When several black musicians and actors saw that there were few places in Chattanooga to perform, they started their own entertainment groups to produce musical and theatrical shows. The result is three upcoming productions featuring three groups of artists.
Raymond Hughes, founder of Black Life Entertainment, will showcase his play "Tomorrow Never Comes" today at Barking Legs Theater. The Creative Underground, started by musician Shane Morrow, will perform at The Camp House on July 28, and Charles Patterson, creator of Christal Entertainment, is scheduled to launch his latest play, "Choices: Breaking the Generational Curse," this fall.
"If we want things to happen, sometimes we just have to jump up and do it," said Morrow.
THE CREATIVE UNDERGROUND
Presented by: The Creative Underground.
When: 8-11 p.m. July 28
Where: The Camp House, 1427 Williams St.
It was 2003 when Morrow arrived in Chattanooga from Fairfield County, Conn., where he was raised by his grandmother and great-grandmother. He relocated to the South to be closer to his mother in Atlanta and other family members in Cleveland, Tenn., he said.
In 2004, he landed the lead role in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's "A Raisin in the Sun," for which he won a best actor award. He said he then found he had nowhere else to perform, so he started Creative Underground.
It features a group of local musicians who can play and sing. Participants Vanessa Jackson, the city's Neighborhood Program Specialist, and Azusa Dance, a research manager at Siskin Children's Institute, moonlight as two of the singers who make up the Creative Underground. And the group isn't limited to blacks. Music transcends all boundaries, and people of all ethnicities participate, said Morrow, who was appointed to the Allied Arts diversity task force committee this year.
BLACK LIFE ENTERTAINMENT
Presented by: Black Life Entertainment.
When: 5:30 p.m. today.
Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
Retired commercial electrician Raymond Hughes started the Christian-based production company Black Life Entertainment in 2007 to showcase struggles in the lives of black Americans and how they have overcome them.
His plays have dealt with gang violence and people who live in the ghetto but still have hope for a better life.
"Tomorrow Never Comes," his third play, focuses on domestic abuse and Christianity.
Hughes said he also wants to highlight black singers and comedians.
"It's about showcasing black talent," Hughes said. "We don't have the avenue to demonstrate our culture and how we see things. I wanted to show our way of drama and dance to broaden the path."
Veteran playwright and Chattanooga fire Capt. Charles E. Patterson started Christal Entertainment in 2004 to test his own ability to produce good plays and because he also saw a need.
He named the company Christal after his oldest daughter.
"If you look at Chattanooga, there are not that many places to go to be in production companies," Patterson said. But there is a lot of talent here, he added.
As examples, Patterson mentioned Lawrence Sneed, an engineer at TVA who played Steerling, the lead male role in "He's a Good Man," and Stephanie Brown, who operates a local restaurant and who played JoAnn, a lead female role in "Don't Suffer in Silence." Both were previously presented by Patterson.
"There are a lot of talented people in this city," said Patterson. "They have nowhere to use their skills. You've got creative people here and they need to get their talent out."