the production’s six chorus members stalk the stage in similar masks and blood red tunics made more ominous through the lighting effects used as a dramatic device throughout the play. Chorus member Hannah Rockwell said she and her counterparts followed stage direction but were given the creative freedom to improvise on stage.

“We are told how to move and where to go, but from there we can do what we want with our movements on stage,” said Rockwell, a psychology major at Northeast State.

Opening night for Oedipus Rex is Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts (WRCPA) on the main campus.  Performances continue Oct. 14 – 16 at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Oct. 16.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for non-Northeast State students, seniors, military veterans, and emergency personnel.  Performances are free to current Northeast State students, but they must pick up tickets at the box office. Tickets can be purchased at or at the ’s box office one hour prior to the show.

For information, call 423.354.2479 or 423.323.0218.

Northeast State Theater stages “Oedipus Rex” Oct. 13-16

An abandoned child. A murdered king. A deadly secret.

Northeast State Theater brings these classic elements of Sophocles’ tragedy to life next month in a fierce and visually arresting production of Oedipus Rex.  Sophocles’ story of love and doom is one of the first family tragedies with unspeakable drama.

“This is the most ambitious technical production we have ever attempted,” said Brad McKenzie, the play’s director. “With the masks, lighting, and entire production, we are raising the bar of expectation for what an audience can expect to see in community college theater.”

The play opens with King Oedipus facing a terrible curse has befallen the city of Thebes.  He sends his brother-in-law, Creon, to seek the advice of Apollo and restore order.  Creon informs Oedipus that the curse will be lifted if the murderer of Laius, the former king of Thebes, is punished.

Learning of Apollo’s counsel, Oedipus dedicates himself to the discovery and prosecution of Laius’s murderer.  He questions unwilling citizens including the blind prophet Teiresias who gives him a warning that the new king may not be able to disregard.

While his wife Jocasta begs him to ignore the prophecy, Oedipus obsessively seeks to learn why he was abandoned as an infant and adopted by another family. His search leads him to a series of horrifying revelations about Laius’s death, his wife Jocasta, their children, and his fate.

Sophocles’ masterful work of characters and chorus plays out through lighting and sound.  As the actors portray the characters, the production’s technical artistry creates the psychological anguish and tragedy through vivid effects making this an unforgettable theatrical experience.

Play performances are Oct. 13 – 16 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinée showing at 2 p.m. on Oct. 16.  All performances will be staged in the WRCPA Theater on the College’s main campus, 2425 Highway 75, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for non-Northeast State students, seniors, military veterans, and emergency personnel.  Performances are free to current Northeast State students, but they must pick up their tickets at the box office. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the theater’s box office one hour prior to the show.  The house open 30 minutes before show time.

For information, call Northeast State Theater at 423.354.2479 or 423.323.0218.