By Jenelle Pierce – Staff Writer
For anyone in search of an intimate, unique place to watch live performances, Chattanooga’s Barking Legs Theater may be just the place.
Barking Legs Theater (BLT) is a contemporary performing arts venue located near McCallie School. The venue also hosts music, dance, theater, and improv performances. It’s known for its impressive acoustics and intimate feel. As a plus, the building’s structure allows for it to have no structural pillars, which notoriously block the stage view in most theaters and venues.
The theater was created in 1993 when dancer Ann Law and her husband Bruce Kaplan moved to Chattanooga from New York and recognized a need for a theater where contemporary new works could perform. It is not that there were not other venues in town, there certainly were and still are some great ones, but most venues look for established shows or artists who can sell out their venue.
Barking Legs was founded to give performers and creators access to a full theater without the barriers that most venues present.
In the words of Marcus Ellsworth, Artistic Managing Director at BLT, “We [at Barking Legs] pride ourselves on being an intimate venue for artists of all caliber.”
While speaking about the influence BLT has had on the artistic community in Chattanooga, Ellsworth explained, “We have a community; we’re not just booking shows and selling tickets, we are here for art. Art for art’s sake, but also for artists growing. We embrace the change, the challenge, and the controversial, because that’s where art lives.”
In addition to providing performance space for artists, Law created Contemporary Performing Arts of Chattanooga (CoPAC), an organization with the goal of supporting contemporary performances that are innovative, push boundaries, and explore growth within performing arts in the southeast.
CoPAC also runs the Full Circle Teaching Artists Program (FCTAP), which trains ‘working artists’ to become ‘teaching artists,’ and works with opportunity zone schools to teach social and emotional intelligence through art. The goal is to give more students the power to solve problems using self-expression.
As a community theater, Barking Legs also hosts many events with local performances and chances for artists of all kinds to get involved. On the first Friday of every month, the theater hosts an event they call “The Floor is Yours,” where anyone can sign up to perform anything they want for a maximum of eight minutes. For those wishing to watch the open-mic-style performances, it’s just $5 at the door. Barking Legs can also be rented out by anyone wanting to produce a show or host an event (like anniversaries or fund raisers).
“We try to keep the venue affordable so that local performers have a space,” Ellsworth explained.
They are also hosting their 26th Anniversary Celebration on November 8th and 9th. The theme , A 1970’s thriller inspired dance party , is “very much [BLT],” as Ellsworth put it. More information and other events can be found at https://barkinglegs.org/events/.