The ReCreate Café at the Chattanooga, Tenn., 614 Corps is known for its innovative ways of integrating the area’s homeless community with local residents. Besides being home to a culinary arts program and regular arts events such as weekly acting classes, ReCreate also opens its facilities for local artists to use for rehearsal/studio space; hosts musicians and church groups to perform; and will soon be host of the Broadway musical “Godspell.”
Performances of “Godspell,” July 20-24 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on July 22, are unique in that the cast is made up of both housed and homeless community residents. Through a partnership with Covenant College and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Tenika Dye, the artistic director of the café, and Captain Phil Jon Winter, corps officer, have built relationships that led to professors at each school providing their expertise. The ensemble cast includes 11 actors from a variety of communities – some are local residents, some are homeless, some are students from nearby universities and some are employees of The Salvation Army. Ranging in age from 18 to 40, the cast is as diverse and welcoming as the musical itself.
“Godspell” was chosen to be performed because it appeals to a wide spectrum of audiences, both churched and unchurched. An entertainment review site operated by amazon.com describes the musical as “a modern-day version of the gospels, opening with John the Baptist calling a disparate group of young New Yorkers from their workday lives to follow and learn from Jesus. They form a roving acting troupe that enacts the parables through song and dance, comedy and mime.”
Captain Winter said he hopes to encourage the homeless actors with a “yes, you can” attitude in a different area of their life. “It gives them a community outside of what they are used to – the homeless community can be a very tight community, but it’s not necessarily a positive place to be. So it’s allowing people to be engaged with a different community with a different conversation and different aspirations, and we’re hoping at some point it may … give people a broader vision of what life can be for them.”