Hattiloo Theatre, one of only four freestanding Black repertory theatres in the U.S., plans to open Hattiloo Theatre School, a barrier-free and equitable theatre program for kids, youth, seniors and people with diverse abilities.
According to an announcement this week, Hattiloo Theatre School will reimagine a historic church in disrepair and offer accessible and tuition-free theatre.
“Over the last 16 years at Hattiloo Theatre, we’ve seen how access to the arts can build community, offer economic opportunity, and provide a space for well-being and healing,” said Hattiloo Theatre Founder and CEO, Ekundayo Bandele.
“With Hattiloo Theatre School, we’re investing in a theatre program that will open pathways to the arts earlier and for more people with diverse backgrounds, from the Black community and other vulnerable communities to those with little to no theatre experience.”
Hattiloo Theatre School will be tuition-free and will accept students based on auditions. Hattiloo will also host free audition workshops in at-risk neighborhoods across Memphis and will reserve two-thirds of admissions for low-income and marginalized students. Programs will include 4-tier youth courses based on experience level and age, a diverse abilities course, and a senior citizen course designed to support memory and connection.
Hattiloo Theatre School will reimagine the first-ever brick church building in Memphis. Third Presbyterian Church was built in 1860 and shortly thereafter became a makeshift hospital for federal troops fighting in the First Battle of Memphis during the Civil War.
Through the years, the church changed names and congregations, and eventually ended up in the hands of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) after being deemed a “tax dead” property, or a property with inherited debt. In partnership with the CRA, Hattiloo will lease the building at $1 per year.
With renovations beginning in September 2022, the CRA will fund all fixed renovations to the building and Hattiloo will fund additional theatre equipment and build-out. Hattiloo Theatre School is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2023.
“The CRA is thrilled to participate in renovating such a prominent historic building in Uptown into a beacon of hope and a place of learning, art and joy,” said CRA President, Andrew Z. Murray. “We know Hattiloo will continue to use their voice and programs to uplift the community and invest in the next generation of artists.”
Bandele founded the nonprofit Hattiloo Theatre in 2006.
(For more information, please visit hattiloo.org.)