The Nebraska Repertory Theatre and the St. Louis Black Repertory Company have launched a two-year partnership that aims to bring about positive social change at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and beyond.
The partnership will begin with Oct. 2 and Nov. 6 virtual events featuring performances by Black Rep actors and conversations hosted by leaders of both theater companies. Each evening will feature discussions with actors, scholars, activists and audience members. Tickets are available here.
Ron Himes, producing director of The Black Rep, will serve as consultant for the collaboration. He directed the play “Dutchman” at the Nebraska Repertory Theatre in February 2019.
“This collaboration with Nebraska Rep and the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film is consistent with our mission to heighten the social, cultural and educational awareness of our audiences,” Himes said. “Our company was cast in the spirit of the Black Arts Movement, and our work has always addressed issues of social justice and disenfranchisement of the BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) communities in America, then and now.”
Beginning with the 2020-21 season, Himes will serve as the coordinator and planner of three events associated with Nebraska Rep’s #realchange racial justice initiative, working in close collaboration with Nebraska Rep Executive Director Christina Kirk and Artistic Director Andy Park. A highlight of the collaboration is a joint full production, directed by Himes, to be staged in Lincoln in fall 2021. The collaboration will culminate with a special event in spring 2022.
Himes will also serve as a liaison to a task force consisting of Carson School students, faculty and alumni. The group will help guide and shape the goals and scope of the initiative and offer input about programming. The initiative is focused on identifying systemic racism within the school and Nebraska Rep and creating an anti-racism action plan to foster learning, growth and real change.
Following the Black Lives Matter movement and current national conversation about systemic racism, Nebraska Rep sought this partnership to answer the call for action.
“The Nebraska Repertory Theatre has chosen to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement and engage in the current national conversation about systemic racism,” Kirk said. “We have been horrified and outraged by the events unfolding in our country. It is a call to action for our theater community. Now more than ever, we need to be collaborating across campus and with community support groups, and other local and national arts organizations, to seek ways to help each other in these efforts.”
Park said the collaboration fits with Nebraska Rep’s mission.
“The Rep is committed to becoming the theater of all Nebraska,” he said. “This collaboration is an incredible opportunity to grow as theater artists and to open our arms even wider. Theater brings a diverse group of people together to share a common experience, and in that space, everything is possible. We can make real change in this country, and this partnership with The Black Rep bears witness to the value of collaboration in tackling systemic racism and making clear that at Nebraska Rep, Black Lives Matter.”
Himes said: “These are very trying times and we are dealing with two crises, the epidemic of racism and the pandemic of COVID-19. We will survive COVID-19, but overcoming the racism we have been fighting since 1619 will take all of us working together. When we do, we will be stronger for the planning and the hard work we’re about to do to level the playing field and to prepare a brighter future for generations to come.”
The Black Rep is one of the largest professional African-American theatre companies in the nation and the largest African-American performing arts organization in Missouri. The company has developed a national reputation for staging quality productions from an African-American perspective.
Himes founded The Black Rep Company in 1976 while still a student at Washington University. He has produced and directed more than 200 plays at The Black Rep, including all 10 plays written by August Wilson. His directing credits include “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” “Nina Simone: Four Women,” “Dot,” “Lines In The Dust,” “Twisted Melodies,” “Sunset Baby,” “Purlie,” “Black Nativity: A Holiday Celebration,” “Ruined” and “The Montford Point Marine.”
Nebraska Rep, an Actors’ Equity Association professional theatre, is the state’s only professional regional theatre. It resides in Nebraska’s Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.