Play highlights struggle of Nashville's homeless - WSMV News 4

Play highlights struggle of Nashville's homeless

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The story of a 10-year relationship between a businessman and a homeless man is now a play that can be seen at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Jim Reyland has been working in the Nashville music industry for decades. He goes to church every day in downtown Nashville.

For 25 years, Reyland has also been a volunteer with programs designed to help the homeless.

He has now written a play about his friendship with a man who struggled with life on the streets for three decades.

“It took us three years to get a friendship going,” Reyland said. “Every day I’d see him and say, ‘Hey, hey John, can I help?’ ‘No, give me some money.’ But after three years of building that trust, that’s when we started working together.”

Reyland’s relationship with Johnny Ellis is now being told on stage. The play is described as true and real. It shows the daily life and complications of homelessness.

“People cry at the end of this. They laugh. They soak it all in,” Reyland said. “But when you get to the end, hopefully they’re changed.”

Nashville actor Barry Scott plays Ellis.

“Perhaps at our best, we’re arrogant enough to think we can save someone,” Scott said. “And I hope when people see the play, they will must enough courage to say, ‘I’ll try to help somebody.’”

A longtime homeless advocate, Reyland said he believes the play’s true life story is one way to make sure people are no longer inclined to just look away.

“We hear great stories,” Reyland said. “I used to hand out food at Room In The Inn, at church. I never said anything, so this might do something to help. I’m going to do more, talk to these guys, and this is all ways to help with the problem of homelessness.”

There’s no happy ending in the play. Ellis was killed four years ago in a hit-and-run crash on Murfreesboro Road.

The play, titled Stand, will be performed in six cities, including Nashville.

Performances are scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at TPAC. To purchase tickets, click here.

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