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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Bird Ticket Price Good Through May 12

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Love in Stray Dog Theatre’s ” Ragtime”

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

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

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

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

Plans For This Year’s Event

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

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

Kimmie Kidd-Booker

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

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

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

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

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

BPA Nominations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets $20 Through May 12 or $25 After

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Love

The Loves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making a Dramatic Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Andrea Braun
Contributing Writer“Last night I had the strangest dream I ever had before. I dreamed that men had all agreed to put an end to war.” –Chad Mitchell Trio
Entering Kyra Bishop’s set feels much like walking onto a battlefield. It is dark and dreary, no color to speak of, just browns and grays all around. There are rolls of copper wire, downed trees, and a backdrop so primitive it is held up by rope. Then, in the distance a man is singing a traditional Scottish ballad, “Will ye go to Flanders?” Gradually other voices join him and nine soldiers enter. It is 1914 at Christmas, and these guys are already tired of the fighting and their voices reflect that sense of weariness, of hopelessness.
But what they also demonstrate is a remarkable ability to sing solo, in ensembles or all together. This is the fourth production of “All Is Calm”  that Mustard Seed has mounted since its premiere in 2012, the third one I’ve seen, and the strongest yet.

The ensemble changes, though five of the cast members have appeared in the show at least a couple of other times. What is remarkable is that whoever is in front of us is fully believable, invested in the roles, and able to bring off every single number in the show from the sublime to the silly.
I couldn’t single out any cast members because they were all so good; here they are in alphabetical order: Kent Coffel, Anthony Heinmann, Christopher Hickey, Greg Lhamon, Gerry Love, Michael Lowe, Sean Michael, Abraham Shaw, Jeff Wright
The center of the story is a real event. On a memorable night in the first year of World War I, the British and Irish and the Germans stopped fighting. Just like that. They had been in mortal combat for days, perhaps weeks, and while they don’t exactly beat their swords into plowshares, they spend a night burying their dead together, playing soccer with each other, decorating a tiny Christmas tree, and most of all, singing the holiday songs of their cultures.
Besides song, the men recite quotations from soldiers’ letters, from the Pope and Winston Churchill, and most moving, two of the so-called “War Poets,” Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. These young men created a body of literature about the war experience, and there is nothing romantic about it, nothing “sweet and right” about dying for one’s country, as Owen expresses in his ironically  titled “Dulce et Decorum est,” about a slow and horrible death from mustard gas. All these statements give the audience a sense of how the troops from the lowliest private to the prime minister were feeling about the job at hand. So, why did they do it?
Because they were called to duty. Because patriotism motivates both sides in war. And, probably not least because they could be hanged for treason if they ran away. But there is also a sense of real camaraderie here, not only on one’s own side, but among all the men—perhaps more accurately boys—who have been called to kill the other side who look just like them. The Royal Family is 100 percent German, for example. They just changed their names from Saxe, Coburg and Gotha to Windsor. Done and dusted. It wasn’t so easy for the young men who had to take sides, however.
Lighting design is a character too. Generally, the lighting designer does the job by not being particularly notable, but here, the light literally brings life, especially in the Christmas tree scene wherein “Silent Night” begins in a minor key when the tree comes out, then as the lights gradually go up, the song becomes harmonic. Credit goes to Michael Sullivan.
Jane Sullivan and Zoe Sullivan handle costumes and sound respectively and with their usual expertise. Director Deanna Jent and Musical Director Joe Schoen keep everything moving, and in its fifth production, the show works like a well-oiled machine.
“All Is Calm” is by Peter Rothstein, with musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach. Its history is fascinating, having had its public debut on Minnesota Public Radio. Jent notes that: “While not shying away from the horrors of war, it presents a moment of hope that seems to have been transformative for the men involved in the event.”
In only six years since All Is Calm was first presented, our country seems to have gone to war with itself. May the peace among a group of people whose immediate “job” is to kill the “enemy,” serve as an example of the way we might all treat each other and perhaps even someday agree “to put an end to war.”
“All Is Calm” will run through Dec. 16 at the Fontbonne University Fine Arts Theatre. Details are available at www.mustardseedtheatre.com.