Lenny Lively ’19 tells a story 200 years in the making

Lenny Lively ’19 tells a story 200 years in the making 

March 6, 2019 

Lenny Lively ‘19, a theatre and religion double major at Maryville College, knew from his freshman year that he wanted to produce a Senior Study that combined both of his chosen realms of study, and, as he is graduating during the College’s Bicentennial, he felt that synchronicity had gifted him with the perfect opportunity to make that happen. 

In conjunction with Alpha Psi Omega and the Maryville College Theatre Department, Lively will present the musical “Sturdy as a Rock: Our Bicentennial Story,” which he wrote and directed as part of his Senior Study. The music and lyrics were written by Lindsey Lively '20

One of the distinctive features of a Maryville education, the Senior Study requirement calls for students to complete a two-semester research and writing project that is guided by a faculty supervisor. According to the College’s catalog, the Senior Study program “facilitates the scholarship of discovery within the major field and integrates those methods with the educational goals fostered through the Maryville Curriculum.”

Performances are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. March 30 and 31 in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Haslam Family Flexible Theatre.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors (ages 60 and older) and students. Admission is free for Maryville College faculty, staff, and students, but a printed ticket is required. For tickets, please call the Clayton Center Box Office at 865.981.8590.

The play tells the story of the College at its first campus, which was founded in 1819 as the Southern and Western Theological Seminary in what is now downtown Maryville.

“Anderson founded Maryville College as a seminary to teach badly-needed ministers on the frontier,” said Lively, who is from Pikeville, Tenn. “In the early days of the College, most people didn’t have the money to pay the $20 tuition, so they would barter potatoes or work part-time on Anderson’s farm to help produce food for everyone. Isaac Anderson took students into his own home and boarded them for free, because he believed that this was his mission in life.”

Dr. Heather McMahon, associate professor of theatre and Lively’s Senior Study advisor, said the production will be “the culmination of a lot of hard work and hours spent in the archives, writing and revising drafts of the play, long rehearsals and probably some sleepless nights.”

“For all that, the audience will be able to come enjoy a well-written, entertaining and inspirational play about the founding of Maryville College, and by looking backward and appreciating our past, we can lean into the future with new dedication and resolve for the next 200 years of this institution,” McMahon said.

Previous students have produced plays about Anderson for the College’s Centennial and Sesquicentennial. The latter of which, also a musical, was written by Paul Crabtree, and Lively said he felt a deep connection with this individual because of serendipitous circumstances from his past.

“I grew up learning at a theater [the Cumberland County Playhouse] that Crabtree had started near my hometown,” Lively said, adding that he had performed there many times. “I’m carrying on his work, and it just feels very close to home.”

The cast features Sean Sterling ’20 as Isaac Anderson, Michaela McCarthy '20 as Flora Anderson, Joshua Woods ’22 as Thomas Jefferson Lamar, Cameron Freshour ’21 as Narrator One, Haylee Wilson ’21 as Narrator Two, Christopher Rodriguez ’21 as Narrator Three and Brianna Bakoledis ’21 as Narrator Four. 

Lively said his favorite part of the creative process has been the work done in tandem with his music director, Lindsey Lively ’20, who is also his sister.

“I’ve really liked collaborating with my sister, who is writing all the music and lyrics for the show,” Lively said. “I told her, maybe we could have a song here, a song there, and she has gone above and beyond and has written some beautiful music and some beautiful lyrics.”

Dr. Sheri Matascik, associate professor of music at MC, has also assisted with the music for the production.

 “Lenny has been an extraordinary student: naturally curious, hard-working, and driven,” McMahon said. “It doesn’t surprise me that he has taken on such a challenging project for his senior year; having said that, though, I know there is no one better for the task, because he is a talented writer, actor, director, designer and technician, and this project will allow him to bring all these varied interests and talents together. Plus, an original Bicentennial play written by siblings has got to be a story we can sell, right?”

Story by Jeremy Law ’19


Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”