COVID-19 Pandemic Results in Production Streamcast by HEC Media

New Jewish Theatre led the way with six awards at the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Max & Louie Productions’ performance of Indecent garnered five awards, followed by four awards to The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis for its production of A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Circle’s gala event for this year’s award ceremony, originally scheduled for March 30, 2020 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, was canceled. Instead, HEC Media produced a version of the ceremonies that was streamcast on HEC Media’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/hectv/live/) as well as telecast on Spectrum channel 989 and AT&T U-verse channel 99. Here is the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/tCo0AFHbChE

Awards were given in 31 categories covering comedies, dramas and musicals as well as two categories for opera. In addition, Ken and Nancy Kranzberg received a special award for their philanthropic contributions to the arts and theater in the St. Louis area, including many developments in Grand Center. The awards honored outstanding achievement in locally produced professional theater for the calendar year 2019.

A total of 21 productions and 14 companies were recognized by the awards, including eight individuals who have received honors in previous years. Will Bonfiglio, honored as Outstanding Actor in a Comedy for his performance in New Jewish Theatre’s production of Fully Committed, received an award for the third time in the last four years.

The 2020 presentation featured nominees from two companies, Black Mirror Theatre and The Q Collective, which were represented for the first time in consideration of St. Louis Theater Circle Awards.  Each company received an award for outstanding achievement.

In all, 25 local companies received nominations in 33 categories for comedy, drama, musical and opera, as well as 125 individuals up for awards. Honorees who have previously received St. Louis Theater Circle Awards include Will Bonfiglio, J. Samuel Davis, Kari Ely, Michael Hamilton, Patrick Huber, Sean M. Savoie, Margery and Peter Spack, and Maggie Wininger.

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To honor St. Louis professional theater. Other cities around the country, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington D.C., pay tribute to their own local theatrical productions with similar awards programs.

Nominations for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards were divided into categories for musicals, dramas, comedies and operas.  More than 120 local professional theatrical productions were staged in the St. Louis area in 2019.

Honorees of the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are:

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Kelley Weber, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Patrick Blindauer, Love’s Labors Lost, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy (tie)

Katie Kleiger, Pride and Prejudice, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Maggie Wininger, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Will Bonfiglio, Fully Committed, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

Kari Ely, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre

Indecent

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Carly Uding, Translations, Black Mirror Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

J. Samuel Davis, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama

Donna Weinsting, Salt, Root and Roe, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Gary Wayne Barker, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Drama

Joanne Gordon, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Production of a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Play

Margery and Peter Spack, Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

Felia Davenport, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

Patrick Huber, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Sound Design

Phillip Evans, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

Mary Engelbreit and Paige Hathaway, Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

Sarah Porter, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

Sean M. Savoie, Man of La Mancha, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Musical Director

Charles Creath, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, The Black Rep

Outstanding Choreographer

Dexandro Montalvo, Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Taylor Louderman, Kinky Boots, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Tielere Cheatem, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Kendra Kassebaum, Guys and Dolls, The Muny

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Luke Steingruby, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Q Collective

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Michael Hamilton, Man of La Mancha, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Musical

Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding New Play

Nonsense and Beauty, by Scott C. Sickles, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

La Boheme

Outstanding Achievement in Opera (tie)

Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Roland Wood, Rigoletto, Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of an Opera

La Boheme, Union Avenue Opera

Special Award

Ken and Nancy Kranzberg

Members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen, stagedoorstl.com; Mark Bretz, Ladue News; Bob Cohn, St. Louis Jewish Light; Tina Farmer, KDHX; Michelle Kenyon, snoopstheatrethoughts.com; Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle (HEC Media); Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Sarah Bryan Miller, St.Louis Post-Dispatch; Judith Newmark, judyacttwo.com; Ann Lemons Pollack, stlouiseats.typepadcom; Tanya Seale, Broadwayworld.com; Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL.com; Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle (HEC Media); and Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.Eleanor Mullin, local actress and arts supporter, is the group’s administrator. 

For more information, contact [email protected] or ‘like’ The St. Louis Theater Circle on Facebook.

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By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor A brilliantly staged and acted “District Merchants” raises timely questions on oppression in a modern reworking of Shakespeare’s 420-year-old “Merchant of Venice.”

Playwright Aaron Posner’s 2016 comedy-drama tweaks the characters,
and sets them in the post-Civil War reconstruction era of 1870, in the nation’s
burgeoning capital, Washington D.C. Scenes also take place in Belmont, Mass.

It was a time of transition – out of ruins came renewal. But
it wasn’t fast or smooth. Posner has us confront the fact that old habits die
hard, change isn’t easy, and our tribes continue to define us, so is all the
uneasy historical issues and disastrous conflicts really in our past? The
clashes could be viewed as somewhat contemporary.

In this New Jewish Theatre production, butting heads are a Jewish immigrant moneylender, Shylock, and black businessman Antoine, shrewdly played by Gary Wayne Barker and J. Samuel Davis respectively, in skillfully calibrated performances.

Antoine has borrowed money from Shylock, but because of a
series of events not his doing, must default. Will he be required to hand over
a “pound of flesh,” as demanded by the loaner? A trial will ensue, but there
will be fireworks in and out of the courtroom regarding power, race, position,
family and loyalty.

The incredibly dynamic duo of Barker and Davis, longtime
local mainstays, spars so convincingly and with such verve that you hang on to
every word and nuance. Their timing is so impeccable that the audience broke
into applause after a couple explosive scenes.

Their triumphant pairing is potent – arguably career best
— but the supporting characters, involved in several thorny romantic subplots,
are exceptional as well.

The noteworthy ensemble has created memorable characters
that also mesh as a unit – even with the conflicts. They project a vibrancy,
with much thought into their role’s development.

Courtney Bailey Parker and Rae Davis. Photo by Eric WoolseySteadfast Courtney Bailey Parker is a strong Portia, who
dresses like a man to audit law classes at Harvard and is striving to define
her role as a smart woman in 19th century America.

She pairs well with love interest Benjamin, a black man
passing for white, and their courtship has a larger context. Rob White is solid
as an agent of change.

Standing out is Rae Davis as Portia’s servant Nessa, and she has stood out in two other plays she was in last year (“Cold,” “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”), her first in regional St. Louis theater. She has a delightful way with dialogue, as does the sublime Karl Hawkins, who is dandy as Shylock’s servant Lancelot.

Karl Hawkins as Lancelot in “District Merchants.” Photo by Eric WoolseyHawkins charms in every scene, as does Paul Edwards as
Finn, an Irish produce salesman who takes a shine to Shylock’s sheltered
daughter Jessica. At first, his brogue was wobbly, but he grew better, and his
winning personality was enough to endear.

As delicate Jessica who transforms with determination, Alicen
Moser understands the frustration of being a powerful and overprotective father’s
only child. When she rebels, she does it in a big way that nearly destroys her
father.
The relationships are complicated, but this cast pulsates under Jacqueline
Thompson’s perceptive direction.

Thompson has directed this show with such vigor that each
character has a distinct understanding of the material, and with her innovative
touches, has achieved a masterpiece.
She has astutely woven each character into this tapestry, and moves them around
the stage, the striking multi-level set by David Blake, and into the audience
with such purpose —  a flow that keeps
us riveted.

It does not matter if you have never seen Shakespeare’s
most controversial play. “District Merchants” flips it to assure that we see
the maligned, marginal groups in a different perspective – people of faith, of
color, of origin. We look at mercy in a fresh way.

Posner’s unflinching dialogue about stereotypes is tough
stuff, pitting Jews against gentiles, blacks vs. whites, and Irish vs. other
ethnic groups.

Billed as an “uneasy comedy,” you wouldn’t ever regard such
thought-provoking material that tackles racism, bigotry and xenophobia as a
laugh-riot, but there are surprising comic bits that struck a chord with the
audience, a spoonful of sugar if you will. After all, Shakespeare did consider
“Merchant of Venice” one of his comedies.

But mostly, the humor derives from the spoken thoughts and
feelings of the characters, who want basically what everyone wants and how they
tell their story. Because of the caliber of this cast, we are quickly drawn
into this period, and become emotionally invested as well.

Posner’s work appears to be a winner with New Jewish
Theatre. “Life Sucks!,” his comical adaptation of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” was
a delightful presentation last spring, and nominated for multiple St. Louis
Theatre Circle Awards (coming up March 25).

This must-see production has raised the bar – and will be a
measuring stick for this year’s offerings, especially with such a harmonious
ensemble.

A work of stunning achievement all the way around – with
beautifully accented lighting by Sean Savoie, richly detailed period costumes
by Felia Davenport and sound design by Zoe Sullivan.

 “District Merchants” is presented by New Jewish Theatre from Jan. 24 – Feb. 10 on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at the Wool Theatre at the Jewish Community Center, Creve Coeur. For tickets, visit www.newjewishtheatre.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.

By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor As barren as the outdoors is of life, inside the walls of our theatrical spaces, large and small, are full of life. There are 15 shows available to audiences this weekend! There is something for every taste — pick one or two or three! And Go See a Play!

Accelerando – A Circus Spy Thriller Circus Harmony Jan. 26 at noon and 2 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.www.circusharmony.org/accelerando What It’s About: The annual show features their famous flying children with new acts, including Chinese Pole and Hoop Diving.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff“Alabama Story” Jan. 2 – 27 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis www.repstl.org

What It’s About: A determined librarian and a
segregationist senator face off over an innocent children’s book in 1959
Montgomery. Depicting the marriage of two rabbits – who happen to have
different-colored fur – the story has Sen. E.W. Higgins calling for a book ban.
But even as the pressure mounts, librarian Emily Wheelock Reed refuses to yield
to censorship. Inspired by true events.

Directed by Paul Mason Barnes Starring: Larry Paulsen, Jeanne Paulsen, Carl Howell, Carl Palmer, Corey Allen, Anna O’Donoghue“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 MuellerStarring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

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

“Canfield Drive” The Black Rep Jan. 9 – 27 Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University www.theblackrep.org What It’s About: The world premiere production is about two high-powered news reporters from across the aisle who are thrown together during the national coverage of the aftermath following the Michael Brown shooting death in Ferguson, Mo., in summer 2014.

As they untangle facts, they struggle to keep their private
lives out of the spotlight.
Directed by Ron Himes
Starring: Kristen Adele Calhoun, Christopher Hickey, Amy Loui, Eric Conners

Of Note: Created from diverse interviews of people from
around the corner and around the world, Canfield Drive was written by Kristen
Adele Calhoun and Michael Thomas Walker. It is a National Performance Network
Creation and Development Fund Project co-commissioned by 651 Arts in
partnership with The St. Louis Black Repertory Company, and NPN.

Photo by Eric Woolsey“District Merchants: An Uneasy Comedy” 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, Karl Hawkins, Ron White, Rae Davis Of Note: In Aaron Posner’s reimagining, 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.

Fiddler on the Roof “Fiddler on the Roof” Fox TheatreJan. 29 –“L’Italiana in Algeri” Winter Opera St. Louis Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade 425 S. Lindbergh “Jekyll & Hyde” Next Generation Theatre Company Jan. 26 – Feb. 2 Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. James J. Eagan Center, Florissant http://www.nextgenerationtheatre.company/jekyll/

What It’s About: An evocative tale of two men – one, a
passionate doctor; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women, both in love
with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret. Murder and chaos is
pitted against love and virtue.

Starring: Keith Boyer as Dr. Henry Jekyll

Of Note: Rated PG-13 for violence.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” Looking Glass Playhouse Jan. 24 – Feb. 3 Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. 301 West St Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. www.lookingglassplayhouse.com What It’s About: The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical
is a timeless work set against the backdrop of a Biblical series of events but
seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

“Love, Linda” Max and Louie Productions Jan. 18 – Jan. 27 Marcelle Theatre in Grand Arts Center www.maxandlouie.com

What It’s About: Linda Lee Thomas was the Southern beauty
who married and was the driving force behind legendary song writer Cole Porter
at the dawn of the roaring twenties. Though Cole Porter was gay, their
companionship and love lasted through 35 years of marriage and a spectacular,
glamour-filled life.
Through innovative jazz arrangements, the music and lyrics of Cole Porter
examine the darker sides of their life while also celebrating the deep love
that blossomed through their unconventional relationship.
Directed by Ken Page, Music Director Greg Schweizer
Starring Debby Lennon

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” Hard Road Theatre Productions Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Highland Elementary School auditorium in Highland, Ill. www.hardroad.org

What It’s about: The pop doesn’t stop in this musical about
a high school prom in 1958 and, in the second act, a 10-year reunion in 1968,
with a soundtrack that includes big hits from both decades.  

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg“The Motherf*cker with The Hat” R-S Theatrics Jan. 25 – Feb. 1 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 seriocomedy explores how 5 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.

Directed by:

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

“On Golden Pond” Alton Little Theater Jan. 25 – 27 Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Alton Little Theater, 2450 N. Henry in Alton, Ill. 618-462-6562www.altonlittletheater.org What It’s About: At a summer lake home, the play focuses on a daughter’s turbulent relationship with her father, and also the trails of a loving couple in the twilight years of a long marriage.

“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.

Directed by: Philip Boehm
Starring: Casey Boland, Steve Isom, Alan Knoll and Caitlin Mickey.

Of Note: St. Louis premiere.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff“The Wolves” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Jan. 18 – Feb. 3 Studio Theatre Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus www.repstl.org What It’s About: Nine teenage girls prepare for battle on a
soccer field. As they stretch and warm up together, the teammates’ nonstop
banter reveals how a collection of disparate personalities bonds to form a
team.

Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
Starring: Cassandra Lopez, Cecily Dowd, Colleen Dougherty, Cece Hill, Maya J.
Christian, Mary Katharine Harris, Esmeralda Garza, Rachael Logue, Keaton Whittaker,
Nancy Bell,

Of Note: St. Louis premiere

“Workers’ Opera” Bread and Roses Sunday, Jan. 27 Missouri History Museum 1 to 2:30 p.m. Free and open to the public www.breadandrosesmo.gov What It’s About: Bread and Roses presents these vignettes of new and revised sketches about laborers, unions, and workers’ rights in the past and the present. Every sketch is full of good music, some history and lots of political humor.

Director: Kathryn Bentley, associate professor at
SIU-Edwardsville and Artistic Director of the Black Theater Workshop.

Music and script editing by Colin McLaughlin.

Of Note: Written and performed by members of Service
Employees International Union, Communications Workers of America, United Media
Guild, Actors Equity, Asbestos Workers, and others involved in the arts and
organized labor.

Beginning this weekend with the opening of “District Merchants,” the New Jewish Theatre will offer  free tickets to all furloughed government workers. 

In conversation with New Jewish Theatre and Jewish Community Center (JCC) staff members, the idea emerged as something they could do to show their support for the furloughed workers.

“Part of the work we do is share stories with the community and create conversations.  At a time when thousands of government employees are out of work we wanted to open our doors for them,” Edward Coffield , Artistic Director of NJT.  Any government employee can receive 1 free ticket to any performance of “District Merchants” by presenting a government work ID at the box office. District Merchants opens Thursday and runs through February 10th.  www.newjewishtheatre.org  314/442-3286

In addition to free theatre tickets, for the duration of the government shutdown, the JCC (with  locations in Creve Coeur and Chesterfield) will offer free membership for affected workers. To verify eligibility, they must show a current government-issued ID.

http://www.newjewishtheatre.org

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By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Edward Coffield likes to make people laugh.
As a director, his forte has been comedy, and this past year, he has helmed “Life Sucks” and “An Act of God” at the New Jewish Theatre, where he took over the reins as Artistic Director from longtime chief Kathleen Sitzer, who retired in July after 22 years.
Kathleen programmed the 2018-2019 season, and he collaborated with her. The season opened with “Raging Skillet” on Oct. 3, then “An Act of God” Nov. 29 – Dec. 16 and continues with the upcoming “District Merchants” Jan. 24 – Feb. 10, “Time Stands Still” March 28 – April 14, and “I Now Pronounce” May 16 – June 2, a wedding comedy, which he will direct.
In assuming the Artistic Director position, Coffield said he wanted to deepen and extend the relationship he had with the company for 16 years, most recently as associate artistic director.
“New Jewish has a very steady and loyal audience who are smart and love a great story,” he said.
During his tenure at NJT, he directed “Yentl,” the original 2005 production of “Driving Miss Daisy,” “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding,” “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” and the award-winning “Jacob and Jack,” among many others. He was nominated for a Kevin Kline Award for “From Door to Door” and by the St. Louis Theater Circle for his work on the farce “Is He Dead?” for St. Louis Shakespeare.
Currently, he is working on “District Merchants,” which is being directed by Jacqueline Thompson.
This adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” takes love and litigation, deep passions and predatory lending to a new level as it explores race, religion, power and money in America.
“I am very excited to produce this play. When Kathleen Sitzer (NJT’s founding Artistic Director) was planning the 2018-19 season we had several conversations about producing ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ which we had produced previously in 2005. It is one of those plays that continues to remain relevant. The Jewish people read the Torah year after year. Not because the Torah changed but because we change. Maybe that is true with great plays, they should be revisited,” he said.
“Kathleen knew about this adaptation and we both like Aaron Posner the playwright (author of “Life Sucks”) – so it seemed like the perfect time to produce this play. 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,” he said.
What might be his calling card, the signature of a Coffield production?
“People tell me I have a knack for casting well,” he said.
Coffield recently directed the comedy “An Act of God,” which the New York Times referred to as “A gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind’s attempts to fathom God’s wishes through the words of the Bible and use them to their own ends.”
In this 2015 play by David Javerbaum, God decides to introduce revised laws and doesn’t hold back.
“It’s funny, funny, funny,” he said, “plus Alan Knoll.”
Coffield and Knoll have worked on more than a dozen productions.
“We are close friends. He might be the funniest actor I know,” he said.
After three decades here, he will only take on certain projects.
“I will not direct a show that does not speak to me emotionally or intellectually,” he said.
In addition to running the J, he is on the faculty of the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University, and freelances as a director. He has directed for Insight Theatre Company, St. Louis Shakespeare, Stray Dog Theatre, Ozark Actors Theatre and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and the former Orange Girls company.
He spent 28 years at The Rep as production manager.
“He understands how the theatre business works. He connects well with artists, technicians, staff and contributors,” said Steven Woolf, Artistic Director of the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis, when Coffield was announced as NJT Artistic Director.
Working in the local theater community has its rewards, Coffield noted.
“We are a great theatre town and we continue to grow and expand. It is a very exciting time to be a theatre maker here,” he said. “I am so honored to be part of a great theatre community.”
The downside is: “There is a lot of theatre here and scheduling can be tricky,” he said.
As a new year is about to begin, he is excited about what’s ahead.
“I look forward to continue the growth and success of NJT,” Coffield said.
For more information, visit www.newjewishtheatre.org
Here are Edward’s answers to our Take Ten Questions:
Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a producer. I suppose at that point, I did not really know what that meant. I have come to learn that it means leading the collaborative process of theatre on stage and off.”
How would your friends describe you?
“Funny.”
How do you like to spend your spare time?
“Avid Foodie and Cook.”
What is your current obsession?
“Old episodes of “Perry Mason.”
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“As gregarious as I am, I am very shy.”
Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“Years ago, in summer stock, I was stage managing a production of “Hello, Dolly!” One night as we are about to start the title song, I looked in to the audience and watched a 60-something man put his arm around his (I presume) wife. They snuggled together and sang along at the top of their lungs. I was so touched, I laughed and then teared up. It was a great reminder of the power and sweetness that the theatre has to make people change.
Who do you admire most?
“My late twin brother Philip. An actor and director – he taught me about theatre and most importantly, he taught me how to laugh.”
8. What is at the top of your Bucket List?
“A trip to Italy, Israel, Argentina …..it’s a long list.”
What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?
“Farmer’s Markets.”
What’s next?
“Directing ‘I Now Pronounce’ for New Jewish Theatre.”
More about Edward:
Name: Edward (Eddie) Coffield
Age: 54
Birthplace: New Mexico
Current location: University City
Family: 2 cats (Barnaby and Cornelius), amazing father and siblings, and the greatest friends in the world.
Education: University of Texas at Austin
Day job: Artistic Director-Producer the New Jewish Theatre
First job: Long John Silver – “Ahoy, can I help you!”
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Multiple nominee Best Director- Circle Awards and Kline Awards
Favorite quote/words to live by: “Prance with vigor.”
A song that makes you happy: “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Whether acting or directing, Jacqueline Thompson is drawn to characters who say something.
She is currently in rehearsal for a new Shakespeare Festival St. Louis program, “In the Works,” about different ways to tell stories. She is excited about this new venture, which hopes to engage people indifferent or intimidated by William Shakespeare.
“It’s a great tool to show how Shakespeare can be incorporated in other ways of storytelling. It’s also a great way to introduce a new demographic of audience members who are not fans of the Bard. The intersection between the classical and new work offers a starting point for new discovery,” Thompson said.

Building on the Festival’s summer productions in Forest Park and the acclaimed Shakespeare in the Streets program, “In the Works” will present contemporary American plays by writers in dialogue with Shakespeare.
The first season is headlined by the regional premiere of “Into the Breeches!”, which will be staged Oct. 28 – Nov. 24 at The Grandel Theatre. It stars Kari Ely, Ben Nordstrom, Gary Wayne Barker, Michelle Hand, Katy Keating, Mary McNulty, Laura Resinger and Thompson. It is directed by Nancy Bell, a Take Ten subject in June. https://stllimelight.com/2018/06/20/take-ten-with-nancy-bell/
The hilarious and heartwarming “Into the Breeches!” is a look at the World War II home front and a group of ladies left behind. In 1943, they band together to keep the local theater going with their very own production of “Henry V.” The all-female cast shows how art and comedy can come together in even the darkest times.
The play had its critically-acclaimed world premiere in January 2018 at the Tony-winning Trinity Repertory Company. This will be its first production in St. Louis. There will be 16 performances of “into the Breeches!” throughout the month-long run.
Chicago playwright George Brant, the play’s author, also wrote “Grounded,” which starred Anne Hathaway during its New York run.
What Thompson likes about the play is it demonstrates the power of women in solidarity.
“This message is so vital and crucial during this current time in history. Through this production, they are shifting and changing the narrative of the city and theatre. They are using the stage to guide their audience in re-imaging what these characters and story can be,” she said.
Thompson has worked with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis for five years, beginning with the “Shakespeare in the Streets” venture, “Old Hearts Fresh,” which took place in The Grove neighborhood in 2013. In fact, a mural of the show, including her likeness, is still there on Manchester Avenue.
Jacqueline Thompson at the mural in The Grove that bears her image. Photo by August Jennewein, UMSL Daily Blog.She directed “The World Begun,” the Shakespeare in the Streets production based on “Twelfth Night” and presented in the Old North city neighborhood in 2015, and co-directed “Blow Winds,” this summer’s program at the downtown St. Louis Public Library. She also acted in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Forest Park in 2016.
She is a Shakespeare fan. She likes “When the text settles into your body and full comprehension is merged with your modern interpretation.  A friend told me once that she was fascinated with how he used literary devises to translate language into art. I agree,” she said.
Thompson, who grew up in Black Jack, returned home after school in 2012 to play a role at The Black Rep. She was hired at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where she is currently an assistant professor of theater.
She has been on local stages ever since, also working with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Upstream Theater, SATE, New Jewish Theatre, Metro Theater Company and Mustard Seed Theatre.
In March, she won Best Actress in a Drama for her performance in “Intimate Apparel,” presented in early 2017 by New Jewish Theatre. Set in 1905, she played Esther Mills, a talented seamstress who makes intimate garments for a wide range of clientele in Harlem.
“She has dreams of opening a beauty parlor and being married — with no prospects in sight until a mysterious gentleman caller begins to write letters,” she said. “At the beginning of the show, the audience sees her frustration and despair of longing for things she feels she should have acquired by this age in life.”
During the process, she reflected on a poem by Sonia Sonchez:
“And I cried. For myself. For this woman talking about love. For all the women who have ever stretched their bodies out anticipating civilization and finding ruins.”
Jacqueline Thompson and Jim Butz in “Intimate Apparel.: Photo by Peter Wochniak.Thompson said Esther represents the insatiable desire and risk of the human quest to experience/find love.
“She comprised and sacrificed, hoping that this man would feel her void. She gave all of herself, hoping that she would be enough to make him stay. The play ends where it begins, except she’s loss so much — friendships, possibilities, dreams but yet, she’s there starting again,” she said.
“She represents the will to move forward in spite of pain, disappointment and circumstance. This woman approached me after the Circle Awards and said Esther is every woman’s story,” she said.
“A Human Being Died That Night”Thompson was busy last year – in addition to “Intimate Apparel,” she starred in “Dot” at The Black Rep, “A Human Being Died Last Night” at Upstream Theatre and directed “Of Mice and Men” for Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble.
She also was featured in a Super Bowl 2017 public service announcement, “Smart Phone,” by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction.
PSA Video during 2017 Super Bowl:

After “Into the Breeches!” her next project is directing “District Merchants” at New Jewish Theatre.
It is playwright Aaron Posner’s version of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” about love and litigation, deep passions and predatory lending, and will be staged Jan. 24 – Feb. 10. One description said It is about the endless complexities and contradictions of life in America.
“In the Works” will also feature family matinees of “A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness,” a new play for young audiences by the Festival’s playwright-in-residence Nancy Bell, which is inspired by the mistaken identity hijinks of “The Comedy of Errors,” as well as staged readings of the Festival-commissioned “The Thousand Natural Shocks,” a moving coming-of-age story about a teenage boy who finds strength and resilience through a high school production of “Hamlet.”
Characters that have something to say.
For a detailed In the Works schedule and to order tickets, please visit www.sfstl.com/in-the-works, or call Metrotix at 314-534-1111.
Student tickets to all performances are free with an ID but advanced reservations are recommended. A limited number of “Pay What You Can Nights” are scheduled for the “Breeches!” performances on Nov. 7 and 14, and should also be reserved ahead of time. Military discounts are available as well.
Here’s Jacqueline Thompson’s answers to our questions:1. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“I like to think it chose me. I always was curious about storytelling. My first undergrad major was journalism. The arts always created a space where my passion was greater than my fear. As a child, I was extremely shy and quiet.  I would cringe when I was called on at school but created a world of my own at home with my dolls. Creating characters with my Barbies, singing around the house and writing stories was my greatest joy. As an adult, I saw the power of sharing experiences of humanity on stage and the necessity for it to be seen through a myriad of lens.”
How would your friends describe you?
“I called one of my dear friends, Melinda, whom I have known since high school so this is real: supportive, loving, thoughtful, thrill-seeking, hilarious and smidge bit insane (Insane? Thanks friend!)”
How do you like to spend your spare time?
“What’s that? No seriously, I love music! Random fact, I also wanted to be a radio deejay growing up. I can tell what a song is from the first few seconds of listening, like a human Shazam. I enjoy live music and concerts when not working.”
What is your current obsession?
“My 2-year-old nephew and 5-month niece. They are everything good and right in my world.”
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“My sense of humor! My close friends say I’m hilarious. I’m the friend that will take you on a new adventure and you will have the most peculiar experience and remember it always.  They call it my shenanigans!”
Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“Last year, my grandmother and stepfather passed two days apart. My grandmother was my center and my stepfather had been in my life since the age of 3. After eight months of watching them suffer, my priorities and passions shifted. My focus became less about career moves and more about living a fulfilled life. I am more concerned now with cultivating and nurturing my relationships, experiencing new adventures with more traveling and being present for my family.
Who do you admire most?
“I have great admiration for my past teachers and professors in theatre. Women who nurtured, protected, inspired and challenged me to be my best self. Much love to Julie Mock, Cecilia Jenkins, Nefertiti Burton, Lundeanna Thomas and the late Carol Mitchell Leon.”
What is at the top of on your bucket list?“To perform internationally.”
What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?“I love Forest Park!”
What’s next?
“Into the Breeches” at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and directing “District Merchants” for New Jewish Theatre
Here’s More to Know:Name: Jacqueline ThompsonBirthplace: St. LouisCurrent location: St. LouisEducation: B.A., Clark Atlanta University; M.F.A., University of LouisvilleDay job: Theatre Professor at University of Missouri– St. LouisFirst job: TargetFirst role: 3rd grade — sassy kid in a church play and a butterfly.Favorite roles/plays: “For Colored Girls,” “Intimate Apparel” (Esther) and “Dot” (Shelly).Dream role/play: Would love to Direct “Head of Passes” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, interested in performing a one –woman show.Awards/Honors/Achievements: Regional Arts Grant, TCG’s Rising Leaders of Color, St. Louis Theater Circle Award for outstanding actress in a drama 2018, for “Intimate Apparel.”Favorite quote/words to live by: “One day at a time” and Mariane Williamson’s poem, “Our Deepest Fear.”A song that makes you happy: Jill Scott, “Golden”
The cast of “Dot” at the Black Rep. Jacqueline Thompson is far right.