By: Ariel Taranski
When you think of Memphis, what comes to mind first? Is it the blues? The barbecue? The history that stretches out from Beale and beyond? One of the amazing things about Memphis is that there’s not just one defining feature or trait. It’s filled to the brim with life, art, historic landmarks, and iconic buildings. The soul of Memphis can be defined in many ways, but one crucial element of this city’s beating heart is the arts. Dance, music, theatre – the people of Memphis come alive through the performing arts. And while we’re all familiar with the Orpheum, what about the local spots where Memphians get to direct, produce, and star? If you want to immerse yourself into the soul of this corner in Tennessee, here’s where you can go for local talent and one-of-a-kind stories, all told through performance.
This community theater has been producing live productions for over 100 years, as well as educational workshops and volunteer opportunities. Their upcoming events for the 2022-2023 season include classics such as Guys and Dolls and their annual production of A Christmas Carol. Check their site for volunteer opportunities or to donate.
This performing arts center is focused on accessible experiences for school-aged children around Memphis. Their programs include free and affordably priced life skill workshops, instrumental and vocal teaching, drama, varied dance instruction, year-round academic enhancement, mentoring, performing arts productions, community events, and more. You can offer your support through monthly donations or through their fundraiser events.
Collage Dance Collective had its beginnings in New York, before moving to Memphis in 2009 to inspire the growth and diversity of ballet. Their conservatory trains dancers between the ages of 2 to 18, while the continuum seeks to promote dancing and movement for all ages and abilities. They offer many programs, classes, and concerts for their students, and you can donate to assist students to receive scholarships and funding.
Hatiloo Theatre is the only freestanding Black repertory theatre in five surrounding states, offering high-quality, free programming and performances. Their upcoming season includes Broadway plays and modern spins on classic musicals. You can also sponsor them through a donation.
Ballet Memphis is a company with the mission to inspire dance and movement while offering an inclusive space for all. Their space includes a ballet school, pilates and wellness center, and a performance venue. You can check their events page for upcoming performances and donate to support their endeavors.
This theater aims to “entertain with challenging and provocative works, classic and contemporary, which are not often produced on the mainstages of Memphis.” Their upcoming season includes an Evil Dead musical and Stephen King’s classic, Misery.
Playhouse on the Square also includes The Circuit Playhouse and TheaterWorks @ The Square. These 3 theaters showcase productions from Broadway musicals to plays written by locals to Memphis. They also offer programs for adults, Teens in Theatre, and Queer and Allied Theatre Troupe. Their upcoming events showcase productions from all of their theaters and their educational programs. You can donate or volunteer to support their efforts.
The Tennessee Shakespeare Company is the “first and only professional, not-for-profit theatre and education organization in Memphis dedicated to live, diverse performances of William Shakespeare’s plays, as well as works of social significance by classical, Southern, and modern playwrights/composers.” Their focus is on providing education, training, and outreach programs. You can purchase tickets for their upcoming shows or support them through a donation.
This center offers a space for youth to discover performing arts and gain confidence through creative expression. New Spark has camps, a junior theater festival, and youth leadership opportunities along with their theatre productions. You can donate and help keep their programs available for students across the city.
Ready to learn more about what “soul” means to Memphis? From performing arts to entrepreneurship, music, food, and so much more, Memphis’ soul is something special. Follow along as we share the city’s soul!