With the replacement of Artistic Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges in 2012, Brava! Theater for Women in the Arts changed a lot. Two major changes in the mission and concept, that can easily be identified through Brava!’s website, make the theatre very different to how it was before.
Since its funding in 1986, Brava! Theatre for Women in the Arts has evolved and changed a lot. When comparing the theater before 2012 with how it is now, one may even say that the theater is not what it was before – literally. Not only did Brava! change its focus in their mission of empowerment with a new Artistic Director, they also changed their whole concept.
Brava! Theater is located in San Francisco’s Mission District, a neighborhood which is known for its strong Latino character. The Mission District has a history of Mexican and Central American immigration and in 2000 the Latino population in this area was at 60%. The theater’s situation may be one reason for and may have had a huge impact on one of the biggest changes in Brava!.
Already by comparing the sections Mission & Vision on the theater’s website from before 2012 and now, one can clearly identify a focus-shift. Where it said before that Brava!’s mission is to produce and present live art “celebrating the intersection of feminism and multiculturalism” it now has a wider goal. The focus on women-empowerment, as the theatre also claims in its name, changed into the mission to empower much more underrepresented groups in the society. On Brava!’s current website it is told, that the theatre is “dedicated to cultivating the artistic expression of women, LGBTQIA, people of color, youth and other underrepresented voices.”
This focus-shift can also be identified by looking on the program Brava! presents. Before 2012, under then Artistic Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges, the theater presented mostly theater plays. These were not only written and directed by women, but also focused on women’s stories and problems in the society and in religion, challenging aging and the attempt to correspond to requirements set by the society for women. Nowadays, Brava! only presents such plays from time to time choosing mostly to present plays written, directed and played by Latin artists and focusing on Latin history.
The second big change of Brava! Theater is the organization of the theater itself. As already mentioned, plays have become a small part of the program which is presented. Since the take-over of new Artistic Director Anastacia Cuellar Powers, the theater rather presents different events, readings, festivals and parties, mostly featuring Latin artists and Latin art in general. One may thus say that Brava! not only changed its focus from women-empowerment to empowering all underrepresented groups, but also that it went from a theater to rather an entertainment center.
Brava! going from theater to entertainment center and going from focusing on women-empowerment to empowerment of multiple underrepresented groups may have one simple explanation. With these two immense changes Brava! attracts a way bigger audience. Even though Brava! gives no information about their finances whatsoever, it may be realistic that the theater wanted to improve their financial situation with these changes. By presenting events which are different to normal theater plays, Brava! differentiates itself from other theaters in the Bay Area. With parties and screenings of, e.g. Beyoncé’s visual album, they attract a younger crowd.
By concentrating on Latin art Brava! may appeal to the population of their area, which is the Latin characterized Mission District. It does make sense to change the program in order to attract more Latin people since there are so many in the neighborhood. Empowering not only women, but many different underrepresented groups brings them a versatile audience identifying with these different groups.
All these changes may have had a positive impact on Brava!’s financial situation. In addition to that, the theatre also rents it’s 360-seat Main Theater and it’s 60-seat Brava Studio which is not only an additional indication for Brava! being an entertainment center, but also represents an additional source of income for the theatre.
Altogether, the change of Brava! Theater for Women in the Arts may have helped to raise the theatre’s success and definitely has changed their reputation. The theater is now probably more attractive to not only the Mission District’s Latin population, but also all the people identifying or wanting to support the underrepresented groups Brava! wants to empower. The theater should maybe change its name in order to prevent misguidance with the expression “for Women in the Arts”, however it may not be a negative thing that Brava! Theater is not what it was before.