NE Theatre stages David Mamet’s Oleanna Sept. 8-10

The Northeast State Community College Department of Theatre kicks off the 2016-17 season with American playwright David Mamet’s Oleanna, an explosive play about power and politics on campus.

Directed by Northeast State alumna Hannah Duncan, the production runs Sept. 8, 9, and 10 in the Northeast State Auditorium (A202) of the Blountville campus 2425 Highway 75 next to Tri-Cities Regional Airport. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Oleanna is being presented in cooperation with the College’s Cultural Activities Committee and Safe Northeast.

“Oleanna is a play about humanity at its core. How far we’re willing to go, the difference between right and wrong, and the gray area in us all,” said Duncan. “This show has been a beautiful and exciting challenge for me, the actors, and the design team.”

Oleanna centers on a power struggle between a university professor and a female student. Madison Grace Phillips portrays Carol, a college student who drops by her professor’s office seeking his advice to do better in class. A graduate of Sullivan South High School and a Theatre major, Phillips appeared on stage last spring as Nurse Flinn in the department’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Russel Onks takes on the role of her professor John who is poised and excited to receive tenure from the university. A second-year theatre student, Onks has been involved in theatre for several years. He most recently served as scenic designer on Cuckoo and Hair and Make-up Designer for Steel Magnolias performed by NST in fall of 2015.

Northeast State Theatre promises an exciting 2016-17 season.
Northeast State Theatre opens the 2016-17 season with David Mamet’s Oleanna.

As the first meeting progresses the two discuss the nature of understanding and judgment in society, as well as their very own natures and places in our society.

When next the two meet, John learns a report has been filed to the tenure committee. Carol has joined a “group” and has decided that John sexually harassed her during their first meeting.

John’s unsuccessful attempts to convince Carol to retract her accusation escalate to a more dangerous level. The third meeting climaxes violently, leaving John and Carol both physically and emotionally devastated.

Tickets are free but donations are welcomed. All proceeds go to fund Northeast State scholarships. Doors open approximately 30 minutes prior to show time. Oleanna is being presented with special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.

For more information, call the Box Office at 423.354.5169 or e-mail at

NST holds auditions for No Exit and She Kills Monsters Aug. 30 & 31

The Northeast State Department of Theater announces open auditions next week for the fall productions of She Kills Monsters and No Exit. The new season promises an exciting collection of plays from the College’s award-winning Theatre Department.

Actors are invited to auditions for both plays on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts (WRCPA) on the Blountville campus next to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

The No Exit production seeks to cast 2 males and 2 females. She Kills Monsters looks to cast 3 males, 6 females, and a large chorus. Auditions are open to all students, faculty, and community members ages 18 and up.

Performers are asked to gather in the lobby of the WRCPA. You will audition for both productions at the same time. Ideally, you will have both a contemporary comedic (She Kills Monsters) and a contemporary dramatic (No Exit) 1-minute monologue for these auditions. Northeast State Theatre is an educational theatre department and welcomes any performer to the auditions. Actors can audition with one monologue or read from provided sides from each play.

A list of those who are invited to callbacks will be posted on the Northeast State Theatre Facebook page on Aug. 31 by 11:00 p.m. Callbacks will be done Sept. 1 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Northeast State Theatre promises an exciting 2016-17 season.
Northeast State Theatre promises an exciting 2016-17 season.

Acclaimed new playwright Qui Nguyen delivers a wonderful comedic romp into the world of fantasy role-playing games, She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans as she leaves her childhood home in Ohio following the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. When Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, however, she stumbles into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was Tilly’s refuge.

In this high-octane dramatic comedy laden with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres, and 90s pop culture, Nguyen offers a heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior within us all. She Kills Monsters is produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. The play’s performance dates are Nov. 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 13 and 20 at 2:00 p.m. in the WRCPA Theater.

Written by Jean Paul Sartre adapted from the French version by Paul Bowles, No Exit tells the tale of two women and one man locked up together for eternity in one hideous room in hell. The windows are bricked up; there are no mirrors; the electric lights can never be turned off; and there is no exit. Here the soul is shorn of secrecy, and even the blackest deeds are mercilessly exposed to the fierce light of hell. No Exit is produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. The play’s production dates are Oct. 20, 21, and 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Auditorium (A202) of the Blountville campus.

For more information, visit or contact Northeast State Theater at 423.354.2479 or e-mail


Batman, Superman and Odysseus now in the Basler Library

Batman, Superman, Odysseus, Beowulf, and The Walking Dead are now in Northeast State’s Basler Library.

The library has added more than 60 popular graphic novel titles to its collection. Titles range from The Sandman to The Dark Tower to The Avengers. In addition, classic literature selections such as The Odyssey, Beowulf, and Fahrenheit 451 are included.

“We decided to start a graphic novel collection because we wanted to get students into the library, especially reluctant readers,” said Chris Demas, dean of the Basler Library. “We want them visiting the library and getting engaged in reading.”

A selection of graphic novels on display and ready for check out at Basler Library.
A selection of graphic novels on display and ready for check out at Basler Library.

A graphic novel is an original story that is published in a comic book-style format. The books are usually bound and about 7 inches wide and 10 inches tall.

Demas said he thinks the greatest strength of graphic novel format is its ability to take complex stories and make them more readable and accessible.

“Another thing is that graphic novels give students another way to experience art and I think that’s a very, very good thing,” Demas said.

There is some debate, but most comics historians agree that the first real graphic novel was Will Eisner’s A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories published in 1978. In 2015, sales figures for graphics novels totaled more than $500 million, according to Comichron and ICV2, which monitor comic sales in the United States.

Demas said the library plans to grow the collection over time and the library staff welcomes patrons to submit title suggestions.

A graphic novel is an original story that is published in a comic book-style format.
A graphic novel is an original story that is published in a comic book-style format.

The novels will be shelved in the library’s audio-visual room with the movie collection. The titles will be easily distinguished as each bears a graphic POW! sticker. Demas said the selections can be found by visiting and searching “graphic novels” and then clicking on the “Shelved at NESCC” tab.

“It was a conscious effort to place them there,” Demas said. “A lot of people who like movies also like graphic novels because of the visuals, so it just made sense to put them in the same area.”

The library staff plans to display selected titles in the lobby during the start of the fall semester. For more information, visit the library’s website at or call 423.354.2429 or e-mail

Northeast State to extend mentoring, engagement with THEC grant

Northeast State has received a Tennessee Promise Forward grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to expand academic and advising programs. THEC awarded five community colleges nearly $800,000 designated to help the recipient colleges focus on student success and retention.

Northeast State plans to expand its successful peer mentoring program. The College posted a retention rate of 84.2 percent for all Tennessee Promise students, an increase from the previous year’s retention rate of 78 percent.

Mentors will use interactive technology including personalized text messages and push notifications to alert students of academic and financial aid deadlines. Northeast State will also continue its required freshman success course Education 1030 this academic year with an added layer of mentor support for Tennessee Promise students.

Jane Honeycutt, director of the TN Promise Mentoring program at Northeast State, said the grant represented a new way of engaging students to aid both retention and provide a sense of community.

“This year we had additional time to talk with students about the mentoring process and get them involved,” she said. “Students respond really well to electronic communication so the Keeping Our Promise mobile app will continue to be a critical engagement tool for us.”

TN Promise day 1
The Tennessee Promise Forward grant program began in 2015 with the goal of retaining Tennessee Promise students at community colleges.

Northeast State piloted the Tennessee Promise mobile app, powered by ModoLabs, last year. This free app, which can be downloaded to all iPad minis issued to incoming first-year students, provides electronic access to the College’s calendar, campus maps, list of student advisors, and upcoming events.

The Tennessee Promise Forward grant program began in 2015 with the goal of retaining Tennessee Promise students at community colleges. The program was initially funded through a College Access Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The College’s Office of Grant Development applied for the second phase of the grant in the first week of July.

“In addition to supporting the peer mentoring program, the current year’s grant funds an expansion of the Tennessee Promise mobile app to allow Education 1030 students to receive text messages and PUSH notifications,” said Linda Calvert, executive director of the College’s Office of Grant Development. “All program components are designed to keep Tennessee Promise students engaged with and informed about the college.”

First-year students enrolled in the Education 1030 class this fall will download the Remind mobile app that notifies students of upcoming deadlines and events. The Remind app functions with both a student’s iPad mini and his or her mobile phone.

“That was a key component to our proposal because Northeast State is becoming an iPad, iCampus,” said Calvert. “We focused on evidenced based retention models and the results for student engagement were very positive.”

First-year TN Promise students meet with their mentors every two weeks during the first critical 10 weeks of class and once per month thereafter. During the first year of Tennessee Promise, Northeast State recruited 27 student mentors to work with incoming students. That number nearly doubled to 50 mentors this fall.

“We’ve had some very good results with our mentoring program,” said Honeycutt. “We want to do a more comprehensive survey of retention for all our Tennessee Promise students next year.”

A good number of student mentors volunteer from the College’s Honors Program and the Alpha Iota Chi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Honeycutt said the raw data of first-year Tennessee Promise students who accepted a mentor posted a 100 percent retention rate for the past year – an eye-opening number as colleges seek to raise retention rates.

In a statement announcing the grants, Executive Director of THEC Mike Krause said, “Since its launch in 2015, the focus of Tennessee Promise has been increasing the number of students enrolling in college. Tennessee Promise Forward grants represent the next step: ensuring that once students get into college, they have the resources and tools to graduate.”

Northeast State will also continue its required freshman success course this academic year with an added layer of mentor support for all incoming Tennessee Promise students.

Fastball to play free concert for Northeast State’s 50th anniversary

Northeast State continues its year-long 50th anniversary celebration Sept. 29 with a free concert by the Grammy-nominated band Fastball.

Festivities will start on the Blountville campus at 11:00 a.m. and include family amusement activities and food trucks. At 2:00 p.m., former Northeast State presidents and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey will gather at the amphitheater to commemorate the College’s anniversary. At 6:00 p.m., The Breakfast Club®, a popular 80’s tribute band from Atlanta, will perform followed by Fastball at 8:00 p.m.

For more information, visit and click on the homecoming tab.

Those in attendance will be offered free souvenirs and promotional items imprinted with Northeast State’s anniversary logo. Visitors are encouraged to bring chairs and/or blankets to sit on during the concert. No alcoholic beverages will be allowed.

With nearly 20 years of musical explorations and milestones under its belt, Fastball remains one of the most consistent and continuously celebrated rock bands on the road these days. After rising to prominence in 1996 with the debut disc Make Your Mama Proud, the Austin, Texas-based trio exploded into a household name with 1998’s breakthrough project All the Pain Money Can Buy.


Thanks in part to hits such as “The Way,” “Out Of My Head,” and “Fire Escape,” the record skyrocketed to platinum-plus sales in a mere six months, sending the band on a whirlwind tour of the world. Along the way, Fastball scored a pair of coveted Grammy nominations, an MTV Music Award nomination, and regular rotation on the late night talk show circuit.

That momentum continued into the next decade, starting with 2000’s The Harsh Light of Day, which the infectious single “You’re An Ocean,” and included a cavalcade of guest stars like the late, great legend Billy Preston, Stray Cats singer, Brian Setzer, and former Wallflowers guitarist, Michael Ward. Painting the Corners: The Best of Fastball was released in 2002.

With 2004’s Keep Your Wig On, which was produced by Spoon collaborator Mike McCarthy and Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, Fastball hit its stride. The album boasted influences ranging from British Invasion to the power pop to roots rock.

By 2009, the trio turned in Little White Lies entirely on its own terms, which didn’t just earn the veterans the best reviews of their career, but also multiple appearances at Austin’s SXSW conference and festival.

“I think we’ve grown into a really good rock n’ roll band that’s way better than we’ve ever been,” said Miles Zuniga, co-vocalist/guitarist/co-songwriter. “We have an audience that’s stuck with us the whole time and playing shows never feels like work because it’s a ton of fun. We know people want to hear the hits and we definitely have those in there, but we try to play something off every record, have some improvisational moments without turning into a jam band, and half the time, I start calling out the set list as we go. It all depends on the night and the barometric pressure of the audience.”

Opening the show will be The Breakfast Club®, which touts itself as the longest running, most recognized ’80s tribute band in the United States.

Formed in 1993, the band’s mission is to create the buoyant spirit of music and live performances of the MTV generation bands of the 1980’s. The group’s song list contains more than 100 tunes by artists such as The Cars, Duran Duran, The J. Geils Band, Huey Lewis and the News, Van Halen, and Wang Chung.

The homecoming and concert are also part of the Northeast State Foundation’s annual Because of You Campaign (BOYC) week, which runs Sept. 26 through Oct. 3. The week is designed to allow the College’s clubs and organizations to raise funds for scholarships, programs and projects. The week culminates with a check ceremony and celebration on Oct. 3.