A look back on 2015 with Yellow Rose Productions

This past year has been, in short, incredible. Yellow Rose Productions has taken on new projects, dealt with new personalities and worked through some pretty stressful moments. We have had a lot of projects overlapping, but I’ll attempt to recap what we’ve been up to.

As most of you probably know, Yellow Rose Productions has been touring with our original production, Princess Cut: A young girl’s reality inside a Tennessee sex ring, now going into its third year. This time last year, we were teaming up with the Freedom Movement of University of Tennessee; discussing what it would take to bring the show to UT’s campus. Taylor Flatt, the student heading up the Freedom Movement, helped bring Yellow Rose and Princess Cut to campus April 10th and 11th at the Carousel Theater.

IMG_0502From the beginning of the year, Danielle and I continued to learn more about what sex trafficking really looks like here in the United States and in Tennessee. In January, we attended the Unite. Wear White. event hosted by Second Life Chattanooga in Chattanooga, TN, inspiring us to keep focused on the issue and spreading awareness. Also in January, we participated in the Run For Their Lives 5K race here in Knoxville, gathering members of the Princess Cut cast and crew to run as well. We were excited to win the “spirit award” which was given out to the most enthusiastic group present. We look forward to participating again at the end of this month.

IMG_9695April 10th and 11th we performed Princess Cut at the Carousel Theater on the University of Tennessee’s campus. We had an outstanding panel discussion led once again by the one and only Jerry Redman, the head of Second Life Chattanooga. We couldn’t be more thankful to our partners at Second Life for their support throughout this entire process.

Shortly after our show at the Carousel, we received some incredible news. We had been selected to participate in The 2015 New York International Fringe Festival. The New York International Fringe Festival is a festival in New York City each year that accepts 200 plays from submissions from all over the world. It’s the largest multi-arts festival in North America. When we got our acceptance letter, our heads nearly exploded; we had to act fast in order to figure out how to bring our entire cast and crew to New York that August.

We would need some financial help. We decided to look into crowd funding and put together a Kickstarter campaign which we launched for 30 days and ended up surpassing our goal of $12,000. For those of you who donated, we still cannot thank you enough!

We ended the Kickstarter on July 14th with a big party we hosted at Flow, an amazing brew parlor we have adopted. We invited all of our donors and had live music played by Blond Bones (who also wrote our music for Princess Cut: Princess Cuts), our friends Christian Barnett and Joe Rebrovick, and Full Disclosure Comedy entertained with some improv. Waldorf Photography set up a photo booth for our guests to enjoy. We celebrated. We were bringing Princess Cut to New York.

all 7 high resFull Disclosure Comedy is a group that was formed in early 2015, out of a shared interest in long-form improvisation. After months of practicing together, getting to know one another, and teaching ourselves the art of long form, we decided it was finally time to get up on our feet in front of an audience.

We had an initial performance in May, after which we searched for a more permanent performance space. We were given an opportunity to perform at an awesome venue off of Kingston Pike, called Open Chord. Open Chord used to be a music store, and is now making a comeback as an entertainment venue, complete with a kitchen and bar. We first performed there on July 22nd, a week after our Kickstarter event, to a crowd of over 70 people. After the show, we were approached about a monthly slot. We were ecstatic.IMG_2086

In early August, the Princess Cut cast and crew reunited for rehearsals and then on August 12th drove the 12 long hours to my parents’ house on Long Island, NY. We had 5 performances scheduled at the Lynn Redgrave Theater on Bleecker Street in lower Manhattan.

The ten days we spent in New York were fully packed, incredibly gratifying and intense. Since every theater space was used for multiple Fringe productions, we had only 10 minutes to both set up and take down out set. Our talented scenic designer, Kerry Chipman, redesigned our set so that we could easily fit the allotted time.

Jerry Redman also traveled up to New York with us, leading our panel discussion yet again. Our panel was superb. Jerry was joined by members of both the NYPD and the FBI’s human trafficking divisions. We had to find an
alternate space to conduct the talk-backs, and even in the basement of a coffee shop the conversation was incredibly moving.

IMG_6934 (1)Last, but not least, on the list of things we have been up to this year is the Henley Rose Playwright Competition for Women. We started meeting periodically throughout 2014 with a small committee of people that wanted to see this opportunity for women come to fruition. Without any initial funding, we set up the parameters of the competition and launched it on May 1st.

In order to obtain maximum interest from female playwrights, we wanted to have a female playwright associated with our competition, particularly a well known female writer from the south. So, we reached out to Beth Henley, Pulitzer prize winning playwright from Mississippi, to be our namesake. She agreed, and thus the name “Henley Rose” came about.

IMG_3372We closed submissions for the competition on October 1st, and spent the months of October and November reading the 200 plays we had received by both snail mail and online submissions from all over the world. We managed to narrow down our submissions to 15 finalists, which we announced December 1st, and proceeded to find our top 3 by December 31st. Using the submission fees, we were able to award first place with $1,000, second place with $400, and 3rd place with $200. We are now in the process of looking into venues to conduct staged readings of the winning plays for early 2016.

It has been an incredible year and we want to thank each of the incredible people we have worked with, on stage and off, in the various projects and performances we have been able to produce. We are also so grateful to all of you for both your financial support of our many endeavors, and also your attendance at our performances. We hope you continue to join us as we move ahead into 2016. Happy New Year! -Kerri Koczen