An ancient church in Memphis that has fallen into disrepair will be renovated into a tuition-free school for at-risk youths. The building will similarly house different organizations and groups. Memphis’ Hattiloo Theatre announced that the new school and tuition-free education program will likely start by the end of 2023. Admissions will be based on talent auditions, with two-thirds of seats set aside for pupils from low-income, disadvantaged backgrounds. The Hattiloo Theater School will also offer free workshops for youth in high-risk areas. Additionally, the theater will be arranging training for kids based on experience level and age, with courses for people with different abilities, and seniors.
“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,” Ekundayo Bandele, the theater’s CEO, said in a statement as reported by U.S. News. The former Third Presbyterian Church, erected in 1860, will serve as the school’s home. Renovations will be paid for by a community redevelopment organization. The church functioned as a hospital for federal Civil War troops and has undergone several name changes and congregational changes throughout time. “Hattiloo Theatre School will position works by Black playwrights and stories from Caribbean and African folklore at the center of instruction instead of on the periphery,” the theater wrote on a Facebook post announcing the renovations.
Recently, the theater just concluded a camp with a “pay what you can” scheme. Hattiloo’s “Self-Identity Theatre Camp” offered children an introduction to Black artists and Black-led artforms. Children were introduced to jazz, Black playwrights, and Black painters.