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“Bright Lights Little City: 50 Years of the Cumberland County Playhouse” has been nominated for two Mid-South Regional Emmy Awards by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

The documentary earned nominations in categories of Cultural Documentary and Writer/Non-News Program. 

The 30-minute documentary by producer and director Todd Jarrell, working with Public Broadcasting Station WCTE-TV in Cookeville, takes a look back at the 50-year history of the Playhouse and its impact on the Upper Cumberland region. 

Jarrell includes interviews with local residents, production photos, legacy footage and stories told by the Crabtree family, Playhouse founders.

Though the curtain officially went up on the Playhouse stage in 1964, the seed for a community theater was planted the year before when Paul Crabtree led local children in a production of “The Perils of Pinocchio.”

Crabtree came to Crossville with his wife, Mary, who had family in the area. Both were successful in show business, but Paul intended to write a book after the television show he had been writing was canceled. 

“The Perils of Pinocchio” introduced more than 200 children to the theater. The town was hooked. They asked Paul Crabtree what needed to be done to have more productions.

“Well, you’d have to build me a theater,” he laughingly replied.

And that’s what they did.  

The effort to make the documentary emerged in 2015 during the Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary. Donations from the community covered the production costs. 

Since its premiere in October 2017, it’s been shown on PBS stations across the county. 

Winners will be announced Feb. 16.