History & Purpose of Black Repertory Group:
The Passionate Mission Underlying the Founding of the Black Repertory Group
The Berkeley Black Repertory Group (BRG) began in 1964 as a church drama club, later moving into storefront building as a community theater in South Berkeley. In 1971, the group became a non-profit corporation and received their 501 (C) (3) designation. BRG has been acclaimed for its work with youth through performing arts and for its "New Arts" program which one-act plays by new local playwrights are produced. In 1987, BRG moved into their current location which is a cultural arts center that contains a large exhibition lobby, courtyard, meeting & rehearsal space, and a beautiful 250-seat theater auditorium
with adjoining dressing rooms.
Black Repertory Group's Mission:
The Black Repertory Group's commitment to the arts and the community is the cornerstone of our background and the basis for our beginning. Our primary mission is to be the breeding ground for successful and talented artists in a variety of genres with respect to the arts. Our focus is on providing the direction and educational structures needed to enhance their skills; and a venue that affords new talent to be showcased and critiqued by local critics and peers. We are equally committed to bringing leadership and commitment to the youth of our community. Young people and the youth workshops have always been at the heart of the Theater's mission. We offer a variety of community outreach programs designed to introduce, educate, mentor and elevate a young person’s skills in the arts. The BRG speaks to local high schools and provides on-the-job training and internships to local youth interested in Theater arts.
"If my Mom, Nora Vaughn, were alive today, she'd tell you that the Black Repertory Group Theater is a Revolutionary Theater that both of my parents initially started using theater as a means to impart knowledge about the rich history of Black Americans way back in Vicksburg, Mississippi where Mom and Dad were also high school teachers. After three aborted attacks from the Ku Klux Klan, (Mom told me that one bullet just missed my head in my baby bed) Mom finally convinced my Dad to leave so he could scout-out and find a new home for us in California. Dad reluctantly left us behind in Mississippi; and Mom continued to boldly use her "drama to inform and educate," joining Dad in California almost a year later when I was 3-years old.
"Running my late parent's Theater and Cultural Center is the most revolutionary thing I've ever done; my family has always been involved in civil rights and revolutionary acts from the 'Gate' because Mom & Dad taught us to be revolutionaries early on. My mother was fierce. The power brokers at that time gave Mom so much resistance to building her new Theater in the early 1980's that, after three dates that were not met and promises not kept, Mom picketed City Hall (right outside the Mayor's office). We display her picket-sign that states: HERE I SIT, TILL BLACK REP STANDS. Needless to say, Mom received the "Approval" for construction to begin the very next day."
Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis nicknamed Birel and Nora Vaughn Keepers Of The Culture. The BRG fosters a creative environment that celebrates the artistic contributions of black artists throughout American history. With a two-fold mission, BRG provides opportunities to develop individual and young artists, and for our youth to discover a rich, black cultural heritage.