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VOL. 131 | NO. 28 | Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hattiloo Theatre to Expand With Development Center

By Bill Dries

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Hattiloo Theatre is expanding with a $750,000 addition 18 months after the black repertory theater company opened in Overton Square.

Hattiloo Theatre and its founder, Ekundayo Bandele, will break ground on a $750,000 two-story development center in March that should be open by Dec. 1.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Hattiloo founder Ekundayo Bandele said Monday, Feb. 8, that the theater currently is designing and will break ground in March on the Hattiloo Theatre Development Center – a 3,200-square-foot two-story building. It will be built on what is now the northwest grassy slope of the parcel next to the theater.

The opening is set for Dec. 1.

“We just got a big burst of growth, not just in the number of people who are coming to see the plays, but the number of donors, the number of special events and the people who are coming to them,” Bandele said. “We didn’t have the staff to handle this. My board was asking me to hire more people but we didn’t have anywhere to put them.”

The upstairs of the development center will have 1,600 square feet of rehearsal space and the downstairs will have another 1,000 square feet for rehearsals as well as 10 offices. Those offices will house the theater’s outreach programs that keep the repertory company busy not only with the theater’s plays and programs but in the community as well.

The theater currently rehearses some shows at Urban League headquarters in Crosstown. And the one-person offices in its current building have become two-person offices.

“Everybody’s already on top of each other,” Bandele said. “I was in no mind to start a capital campaign. It definitely is a draining undertaking to do capital campaigns; I told the board if we can’t raise this money quietly and quickly, I’m not going to be able to do it.”

Working on a concept with architect Barry Yoakum of archimania and Brett Grinder of contractor Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc., the tentative plan took shape quickly and drew four anonymous donors.

Bandele remembers one of the donors telling him, “Don’t get what you need. Get what you want because you can’t keep coming back to the well over and over again.”

The feasibility study for the theater building that opened in 2014 showed close to $4.5 million could be raised in that capital campaign.

But Bandele believes the theater’s success since its move to Overton Square and the overall success of Midtown in recent years was a factor in quickly getting the money for the development center.

“We built the building with no debt so we don’t owe a nickel on that building. And this building, we have all the money,” he said. “The whole area is bursting. I think donors looked at that and said this is the perfect opportunity to keep the momentum going.”

Having its home paid for was an important goal for Bandele in building the original theater. Hattiloo is one of only six black repertory theater companies in the nation that own the theaters they call home.

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