By Kalena Reynolds | Staff Writer
Before the space at 1319 N 15th St. became Jubilee Theatre, it was an adult theater known as “The Capri” — an avid hotspot for drug dealers and prostitutes until it shut down due to a recession. Mission Waco obtained the deed to the space for free in 1994, and it immediately began raising money to restore the building and craft it into a space for community theater.
During the renovation process, Mission Waco founders Jimmy and Janet Dorrell developed friendships with the drug dealers and prostitutes who worked in front of the space in order to offer help and restore the community in the area.
“Janet would meet with the prostitutes right there on the streets,” Carlton Willis, associate executive director, said. “She would talk to them, and so they made a name for themselves in the neighborhood.”
While rehabilitating the neighborhood of North Waco, Willis said Mission Waco ultimately decided to keep the space as a theater for multiple reasons, all of which were connected to morale.
“We did it for two reasons: to provide entertainment that people would come to North Waco to see and to provide some type of art for the kids who were in our program,” Willis said. “Because also, one of the things that happened is that funding was cut tremendously in the arts in our school system.”
Now, Willis said Jubilee Theater is part of Mission Waco’s creative arts program.
“Once we got the theater back into shape and condition to be used, we took on the creative arts program at Mission Waco, which was inclusive of art, dance, theater and music,” Willis said.
Bradyn Braziel, theater director, said Jubilee Theatre works to involve and uplift the community, even having members of Church Under the Bridge act in plays. She said she puts on shows that are applicable to their lives.
“This past summer, I did a show called ‘The Exonerated,'” Braziel said. “And I worked pretty closely with Jimmy, … and I told him, basically, it was about a show of people who were wrongly accused and placed on death row and then later on exonerated. And they were true stories.”
Braziel invited members of Church Under the Bridge who were in the penal system and were released to read the stories. Aside from entertainment, Braziel also said she has plans to begin “drama therapy” programs to help participants heal through acting exercises.
“There’s a thing called playback theater, which is often done with people that are in halfway houses or in rehabilitation programs, where basically somebody will tell their story, and then they’ll see it acted out in front of them,” Braziel said.
Braziel said she hopes to start the program in the upcoming year and is currently working on grants so it can be offered to participants free of charge.
Additionally, Jubilee Theatre hosts regular playwriting workshops, acting lessons and kids and adult theater programs. For upcoming events or to get involved, visit the Mission Waco website.