By Riley Holcraft, Staff Writer-
History is in the making at Chattanooga Theatre Centre with the recent hire of its new director, Sadiqua Iman, who is the first African-American woman to ever enter this position since its founding in 1923.
“I came across this fact through my own research. Any time I am going into a project, especially if it’s historical in nature, I try to look to the elders who have worked before me. The only black woman in a leadership position was a piano accompanist that had played for many years. As everyone started doing their research, we all realized I was the first black female director at the centre,” informed Iman.
This fact can be seen as alarming especially since the theatre has been a prominent part of the Chattanooga Community for nearly 100 years, a community with a high African-American population.
“I’m hoping that this will open the centre’s eyes to how homogenous their picking of participants has been,” expanded Iman, “and hopefully it will make them be more intentional about not just waiting for someone to come to them like I did since I grew up there and was comfortable enough to do so. It is their responsibility to go out into the community and see what other races and genders can be brought into their community.”
Iman was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was heavily involved with the Theatre Centre. All throughout her adolescent years, she starred in productions and attended classes at CTC.
Iman received her bachelor’s in theatre with a minor in dance from the University of Florida. Since she left Florida, Iman has moved and worked in New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago. She then worked for Carnival Cruise as a team coordinator before eventually pursuing a career in directing.
She is now currently working on her master’s degree in fine arts leadership at Seattle University. Iman’s passion for theatre runs deep, as she has been on the stage or behind the scenes almost her whole life.
“Theatre is a reflection of possibilities,” said Inman, “It is a way of seeing an alternative reality and living it just for a moment and hopefully leaving and considering what those alternatives could look like in your own life. It can be an escape from reality, harsh times, or good times for those who need a wake-up call. It is a source of inspiration.”
While simultaneously juggling schoolwork and directing at CTC, Iman uses her many talents to tell authentic stories. She brings to life the voices of minority groups such as LGBTQ+, African-Americans, and females.
It is most important to her, as a director, to stay as a storyteller and not cross the line into dictatorship. Collaboration is much more effective for a team than having a single vision.
Iman is also affluent in costume design, bringing characters to life with the right dress, shoe, hairstyle, or jewelry piece.
“I first got into costume design when I was in high school,” she informed, “in a local school theatre group called the Choo Choo Kids at the Center for Creative Arts. We had a show set in the roaring ’20s. My sister and I asked if we could create spectacular costumes. It was the first time that the group had worn something more than a simple costume. Costumes are how I personally created my characters on stage.”
Costume design bled into her directing; she was able to envision the characters more realistically. It also influences her personal life as she is very interested in fashion and expressing herself through clothing.
Iman believes that it is important to know who you are. She started out as a musical theatre major but soon fell in love with costume design and directing. She urges those within the theatre industry to realize that being on stage is not always the end goal; it is important to keep your mind open to the possibilities that could unfold.
“It’s a very broad world if you can allow your mind to think that way,” said Iman, “you may end right back on stage where you wanted to be the whole time, but by opening your opportunities, you will have more fun on your journey.”
Iman plans to continue directing upon the completion of her degree. She has aspirations to be a creative director of a theatre company someday. Theatre will always be an integral part of her life, and she loves the teaching aspect of directing as well; therefore, her future could also hold a position as a college professor.
For now, she enjoys her time at her new position and is currently working on a new show premiering at the end of the month.
The Chattanooga Theatre Centre is the only place in the city to perform plays on a consistent basis. There are not even enough venues to support the talent within the city, and Iman is pleased with the new inclusion.
“It has only been the last two or three years that they have even really done all black shows. Even as someone growing up in the theatre, I didn’t get the chance to tell very many black stories. As I kept looking, I thought it would be really nice to see more people that look like me on stage.”
CTC is now performing a series written by August Wilson, an African American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, who tells black stories all throughout the 20th century. Iman is currently directing a play from this series called Gem of the Ocean.
“Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson is a post-Civil War play,” said Iman, “It’s a story about community and chosen family.”
Gem of the Ocean will be performed by a full African-American cast and will premiere from January 24 to February 9.
Opening night is already sold out, but tickets for the rest of the show remain on sale, ranging from $23-$25.