Brava! for Women in the Arts
In 1986, Ellen Gavin and an eclectic and talented group of 75 women artists, met at Galería de la Raza in San Francisco’s Mission District with the intention of bringing attention to the unspoken realities of women’s lives, through the creation of new theater works. These artists first expressed their creative passion by producing a black lesbian event at the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition District, followed by a women’s writing showcase at the Victoria Theater. In the midst of these two projects, Brava! For Women in the Arts was founded.
Over the next 21 years, under the Executive / Artistic Directorship of Ellen Gavin, BRAVA produced many world and west coast premieres by some of the most vibrant playwrights and musicians - always with an eye to the feminist, the culturally diverse and the provocative. Participants included prominent San Francisco feminists, community leaders, activists, and artists -- Cherrie Moraga, Amy Mueller, Jewelle Gomez, and Ellen Sebastian Chang. BRAVA produced award-winning premieres by Diana Son, Eve Ensler, Debbie Swisher, Reno, Cherylene Lee, Suzan-Lori Parks, Culture Clash, Joan Holden, Anne Galjour, Elizabeth Summers, Kate Rigg, Dan Guerrero, and Mabou Mines, as well as works by internationally known playwrights like Jesusa Rodriguez and Liliana Felipe of Mexico, Jorge Drexler of Uruguay, and Ojos de Brujo and Ismael Serrano of Spain.
In 1996, BRAVA purchased the shuttered York Theater, a former vaudeville / movie house built in 1926, on the vibrant lower 24th Street Corridor in the Mission District. The iconic building was renamed Brava Theater Center. A $3 million renovation ensued creating two performance spaces, a 360-seat main theater and a 60 seat Studio Theater. World-class artists featured on BRAVA's stage include Ritchie Havens, Lesley Gore, Janis Ian, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Sandra Bernhardt, Coleman Barks, Kate Clinton, Bill Santiago, and Will Durst, Trios Los Panchos, Lila Downs, Astrid Hadad, Ely Guerra, and Liliana Felipe.
From Ellen’s departure in late 2007 until January 2012, Brava! For Women in the Arts was under the artistic direction of Raelle Myrick-Hodges. During Raelle’s tenure she produced 3 seasons of original and re-imagined works including the world premiere of Brian Thorntenson's Over the Mountain, Beebo Brinker Chronicles, Scapel, Iph... (co-presented with African American Shakespeare Company) and the regional premiere of UnVeiled by Rohina Malik.
In February 2012, BRAVA’s Board of Directors hired current Executive Director, Anastacia Powers Cuellar (Stacie). Stacie brings a wide range of experience with a 30-year history as an Arts Administrator and Producer in San Francisco. During her short tenure at Brava, Stacie has revitalized youth programming and regenerated the Capital Project to renovate the building, to create much needed dressing rooms, office and performance space. She has recruited a strong and capable Board of Directors to ensure a dynamic future for Brava Theater Center.
Top: Brava Founder, Ellen Gavin (R) with Lila Downs
Middle: Brava Theater Center, circa 2000
Right: Brava ED, Anastacia Powers Cuellar