Hurt Village: Life Of Memphis Housing Project On Stage

(Memphis) Nice modern cottages homes and apartments surround the area around St. Jude but 10 years ago the area was home to one of Memphis’ worst public housing projects. That’s when a federal grant gave the city the cash to tear it down. The dilemma families forced to move faced is now center stage at Memphis’ Hattiloo Theatre.  Hurt Village, a play written by  Memphis born Katori Hall, made its debut in New York on Broadway in February.

“They actually brought in a dialect coach from Memphis to teach the actors to speak the Memphis slang and they were saying that can’t be a place that violent. There can’t be place where the people are so decadent,” said Ekundayo Bandele, Hattiloo Theatre.

The story takes place October 2002, one week before the projects are torn down and families are relocated.

“I had a lot of emails. A lot of people asking my daughter who is Katori, the playwright,” Sandra Gillie, former Hurt Village tenant.

Sandra Gillie hasn’t seen the play but knows all too well the real life story of Hurt Village. She was the last tenant before the bulldozer moved in.

“They say you can come back if you got a job. Okay it was based on your income,” said a disgusted Gillie.

Gillie couldn’t afford moving back. She and many of her neighbors ended up back where they started, public housing projects.

Since 2002 Gillie called Foote Homes home. Now, it’s scheduled for demolition and once again she’s fears she won’t be able to come back to the new nicer apartments and homes planned here.

“Where will I go? Well, working with the program, if I can stay by the river that`s all I’m looking to do,” said Gillie.

Bandele said, “Exactly what happened with Hurt Village is going on right now with Foote Homes.”

Art is imitating life and for residents like Sandra Gillie life and its uncertainties is repeating itself.

Hurt Village the play runs through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. They also have a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m.

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