Hard work paying off for Hattiloo Theatre

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Mid-South theater group says its hard work is paying off, and hopes to receive more local recognition.

Ekundayo Bandele founded the Hattiloo Theatre in Midtown three years ago.
"We opened to fill the gap to answer the cultural concerns of the black population in Memphis," Bandele said Wednesday.

With the company halfway through its fourth season, Bandele says his team of actors are getting stronger and better.

"Now our productions are aesthetically pleasing and more professional," he said.

That is why, Bandele says, the actors deserve more respect, especially now that the theatre is in the running for Ostrander Awards, the local equivalent of the Tonys.

"When a black actor with no recognition in the city goes to a school that's predominately black, even though that actor is applying his or her talent on the stage, they're pretty much a nobody because they don't have local recognition," Bandele said.

Hattiloo is currently featuring August Wilson's play, "The Piano Lesson."  It's about a character who wants to sell an old piano to raise money to start a new business, but the piano has a history dating back to slavery.  

Bandele hopes his black produced, directed, and acted plays will continue to play an integral role in the community.

"When you go to other theatres, you're eating fried chicken," he said. "Every theatre, that's all you're doing, eating fried chicken, because they're all doing the same thing.  Hattiloo, a black repertory theatre, is sushi.  We are diversifying the landscape here in Memphis, Tennessee."

You can catch Hattiloo Theatre's production of "The Piano Lesson" from now through February 28th.

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