SAFTA Hosts Table Reading of Widows of Whitechaple by Amy Sayre Baptista


The Sundress Academy for the Arts will host a table reading of Widows of Whitechaple, an original play by Amy Sayre Baptista, which tells the infamous story of the Jack the Ripper murders from the perspective of his victims.

The reading will be casual, and attendees are invited to stay after for a mixer and meet and greet with the readers. Light refreshments will be provided, but guests are encouraged to bring snacks and drinks to share.

The play features six characters: one is Jack the Ripper himself and the rest the ghosts of five of his victims. Please contact Adam Crandall at if you are interested in reading for one of the characters.

Character List

PERCIVAL PENNYROYAL: 53, male, “JACK THE RIPPER” aficionado and tour guide, middle class English accent.
POLLY NICHOLS: 43,first ghost, cockney accent.
ANNIE CHAPMAN: 47, second ghost, suffered from consumption in life, cockney accent.
ELIZABETH STRIDE: 45, third ghost, Swedish inflected English.
CATHERINE EDDOWES:46, fourth ghost, cockney accent.
MARY JANE KELLY: 25, fifth ghost, Irish accent.

The event will take place at the Sundress Academy for the Arts’ home at Firefly Farms, located at 195 Tobby Hollow Ln, Knoxville TN 37830. The reading will be held on Saturday, November 15th from 7PM to 10PM.

OUTSpoken Director, Adam Crandall, Reflects on This Year’s Performance

Two weeks after a breathtaking premiere, Adam Crandall, SAFTA’s Performing Arts Assistant, reflects on his experience organizing and producing OutSpoken, his first original production for SAFTA in which members and allies of Knoxville’s LGBTQ community combined to share their unique stories of love, loss, and life. 


It’s been about two weeks since SAFTA’s performance of OUTSpoken, and it has taken this long for me to truly grasp what we accomplished through this program. As director, designer, actor, and organizer of this production, I was so absorbed with the technicalities of all the pieces coming together that I never really had the chance to reflect on the completed puzzle.

Before I directed OUTSpoken, I had previously learned a little about the directing process through an All Campus Theatre’s production of Almost, Maine. However, I quickly realized that directing an already established play is very different than building a production from the ground up. With OutSpoken we were constantly adding and changing different scenes as the writers and actors worked on translating written word into performance pieces. It became a completely organic process—one in which I had to sometimes just step back and let develop on its own.

outspoken rehearsal

As a member of the Knoxville queer community, June was a very special (and busy) month for me. I performed with the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus for the first time at a crowded Bijou Theatre in front of an amazing and positive audience. I then had the opportunity to march in my first Knoxville gay pride parade with my SAFTA family and enjoyed the largest Pridefest the city has ever seen.

outspoken parade

After all this celebration, it was then time to share OUTSpoken with the rest of the community. Leading up to the performance on June 28th, I had no idea what to expect. Would all the pieces come together? Would our planned blocking work out in the actual venue? Would anyone even show up to watch us crash and burn?

Luckily, plenty of people showed up and they didn’t have to watch us crash and burn. The amazing performers and crew created a very intimate experience for the audience that I have never witnessed before. That night, the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church became a safe place where Knoxville’s LGBTQ community could come together to share their experiences of love, loss, and life. Many times during the evening as I sat on stage as a performer, I forgot I was acting and became lost in the stories being shared—some of which I had never heard until that night.

outspoken performance

Throughout my internship with SAFTA—which started way back in January—OUTSpoken has taken many different shapes. Although the end product looked very different than many of our initial ideas, the end goal was always the same: to share the voices of Southern LGBTQ people with the rest of the community. We accomplished our goal.



Adam Crandall is a graduate of the University of Tennessee’s Theatre program, where he was involved with both Clarence Brown Theatre productions as well as student productions with All Campus Theatre, including his directorial debut Almost, Maine. He serves as the Director of Theatrical Arts at SAFTA.


Inteview with OUTSpoken Performer, Molly Kessler

ImageRehearsing the piece “Singing Blue/Straight Girls”, (from left to right) Sean Madison Kelley, Amber Autry, and Molly Kessler, with dir. Adam Crandall in the background.

OUTSpoken (a one-night event) will be going up next Saturday, the 28th at 7PM at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church. Molly Kessler will be one of seven performers lending their talents to the pieces showcased in the production. Having been an actor since her freshmen year, she wrote her first play “I See London, I See France” in 2013. She will be performing the poetry piece “Singing Blue” as well as playing a supporting role in the prose piece “Steel”.

ES: How did you get involved with OUTSpoken?

MK: Well, I was contacted by Adam [Crandall, director] who organized the event.

ES: OUTspoken presents a series of separate written pieces, along with poetry readings, by local LGBT and ally writers. Can you tell us more about the pieces that you are a part of?

MK: The piece is a poem called “Singing Blue” and Adam’s joined it together with another poem called “Straight Girls”, and it’s sort of a back-and-forth: both pieces are about gay women pining after straight girls, and realizing that it’s an unattainable or unrequited love. So, Sean Kelly, who’s performing “Straight Girls”, and I are doing this back and forth.

ES: One of the themes common to both “Singing Blue/ Straight Girls” as well as the other piece you are involved in, “Steel”, are people dealing with relationships, or potential relationships, that aren`t working out. Do you have any personal connection to the type of issue these pieces are exploring?

MK: Yeah, I think we all do. It doesn`t necessarily have to be romantic but just, trying to be friends with somebody or trying to work with somebody when you have incompatible personalities. It doesn`t even have to be romantic. I can think of dozens of situations like that, sexual preference aside.

ES: What do you, speaking of both the pieces you’re in, hope to achieve? Do you come in with a specific goal in my mind, with these projects?.

MK: I just come into it hoping to tell the story. Because that’s what I assume part of the goal in writing it was, to convey some sort of emotion or tell a story, and I hope it comes across and does the story-teller justice.

Director Adam Crandall (left) directs Taylor Jackson (right) in OUTSpoken piece “Banging”.

ES: Of course, OUTSpoken is more than just a night of story-telling. There’s also a wider social issue being promoted. What kind of role do you think a production like this plays in the big picture of giving voice to LGBT people in our community?

MK: I think that the kinds of stories we’ve told for a long time don`t really show that side of human experience. But we’re showing those who may not know a lot about LGBT issues, that they’re real people, showing them go through things that everyone can relate to. It helps you understand that it is a human experience, and that we are all the same.

ES: So, would you say that the performing arts, like theatre and film have a special role to play in promoting that kind of understanding?

MK: Well, yeah, because it’s entertaining. And when people are entertained, they listen. Even something like the difference between news programs and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert-people get their news from shows like that now, because it’s entertaining and they retain it. And in our production… the pieces are so beautiful, and you can`t help but listen.

ES: So we’ve talked about performance- what about writing? Do you have a lot of experience with, say, writing poetry?

MK: Well, I’ve written poetry, but I don`t show it to anyone because it’s just goofy and stupid. It all rhymes, and it’s all Seussy and not about anything real. I have written a play, which was not fiction but based on my experience studying abroad in France.

ES: Having both performed and worked in a written form, would you say you have a preference?

MK: I much prefer writing, myself. The difference for me… I don`t know, it’s not that I feel more connected to my words… I feel more connected to someone else saying my words than I do when it is myself saying somebody else’s words- if that makes sense. I feel more comfortable with someone else saying my words, than me saying someone else’s. Because I feel like I don`t do them justice.


ES: How about your future plans? We were talking earlier about how you were planning on moving to Chicago. What do you plan to do once you get up there?

MK: Yes. Some friends and I, including Amber Autry, who is also in the show, are planning on moving there sometime in September. I want to take some classes with Second City and Improv Olympic. I’m not sure quite where that will go, I’m really interested in writing more than performing, but life takes you places, and you don`t know where it will go. And that’s exciting, and also terrifying.

ES: One more question. Do you have a favorite LGBT pop icon?

MK: It’s gotta be Ellen. Without a doubt Ellen. It will always be Ellen.


Buy your tickets for OUTSpoken today!

Erik Schiller is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where he received his BA in Anthropology and English, with a minor in Theatre. He has been performing in live stage and film productions in Knoxville since 2009, working with local companies that include the Clarence Brown Theatre, Yellow Rose Productions, and Badland Pictures. In addition, he has served as Secretary for All Campus Theatre at UTK, is a founding member of the guerilla theatre troop Shakespeare Unauthorized, and has had poetry published in the Phoenix Literary Arts Magazine.

Adam Crandall on Growing Up Queer in the South

Growing up queer anywhere in the United States can be a very difficult experience, however, attempting to come to terms with your sexuality in a region labeled “The Bible Belt” brings a unique set of challenges to the table. I was born in New York state, in a small town where you only went to church on Christmas and Easter (and occasionally when you happened to be at your grandparents’ house on a Sunday).

It was not until we moved to East Tennessee that I realized, as one of my younger cousins so perfectly stated, “God is bigger in the South.” Church became a weekly experience, not to mention choir, youth group, and hand bell practice, because that was the socially acceptable thing to do. There was never a point where I remember my family “becoming more religious,” religion just became a larger part of our daily life, because religion was a larger part of everyone else’s lives around us.

It was also around the time that we moved here that I started to discover my sexuality. It became quickly apparent that I was developing feelings that did not fit in this religious society I had moved to. Illustrated by my Livejournal entries, you can see as I transitioned from a carefree adolescent into a teenager living a double life.


Luckily, I found an amazing group of friends that knew my secret and couldn’t care less, but around my family and the rest of the world I wore a mask. It was terrifying to even think of coming out in a place where lawmakers attempted to pass a bill that would forbid teachers to even talk to students about being gay. Luckily, through the support of my friends, I was able to come out to my family, who accepted me for who I am, and the rest of the world.

After leaving home to attend college at the University of Tennessee, I learned that this happy ending was very rare for queer people in the South. Almost none of my queer friends had come out to their parents and were still living the double life that I struggled with in high school, and those who had come out to their parents were usually not on speaking terms. Everyone I met had a unique struggle, but most of them centered around coming out in a deeply conservative region of the South.


This year, I was chosen as SAFTA’s performing arts intern, and when I first met with Vania and Courtney they pitched me their idea for a project called OUTSpoken. I immediately fell in love with the concept, and couldn’t wait to get started on this amazing program. It combined both my love for performance and my desire to be an advocate for LGBTQ people living in Tennessee. We wanted to portray people’s experiences growing up in the South in a productive way that would hopefully help both the people sharing these stories and the audience witnessing them.

As we get closer to the date of our first workshop, I cannot wait to hear the stories of other queer Tennesseans, and maybe share a story or two of my own.

Adam Crandall is a 2013 graduate from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in theatre, where he was involved with both Clarence Brown Theatre productions as well as student productions with All Campus Theatre, including his directorial debut Almost, Maine. He has grown up with a passion for performing arts and is very excited to be working with SAFTA as a performing arts intern.