HISTORY

Founded in 1976 by Producing Director Ron Himes, The Black Rep is one of the largest, not-for-profit professional African-American theatre companies in the nation and the largest African-American performing arts organization in Missouri. Its mission: To provide platforms for theatre, dance, and other creative expressions from the African-American perspective that heighten the social and cultural awareness of its audiences. 

 

In  2003 The Black Rep began performing one production a season and in 2013 began performing three main stage productions in the 656-seat Edison Theater on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, producing quality professional dramas, comedies and musicals by primarily African-American and  playwrights from throughout the African Diaspora. In addition, The Black Rep maintains an award-winning Education and Community Program. Created in the 1970’s, before we had a permanent home, to widen The Company’s reach in the St. Louis region and to take theatre to the people, the program includes classes and workshops for adults and youth (ages 6-18), touring productions, a Summer Performing Arts Program, a Teen Tech Program, and Professional Internships. Each is designed to create opportunities for youth with a love and talent for theatre to hone their craft and discover their personal talent. Professional experience, through The Company’s internship program, supports the transition from academia to a career in the theatre for recent college graduates and young theatre professionals. The quality of the company’s work with students is evidenced by their success. Alumni of The Black Rep Professional Intern Program are now working in arts organizations across the country and the world. Many students who encountered the arts through The Company have moved on to explore educational and career options that they would not have otherwise considered.

 

The Company prides itself on producing, reimagining, and commissioning work written by black playwrights, The Company has produced eighteen world premieres, and has showcased the works of Pulitzer Prize winning playwrights August Wilson and Lynn Nottage, Nobel Prize winner, Wole Soyinka as well as  Dominique Morisseau, George C. Wolfe, Nikkole Salter and Pearl Cleage.  In January 2020 at the opening of “Two Trains Running,” The Black Rep was presented with the August Wilson American Century Cycle Award honoring companies that have staged all 10 of Wilson’s works. With that production The Company has now produced seven of the plays in chronological order and has three to have completed the cycle twice.

 

In 2003, Himes was appointed the first Henry E. Hampton, Jr. Artist-in-Residence at Washington University, a joint appointment of the Performing Arts and African American Studies departments. In 2017, Himes was awarded The Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award at the National Black Theatre Festival, an award that recognizes the great contributions made by producers to the American Theatre and the entertainment industry. 

 

 In the first few years, Himes took The Company on the road, touring college campuses, community centers, and art/theatre festivals. After drawing large crowds and support, in 1980, The Company took up residence in St. Louis in the former Greeley Presbyterian Church’s sanctuary, renovating the interior into its first home, The 23rd Street Theatre, fondly dubbed The Miracle on 23rd Street. During the 1980′s, The Company produced six months of theatre and began to hire guest actors, directors, designers, and choreographers locally and nationally to work with its resident acting company. The Company also produced six months of dance with its resident dance company and soon began to present regional dance companies. There were also  spoken word, music and independent film series produced and/or presented. Later in the ‘80s  the focus was narrowed to producing  theatre. By 1986, The Company became the only African-American theatre in the Midwest to operate under contract with the Actor’s Equity Association, guaranteeing union wages to its actors and stage managers.