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Theatre Memphis Celebrates 100 Years; Launches Online Programming During COVID-19

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  • Theatre Memphis has had to adapt and adjust during this time, making the organization’s supporters and volunteers more important than ever. In response to COVID-19, Theatre Memphis set its intentions on serving the community through its Theatre Memphis CARES, Online On Stage and Tell a Story with TM resources and programming.

Theatre Memphis has lived up to its tagline of “always entertaining” since its first performance on May 20, 1921. Then, Theatre Memphis existed as a traveling troop operating out of different locations around the city, such as the horse stables at the Woodruff Fontaine House. As the troop’s popularity grew, so did its need for a more permanent location, which led the organization to settle into The Pink Palace. It was in this theater located inside the unfinished mansion of Piggly Wiggly founder, Clarence Saunders, that the organization would remain for 46 years before moving into its current home at the corner of Southern and Perkins Extended. 

This season, the theater is excited to celebrate its 100th anniversary! However, a century of performing arts isn’t the only thing Theatre Memphis has to be proud of; this year, the theater hopes to reach a $10,000,000 fundraising goal in order to open its newly expanded and renovated facility debt free, along with establishing a permanent endowment. The success of this capital campaign will ensure the organization is able to continue to fulfill its mission to provide outstanding theatrical experiences to enrich the lives of its diverse audiences, participants and community, as the organization leaps into their next century.

Theatre Memphis has always been a community theater, meaning that outside of its paid staff, everything related to production, from the ushers to the actors themselves, is completely engaged by volunteers. “As a community theater, that’s who we are, that’s who we’re proud to be. It’s really important to us that we take great care of them, because if we don’t have volunteers, we don’t exist” comments Director of Marketing & Communications, Randall Hartzog.

Theatre Memphis has had to adapt and adjust during this time, making the organization’s supporters and volunteers more important than ever. In response to COVID-19, Theatre Memphis set its intentions on serving the community through its Theatre Memphis CARES, Online On Stage and Tell a Story with TM resources and programming. Theatre Memphis CARES is a funding initiative that supported members of the Theatre Memphis Family. Through Theatre Memphis CARES, individuals connected to the theater applied for limited financial assistance from the fund. Online On Stage is a Facebook group that serves as a clearinghouse for performers wanting to share their talents and potentially generate an online tip jar to help support their art. Lastly, Tell a Story with TM also operated via social media by posting options for children’s story content each week and having followers vote. Every Tuesday viewers could watch a continuation of the storyline based on their choices, as well as vote for the next chapter to keep the story going.

Times like these are causing many to evaluate what is deemed essential, especially when giving back. Hartzog relates, “If you’re not involved in theater, it’s hard to understand sometimes the connections that theater can make, and that’s not just with the actors themselves. The crew backstage, the volunteers that sew our costumes and build our sets, the patrons who come back time and again, they want an outlet. Talk about essential, theater, to me anyway, is essential. That’s a message I like to get across if you haven’t given it a chance, because it can change your life.” 


If you’d like to learn more or support Theatre Memphis, visit their website at www.theatrememphis.org.  

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