WEBSTER GROVES – It was a celebration fit for a queen on July 25 at the Loretto-Hilton Center for Performing Arts as The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis welcomed its new Augustin Family Artistic Director, Hana Sharif.
The Rep’s Summer Block Party at the arts center, 130 Edgar Road, boasted live music from singer Charles Glenn, food trucks, free beer, lawn games, prizes, giveaways and tours plus Q&A sessions with Rep artists.
“This day has exceeded all my expectations,” Sharif said. “I wanted to throw a great party for the community. I wanted to invite our patrons and folks who have never been out to the theater before to come and see what we’re about, to get a sneak peek at the work we’re doing at the Rep and also to shout out other great artists in the city who are doing great work.”
“It turned out better than I could’ve ever imagined,” she said. “I’ve had so much fun.”
“Its been a great, really diverse crowd and an exciting way to kick off the season,” she went on to say.
The 2019-2020 season will be Sharif’s first with the theater after its previous director, Steven Woolf, occupied the position for more than 30 years.
With more than 20 years of experience working as a playwright, director and producer, Sharif said she was most excited for the start of the upcoming season.
“It’s just a joy to also be able to bring new, important work into the world that you know will resonate across the country,and for it to start here in St. Louis feels really important,” Sharif said.
Although this season will be Sharif’s first with the Rep, it won’t be the only first for the new leader. Sharif is the first woman to serve as the theater’s artistic director and also the first person of color to take on the role. Sharif is also the first black woman in America to run a major theater company.
“I thought that would’ve happened 20 to 30 years ago. So that’s the bittersweet part of being a first,” she said. “But here in St. Louis running the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, to be the first black woman, to be the first person of color, I think it says a lot about who this city is and what the ambitions are.”
“I think it’s nice to have a woman in that position and getting some new blood in and new ideas,” said Diane Burkard, a season ticket holder at the Rep for well over 30 years.
“I’ve noticed some of the shows she’s picked have been a lot more interesting in terms of different cultures that you don’t always get to experience, so that sounds like something I’d like to do,” Buckard added.
“Angels in America” will be the first play to premiere this September under Sharif’s leadership.
“I want to be in support of all of the work happening in the city,” Sharif said. “I want to be apart of the rich cultural ecosystem of St. Louis. I cannot wait to play with you all. I welcome you all into the Rep’s doors, and the Rep is looking forward to being in your doors too … I cannot wait to make great art together,” she finished.
Mayor Gerry Welch officially declared July 25 as Hana Sharif Day in the city of Webster Groves.