Brévo Theatre showcases South Florida’s homegrown artists to uplift community
Zaylin Yates was in kindergarten when his life changed forever. The show was Sleeping Beauty. He played a butterfly. And he was on stage for about five seconds.
“I knew from that moment that I had to be in theater for the rest of my life,” Yates said, laughing.
He was right. Years later, in 2019, Yates and his business partner Terrence Pride co-founded Brévo Theatre, a Miami-based theater company that focuses on programming and performances for, by and starring young Black and brown artists. Besides performing plays and musicals, the group organizes community events and programs to nurture Miami’s next generation of artists, Yates, the managing director, said. The group partners with venues and institutions across South Florida to hold rehearsals and performances, including Broward College, Island City Stage and Kelly Irish Dance Academy.
“We really just want to highlight the underappreciated, underserved community,” he said. “Our goal is to find those homegrown artists who are talented and showcase them rather than flying in people from New York or out of state to put on quality show.”
As the group heads into its third season, Yates said he’s looking forward to hosting new community engagement events that will be announced soon.
“We have a vision, we have a plan for what we want to do,” Yates said. “And all we want to do is be of service and uplift the entire community.”
Thought provoking shows
Yates and Pride, who also serves as the group’s producing artistic director, met at as students at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Yates was born in California and moved to Alabama when he was 14, and Pride is from Quincy, Florida.
While students at Florida A&M, Yates and Pride collaborated on a student-funded dinner theater performance of “Kissing the Blarney Stone.” During the pandemic, they were commissioned by the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts to produce virtual dance performances. The work, called “Protest Art,” reflected on racial injustice in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Yates said he was inspired to start Brévo Theatre by “a lack of attention to young, Black and brown artists in the community.”
After graduating from university, Yates relocated to South Florida while working for Publix’s legal department. He continued to act and work as an artistic director on the side, and decided to get involved in Miami’s theater scene. As he shadowed directors and went to more shows, he noticed that some seemed puzzled to see him there.
“It just became apparent to me through people’s conversations and questions that I was not the typical face that walked into their theater to see a show,” Yates said. “I must be there for an assignment. I’m in school. Somebody else brought me or I’m a family member. But no, I’m just a regular patron.”
From there, Yates and Pride decided to get funding to make Brévo Theatre a fixture in South Florida. The group’s first season, entitled “Between Two Worlds,” focused on works and symposiums discussing biracial identities. The following season, the company explored Black masculinity with “The Brothers Size,” a work by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the Miami-raised playwright behind the film Academy award-winning film “Moonlight.” The group aims to spark thought provoking conversations with its performances, Yates said.
This season, the group will showcase musicals, Yates said. One tells the story of three kids of different cultural and racial backgrounds growing up in Miami. The other is “Black Nativity,” written by poet Langston Hughes. The performance is a a musical retelling of the nativity story with contemporary and gospel music.
“It’s a beautiful piece of poetry,” Yates said.
Brévo Theatre goes beyond performances. The company hosts several programs to help emerging artists hone their skills, Yates said.
Young, Gifted & Brave is a summer theater conservatory meant for artists ages 14 to 22. Typically, youth theater programs are geared toward elementary and middle school-age children or are too expensive for teenage artists to pursue, Yates said.
“I feel like those are the forgotten children of the arts world,” Yates said, laughing.
The group also runs the Freshly Rooted program that offers resources for local playwrights. Writers are able to receive feedback on their work from directors and actors and producing support for how to market their pieces.
“It’s important because those individuals are our storytellers,” Yates said. “They have the creativity to take pen to paper and just write. When you take artists who are born and raised in the community, they have that background and that knowledge. When you present it, people can easily identify with it.”
Yates and Pride have big ambitions for Brévo Theatre. Their goals include securing more corporate funding, building its virtual programming, offering stipends for its conservatory and growing its audience base, Yates said.
In just two years, the group has been successful in growing its audience so far. It’s first show was performed for about 30 people. By its second season, actors were performing in front of 300 people, Yates said.
The key is being active and involved in the community, he said. Brévo Theatre made a point to show up for other arts and community organizations and connect with more artists.
“If you want to go far, then go together,” he said.
How to help
You can donate to Brévo Theatre through its website, brevotheatre.org/donate.
This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.