Writer-Director Helping Small Professional Theatre Sustainment Fund

By Lynn Venhaus
Cory Finley first came on my radar with “The Feast,” his original play that was produced by the St. Louis Actors’ Studio in fall 2017. Since then, he has received national acclaim for two films, “Thoroughbreds” and “Bad Education.” He is definitely one to watch.

Now he is giving back to the small theater company that gave him a shot by being one of the artists trying to help STLAS and others in St. Louis through the Small Professional Theatre Sustainment Fund. This was started to help these struggling companies pay their bills until they can safely re-open.

The coronavirus pandemic has threatened extinction for millions of small businesses all over the world, including theater companies, who will continue to be hit hard as they might not receive any funding in 2021, and if they do, it would be a small amount.

“The federal government has offered some help, but small professional theaters are not in line for major funding and the existing funding that relies on tax dollars is vanishing,” said William Roth, STLAS Founder and Artistic Director. “We decided to take matters into our own hands with the creation of the Small Professional Theatre Sustainment Fund and enlisted the help of well-known St. Louisans with careers in the arts.” 

By donating to the Fund, participants are automatically entered into a drawing to win a virtual hangout with Finley or other famous St. Louis artists Sterling K. Brown, Jon Hamm, Sam McMurray, Beau Willimon, or Neil LaBute (longtime friend of the St. Louis Actors’ Studio).

For every $75 donated to www.stlas.org/sustain, the participant’s name is placed into a drawing for 50 chances to win. The more a person donates, the better their chances are for winning. Contest ends Sept. 17 and the winner will be drawn on September 18.  

During the virtual meet-up, the winner will be able to discuss anything of interest with the artist—from acting tips and insights, to fans just wanting to spend a little quality time. Names will be drawn until all artists are spoken for. For official rules and regulations, please visit the FAQ page. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Finley wanted to get involved because he believes in their work and the mission they’re starting.

“I was lucky enough to have STLAS put on a production of my play ‘The Feast.’ I’m a huge fan of the work they’re doing and I’m very concerned about the health of theater in America generally in pandemic conditions. I think it’s a great initiative to help keep vital institutions alive,” Finley said. 

In a short-take review, I described the play this way: “One act, three actors, five genres, so says director John Pierson, who shrewdly realizes an eerie “Twilight Zone”-type mind game by Cory Finley of Clayton, Mo. The twisty-turny original play, only 65 minutes’ long, benefits from an accomplished trio of actors and Patrick Huber’s customary meticulous set and artful lighting design. Pierson’s crisp direction and keen sound design enhance the mysterious off-kilter quality.”

Pierson, a St. Louis actor, director and teacher, has been at John Burroughs School since 1993 and is chairman of the Theatre, Speech and Dance Department.

Finley, 31, a Burroughs graduate, is based in New York City, where he is a member of the Obie-winning Youngblood playwrights group at Ensemble Studio Theater. He received a commission from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation for playwrighting, and was the inaugural recipient of the Gurney Playwrights Fund for “The Feast,” which was presented first at The Flea Theater.

Three years ago this month, Finley’s play “The Feast” fit into the vision at The Gaslight Theatre, STLAS’ black-box home.

“STLAS is committed to bringing engaging theatrical experiences to our community of actors, writers, producers, filmmakers and all patrons of the arts; and to provide a strong ensemble environment to foster learning and artistic expression. Through the use of ensemble work, STLAS explore the endless facets and various themes of the human condition by producing existing and original collaborative theatre,” Roth said.

Finley received high praise for the film “Thoroughbreds,” which he adapted from his play and also directed. It was accepted for the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017, and nominated for the Audience Award in the Best of Next! competition. It played at the St. Louis International Film Festival that November. Sold to Focus Features for $5 million, the film opened in theaters in March 2018.

Finley wrote the crime-drama-dark comedy about two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut, who rekindled their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Then they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems — no matter what the cost. The cast included Anna Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke, and was the last film of Anton Yelchin, who died in a tragic accident at his home in June 2016. The film is dedicated to him.

Anton Yelchin, Cory Finley, Anya Taylor-Joy. Photo by

Indie Wire described the film as “Heathers meets American Psycho.” Rotten Tomatoes had a score of 86% and the critic consensus was: ” Thoroughbreds juggles genres with panache, delivering a well-written and refreshingly unpredictable entry in the teen thriller genre.”

In 2019, Finley scored a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay for “Thoroughbreds.” The annual awards, held since 1984, honor independent filmmakers working with small budgets. For more information on the film, visit www.thoroughbredsmovie.com

Last year, Finley directed “Bad Education,” which was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 and sold to HBO for $20 million. HBO aired it April 25 this year (Currently available in HBOMax catalog) and as of Sept. 8, it is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It is also available for rental or purchase on streaming platforms.

“Bad Education” is nominated for two Emmy Awards — Best Television Movie and Hugh Jackman for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. The Emmy Awards are Sunday, Sept. 20.

The film, based on a true story, focuses on the popular superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district as well as his staff, friends and relatives who become the prime suspects as the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history unfolds. Former Roslyn student Mike Makowsky wrote the screenplay based on the New York Magazine article “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker.

Finley said he was drawn to the script for several reasons.

“I thought the script had a really unique tone, a complex character at its center, and themes about greed, institutional failure and systemic corruption that spoke to me,” he said.

And working with the cast was a positive experience.

Jackman played Frank Tassone, who was sentenced to 4 to 12 years for the $11.2 million embezzling scheme, and Alison Janney played Pam Gluckin, an assistant superintendent who took part in the scheme.

“I was enormously lucky that my A-list cast all had the work ethic and humility of actors just starting off: particularly Hugh and Alison made my job incredibly easy and were intensely collaborative and open, as well as super-prepared,” Finley said.

He said he is not at liberty to divulge his next project just yet..

How has he been coping with the pandemic in New York?

“My partner is a medical resident who got pulled into the COVID ward right at the height of the pandemic, so I had a very intense view of the worst of it through her. But she’s now back home doing tele-health and things are much more normal,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have a job that I can do from home — the writing and prep parts of my job at least — and so I’m far less affected than many New Yorkers have been.”

What has he learned during this time of quarantine?

“It’s a total cliche, but I’ve learned how important a sense of social community is, and how badly we all need it back,” he said.

Cory FInley at Film Independent Spirit Awards. Photo by Kevin Mazur.

Q&A QUESTIONS FOR “TAKE TEN”
1. Why did you choose your profession? 
I always loved creating and managing made-up worlds: first pretend games, then Dungeons and Dragons, then school plays, then  directing film. 

2. How would your friends describe you?
Tall, polite, bad at remembering things, dad jokes, no sense of direction. 

3. How do you like to spend your spare time?
Playing basketball with great enthusiasm and minimal ability. 

4. What is your current obsession? 
Youtube chiropractic adjustment videos. Also, archived Firing Line videos of William F. Buckley debating prominent leftists of the 60s — Noam Chomsky, James Baldwin, Huey Newton. They show at once how far our politics have come and how little our discourse has changed. 

5. Who do you admire most?
In no particular order: Caryl Churchill, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lebron James. 

6. What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area?
Ted Drewes and the Tivoli Theatre.  

More to Know:
Name: Cory Finley
Age: 31
Birthplace: St. Louis, MO (Clayton, specifically)
Current location: Manhattan
Day job: Many years SAT/ACT tutoring
Favorite movies: Brief EncounterThere Will Be Blood

Will Help Struggling Arts Community in Wake of Global Pandemic

Donate for Chances to Win Virtual Hangouts with Sterling K. Brown, Jon Hamm, Beau Willimon, Sam McMurray, Cory Finley and Neil LaBute

The Coronavirus pandemic has threatened extinction for millions of small businesses all over the world, including many beloved St. Louis theater companies. In fact, local and regional arts commissions announced recently that many struggling organizations will not receive any funding in 2021, and those that do are expected to receive only a small percentage of what they have been granted in the past.

In an effort to help small professional theater companies in St. Louis as well as those across the nation to pay their bills until they can safely reopen, the St. Louis Actors’ Studio announced today the creation of the Small Professional Theatre Sustainment Fund.
“The federal government has offered some help, but small professional theaters are not in line for major funding and the existing funding that relies on tax dollars is vanishing,” said William Roth, Founder and Artistic Director of the St. Louis Actors’ Studio. “We decided to take matters into our own hands with the creation of the Small Professional Theatre Sustainment Fund and enlisted the help of well-known St. Louisans with careers in the arts.” 

By simply donating to the Fund, participants are automatically entered into a drawing to win a virtual hangout with such famous St. Louis artists as Sterling K. Brown, Jon Hamm, Sam McMurray, Beau Willimon, Cory Finley or Neil LaBute (longtime friend of the St. Louis Actors’ Studio).

For every $75 donated to www.stlas.org/sustain, the participant’s name is placed into a drawing for 50 chances to win. The more a person donates, the better their chances are for winning. The winner will be drawn on September 17.  

During the virtual meet-up, the winner will be able to discuss anything of interest with the artist—from acting tips and insights, to fans just wanting to spend a little quality time. Names will be drawn until all artists are spoken for. For official rules and regulations, please visit the FAQ page. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

About the Participating Artists
Actor Jon Hamm is a John Burroughs grad best known for his Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning role on “Mad Men.” He will star in the upcoming film “Top Gun: Maverick” in theaters this winter.See Jon Hamm’s video message here:https://vimeo.com/427780482

Sterling K. Brown is a graduate of MICDS and recent Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner for his work on NBC’s smash hit “This is Us.”See Sterling K. Brown’s video message here:
https://vimeo.com/429676164

A graduate of Washington University, character actor Sam McMurray has appeared in “Freaks & Geeks,” “Friends” and “Raising Arizona.”

Director and screenwriter Cory Finley is another John Burroughs alum. STLAS produced his play “The Feast” and he recently directed the film “Bad Education” for HBO.

Playwright, screenwriter and activist Beau Willimon is yet another John Burroughs alum, STLAS produced his play “Farragut North” (of which the movies “Ides of Mach” starring and directed by George Clooney is adapted.) He developed “House of Cards” for American television and was its showrunner. He most recently wrote the screenplay for “Mary Queen of Scots.”

STLAS Associate and Tony Award-nominated playwright and screenwriter Neil LaBute whose films include “In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends & Neighbors,” “Nurse Betty” and “The Shape of Things.” Neil hosts his “LaBute New Theater Festival” at STLAS’ Gaslight Theater in St. Louis each fall in in NYC periodically.

About the St. Louis Actor’s Studio

The St. Louis Actors’ Studio is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that was founded by William Roth in 2006 to bring a fresh vision to theatre in St. Louis. Housed in The Gaslight Theater in historic Gaslight Square, STLAS is committed to bringing engaging theatrical experiences to our community of actors, writers, producers, filmmakers and all patrons of the arts; and to provide a strong ensemble environment to foster learning and artistic expression. Through the use of ensemble work, STLAS will explore the endless facets and various themes of the human condition by producing existing and original collaborative theatre. To learn more or to make a donation, visit www.stlas.org/sustain. This program would not be possible without the generous support of Mr. & Mrs. Charles L. Barnes and John Russell. 

By Lynn Venhaus Managing EditorGreetings! Spring has sprung after a miserable, dreary winter of 24 inches of snow and long stretches of gray days. We bring to you a long catch-up column, a winter wrap-up with lots o’ news about our wonderful theater talents in our metro area. It’s always sunny when we’re talking bright lights.

AWARDS SEASON: Spring means theater awards in St. Louis! For regional professional theater, the seventh annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards will be presented on Monday, March 25, at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University.

For general admission tickets ($15), visit: www.brownpapertickets.com You
can purchase tickets the night of the ceremony by cash or check. Our Circle
Facebook page is updated with information. We are not having pre-festivities
food, but Llewyn’s Catering will have drinks, desserts and snack boxes
available throughout the night.

If you missed who’s nominated, here is our Limelight link: https://stllimelight.com/2019/01/25/evita-streetcar-lead-st-louis-theater-circle-nominations/

See you at Theater Prom Monday!

For local community theater, Arts For Life will present the fourth annual Theatre Mask Awards, honoring comedies and dramas, on Saturday, April 6, at a.m. at The Atrium Banquet Center, Paul F. Detrick Building, on the campus of Christian Hospital, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Doors open at 10 a.m. Radio personality Vic Porcelli is the host.

A brunch buffet is served and awards in 18 categories are given out. Tables of 8 are available, and you can select what theater group or person you want to sit with – just tell [email protected] or mark it at checkout. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased by March 22. Visit www.artsforlife.org.

For a Power Point Presentation of the TMA Nominations, here
is the link: http://nebula.wsimg.com/60b66319ddb8e5ebbac7b8ba7019e6dd?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

AFL will present the 20th annual Best Performance Awards, for musicals, on Sunday, June 9, at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts, 425 Lindbergh Blvd. (Chaminade). Actor Ryan Cooper is the emcee.

From a pool of 1,302 community theater artists, 48 shows
produced by 26 community theater groups in the Metro-St. Louis area have been
reviewed for consideration for this year’s Best Performance Awards. Trophies
will be awarded in 33 categories.

The event will include performances from the 13 musicals
nominated in the three Best Musical Production categories and a special
presentation to Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Formal attire is
requested. 

All tickets are reserved seating. Group seating will not be
guaranteed on orders received after May 10. All ticket orders will be held at
the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with ticket
order. Please let us know if you require any special needs.

Early Bird Tickets are $20 and available until May 10, and
regular tickets are $25 ($26/credit card at the door).
A special rate of $40 for a combined BPA/TMA ticket for both, which is $10 off,
is available until March 22.  Visit the
website for more information, www.artsforlife.org.

For a PDF of the BPA Nominations, here is the link: http://nebula.wsimg.com/b255dc30a55d222d652ab689930da965?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1 *** ARTS LIVES: This year’s AFL Lifetime Achievements Awards are being bestowed on Joseph Paule Sr. at the Best Performance Awards June and Alton Little Theatre’s Kevin Frakes at the Theatre Mask Awards April 6.

Kevin Frakes

Frakes, current president of the Alton Little Theatre, will
be honored for his lifelong devotion and involvement in community theater, and
for helping with ALT’s growth and expansion. He began 40 years ago and has
directed and/or acted in more than 100 shows.

Joseph Paule Sr. has been involved with several community theater groups over the years, including Christ Memorial Productions and Hawthorne Players.

Caroline Santiago Turner

*** YOUTH PHENOMS: Special Awards recognition is going to two talented teens this year at AFL’s Best Performance Awards. Sean Harvey will receive Best Youth Featured Dancer for his fleet footwork as Bobby in “Crazy for You” produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts and Caroline Santiago Turner will receive Best Youth Musical Performance for her exquisite vocals as Violet in “Violet,” also produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

These awards are not giving annually, only when the Theatre
Recognition Guild judges deem performances so outstanding that they deserve
special recognition.

Sean Harvey in “Crazy for You”

Sean, who graduated from high school in Wentzville last
year, studies musical theatre at Chicago College of Performing Arts. Caroline,
who graduated from Visitation Academy in 2018, is working on her BFA in musical
theater at Indiana University.

They will be in good company. Past youth winners Zach Erhardt, Troyer Coultas and Yvette Lu toured nationally in ‘The Book of Mormon,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Hamilton” respectively last year.

***BROADWAY BUZZ: The Tony Awards are Sunday, June, at 7 p.m. on CBS, and nominations will be announced on April 30. The local folks involved in producing the original musical “The Prom” are hoping for good news that day. The original musical comedy was among the best reviewed shows in 2018, after opening Nov. 15 on Broadway.  

The PromThe show has multiple local connections – Centralia, Ill., native Chad Beguelin is the co-book writer, with Bob Martin (co-creator of “The Drowsy Chaperone”) and lyricist, with music by Matthew Sklar. A number of cast members have performed at The Muny: St. Louisans Drew Reddington and Jack Sippel, and stars Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber.

Some local producers include Jack Lane, executive director of Stages St. Louis; Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, Patty Gregory of Belleville, Terry Schnuck, Andrew S. Kuhlman of St. Louis and Fairview Heights native Joe Grandy.

Casey Nicholaw, Tony winner for “The Book of Mormon,”
directed and choreographed the show.

“The Prom” is about a canceled high school dance – a
student is barred from bringing her girlfriend to the prom — and four fading
Broadway stars who seize the opportunity to fight for justice — and a piece of
the spotlight.

As one of four musical acts in the 92nd annual Macy’s
Thanksgiving Day Parade, they made parade history with the first same-sex kiss
televised live.

Here is that performance: https://youtu.be/VDZDLJjzJBI

And the cast also performed live on “Late Night with Seth
Meyers.”

***VIVE LA VISIONARIES: More local arts awards for women! The St. Louis Visionary Awards will honor established working arts professionals, arts educators, emerging artists and community impact artists on Monday, April 22, at 6 p.m. at the Sun Theatre.

The Saint Louis Visionary Awards celebrates the numerous
contributions and achievements of women who work in or support the arts in the
greater St. Louis region. The awards are presented by an independent committee
of women dedicated to promoting the arts here.

Brava! To the 2019 Saint Louis Visionary Awards honorees, who  are, from left: Standing: Carmen Dence; Susan Barrett; Kathie Winter; and Kari Ely. Seated: Brea McAnally; Jacqueline Thompson. Photo by Diane Anderson ***COMMUNITY RECOGNITION: Congratulations to the Alton Little Theater will receive a prestigious national award for excellence in innovation, dedication to community and organizational development ensuring the future of live theater. The Twink Lynch Organizational Development Award will be presented to Kevin Frakes and Lee Cox at the AACT  (American Association of Community Theaters) National Convention in Gettysburg, Pa.,  in June.

A Raisin in the Sun

The Hawthorne Players give out “Duckies” at the year’s end, as voted on by the members and season ticket holders. The awards are named after the late veteran Hawthorne actress and director, Duckie DeMere. “A Raisin in the Sun” was the most lauded production, with , including Best Show, Best Director (Nancy Crouse), Best Actor (Erick Lindsey), Best Actress (Kimmie Kidd-Booker), Best Supporting Actor (Moses Weathers), Best Cameo Actress (Rhonda Cropp), Best Set Design (Nancy Crouse) and a Special Award (Archie Coleman).Elizabeth Breed Penny won Best Supporting Actress, for her role as Pauline in “Legally Blonde” and John Robertson won Best Cameo Actor in “The Fantasticks.” Eric Wennlund won two — Best Lighting and Best Sound for “The Fantasticks” Special Awards went to Connie Mulch of “The Fantasticks” and Michele Paladin, “Legally Blonde.”

*** NAME-DROPPING: Did you know the musical “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” has a local connection? Producers are Paul Blake, former executive director at the Muny for 22 seasons, and Mike Bosner, Burroughs grad and Muny front office alum. The second national tour recently stopped at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for a limited 5-day engagement. The musical celebrated its fifth season on Broadway in January. They tell me a movie is in the works! Here is my article ICYMI: https://stllimelight.com/2019/03/12/local-producers-found-beautiful-success-with-carole-king-musical/

There is another big-news local connection. Perhaps you’ve
heard about the college admissions scandal. Well, turns out Joe Buck’s daughter
is the roommate of Lori Laughlin’s daughter, the clueless and vapid video blogger
Olivia Jade, at University of Southern California. Ms. Buck is attending the
prestigious USC Film School. (Thanks, J.C. Corcoran for this tidbit).

Meadow Nguy

Meadow Nguy of O’Fallon, Ill., appeared in a new musical “Arrowhead” in concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below. The new Jackson Teeley and Sarah Galante work takes you inside the cozy and tuneful world of Arrowhead Café — from the heartache of love unrequited to the bliss of love that’s true, uncover all the ups, downs, and inevitable complications of modern love over a simple cup of coffee. The concert was directed by Dan Barron and music directed by Michael Pacifico, and featured a cast of 14.

Lisa Ramey, who performed at The Muny, Stages St. Louis and The Black Rep, was picked by John Legend for his team on Season 16 of “The Voice,” now finished with the Blind Auditions. Ramey currently lives in New York City and fronts a band called Superbad. She auditioned last year but did not get a chair turn, talked to the coaches about what she should do to improve, and returned this year.

Beau Willimon, third from left, speaks to the cast, while one of his mentors, director Wayne Salomon stands next to him. (Photo provided)Playwright Beau Willimon attended the preview night of his first Broadway play, “Farragut North,” which was produced at St. Louis Actors’ Studio last month. Willimon grew up in St. Louis and is a graduate of John Burroughs. He is most known for developing the American version of “House of Cards” for Netflix and was show runner for four years. His recent screenplay was the 2018 film “Mary, Queen of Scots.”

St. Louis’ sunny Jenna Fischer can now be seen with Ted Danson in a commercial for Smirnoff Vodka.

***

AND THEN THERE WERE 15: A harpist, juggler, dancers, acrobats, musicians and singers will be competing in Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation’s 9th Annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition, which takes place Saturday, April 13, at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis. The public is invited to attend for free, but general admission tickets must be reserved at Metrotix.com or 314-534-1111. You can vote for the Audience Award.

The youths will have an opportunity to win scholarships and prizes. They were selected from a process that began with 140 acts auditioning in the preliminary round, and a semifinal round on March 9 that featured 45 acts who were then whittled down to the 15 finalists. More than 50 high schools, homeschoolers and performing arts schools were represented.

Congratulations to those who advanced — quite a lot of variety: Modern Dancers: Arielle Adams, Senior DessaRae Lampkins, Senior Brooke Reese, Senior De’Jai Walker, Senior Hazelwood Central High School. Musical Theatre Act: Kaley Bender, Sophomore, Nerinx Hall Nathaniel Mahone, Sophomore, Lafayette High School. Consecrated: pianist and drummer Emmanuel Morgan, Junior Thaddaeus Morgan, Sophomore Kirkwood High School.Expressions Academy of Dance: Emma Bilzing, Sophomore; Mackenzie Branson, Freshman; Kaele Kidwell, Senior; Ja’la Stancil, Sophomore Belleville East High School Ukulele/Vocalist/Sonwriter Afiya Faatuono, Sophomore McKinley Classical Leadership Academy Pop Vocalist Jameson Falconer, Sophomore Ladue Horton Watkins High School Modern Dancer Ashley Gardner, Junior Trinity Catholic High School Pop Vocalist Madelynn Gartland, Sophomore Kirkwood High School Partner Acrobatics K.O. Duo, Oliver Layher, Senior, Vianney High School Kyran Walton, Senior, Metro Academic and Classical High School Bharatnatyam Dancer Samanvita Kasthuri, Junior Parkway South High School Ballet Dancer Anne Oberman, Junior Cor Jesu Academy Juggler Sean Petric, Sophomore Oakville High School Harpist Mereya Riopedre, Junior MICDS Guitarist and Vocalist Joanna Serenko, Senior Kirkwood High School Musical Theatre Vocalist Troy Staten, Sophomore McCluer High School These talented teens are the entertainers of tomorrow.

For more information about the competition, visit: http://www.foxpacf.org/programs/teen-talent-competition/ for more information. ***SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITY:  Since 2012, Arts For Life has awarded a scholarship to a student who is pursuing an education in the arts. The deadline for applicants is April 12. Applicant must be enrolled in an arts undergraduate program at an accredited college or university. Arts programs include, but are not exclusive to: performing arts (music, dance, theatre) and visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, film,photography, etc). Arts programs not defined as Fine Arts but related to the arts may be considered if superior work has been demonstrated in this area. Applicant must have participated in a Metro St. Louis community theater production or event in the past two years (1/1/2016-12/31/2018). Metro St. Louis defined as any location within 35 miles from Clayton. Here is the link: http://www.artsforlife.org/scholarship.html***

Taylor Louderman

THE POWER OF THEATRE: Tony Award nominee Taylor Louderman will host a one-night-only cabaret to celebrate performing arts education and support rural Missouri’s Ozark Actors Theatre.

It’s set for May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

Louderman, proud native of Bourbon, Mo., will take part in “The Power of Theatre,” bringing together the voices of some of St. Louis’s best performers as they share the power of theater education.

Currently starring on Broadway as Regina George in “Mean
Girls,” she is well-known on local stages. Her career began at Ozark Actors
Theater in 2001, when she played the title role of ‘Annie.”

Since then, she appeared on Broadway in “Bring It On: The
Musical” and “Kinky Boots,” as well as NBC’s “Peter Pan Live.” She spent
summers performing at the Muny, last seen in “Aida.” She voices the character
Blair on Nickelodeon’s “Sunny Day” and can be seen in “The Good Fight” and HBO’s
“High Maintenance.”

She likes to give back to the community where she started
and grateful to be a part of the OAT board.

Evening also includes silent and live auctions, and a special introduction by News 4’s Paige Hulsey.

All proceeds from this event will benefit Ozark Actors
Theatre’s education programming.

Tickets are available in person at the Fox Theatre box office without a handling fee. For more information: https://www.thesheldon.org/concert-detail.php?id=768

***

Wendy Renee Greenwood as war photographer in “Time Stands Still”GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Modern relationships are certainly complicated, aren’t they? But they sure make compelling dramas. We’re giving away two tickets to New Jewish Theatre’s upcoming production of “Time Stands Still” that runs March 28 – April 15. All you have to do is enter our drawing and select your favorite play on modern relationships for our poll (see below).

“Time Stands Still” revolves around Sarah, a photojournalist who has returned from covering the Iraq war after being injured by a roadside bomb, and her reporter boyfriend James who is swamped by guilt after having left Sarah alone in Iraq. The two are trying to find happiness in a world that seems to have gone crazy. Theirs is a partnership based on telling the toughest stories, and together, making a difference. But when their own story takes a sudden turn, the adventurous couple confronts the prospect of a more conventional life. Can they stay together amidst unspoken betrayals and conflicting ideals? Playwright Donald Margulies answers these questions, while leaving unanswered qualms regarding the way America deals with war and tragedy coverage.

Directed by Doug Finlayson, the cast includes Wendy Renee Greenwood as Sarah, Ben Nordstrom as James, Jerry Vogel as Robin and Eileen Engel as Mandy.

To enter our drawing, please send your email address and
phone number to Lynn Venhaus, [email protected], by Friday,
March 22, before 5 p.m., with your choice for your favorite contemporary play
on modern relationships.

What would yours be? Here’s our list from which to select:August: Osage County God of Carnage The Humans Proof Rabbit Hole Stop Kiss Venus in Fur

Thanks for entering. Our last drawing for tickets to “Avenue Q” at the Playhouse @Westport Playhouse was won by Jennelle Gilreath. *** BEST WISHES: Kelly Hummert, founder and artistic director of Rebel and Misfits Productions, has decided to move on to other projects, and will no longer be producing shows in St. Louis.

Kelly Hummert

We will miss seeing what innovative and immersive plays she
put her heart and soul into, and the outstanding ensembles she brought together
during the past three years.

Rebel and Misfits’ “The Realistic Joneses” and “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows” have been nominated for Best Ensemble in this year’s St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, and last year, both Andrew Michael Niemann and Jim Butz won acting awards for “Uncle Vanya: Valiantly Accepting Next Year’s Agony.”

Break a leg, Kelly! The best is yet to come!

*** AUTHOR! AUTHOR!: Don Miller, an expert on media literacy and a local playwright, actor and professor, wrote a reference book, “Coming of Age in Popular Culture: Teenagers, Adolescence, and the Art of Growing Up,” that is getting good reviews. He is being lauded for his thoughtful work and providing insight into popular culture.

“And the beat goes on! What a wonderful tribute to the
decades. A entertaining explanation of our influences of the decades that
brought back so many memories,” said bestselling author Wade Rouse.

“This text is a tremendous boost to the media literacy
education field at a time when both the media communicator as well as the media
consumer hold great sway on many platforms in our digital communications
environment and understanding these processes can help both be better. And, the
timing couldn’t be better to have this definitive, well researched and
well-documented textbook regarding an age-old relationship about teens and
their media,” said Jessica Z. Brown, founder of Gateway Media Literacy
Partners.

Miller documented the evolution of teens and media from the
1950s through 2010, this book examines the films, books, television shows, and
musical artists that impacted American culture and shaped the “coming of
age” experience for each generation.

He will speak to the Mid Rivers Ethical Society in July.

***

“The Lusty Month of May” from the movie “Camelot” 1967TRIVIA TIME-OUT: We flip seasons to spring! Yay! Happy Dance. What a cold, dreary, gray winter. Here are some questions about productions focused on a spring.

In “The Producers,” what is the name of the musical
that Max Bialistock and Leo Bloom are mounting?Who sings “The Lusty Month of May” on the
original cast recording of “Camelot”? In the movie?What original cast member won a Tony Award in
the musical “Spring Awakening”?What musical features the song “Younger Than
Springtime”?ANSWERS 1. “Springtime for Hitler” 2. Julie Andrews; Vanessa Redgrave (Guinnevere)3. John Gallagher Jr.4. “South Pacific”

***

Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story”MOVIE MUSICAL MAKEOVER: “Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner is writing the script for Steven Spielberg’s new version of “West Side Story,” which is expected to be released in 2020. The announced movie cast includes Ansel Elgort as Tony, Rachel Zegler as Maria, Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose (Donna Summer) as Anita, Tony Award winner David Alvarez (Billy Elliot) as Bernardo, Josh Andres Rivera as Chino, Brian d’Arcy James as Sergeant Krupke and Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank.

The sole returning cast member of the original is EGOT
winner Rita Moreno, who will play a new character, Valentina. She won an Oscar playing
Anita.

This will be Spielberg’s first musical. He had a casting
call for Latinx performers and received 30,000 submissions. Seventeen-year-old
high school newcomer Rachel Zegler won the part of Maria.

The 1961 landmark film is the most-award winning movie musical
of all-time, nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning 10. With choreography
by Jerome Robbins, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim,
the movie adaptation was directed by Robert Wise (“The Sound of Music”) and
Robbins.

Fun Fact: Natalie Wood played Maria but her singing was
dubbed by Marni Nixon, who also subbed for Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.”

***

Jared Sanz-Agero

IN MEMORIAM: Friends, family and colleague are remembering the wonderful talent that Jared Sanz-Agero was. The actor died Feb. 19, from injuries suffered in a horrific automobile accident two weeks earlier, on Feb 5.

Twice-nominated for St. Louis Theater Circle Awards for “Stones
in My Pocket” and “The Liar,” he was a passionate presence on many regional
group’s stages. You might have chatted with him at the .Zack, working at the
bar and concessions. He attended Southwest Missouri State University.

Jared, 47, was traveling to Kansas City for a commercial
shoot when his 2004 Toyota Matrix slid off the ice-covered roadway. He was
taken to the Centerpoint Hospital ICU in Independence, Mo., according to the
police report.
Official cause of death was internal bleeding and loss of blood, and is being
investigated by his family, from what’s on the Go Fund Me page.

A memorial service is being planned for a later date. If
you would like to contribute to a Go Fund Me account set up by his brother
Gentry after the accident to help with his medical expenses, and now, costs
related to his death investigation, and services, here is the link to the Jared
Sanz-Agero Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/help-jared-heal-fund

***WORD: To quote Jonathan Larson, who wrote “Rent” and died on opening day from an aneurysm:

“It’s not how many years you live, but how you fulfill the time you spend here.”

By Lynn VenhausManaging EditorAnd down the stretch we come! In the waning days of February, our shortest month, dusk is getting later and sure signs of spring are upon us. We can stay indoors for awhile longer — the weather is still frightful — but what awaits us inside a theater is juicy entertainment. Whether you are in the mood for taut political dramas (“Farragut North,” “Oslo”) or classic Arthur Miller (“The Crucible”) or goofy foul-mouthed puppets, the St. Louis stages are showcasing some mighty fine talent.Some local college theater departments are presenting classics, with Lindenwood taking on “Our Town” and St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley is tackling Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Washington University is presenting the first part of “Angels in America.” Such ambition! Such enthusiasm! Catch it — Go See a Play!

FRIDAY, FEB. 1, 2019 – This is a promotional photo for “Angels in America” by Washington University’s Performing Arts Department. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL Photos “Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches”Washington University Performing Arts Department Feb. 22 – March 3Thursdays and Fridays at 7 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 p.m.Edison Theatre314-935-6543www.pad.artsci.wustl.eduWhat It’s About: Tony Kushner’s epic play focuses on politics, sex and religion, switching between realism and fantasy, dealing with the tragedy of AIDS to very spiritual territory.

Director: Henry SchveyStarring: Louis Gordon and Alex Knapp are Prior and Louis, and Nathan Wetter and Stephanie Wright are Joe and Harper. Stephen Reaugh is Roy Cohn. Justin Wright is Prior’s ex-lover Belize, a nurse and former drag queen. Jacque Randolph is the Angel, Kelley Abell is Hannah, Joe’s mother. Helen Fox fills a variety of roles.

“Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport Plaza Jan. 25 – March 17 (extended run) www.playhouseatwestport.com

What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with
heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a
college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account.
He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s
purpose.

Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie
Mueller

Starring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer
Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won three Tony
Awards, including Best Musical.

“By the Way…Meet Vera Stark” Feb. 13 – 24 Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Centerwww.webster.edu/conservatory/season 314-968-7128

What It’s About: A new comedy from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Lynn Nottage, this draws upon the screwball films of the 1930s to take a funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood. “By the Way…Meet Vera Stark” is a 70-year journey through the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African-American maid and budding actress, and her tangled relationship with her boss, a white Hollywood star desperately grasping to hold on to her career.

Photo by John Lamb“The Crucible” Stray Dog Theatre Feb. 7 – 23 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; special 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Feb. 17. Tower Grove Abbey 2336 Tennessee www.straydogtheatre.org 314-865-1995

What It’s About: Lies. Betrayal. Lust. In 1690s
Salem, a young girl leads a Puritanical purge of witchcraft against a local
farmer and his wife. As fear and excitement grow in the town, the accusations
grow more ferocious and terrifying, until no one is safe, and the truth is
obscured completely. Written by Arthur Miller and winner of the 1953 Tony Award
for Best Play.

Starring: John Proctor: Graham Emmons, Elizabeth Proctor:
Cynthia Pohlson, Abigail Williams: Alison Linderer, Mercy Lewis: Sienna DeSuza,
Rebecca Nurse: Suzanne Greenwald, John Danforth: Joe Hanrahan, Ezekiel Cheever:
Charles Heuvelman, John Hathorne: Jonathan Hey, Ann Putnam: Laura Kyro, Francis
Nurse: Chuck Lavazzi, Susanna Walcott: Zoe Liu, Giles Corey: Gerry Love, Hopkins
: Michael Maskus, Sarah Good: Liz Mischel, Thomas Putnam: Tom Moore, John
Willard: Stephen Peirick, Rev. Samuel Parris: Ben Ritchie, Betty Parris: Avery
Smith, John Hale: Abraham Shaw, Mary Warren: Chrissie Watkins and Tituba: Kelli
Wright.

Photo of Spencer Sickmann and Hollyn Gayle by Patrick Huber. “Farragut North” St. Louis Actors’ Studio Feb. 8 – 24 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m. Gaslight Theatre 358 North Boyle Metrotix.com 314-458-2978www.stlas.org

What It’s About: Stephen Bellamy is a wunderkind press secretary who has built a career that men twice his age would envy. During a tight presidential primary race, Stephen’s meteoric rise falls prey to the backroom politics of more seasoned operatives. “Farragut North” is a timely story about the lust for power and the costs one will endure to achieve it. Director: Wayne Salomon Starring: Spencer Sickmann, Peter Mayer, David Wassilak, Shannon NaraThe West End Grill and Pub will be open before and after the performances for drinks.

“The Hundred Dresses” Metro Theatre Company Feb. 3 – Feb. 25 The Grandel Theatre Metrotix.com www.metroplays.org

What It’s About: Wanda Petronski, the new girl in Room 13,
is a Polish immigrant who lives in a shabby house and doesn’t have any friends.
Every day she wears the same faded blue dress, but tells her new class-mates
that she has a hundred dresses at home. Her classmates tease Wanda about her
hundred dresses until one day she disappears from school. As guilt overtakes
the children, they decide to find out what happened to Wanda and to make
amends. But is it too late? Bullying, friendship and forgiveness are at the
center of this play adapted from the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor
Estes.

Of Note: Eleanor Estes wrote down her childhood memories while recovering from tuberculosis and became a children’s author. Her many published works are widely read; but “The Hundred Dresses” continues to be the most popular, remaining in print since its publication in 1944. It was awarded the Newbery Honor in 1945. Speaking about “The Hundred Dresses” Eleanor Estes said, “I am holding up a mirror, and the scene reflected in the mirror is a true image of childhood, and the mirror, besides reflecting, also speaks and echoes the clear, profound, unpremeditated utterances, thoughts, and imageries of these children. I like to make children laugh or cry, to be moved in some way by my writing.

Justis Drakes “Milk Like Sugar”The Black RepFeb. 13 – March 3Hotchner StudioWashington Universitywww.theblackrep.org

What It’s About: Milk Like Sugar is an astute gut-wrenching observation of the impact of racism on African American youth. We see the cyclical nature of inherited trauma, the normalization of underfunded communities, the dire need for education that nurtures latent talent, childhood hunger, the categorization of Black youth as adults, and the injustice of the criminal system. The myth of self-determination and seeing those who cannot escape their circumstance as inferior is keeping us for mobilizing and tithing whatever time and talent we might have to give into those communities. This play affirms these children need us, just as much as we need them.

Photo by Peter Wochniak

“Oslo” Feb. 8 – March 3 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 130 Edgar Road, St. Louiswww.repstl.org 314-968-4925 What It’s About: The winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play, this play by J.T. Rogers is set in 1993, when two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work towards peace. “Oslo” finds the unlikely story behind the historic event. The drama explores the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible and focuses on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Director: Steven Woolf Starring: Jim Poulos, Kathleen Wise, Rajesh Bose, Ben Graney, Jerry Vogel, Michael James Reed, Amro Salama, John Rensenhouse, Michelle Hand, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Jeff Cummings, Jim Shankman, Chaunery Kingsford Tanguay, Jack Theiling and Tom Wethington. Of Note: “Oslo” is recommended for adult audiences. The show contains strong adult language and weighty discussions about global politics and diplomatic relations.

“Our Town”Lindenwood UniversityFeb. 21 – 23 at 7:30 p.m.Scheidegger Center for the Arts, St. Charles campuswww.lindenwood.edu

What It’s About: Thornton Wilder’s timeless drama of life in the mythical village of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, has become an American classic with universal appeal. It first appeared on Broadway in 1938.

Director: Patrice Foster

“The Rat Pack is Back” Friday, February 22, at 7:30 p.m.. The Fox Theatre 527 North Grand in Grand Centerwww.fabulousfox.comWhat It’s About: This spirited show recreates one of the famous “Summit at the Sands” nights when the swingin’, ring-a-ding group known as “The Rat Pack” was creating hipster legend with a free-wheeling, no-holds-barred nightclub act starring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop.

“A Streetcar Named Desire”St. Louis Community College at Florissant ValleyFeb. 21 – 24Fisher Theatre, 3400 Pershall Road www.stlcc.edu/fv/

“Transluminate”The Q Collective Feb. 21 – 23Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drivehttps://theqcollective.theater

What It’s About: A short-play festival and celebration of transgender, agender, non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid artists.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
What price glory? St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s savvy state-of-play production of “Farragut
North” sketches a fascinating world that we have only glimpsed as it escalates
to a fever pitch every four years.

Beau Willimon’s insider look at cutthroat politics on the
presidential primary election campaign trail premiered in 2008, and is named
for a metro stop in D.C. He wrote it as a Juilliard Playwriting Fellow, loosely
based on his experiences working for Vermont Governor Howard Dean, a one-time
frontrunner in the 2004 presidential race.

The playwright, a 1995 John Burroughs School graduate, first
had experiences on Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaigns. So,
this territory is obviously in his wheelhouse.

Willimon’s sharp commentary on backroom politics, 21st
Century-style, remains topical even though it came out over a decade ago. As sharks
circle, anticipating the Iowa Caucus kickoff to the 2008 U.S. presidential
primary elections, this whip-smart drama pulsates with passion and purpose.

Director Wayne Salomon shrewdly exposes the underbelly of
political operators like he’s playing in a championship chess tournament. As he
tautly maneuvers the manipulators, we see the designs, desires and dreams of
every character through what is being said and not said, while others lie in
wait, like a cobra. Who will survive, thrive or take a dive?

A crackerjack cast smoothly delivers Willimon’s clever
wordplay and penetrating dialogue, nimbly rattling off statistics, polls and
facts with confidence. Don’t worry – it’s not just a numbers game, for there is
enough human drama to keep us riveted.

Salomon achieves an immediate lived-in authenticity. Staged
under the harsh glare of artificial lighting, in drab hotel rooms on the Iowa campaign
trail, this nondescript set by Patrick Huber fittingly captures the dullness.

Despite the banality, you can feel the drive of the participants
during this dreary January period because it is the first major contest of a
very long season. Those who don’t do well tend to drop out in the coming days
and weeks after Iowa.

Peter Mayer and Spencer Sickman in “Farragut North” at St. Louis Actors Studio. Photo by Patrick HuberEnter the political operatives on the same side, Spencer
Sickmann (Stephen Bellamy) and David Wassilak (Paul Zara) in the throes of
battle, with the opposition represented by Tom Duffy (Peter Mayer). These top-tier,
highly intelligent actors bounce off each other with a tight rhythm, unleashing
diatribes with remarkable force and skill.

The modern political landscape may indeed be a circus, but
the people who play in that minefield are as fascinating as any Shakespeare
concocted.

We meet our polished practitioners of spin in a ubiquitous
hotel bar, trash-talking and regaling each other with stories of glory days,
fueled by alcohol and lust for power.

A few characters are more transparent than others, but Willimon
is quite cunning in his introductions of hotshot press secretary Bellamy, his
boss/mentor Zara and the bright-eyed new kid Ben, played with eager-beaver wide-eyed
enthusiasm by Joshua Parrack.

Bellamy is a likable smarty-pants whose cockiness just may
be his downfall, but how he’s usually one step ahead is impressive. Sickmann is
stunning in this labor-intensive endeavor, for he is on stage in every scene,
and as the smartest guy in the room, the passages he must convey are long. But
he does so with great zeal.

Wassilak’s character is the wild card here, and as he
reveals his clever string-pulls, it’s quite a feat, a new facet of the actor’s
work.

Mayer’s character is the necessary instigator, and he
quickly nails this slick master whose scenes are few but his influence looms
large.

Into this mix comes a major media outlet. Shannon Nara is Ida,
a New York Times reporter who assimilates herself as “one of the guys.” She
does what journalists are paid to do – network and observe. Nara projects a
smart, seasoned professional who knows how to meet the demands of her work –
and not show her cards.

The other female role, Molly, is a young, very ambitious,
starry-eyed campaign worker who is committed to getting what she wants. This character
feels the most cliched, forced. But Hollyn Gayle does what she can by showing
her sly determination.

Photo of Spencer Sickmann and Hollyn Gayle by Patrick HuberAs the layers are peeled back on some truly fascinating
characters – ones who are far more motivated than we initially think — get
ready for sneaky turns in this soul-sucking journey.
Nevertheless, one character represents the ideology of successful political
candidates, and that is a Latino restaurant server working at his family’s
place. Luis Aguilar earnestly professes hope that his chosen candidate can do
the things he says, that can fulfill the hopes and dreams of Americans who want
opportunities.

We are reminded of the democratic process, putting the ‘why’
into perspective, while the rest of the play is about the who, what and how.
After all, a candidate who gets people fired up is always the goal.

It doesn’t matter that this play occurs before widespread
use of smart phones and social media, for Willimon’s sobering account of modern
election campaigns still has the same core that marks all cautionary tales: the
games ambitious people play when stakes are high.

Therefore, this timely staging has as much in common with “Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington” idealism as it does with “The Sweet Smell of Success”
cynicism and the real-world optics created by Nixon’s dirty tricksters,
perfected by political consultant/absolute power master planner Karl Rove and the
media cross-over — evil divide-and-conquer architect Roger Ailes.
 
Even though Americans tend to not like watching the sausage being made, this
riveting piece gives us precise characters worth getting to know.

Willimon went on to develop an American version of the
British inside-politics series “House of Cards” for Netflix and served as showrunner
for four seasons. And he received an Oscar nomination for adapting “Farragut
North” into the George Clooney-Grant Heslov film “The Ides of March” in 2011.

Therefore, it’s interesting to see where it all began. This is far from the last word in politics, but if Willimon is keeping tabs, I want to see that outtake. And Salomon, also responsible for sound design, has well-chosen his opening and closing songs as apt punctuation.

“Farragut North” is presented by St. Louis Actors’ Studio Feb. 8 – 24 at The Gaslight Theatre, 360 N. Boyle Ave, St. Louis. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are available through Metrotix.com For more information, visit www.stlas.org.

By Lynn VenhausManaging EditorAnother opening, another show, and another, and another…We have an abundance of riches in the St. Louis region this weekend — many solid offerings from St. Peters, Mo. to Waterloo, Ill.

Whether it’s established playwrights like Arthur Miller, Sarah Ruhl or Laura Gunderson or emerging writers, we encourage you to take a fresh look at a classic or dive in to something new.

Speaking of playwrights, homegrown Beau Willimon will be in town Thursday night to attend the preview performance of his drama, “Farragut North.”

Willimon, who adapted the British TV series “House of Cards” for the American version on Netflix, is a graduate of John Burroughs High School, where he was a student of director Wayne Salomon.It’s the final week for several shows — “District Merchants” at New Jewish Theatre, “Wittenberg” at Upstream Theatre and “The Motherf**ker with the Hat” at R-S Theatrics. “Fiddler on the Roof” tour ends its St. Louis stop on Sunday.

Openings include “The Crucible” at Stray Dog Theatre, “Farragut North” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio, “Oslo” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” at West End Players Guild.Four shows open in Community Theatre — “Don’t Dress for Dinner” at Act Two, ” “First Date” at Clinton County Showcase, “Little Shop of Horrors” at MASC and “Eurydice” at Clayton Community Theatre.

Metro Theatre continues with “The Hundred Dresses,” “Avenue Q” goes through March 3 at The Playhouse at Westport, “Deenie Nast Is Back” is just on Fridays, and SATE’s “Classic Mystery Game” has two more weekends.Whatever you are in the mood for, you can find it in the ‘Lou, or by crossing one of the bridges. Wherever you go, GO SEE A PLAY! “Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport Plaza Jan. 25 – March 3 www.playhouseatwestport.com

What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with
heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a
college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account.
He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s
purpose.

Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie
Mueller

Starring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer
Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. “Black Theatre Workshop” Metcalf Theatre Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Friday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. 618-650-2774www.siue.edu

Of Note: In honor for the 20th anniversary celebration of Black
Theater Workshop, SIUE Theater and Dance welcomes the return of alumnus Greg
Fenner who directed this year’s edition of BTW “Black in My Day.”
Fenner has worked in professional theater in both St. Louis and Chicago, and is
the recipient of Best Actor in a Comedy for “Fully Committed” from the St.
Louis Theater Circle.

Photo by Joey Rumpell“Classic Mystery Game” Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble (SATE) Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. Jan. 30 – Feb. 16 The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive, [email protected] 314-827-5760

What It’s About: SATE opens its Season of Ritual with a parody of the cult classic 1985 movie, “Clue,” written by Katy Keating. She has written about the failure of capitalism in a climate-changing world.

The film was written by Jonathan Lynn, and that was based
on the game, “Cluedo,” which was created by Anthony E. Pratt.

Director: Katy Keating

Starring: Will Bonfiglio. Maggie Conroy, Michael Cassidy
Flynn, Carl Overly Jr., Reginald Pierre, Ellie Schwetye, Rachel Tibbetts, Kristen
Strom, Marcy Wiegert and Bess Moynihan

Of Note: Wednesdays, Feb. 13, are “Pay What You Can”

Photo by Justin Been“The Crucible” Stray Dog Theatre Feb. 7 – 23 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; special 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Feb. 17. Tower Grove Abbey 2336 Tennessee www.straydogtheatre.org 314-865-1995

What It’s About: Lies. Betrayal. Lust. In 1690s
Salem, a young girl leads a Puritanical purge of witchcraft against a local
farmer and his wife. As fear and excitement grow in the town, the accusations
grow more ferocious and terrifying, until no one is safe, and the truth is
obscured completely. Written by Arthur Miller and winner of the 1953 Tony Award
for Best Play.

Director:
Starring: John Proctor: Graham Emmons, Elizabeth Proctor: Cynthia Pohlson, Abigail
Williams: Alison Linderer, Mercy Lewis: Sienna DeSuza, Rebecca Nurse: Suzanne
Greenwald, John Danforth: Joe Hanrahan, Ezekiel Cheever: Charles Heuvelman, John
Hathorne: Jonathan Hey, Ann Putnam: Laura Kyro, Francis Nurse: Chuck Lavazzi, Susanna
Walcott: Zoe Liu, Giles Corey: Gerry Love, Hopkins : Michael Maskus, Sarah
Good: Liz Mischel, Thomas Putnam: Tom Moore, John Willard: Stephen Peirick, Rev.
Samuel Parris: Ben Ritchie, Betty Parris: Avery Smith, John Hale: Abraham Shaw,
Mary Warren: Chrissie Watkins and Tituba: Kelli Wright.

“Deenie Nast is Back” Ten Directions and the St. Lou Fringe Fridays at 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 8 and 15 Emerald Room at The Monocle www.deenienast.com

What It’s About: One-woman show by Audrey Crabtree features
international performance superstar Deenie Nast, who delivers a no holds
barred, song-filled tribute to her lonely fans. Nast presents a hilarious and
heartbreaking exploration of relationships, loneliness, and true connections.
Nast sings the hits from her past, revealing very personal stories. Songs,
physical comedy and audience interaction are involved.

Photo by Eric Woolsey “District Merchants” New Jewish Theatre Jan. 24 – Feb. 10 Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Wool Studio Theater Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drivewww.newjewishtheatre.org 314-442-3283

What It’s About: Love, litigation, deep passions and
predatory lending are taken to a new level. The play wades fearlessly into the
complexities of life in America. It is set among Black and Jewish populations
in an imagined time and place, simultaneously Shakespearean and post- Civil War
Washington, D.C.

Directed by Jacqueline Thompson

Cast: Gary Wayne Barker, J. Samuel Davis, Courtney Bailey
Parker, Alicen Moser, Erika Flowers, Karl Hawkins, Ron White, Rae Davis

Of Note: In Aaron Posner’s re-imagining, the play becomes
less about the quality of mercy and more about how flexible a supposedly
egalitarian society can be to the varied tribes struggling to find partners in
America. Aaron Posner expertly blends humor, emotional truths and topics that
make people think. He is able to create characters who are deeply flawed, like
we are. In his “uneasy” comedy, he wants us to look at a snapshot in time, the
Reconstruction Era, but what he has written is relevant to audiences today.

Trish Nelke, John Emery, Laura Deveney and Becky Loughridge. Photo by Lori Biehl“Don’t Dress for Dinner” Act Two Theatre Feb. 8 – 17 Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. St. Peters Cultural Arts Centrewww.acttwotheatre.com What It’s About: Bernard and Jacqueline are a not-so-happily married couple, both of whom are having extramarital affairs. As Jacqueline prepares to go out of town to visit her mother, Bernard invites his mistress and Robert, his best friend (and also Jacqueline’s lover, unbeknownst to Bernard), over for the weekend. He’s even hired a Cordon Bleu chef to cater the evening. Jacqueline discovers Robert is coming to town and cancels her trip, causing Bernard to panic. When Robert arrives, Bernard asks him to pretend Suzanne is Robert’s mistress. Robert mistakes the chef, for Bernard’s mistress, producing a highly complicated dinner of hilarious hijinks, secret trysts and slapstick comedy.” Performances take place in the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre at 1 St Peters Centre Blvd, St. Peters, MO 63376. For more information: act2theater.com.

Director: Paul James Starring: Trish Nelke, John Emery, Laura Deveney, Becky Loughridge, Travis Wiggins, Justin Spurgeon

“Eurydice” Clayton Community Theatre Feb. 7 – 17 Thursday – Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. Washington University South Campus Theatre  6501 Clayton Road Tickets by email at [email protected] 314-721-9228 www.placeseveryone.org. What It’s About: This “weird and wonderful” (New York Times) retelling of the Greek myth about the musician Orpheus and his wife Eurydice ruminates on love, loss, and the power of memory. “Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl is one of the few retellings of the classic myth told from the heroine’s perspective. It considers her untimely death and descent to the Underworld, what she finds there, and her difficult decision of whether or not to return to Earth with Orpheus. “Eurydice” was nominated for Drama League and Drama Desk awards in 2008. Director – Jessa Knust

Starring: Eurydice – Mary Tomlinson, Orpheus – Wil Spaeth, Eurydice’s Father – Jeff Lovell, Nasty Interesting Man / Lord of the Underworld – Britteny Henry, Big Stone – Jack Janssen, Little Stone – Amie Bossi, Loud Stone – Ann Egenriether

Photo by John Lamb“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” West End Players Guild Feb. 8 – 17 Showtimes are 2 p.m. Sundays and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with Thursday the second week. Union Avenue Christian Church 733 Union Boulevard in the Central West End www.westendplayersguild.com

What It’s About: Nan Carter has had it.  She’s had it with her husband Kyle’s
“good ole boy” ways – the coming home drunk, the passing out on the
couch, but not before he gives her a good shot or two.  More importantly, she’s had it with a life
contained within the four walls of their dreary North Georgia cabin.  She knows there’s a more exciting world out
there, and she’s decided to leave Kyle’s world behind and go find her own.

But first, she’s going to have some fun.

With the help of her stripper pal Sweetheart and her best
bud theatre pal Simon, Nan is going to duct tape Kyle to his favorite chair,
put on a little show to teach Kyle the error of his ways and then feed him to a
bear.

Director: Teresa Doggett
Starring: Lexa Wroniak as Nan Carter, Alex Fyles as Kyle Carter, Tara Ernst as
Sweetheart and Ethan Isaac as Simon.

Of Note: The play marks a return for playwright Lauren
Gunderson, recognized last year by American Theatre magazine as America’s
most-produced playwright. Gunderson’s Silent Sky was the big hit of WEPG’s
2018-19 season.

Please note that the Thursday show is on Valentine’s Day.  For this show only, all ladies in attendance will receive a flower and chocolate. Gentlemen will receive a red duct tape bracelet.

Photo by Patrick Huber“Farragut North” St. Louis Actors’ Studio Feb. 8 – 24 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m. Gaslight Theatre 358 North Boyle Metrotix.com 314-458-2978www.stlas.org

What It’s About: Stephen Bellamy is a wunderkind press secretary who has built a career that men twice his age would envy. During a tight presidential primary race, Stephen’s meteoric rise falls prey to the backroom politics of more seasoned operatives. “Farragut North” is a timely story about the lust for power and the costs one will endure to achieve it. Director: Wayne Salomon Starring: Spencer Sickmann, Peter Mayer, David Wassilak, Luis Aguilar, Hollyn Gayle, Shannon Nara and Joshua Parrack. Of Note: Playwright Beau Willimon, who grew up in St. Louis and was a student of the director at John Burroughs School, will be in attendance for a special preview on Thursday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m. The West End Grill and Pub will be open before and after the performances for drinks.

Fiddler on the Roof“Fiddler on the Roof” Jan. 29 – Feb. 10 The Fabulous Fox Theatre 529 N. Grand www.fabulousfox.com

What It’s About: Tony-winning director Bartlett Sher and
the team behind South Pacific, The King and I and 2017 Tony-winning Best Play
Oslo, bring a fresh and authentic vision to this beloved theatrical masterpiece
from Tony winner Joseph Stein and Pulitzer Prize winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon
Harnick.

The original production won ten Tony Awards, including a special Tony for becoming the longest-running Broadway musical of all time. You’ll be there when the sun rises on this new production, with stunning movement and dance from acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, based on the original staging by Jerome Robbins. A wonderful cast and a lavish orchestra tell this heartwarming story of fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and the timeless traditions that define faith and family. “First Date” Clinton County Showcase Feb. 8 – 17 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Avon Theatre, 525 N. Second St., Breese, Ill. www.ccshowcase.com What It’s About: Aaron is a “blind date virgin,” while Casey has been on more than her fair share. When the two are set up by a mutual friend, sparks fly-or do they? The night unfolds over the course of this couple’s hilarious first date, and it’s not without its share of surprises in the form of imaginary visits from Aaron’s ex-girlfriend, Casey’s uptight sister, the pair’s protective parents and even their future son.

“The Hundred Dresses” Metro Theatre Company Feb. 3 – Feb. 25 The Grandel Theatre Metrotix.com www.metroplays.org

What It’s About: Wanda Petronski, the new girl in Room 13,
is a Polish immigrant who lives in a shabby house and doesn’t have any friends.
Every day she wears the same faded blue dress, but tells her new class-mates
that she has a hundred dresses at home. Her classmates tease Wanda about her
hundred dresses until one day she disappears from school. As guilt overtakes
the children, they decide to find out what happened to Wanda and to make
amends. But is it too late? Bullying, friendship and forgiveness are at the
center of this play adapted from the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor
Estes.

Cast: Sophie Murk as Wanda, Alicia Revé Like as Maddie, Hailey Medrano as Peggy, Philip C. Dixon as Mr. Mason, and Jacob Cange as Tommy/Mr. Svenson

Of Note: Eleanor Estes wrote down her childhood memories while recovering from tuberculosis and became a children’s author. Her many published works are widely read; but “The Hundred Dresses” continues to be the most popular, remaining in print since its publication in 1944. It was awarded the Newbery Honor in 1945. Speaking about “The Hundred Dresses” Eleanor Estes said, “I am holding up a mirror, and the scene reflected in the mirror is a true image of childhood, and the mirror, besides reflecting, also speaks and echoes the clear, profound, unpremeditated utterances, thoughts, and imageries of these children. I like to make children laugh or cry, to be moved in some way by my writing.

“Little Shop of Horrors” Monroe Actors Stage Company Feb. 8 – 10, 15 – 17 Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Historic Capitol Theatre Waterloo, Ill. 618-939-7469www.masctheatre.org What It’s About: Science fiction mixes with romantic comedy for the musical based on the Roger Corman B-movie, “Little Shop of Horrors,” with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. Seymour Krelbourn works for a florist on skid row and purchases a strange plant that appears during an eclipse, which he names Audrey Two. He has a crush on his co-worker Audrey, who dates a sado-masochistic dentist. The plant is a big hit, and things get weird. Director: Matt Dossett, with music direction by Marcia Braswell Starring: George Doerr IV as Seymour, John Jauss as Mr. Mushnik, Julie Petraborg as Audrey, Seth Acock as Orin, Tim McWhirter as Audrey Two, and Sarah Polizzi, Kara Grossmann and Hannah Lindsey as the street urchin chorus, with Jeff Clinebell, Valleri Dillard, Jennifer Kerner, Reagan Posey, Rachel Mackenzie, Mark Sochowski and Austin Brouk.

Of Note: A sensory-friendly performance is set for Sunday,
Feb. 10.

Jesse Munoz, Adam Flores, Aaron Dodd. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg“The Motherf**ker with The Hat” R-S Theatrics Jan. 25 – Feb. 3 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. .Zack, 3224 Locust www.r-stheatrics.com

What It’s About: How do you know where you’re going…if you
don’t know who has been in your home? The serio-comedy explores how five people
in New York navigate loyalty, trust, and duty through friendship, love and the
challenges of adulthood. And how no one should ever underestimate the
importance of cleaning up their accessories.

Director: Carl Overly Jr.

Starring: Adam Flores, Sofia Lidia, Jesse Munoz, Aaron
Dodd, Taleesha Caturah.

Of Note: Adult themes and language, recommended for mature
audiences.

Photo by Peter Wochniak“Oslo” Feb. 8 – March 3 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 130 Edgar Road, St. Louiswww.repstl.org 314-968-4925 What It’s About: The winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play, this play by J.T. Rogers is set in 1993, when two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work towards peace. “Oslo” finds the unlikely story behind the historic event. The drama explores the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible and focuses on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Director: Steven Woolf Starring: Jim Poulos, Kathleen Wise, Rajesh Bose, Ben Graney, Jerry Vogel, Michael James Reed, Amro Salama, John Rensenhouse, Michelle Hand, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Jeff Cummings, Jim Shankman, Chaunery Kingsford Tanguay, Jack Theiling and Tom Wethington. Of Note: “Oslo” is recommended for adult audiences. The show contains strong adult language and weighty discussions about global politics and diplomatic relations.

Photo by ProPhotoSTL“Wittenberg” Upstream Theater Jan. 25 – Feb. 10 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 7 p.m. except Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. Kranzberg Arts Center www.upstreamtheater.org

What It’s About: It’s October 1517, and the new fall
semester at the University of Wittenberg finds certain members of the faculty
and student body at personal and professional crossroads. Hamlet (senior, class
of 1518) is returning from a summer in Poland spent studying astronomy, where
he has learned of a revolutionary scientific theory that threatens the very
order of the universe, resulting in psychic trauma and a crisis of faith for
him. His teacher and mentor John Faustus has decided at long last to make an
honest woman of his paramour, Helen, a former nun who is now one of the
Continent’s most sought-after courtesans. And Faustus’ colleague and Hamlet’s
instructor and priest, Martin Luther, is dealing with the spiritual and medical
consequences of his long-simmering outrage at certain abusive practices of the
Church.

Director: Philip Boehm

Starring: Casey Boland, Steve Isom, Alan Knoll and Caitlin
Mickey.

Of Note: St. Louis premiere.