HYPERLOCAL NEWS HUB BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS DEPARTMENT OF JOURNALISM
A Cooper-Young Theatre Company Gives Voice to the South
September 28, 2011
By Vivian Haynes/ MicroMemphis reporter
The essence of Cooper Young is much like theater. They both have the ability to bring people together, to share in an experience that encompasses art. So it's no wonder that you can find the theatre home for Voices of the South in the heart of Cooper Young.
"Voices of the South is a non-profit theatre company that produces, performs, develops, and tours theatre from diverse Southern perspectives," said Jerre Dye, the company's artist director.
Dye started Voices of the South in 1995 through the University of Memphis' Department of Dance with 5 other Memphis alumni. Since then, VOTS has moved its home to Theatre South, located in the basement of the First Congregational Church of Christ. Many of the company's original pieces have toured countrywide.
"My show was born from Voices of the South," said Elaine Blanchard, co-writer of the upcoming show, For Goodness Sake. "Here [at VOTS], we make theatre out of personal stories."
Her one-woman performance is about her life, a particular incident of radical violence that takes place in Gainesville, Florida during the 1950s.
"It's about racism and sexism and all the kinds of ways we oppress each other as well as redemption and hope," said the co-writer.
Jerre Dye informing students during a workshop.
Aside from generating local stories, Voices of the South works with the Memphis Children's Theatre Festival to provide live theatre and art oriented workshops and activities to children.
"Through my leadership Voices of the South has placed special emphasis on innovative educational outreach programs and cultivating stories in the community," said Dye, who is also one of the co-creators of the Memphis Children's Theatre Festival.
Voices' latest outreach program, the Prison Stories Project, provides a year-long, theatre-intensive program for women currently serving time in the Shelby County Prison System. The women in this project use writing and storytelling as a form of therapy and their stories are shared to the public through a series titled, Prison Stories.
"Through Voices of the South we work together to create bonds, heal wounds, inspire minds, question the roles of identity, race, religion and social consciousness, and enter into a dynamic world where story transforms," said Dye.