A theater's ongoing impact on Overton Square, Memphis - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

Reciprocating impact between Overton Square, Playhouse goes beyond Midtown

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Playhouse on the Square and its sister theater Circuit Playhouse stand strong next to the redeveloping Overton Square, which includes the upcoming new Hatiloo Theater. (Photo Source: Playhouse on the Square) Playhouse on the Square and its sister theater Circuit Playhouse stand strong next to the redeveloping Overton Square, which includes the upcoming new Hatiloo Theater. (Photo Source: Playhouse on the Square)
Jo, who moved to Memphis nearly 20 years ago, says theater provides an outlet in Bluff City like no other. (Photo Source via Facebook, by  John Moore) Jo, who moved to Memphis nearly 20 years ago, says theater provides an outlet in Bluff City like no other. (Photo Source via Facebook, by John Moore)
But when it comes to an accessible night on the town in Memphis, the now-popular Overton Square and its upcoming theater district can provide a walkable environment, which may encourage more residents to go to the theaters. (Photo Source WMC Action News 5 But when it comes to an accessible night on the town in Memphis, the now-popular Overton Square and its upcoming theater district can provide a walkable environment, which may encourage more residents to go to the theaters. (Photo Source WMC Action News 5

(WMC-TV) - Even a couple of years ago when bare storefronts filled a dark Overton Square on a Saturday night, an adjacent theater brought life to a then-quiet corner of Midtown.

Playhouse on the Square and its sister theater Circuit Playhouse stand strong next to the redeveloping Overton Square, which includes the upcoming new Hatiloo Theater. As a growing crowd chooses the square—now home to multiple thriving business—for their weekend outings, the rejuvenation provides more than new restaurants and night life options; it creates an entirely new sense of community by its livable means.

"More restaurants. More theatre. More people. Anytime you can get people gathered doing things they love ... Only positive things can happen. Being able to park and walk to restaurants and then the theater and then back for dessert ... It makes a fun evening," said Whitney Jo, Managing Director of Playhouse on the Square. "All of the businesses in Overton Square benefit from each other. Our patrons go to the restaurants before and after the shows, and restaurant patrons come to the theatre after their meal. It is a great synergy and gives the public an 'all-in-on' evening out."

Memphis has received a low ranking when it comes being a walkable city, and to any resident that's obvious when it comes to getting around. With the exception of downtown, Cooper-Young, and a few other strips in the city, not many areas in Memphis allow patrons to comfortably walk from one venue to another—particularly when it comes to a live event like theater or a concert.

Houston's nationally recognized theater district, which sits in the heart of the city, attracts two million people annually with its nine performing arts centers and surrounding restaurants and parks. Its success is partially based on easy transportation like a sharable bike program and tunnels.

But when it comes to an accessible night on the town in Memphis, the now-popular Overton Square and its upcoming theater district can provide a walkable environment, which may encourage more residents to go to the theaters.

Jo, who moved to Memphis nearly 20 years ago, says theater provides an outlet in Bluff City like no other.

"Theater is an art form that opens the imagination, shines light on the bigger obstacles in life, challenges our vision of everyday happenings, makes us want to dance and sing, makes us cry, makes us mad … Theater is something that everyone can relate to in one way or another. Three hundred and fifty people [at Playhouse] all go into the theater and watch the exact same performance, sharing a common experience. Yet, all 350 people walk away with a different feeling based on their own life experiences. That sparks conversation and conversation makes communities."

And Playhouse does not just stay in Midtown, where it has operated four decades. It offers educational and outreach programs that touch the lives of nearly 30,000 people each year. From school matinée performances, touring productions into the school, an after-school acting program, and, according to Jo, it gives opportunities for everyone in the community to be involved.


Jo wrote Action News 5 about a renewed sense of community and theater in Memphis. Read more about our series here.


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