Chattanooga Now City Beat: Local theater loses another champion

Chattanooga Now City Beat: Local theater loses another champion

February 7th, 2018 by Barry Courter in Chattnow Music

Shirley Alderman passed away Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. She is shown here as Aunt Martha rehearsing a scene in the play "Arsenic & Old Lace" at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. She performed in 22 plays over 47 years at the CTC.

Shirley Alderman passed away Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018....

Photo by Jacqui Janetzko

Shirley Alderman spent nearly 50 years acting, volunteering, championing and doing whatever else she could think of in local theater. She died on Sunday, leaving another giant hole in the local arts scene.

It should not be lost on anyone the renaissance that our city is undergoing when it comes to the arts. There is still a long way to go in many aspects, especially when it comes to making the arts available to everyone, but it should also not go unmentioned that people like Shirley did much to further the cause to get us to this point.

She did her first play at the old Chattanooga Little Theatre in 1963. Now known as Chattanooga Theatre Centre, it's where she performed in "The Crucible" in 2010. It marked her 22nd play at the CTC and her 47th year.

Barry Courter

Barry Courter

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

In a story we ran about the play at the time, she mentioned that she was "married" to Bernie Sellman "three or four times" during her acting career there. Bernie was another local theater favorite. Both did a good deal of local TV as well over the years. Bernie, many will remember, was part of the Jerry Lewis telethons every year.

Shirley acted in many local commercials and even co-hosted a daytime TV program over the years

"The Crucible" was the final play for Shirley at the CTC and, at the time, made her the longest-performing actor still gracing the stage. She was also an active volunteer with Erlanger and was involved with the American Society for Directors of Volunteer Services, serving as national president at one point.

As I said, there are a lot of good things happening in the arts in Chattanooga these days, but as my former boss, June Hatcher, used to tell anyone who would listen 20 and 30 years ago, we were a small city with a symphony and an opera, two ballet companies, at least three community theater groups and a great museum.

Shirley was part of making such things possible, and we continue to lose such valuable people.

» Every so often I am reminded with a figurative bucket of ice water to the face just how superficial we have become. I woke Tuesday morning to a social-media controversy regarding Justin Timberlake.

No, it was not about whether he disrespected Prince during his Super Bowl halftime performance. He kinda did, though I don't think intentionally. No, it was because he bent his foot while wearing a pair of Air Jordan sneakers. Apparently, creasing your kicks is a no-no.

The sneaks sell for around $2k, so maybe the complainers have a point, but seriously.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

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