.Union Avenue Opera announces three new garden concerts taking place this spring.

This summer, Union Avenue Opera will make its highly anticipated return to its home stage within the historic Union Avenue Christian Church at 733 N. Union Blvd, just north of the intersection of Union and Delmar Boulevards.

Known for its commitment to presenting operas in their original language, Union Avenue Opera will offer a three opera festival season opening with Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, Eugene Onegin (July 8, 9, 15, 16) which last appeared on the UAO stage in 2003 to great critical acclaim. The season will also see the return of Verdi’s riotous Italian romp Falstaff (July 29, 30, August 5, 6) which the company last produced in 2005. Rounding out the 2022 season will be the UAO debut of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s charming A Little Night Music (August 19, 20, 26, 27).

“Moving back to our home stage after these harrowing two years away is a joyful outcome to the uncertainty we have faced during this pandemic” said UAO Founder and Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. “Our first two productions are personal and audience favorites from our 28 years of producing opera – Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Verdi’s Falstaff. These new, vivacious productions welcome back to our stage many returning artists and several debut singers. Director Octavio Cardenas will make his UAO debut with Eugene Onegin bringing his own special brand of visceral, physical directing to the UAO stage. Jon Truitt returns to direct Falstaff (Jon’s favorite
opera) with his proven comedic style, and Maestro Stephen Hargreaves will return to the UAO pit.”

“Our third production is a company and composer debut with Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. I’ve wanted to bring this show to UAO for many years and am so thrilled it is finally happening!” said Schoonover. “Annamaria Pileggi will return to direct this stellar cast headlined by St. Louis’ own Debby Lennon as Desirée. It is a wonderful story with so much memorable music which finishes up a season that certainly offers something for everyone! I know we say often, but this one is truly a season not to be missed – it is chock-full of amazing voices, actors, orchestra and stage technicians eager to get back to great storytelling on the intimate UAO stage.”
Single tickets range from $35 to $55 and are available at unionavenueopera.org or by calling 314-361-2881. Discounts are available for Seniors (65+), Military/Educator, and Young Audiences (under 18). All performances start at 8:00PM and free parking is available in the lots behind the venue and overflow parking is available on the street. 

Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s: EUGENE ONEGIN

July 8, 9, 15, 16 at 8:00PM
Presented in Russian with projected English supertitles
Conducted by Scott Schoonover
Directed by Octavio Cardenas
Libretto by Konstantin Shilovsky and Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky


A cautionary tale of what was, what was not, and what could have been.
Tatyana, a lovesick girl from the countryside, declares her love for Onegin and finds herself spurned by the disenchanted aristocrat. Onegin, indifferent to the feelings of others, disregards Tatyana’s advances to pursue Olga, his friend Lensky’s betrothed. A duel commences and Onegin finds himself victorious albeit deeply tormented. He returns years later to find Tatyana happily married to Prince Gremin. Struck by her beauty, Onegin declares his love
for her only to find himself face to face with the folly of his naïveté. Eugene Onegin is a sophisticated and melancholy masterpiece by one of classical music’s most universally beloved composers. Tchaikovsky’s lush melodies are enhanced by the opera’s unique folk tunes, infectious waltzes, and passion-soaked arias bringing to
life Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel like never before.

Under the baton of Artistic Director Scott Schoonover, Robert Garner (Nabucco, Nabucco) and William Davenport (Hoffmann, Les contes d’Hoffmann) will return to UAO in their role debuts as Onegin and Lensky respectively. No stranger to the role of Tatyana, Zoya Gramagin will make her UAO debut alongside Andrew W. Potter as Prince Gremin. Melody Wilson (Fenena, Nabucco and Mrs. Miller, Doubt) will return as Olga along with local artists Debbie Stinson as Madama Larina, Victoria Carmichael as Filippyevna, Marc Schapman as Triquet, and Benjamin Worley as Zaretsky. This will be acclaimed stage director Octavio Carendas’ UAO directorial debut. Patrick Huber will provide scenic and lighting design with costume design by Teresa Doggett.

Eugene Onegin – Robert Garner
Tatyana – Zoya Gramagin*
Lensky – William Davenport
Olga – Melody Wilson
Filippyevna – Victoria Carmichael
Madame Larina – Debbie Stinson
Prince Gremin – Andrew W. Potter*
Monsieur Triquet – Marc Schapman
Zaretsky – Benjamin Worley

Giuseppe Verdi’s: FALSTAFF

July 29, 30, August 5, 6 at 8:00PM
Presented in Italian with projected English supertitles
Conducted by Stephen Hargreaves
Directed by Jon Truitt
Libretto by Arrigo Boito


Drink. Cheat. Scheme. Repeat. Just don’t get caught unaware
Old, lecherous, and down on his luck, Sir John Falstaff can’t resist the ladies. The fool hatches a plan to reverse his ill-fortune and sets his sights on not one, but two married women. Sharper than they look, Alice and Meg discover the odious Falstaff’s plan to unceremoniously seduce them and trick them out of their fortunes. The women band together and with the help of Nannetta and Dame Quickly, they concoct a scheme to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget and to put him in his place once and for all. Add in a jealous husband, a pair of young lovers, and a touch of the supernatural and what ensues is a sophisticated comedy filled with failed plans and botched disguises. Verdi’s riotous romp Falstaff bubbles with irrepressible wit and charm in this adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.

On the heels of last summer’s company debut, Robert Mellon (Figaro, Il barbiere di Siviglia) will lead the cast of returning artists as Sir John Falstaff. No stranger to the UAO stage Brooklyn Snow (the Heroines, Les contes d’Hoffmann, and Cunegonde, Candide) will be reunited with her Candide co-star, Jesse Darden (Candide) as the two young lovers, Nannetta and Fenton. St. Louis-based husband and wife duo Jacob Lassetter and Karen Kanakis will portray Ford and his wife Alice for the production as Janara Kellerman (Rosina, Il barbiere di Siviglia) returns as Dame Quickly, and Melody Wilson will again be seen on the UAO stage, this time in her role debut as Meg Page. A trio of St. Louis based artists round out the cast with Clark Sturdevant as Bardolfo, Mark Freiman as Pistola, and Anthony Heinemann as Dr. Caius. Stephen Hargreaves conducts while Jon Truitt directs. Lex Van Bloomestein’s set designs and Teresa Doggett’s costume designs will be enhanced by Patrick Huber’s lighting design.

Sir John Falstaff – Robert Mellon
Alice Ford – Karen Kanakis
Ford – Jacob Lassetter
Nanetta – Brooklyn Snow
Fenton – Jesse Darden
Dame Quickly – Janara Kellerman
Meg Page – Melody Wilson
Bardolfo – Clark Sturdevant
Pistola – Mark Freiman
Dr. Caius – Anthony Heinemann

Stephen Sondheim’s: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC

August 19, 20, 26, 27 at 8:00PM
Presented in English with projected English supertitles
Conducted by Scott Schoonover
Directed by Annamaria Pileggi
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
Suggested by a Film by Ingmar Bergman
Originally Produced and Directed on Broadway by Harold Prince


Lovers reunite, passions reignite, and new romance blossoms in the magic of music on a mid-summer’s night.


A Little Night Music explores the tangled web of affairs centered around the glamorous actress Desirée Armfeldt and the two married men who love her: a lawyer by the name of Frederik Egerman and Count Carl-Magnus Malcom.

Both men—as well as their jealous wives—agree to join Desirée at her family’s estate for a scandalous “Weekend in the Country” under the watchful eyes of the wry family matriarch and harmonizing Greek chorus. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, it is no wonder A Little Night Music won the Tony Award for Best Musical. From the romance of the night waltzes to the hauntingly beautiful “Send in the Clowns,” Sondheim’s sweeping score is infused with humor and warmth weaving together musical theatre and operetta seamlessly in this tantalizing tale.

Debby Lennon (Mrs. Mullin, Carousel) returns to the UAO stage to lead this stunning cast as Desirée Armfeldt under the direction of Annamaria Pileggi, and Scott Schoonover conducts. Also returning to the UAO stage are Peter Kendall Clark (Older Thompson, Glory Denied) and Brooklyn Snow, who makes her second appearances of the season, as the newly married Frederick and Anne Egerman. Eric J. McConnell makes his UAO stage debut as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm and Leann Schuering (Josephine, H.M.S. Pinafore) as his wife Charlotte. Local actor Teresa Doggett, best known for her work as UAO’s costume designer for the past fifteen seasons, makes her UAO stage debut as the matriarch Madame Armfeldt alongside Amy Maude Helfer as the restless maid Petra and Arielle Pedersen as the young Fredrika. A bevy of St. Louis talent round out the cast including James Stevens as Henrik Egerman, Jordan Wolk as the butler Frid, and Grace Yukiko Fisher, Gina Malone, Sarah Price, Joel Rogier, and Philip Touchette as the “Liebeslieders”. C. Otis Sweezey will provide scenic design for A Little Night Music along with costume design by Teresa Doggett and lighting design by Patrick Huber.

Desirée Armfeldt – Debby Lennon
Frederick Egerman – Peter Kendall Clark
Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm – Eric J. McConnell*
Charlotte Malcolm – Leann Schuering
Madame Armfeldt – Teresa Doggett*
Anne Egerman – Brooklyn Snow
Henrik Egerman – James Stevens
Petra – Amy Maude Helfer*
Fredrika – Arielle Pedersen*
Mrs. Nordstrom – Gina Malone
Mrs. Anderssen – Grace Yukiko Fisher
Mrs. Segstrom – Sarah Price*
Mr. Erlanson – Philip Touchette
Mr. Lindquist – Joel Rogier
Frid – Jordan Wolk

A Little Night Music is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized
performance materials are also supplied by MTI. www.mtishows.com
*UAO stage debut

Opera in the Garden
In anticipation of the season, UAO will bring classic opera front and center in its 2022 Opera in the Garden – Garden Concert Series Fundraiser this spring. Launched in 2018, as a House Concert Series, UAO moved the concerts outdoor in the fall of 2020 for the safety of its artists and patrons and were some of the first, live, operatic performances held in St. Louis during the pandemic. Each concert will feature two UAO artists from the upcoming season performing an eclectic and entertaining selection of arias, art songs and musical theatre favorites, and will showcase a scholarship winner from UAO’s 2022 CRESCENDO! program along with a guest instrumentalist from UAO’s talented opera orchestra.

Sunday, May 8 at 5:00PM
Our opening concert will take place on Mother’s Day and headlined by two singing moms – Gina Malone and Danielle Yilmaz – celebrating the day with us with some wonderful music and fun. Guest artists Raven Brooks, soprano, from Blackburn College and UAO principal flutist, Ann Dolan will join pianist Sandra Geary for this perfect Mother’s Day afternoon. The backdrop for our first concert is the beautiful lawn of the 1959 home of CK Siu and Shannon Hart which sits on what used to be the Krause farm in Ladue.

Sunday, May 22 at 5:00PM
Our second concert takes us to the grounds of the former Rand Mansion, now the home of University City mayor, Terry Crow. Artists Sarah Price, Mark Freiman and Nancy Mayo will lead this concert, along with guest soprano, Erica Ancell from Webster University and UAO principal horn player, Nancy Schick, who will team up with Ms. Price and Ms. Mayo for a not-to-be-missed special performance of Schubert’s Auf dem Strom D. 943.

Sunday, June 5 at 5:00PM
The 2022 Garden Concert Series concludes with a return to the beautiful flower-filled garden of the University City home of Richard and Mary Ann Shaw. Grace Yukiko Fisher, Philip Touchette and Nancy Mayo will entertain us with opera and musical theatre fun, and guest artists Madalyn Tomkins, soprano, from Webster University, and Carolina Neves, violinist will round out this beautiful afternoon.

Fundraiser tickets are $50 for individuals or $100 for Patron Seating which includes the best reserved seats and a $50 tax-deductible donation to UAO. Tickets are on sale now at www.unionavenueopera.org and must be ordered in advance (no door sales).

About Union Avenue Opera

UAO was founded in 1994 to bring affordable, professional, original-language opera t St. Louis, a mission the company continues to pursue to this day. UAO is committed to hiring the most talented artists, directors, designers and technicians both locally and from across the United States. UAO provides promising singers the first steppingstone of their professional career. The company celebrated its 25th Anniversary Season in 2019 and offers vibrant and affordable opera experiences in original languages to audiences who reflect the breadth and diversity of the St. Louis region. UAO is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in
Missouri.

Financial assistance for the 2022 Festival Season has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and with support from the Regional Arts Commission

By Lynn Venhaus

Jacqueline Kennedy once famously said: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”

The cold-hearted Iris Banks (Kari Ely) apparently did not agree. She made a choice, to pursue a literary career first, leaving her husband and child. Now grown, her bitter and resentful son Cal (Spencer Sickmann) unexpectedly returns home, but he is not exactly welcomed like the Prodigal Son. And she is closer to “Mommy Dearest” than Mother Earth.

In an intense psychologically complex drama, “Comfort,” a fierce new work by renowned playwright Neil LaBute that is premiering at St. Louis Actors’ Studio (Dec. 3-19), two of our finest stage artists fearlessly tango.

There is much baggage to unpack as mother, now a literary titan – three Pulitzers! — and child, who is still finding his way, reveal their past and present relationship.

These fully dimensional roles are demanding and exhaustive, but brave Ely and Sickmann exhibit their stamina and superior skills at delivering such emotionally layered performances.

Awkward exchanges and pleasantries give way to an uneasy détente (short-lived), stunning disclosures (the hits just keep on coming) and blistering confrontations. They are two people on opposite sides of a great divide, a rift that has grown over time and still an open wound, for no healing was attempted.

At times, the icy Mom, who admitted she had no maternal instinct but attempted the wife-and-motherhood roles set forth in society, seems to thaw.  And son appears to soften his hostility, but those are brief respites from some harsh exchanges as Iris declares she is all about the “truth,” but son reveals he has evidence to the contrary.

The two performers wear their characters’ bravado like a badge of honor – until they don’t. Mom is unapologetic about her distain for literary rivals or for ‘normal’ trappings of family life – but occasionally, her steely demeanor will crack, showing us an inkling of regret.

It’s such a masterful portrayal by Ely, who has tackled her share of uncommon, tough females – including Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Violet in “August Osage County” and Regina in “The Little Foxes,” all on the Gaslight stage.

And a never-better Sickmann plays Cal like a wounded animal, cornered but ready to pounce. Since bursting on the local theater scene about five years ago, he has capably delved into guys with an edge but also showing vulnerability – Mitch in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Hal in “Picnic,” press secretary Stephen in “Farragut North” and artist Matt in “The Feast,” among them.

LaBute’s rhythmic dialogue has bite, and the pair show their verbal dexterity in meaty exchanges. Do not underestimate their ruthlessness.

LaBute, a prolific playwright and screenwriter who has made waves since the early 1990s, often writes characters that are schemers or callous, calculating ones who use people for their own advantage. They may not be likable, but they are survivors – and they are fascinating

One of LaBute’s hallmarks is that he will divulge character flaws in such a chilling way as to take a jarring and dramatic turn that changes the temperature in the room. He’s all about the gray area, never specifically black-and-white – and that’s what makes his plays so compelling.

Director Annamaria Pileggi keeps the unsettling narrative moving at a brisk clip, and Patrick Huber’s impressive set design efficiently uses the space to move the action forward. Fine work by Huber as lighting designer, sound designer Robin Weatherall, costume designer Teresa Doggett and fight choreographer Shaun Sheley.

Even with a lengthy run time, you still want to hear what Iris and Cal have to say to each other – and you’ll still be caught off-guard.

STLAS has collaborated with LaBute since 2012, mainly as part of the LaBute New Theater Festival, in which international one-act entries are selected to be part of two line-ups. He is a co-producer and often an active participant.

The previously unproduced plays must be 45 minutes or less, and not have more than four characters. They must be able to be presented in The Gaslight Theatre’s intimate space.The selected works are usually marked by sharp writing and smart acting.

And LaBute writes an original work to premiere every summer, which is included in both slates. A few of them have been dark and disturbing or acerbic, or both.

One of the festival’s components that LaBute is most proud of is the High School Play Competition, encouraging teenage writers to pursue playwrighting. The winning plays are presented as readings.

But this is the first time that LaBute is premiering a new two-act play separate from the annual summer fest.

The fest will return the summer of 2022. In the meantime, theatergoers can marvel at the riveting work by Ely and Sickmann, who bob and weave like pro athletes.

The ironically titled play, “Comfort,” may still be a work in progress, but it provides a bracing vehicle in which to show a delicate balance in a mother-son dynamic.

Spencer Sickmann and Kari Ely

“Comfort” is presented by the St. Louis Actors’ Studio at The Gaslight Theatre, 358 N. Boyle Avenue, St. Louis, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Dec. 3-19. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. For more information, call 314-458-2978 or visit www.stlas.org.

Proof of Vaccination Must Be Presented and a Mask Must Be Worn While in the Theater.

:September 2021 will mark the restart of St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s Fourteenth season themed “The Lost Episodes”.The world is finally returning to normalcy and with that, STLAS is excited to get back at it. Producing word-class, thought-provoking entertainment at our intimate Gaslight Theater. We cannot wait to see you in the fall! Season subscriptions are the best way to experience St. Louis Actors’ Studio–you get a discount and no-hassle ticket exchanges and reserved seat signage. Let’s come back strong – get a group together this season and make a year of it!Our 2021-22 season, “The Lost Episodes.”

“The Zoo Story/The Dumb Waiter”
by Edward Albee/Harold Pinter
Directed by Wayne Salomon, Starring William Roth*
September 17 – October 3, 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 Statesman

“Comfort”
By Neil LaBute
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, Annamaria Pileggi,

Starring Kari Ely* and Spencer Sickmann*
December 3 – December 19, 2021

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.

“Hand To God” by Robert Askins
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, John Pierson

Starring Eric Dean White* and Colleen Backer
February 18- March 6, 2022

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.

9th Annual LaBute New Theater Festival
July 8-31, 2022
A Celebrated month-long festival of world premiere one-act plays.

*Member Actors’ Equity Association


Click Here to download the order form! 

The Gaslight Theater is still closed due to the pandemic, but St. Louis Actors’ Studio will be presenting a free Zoom play by Hanna Kime, She is a John Burroughs graduate and currently resides in Chicago as a playwright. The play is called “Now More Than Ever” and will be screened for three nights only March 18-20 at 8 pm.

It is free to watch the live stream event, but you must register here: What’s On Stage | St. Louis Actors Studio (stlas.org). Donations are encouraged.

It is roughly a 45-60 minute one act directed by Annamaria Pileggi and starring: Colleen Backer, Jens Tulio, William Humphrey, Phil Leveling and Ebby Offord. Stage manager is Amy Paige.

Premise of the play: After the coronavirus crisis forces a major regional theatre to go remote and lay off half their staff, their remaining box office associates must attend an emergency Zoom training session from marketing on how to cold call patrons to solicit donations while promoting the theatre’s thrilling new slate of online content.

Her recent works include THE TARGETED (2020 O’Neill Finalist, 2021 BAPF Semifinalist, Selected for Broken Nose’s “Off/Nights” Development Series), THE BEST DAMN THING (2021 O’Neill Semifinalist, Selected for the Up: Renewal Reading Series), and DROP (Produced through Side Street Studio Art’s Going Dutch Festival).


She has been fortunate enough to develop her full-length works with Jackalope Theatre Company, Sideshow Theatre Company, The New Colony, Broken Nose Theatre, and First Floor Theater, where she currently serves as Literary Manager. She is a member of the Wampus Cat Collective. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2018 with degrees in English and Gender and Sexuality Studies.

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.