With so many grim statistics receiving so much attention, it's often easy to forget the creativity, heart and soul that make up our city. Memphis is known as a place of growth, triumph and great cultural experimentation. From Stax Records to Beale Street to the Blues, the city has a long and storied history as a cultural Mecca.
And for the past several years, Memphis has been in the midst of yet another period of cultural development. Hattiloo Theatre has been a large part of that. As Memphis awakens to what she can become, Hattiloo stands ready to shape the future by adding texture, depth and diversity to the artistic fabric that has already been woven while deepening our community's understanding of diversity and inclusion.
Noting the absence of an artistic outlet for underrepresented talent and sensing an audience without a voice, I created Hattiloo Theatre (named for my daughters Hatshepsut – Hatti, and Oluremi, – "Loo") in 2006.
Out of a storefront building on Marshall Avenue, and with the support of people in the Memphis community, a thriving bustling theatre was created. This theatre, however, brought more to the table than arts for arts' sake. Through its performances, educational programs, and community outreach, Hattiloo brought arts to the inner city and the inner city to the arts.
Over the past seven years, Hattiloo Theatre productions' average seating capacity has grown to an unheard of 95 percent. Partnerships created with other arts organizations, including the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Opera Memphis have resulted in increasingly diverse audiences and more programming for children. Hundreds of area youth have been provided with opportunities to expand their horizons through work onstage and behind the scenes via the Hattiloo Children's Theatre and Camp Awareness.
Now local playwrights, designers, actors, directors and technicians have a stage to hone their craft and to earn the critical hands-on experience needed to embark upon professional careers in the performing arts.
Hattiloo Theatre is as relevant and important now as it was in 2006. As Hattiloo's performances and programs touch people, they reflect more deeply, their resolve is strengthened and they feel more determined to act on their convictions. This energy is needed now more than ever in our community. And Hattiloo seeks to provide more opportunities for people to become actively engaged in our community through the arts. By launching the $4 million capital campaign ($2.8 million for capital, $700,000 for operations/marketing and $500,000 for an endowment), Hattiloo is called to take its rightful place among the great theaters in Memphis, in the region and throughout the United States.
The new Hattiloo Theatre will be built on the northwest corner of Cooper and Monroe, in front of the new three-story parking garage currently being built. The main stage will seat 150 to 175 and will be able to change formation from one play to the next. The Black Box theatre will seat 65. The lobby will seat up to 110 guests at round banquet tables. The outdoor courtyard will accommodate up to 80. The theatre's backstage will have dressing rooms, showers, and a green-room. There will also be three 1-man offices, an open office space, a multiuse room, and rehearsal space. Hattiloo is scheduled to break grown in the first quarter of 2013 and open in the second quarter of 2014.
Imagine it, if you can. Memphis: 2015.
Our spotlight shines on The New Hattiloo Theatre, the crown jewel of Memphis' new theater district in Midtown, now open for one year.
You take your seat in the theatre and notice that Hattiloo's audience has doubled.
By reading your playbill, you learn that Camp Awareness is now a year-round training program where youth learn to appreciate the arts and develop creative skills that will help them excel throughout their lives.
The house lights dim and you prepare yourself for a powerful experience – one that will change your life forever.
Help Raise the Curtain
• Gifts of any amount are gratefully accepted for the campaign for the new Hattiloo theatre.
• 'Pave the Way' – Add your engraved name (or that of a loved one) to a paving stone leading to Hattiloo Theatre's main entrance. Large paving stones, $500; medium, $250; small, $150.
• 'Take a Seat' – Name a theatre seat in the main stage for $1,500; Black Box, for $1,000. Both can be paid over three years.
• The box office, administrative offices, dressing rooms and lobbies, as well as the main stage and the Black Box theatres, can be named to honor an individual, family, company or organization. Donations start at $5,000.
• Donations can be made on-line at www.hattiloo.org.
• For more information you can call 901-502-3486 or email ekundayo@ hattilootheatre.org.