St. Louis Black Rep Settles Into New Home at Harris-Stowe State University

 In Culture
Ron Himes Photo by Wesley Law

Ron Himes
Photo by Wesley Law

“We’re hoping things are going to work out just fine for us,” says Ron Himes, Founder and Producing Director of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company. Last August, Himes was informed that his theater company must vacate their longtime home in Grand Center’s Grandel Theatre immediately. The announcement came as a surprise to Himes and received a great deal of attention in the local press. But the company would not be homeless for long. Just over two months later, the Black Rep settled into their new home at Harris-Stowe State University, where they just opened their second show, “The Meeting,” in the new location. “Ticket sales were slow at first, but we are catching up,” Himes said.

In fact, the move might prove to be a blessing in disguise. The partnership benefits both the Black Rep and the University. While Harris-Stowe lends the theater company tech and production support, the Black Rep and university officials are looking at working with students and conducting workshops. Students will come to see the shows, which will facilitate discussions about the many issues the theater explores throughout the course of each season. And the theater—which is modern and comfortable—is still centrally located and has plenty of free private parking under the watchful eye of campus security officers.

“The move also showed us what a strong and loyal core audience we have,” Himes says. “The African-American community is excited about the partnership and they’ve responded enthusiastically. Two hundred people showed up to see our new home.” Harris-Stowe is located just a few blocks east of Grand Center right off I-64 next to Chaifetz arena.

Founded 37 years ago, the St. Louis Black Repertory Company is the nation’s premiere black theater company, Himes says, with a half-dozen Kennedy Center Theater Festival appearances, and 14 world premieres of African-American writers. Having mounted all 10 of August Wilson’s plays in the “Century Cycle,” depicting the lives of African-Americans throughout the 20th century, the Black Rep has a special relationship with the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh, and are in talks about possibly taking a production of a Wilson play to South America.

The Black Rep brings theater to St. Louis that otherwise wouldn’t be here, and adds diversity to the cultural fabric of the city. “We’ve trained, developed and showcased a lot of local talent,” Himes says. “When people are selling St. Louis, the Black Rep is mentioned as an asset. There are larger cities that don’t have a major African-American theater company,” says Himes.

For more information about the Black Rep, visit the Black Rep website.

Follow Christopher Reilly on Twitter @ChristoReilly

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