Chicago native Harry Lennix, a well-seasoned actor and producer both on screen and on stage, is spending his free time promoting his theater concept for Bronzeville.
Lennix said he wants to turn an old warehouse on 43rd Street and Cottage Grove into a double theater complex called the Lillian Marcie Center, named after his mother Lillian, and his longtime mentor Marcella Gillie.
“This is my debt that I owe,” Lennix said.
Lennix grew up on Chicago’s South Side, and graduated from Northwestern University. He worked as an elementary school music teacher before his storied acting career took off. He's appeared in numerous productions in Chicago and around the country, as well as countless movies and television shows.
Along the way, Lennix met TaRon Patton, who at the time was executive director of Congo Square Theatre.
“‘Hey Harry, I want a theater for the Congo Square Theatre Company,' whom I have been associated with for 20 years now," Lennix recalled of the initial conversation between him and Patton.
The two joined forces and decided they also wanted to create a type of repository to archive the history of Blacks in the performing arts. That’s how the African American Museum for The Performing Arts became part of their project. Patton is the executive director.
“I think it’s important that we do it for the people, the younger people. They need to see us as Black performers, as Black philanthropists, as Black activists,” Patton said.
Lennix said he sees the new arts complex as an incubator.
“We want it to be a place where you can learn the craft, where you can perfect the craft, and then, where you can display the craft," Lennix said. "So, we want to be the light on the hill, and I think we are well on the way."
Lennix and Patton said they hope to create a space where many performing arts companies can call home, and the artists themselves can call the shots. They are hoping for a September grand opening.
“We have a wonderful opportunity to reeducate America about who we are as artists about why it’s important. Why our voice is monumental,” Patton added.
“If not us, then who? If not now then when?” Lennix asked.