Black theater in Memphis plans tuition-free school

A Black repertory theater in Memphis says it plans to open a tuition-free school for at-risk students and other groups in a historic church that will be renovated after falling into disrepair.

Hattiloo Theatre said the new program is expected to begin in late 2023. Students will be accepted based on auditions, and two-thirds of admissions will be reserved for low-income and marginalized students, the theater said Tuesday.

Hattiloo Theater School will host free audition workshops in at-risk neighborhoods. Programs will include youth courses based on experience level and age, a diverse abilities course and a senior citizen course, the theater said.

The school will be housed in the old Third Presbyterian Church, built in 1860. A community redevelopment agency plans to fund renovations. The church served as a hospital for federal Civil War troops, and it has changed names and congregations over the years, the theater said.

“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,” theater CEO Ekundayo Bandele said in a statement.

Bandele founded Hattiloo in 2006.

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