Hattiloo Theatre is located in the cultural landmark of Overton Square in Memphis, TN. This historic first black repertory theatre was relocated to a new building which allows the region’s only black repertory theatre to have its own identity and establish a presence in the cultural community.
The project involved the design of a flexible, state-of-the-art performance facility housing two theatres, a spacious lobby for public performances and private gatherings, dressing rooms, and concession areas. The $3.3 million facility was designed in a phased approach that allowed for the theater modest budget to be used efficiently. Permanent components became the focal point while other components were identified to be included over time based on continued fundraising and profit. This allowed the theatre to add future projects without sacrificing building quality.
Hattiloo Theatre’s provides two unique performance areas. The main stage allows for the stage to be reconfigured and audience seating as dictated by the needs of each production, allowing for a maximum capacity of 180 persons. The black box theatre that can seat up to 58 people; it is also used for theatre presentations, special events, classes, rehearsals, and other performances.
By working in close collaboration with the architect and contractors, the team was able to guide the owner on selections to best accommodate codes, schedules, and needs. This included providing recommendations on HVAC equipment to provide ventilation control for a small space, specialized systems for sound and lighting, and coordinating duct work and diffusers with architectural components to not distract patrons from the performance space. The lower house area contains the lobby, ticketing, and administrative spaces. Frequently, this space is also used for community events and gatherings.
During a live performance, sound quality is important. To dampen outside sounds, including airplane traffic, the facility was designed with a four inch thick concrete roof slab above the performance theatre. The architectural design included a 10-foot canopy made of Cor-Ten cladding for its ability to weather and oxidize over time providing a unique character to the building located in the heart of the urban entertainment district.
Hattiloo Theatre provides a significant cultural impact on the community as the only Black repertory in the area. By creating an adaptable space, local, regional, and national artist can continue to bring a deepening multicultural understanding thought high-quality artistic productions to the Memphis community.