It's been a long time coming -- 6 years, in fact -- but the Black Theater Troupe will finally move into its new home in a few weeks. With the dust still settling, the troupe now prepares to debut their next show in the new theater on February 8.
The building sits on Washington Street between 13th and 14th streets at a site with plenty of history, much of which relates directly to the roots of the troupe itself. We sat down with Executive Director David Hemphill to get the story behind the building, a new home with an old story.
Just around the corner from the theater is Eastlake Park, formerly known as Patton Park, Hemphill explains. The Phoenix trolley company as a resting place developed the park for white passengers. Hemphill says that as segregation progressed, Eastlake Park became one of the few places in the Southwest were the races were able to mix.
"To make a long story short, that park around the corner has always had that kind of historical significance for the neighborhood," he says.
Additionally Hemphill says Black Theatre Troupe founder Helen Mason also used Eastlake Park as one of the locations for recreation programs for minority youth in the '70s.
The building, which the group acquired in August, includes a 145-seat theater and was built to meet the specific needs of the troupe -- large space for rehearsing musicals and office space for day-to-day operations.
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The funding for the construction comes from a $2.6 million bond the troupe acquired in 2006. As a component of the proposal for the bond, the troupe will also start an incubation program where it will house smaller arts programs within its building rent-free for a year. This year, Latino theater group Teatro Bravo will be the resident company and will debut its first show at the Washington Street location this March.
"I think it's going to be a great partnership," Hemphill says. "Two of the Valley's only ethnic theater companies working with each other."
The Black Theatre Troupe's presentation of The Whipping Man opens of February 8 at The Black Theatre Troupe Center for the Performing Arts, 1333 East Washington Street. For the 2013-2013 schedule or to purchase tickets visit the Black Theatre Troupe website.