This December, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice swept into The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and charmed theatregoers from every corner of the region. In the process, it shattered The Rep’s preexisting sales records and grossed more than $1 million.
Adapted by Christopher Baker and directed by The Rep’s Augustin Family Artistic Director, Hana S. Sharif, the play handily topped the theatre’s previous top-seller – 2016’s A Christmas Carol – and enchanted more than 20,000 audience members during its run.
“Part of the joy of directing Pride and Prejudice was watching everyone – from the cast to the creative team to audiences – fall in love with Jane Austen’s characters and storytelling all over again,” Sharif said. “It is a gift to witness the magic of an incredible onstage team forging an emotional connection with sold-out houses. This was my first love letter to St. Louis and I am honored to witness its historic success.”
The production marked Sharif’s directorial debut at The Rep, and served as a triumphant capper to the first half of her debut season as The Rep’s artistic leader.
Sharif officially arrived at The Rep in June, part of a new wave of leadership at regional theatres throughout the nation. This fresh crop of leaders is younger and more diverse – in a survey of 101 regional artistic director positions filled since 2015, Bay Area theatre directors Rebecca Novick and Evren Odcikin found that 42 of these incoming leaders were women (up from 22) and 29 were people of color (up from 13).
As an African-American woman taking the reins at one of the country’s most prestigious regional theatres, Sharif quickly became one of the leading faces of this exciting sea change.
In just six months, Sharif has galvanized The Rep’s presence both onstage and in the community. The theatre has rapidly expanded its outreach programs, hiring a Special Events Manager and a Community Organizing Manager to help bring The Rep beyond its home in suburban Webster Groves to the rest of the St. Louis region.
“This first year is very much about learning from and listening to the community,” Sharif said. “We’re planting seeds for the next era of The Rep, and a major part of that is understanding what the community needs from its art. We’ve learned at every step of the way, from our season-opening Angels in America through Pride and Prejudice, and it’s all informing our plans for the 2020-2021 season and beyond. I can’t wait to share our next act with St. Louis.”
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.