September 2020 will mark the beginning of St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s fourteenth season theme “Dramedy.”

As we continue our exploration of  human relationships, we present an offering of plays this season that tell stories of expectant families, existing relations and belief systems that we use to blame our choices and actions. Season 14 will make you think and laugh until you cry.

Our 2020-21 season:
And Baby Makes Seven by Paula Vogel
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, Annamaria Pileggi
September 18 – October 4, 2020 

Anna, Ruth and Peter await the arrival of their newborn child, but first they must rid the crowded apartment of their three imaginary children. 

“AND BABY MAKES SEVEN is a profound and clever comedy.” —Drama-Logue.

“What’s remarkable about BABY—a really lovely play—is the sense of innocence and optimism that rises from potentially dark subject matter.” —Philadelphia City Paper.

“AND BABY MAKES SEVEN is a hilariously inventive play. Playwright Vogel’s writing is witty and precise.” —Daily Californian.

“Filled with outrageous touches, AND BABY MAKES SEVEN offers one of those rare theatergoing opportunities where everything comes together in a string of magical moments. Be prepared to be enchanted seven times over.” —Austin American Statesman.

STRAIGHT WHITE MEN
By Young Jean Lee
Directed by Joanna Battles
December 4 – December 20, 2020 

When Ed and his three adult sons come together to celebrate Christmas, they enjoy cheerful trash-talking, pranks, and takeout Chinese. Then they confront a problem that even being a happy family can’t solve: When identity matters, and privilege is problematic, what is the value of being a straight white man?

“The signal surprise of STRAIGHT WHITE MEN, written by the ever-audacious Young Jean Lee, is that the play is not a full-frontal assault on the beings of the title…Ms. Lee’s fascinating play goes far beyond cheap satire, ultimately becoming a compassionate and stimulating exploration of one man’s existential crisis. Believe it or not, Ms. Lee wants us to sympathize with the inexpressible anguish of her protagonist, a middle-aged, upper-middle-class straight white man…[A] mournful and inquisitive play…” —The New York Times.

 “A prime example of dramaturgical normcore—that is, experimental plays dressing up like fourth-wall family dramas—[STRAIGHT WHITE MEN] tickles your soft aesthetic underbelly, before easing in the knife of reality…If Lee wants to dissect the conscience of our society’s most visible and powerful population, what better mode than living-room realism, sadly, our default theatrical setting? …However, if you expect deconstruction-prone Lee to break down this form through surreal flourishes or screwing with the frame, you may be surprised. Most shocking is the absence of shock. She’s too good a writer for the drama not to work on its own terms, and as such, the result is both emotionally satisfying…and unflinching in its critique of white-driven social justice.” —Time Out NY.

 “To cut to the obvious, STRAIGHT WHITE MEN is a loaded title…But the play turns out to have a disarming gentleness to it. Lee has more sympathy for her subject than scorn…STRAIGHT WHITE MEN is a family drama that on the surface looks fairly standard, but the play transcends psychological realism. Lee is wrestling with the meaning of straight white male privilege through characters who are self-conscious beneficiaries of an identity increasingly out of favor in 21st century America yet still, like it or not, in control.” —Los Angeles Times.

Hand To God by Robert Askins
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, John Pierson
February 19- March 7, 2021

After the death of his father, meek Jason finds an outlet for his anxiety at the Christian Puppet Ministry, in the devoutly religious, relatively quiet small town of Cypress, Texas. Jason’s complicated relationships with the town pastor, the school bully, the girl next door, and—most especially—his mother are thrown into upheaval when Jason’s puppet, Tyrone, takes on a shocking and dangerously irreverent personality all its own. HAND TO GOD explores the startlingly fragile nature of faith, morality, and the ties that bind us.

“The fearsome critter [Tyrone], who takes possession of a troubled teenager’s left arm in Robert Askins’ darkly delightful play really inspires goose bumps as he unleashes a reign of terror…But he’s also flat-out hilarious, spewing forth acid comedy that will turn those goose bumps into guffaws.” —The New York Times. 

“Furiously funny…Askins’ most impressive talent is his ability to make us laugh while juggling those big themes that make life so terrifying: death, depression, alcoholism, sexual guilt, emotional repression, religious hypocrisy and the eternal battle between your good puppet and your bad puppet.” —Variety. 

“A scabrously funny scenario that steadily darkens into suspense and Grand Guignol horror, this fiery clash of the id, ego and superego is also an audacious commentary on the uses of faith, both to comfort and control us.” —The Hollywood Reporter. 

“I don’t know which I want to do more: Sing Hallelujah—or wash its dirty little mouth out with soap. …Clearly a singular vision is at work here, with playwright Robert Askins venturing successfully into territory—satire—rich with potholes.” —Deadline. 

“HAND TO GOD is so ridiculously raunchy, irreverent and funny it’s bound to leave you sore from laughing. Ah, hurts so good.” —New York Daily News.

The Zoo Story/The Dumb Waiter
by Edward Albee/Harold Pinter 
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, Wayne Salomon
April 16 – May 2, 2021
Classic early one act plays by two giants of the theatre.  Edward Albee and Harold Pinter.

THE ZOO STORY – A man sits peacefully reading in the sunlight in Central Park. There enters a second man. He is a young, unkempt and undisciplined vagrant where the first is neat, ordered, well-to-do and conventional. The vagrant is a soul in torture and rebellion. He longs to communicate so fiercely that he frightens and repels his listener. He is a man drained of all hope who, in his passion for company, seeks to drain his companion. With provocative humor and unrelenting suspense, the young savage slowly, but relentlessly, brings his victim down to his own atavistic level as he relates a story about his visit to the zoo. 

“Edward Albee is a voice unparalleled in American theater.” —NY Times. 

“The dialogue crackles and the tension runs high.” —Associated Press. 

“Darkly comic and thrilling.” —Time Out NY.

THE DUMB WAITER: As the New York World-Telegram & Sun describes: “In the basement of a long-abandoned restaurant, two hired killers nervously await their next assignment. Barred from daylight and living public contact by the nature of their work, they expend their waiting time in bickering. So eerie is the situation that everything becomes comic, or grotesque, or both. Ben re-reading a newspaper and exclaiming in disbelief over the news items, Gus fussing with an offstage stove and offstage plumbing. Ben bludgeoning Gus into silence if he as much as mentions their work. Gus worrying that someone had slept in his bed. So then the ancient dumbwaiter comes to life, the suspense becomes almost unbearable—that expertly has Pinter put the nerves of his characters and audience on edge.”

“a distinguished gift for sheer, old-fashioned theatrical effectiveness, including the use of melodramatic suspense and the hint of sinister forces lying in ambush.” —NY Post

9th Annual LaBute New Theater Festival
July 9 – August 1, 2021
A Celebrated month-long festival of world premiere one-act plays.

ABOUT ST. LOUIS ACTORS’ STUDIO
 St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one of the leading professional theatres in the St. Louis. area, producing a four-show season of plays at our 97-seat Gaslight Theatre. STLAS collaborates with renown director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute to produce the LaBute New Theater Festival each July in St. Louis and each January in New York City. The festival is a one-act play competition for emerging professionals and high-school writers.

Union Avenue Opera’s University Artist Outreach program, Crescendo, will present a free recital on Sunday, March 10, at 5 p.m. The recital is the culmination for participants in UAO’s Crescendo program, a free, hands-on, performance based training program developed to further the education of local artists still young in their careers as they prepare to join the St. Louis art community.

The recital is free and open to all ages. It will be held on the Union Avenue Opera stage at 733 North Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108. This is a non-ticketed event. Doors open 4:30 p.m.

In the spring of 2014, Union Avenue Opera launched their new collegiate enrichment program called Crescendo.

Participants take part in a series of masterclasses and workshops presented by UAO’s esteemed professionals in anticipation of a public recital on March 10, where they will compete for $2,500 in scholarships and spots in UAO’s 2019 productions of Candide and La Boheme.

The program is open to all voice students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program within 60 miles of St. Louis, and offers a unique opportunity for young artists to work with their contemporaries while honing their craft.

To date, 72 students have completed the Crescendo program, some as many as 4 times! As a result, these young artists have appeared in over 65 roles in 7 operas as part of UAO’s Festival Season.  This year, 24 students from seven local music programs are participating in Crescendo.

Union Avenue Opera’s Crescendo is designed for the motivated student, to provide the opportunity to hone their craft while working with UAO’s esteemed professionals.

UAO believes St. Louis has a lot to offer singers and they want to reach out to local students and make their acquaintance. In addition, participants will compete for scholarships as well as paid positions in UAO’s 2019 productions of Bernstein’s Candide, Puccini’s La bohème, and Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied.* 

Numerous participants of the Crescendo Program have gained employment opportunities  working behind the scenes at Union Avenue Opera. Students were hired to work in the box office, run supertitles, as well as perform in productions, all of which gave them insight to a career in the performing arts.

cutline: 2018 Recital Winners: SIUE’s Sarah Paitz recipient of the John J. Prcic Memorial Scholarship, SIUE’s David Fournie winner of the Jack and Betty Swanson Scholarship, Webster University’s Abby Benson winner of the John Lessor Scholarship, and Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. Kari Frey Photography.

Meet the 2019 Crescendo Staff

Program Coordinator – Debra Hillabrand

Christine Armistead, Director of Vocal Activities, Washington UniversityJon Garrett, Adjunct Professor, Staff Accompanist and Music Director, St. Louis University; Adjunct Professor of Voice, Staff Accompanist and Music Director, Lindenwood University, Adjunct Professor, St. Charles Community CollegeSandra Geary, Piano Faculty, Washington UniversityMartha Hart, Associate Professor of Voice, Webster UniversityEric KuhnStella Markou, Director of  Vocal Studies, University of Missouri-St. LouisNancy Mayo, Piano Faculty, Webster UniversityJennifer MedinaAlice Nelson, Director of the Webster Opera Studio, Webster UniversityAnna Pileggi, Professor of the Practice in Drama, Washington UniversityNoël Prince, Voice Faculty, Washington UniversityMarc Schapman, Director of SIUE Opera Theatre, Southern Illinois University EdwardsvilleScott Schoonover, Artistic Director and Founder, Union Avenue Opera Stephanie Tennill, Assistant Professor of Music, Saint Louis University

 

Questions?Email Program Coordinator, Debra Hillabrand, at [email protected]

With the sort of clarity and theatrical density that only the two-hander can achieve, the season of exclusively two-character plays will journey through our most closely complex relationships: Mentor and Apprentice; Husband and wife; Mothers and Child.

Our 2019-20 season:

“Fifty Words” by Michael Weller

Directed by Associate Artistic Director John Pierson

September 20 – October 6, 2019 

While their nine-year-old son is away for the night on his first sleepover, Adam and Jan have an evening alone together, their first in years. Adam’s attempt to seduce his wife before he leaves on business the next day begins a suspenseful nightlong roller-coaster ride of revelation, rancor, passion and humor that explores a modern-day marriage on the verge of either a breakup or deepening love and understanding.

“Mr. Weller is a bold and productive dramatist.” —NY Times. 

“The best thing about Weller’s play is that it offers no easy answers for making a relationship work. Its shades of gray are less than comforting but realistic as husband and wife struggle to describe and resolve their complex feelings for each other.” —International Herald Tribune.

 

“A Life in the Theatre” by David Mamet 

Directed by John Contini

December 6 – December 22, 2019 

 Starring Founder/Artistic Director William Roth and Spencer Sickmann (Farragut North, The Feast, LaBute Festival)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Speed-The-Plow” takes us into the lives of two actors: John, young and rising into the first flush of his success; and Robert, older, anxious, and beginning to wane. Their short, spare, and increasingly raw exchanges reveal the estrangement of youth from age and the wider, inevitable and endless cycle of life, in and out of the theatre.

“A comedy about the artifice of acting… It is also about the artifice of living… An evening of pure theatre.” – The New York Times

“A comic masterpiece.” – New York Daily News

“The warmest and often the funniest play in town.” – New York Post

“[Mamet has] the most acute ear for dialogue of any American writer since J.D. Salinger.” – Village Voiceb

“Annapurna” by Sharr White

Directed by Associate Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi

February 14- March 1, 2020

After twenty years apart, Emma tracks Ulysses to a trailer park in the middle of nowhere for a final reckoning. What unfolds is a visceral and profound meditation on love and loss with the simplest of theatrical elements: two people in one room. A breathtaking story about the longevity of love.

“Sharr White’s ANNAPURNA is a comic and gripping duet…The closer [the characters] get to understanding what drove them apart, the more engrossed we become in watching them draw together.” —San Francisco Chronicle. 

“What if you had experienced the defining moment of your life—but couldn’t remember it? Sharr White’s remarkable two-person play ANNAPURNA…deals with just that dilemma, as well as other imponderables such as the vagaries of love and the philosophical clarity of impending death.” —LA Times.

 “…at the heart of each character is a lyricism that simply can’t be suffocated. Sharr White has created two fine and ferociously damaged people caught in the emotional whirlpool of not being able to live with or without each other.” —Huffington Post. 

“White’s poetry is endearing and quite lovely, and his dialogue is sharp, funny and consistently very honest…”—BroadwayWorld.com.

“Comfort” by Neil LaBute

Directed by Associate Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi

April 17-May 3, 2020

A new play by STLAS friend and associate Neil LaBute in which a successful author and her son meet after some time apart and revisit their troubled relationship. What’s at stake? Whether or not the instinctive bond between mother and child can survive not just the past, but also two new book deals.

“Mr. LaBute is writing some of the freshest and most illuminating American dialogue to be heard anywhere these days.” —NY Times. 

“No contemporary writer has more astutely captured the brutality in everyday conversation and behavior: That kind of insight requires sensitivity and soul-searching.” —USA Today.

 “It is tight, tense and emotionally true, and it portrays characters who actually seem part of the world that the rest of us live in.” —Time. 

ABOUT ST. LOUIS ACTORS’ STUDIO St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one of the leading professional theatres in the St. Louis. area, producing a four-show season of plays at our 97-seat Gaslight Theatre. STLAS collaborates with renown director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute to produce the LaBute New Theater Festival each July in St. Louis and each January in New York City. The festival is a one-act play competition for emerging professionals and high-school writers.

St. Louis Actors’ Studio is thrilled to announce that Annamaria Pileggi will join the organization as Associate Artistic Director.

She joins Founder/Artistic Director William Roth and fellow Associate Artistic Director John Pierson. She assumes her new role immediately, and in addition to her duties in artistic administration—including casting and future season planning—Anna will continue to direct during the company’s regular season.

Anna has already directed twice for STLAS, and both productions — this season’s Tribes and last season’s Blackbird — are nominated for multiple Theater Circle Awards. 

Anna is a Professor of the Practice in Drama at Washington University in St. Louis who has been on the faculty of the Performing Arts Department since 1991. She is a five-time recipient of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Award recognizing excellence in teaching.  Pileggi directs and teaches courses in Acting, Movement, Musical Theatre, and Theatre for Social Change. She also serves as an administrator and acting instructor for the department’s Shakespeare Globe Program in London.

Pileggi has an MFA in acting from Brandeis University.  In addition to her teaching, Pileggi has directed professionally at many St Louis theatres, including, New Jewish, Max & Louie Productions, Onsite, That Uppity Theatre, Muddy Waters, Dramatic License, and HotCity.

She was also on staff at HotCity as an Associate Director and Co-Producer of the theatre’s Greenhouse New Play Development Series from 2007 until the company’s closing in 2014.

ABOUT ST. LOUIS ACTORS’ STUDIO St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one of the leading professional theatres in the St. Louis. area, producing a four-show season of plays at our 97-seat Gaslight Theatre. STLAS collaborates with renown director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute to produce the LaBute New Theater Festival each July in St. Louis and each January in New York City. The festival is a one-act play competition for emerging professionals and high-school writers.