This year, The Academy students at the popular Bonnaroo festival are going guerrilla.
The Academy is operated by a group of volunteers, many of them from Tennessee Tech University. During the festival, it holds a variety of workshops for people interested in something more than going to dozens of concerts.
Their new-found talents, in things like gardening, acting and making hula hoops, will be exploding beyond the small tent in Planet Roo, as the students are encouraged to seedbomb the 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn., bring impromptu theater into the crowds of thousands and dance with their hula hoops behind the crowds.
“Most people go and watch the shows and that’s it; the goal of The Academy and all of Planet Roo is to give people more of a chance to get involved,” said Andy Smith, Tennessee Tech University English instructor and one of the main organizers for The Academy. “I sort of see the whole Academy thing as life is art, art is life. There really is no barrier.”
This year’s festival runs June 9-12 and the Academy will hold workshops and classes, ranging from belly dancing to print making classes, the entire time.
Gardens will break out beyond the traditional ring around the post office; people will make seedpills, small balls of seeds and compost, and plant them across the farm.
Similarly, there have been theater classes for years, but this year, class attendees will perform outside of the tent and get people not in on the class involved.
“It’ll have the illusion of spontaneity to it,” said Mark Harry Creter, theater professor at TTU, and one of The Academy’s volunteers. “That’s one of the things about invisible theater; you don’t really realize that you’re involved.”
Smith has been the “Dean of the Academy” since he started volunteering there in 2007. He and Creter are not the only TTU faces under the tent; of the 15 volunteers, half of them are university faculty, staff, students or alumni.
“I’ve always wanted to maintain the identity and affiliation with the university,” Smith said. “In the real world, you get a degree but I think the Bonnaroo Academy gives people a way to enjoy art in their lives, in their own homes.”