MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The battle over whether Confederate statues should be removed from parks is coming to a Memphis stage soon.
Hattiloo Theatre’s founder wrote the play and plans to perform it where the statues once stood, but not everyone is excited about the play. Supporters of the Confederate statues are calling the play a promotion of historical terrorism. However, the playwright says he intends to keep black history recorded.
“The removal of the Confederate statues was so defining to Memphis’ progress, I believe that it needed to be immortalized in art,” said Ekundayo Bandele, the CEO and founder of Hattiloo Theatre.
Bandele’s vision for the play is based on what happened at Health Sciences Park. In 2017, the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue was taken down after Memphis Greenspace bought the park from the city.
The play is named after the movement for the removal, “Take ‘Em Down 901.”
“It’s definitely going to be a drama,” shared the playwright. Bandele plans to use the genre of suspension of disbelief.
“Putting it in a situation that isn’t real but that will heighten the message around the story,” he said.
The play will be performed at the park itself. A move the Sons of Confederate Veterans is against. In a statement to Local 24 News, Lee Millar wrote: “We are not opposed to community uses so long as the graves are respected. A play about tearing down statues is nothing more than promoting historical terrorism.”
Van Turner, president of Memphis Greenspace, says the organization’s board has to approve the performance in the park first. Bandele interviewed a number of activists, witnesses and the mayor to create the play’s characters.
“I’m hoping to show even though Memphis has divisions, people will see even those divisions lead towards a positive outcome,” said Bandele.
Bandele has another half dozen interviews before he begins writing the script and holding stage rehearsals. It’s set to premiere in May 2021 and is free to the public.