published Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Chattanooga area homeless participate in musical

Ray Smalley, Irma Mendoza, Justina Anaclerio and David Griffin, from left, participate in an acting class led by Tenika Dye, right, in the Salvation Army's Recreate Cafe on Wednesday. Open auditions will be held Friday and Saturday for roles in a production of "Godspell" that will be staged in the cafe. The project is intended to restore dignity and provide an opportunity for members of the homeless community to interact with others.
Ray Smalley, Irma Mendoza, Justina Anaclerio and David Griffin, from left, participate in an acting class led by Tenika Dye, right, in the Salvation Army's Recreate Cafe on Wednesday. Open auditions will be held Friday and Saturday for roles in a production of "Godspell" that will be staged in the cafe. The project is intended to restore dignity and provide an opportunity for members of the homeless community to interact with others.
Photo by John Rawlston.

IF YOU GO

"Godspell" auditions are scheduled 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at ReCreate Cafe, 800 McCallie Ave. The musical will be performed July 18-22.

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On most days Justina Anaclerio and Ray Smalley are trying to survive while sleeping under a bridge. But once a week the couple forget their struggles and attend the Salvation Army's acting class at ReCreate Cafe.

"It's a good escape," said Anaclerio, 23. She and Smalley, 36, have been together since the beginning of the year.

The couple are among more than 500 homeless people in the Chattanooga area. But for the next couple of days, they will retreat from everyday struggles to audition and practice for the musical "Godspell," which will be performed in July.

It will be the first time the Salvation Army has put on a theatrical production with housed and homeless people.

Anybody can audition, said professional acting teacher Tenika Dye, who holds a master's degree in storytelling and a bachelor's in theater both from East Tennessee State University.

The show includes a variety of music, from rock, folk and Motown to vaudeville and revised hymns.

The Salvation Army hired Dye in October to develop arts programs for the ReCreate Cafe and raise awareness of what it offers.

"When you sing a song, you become someone else for that three minutes and so you get to be creative and do something that you might not get to do," said Dye.

Theater gives homeless people and those who have housing a link to interact, said UTC sociology major Fallon Clark.

She grew up middle class in Milan Tennessee and didn't know any homeless people until she got pregnant and moved to a different area.

"I realized we're all trying to make it and sometimes people just need help," said Clark, who also wants to be an actress.

High school students, university professors and Clark were among about a dozen people at an informational meeting earlier this week about the "Godspell" performance.

Anaclerio, who wants to be a writer, and Smalley, who took acting classes in high school, come to Dye's acting class at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Director Deborah Kirby, associate professor of Theater at Covenant College, said there will be 20 parts and up to half of them will go to homeless people, she said.

The goal is to put on a play that educates, inspires and brings the homeless and housed communities together, said Dye.

"We don't want it to be about come see the homeless people perform," she said. "We want you to see actors on stage, not their housing situation."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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