OTB Mission Statement

Own the Boards is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people of all ages through literature and performance.

In the nineteenth century, the term boards was slang for a theater’s floor – literally the boards of the stage – and actors were said to “tread the boards” during performances. To “own the boards” harkens back to this history, and it symbolizes a more general affirmation of empowerment—of willingly stepping into the thick of life and meeting its joys, challenges, and fears with hopefulness, a clear head, and an open heart.

At OTB, to “own” represents a multivalent call to act, and literature and performance serve as the catalysts for doing so. Each of our initiatives facilitates active engagement with literature – whether through independent reading, group discussion, performance workshops, or the memorization and performance of beloved or influential pieces. We believe that such engagement is empowering and helps build confidence. Even further, it provides a lens through which we can better make sense of ourselves and our world; creates connections between people, cultures, and time periods; and, ultimately, makes us more thoughtful global citizens.

Our Initiatives:

Performance Archive

We believe that what we read sticks with us, some pieces more than others. Our online archive serves as an occasion for honoring the pieces of literature that have impacted us. Use the archive as a space for sharing your favorite pieces of literature – whether from the page or from memory – and then post your performance as a video on our Youtube page. We use “literature” loosely here, meaning poetry, passages of fiction and nonfiction, sacred texts, song lyrics, personal letters, sayings, or anything else that has meant something to you.

LifeWords Reading Circles

LifeWords Reading Circles is a free lifelong-learning program serving adults 50+ in the Knoxville area. It is designed to help participants stay sharp and socially active, and thus maintain a high quality of life.

Studies have shown that activities such as reading, group discussion, and reminiscence can help bolster cognitive health, and we built our weekly seminars around these findings. Participants will engage with literature through independent reading and group discussion, and in the process, they’ll get to know themselves and their neighbors a little bit better.

Participants may also take part in one of our recitation showcases at the end of each semester, where they’ll present pieces of literature that are meaningful to them. These performances speak to the participants’ passions, to what matters in their lives. Even further, we record these performances, preserving them on the Own the Boards archive and making them sharable with family and friends.

Bridge Summer Reading Program

The Bridge Summer Reading Program is a unique cross-generational initiative that uses young adults novels to spark conversation and connection between generations, specifically adults 60+ and kids between the ages of 10-13.

In our culture, generations of individuals are often kept separate from each other, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Books, however, can help bridge this gap. They provide windows through which we can make sense of the world and our place in it. When discussed with others, books create points of contact between seemingly disparate groups.

Our goal for the Bridge Summer Reading Program is to help break down such barriers between generations, to use literature as a lens through which we can better make sense of ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us.

Participants meet for six weeks over the summer to discuss a range of young adult texts.

Workshops for Area Students

We believe that access to the arts is central to students’ growth as citizens and individuals. Such experiences teach modes of self expression, foster compassion and a sense of connection, and help sharpen critical thinking skills.

To facilitate such experiences, we partner with poets and performers to bring workshops and performances to Knox-area students.

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