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"The Whipping Man" - DRAMA NOMINEE

In the Black Rep's "The Whipping Man," a former slave-owner and two former slaves (from left, Justin Ivan Brown, Ron Himes and Ronald L. Connor) observe Passover. Stewart Goldstein photo.

Ron Himes feels confident that he will be able to announce a season and a location for the Black Rep early in September — around the time that the troupe’s next show, “Emergency,” plays at Washington University’s A.E. Hotchner Theatre.

The 36-year-old troupe has performed at the Grandel Theatre in Grand Center for 20 years. But earlier this month the Grand Center board sold the theater to a buyer, not yet announced. The building will be rehabbed and the Black Rep was told to remove anything it had in the building. Its last show there, “The Wiz,” ran through July.

That left Himes, the Black Rep’s founder and producing director, scrambling for a stage — or stages — for the next season, scheduled to start in January 2014.

“The good news is, there is good news on the horizon, I think,” Himes said. “I am looking at venues and I hope that soon I will be able to make an announcement.”

As a rule, the Black Rep presents six mainstage productions between January and June. It may not be possible to present all of them at one theater next year, but Himes doesn’t want to stage each play at a different house.

“I don’t want to move with every show. I don’t want to do that to our audience,” he said. If he can’t mount the whole season at one theater, he would like to present it at two, or at most three, places. A “nomad season” will buy time while the troupe looks for a permanent situation.

The 2014 season offerings will remain up in the air until Himes figures out where they will be presented. The size and sophistication of the theater space affects what can be mounted successfully.

“The plays we do may have to change,” he said. “For instance, ‘Once on This Island’ was going to be our big musical. I don’t see how I can do that. Or maybe I will get creative and figure out how!

“But I am getting close to being able to make an announcement (of the season).”

The Black Rep was about two years behind on its rent at the Grandel, he said, but had made some payments recently.

Himes is on the faculty at Washington University, where the Black Rep has previously performed at the large Edison Theatre. But he thinks that the Hotchner, an intimate black-box, is a better fit for “Emergency,” a one-man show.

“As wonderful as Patrese (McClain) was in (the one-woman play) ‘No Child ...,’ the Edison swallowed her up when we moved it there from the Grandel,” he said. “The Hotchner will be perfect for ‘Emergency.’”

Written (and originally performed) by Daniel Beaty, “Emergency” has been hailed as surrealistic, comedic, and brainy fantasy about a slave ship that suddenly emerges in modern New York harbor. Ronald L. Conner will portray more than 40 characters; their interactions explore the nature of identity and of freedom.

Himes will direct. Earlier this summer, he and Conner — whose frequent appearances at the Black Rep included leading roles in its 2013 productions of “The Piano Lesson,” “The Mountaintop” “Smash/Hit” and “The Whipping Man” — played father and son in August Wilson’s “Fences” at the New Harmony Theatre in Indiana.

“Emergency” will run Sept. 5-15 at the Hotchner, down the hall from the Edison in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard. Tickets, $25, are available through the Black Rep (314-534-3807;

Judith Newmark is the theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.