A retired educator with 40 years of service, Ava Brewster-Turner, Ph.D is the Founding Artistic Director of UpStage Theatre Company in Baton Rouge. She earned her BS from Grambling State University; M.Ed. from Southern University; and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University. The 63-year-old is the recipient of numerous recognitions including The Southern Black Theatre Festival’s Trailblazer Award; Hall of Fame Inductee (Augusta, Arkansas); Outstanding Theatre Director (American Association of Community Theatre); multi-year scholarship recipient- New York’s Playback Theatre; multi-year honoree- Who’s Who Among American’s Teachers; Past President of the National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts; and Past President of the Charles P. Alumni Chapter of the Grambling University National Alumni Association. She holds memberships in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Black Theatre Association, and The American Association of Community Theatre.
What has been a deciding moment or an experience that pushed you forward? When I was told early in my pursuit to become a theatre company owner that it would never work; that I was wasting my time, energy, and money on something Black people would never support.
Business resolution: We believe that the general populous of our community have not fully realized the power and persuasiveness of the arts; therefore, one of our primary business goals for this year is to embark upon ways to educate our community about the power of the arts. For example, we are familiar with the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks regarding Civil Rights; but not many people consider how the powerful documentary Roots advanced civility among the races.
What is your #1 priority right now? To expand to UpStage Theatre Company’s brand, now in its 17th Season… into a well-known theatre arts company.
Best advice you’ve ever received? “Treat others the way you want to be treated”
Moves made: Relocated UpStage Theatre after 15 years from its 50-seat Black Box on Wooddale Blvd to a 200-seat theatre in Cortana Mall.
What to expect: Knowledge is power, and education is the key to succeeding. In order to prepare aspiring playwrights, I plan to implement The Playwright’s Pen Series. Presently, UpStage host an Emerging Playwright Project producing scripts submitted from playwrights from across the country. With the Playwright’s Pen Series, aspiring playwrights will have an opportunity to learn from established writers, which will equip them to learn the essentials of developing an idea into a stage play.
- Also, establishing the UpStage Theatre Star Scholarship. Two scholarships will be awarded to high school students who plan to pursue a degree in the performing arts.
- Hosting a three-week summer arts camp. This camp will expose students to learning the aspects of writing and developing a script; filming, editing, and producing the script.
- Saturday Acting classes. Students will learn skills that are key to building acting and performance techniques, and building confidence to interact effectively in a group.
Life/business motto: “With God all things are possible” ; “Believe in Yourself”
Role Models: My mother Berlin Brewster Conner
What’s on your playlist? Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross Greatest Hits
What are you reading? The Ground on Which I Stand by August Wilson
What’s entertaining you? Classic movies and television shows and Shiloh Baptist Church Weekly Podcast.
Facebook Page: @upstagetheatrebr
Facebook Group: UpStage Theatre Company
Ava Brewster-Turner, 63
Founding Artistic Director of UpStage Theatre Company
Hometown: Augusta, Arkansas
Current location: Baton Rouge, LA