The Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, an annual presentation of the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis (CSL), serves as the area’s primary venue for films made by local artists. The Showcase screens works that were shot in the St. Louis region or were written, directed, or produced by St. Louis-area residents or by filmmakers with strong local ties who are now working elsewhere. 

Because of the Covid-19 health crisis, the Showcase will be presented virtually in 2020. CSL is partnering with Eventive, which also handles our ticketing, to present the Virtual Festival. Films will be available to view on demand anytime from July 10-19. There are no geographic limits on accessing the programs. Once a ticket-holder begins watching a program, access remains available for 48 hours. 

The Showcase’s 15 film programs range from full-length fiction features and documentaries to multi-film compilations of fiction and documentary shorts. Most programs will feature recorded Q&As with filmmakers, which will also be available on CSL’s YouTube channel.

In addition to the film programs, which will be available for streaming anytime during the July 10-19 run of the Showcase, this year’s event features a series of free master classes focused on key aspects of making and marketing an independent narrative feature. These will be offered as live streams at specific times/dates during the Showcase, but recordings of the presentations will also be archived and available on the CSL YouTube channel. A free live stream on the evening of July 19 will present the Showcase jury awards — including a $500 prize to the Best Showcase Film — and announce the films that will move on to the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival in November.

This year’s Showcase includes the following:

  • America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill: A documentary feature by Joseph Puleo that explores the deep historic roots of the Hill, St. Louis’ iconic Italian neighborhood.
  • The Ballad of John Henry: A documentary feature by Matthew Rice that analyzes how an ex-slave became one of America’s greatest tall-tale heroes: John Henry. 
  • College Bound: A documentary feature by Jenna Gandolfo that chronicles a diverse group of Ritenour High School students as they overcome an array of obstacles to be accepted into some of the top universities in the country. 
  • Doc Shorts Programs: The first of the two programs focuses on food, wine, and nature, and the second is anchored by Post-Dispatch columnist Aisha Sultan’s “33 and Counting,” a true-crime story about a 70-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence for a murder she says her rapist committed. 
  • Easy-Bake: A narrative feature by writer-director-star Zoë Kennison — a Webster U. grad — in which a 22-year-old college student is informed by her doctor that she is on an unexpected biological clock: Because of a medical issue, she has only one year to conceive a child. 
  • Master Classes: A series of four free master classes — featuring filmmakers and industry professionals — focused on key aspects of making an independent narrative feature: Finding Financing (July 11), Developing a Budget (July 12), Casting (July 18), and Securing Distribution (July 19).
  • My Ireland: A documentary feature by Anthony Monaghan, a working-class immigrant now living in St. Louis, that takes a hard look at the rampant emigration, mass evictions, and homeless crisis that plague his homeland of Ireland today.
  • Narrative Shorts Programs: The 56 films in the six programs include comedies, dramas, thrillers, and experimental works.
  • Resolution: A narrative feature by former St. Louisan Jacob T. Martin in which a tight-knit group of friends gathered for a New Year’s Eve party have their night of celebration descend into chaos when the host couple breaks up.
  • Wake Up: A documentary feature by Nate Townsend that weaves together stories from four different frontlines of suicide prevention across the country. The film premiered at We Are One: A Global Film Festival.

The Whitaker Foundation again serves as the Showcase’s title sponsor. The foundation’s twofold mission is to encourage the preservation and use of parks and to enrich lives through the arts. The Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation is underwriting both the Showcase’s master classes and the $500 prize for the Best Showcase Film.

The event’s other sponsors include the Arts & Education Council, Grizzell & Co., Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Film Office, Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis Public Radio, and Washington University Film & Media Studies.

Instagram@stlfilmshowcase Twitter: @stlfilmshowcase Facebook@STLFilmmakersShowcase

For more information, the public should visit cinemastlouis.org

Stay home and still get your Q on!

To help celebrate Pride Month, the 13th Annual QFest St. Louis — presented by Cinema St. Louis (CSL) — will take place from June 19-28. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, CSL will offer all programs virtually, protecting the health of patrons. Programs can be streamed at any time during the festival’s dates. Recorded and live introductions and Q&As will be available for most film programs.

The St. Louis-based LGBTQ film festival, QFest will present a record number of 40 films (28 shorts, six narrative features, and six documentary features). The participating filmmakers represent a wide variety of voices in contemporary queer world cinema. The mission of the film festival is to use the art of contemporary gay cinema to spotlight the lives of LGBTQ people and to celebrate queer culture.

The fest is especially pleased to host the St. Louis premiere of the new bio-doc “The Capote Tapes,” about renowned novelist, playwright, and social butterfly Truman Capote (“In Cold Blood,” Breakfast at Tiffany’s”). Among the other QFest highlights is this year’s Q Classic, the 20th anniversary of Del Shore’s “Sordid Lives,” which first screened locally at the 2000 St. Louis International Film Festival.

Two films were directed by alums of QFest. Cindy Abel (“Breaking Through”) returns with the doc feature “Surviving the Silence,” about two closeted military women who were involved in the ultimate dismissal of Army Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer for admitting she was a lesbian. Two-time alum Wendy Jo Carlton (“Hannah Free,” “Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together”) directed the romantic dramedy “Good Kisser” and produced the narrative short that precedes it, “Carol Support Group.”

Several films this year have strong local connections, including a trio of projects featuring former St. Louisans: writer/co-star Gretchen Wylder’s hilarious new YouTube web series, “These Thems”; writer/co-star Kevin Spirtas’ award-winning and moving dramatic web series, “After Forever”; and the dramatic short “Bill & Robert,” which stars Brandon Smith.

Thanks to several generous sponsors, CSL is able to make the festival more accessible to all by offering five shows that will be free and open to the public for the duration of the event: all four shorts programs and the web series “These Thems.”

These Thems

For the full schedule of screenings and events, including trailers and descriptions of the films, visit the festival website at www.cinemastlouis.org/qfest.

The 2020QFest St. Louis begins on Friday, June 19, and runs through Sunday, June 28. Tickets go on sale June 1. Tickets are $10 each or $8 for Cinema St. Louis members, students with valid and current IDs, and ARTS Card holders. An all-access festival pass is available for $75. All screenings will be held virtually for residents of Missouri and Illinois via Eventive, CSL’s ticketing and online presentation partner. Direct ticket links are available on the QFest website.

QFest St. Louis is sponsored by AARP in St. Louis, Arts & Education Council, CheapTRX, Grizzell & Co., Missouri Arts Council, Panera Bread, Bob Pohrer & Donnie Engle, Regional Arts Commission, Deb Salls, St. Louis Public Radio, Cindy Walker, and Webster U. Film Series.

The festival is underwritten in part through a grant from the Creative Impact Fund for Diversifying the Arts, a partnership between the Arts & Education Council and local community leaders.

Social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/QFestSTL

Twitter: @QFestSTL

Instagram: @QFestSTL

Because of the ongoing world health crisis, Cinema St. Louis (CSL) will move all of the organization’s 2020 film festivals and events online. This includes CSL’s signature event in November, the 29th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began, CSL originally moved its spring events to summer with the hope that the virus would have abated and in-person theatrical screenings could resume in some form. Even though the U.S. has begun to loosen restrictions on some activities, it has become clear to CSL that holding traditional film festivals would be impossible. To protect the health and safety of our patrons and volunteers, and to ensure that the organization can deliver the highest-quality festival experience possible, CSL has decided that a virtual approach to our events is the prudent and most responsible course of action.

CSL will be partnering with Eventive (watch.eventive.org) to present its festivals online. In a few instances, films will only be available at a specific time and date, but patrons will be able to stream the majority of films, shorts programs, and special events at any time during the run of a festival, similar to the video-on-demand approach of cable services and such platforms as Amazon Prime, YouTube, or Vudu. Once a program is started, viewers will have 24 hours to watch the stream. Programs can be paused, rewound, and fast-forwarded. Films will be accessible on most computers and tablets, and on televisions via services such as Roku or Chromecast. Full information will be available on the CSL website as festivals are announced. 

Patrons will be able to purchase individual films — $10 general, $8 for CSL members, students, and ARTS Card holders — but passes will also be available for the various festivals. CSL remains committed to making its events as accessible as possible, so select programs will continue to be offered for free.

To retain as much of the festival experience as possible, many of the films will feature accompanying conversations with filmmakers, documentary subjects, critics, academics, or experts on the subjects addressed in a film. Most conversations will be recorded, but live Q&As, master classes, and seminars will also occur. In addition, recordings of all such conversations and events will be available for free on the CSL website.

The following CSL festivals will be offered online:

  • QFest St. Louis: CSL’s annual LGBTQ-focused festival will now take place virtually from June 19-28.
  • St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase: The event will take place virtually from July 10-19.
  • Classic French Film Festival: Because films in this event are older works, many of the originally scheduled programs were unavailable for online presentation, but a smaller-scale virtual fest will include three of the selected films — “India Song,” “Olivia,” and “Rider on the Rain” — from July 17-23. Experts will still offer recorded intros, and CSL will record Q&As with the presenters that will play after the films.
  • St. Louis International Film Festival: CSL’s premier event will take place virtually in November, with specific dates to be announced. Originally scheduled to take place Nov. 5-15, SLIFF will likely increase the length of its run by several days.

Three CSL co-presentations are still in flux, and announcements will be made when CSL’s partners make decisions on how to proceed:

  • St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival: CSL is a co-presenter of this event with the Saint Louis Science Center. The fest was originally scheduled for May 1. The Science Center hopes to reschedule the event for later in the summer, but a virtual presentation remains an option.
  • SLIFF Best of Shorts: CSL is co-presenter of this event — a selection of the best shorts from the 2019 SLIFF at the Public Media Commons — with St. Louis Public Radio. The event was originally scheduled for June. St. Louis Public Radio hopes to reschedule the event for later in the summer, but a virtual presentation remains an option.
  • Filmmaking Camps: CSL partners with local libraries and schools to present free filmmaking camps. Because these events are not able to be presented virtually, many of the camps have already been cancelled, including all St. Louis Public Library camps. The Community School and the University City Library have cancelled camps through June, but the possibility of camps later in the summer remains open at present.

Finally, here are updates on two other CSL events in 2020:

  • I Love Movies Trivia Night: This fundraiser, originally scheduled for June 5, will now be held online in a new format. Details will be announced soon.
  • Golden Anniversaries: Films of 1970: The six-film fest is currently slated for Aug. 22-23, Aug. 29-30, and Sept. 5-6 at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library. If the library is not able to hold public events during these dates, the screenings will be cancelled, but CSL will hold Zoom conversations on the scheduled films in a format similar to CSL’s Movie Club, with people watching the films on their own but gathering virtually to discuss them
Some of the movies that played at the 29th annual St Louis International Film Festival. Photo from Cinema St Louis

By Lynn Venhaus

Greetings! This is a people, places and events column about local and national showbiz items that will appear regularly. Feel free to message me with interesting tidbits.

Today we provide some ways to fill your quarantine days and nights, a list of resources for artists, updates on the Theatre Proms and more.

MRS. AMERICA: St. Louis anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly was an Alton, Ill. housewife when she gained national attention in conservative politics, fighting the Equal Rights Amendment and founding the Eagle Forum in 1972. She’s the subject of a nine-part miniseries, “Mrs. America,” which starts Wednesday, April 15 on Hulu. The first three episodes: “Phyllis,” “Gloria” and “Shirley” will air then, then each week through May 27, depicting the battles between Schlafly and the leaders of the women’s movement in the 1970s.

The cast includes Cate Blanchett as Schlafly, Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug and Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm.

Fun fact: I saw Schlafly debate Betty Friedan on the ERA during college. Phyllis came up to the podium, looking like Betty Crocker, and said: “How many women want to get drafted?” A guy in the audience yelled out: “How many men do?” When Betty came up, in a mumu, she clearly had the crowd on her side. Illinois State University, 1973.

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THEATER PROMS: Springtime is awards season for the theater community, but this year, the mandatory Shelter-in-Place doesn’t allow gatherings of 10 or more. Therefore, events have been cancelled, rescheduled and rebooted

Often referred to as “Theater Prom,” the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony was to take place on March 30 at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University, but the event had to be cancelled. Local theater critics still honored outstanding regional professional theater.

Instead, HEC provided a streamcast of the awards on Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. on their Facebook page. The event was downscaled reading of the nominations and awards, but hey, it’s #TCA20. You can still see it! Here is the YouTube link:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/tCo0AFHbChE

The theater critics recorded the nominations, and their voice-overs ran over photos. Then HEC announcer Rod Milam announced the winner. There were 34 categories to give awards in, which cover dramas, comedies and musicals. All in a half hour.

Many thanks to HEC Media, including Dennis Riggs, total pro announcer Rod Milam and ace producer Paul Langdon. Thanks to our theater buddy Andrea Torrence for the work on the graphics – the photos really made the virtual. event “pop.” I applaud your sharp professional skills and your devotion to local theater.

A special award was given to Ken and Nancy Kranzberg for their tremendous support and commitment to the arts. Where would St. Louis arts be without the Kranzbergs?

Here are the winners:
https://www.poplifestl.com/indecent-creve-coeur-new-jewish-theatre-are-big-winners-at-eighth-annual-st-louis-theater-circle-awards-ceremony/

Congratulations to the winners AND the nominees, and everyone who gave of their heart and soul to produce live regional professional theater with such passion and panache in 2019.

It truly was a fantastic year, especially for drama, and what a crowded field of talent among the 125 artists nominated and 51 shows from 25 different companies.

It is a privilege to see such a variety of theater during the year, and as a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle, it has been a real joy these past eight years.

In due time, we’ll be back in darkened theaters watching people create magic. We’ll get to hug and laugh again, and marvel at this thing called art that connects us all.

Even virtually for one evening — that was a welcome respite from the sad, terrifying and anxious daily news, wasn’t it, in what’s become the norm in our current global pandemic. People really seemed to enjoy it, lifted spirits – some casts had Zoom parties.

I look forward to seeing you all again, in the “After Times.”

If you want to see who was nominated, here is the PopLifeSTL article: https://www.poplifestl.com/brighton-beach-memoirs-kinky-boots-and-man-of-la-mancha-lead-8th-annual-st-louis-theater-circle-awards/

In community theater, the Arts For Life board of directors presents two awards events each year, the Best Performance Awards honor musical theater and youth productions, and the Theatre Mask Awards honor straight plays.

The fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards, which honors both dramas and comedies, was to take place at a brunch on Saturday, April 4, at The Atrium Center at Christian Hospital. However, it has been rescheduled for July 18.

The 21st annual Best Performance Awards is scheduled for Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts at Chaminade. However, the AFL board of directors will decide shortly on whether the event will be moved. Stay tuned.

For more information and to see lists of nominations, visit www.artsforlife.org.

You can get tickets to both events for the special price of $40. Visit www.artsforlife.org for more information and to see a complete list of nominees.

Emcees are Donna Northcott, a theater professor at Lindenwood University – St. Charles, for the TMAs, and local singer-actress Karen Fulks for the BPAs.

 (Full disclosure: I am a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle and I am on the Board of Directors of Arts For Life).
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HELP IS HERE: How can you help all the artists around the region and homebound folks around the region? During this unprecedented time of isolation, Stay-at-Home mandate, social distancing to #flattenthecurve, here are some resource links:

Gateway Resilience Fund: https://stlgives.org/covid19/gateway-resilience-fund/

This fund will provide short term monetary relief to employees and owners of independent bars, restaurants, and shops in the St. Louis area affected by closures and other circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Curbside STL: https://www.curbsidestl.com/

CurbsideSTL was created to help support our local independent restaurant and retail businesses and their workers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Regional Response Fund: https://stlgives.org/covid-19-regional-response-fund/

The fund will be used to direct resources to regional nonprofits that are working with local communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.

St. Louis COVID-19 Artist Relief Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/st-louis-covid19-artist-relief-fund

Any individual artist living in the St. Louis metro area who has had an event, gig, or paying opportunity canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis can apply for funding.

Support for Artists and Production Crews:

• I Lost My Theatre Gigs resource list and donation site: https://ilostmytheatregigs.squarespace.com/

• Freelance Artists Resource List: https://covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com/ 

 Alive STL: https://alivestl.org/ 314-993-2777

 Safe Connections: https://safeconnections.org/ Hotline: 314-531-2003

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org/ Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 Text support: Text “LOVEIS” to 22522

Broadway may be dark, but today you can be a light for the theater community.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS launched the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund to help those onstage, backstage and behind the scenes during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Through your donation to this special fund, administered by The Actors Fund, you can ensure entertainment professionals get the health care, emergency financial assistance and counseling they need.

Any others I miss?

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THEATER UPDATES: I try to keep up with the latest news on cancellations and postponements. Here’s the new one. https://www.poplifestl.com/?p=1845
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THE SHOW MUST GO ON: OverDue Theatre Company had to cancel “My Fair Lady” this spring but has put together a Quarantine Concert for Facebook Live on Friday, April 17, at 7 p.m. Special guests include Kaitlyn Mayse, Lauren Molina and Nikki Snelson. Featuring Kimmie Kidd, Eleanor Humphrey and Kay Love, there are 17 performers from the OverDue family who will perform too.

SOME GOOD NEWS: You know him, you love him from “The Office,” the immortal Jim Halpern of the Jim and Pam office romance. Actor John Krasinski has started his own web series, “Some Good News,” and the first episode on March 29 was such a hit, he has produced two more, all dropping on Sunday nights. It’s both inspiring and distracting.

The first one features an interview with Steve Carell, as they reminisce about “The Office.” Watch here: https://youtu.be/F5pgG1M_h_U

John Krasinski

The second features the cast of “Hamilton”:
And here is the third: https://youtu.be/Eg08rJGKjtA

You can follow his page on Facebook for updates and a link to submit good news.

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CINEMA STL: Like everyone else, Cinema St. Louis has rescheduled some events. Here are the new dates/information: Classic French Film Festival: Working to move to late July/early August; St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival: Moving from May 1 to hopefully this summer; QFest: Moving from mid-May to possibly July; Filmmaking camps: Camps slated for June and July will continue as scheduled for now; I Love Movies Trivia Night: Still scheduled for Friday, June 5, with backup dates of Friday, Aug. 28, or Friday, Sept. 4; St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase: This event is currently scheduled to go on as planned in July – deadline May 31; Golden Anniversaries: Films of 1970: The six-film fest is now slated for the following Saturday-Sundays: Aug. 22-23, Aug. 29-30, and Sept. 5-6 at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library; SLIFF: Hoping to go as scheduled in November.

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TEAM LEGEND: About a year ago, singer-guitarist Joanna Serenko won the St. Louis Teen Talent Showcase, sponsored by the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation. Now she’s a contestant on “The Voice.”

Joanna Sorenko

The poised and talented 2019 Kirkwood High School graduate had a four-chair judges’ turn for her blind audition during Feb. 24 night’s season premiere. She sang Amy Winehouse’s R&B rendition of The Beatles’ classic “All My Loving,” and new judge Nick Jonas fought for her to be on his team. Here’s her performance link:

https://www.nbc.com/the-voice/video/nick-jonas-fights-for-joanna-serenko-who-sings-all-my-loving-voice-blind-auditions/4121502

The Battle Rounds began March 23, and Joanna was paired with Roderick Chambers to sing Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over.” Here is the duet:

https://youtu.be/lVmvz9v5KgE

Kelly Clarkson described their duet as “effortless and beautiful and passionate,” and coach Nick called her a “flawless singer” but picked Rod as the winner — then John Legend stole Joanna, so she advances to the Knockout Rounds on Team Legend. EGOT Legend said she had a lot of “style and grace” in her voice.

Both the Battle and Knockout Rounds were taped earlier, so they aren’t affected by the virus shutdown. However, the live shows in May might be, which follows the Knockout Rounds. Go Joanna! (Tune in April 13).

For the first show, a viewing party took place at the Marcus Des Peres Cinema. Due to the pandemic, that can’t happen now. If it starts up again, I’ll let you know.

She used to sing in the choir at Kirkwood’s United Methodist Church and moved here from Cleveland in 2010.

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AND THAT’S A WINNER: Sports commentator and hometowner Joe Buck is reaching out to sports fans, asking them to send videos so he can provide a “play-by-play” of what they’re doing while staying at home — perhaps dribbling in place? Just be careful what you send him.

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HARRY POTTER INTERACTION: Want to escape to fantasy worlds during this global pandemic? “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has launched a new website called Harry Potter at Home – a free magical resource to keep readers of all ages entertained while staying at home. In addition to the existing interactive features on WizardingWorld.com, the site creators have added new activity kits, “nifty magical craft videos,” quizzes, puzzles, and more. You can also listen to the first book on Audible for free or download and read it from a digital library.

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AND HE SCORES! Congratulations to Tom Calhoun, one of the nice guys in local media and the St. Louis Blues announcer for 33 years, who was recognized with three honors by the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame. He was recently inducted, presented with the President’s Choice Award and given a commemorative 1500th-game plaque at the fourth annual Illinois Enshrinement Dinner.

Tom Calhoun, Tom Morris and Laila Anderson

A veteran of KMOX, WIBV and other stations, he is currently an adjunct communications professor at Southwestern Illinois College and general manager of its campus radio station, Blue Storm. He has never missed a Blues game since 1987 — until the global pandemic sidelined the team and the NHL cancelled the season. (Just think: a year ago, on April 10, we won the first of the 16 games we needed to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs).

Cutline: Pictured, left to right, Tom Calhoun, head of the St. Louis National Hockey League Off-Ice Crew Tom Morris and St. Louis Blues inspiration and “super-fan” Laila Anderson. Photo by Bill Greenblatt

APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE: The Black Rep was awarded the August Wilson American Century Cycle Award by Christopher Rawson of the Pittsburgh Gazette on its opening night of “Two Trains Running.”

In 2008, they were the third company in America to complete the 10-play American Century cycle and are currently two-thirds of the way through it for the second time. Each of the 10 plays are set in a different decade of the 20th century.

The Black Rep board at ceremony – Rawson at far right. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Rawson, the newspaper’s senior theater critic and an August Wilson House board member, made the presentation Jan. 10. The award was established only recently, so presentations are being made gradually to the 15 qualifying companies.

 “August is still alive, first, in the people, places and stories from what we call August Wilson’s Hill, and second, in the theaters around the country that bring them to life. This award, presented jointly by his hometown newspaper and his childhood home, celebrates the conjunction of these two. It says that we are all connected in August’s work, through our recognition of its rich humanity and spiritual passion,” he said.

Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero Wilson, sent thanks to The Black Rep “for your ongoing support of his legacy and for continuing to tell the stories for many generations to come. You ‘belong to the band’!” The quotation comes from Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean,” where “the band” refers to those who struggled to free black Americans from slavery and Jim Crow.

Meadow Nguy

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IN THE CREDITS: Meadow Nguy of O’Fallon, Ill., makes an appearance in the seventh episode of the new Amazon Series “Hunters” starring Al Pacino. She was seen in “Law and Order: SVU” last November, and has been on “Madam Secretary” and “The Blacklist.”
She moved to New York after graduating from Indiana University with a degree in musical theater. She appeared on stages in St. Louis, including the 2012 “Spring Awakening” at Stray Dog Theatre and their world premiere of “Spellbound,” and in the metro-east during her high school years. She won the Illinois Musical Theater Award, her ticket to the Jimmy Awards in 2012.

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BOOKSHELF: New Line Theatre Artistic Director Scott Miller is also a prolific writer. His latest, “Idiots, Heathers, and Squips,” digs into a new batch of original, interesting musicals produced the first 15 years of the millennium.

He does deep dives into these 11 that represent “the astonishing variety and fearlessness of this new Golden Age:  Urinetown, Sweet Smell of Success, Jerry Springer the Opera, Passing Strange, Cry-Baby, Next to Normal, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, American Idiot, Heathers, and Be More Chill.

It’s available on Amazon for $17.96: https://www.amazon.com/Idiots-Heathers-Squips-Musical-Theatre/dp/B084DR2HNW


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MK Andersen

LISTEN IN: MK Andersen’s “The First Hundred Days.” She is inspired by the idea that if the first hundred days of a presidency are the most pivotal and important, then the first hundred days of X,Y and Z must also be important. New ones are released every Tuesday: https://yourdaybymk.com/podcast-first-hundred-days
:
MK, who operates a wedding planning business, is a graduate of University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in political science. For the podcast she has talked to a writer at Netflix, a former university president and others. In episode 2, a fascinating talk with former FCC Chairman Newton Minow  (1961-1963) is here. Minow, 94, served under President Kennedy. He practices telecommunications law in Chicago and in 2016, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.

Fun fact: “Gilligan’s Island” creator Sherwood Schwartz named the tiny ship that took that fateful trip for Minow because he thought he had ruined television. Minow is noted for a speech in which he called American television a “vast wasteland.”

Reel Times Trio

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REEL TIMES TRIO: Of course I’m going to plug my own, Reel Times Trio podcast, which is Carl “The Intern” Middleman, myself and a rotating guest to discuss the latest movie releases, what’s out on DVD and streaming, what’s new in Hollywood and Broadway, what’s happening locally, good TV and more.

We’re on iTunes and SoundCloud, and have a Facebook page where we post episodes each week. We also are posted here at PopLifeSTL.com
During the pandemic, after a brief layoff, we have transitioned to Zoom.  Find us here: https://soundcloud.com/lynn-zipfel-venhaus

Bill Hader and Henry Winkler in “Barry”

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ICYMI: Need something to do?
HBO has unlocked the vault on nine popular series that you can watch for free on HBO Now or HBO Go, or if you have cable TV, now through May 31. The shows are: Barry, Big Little Lies, The Wire, The Sopranos, Succession, Veep, Silicon Valley, Six Feet Under, True Blood and Ballers.

Here are musicals and shows to watch online: https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Broadway-From-Home-157-Musicals-Shows-You-Can-Watch-Online-20200319

Need to know where you can find a movie to watch, whether it’s streaming or not? Check out www.justwatch.com or download the app on your phone.

Did you miss Andrea Bocelli’s free streaming concert from Milan on Easter Sunday? Here is the YouTube link to the half-hour concert, featuring the famed opera singer performing “Ave Maria,” “Santa Maria” and “Amazing Grace”: https://youtu.be/huTUOek4LgU

He told NBC News: “I believe in the strength of praying together. I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone – whether they are believers or not – truly needs right now. Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded earth’s pulsing heart…”

One of the best ads yet on staying safe for the good of a city, Here’s Doner Advertising Agency’s uplifting message to Detroit: https://youtu.be/JJzlXhXrD7I

Playwright Nancy Bell and Director Lucy Cashion teamed up for “MUTE: A Play for Zoom” that debuted on Facebook April 5. Spencer Lawton was the production manager. )Main photo is a screen shot of the Zoom play, a remarkable achievement.) Here is the Vimeo link to the half-hour production: https://vimeo.com/405178212?fbclid=IwAR2hkRVBGu78QK8rLQWmb6pY-e7fynRixVlGxky1vvhWNxyN3kKY8PrCP0s
Here is our review: https://www.poplifestl.com/visionary-apocalyptic-farce-mute-a-play-for-zoom-brings-joy-in-modern-storytelling/

Ali MacGraw

***
MEMORY LANE: Valentine’s Day marked the 50th anniversary of bestseller “Love Story,” the young romance that had hearts aflutter back when I was in high school. This is actually my own book cover.

And the movie turns 50 in December. I wrote about the movie’s impact. We all wanted to be Ali MacGraw. We sure did copy her fashions. Here is that link:
 https://www.poplifestl.com/love-story-at-50-the-iconic-romance-revisited/

***
WORD: “The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are.” — Terence McNally (1938-2020), in his Lifetime Achievement Award speech at last year’s Tony’s.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
You go, girls! Local singer-actors get national attention, and the St. Louis-produced Broadway musical “The Prom” made Thanksgiving Parade television history.
BREAKING OUT: We have a talented trio of local ladies who are living their dreams right now.
Lexi Krekorian, 27, of Waterloo, Ill., is one of the nine struggling musicians featured on the Netflix reality series, “Westside,” now available. She goes by the stage name, Alexandra Kay, and has released her first single, “You Think You Know Someone,” and several music videos of songs on the “Westside” soundtrack. She started out in school and community theater, and is chasing her dream in L.A. Here is the feature I wrote for the Belleville News-Democrat about her rising star.
https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article221600685.html
Kennedy Holmes of Florissant, the John Burroughs student and Muny Kid who is wowing the nation as a contestant on “The Voice,” made it through to the Top 11 Live Playoffs on Nov. 20. She sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” and is on Jennifer Hudson’s team, headed for the Top 10 showdown Nov. 26. Here is her Top 11 performance:
https://www.nbc.com/the-voice/video/kennedy-holmes-wind-beneath-my-wings/3832852
Thirteen proved to be lucky for Kennedy, as she was not among the 12 eliminated from the Top 24 Live Playoffs in Episode 13. She sang Beyonce’s “Halo.” “The Voice” is on Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC, with live voting the first night and results the second night. She is 13.
Meadow Nguy, providedMeadow Nguy, 23, of O’Fallon, Ill., performed in two musicals at Stray Dog Theatre (Marta in “Spring Awakening” in 2012 and the female lead in the original musical “Spellbound” in 2015), and in community and school theater. She guest-starred on the Nov. 18 episode of “Madam Secretary” called “Baby Steps,” as a Southeast Asia surrogate caught up in a human trafficking imbroglio . She made her crime-drama debut in ‘The Blacklist” earlier this year. Both shows available on demand. Here is the news article I wrote for the Belleville News-Democrat:
https://www.bnd.com/news/local/article221829910.html

***ATTABOY: Congratulations to Cory Finley, who scored a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay for his “Thoroughbreds.” The annual awards, held since 1984, honor independent filmmakers working with small budgets. The awards are always announced the day before the Oscars, and this year, it will be Saturday, Feb. 23.
Focus Features photoIn fall 2017, the St. Louis Actors’ Studio presented Finley’s play, “The Feast.” A John Burroughs School grad, Finley’s movie opened nationwide in March after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It played the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2017.
Olivia Cooke (“Ready Player One,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) and Anya Taylor-Joy (“Split,” “The Witch”) play upper-class Connecticut teenagers who rekindle their unlikely friendship and hatch a plan to solve both of their problems — no matter what the cost. It’s the last film of Anton Yelchin.                                                                    Finley, who grew up in Clayton, is based in New York City. He is a member of the Obie-winning Youngblood playwrights group at Ensemble Studio Theater, has received a commission from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation for playwrighting, and was the inaugural recipient of the Gurney Playwrights Fund for his play, “The Feast,” at The Flea Theater. Check out www.thoroughbredsmovie.com
***STANDING O’s: Standing ovation for stand-up guy, Kwofe Coleman, who started as an usher at the Muny the summer of 1998, and now has been named managing director! He has served as Director of Marketing and Communications since 2013.
Kudos to the Cinema St. Louis team on their record-setting attendance of 28,723 at this year’s St. Louis International Film Festival Nov. 1 – 11. SLIFF screened 413 films, including 88 narrative features, 77 documentary features, and 248 shorts. Local actors are often seen in the regionally produced short films.

Cast members from “Disney’s Aladdin” presented “Sultan’s Soiree,” an exclusive cocktail reception, Nov 18 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Guests mingled while enjoying cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, photo opportunities, live entertainment and karaoke. To learn more, visit www.broadwaycares.org. Michael James Scott, a Webster University Conservatory graduate, is playing the Genie while Jonathan Weir, formerly of Belleville, is Jafar. “Aladdin” is at the Fox through Nov. 25.
***BIG SPLASH: The reviews are in, and it’s all raves for the new original musical comedy “The Prom,” which opened on Broadway Nov. 15 at the Longacre Theatre, following previews that began Oct. 23.
The New York Times said: “Makes you believe in musical comedy again.”
Variety said: “This original musical has laughs, tears and joy — not to mention jaw-dropping star-turns — in a clash-of-cultures hoot that earns a big Broadway corsage.”
Vanity Fair photoThe 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. Beguelin wrote lyrics to Disney’s “Aladdin” and both he and Sklar were Tony-nominated for “The Wedding Singer.”
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. St. Louis performers Jack Sippel and Drew Reddington are part of the ensemble, and stars Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber have appeared several times at The Muny. The Broadway cast also includes Brooks Ashmanskas (Tony nominee for ‘Something Rotten!”),
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. Its tagline is “There’s no business like getting in other people’s business.”
***
NOBODY RAINED ON THEIR PARADE: “The Prom,” one of four musical acts in the 92nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Nov. 22, made parade history with the first same-sex kiss televised live. As the number, “It’s Time to Dance,” closed, cast mates Isabelle McCalla and Caitlin Kinnunen embraced and kissed. The LGBTQ community cheered.
Here is that performance: https://youtu.be/VDZDLJjzJBI
Tony nominee Taylor Louderman of Bourbon, Mo., performed with the cast of “Mean Girls.” She plays Regina, the snotty leader of the cool girls’ pack. Taylor was last seen locally on the Muny stage in 2016’s “Aida” as Amneris.
Fun Fact: The dance company, Radio City Rockettes, was founded in St. Louis in 1925 by Russell Markert. First known as the “Missouri Rockets,” the precision chorus line has performed in Radio City Music Hall since 1932.
***HANNUKAH HULLABALOO: The eighth annual Brothers Lazaroff show to benefit Metro Theater Company will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. at The Grandel Theatre, and all ages welcome.
The show will feature Rabbi James Stone Goodman and the Eight Nights Orchestra, DJ Boogieman, tributes to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and more! As always, free latkes will be fried on-stage! Food vendors will include Taco Buddha, The Dark Room and STL-Style will be selling their St. Louis-inspired apparel.
***AROUND TOWN: Legendary Wilco founder and Belleville native Jeff Tweedy took to The Pageant stage with Jon Hamm Nov. 17 to discuss his storied career. The book tour stop was sold-out.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch photoThe Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s memoir “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back”): Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.,” features stories about his childhood, putting Uncle Tupelo together, and recollections about St. Louis record store, rock clubs and live-music scene during his formative years.
Now based in Chicago, Tweedy can be spotted in the indie movie “Hearts Beat Loud” as a customer, in what else, a record store.
Playwright Vladimir Zelevinsky was in town for the opening weekend of West End Players Guild “The Great Seduction,” and graciously spoke to Tina Farmer of KDHX and I about his interesting life and writing process.
 
Zelevinsky also wrote “Manifest Destiny,” performed at WEPG in 2016, which was nominated for Best Ensemble by the St. Louis Theater Circle.
***SANTA’S COMING! I KNOW HIM: With the holiday essential film “Elf” as its next movies-for-foodies event, Tenacious Eats returns to the St. Louis Banquet Center in Holly Hills, at 5700 Leona Street, on Saturday, Dec. 15.
Guests will feast on five courses and have cocktails themed to the movie, and the event also includes contests and live music. Chef Liz Schuster has left West End Grill and Pub to devote more time to her cinema-and-theme-dining experience – and Tenacious Eats is known for its “full-contact dining experiences.” Tickets are on sale now at BrownPaperTickets.com.
***GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Ah, Church Ladies and Christmas Pageants are customary fixtures during the holiday season, so the folks behind the Lutheran laugh-apalooza, “Church Basement Ladies: Away in a Basement” have returned with a warm, sentimental and uproarious show.
Now playing at The Playhouse @ Westport through Jan. 6, this is a perfect show to take your mom or grandma to – and you can win two free tickets to the show if you enter our drawing.
Select a show from the list below to answer our question: “What is your favorite holiday-themed play or musical?”
 
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Story
Elf
Inspecting Carol
It’s a Wonderful Life
White Christmas
And send it via email, along with your name, cell phone and email address by 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 25, to [email protected] and you will be entered in a drawing. Winner will receive 2 tickets to an upcoming show.
In our last “Go See a Play” poll, Graham Emmons of St. Louis won two tickets to Rebel and Misfits’ “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows.” The survey’s response to best mystery play landed the 1952 classic “Dial M for Murder” by Frederick Knott op top, with “Wait Until Dark” – another Frederick Knott play from 1966 — a close second.
***FOSSE, VERDON AND ALL THAT JAZZ: The next show-biz limited series for FX will be “Fosse/Verdon” in 2019, about the legendary Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse and his professional and personal relationship with dancer Gwen Verdon.
Oscar winner Sam Rockwell is cast as Fosse while Oscar nominee Michelle Williams will be Verdon, returning to the network 20 years after “Dawson’s Creek.”
The cast features St. Louis native Norbert Leo Butz as writer Paddy Chayefsky, Margaret Quall as Ann Reinking and Nate Corddry as Neil Simon.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is executive-producing the eight episodes and “Hamilton” choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler is creating the dance.
***WHISTLING A HAPPY TUNE: The lavish acclaimed Tony-winning revival, “The King and I,” will be shown two nights at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema, on Nov 29 and Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical filmed during its run at the London Palladium, June 21 to Sept. 29 and features more than 50 performers.
Kelli O’Hara reprised her Tony Award-winning performance and Tony and Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe played The King again. Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles returned as Lady Thiang and West End “Aladdin” star Dean John Wilson and Na-Young Jeon played Lun Tha and Tuptim. Director Bartlett Sher reunited the original creative team.
***TRIVIA TIME-OUT: With St. Louis performers making a name for themselves on the national stage, here’s a little flashback to the halcyon days of “American Idol,” the big-bang of reality competition singing shows.
1. Who is the only St. Louisan to make “American Idol” Top Ten Finalists?
2. What “American Idol” winner tried out in St. Louis one of the two times auditions were held here?
Answers (both Season 4):
Nikko Smith, born Osborne Earl Jr., son of Cardinal Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who wound up ninth overall in 2005. He had been voted off in the third round of the semi-finals, but the producers asked him back to take the place of Mario Vazquez, who left for “family reasons.”
Carrie Underwood, who drove up with her mom from the family farm in Checotah, Okla., in 2004, sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt.
Here’s that audition: https://youtu.be/P0j9NGV-Jm4
She just won CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, killed with a live awards show performance of “Love Wins” at six months’ pregnant, and has to date seven Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist in 2007, the only second country artist to win it.
St. Louis has hosted auditions for Seasons 4 and 11.
***WORD: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato
 
 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing EditorGREEN DAY: We have been changed for good by the cultural phenomenon “Wicked,” which has broken records in St. Louis and is still “Popular” around the world after opening on Oct. 30, 2003 on Broadway.
To commemorate the musical’s 15th anniversary, NBC will air a tribute concert on Monday, Oct. 29, at 9 p.m. (CST).
“A Very Wicked Halloween” was recorded live Oct. 16 at the Marquis Theatre, hosted by the original Elphaba and Glinda, Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth.
The celebration will feature Pentatonix, Ariana Grande and Ledisi. Adam Lambert will join them, and he is certainly not mourning the wicked. He left the Los Angeles cast after making “American Idol,” and from 2005 to 2008, had been in the ensemble and understudy for Fiyero, and on a national tour.
The current Broadway cast will also make an appearance.

This spellbinding untold story about the Witches of Oz is now the sixth longest-running musical in Broadway history, having surpassed “A Chorus Line” on July 12 with its 6,128th performance.
Since its debut, “Wicked” has broken box office records around the world. St. Louis is one of the cities where “Wicked” currently holds the weekly-gross-takings records, along with Los Angeles, Chicago and London.
It has played the Fox Theatre five times since 2005, selling out and each week broke box office records. The national tours stopped here in 2005, 2007, June 2010, for four weeks Dec. 12, 2012 – Jan. 6, 2013, and for four weeks in Dec. 9, 2015 to Jan. 5, 2016. Another tour is under way but St. Louis isn’t listed – as yet.
St. Louisan Norbert Leo Butz originated Fiyero in “Wicked.”The original Broadway cast featured St. Louisan Norbert Leo Butz as Fiyero. The Bishop DuBourg and Webster U. Conservatory grad played Elphaba’s love interest Fiyero twice, from Oct. 8 to Nov. 23, 2003, and from Jan. 20 to July 18, 2004. He met his second wife, Michelle Federer, during the production – she played Nessarose, and they were married in 2007.
Norbie, the seventh of 11 children born to Elaine and Norbert A. Butz, went on to win two Tony Awards, for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Catch Me If You Can.” He is planning to leave his Tony-nominated role as Alfred P. Doolittle in the Lincoln Center revival of “My Fair Lady” on Jan. 6, 2019.
Composer Stephen Schwartz told Playbill why he cast him.
“I’ve wanted to work with Norbert since I saw him in ‘Thou Shalt Not’ and particularly in ‘The Last Five Years.’ He’s a lyricist’s dream. In ‘Wicked,’ I wrote ‘Dancing Through Life’ especially for him to take advantage of both his voice and charisma.”
In July 2017, “Wicked” surpassed “The Phantom of the Opera” as Broadway’s second-highest grossing show, trailing only “The Lion King.”
Based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, “Wicked” has won more than 100 international awards, including three Tony Awards and a Grammy.
The TV special isn’t the only way “Wicked” is celebrating its milestone – Ben and Jerry’s locations in Times Square and Rockefeller Center will sell special ice cream sand-Witches beginning Oct. 26. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National School Climate Center’s BullyBust campaign.
The NBC Studios Store has an Ozmopolitan apparel display. And a special “Wicked” cupcake, baked by Melissa, is available online and at all 14 store locations through the rest of October. A portion of the cupcake proceeds with benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and A BroaderWay.
***GET REEL: Native sons and daughters can bask in the klieg lights in the ‘Lou during the 27th annual St. Louis International Film Festival, which will screen a record 414 films from 63 countries Nov. 1 through Nov. 11 at nine venues.
John GoodmanJohn Goodman, one of St. Louis’ favorite sons, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. That program and a screening of “The Big Lebowski” on Nov. 2 are already sold out. Goodman, who grew up in Affton, has enjoyed a long career – in movies, on TV and on stage. He is part of the “Roseanne” reboot called “The Conners,” along with former Edwardsville resident Laurie Metcalf, who plays his sister-in-law Jackie. The TV   sitcom began Oct. 16 on ABC and can be seen at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Yours truly is hosting a special event film. The fest is celebrating the Golden Anniversaries of several influential films that came out in 1968: “Bullitt,” “Medium Cool,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Pretty Poison.”
Anthony Perkins, Tuesday Weld in “Pretty Poison”I will introduce “Pretty Poison” and lead the post-show discussion after the free screening on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. at the St. Louis Public Library central headquarters downtown on Olive. The film is sponsored by the St. Louis Film Critics Association.
This underrated film noir-like thriller starred Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, and has gained new appreciation as a cult gem, its influence noted in Terence Malick’s “Badlands” and Billy Bob Thornton’s “Sling Blade.” Think “Gun Crazy” meets “Lolita.” Mix in conspiracy theories, passion, greed and fantasy. With its inspired casting, it’s a strange and wonderful film about a teenage arsonist who is paroled, becomes smitten with a young femme fatale, and dangerous plans are put into play.
For a complete schedule or for more information, www.cinemastlouis.org For the trailer by Sleepy Kitty Arts (you rock Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult), watch this: https://youtu.be/UTm2PZJng_0
I was fortunate to be the moderator of a Q&A session after a sold-out screening of “Beautiful Boy” Sunday at the Hi-Pointe, with writer Nic Sheff, whose story is the film, and star Timothee Chalamet, whose fans started lining up at 8 a.m. for the 11 a.m. screening. St, Louis was one of four stops the Oscar-nominated Chalamet did over the weekend; Nic Sheff is appearing at over 10 locations.
Lynn Venhaus, Timothee Chalamet, Nic Sheff at “Beautiful Boy” Q&A. Photo by Kevin Brackett.***
APPLAUSE FOR: Congratulations to Kathleen Sitzer on her honor from the Alliance for Jewish Theatre, an International organization dedicated to promoting the creation, presentation, and preservation of theatrical endeavors by, for, and about the Jewish experience.
She is seen here with honoree Tovah Feldshuh at the recent Alliance for Jewish Theatre annual conference in Philadelphia. Feldshuh’s one-woman show, “Golda’s Balcony,” is the longest running in Broadway history. She received the Theodore Bikel Award for Excellence in Jewish Theatre.
Kathleen, the recently retired Founding Artistic Director of New Jewish Theatre, was recognized for her years of service and dedication to the concept of Jewish Theatre.
In addition to Sitzer, the conference will honor actress Tovah Feldshuh with the Theodore Bikel Award for Excellence in Jewish Theatre. Her one-woman show “Golda’s Balcony” was the longest running in Broadway history.
The conference provides an opportunity for theatre artists and organizations to network and learn from each other through a variety of workshops, panel discussions and performances. It is hosted annually by a member theatre. This year’s conference in Philadelphia is hosted by Theatre Ariel. New Jewish Theatre hosted the conference two years ago in 2016 and also in 2002.
For more information, visit: www.alljewishtheatre.org.
***
AROUND TOWN: Sarajane Alverson, who played Chef Rossi in the autobiographical “The Raging Skillet” at the New Jewish Theatre, was able to meet the real-life inspiration when she came to St. Louis for the play’s premiere.
Sarajane Alverson, Chef RossiHere is a photo of the two from their appearance on a Fox 2 news segment. Photo courtesy of Aemi Tucker. Sarajane made it through three weeks of performances without a knife injury!
Country singer Alexandra Kay of Waterloo, Ill.Let’s hear it for country singer Alexandra Kay, aka Lexi Krekorian from Waterloo, Ill., who is among the nine people on Netflix’s new “Westside” that premieres Nov. 9. (I have an in-depth feature article that will be published in the Belleville News-Democrat soon).
Mark Saunders isn’t trying out his Halloween costume — he began the national tour of “Something Rotten!” last month and revealed his character Brother Jeremiah’s look.
His show will be in Champaign, Ill., on Monday, Oct. 29, for a one-night performance at 7:30 p.m. at the State Farm Center (University of Illinois). It’s a 2-hour, 43-minute drive from St. Louis. For more information, visit www.rottenbroadway.com.
***
 
 
 
AMERICAN IDOL: Interesting in auditioning for the next season of “American Idol” on ABC? Online audition videos are being accepted now through Nov. 5. You must be at least 15 years old to submit a video for consideration. You’ll be notified by Nov. 19 if you made the cut.
More information can be found here: https://fmna.etribez.com/ag/fmna/ai2abc/welcome.html
***BOOK SHELF: St. Louis native Ellie Kemper, a John Burroughs graduate, has published a collection of uplifting essays called “My Squirrel Days.” Her Oct. 13 book signing at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters was sold out.
The comic actress, known for “The Office” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has written about her journey from Midwestern naif to Hollywood.
Can’t get enough of Tony winner “Dear Evan Hansen”? The smash-hit has been turned into a young adult novel by Val Emmich and published on Oct. 9 by Little Brown. T
o promote the book, show composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul went on a 10-city bus tour with musical book writer Steven Levenson and author Emmich. Fellow Michigan alumnus Darren Criss joined them in Ann Arbor, and Tony winner and late-night host James Corden sang “Waving through the Window” at an L.A. bookstore.
A new deluxe album, including cut songs along with the original Broadway cast recording, is now available through Atlantic Records.
***
LIFE IS ART – SAVE THE DATE: Who will be nominated for their work in 2018 St. Louis metropolitan area community theater – in musicals (Best Performance Awards) and plays (Theatre Mask Awards)?
Winners will be revealed at the annual Arts For Life Trivia Night, now set for Saturday, Feb. 1 at St. Joseph’s parish hall in Manchester. Ryan Cooper returns as the emcee.
Our theme this year is “That ‘70s Trivia” – you can decorate your table and dress accordingly (costumes optional) – but questions are a variety related to the category titles (announcing the show nominees).
AFL awards excellence in large and small ensemble musicals, dramas and comedies, and youth musical productions. The TMAs will take place on Saturday, April 6, at and the BPAs on Sunday, June 9, at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts at Chaminade.
Boogie the night away with AFL! Enjoy 10 rounds featuring a variety of trivia, silent auction, raffles, table decoration contest, “STL Theatre Sampler” ticket raffle, attendance prizes, and more.
New this year – VIP Tables – $200/8 people. VIP Tables include snacks, soda/water, prime seating, and a dedicated runner.  Reserve your table today! $160/8 people
For more information, visit AFL’s Facebook page or website, www.artsforlife.org.
***
THEATRE RECOGNITION GUILD: Interested in scoring community theater and youth production musicals during the calendar year 2019? From now through Nov. 15, you can apply to be an AFL judge in what’s called the Theatre Recognition Guild. It’s the branch of AFL that judges musical theater for the Best Performance Awards given in 33 categories every June.
This is the only time during the year that you can apply. The online application is available here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2019trgapplication
You will be notified in December if you have been selected. Between 50 and 60 volunteers are judges, and 10-12 judges are assigned to score each eligible show for about 25 groups in the metropolitan St. Louis area.
Judges are required to attend shows throughout the bi-state region. There is no monetary compensation – it is all volunteer. If you judge 8 shows, you receive a free ticket to the BPAs. In 2018, TRG will have judged a total 48 shows (21 large ensemble, 7 small ensemble and 20 youth).
If you have any questions, please contact me, the TRG Chairman on the AFL Board of Directors since 2010, at [email protected]
***GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Artistic Director Kelly Hummert whipped us into a frenzy for months trying to figure out clues as to what Shakespeare play would be the next Immersive Theatre Project by her Rebel and Misfits Productions.
She recently revealed it’s “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows” which opened Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 10, Wednesday through Saturday.
Sean Michael Higgins, Kelly Hummert in “Macbeth: Come Like Shadows”You can be there, too. Rebel and Misfits is offering 2 tickets to a performance for our current giveaway. All you do is answer our poll below – we’re asking about your favorite mystery play because Kelly was so mysterious about her show.
Send your pick, along with your name and phone number, to [email protected] by noon on Tuesday, Oct. 30. A winner will be selected from the entries, we’ll announce the name, and get the lucky pair set up for this yet-to-b-revealed enticing fall premiere.
FAVORITE MYSTERY PLAY (make selection to enter the drawing):
Deathtrap
Dial M for Murder
The Mousetrap
Night Must Fall
Sleuth
Wait Until Dark
Send your choice by noon Tuesday, Oct. 30, to enter the drawing to: [email protected]

WORD: “Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich, but theatre will make you good.” – Terrence Mann
***
 
 

The 27th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) — held Nov. 1-11 —  will honor native St. Louisan John Goodman with a Lifetime Achievement Award at a tribute program that will include a clip reel of the actor’s career highlights, a conversation betwen Goodman and John Carney of KTRS (550 AM), and a screening of “The Big Lebowski” on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. The program will take place at 7:30 pm Friday, Nov. 2, at the Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd. Tickets for the event are $25 and go on sale through the Tivoli website on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
John Goodman starred in “Big River” on Broadway, his first big break.Goodman grew up in Affton and graduated in 1975 from Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State) in Springfield, Mo. He soon moved to New York City to begin his acting career. On Broadway, from 1985-87, Goodman starred as Pap Finn in Roger Miller’s musical take on Mark Twain, winning a Drama Desk nomination. In recent years, he’s returned to the stage with “American Buffalo” in London and “The Front Page” on Broadway.
Goodman began earning film roles in the 1980s, debuting in “Eddie Macon’s Run” (1983) and receiving increasingly prominent roles in such films as “Sweet Dreams” (1985), “True Stories” (1986), and “The Big Easy” (1986). He began a long collaboration with Joel and Ethan Coen with “Raising Arizon” in 1987, and he’s since appeared in the Coens’ “Barton Fink” (1991), “The Big Lebowski” (1998), “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000), and “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013). Goodman’s filmography is extensive, but other highlights of his career include “Sea of Love” (1989), Steven Spielberg’s “Always” (1989), “King Ralph” (1991), “The Babe” (1992), “Matinee” (1993), “Fallen” (1998), Martin Scorsese’s “Bringing Out the Dead” (1999), “The Artist” (2011), “Argo” (2012), “Flight” (2012), and “10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016).
HyperFocal: 0Goodman has been just as active in TV, where he is best known for his long-running role as Dan Conner in “Roseanne” (1988-97 and 2018) and now “The Conners.” He also had regular roles on Amazon’s “Alpha House” (2013-14) and HBO’s “Treme” (2010-11), and played memorable recurring characters on such shows “West Wing,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “Damages,” and “Community.” Goodman also does frequent voice-over work in animation,
including Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” and “Cars.”
The SLIFF schedule, ticket and venue information, and a complete list of films (with descriptions) will be available at the Cinema St. Louis website (cinemastlouis.org) the first week of October.
For more information, the public should visit cinemastlouis.org or call 314-289-4150.
John Goodman receives caricature at Sardi’s for the famous wall. 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
RISING STARS: Seeing talented teenagers passionately follow their dreams is such a thrill. The Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation is ahead of the game, for it fosters, promotes, and encourages young people in the St. Louis region to discover and participate in the joy and wonder of live performances.
Besides the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition, the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation also produces a variety of other performing arts programs that focus on youth including Kids’ Night at the Fabulous Fox, Broadway Master Classes, Educational Encores, and is a producing partner of the 2nd Annual St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards.
This Sunday, they are sponsoring a free event that will feature 25 entertainment acts, including finalists from the 8th Annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition and nomineees from the 2nd Annual St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards:

The High Schooll Musical Theatre Awards representatives include: Outstanding Lead Actress winner Maggie Kuntz and nominees Paige Terch. Meg Gorton and  Sydney Jones
Outstanding Lead Actor nominees Tony Merritt and Jared Goudsmit.
Outstanding Supporting Actress nominees Annelise Laakko, Natalie Brown and Haley Driver.
The Teen Talent Showcase representatives include pianists John Yanev and Robyne Sieh, singers Morgan Taylor, Josh Royal, Bennett English and Jennifer Ferry; dancers Arielle Adams, De’Jai Walker, Madison Alexander, Megan Mayer, Brooke Reese, Hillary Zgonina, Kelsey Carnes and DessaRae Lampkins; alto sax player Kameron Huff and TBD (Lilliana Matthews, Aaron Moore, Everett Remstedt, Allan Stacy and Jalen Thompson.
The Rising Stars Showcase featuring the Stars of Tomorrow will take place on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 2 p.m. at The Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis. Admission is free and it is open to the public. For more information, visit: www.foxpacf.org.
 
Photo Maggie Kuntz, Dolly Levi in Cor Jesu’s “Hello,Dolly!” She went on to compete in the National Jimmy Awards.
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EXPLORE ST. LOUIS:  St. Louis will be rolling out the red carpet when throngs come to the city for the 100th PGA Championship Aug. 6 – 12 at the Bellerive Country Club.
Have you seen the four commercials that award-winning actor and St. Louis native Sterling K. Brown has done for the St. Louis Visitors and Convention Bureau? The 30-second segments are “Arch,” “Blues,” “Family Fun” and “Neighborhoods.”

Local actor, playwright and theater booster Stephen Peirick played Merriwether to Matt Lindhardt’s Lewis in the “Arch” commercial. He said Sterling was kind and introduced himself before they started working on the spot.
If you want to see the commercials or find out more about what’s happening here in August, check out www.explorestl.com.
 
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GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Meet at the Muny for “Meet Me in St. Louis,” the finale of the Muny’s Centennial Season! Those who send in their choice in the poll will be placed in a drawing for two tickets to any performance of “Meet Me in St. Louis” from Aug. 4 – 12 at the Muny in Forest Park.
“Meet Me in St. Louis” was a 1944 MGM movie before it was adapted as a stage musical in 1989, although the Muny presented it before that.in the 1960s and ’70s.
This 2018 production will feature a revised book by Gordon Greenberg and new orchestrations by John McDaniel is the first since 2009, and the eighth overall.
McDaniel, a Grammy, Tony and Emmy-winning producer, composer, conductor and pianist is from St. Louis. He was Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show bandleader from 1996 to 2002, and has worked with the Muny before, on the 2012 “Pirates!”
Poll Question for Ticket Drawing: What is your favorite movie that either takes place in St. Louis or was shot in St. Louis?
“The Game of Their Lives”“The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery”“King of the Hill”“Meet Me in St. Louis”“Up in the Air”“White Palace”
Send your selection by email to: [email protected] by 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3. Please include your phone number. The winner will be notified, and arrangements will be made with the Muny for the night you choose.
Our July 28 poll winner was Robert Kapeller of St. Louis. He won two tickets to “Evita” at The Rep on Sept. 7. As for the favorite girlfriends musical, “Wicked” won in a landslide.
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DOWN MEMORY LANE: The first time I saw the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” was at a free showing at the downtown Famous Barr department store the summer of 1974. They had special events and exhibits in honor of the 70th anniversary of the World’s Fair in St. Louis and showed the movie for free in their ninth floor exhibition hall. (That’s what was transformed into the holiday world extravaganza at Christmastime.) At the movie, they sold specially-priced iced tea and hot dogs, two refreshments who made their debut in 1904.
Sally Benson’s “Kensington Stories” was the basis for the movie, and her family lived at 5135 Kensington in north St. Louis city. The house is long-gone but this is what it once looked like, pictured at left.
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TRIVIA TIME-OUT: Forty years ago, the first National Lampoon movie, “Animal House” premiered. This groundbreaking movie first shown on July 28, 1978 spawned many knockoffs and launched the careers of many young stars, including the first film by SNL breakthrough John Belushi. (And is very helpful in the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game).
Question: Who are the two people associated with the movie that have a local connection?
Answer: Writer Harold Ramis attended Washington University, Class of 1966, and used his college days as a member of Zeta Beta Tau for inspiration. He would go on to fame as a writer, actor (“Ghostbusters”) and director (“Groundhog Day”), and returned to his roots here. He served two terms on the Washington University board of trustees and was master of ceremonies for Homecoming in 1984. Here is a 1979 photo of him back in a Wash U frathouse.

Karen Allen, who played Katy, was born in Carrollton, Ill. Her mother was from Jerseyville and her father from Roodhouse, and she spent summers visiting her grandparents in Jersey County after his FBI work took them to other cities for her first 10 years. Her father went to Washington University after her parents married; they met at Illinois College in Jacksonville.
I interviewed the delightful and very active Allen two years ago when she was being honored by the St. Louis International Film Festival. She said she enjoys seeing cast members at film reunion events.

At left she is shown with Peter Riegert. “Animal House” was her first movie.
To read more about her life, here is my feature in the Belleville News-Democrat. https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article114225998.html
***WORD: Wise advice from the late great screenwriter, actor and director Harold Ramis:
“There’s a great rabbinical motto that says you start each day with a note in each pocket. One note says, “The world was created for you today,” and the other note says, “I’m a speck of dust in a meaningless universe,” and you have to balance both things.”
“No one will laugh at how great things are for somebody.”
“My only conclusion about structure is that nothing works if you don’t have interesting characters and a good story to tell.”
― Harold Ramis (1944 – 2014)
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WINNERS CIRCLE: Cinema St. Louis handed out awards for the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase on July 22. This year’s event featured 107 films, and some advanced to the 27th annual St. Louis International Film Festival Nov. 1 – 11. These are the juried award winners that were written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louis residents or films with strong local ties.
DOCUMENTARIES
Best Use of Music: Busking on the Wagon, Randy Shinn and Drew Gowran
Best Sound: Such and Such, Cory Byers
Best Editing: Gateway Sound, Justin Fisher and Patrick Lawrence
Best Cinematography: Lingua Francas, David Christopher Pitt
Best Local Subject: The Man Behind the Merferds, Phil Berwick
Best Direction: Lisa Boyd, An American Tragedy
Best Documentary Short: For a Better Life, Yasmin Mistry
Best Documentary Feature: Gateway Sound, Justin Fisher
EXPERIMENTAL
Best Experimental Film: Passages in Revisiting: I Hear Someone Playing Urheen, Xinyue Deng
NARRATIVES
Best Costumes: Shutter, Nancy Eppert and Maude Vintage
Best Makeup/Hairstyling: East Plains: Get Out!, Jessica Dana
Best Use of Music: The Wedding Song, Ben Stanton, Thia Schuessler and Will Dickerson
Best Sound: Strings, Ross Mercer, Ryan Kneezle and Theo Lodato
Best Production Design/Art Direction: Parallel Chords, Gypsi Pate
Best Special/Visual Effects: Dawn of Man, Vlad Sarkisov
Best Editing: MLM, Benjamin Dewhurst
Best Cinematography: Parallel Chords, Kyle Krupinksi
Best Screenplay: Foxes, Tristan Taylor and Garrick BernardBest Actor: Ayinde Howell, Foxes
Best Actress: Jackie Kelly, Mother of Calamity
Best Direction: Richard Louis Ulrich, Steve
Best Animated Film: Tiffanys, Caitlin Chiusano, Sean Esser and Zhara Honore
Best Comedy: Cabin Killer, Michael Rich
Best Drama: Saint Sinner, Brian Cooksey
Best Narrative Short: Foxes, Tristan Taylor
Best Narrative Feature: Parallel Chords, Catherine Dudley-Rose
To see the list of films selected for SLIFF, visit www.cinemastlouis.org
Pictured are Best Actor Aynde Howell of “Foxes” and Best Actress Jackie Kelly of “Mother of Calamity” on the Showcase program.
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Have any tidbits for the column? Please contact Lynn Venhaus at: [email protected]
Featured photo of ‘Meet Me in St. Louis” from Tams-Witmark. Harold Ramis photos from Washington University archives.