Department of Africana Studies

About the Theatre

Rites and Reason is one of the oldest continuously producing Black theatres in the nation.

Rites and Reason Theatre’s mission is to develop new creative works which analyze and articulate the phenomenal and universal odyssey of the African Diaspora. Through this commitment, Rites and Reason develops creative works that explore the experiences and expressions of peoples and cultures from across the world.

A production still from Tripping Over Roots.

Rites and Reason Theatre: Art as Knowledge

An image of actress Sylvia Ann Soares reading the script for the 1999 production of Heart to Heart.

Rites and Reason Theatre was established in 1970 by the late Professor George Houston Bass—personal secretary to Langston Hughes and executor of his literary estate—Brown students, and Rhode Island community members as a direct result of the Black Arts Movement and the Black Student Walkout at Brown University in December 1968.

Professor Bass worked with Professor Rhett S. Jones, Rites and Reason's Research Director, to create a space to express the cultural, social, and ideological concerns of the African Diaspora. Together with Producer and Managing Director Karen Allen Baxter, the group codified new methods for play development.

Developing New Creative Works

A production still from Heart to Heart.

Today, as one of the oldest continuously producing Black theatres in the nation, Rites and Reason Theatre furthers its mission of developing new creative works through its unique Research-to-Performance Method under the leadership of its current Artistic Director, Professor Elmo Terry-Morgan, ’74.

The Research-to-Performance Method (RPM) is a systematic process that organizes teams of artists, scholars and researchers in the scholarly and creative development of new theatrical performances. These RPM teams engage in direct dialogue with the community throughout the developmental process from ideas to readings to workshops to mainstage productions that prioritize the creation of new knowledge through collaborative creativity.


50 Years of Rites and Reason


Artistic Director Elmo Terry-Morgan '74 and Senior Managing Director Karen Allen Baxter talk Rites and Reason History in an Archival Project clip.