Centennial Park off of West End remains one of the more frequently visited sites for Vanderbilt students, whether it’s to go for a run, visit the Parthenon or enjoy a live music festival. One of the lesser known draws to this site, though, is the Black Box Theater. On any given day, this theater is home to improv comedy workshops, Shakespeare plays, a late night talk show or any number of similar events put on by individuals renting the space.
The Centennial Black Box Theater, located in the Centennial Park Performing Arts Studio on 27th Avenue, is owned by Rachel Hamilton and Mike Teany. The theater puts on a variety of weekly programs such as Nashville’s Late Night Talk Show, “The Ben & Morey Show,” a workshop for writers and actors to develop playwriting skills, and even an Acoustic Pickin Party where anyone can bring an acoustic instrument to jam with other locals.
A key draw to all of these events is the affordability of them. Some are even completely free. Owner Rachel Hamilton explained that that they keep most shows between $10 and $15 so that they are “no more expensive than going to a movie to come see a live performance.”
“We make sure that all of the people who rent the space keep their ticket prices really reasonable,” Hamilton said.
The live performances at the theater can be divided into two categories: the weekly regular programs and the events put on by those renting the theater for a night. The first group includes the aforementioned programs like “The Ben & Morey Show,” which are put on by groups partnered with the theater.
As far as which programs become regularly put on, Hamilton said that they consider what the program is, and if it’s unique enough from the rest of their shows. Hamilton said she generally looks at “what does it bring to [them]? Is it something that [they’re] not programming right now?”
They don’t place many restrictions on who can use the space. Anyone can apply to rent it out for $40 per hour and can even pay an additional $30 per hour for staff to help supervise and run the event.
“There’s just a one page back-and-forth application and a set of rules that you have to sign in order to use the space…and then we generally take a small deposit around $50. The rest of the money is due on the day of your event,” Hamilton said.
Some of the one-off events that the theater is rented out for include shows by small upcoming theater companies and students doing speech readings and vocal cabarets. It is a good, cheap way to support local artists by providing an accessible and affordable space.
“It’s a public place, your tax dollars pay for this place and what we do here, so we try to make it as open and available to people who want to use it as possible,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton wants Vanderbilt students to know that the theater is extremely accessible for them to come to, whether to watch or participate in.
“It’s so close to the Vanderbilt campus…it’s in Centennial Park, you come here for all kinds of things anyways like Shakespeare in the Park or Musicians Corner, anything like that, and we’re just right around the corner,” she said.