Himes appointed as Henry E. Hampton, Jr. Artist-in-Residence

Ron Himes, founder and producing director of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company, has been appointed as the Henry E. Hampton, Jr. Artist-in-Residence, according to Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor and dean of Arts & Sciences.

Ron Himes
Ron Himes

Himes, who received an honorary doctor of arts degree from the University in 1998, will have a joint appointment in the Performing Arts Department and in African and Afro-American Studies, both in Arts & Sciences.

“This will be a wonderful opportunity for Arts & Sciences and Washington University to strengthen our ties with the St. Louis community through the Black Repertory Company,” Macias said. “In addition, Ron has already done some great work with our students in his role as lecturer in African and Afro-American Studies, and we look forward to his creating some exciting opportunities for them in his new position.”

The St. Louis Black Repertory Company has developed a national reputation for staging quality productions from an African-American perspective. Himes founded the company in 1976 while still a Washington University student. He graduated in 1978 from University College in Arts & Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Himes and other members of the Black Rep began producing plays on campus and soon started touring college campuses. In 1981, the group found a home in the former sanctuary of Greeley Presbyterian Church in north St. Louis, which the company converted into a theater space and renamed the 23rd Street Theatre.

In 1991, the company moved into the former First Congregational Church building after a multimillion-dollar renovation. Located in the heart of the Grand Center arts and education district in midtown, the building was renamed the Grandel Theatre.

Under Himes’ leadership, the Black Rep has grown to become the largest African-American performing arts organization in Missouri and one of the five largest African-American theater companies in the country.

The Black Rep conducts educational programs on the arts, including acting classes on creative drama, poetry, performance and improvisation for children ages 6-17 on Saturday mornings.

More than 5,000 middle- and high-school students from across the region attend weekday matinee performances by the Black Rep at Grandel Theatre throughout the regular season. And the Black Rep sponsors summer theater camps and workshops for children during the summer.

The Black Rep’s Professional Intern Program helps students make the transition from the academic world to the theater world. Each year, six or seven interns act, teach workshops, provide production support and assist in the administrative office. In addition, interns have an opportunity to take master’s classes with guest directors, performers and playwrights.

Himes has produced and directed more than 100 plays at the Black Rep, including August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and the Black Rep’s own I Remember Harlem II.

His acting credits include starring roles in The Meeting, When the Chickens Came Home to Roost, Boesman and Lena, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and I’m Not Rappaport.

In 1994, he took the Black Rep’s production of The Meeting to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Respected both in St. Louis and nationwide for his contributions to the arts, Himes has served on boards, panels and advisory councils for a number of arts organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the John F. Kennedy Center, the Arts and Humanities Commission, the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education, the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Foundation and the Midwest African-American Arts Alliance.

Henry E. Hampton Jr., who graduated from the University in 1961, came to national attention in 1987 when he chronicled the history of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement as producer of the acclaimed six-part PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965.

As president of Blackside Inc., a film-production company he founded in Boston in the late 1960s, he also served as executive producer of the seven-hour PBS documentary series The Great Depression, which premiered on PBS in fall 1993 to widespread critical acclaim and received a duPont-Columbia Silver Baton.

Hampton produced Malcolm X: Make it Plain, a two-and-a-half-hour documentary that debuted on The American Experience in January 1994. He was also the executive producer of America’s War on Poverty, which aired in January 1995, and Breakthrough: The Changing Face of Science in America, a documentary series that was broadcast nationwide on PBS in April 1996.

Hampton died in 1998 at the age of 58.

The Henry Hampton Collection, containing some 50,000 items, is located in Olin Library. It is recognized as one of the world’s largest and best collections of media materials on the Civil Rights Movement.

For more on the collection, visit library.wustl.edu/units/spec/filmandmedia.