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Kingsport Theatre Guild is the gift that keeps on giving

By Suzi McKee • Dec 3, 2017 at 4:30 PM

Back in 1920, J. Fred Johnson - one of the founders of Kingsport - took a role in the production of “Everybody’s Husband” to help the public library become a reality. Years later in 1947, the community theater was officially formed and Kingsport Theatre Guild presented its first formal offering, “Yes and No.” Thus began a 70-year tradition that remains a gift that keeps on giving to the people of Kingsport.

KTG is entering its 70th year as a community theater which promotes growth and education, offers encouragement and hope, builds self-esteem, and engages the minds of not only the actors, directors and crew but also the community of Kingsport.

In her 22nd season as a community member and the fourth season as KTG's executive director, Tina Radtke brings a passion for sharing her love of the arts to those around her.

Tina was invited by a friend to audition for a part in “A Christmas Carol,” presented by Kingsport Theatre Guild where she won the role of an actress who had a one-word line. “I had a one-word line in my first play and after that first play I never left. That was 22 years ago,” she shares.

As a single mom, Tina searched for a career that would provide her with a good living. She became interested in nursing, a job that offered sign-on bonuses, but had always had an interest in teaching. She was the neighborhood girl who took home worksheets and invited her friends to “play” school in the summer.

“To become a teacher you must do an internship and when I began my semester of internship at a middle school, I first observed the classroom setting for two weeks,” Tina explained. “I noticed one young man not turning in any work or doing anything. When I asked the supervising teacher what was going on, his only reply was that the young man was a resource student. I asked what that meant and was instructed to go ask the resource teacher.”

When she approached the resource teacher, she was asked if the student was causing problems. Assuring the teacher that he was not, Tina soon learned that not much was expected in the way of learning for the young man. With her passion for the arts, she guided the young student to express his knowledge through story boards that he excelled at producing. Years later, a colleague would phone Tina to tell her that the young man had entered the classroom at the high school explaining that he’d been encouraged to use story boards to express himself and that he could demonstrate what he knew with that format. So guiding others to find their innermost talents has always been a gift for Tina.

After graduating from Milligan College, Tina became the Arts Education Director with KingsportARTS and began to grow the program so that many of the area youth could strengthen their skills and talents. She created the Keypad Program for high school students, the “Art We Talented” program for early education, and the Kindergarten Readiness Program for three-, four-, and five-year-olds. That non-profit organization closed, but it helped Tina rediscover her love of sharing fine arts with those in her charge.

“It’s hard to run away from what you’re really born to do,” she said with a chuckle.

Tina has a passionate love for the arts and for sharing her love with the community. “My goal is to remind Kingsport that we’re here,” she shared. “We want our friends and neighbors to come see the shows and to develop an appreciation for the level of acting talent we have here along with the quality shows that we perform.”

If you are interested in becoming involved in some of the activities of KTG, consider building sets, folding playbills, painting, sewing or helping with social media. You can also make monetary donations which are tax deductible.

Kingsport Theatre Guild will present “A Christmas Story” at 7 p.m., Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Saturdays; and 2 p.m., Sundays on the weekends of Dec. 8-10 and Dec. 15-17 at the Renaissance Center Theater, located at 1200 East Center Street in Kingsport.

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