In 1821, playwright William Brown — a free Black man and former ship steward from the West Indies — established the African Grove Theatre in lower Manhattan.
“It was clearly a radical act,” said Ron Himes, the Henry E. Hampton Jr. Artist-in-Residence in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and founder of The Black Rep in St. Louis. Himes points out that in New York, slavery would not be abolished until 1827. “His theater was perceived as such a powerful threat to the city’s white elite.”
In September, Himes will direct “The African Company Presents Richard III,” a contemporary classic by Minneapolis playwright Carlyle Brown. The story, based on true events, chronicles both the popular success of African Grove and the malicious campaign, instigated by a competing white theater owner, to shut it down.
See also: St. Louis Magazine Q&A with Ron Himes
Performances, which launch The Black Rep’s 46th season, will take place in WashU’s Edison Theatre Sept. 7-25. Tickets are $50, or $20 for students and children. Student rush tickets are $15. Tickets can be purchased at the Edison Theatre box office; the Black Rep’s box office, 6662 Olive Blvd.; or by calling 314-534-3810.
The Black Rep’s 46th season will continue with “Death of a Salesman” (Jan. 11-29, 2023) in Edison Theatre; “The Light” (Feb. 1-26) in WashU’s A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre; and “Skeleton Crew” (March 29-April 16) at COCA, 6880 Washington Ave. The season will conclude with “Eubie!” (May 3-21) in Edison Theatre.
The Black Rep will maintain COVID-19 health protocols — 50% capacity seating, mask requirement, and proof of vaccination or a negative test result — for the duration of the season. For more information, visit theblackrep.org.