Making Theater Relevant to the Community

Brittney Threatt ’17 first heard about the Hattiloo Theatre her freshman year when Ekundayo Bandele spoke at a brown bag lecture about founding the theater to focus on works written by and/or about African Americans.

“He was talking about everything I wanted to study,” she says. “He was talking about the relevance of telling the stories of people whose stories are not typically seen in theater.”

Threatt, an English and theater double major with an Africana studies minor, later sought out Bandele’s mentorship as she wrote a play on the Memphis sanitation workers strike for the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, and the connection led to a year-long audience and community liaison internship with Hattiloo.

In this role, Threatt plans events related to particular theatrical productions for the community to discuss what is going on around them.

“It gets the community talking and makes theater relevant to the community,” she says.

She also watches most plays at least twice and finds herself analyzing “what’s being said and not said in them.”

“Now [in my coursework] I can look at scholars who are seeing what I am seeing,” she says. “You can research all you want, but if it’s not relevant to what is going on, it’s useless.”

Threatt has always wanted to get her PhD in English, but now she has a vision for the focus of her graduate studies—to see theater be relevant and enact change. Memphis Clean, her play on the sanitation workers strike, is set to debut at Hattiloo next year. 

 “It’s a magical place for me,” she says.

—Madoline Markham '08