All the World’s A Stage

Posted by Monica Hoel
Anna Nichols, theatre major, is playing the role of real life hero.

Anna Nichols is a 2010 E&H grad with a degree in Theatrical Production and Design, specifically lighting design. “You might think nothing about that is related to anything I do now, but that’s not true!”

She is currently the Outreach Manager for the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley in Knoxville. Because shelters were deemed essential, she and her coworkers have been carefully working during this health crisis, taking care of animals, setting up adoptions, and handing out free pet food for families in need. “So many people were out of work, the Pet Food Pantry aimed to help our community keep pets and families together.

She also had to spend some time quashing rumors that people could catch COVID-19 from their pets. The good news is, she says there has been a big increase in the number of families who are fostering pets right now. “We had more families sign up to foster during this pandemic than we did in all of 2019!

The Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley has a cool history: it is Tennessee’s longest running animal shelter (135 years old), and they have a life-saving rate of 98% (shelters qualify for no kill status at 95%). “With our help, all of Knox County is now considered no-kill.” The organization is partnered with shelters in 27 counties in East Tennessee, and her facility exclusively takes in the animals who are at high risk of euthanasia. Anna says that means a single adoption saves multiple lives because it opens up space in other shelters.

Also, interesting fact: all humane societies are not connected to each other, but they do “operate under shared principles of compassion and respect for animals.”

Anna Nichols, E&H ’10, with some pups at the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley in Knox...Anna Nichols, E&H ’10, with some pups at the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley in Knoxville.In 2019, the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley adopted out 1,649 animals effectively saving close to 5,000 lives. “The animals we bring in stay here as long as necessary” – even if it means special medical attention or training that might make an energetic dog more adoptable. “We did a recent donation drive to send one of our favorite big guys, Lancelot, to training school. He’s a very strong dog who hadn’t learned his manners yet, so he was getting passed over.”

Anna got started with the shelter as a volunteer. “I was volunteering with animals to stop myself from getting another pet!” When a job opened up, she applied. “As Outreach Manager, I get to plan events, work with volunteers, and get the Humane Society even more involved in our community.

And she says her background in theatre has been a huge part of her success. “I am a firm believer that theatrical skills equate to life skills. The time I spent learning to draft a set design or light plot allowed me to draft an accurate layout plan for our biggest fundraising event, Bark in the Park (October 4th! Save the date!) The time I spent stage managing gave me organizational skills. Acting, designing, and building all involve copious amounts of communication, which is an invaluable ability. The theatre is such a diverse community that merely being near it teaches you how to interact and work well with all kinds of people. Thanks to my time in the E&H Theatre department, I can get creative, think out of the box, communicate a plan, and get the work done. I think I really prove the joke true: An actor without techies is a naked person on a dark stage trying to emote. A techie without actors is a person with marketable skills.”

  • Anna Nichols, E&H Class of 2010
    Anna Nichols, E&H Class of 2010
“A techie without actors is a person with marketable skills.”
Anna Nichols
E&H Class of 2010

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