Taking his favorite African proverb to heart, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Zaylin Yates, 29, the founding managing director of South Florida's Brévo Theatre is going the distance.
The Florida A&M University graduate, who earned an MBA and a BA in Theater Performance and a BS in Business Administration, moved to the area after graduating and never looked back.
“My goal for Brévo Theatre is to become a theater company rooted in the community and known for excellence,” says Yates. “I always get a thrill when people recognize the name and tell me they’ve enjoyed one of our productions.”
The theater was established with a vision to enrich the community and highlight young, Black and Brown artists in the community.
Founded during the pandemic with his business partner, Terrence Pride, in its inaugural season they offered “Between Two Worlds!” a symposium on colorism and self-identity showcasing, “American Son,” by playwright Christopher Demos-Brown, about an estranged bi-racial couple who confront their feelings about race after their son is detained by police after a traffic stop, followed by a talkback with Demos-Brown and "Funnyhouse of a Negro,” by Adrienne Kennedy, Both plays, professional productions using mostly local actors, premiered at the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami.
After the success of the first season, in July they presented “Brévo for Broadway,” a production of the Young, Gifted & Brave Theatre for Youth program featuring Miami high school performers.
The second season, which began last March and is on-going, featured a New Works series, titled, “Freshly Rooted: With Michael Oatman,” at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, along with“The Brother’s Size,” at Island City Stage in Wilton Manors, part of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “The Brother/Sister Plays” trilogy.
“People are often surprised when they learn what I’ve done at a relatively young age,” Yates says, modestly. “In addition to my academic achievements and working as a law investigator for Publix supermarkets, I’ve been directing theater productions since 2015.”
Not one to brag, Yates says he is motivated, not by self-aggrandizement or ego, but by being of service to others.
The best words to describe him, he says, include adaptable, caring, passionate and goal- oriented.
“I have a big heart for giving back,” he says. “If I can be a conduit to help others, that is my calling. I want to help talented black and brown people who might not have the opportunity to be seen or heard by other directors or producers.”
Both parents were role models. His dad, Kerry, a master gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps, ensured Yates remained level-headed and goal-oriented and taught him to write his goals down. To this day, Yates keeps a running list of objectives.
His mother, Aileen, taught him the business side.
Although she wanted him to be an engineer or basketball player, he says, “I went completely left.”
Among his best qualities he counts trustworthiness and being a man of his word.
“I have to keep my promises,” he says, “or I can't sleep at night. It may take me a few months, but I never forget a promise.”
In his spare time, he enjoys serving on the worship committee at the Church By The Glades, enjoying nature and reading the Redwall series of novels by James Brian Jacques and Richard Russell Riordan Jr.’s “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” series.
He respects actor Will Smith (“I’ve admired and idolized him since I was a kid”), as well as Michael Arden, the Tony-nominated director of “Spring Awakening,” and “Once on This Island,” for his creativity and willingness to go against the grain.
“It's true color blind and gender-blind casting,” Zaylin says of the latter show.
He was recently promoted to the community engagement position at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and his ultimate goal is to one day have his own dinner theater and become an artistic or managing director of a performing arts center.
For Brévo Theatre, Yates was instrumental in developing a number of successful partnerships. Miami Dade County, the Broward Cultural Division and the Florida Department of State Division of Arts and Culture are all sponsors of Brévo Theatre’s programming. Island City Stage in Wilton Manors and Broward Community College are community partners, providing in-kind donations to support their programming, such as donating performance space or incorporating them into their own programs.
“I am not an expert or a divine gift to South Florida,” he says jokingly. “I’m just someone who has accomplished many things, but I’m grateful for the people around me and those who have helped me get where I am. I love to surround myself with talented people who can guide me along the way.”
“These past years have been a whirlwind,” says Yates. “We've really taken off. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Brévo Theatre will soon announcing an upcoming benefit concert scheduled for Nov. 8 at Level Three in the Aventura Mall. For more information about the company, visit brevotheatre.org.