Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s “Shrek the Musical” won 10 Best Performance Awards from Arts For Life on June 12, earning honors as Best Large Ensemble musical, director, music director, choreography, actor, actress, featured actor, supporting actor, comedic actor, and lighting design. They had received 12 nominations.

The Gateway Center for Performing Arts, which is a professional training center based in Webster Groves, won 10 awards in the youth production categories – five for “Annie” and five for “Cabaret. They had earned 25 nominations, the most of any group.

Others receiving recognition included the Goshen Theatre Project, based in Collinsville, Ill., which won four for “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” and Take Two Productions won three for “Fun Home,” including Best Small Ensemble Musical. Spotlight Productions and Hawthorne Players won one each.

The annual awards returned to a live ceremony after a virtual one in 2020 and a cancellation in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. About 365 people attended the scaled-down presentation at the Frontenac Hilton’s Clayton Ballroom.

Arts For Life, founded in 1999, has been recognizing excellence in community theater with an awards program for 20 years

The annual youth scholarship award winners were announced. Jacob Moore of Dardenne Prairie and Theo Kronemer of Richmond Heights will receive $500 each to pursue a career in the arts. Moore, a graduate of St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon, Mo., plans to attend Missouri State University and major in musical theater. Kronemer, a graduate of Clayton High School, plans to attend Carnegie-Mellon University and major in theater production and design.

BPA winners were announced in 30 categories from nominations from the shortened 2020 and 2021 theater seasons.

Charlie Wehde was honored with the Best Youth Musical Performance Award for his portrayal of Jack in “Into the Woods” at DaySpring Academy.

In their acceptance speeches, winners emphasized that productions are put on by teams, and often recognized their theater “family” and “community.” Most made it a point to say how grateful they were to return to working on shows after being dark for so many months during the public health crisis that has dominated the past three years.

Cherol Thibault, president of Kirkwood Theatre Guild, and Adam Grun, the director

Adam Grun, who directed “Shrek the Musical” at Kirkwood Theatre Guild, spoke of the long journey with multiple delays and setbacks. Originally set to be performed in May 2020, it was cast and forced to shut down. He was brought in three weeks before rehearsals began for the reboot. The show went on in September 2021, opening KTG’s 89th season.

“We had three weeks to get everything going. It was the fastest I had ever analyzed a script. Not everyone from the original cast came back. We had all but one lead come back. So that was a big help. Most of the people had multiple roles, so they had to change like eight times during the show. It was a great cast. And I was lucky that Tom Murray (original director) had cast such a great group of people,” he said.

Stephen Peirick, who accepted the Best Small Ensemble Musical Award, said: “’Fun Home’ winning the BPA for Small Ensemble Production was truly the icing on the cake to a fantastic experience, that could not have happened without the dedication, talents, time, and energy of the Take Two Productions Board, our talented cast, our amazing music director and band, as well as our outstanding behind the scenes crew. Time spent with this group was reward enough, yet we’re appreciative of the opportunity to have our show recognized and, in return, be able to recognize all those who made this experience possible.’

Paul Pagano, executive director of Gateway Center for Performing Arts, said: “We are so grateful to everyone who was a part of the BPAs yesterday and for the opportunity to showcase and celebrate so much talent in the St. Louis community. There were so many incredible theatre companies and artists represented, and we are proud to be counted as storytellers among them!”

Mary McCreight, president of the AFL Board of Directors, commented about participating groups’ dedication.

“The Arts For Life Best Performance Awards shined on June 12 with love of musical theater among the community. Young and old performed and celebrated with each other after a three-year break,” she said. “It was magical and assured a future for Arts For Life.”

Musical numbers from eight nominated musicals “Annie,” “Cabaret,” “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “Fun Home,” “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” “Nunsense,” “Shrek,” and “Young Frankenstein” were performed.

Veteran performers and BPA winners Gerry and Kay Love were the co-hosts, and Kimmie Kidd-Booker, another BPA winner and AFL board member, joined the Loves for the opening number “Show People” from “Curtains.”

Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it in the St. Louis metropolitan and metro-east Illinois region.

Nominations were announced Jan. 22 at the annual Trivia Night, which was a virtual event. They are listed on the website at www.artsforlife.org.

Prior to the pandemic, 15 theater groups and 10 youth-only groups participated in the BPAs As the region’s mitigations efforts were ongoing the past two years, only four youth-only groups and nine community theater organizations produced BPA-eligible musicals 2021.

 Groups participating in this year’s BPAs include Christ Memorial Productions, Dayspring Arts and Education, Gateway Center for Performing Arts, Goshen Theatre Project, Hawthorne Players, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, KTK Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse, Monroe Actors Stage Company, O’Fallon Theatre Works, OverDue Theatre, and Spotlight Productions.

For more information, visit the website at www.artsforlife.org

Here is the list of winners:

Best Large Ensemble Musical – “Shrek the Musical,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Small Ensemble Musical – “Fun Home,” Take Two Productions

Best Youth Production – “Cabaret,” Gateway Center for Performing Arts

Best Director – Adam Grun, “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Youth Director – Paul Pagano, “Cabaret,” Gateway Center for Performing Arts

Paul Pagano, Gateway Center for the Performing Arts

Best Music Director – Sean Bippen, “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Youth Music Director – Lori Barrett-Pagano, “Cabaret,” GCPA

Best Choreography – Kim Klick, “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Youth Choreography – Stephanie Fox, “Cabaret,” GCPA

Best Actor in a Leading Role – Christopher Strawhun, Shrek in “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Actress in a Leading Role – Dawn Schmid, Fiona in “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Youth Actor in a Leading Role – Andrew Maroney, Emcee in “Cabaret,” GCPA

Best Youth Actress in a Leading Role – Sarah Moll, Grace, “Annie,” GCPA

Best Actor in a Featured Role – John Emery, Lord Farquaad in “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Actress in a Featured Role – Zoe Maya Miller, Medium Alison in “Fun Home,” Take Two

Best Actor in a Comedic Role – Chris Moore, Donkey in “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Actress in a Comedic Role – Sophie Kluba, Betty Jane in “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” Hawthorne Players

Chris Moore, Donkey in “Shrek the Musical”

Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Jack Nichols, Pinocchio in “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Natalie Cochran, Cogsworth in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Actor in a Supporting Role – Dan Wolfe, Rooster in “Annie,” GCPA

Best Youth Actress in a Supporting Role – Evelyn Vordtriede, Lily St. Regis, “Annie,” GCPA

Best Actor/Actress in a Cameo or Non-Singing Role: Jayson Heil, Narrator, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” GTP

Best Juvenile Performance – Kya Wonders, Carpet, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” GTP


Best Set Design – Stephen Peirick, Josh Smith, “Fun Home,” Take Two Productions

Terry Pattison, Best Costume Design, Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Set Design – Laura Skroska, “Annie,” GCPA

Best Lighting Design – Stephanie Draper, “Shrek the Musical,” KTG

Best Youth Lighting Design – Ryan Luedloff, “Matilda,” Spotlight Productions

Best Costume Design – Terry Pattison, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” GTP

Best Youth Costume Design – Tracey A. Newcomb, “Annie,” GCPA

Photos by Don Quon

Kirkwood Theatre Guild cast and crew of “Shrek”

Don’t have tickets yet? Some seats remain for Arts For Life’s 22nd Best Performance Awards at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, which will honor excellence in community musical theater and youth productions.

It will be the first time the annual event is live and in-person since 2019. Musical numbers from eight nominated musicals “Annie,” “Cabaret,” “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “Fun Home,” “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” “Nunsense,” “Shrek,” and “Young Frankenstein” will be performed.

This year’s venue is the Clayton Ballroom at the Frontenac Hilton, 1335 S Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis 63131. Seating will be general admission theater-style seating.

Formal attire is requested. Face masks are recommended. A cash bar and light snacks will be available for purchase.

Veteran performers and BPA winners Gerry and Kay Love are the co-hosts, and Kimmie Kidd-Booker, another BPA winner and AFL board member, will join the Loves for the opening number.

This year’s BPAs include nominees from the shortened 2020 and 2021 theater seasons. Winners will be announced in 30 categories.

The Gateway Center for the Performing Arts’ youth musicals “Annie” and “Cabaret” earned 25 nominations – 14 and 11 respectively, to lead all groups.

Goshen Theatre Project in Collinsville, Ill., received the most community theater nominations, 16, with 11 for “Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast” and five for “Nunsense.”

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild in Kirkwood, Mo., earned 12 for the musical adaptation of the fairy tale “Shrek,” while St. Louis’ Take Two Productions received 10 for their regional premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical “Fun Home.”

The Hawthorne Players in Florissant, Mo., received eight nominations for the jukebox musical comedy “The Marvelous Wonderettes” while Monroe Actors Stage Company of Waterloo, Ill., garnered seven for the Mel Brooks’ musical adaptation “Young Frankenstein.”

Charlie Wehde will receive a special youth musical recognition award. He was honored for the Best Youth Musical Performance for his portrayal of Jack in “Into the Woods” at DaySpring Academy.

AFL’s annual pair of talent scholarship recipients will be announced. Honorees must pursue an arts career in higher education.

The annual event was held virtually in 2020 but cancelled in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“These events recognize the incredible talent we have in St. Louis community theater and honor the passion and dedication of those who build this amazing and unique theatrical community,” said Mary McCreight, president of Arts For Life.

Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it in the St. Louis metropolitan and metro-east Illinois region.

Nominations were announced Jan. 22 at the annual Trivia Night, which was a virtual event held during a surge in the Omicron variant cases of COVID-19 last winter. They are listed on the website at www.artsforlife.org.

Starting in mid-March 2020, productions were postponed and canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, and safety precautions have been a priority for performers and performances because of the public health crisis. Theaters are no longer dark, and judging resumed in 2021.

“While we did about half the usual number of shows in 2021, it did not diminish Arts for Life’s vision for a community recognition program,” McCreight said.

Prior to the pandemic, 15 theater groups and 10 youth-only groups participated in the BPAs As the region’s mitigations efforts were ongoing the past two years, only four youth-only groups and nine community theater organizations produced BPA-eligible musicals 2021.

BPA tickets are $25, They are available online with a service fee of $2 added: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/ and can be picked up at the box office on event day.

For special seating needs or COVID-19 related concerns, contact [email protected]. Handicapped seating is available

Groups participating in this year’s BPAs include Christ Memorial Productions, Dayspring Arts and Education, Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, Goshen Theatre Project, Hawthorne Players, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, KTK Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse, Monroe Actors Stage Company, O’Fallon Theatre Works, OverDue Theatre, and Spotlight Productions.

For more information, visit the website at www.artsforlife.org

Early Bird Ticket Price Good Through May 12

Two versatile professional performers well-known in community theater circles and support for the arts community, Gerry and Kay Love, have been named co-hosts of this year’s Best Performance Awards.

After a two-year absence, Arts For Life will return to a live and in-person awards ceremony June 12, and tickets are now available for the formal afternoon event at the Frontenac Hilton.

Through AFL, the BPAs have honored musical theater in community and youth productions in the St. Louis and metro-east Illinois area since 2000, after the nonprofit organization was founded a year earlier.

Kay Love has won nine BPAs, all in the acting categories, the third most overall in the organization’s history, and has been nominated 29 times, a record for actresses.

Gerry Love has been nominated 12 times and won as the Narrator in Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s production of “Into the Woods” in 2000, for best performance in a non-singing role.

Kay Love in Stray Dog Theatre’s ” Ragtime”

They both have been nominated for St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, which recognizes excellence in regional professional theater.

“We are thrilled to be the hosts of the 2022 BPA’s.  We were involved with Arts For Life at its inception and are so happy to see how it has grown over the years. After two years of sitting on our couch, we will be ecstatic to spend the afternoon with so many dear friends!” Kay Love said.

AFL President Mary McCreight praised the Loves’ fervent support of the local arts community as well as their talent.

“They are definitely in the cream of the crop in St. Louis,” McCreight said. “They have a rich history in musicals, plays, concerts, and benefits.”

Plans For This Year’s Event

The 22nd Best Performance Awards will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at the Frontenac Hilton, Clayton Ballroom, 1335 S Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis 63131.

This year’s BPAs include nominees from the shortened 2020 and 2021 theater seasons. Songs from musicals nominated for large ensemble, small ensemble and youth productions will be performed, with Diane Hanisch returning as music director.

Kimmie Kidd-Booker

Kimmie Kidd-Booker, a past BPA winner, current AFL board member, and professional entertainer, will perform “Show People” from the musical “Curtains” as the opening number.

“So happy to see the enthusiasm among theater groups for recognizing excellence among their peers and cheering each other on. It was a tough year to get out there, rehearse, and be among crowds. But through their diligence and willpower, the magic happened. Let’s celebrate!” McCreight said.

The Theatre Mask Awards, which have honored drama and comedy plays since 2015, were held April 9 at a brunch ceremony.

Because of the coronavirus public health crisis, AFL held its BPAs and TMAs ceremonies virtually in 2020, while BPAs were not held in 2021, but TMAs were virtually, and in a smaller capacity.

Prior to the pandemic, 15 theater groups and 10 youth-only groups participated in the BPAs while 11 were involved in the TMAs. As the region’s mitigations efforts were ongoing the past two years, only four youth-only groups and nine community theater organizations produced BPA-eligible musicals while seven participated in TMAs in 2021.

BPA Nominations

Thirteen groups received nominations for 16 musical productions in 2020 and 2021.

The Gateway Center for the Performing Arts led all groups with 25 nominations in total for their youth musicals “Annie” and “Cabaret”– 14 for “Annie” and 11 for Kander-Ebb’s “Cabaret.”

Goshen Theatre Project in Collinsville, Ill., earned 16 nominations –with 11 for “Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast” and five for “Nunsense.”

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild in Kirkwood, Mo., has 12 for the musical adaptation of the animated fairy tale “Shrek,” while Take Two Productions earned 10 for their regional premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical “Fun Home.”

Hawthorne Players received eight for the jukebox musical comedy “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and Monroe Actors Stage Company has seven for the Mel Brooks’ musical adaptation “Young Frankenstein.”

Looking Glass Players garnered a total of seven – The Tony Award 2014 winner for best musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” received four and the jukebox musical comedy “Rock of Ages” has three.

A complete list of nominees is available at: https://nebula.wsimg.com/5ec987b8d5580ca0c11ed016e97ce1a6?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

Tickets $20 Through May 12 or $25 After

Formal attire is requested, and the event will be general admission theater-style seating. A cash bar will be available.

BPA tickets are either $20 as an early bird pricing before May 12, or $25 after that until June 12. They are available online with a service fee of $2 added: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/.

Reservations can be arranged through the mail and tickets can be picked up at the venues on event day. Please make check payable to ARTS FOR LIFE and mail to PO Box 16426, St. Louis, MO 63125.

All BPA ticket orders will be held at the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with ticket order. If ordering for a group, please attach a list of individual names for box office pick-up.

Please contact [email protected] if you have any special seating needs or COVID-19 related concerns. Handicapped seating is available

Community theater organizations who produced shows and were eligible for BPA Awards consideration during the specified time period include Christ Memorial Productions, Dayspring Arts and Education, Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, Goshen Theatre Project, Hawthorne Players, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, KTK Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse, Monroe Actors Stage Company, O’Fallon Theatre Works, Over Due Theatre, Spotlight Productions and Take Two Productions.

For more information or to see a list of nominees, visit the website at www.artsforlife.org

Kay Love

The Loves

The Loves, who live in Sunset Hills, met onstage at the Florissant Civic Center in 1994 and have been married for 25 years.

“We both have been singing all of our lives,” Kay said.

Gerry began acting in high school in Norman, Okla., in the dancing chorus of “Oklahoma” in 1969 and appeared in four more shows during those school days. After a 12-year hiatus, he returned to stages in Dallas, Texas, between 1982 and 1986. His first St. Louis production was in “42nd Street” at Hawthorne Players in 1988, and he was involved in their shows for 20 years. He also performed at other local venues, amateur and professional. Besides performing, he directed four shows, one for Alpha Players and three for Hawthorne.

Kay, a St. Louis native, has been in shows since seventh grade (“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”), graduated from Lindbergh High School, and attended Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Texas Christian University.

She performed on the Muny stage in 1985 and 1987, including four shows as an Equity actress – “My Fair Lady,” “Peter Pan,” “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” She was also in two later concert versions of “The Desert Song” and “The Merry Widow.”

Kay has created and performed three solo cabaret shows. For many years, she has sung with The Jeweltones and Caroling St. Louis.

An avid photographer since 2007, Gerry has shot photos of 50 community theater and university productions, plus dance concerts and actor headshots, and produced videos. He is currently the primary photographer for Webster University’s Department of Dance. He also served on the boards for Kirkwood Theatre Guild and Hawthorne during his time in St Louis.

The Loves have sung at Carnegie Hall and have appeared with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus during multiple seasons.  

Gerry Love in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” at Stray Dog Theatre

Making a Dramatic Difference

Arts For Life is dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.

Nominations were announced Jan. 22 at AFL’s annual Trivia Night, which was a virtual event during heightened COVID-19 cases earlier this winter. They are listed on the website, www.artsforlife.org.

Starting in mid-March 2020, productions were postponed and canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, and safety precautions have been a priority for performers and performances because of the coronavirus public health crisis. Now that vaccines and COVID-19 tests are available, stage work has returned, and theaters are no longer dark.

“While we did about half the usual number of shows in 2021, it did not diminish Arts for Life’s vision for a community recognition program,” McCreight said

“These events recognize the incredible talent we have in St. Louis community theater and honor the passion and dedication of those who build this amazing and unique theatrical community,” she said.

Two classic 1930s comedies and a World War II anti-fascist drama were multiple winners at the seventh annual Theatre Mask Awards presented by Arts For Life on April 9.

Award-winning theater companies included Act Two Theatre in St. Peters, Mo., Clayton Community Theatre, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., O’Fallon Theatre Works in O’Fallon, Mo., and the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves.

Through the nonprofit organization AFL, the TMAs have honored drama and comedy plays in the St. Louis and metro-east Illinois metropolitan area since 2015.

Saturday was AFL’s first live and in-person awards event since 2019, although the TMAs were awarded virtually in 2020 and 2021.

Live theater returned at regional community theater companies in the St. Louis-metro-east metropolitan area last year, with nine productions eligible for TMAs.

Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s production of the 1939 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” won five awards, including acting honors for Ken Lopinot as Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy, for playing the insufferable house guest and NYC radio wit Sheridan Whiteside; Kent Coffel as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy, for playing British actor/playwright Beverly Carlton; and Brittany Kohl Hester as Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy as Whiteside’s secretary Maggie Cutler. The play also won for Best Director Danny Brown and Costume Designer Abby Pastorello.

Company of “The Man Who Came to Dinner” at Kirkwood Theatre Company

The play features 38 parts. KTG led all groups with 13 nominations, and had tied the record for most acting nominations in a single show, with eight for “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” In 2019, Clayton Community Theatre garnered eight for Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues.”

Act Two Theatre in St. Peters, Mo., took home four awards for Noel Coward’s sophisticated ghost story “Blithe Spirit” — Outstanding Production of a Play, Outstanding Ensemble of a Play, Jacki Goodall winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for portraying flamboyant medium Madame Arcati and Chase Coates for Best Lighting Design. They had received 11 nominations, second only to KTG.

Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., had nine nominations for Lillian Helman’s 1941 drama “Watch on the Rhine,” with two women winning for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Drama, Julia L. Petraborg as Sara Mueller, the American wife of the German engineer protagonist, and Caitlin Bomberger for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama as Marthe de Brancovis, who is married to a Nazi sympathizer.

Shane Rudolph

Other winners included Shane Rudolph for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama as escaped convict and ruthless killer Glenn Griffin in “The Desperate Hours,” which was presented by the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, and Jonathan Garland for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama as the philosophical pianist Toledo in August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” produced by Clayton Community Theatre.

Christopher Lanham and Ellie Lanham won Outstanding Set Design for their work on O’Fallon Theatre Work’s “Little Women.”

Seven award winners were first-time nominees. The 14 awards were presented during a brunch ceremony at The Christy in St. Louis.

This year’s TMAs were reduced from 19 to 14 awards, because of a smaller number of productions.

TMA Chairman Melissa Boyer was grateful to be celebrating theater again.

“2021 was a year of uncertainty, but I want to commend the passion and the bravery of our judges in venturing out to support our theaters. Congratulations to the many companies that were able to reopen this year with outstanding productions. And considering we only had a half a year – nine shows is outstanding,” Boyer said.

“So happy to see the enthusiasm among theater groups for recognizing excellence among their peers and cheering each other on. I heard many positive comments,” said AFL President Mary McCreight.

Mark Lull, a local actor, nine-time awards nominee, and member of the AFL board of directors, served as the emcee.

Presenters included Kelsey McCroskey, Jesse Resimius, Heather Sartin, Ellen Schroeder, Nathan Schroeder, Caitlin Souers and Keaton Treece. Stephen Anderson handed out the trophies.

The complete list of nominations can be found at: https://nebula.wsimg.com/9b9b1e3565835dd90498e28468ef7f1d?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

Prior to the pandemic, 15 theater groups and 10 youth-only groups participated in the BPAs while 11 were involved in the TMAs. As the region’s mitigations efforts were ongoing the past two years, only four youth-only groups and nine community theater organizations produced BPA-eligible musicals while seven participated in TMAs in 2021.

Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.

Caitlin Bomberger “Watch on the Rhine,” MASC

Best Performance Awards June 12

Next up is the Best Performance Awards, which has honored musical theater in community and youth productions since AFL’s founding in 1999.

Because of the public health crisis, AFL held its BPAs virtually in 2020, while BPAs were not held in 2021.

The 22nd Best Performance Awards will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at the Frontenac Hilton, Clayton Ballroom, 1335 S Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis 63131.

Formal attire is requested, and the event will be general admission theater-style seating. A cash bar will be available.

This year’s BPAs include nominees from the shortened 2020 and 2021 theater seasons.

BPA tickets are either $20 as an early bird pricing before May 12, or $25 after that until June 12. They are available online with a service fee of $2 added: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/.

Reservations can be arranged through the mail and tickets can be picked up at the venues on event day. Please make check payable to ARTS FOR LIFE and mail to PO Box 16426, St. Louis, MO 63125.

All BPA ticket orders will be held at the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with ticket order. If ordering for a group, please attach a list of individual names for box office pick-up.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any special seating needs or COVID-19 related concerns. Handicapped seating is available

Groups participating in this year’s BPAs include Christ Memorial Productions, Dayspring Arts and Education, Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, Goshen Theatre Project, Hawthorne Players, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, KTK Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse, Monroe Actors Stage Company, O’Fallon Theatre Works, Over Due Theatre, Spotlight Productions and Take Two Productions.

For more information, visit the website at www.artsforlife.org

Live theater returned at local community theater companies last year, and Arts For Life will honor those efforts at this year’s Theatre Mask Awards on Saturday, April 9.

Three dramas and two comedies are vying for Outstanding Production at this year’s TMAs: the George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart comedy classic “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” by Kirkwood Theatre Guild in Kirkwood, Mo., which led all St. Louis area – metro-east Illinois community theater groups with 13 nominations; Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” by Act Two Theatre in St. Peters, Mo.; which has 11 nominations; the Tony-winning play “The Desperate Hours” by The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, which has five; Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” by O’Fallon Theatre Works in O’Fallon, Mo., which has seven; and August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” by Clayton Community Theatre, which has eight..

Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., has nine nominations for Lillian Helman’s drama “Watch on the Rhine.” Other productions that received nominations include “Lend Me a Tenor” by Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon, Ill., and “6 Rms Riv Vu” by the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves.

The Man Who Came to Dinner at Kirkwood.has 13 nominations.

Let’s celebrate the return and resilience of community theater dramas and comedies in the bi-state region. And you get a tasty brunch too! To purchase tickets, here is the link: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/

“Blithe Spirit” at Act Two Theatre has 11 nominations. Photo by Lori Biehl.

Arts For Life is returning to live and in-person awards ceremonies this spring, and tickets are now available for both the Theater Mask Awards on April 9 and Best Performance Awards on June 12.

This year’s eighth annual TMAs will take place starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 9, at The Christy of St. Louis, 5856 Christy Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63116.

Talia Wright as Amy March in OTW’s “Little Women”


Cocktail attire is suggested. Seating will be eight per table, and seating assignments will be available at the entrance.

A brunch buffet featuring eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, hash browns, fruit salad and pasta con broccoli will be served. A cash bar will be available. TMA tickets are $28. Tickets will NOT be available for purchase at the event.

This year’s master of ceremonies for the TMAs will be Mark Lull, a nine-time AFL nominee, who won Best Performance by a Comedic Actor as Uncle Fester in Alfresco Productions’ “The Addams Family” in 2015.

The complete list of nominations can be found at: https://nebula.wsimg.com/9b9b1e3565835dd90498e28468ef7f1d?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at Clayton Community Theatre.


Through the nonprofit organization AFL, the TMAs have honored drama and comedy plays since 2015 while the BPAs have honored musical theater in community and youth productions since AFL’s founding in 1999.

Because of the public health crisis, AFL held its BPAs and TMAs ceremonies virtually in 2020, while BPAs were not held in 2021, but TMAs were virtually, and in a smaller capacity. This year’s BPAs include nominees from the shortened 2020 and 2021 theater seasons.

“Live and in person!” AFL President Mary McCreight exclaimed. “So happy to see the enthusiasm among theater groups for recognizing excellence among their peers and cheering each other on. It was a tough year to get out there, rehearse, and be among crowds. But through their diligence and willpower, the magic happened. Let’s celebrate!”

For more information, visit the website at www.artsforlife.org

“Watch on the Rhine” at MASC has nine nominations, including best ensemble.
The Desperate Hours at the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves.

Students who plan to pursue a career in the arts are eligible for an annual Arts For Life scholarship. The deadline is May 25 for submission, and two winners of $500 each will be announced at the Best Performance Awards on June 12.

Every year since 2012, the AFL board of directors has selected two college-age recipients through an application process. Requirements include pursuing a career in the arts, participation in local community theater, essays, and letter(s) of recommendation.

AFL is a non-for-profit arts and service organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating community and youth theatre in the St. Louis metropolitan and metro-east Illinois region.

Those entering college after high school graduation or continuing their college education in an arts undergraduate program must submit a completed application and cannot have been the primary recipient of a previous AFL scholarship.

An arts program includes, but is not exclusive to performing arts (music, dance, theatre) and visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, film, photography). Arts programs not defined as fine arts, but related to the arts, may be considered if superior work has been demonstrated in this area.

“As we watch music education and theatre programs rapidly die in our schools, the need to keep community theatre alive is more important now than ever. AFL, with the goal of ‘Making A Dramatic Difference,’ is passionate about the healing power of the performing arts, and is proud to salute, support, and serve the theatre groups in the Metro-St. Louis-Illinois area,” said Mary McCreight, president of the AFL board of directors.

To download an application: https://nebula.wsimg.com/e109f1e7c375e49d7ce981a697135ecd?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

Besides a completed AFL Scholarship Application Form, which includes answers to essay questions and an information sheet that must be signed, the packet must include:

Resume of performing arts and/or visual arts experience.

List of metro St. Louis community theater involvement, either in the metro-east Illinois region or St. Louis city or county or St. Charles County.

List of any honors or awards received pertaining to involvement in the arts and/or scholastic achievement

One recommendation letter from a mentor in the arts: teacher, director, or board member.

Completed applications must be postmarked by May 25. Please mail completed applications to:  

ARTS FOR LIFE
Scholarship Application
P.O. Box 16426
St. Louis, MO  63125

You can also fill out the application online: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/aflscholarship2022
Email completed application to [email protected]

Recipients will be notified of the award prior to the 22nd AFL Best Performance Awards on June 12, 2022.

For more information, contact [email protected]

Last year’s winners were Audrey Neace of Alton, Ill., and Isaiah Henry of St. Peters, Mo.,
Neace, a 2020 graduate of Alton High School, will be a sophomore at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., majoring in choral and music education/voice and opera. Henry, a 2020 graduate of Francis Howell Central High School, will be a sophomore at Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts, majoring in acting.

Arts For Life will return to live and in-person awards ceremonies this spring, and tickets are now available for both the Theater Mask Awards on April 9 and Best Performance Awards on June 12.

Through the nonprofit organization AFL, the TMAs have honored drama and comedy plays since 2015 while the BPAs have honored musical theater in community and youth productions since AFL’s founding in 1999.

Because of the public health crisis, AFL held its BPAs and TMAs ceremonies virtually in 2020, while BPAs were not held in 2021, but TMAs were virtually, and in a smaller capacity. This year’s BPAs include nominees from the shortened 2020 and 2021 theater seasons.

This year’s eighth annual Theatre Mask Awards will take place starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 9, at The Christy of St. Louis, 5856 Christy Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63116.

Cocktail attire is suggested. Seating will be eight per table, and seating assignments will be available at the entrance.

A brunch buffet featuring eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, hash browns, fruit salad and pasta con broccoli will be served. A cash bar will be available.

“Live and in person!” AFL President Mary McCreight exclaimed. “So happy to see the enthusiasm among theater groups for recognizing excellence among their peers and cheering each other on. It was a tough year to get out there, rehearse, and be among crowds. But through their diligence and willpower, the magic happened. Let’s celebrate!”

This year’s master of ceremonies for the TMAs will be Mark Lull, a nine-time AFL nominee, who won Best Performance by a Comedic Actor as Uncle Fester in Alfresco Productions’ “The Addams Family” in 2015.

“I am thrilled and honored to be hosting the TMAs this year – in person!” he said.

Lull, currently the principal at Maryville Elementary School in Granite City, has performed at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, The Muny, and with other theater companies in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He serves as secretary on the Arts For Life board of directors.

The 22nd Best Performance Awards will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at the Frontenac Hilton, Clayton Ballroom, 1335 S Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis 63131.

Formal attire is requested, and the event will be general admission theater-style seating. A cash bar will be available.

Ticket Information

TMA tickets are $28 and must be purchased by March 28.

BPA tickets are either $20 as an early bird pricing before May 12, or $25 after that until June 12.

Both TMA and BPA tickets are available online with a service fee of $2 added: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/.

Reservations can be arranged through the mail and tickets can be picked up at the venues on event day. Please make check payable to ARTS FOR LIFE and mail to PO Box 16426, St. Louis, MO 63125.

All BPA ticket orders will be held at the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with ticket order. If ordering for a group, please attach a list of individual names for box office pick-up.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any special seating needs or COVID-19 related concerns. Handicapped seating is available

Award Nominations

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Goshen Theatre Project

Nominations were announced Jan. 22 at AFL’s annual Trivia Night, which was a virtual event during heightened COVID-19 cases earlier this winter. They are listed on the website, www.artsforlife.org.

Starting in mid-March 2020, productions were postponed and canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, and safety precautions have been a priority for performers and performances because of the coronavirus public health crisis. Now that vaccines and COVID-19 tests are available, stage work has returned, and theaters are no longer dark.

“While we did about half the usual number of shows in 2021, it did not diminish Arts for Life’s vision for a community recognition program,” McCreight said

“These events recognize the incredible talent we have in St. Louis community theater and honor the passion and dedication of those who build this amazing and unique theatrical community,” she said.

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild in Kirkwood, Mo., led all St. Louis area – metro-east Illinois community theater groups, with 25 nominations – 13 for the George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart comedy classic “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and 12 for the musical “Shrek,” while the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts’ youth musicals “Annie” and “Cabaret” earned 25 nominations – 14 and 11 respectively.

Goshen Theatre Project in Collinsville, Ill., and Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., each earned 16 nominations – Goshen, with 11 for “Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast” and five for “Nunsense” and MASC, with nine for Lillian Helman’s drama “Watch on the Rhine” and seven for the Mel Brooks’ musical adaptation “Young Frankenstein.”

Act Two Theater in St. Peters, Mo., received 11 nominations for the Noel Coward comedy classic “Blithe Spirit” and Take Two Productions earned 10 for their regional premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical “Fun Home.”

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild also tied the record for most acting nominations in a single show, with eight for “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” For 2019, the Clayton Community Theatre broke the record for most acting nominations in a single show, with eight for Neil Simon’s ‘Biloxi Blues.”

Prior to the pandemic, 15 theater groups and 10 youth-only groups participated in the BPAs while 11 were involved in the TMAs. As the region’s mitigations efforts were ongoing the past two years, only four youth-only groups and nine community theater organizations produced BPA-eligible musicals while seven participated in TMAs in 2021.

Shrek at KTG. Photo by Dan Donovan

Other groups participating include Christ Memorial Productions, Clayton Community Theatre, Dayspring Arts and Education, KTK Productions, Hawthorne Players, Looking Glass Playhouse, O’Fallon Theatre Works, Over Due Theatre, Spotlight Productions, and Theatre Guild of Webster Groves.

Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.

TMA Event Sponsorships are available at either $100 or $50 if you also purchase an ad. Sponsorship includes group/company name and logo displayed at the event, website and on our social media platforms.

For advertising rates, BPA event sponsorship or more information, email [email protected] or visit the website, www.artsforlife.org

Are you ready to rock?

Want to see a Hall of Fame band in a Blaze of Glory?

Arts For Life & PopLifeSTL.com are giving away 2 pairs of mezzanine tickets for the Bon Jovi Spring Tour stopping at the Enterprise Center on April 21!

You can purchase $5.00 raffle tickets at the link below, with drawing on March 18.

Take a chance and you’re halfway there!

Proceeds benefit Arts For Life. For more information, visit www.artsforlife.org.

Visit here to purchase a $5 raffle ticket to enter the drawing for 2 sets of 2 tickets each for the Bon Jovi concert on April 21. Drawing March 18 on PopLifeSTL.com Presents podcast.https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/

Winner will be announced during the March 18 PopLifeSTL.com Presents…Podcast with Lynn Venhaus and Carl “The Intern” Middleman.

After careful consideration, the Arts For Life board of directors has decided to cancel the in-person Trivia Night event set for Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Kirkwood Community Center, and will instead host a Virtual Trivia Night via Zoom that evening.

The virtual event will still feature 10 rounds of general knowledge trivia questions and monetary prize awards for the first and second place teams.

Nominations for the annual Best Performance Awards, which honors excellence in community musical theater, and the Theatre Mask Awards, which recognizes outstanding dramatic and comedic plays, will be announced throughout the night.  

People who want to register for the virtual event or have already registered should contact Kim Klick at: [email protected] Table registration is $160/8 players per team and individual registration is $20 per person. Mulligans and 50/50 raffle tickets are also available.

You can register and pay at: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/

Questions start at 7 p.m., but the Zoom link opens at 6:30 p.m. All teams will be in the same room at the beginning of each round. Emcee Kimmie Kidd-Booker, with assist from Colin Dowd, will present each category and questions before sending each team to their breakout room.

You will then have a set amount of time to collaborate on your answers and submit via a Google document. When time is up, all teams will return to the “main” room where the answers will be displayed.

“We will still celebrate theater!” said AFL President Mary McCreight. “Since teams are playing via Zoom this year, feel free to recruit team members from around the globe.”

McCreight said the board was concerned about the health and safety of the theater community as the St. Louis-Metro East Metropolitan Region is experiencing a surge of the Omicron variant outbreak.

“There were just too many risks at this time during the ongoing COVID-19 -pandemic. We will continue to monitor data from local officials and health and safety experts in planning for our awards ceremonies — those details will be announced later,” McCreight said. “We look forward to celebrating on future dates.”

For the past 23 years, AFL has honored musical theater with the Best Performance Awards and introduced the Theatre Mask Awards to honor comedy and drama productions in 2015.

AFL hosted a virtual trivia event in 2021, and the Best Performance Awards were cancelled because the coronavirus public health crisis forced cancellation of shows, but the Theatre Mask Awards were held virtually, in a smaller capacity, for the productions that were able to be presented.

AFL held its BPAs and TMAs ceremonies virtually in 2020, honoring work in 2019.

This year’s BPA nominations take into consideration the musicals that were performed in 2020 before the pandemic shutdown began in mid-March and the productions that were mounted in 2021 after restrictions lessened.

Safety precautions have been a priority for performers and performances, and with mitigation efforts, including vaccines, COVID-19 tests, masks, and social distance seats are available, stage work has returned, and theaters are not dark, unless there is a virus outbreak forcing cancellations and postponements.

“While we did about half the usual number of shows in 2021, it did not diminish Arts for Life’s vision for a community recognition program,” “These award events recognize the incredible talent we have in St. Louis community theater and honor the passion and dedication of those who build this amazing and unique theatrical community,” McCreight said.

Master of Ceremonies Kimmie Kidd-Booker is a local professional actress who has won two AFL Best Performance Awards for Best Featured Actress in “The Wiz” at Hawthorne Players in 2014 and as Estonia Dulworth in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” in 2020.

She was nominated as Best Actress in a Featured Role as Sister Mary Hubert in “Nunsense” at Hawthorne Players in 2015 and as The Witch in “Into the Woods” at Curtain’s Up Theater in 2018. She currently serves on the AFL board of directors.

Event Sponsorships are available at $50. Sponsorship includes group/company name and logo displayed at the beginning and end of event as a sponsor, then group/company name and logo displayed on our social media sites as a sponsor.

Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theater, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.

For more information, visit the website, www.artsforlife.org, or email: [email protected]

By Lynn Venhaus
We have been enriched by Steve Woolf as a titan in regional theater, and his loss will be deeply felt.

For 33 years, he guided The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, until his retirement in 2019. He died Monday at age 75.

I had the opportunity to interview and talk with him on several occasions, and I am very grateful to have been in his orbit for a bit. It was an honor. His immense love of theater was obvious from the moment you encountered him – his eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas.

I have been reviewing plays at The Repertory Theatre since 2005. Their “Take Me Out” I consider to be the gold standard for plays in St. Louis. As a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle in 2012, I have presented him with a lion’s share of awards. Every year, from 2013-2019, he was always gracious and sincere, no matter how many trips he took to the stage.

During the past decade, The Rep has earned more than 100 awards. They have led the way in innovation and excellence – in acting, direction, set design, lighting design, sound and much more.

As an Arts For Life board member, I helped facilitate his Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, for his “vision, passion and excellence,” and he was so genuine about the honor. But that’s what he did — lived an authentic life. He never forgot that he was a kid from Milwaukee living out his dream.

And so, he could inspire — he talked about the magic of live theater, being in a dark room, sharing a special experience with other people that changes us and connects us.

His work spoke for itself: He directed “Red,” one of my favorites, and he brought the complex “Oslo” to the stage as one of his final — and most intense — works. He committed to making it relatable, no easy task with a large sprawling cast.

During rehearsals for the stellar “All the Way” in 2015 (I was there to interview Brian Dykstra, playing LBJ, and Woolf, who was directing — https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article34672659.html), he told me about his experience seeing “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” in London.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Rep

He had been gobsmacked. He didn’t think The Rep could do it — very technical show, intricate — but the wheels were turning. He was so excited about trying to bring it to The Rep. “I think I’ve found a way we can do it,” he said to me later. (And it would win the Theatre Circle’s Outstanding Production, which opened the 2017-2018 season, and Best Director, Marcia Milgrom Dodge, in 2018.)

The enthusiasm he had for the process and the collaboration of “putting it all together” were so obvious. I cherish a brief interchange I had with him — in a stairwell at The Rep — about “The Humans,” which was a thought-provoker, had many layers. I had made an observation, and he wanted to hear more of my thoughts. It had received a mixed reaction — but he was firm in his fervor. He was just so darn insightful.

During an interview before the 50th season, which opened with “Follies,” he recalled the first time he saw the show as a young man studying theater. We geeked out about our mutual love of Stephen Sondheim. “Follies” was brilliant, but his other major production at The Rep, in 2012, the magnificent “Sunday in the Park with George,” was breathtaking. Truly memorable.

Every year, he would go to New York to soak up multiple theater productions. And hearing about his experiences was always a treat. During intermission of yet another “Mamma Mia!” at the Fox, I went over to chat with Joe Pollack, and Steve Woolf also came over to talk to Joe, and he regaled us with tales from his recent Broadway adventures. How fortunate to hear his vision and just how he radiated joy about theater (I mean, he was at “Mamma Mia!”).

One of my favorite Steve Woolf remembrances was, in fact, at Joe Pollack’s memorial service on March 17, 2012, at The Rep, of course. His widow, Ann Lemons Pollack, had arranged for five main speakers — all from a different facet of Joe’s life/illustrious career. Steve was the representative for theater, only fitting. He said as a critic, Joe just wanted the theater groups to “get it right.” Oh, yes, what a perfect summation.

And yes, Steve, you “got it right” more often than not. You will be missed, for your wit, your wisdom, your humanity, your desire for theater to spark conversations — and how you appreciated St. Louis audiences.

May God rest your soul. Your memory is already a blessing to me. And I hope you and Joe can continue to have some great conversations.

Mark Bernstein, retired managing director at The Rep, summed it up perfectly in a statement: “Steve always had his finger on the pulse of the St. Louis community, programming plays that resonated in the here and now, and showcasing the work of outstanding directors, designers and actors. St. Louis audiences responded by filling the seats, night after night, week after week, year after year.”

Standing O, Steve!

”Here is an article I wrote for the Webster-Kirkwood Times when he was getting multiple awards before retiring:

https://www.timesnewspapers.com/webster-kirkwoodtimes/curtain-call/article_ee301692-61dc-11e9-bcf0-1b566b2e37e4.html?fbclid=IwAR3drHmQpZXanye8Tvo9OH-cdSItTeegAOBC9WfeJ0CSmlemUlWlUpSPJ9U

Follies

My review of “All the Way,” in the Belleville News-Democrat on Sept. 17, 2015: https://www.bnd.com/entertainment/article35666526.html

My review of “Follies,” in the Belleville News-Democrat on Sept. 21, 2016: https://www.bnd.com/entertainment/article103265847.html

Photos provided by The Rep