Metro Theater Company (MTC), St. Louis’s premiere professional theater for youth and families, continues to expand its artistic footprint into the living rooms of families in St. Louis and across the world with the presentation of two more digital streaming productions this summer, including Early Days — Stories of the Pandemic Digital Archive: A St. Louis COVID-19 Digital Play (live streamed July 29 at 6:30 p.m.) and the virtual premiere of A Kids Play About Racism (available August 1-2).
Both productions are collaborations on the local and national level, and are part of Metro Theater Company’s ongoing efforts and mission to create productions that respect young people’s intelligence, tell compelling stories, stimulate curiosity and provoke thoughtful reflection, even as the St. Louis community adapts to the pandemic.

Early Days — Stories of the Pandemic Digital Archive: A St. Louis COVID-19 Digital PlayWednesday, July 29 at 6:30 p.m.FreeLive-streamed at https://www.metroplays.orghttps://mohistory.org/online-resources or MTC’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MetroPlays
This short play, written by MTC Producing Associate John Wolbers, is part of Metro Theater Company’s partnership with the Missouri Historical Society to document our region’s experiences with the historic COVID-19 pandemic from the unique perspectives of submissions from people of all backgrounds. Together, the two organizations have created an original 15-minute play set against the backdrop of a teen’s now-Zoom call birthday celebration, as a fictional St. Louis family navigates the changes, perspectives, emotions, and hopes we all shared in March as our lives began to change. MTC Artistic Director Julia Flood directs. The cast for this live-streamed story of courage and resilience features actors, Jacqueline ThompsonNicholas Kryah, and Teens Make History Apprentice Madeline Emke. A Q&A follows the performance.
Teens Make History is a work-based learning program for local high school students. Through long-term, paid apprenticeships in exhibitions and museum theatre, the program aims to build key professional skills and give students the confidence they need to succeed. For more information or to learn how you can support this program, please visit mohistory.org/TMH.
The COVID-19 Memory Project was launched by Metro Theater Company in March 2020 to further connect the St. Louis community through storytelling during this time of social distancing. As COVID-19 has changed how we live, work, play, learn, and connect, MTC encouraged community members to share their experiences, emotions, and hopes. This repository of experiences from young people and families are being adapted into a series of virtual performances, with an ultimate goal of translating these stories into a live performance when such performances can resume. Stories from the Memory Project were incorporated in the Arts United STL virtual fundraiser. This Zoom play is the next installment of new work created through the Memory Project. To submit a story, please visit metroplays.org/MemoryProject.


A Kids Play About RacismSaturday & Sunday, August 1 & 2
Free Streaming at Broadway on Demand, https://www.broadwayondemand.com
Metro Theater Company joins a groundbreaking collaboration among 37 Theatres for Young Audiences across the United States, led by the lead producing team of Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, to present the virtual premiere of A Kids Play About Racism, a theatrical adaptation of Jelani Memory’s A Kids Book About Racism. Premiering August 1 and 2 on the streaming platform Broadway On Demand, the new work is adapted and directed by award-winning director and TYA artist Khalia Davis and will be brought to life by an entirely Black and BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) cast and creative team from across the United States. A Kids Play About Racism utilizes theatre to offer young children and families a way to engage in meaningful conversation about race. As part of the production, educational materials developed by Seattle Children’s Theatre in collaboration with the Northwest African American Museum will extend the experience and enhance age-appropriate engagement. All 37 partnering theatres are members of Theatre for Young Audiences USA (TYA/USA), the national organization representing the field of theatre for children and family audiences. The streaming of A Kids Play About Racism is accompanied by interviews and educational videos.
The scale and breadth of this co-production has been made possible in part through the network cultivated by TYA/USA, which connects organizations and artists across the country focused on theatre for young people and families. Through the last few months, TYA/USA has offered a range of programming to provide deep connections and resource sharing in response to COVID-19. Through this network, TYA theatres across the country have been able to come together to find ways to support each other and their audiences through new and innovative collaboration models.
A Kids Play About Racism is adapted and directed by Khalia Davis, with music composed by Justin Ellington and Costume Design by Ron McCann (California). It will be performed by Davied Morales (California), Angel Adedokun (California), Moses Goods (Hawaii), Rapheal Hamilton (Arizona), Isaiah Harris (Texas), Jessenia Ingram (Georgia), and Regan Sims (New York).
The work is produced by Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Alliance Theatre, in partnership with Adventure Theatre MTC, Arts on the Horizon, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Children’s Theater of Madison, Children’s Theatre Company, Childsplay, Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, Coterie Theatre, Dallas Children’s Theater, Dare to Dream Theatre, Des Moines Performing Arts, Filament Theatre, First Stage, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Imagination Stage, The Kennedy Center, Magik Theatre, Metro Theater Company, Nashville Children’s Theatre, New York City Children’s Theater, Oregon Children’s Theatre, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Pink Umbrella Theater Company, ReNew Productions, Rose Theater, Seattle Children’s Theatre, The Growing Stage – The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey, The Gottabees, The Open Eye Theater, TheatreWorksUSA, Trike Theatre, Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, Wheelock Family Theatre at Boston University, and Orpheum Theatre Group.

“Spell # 7” will be The Black Rep debut of rap artist Tef Poe. Tef Poe has received numerous Hip-Hop awards for his work, and was recently featured as a Harvard Fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Research institute.

Tef says “This is an opportunity for me to sharpen my skills and work with some of the best talent in this region.  The Black Rep is known for reimagining what’s possible in Black entertainment.  I knew this would be a challenge for me. My background obviously isn’t rooted in theatre. But the hip hop world has a few commonalities so I’m able to play into my strengths with this character. I’m honored to be a part of this production.  My respect for my cast mates and our director is insurmountable.”

“Spell # 7” will also feature Drummond Crenshaw, Robert Crenshaw, and Jacqueline Thompson as well as four of our Professional Acting Interns: Brian McKinley, Tyler White, Christina Yancy, and Camille Sharp.

“Spell # 7” is a striking choreopeom by the author of “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf”, Ntozake Shange.  Set in a bar in St Louis frequented by Black artists and musicians, actors, and performers. In a series of dreamlike vignettes and poetic monologues, they commiserate about the difficulties they face as Black artists.  The piece is framed by the narrator, Lou (played by Brian McKinley), a magician who wants to use his magic to help the artists come to terms with their Blackness and rejoice in their identities.

“Spell # 7” is the second production supported by the Sophisticated Ladies Giving Initiative.  This initiative supported last year’s production of Nina Simone: Four Women by Christina Ham.

This production is also funded with support from the Regional Arts Commission, World Wide Technology, Washington University in St. Louis, Steward Family Foundation, and Centene Corporation. “Spell # 7” is also underwritten in part through a grant from the Creative Impact Fund for Diversifying the Arts – a partnership between the Arts and Education Council and local community leaders.

“Spell # 7” is directed by Ron Himes, with choreography by Heather Beal, scenic design by Dunsi Dai, lighting design by Joe Clapper, costume design by Brandin Vaughn, and sound design by James Biko.  Jim Anthony is the stage manager and D’Angelo Himes is the assistant stage manager.

The production will run Feb. 19 – March 8 at the AE Hotchner Studio Theatre on the campus of Washington University. Tickets are available at www.theblackrep.org/, or by calling the box office at 314-534-3807.

###

About The St Louis Black Repertory CompanyThe St Louis Black Repertory Company was founded in 1976 by Producing Director Ron Himes. The Black Rep is one of the largest, professional African-American theatre companies in the nation and the largest African-American performing arts organization in Missouri. Quality professional dramas, comedies and musicals by primarily African-American and international playwrights are produced. Mainstage productions and education programs combine to reach more than 80,000 people annually.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Plays with substantial women roles were spotlighted at the seventh annual St.
Louis Theater Circle Awards March 25, with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’
musical production of “Evita” and a homegrown “A Streetcar Named Desire” from
the third annual Tennessee Williams Festival each receiving seven awards.

Both iconic female-lead shows had received the most
nominations, 11 apiece, when the Circle announced them in January. The awards
recognized outstanding work locally produced by regional professional companies
during the calendar year 2018.

Nominees Kari Ely and Michelle Hand in “Into the Breeches!”The comedy “Into the Breeches!”, the first play in Shakespeare
Festival St. Louis’ new program, “In the Works,” won four awards. The world
premiere was in January 2018, with its first St. Louis performances in
September. The comedy from Chicago playwright George Brant is about a
fictitious theater group in 1942, and with the men away at war, the director’s
wife sets out to produce an all-female version of “Henry V.” It had roles for
six women and two men. In addition to awards for ensemble, director Nancy Bell
and best production, Michelle Hand won best actress.

The Circle, which includes veteran area theater critics, annually recognizes outstanding work in comedies, dramas and musicals, and with two opera categories.

Each of the 33 categories featured five nominees, with 23 local companies cited for 54 shows, and 120 artists receiving nods, including 10 with two apiece.

This year, there were three ties: sound design in a play, costume design in a musical and musical ensemble.

Evita won seven awards from the Circle“Evita,” the vibrant Tony Award-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical, earned awards for musical direction (Charlie Alterman), choreography (Gustavo Zajac and Mariana Parma), set design (Luke Canterella), lighting (John Lasiter), director (Rob Ruggiero, his third), ensemble and production of a musical.

The landmark “A Streetcar Named Desire,” written in 1947 by the great American playwright Tennessee Williams, who spent his formative years in St. Louis, earned honors for Sophia Brown as Outstanding Actress – for her heart-wrenching portrayal of the emotionally needy and mental fragile faded beauty Blanche Dubois, sound design (original music by Henry Palkes and sound by Amanda Werre), lighting design (Sean M. Savoie), set design (James Wolk), direction (Tim Ocel), ensemble and production of a drama.

The 18 other awards went to separate shows, with both The
Black Rep and The Muny winning three apiece, and The Rep adding two more for earning
the most, nine.

Jeff Cummings and Katy Keating in “Life Sucks.” Photo by ProPhotoSTLIn comedy, Katy Keating won for Supporting Actress as feisty but unrequited lovesick Sonia in New Jewish Theatre’s “Life Sucks,” a ‘sort of’ adaptation of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” by Aaron Posner. She was also part of the award-winning ensemble of “Into the Breeches!”.

Isaiah Di Lorenzo in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Photo by Ron James.Isaiah Di Lorenzo won Supporting Actor as The Player, the leader of the Tragedians, in St. Louis Shakespeare’s production of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” He also was in the award-winning ensemble of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Will Bonfiglio as Mary Dale in “Red Scare on Sunset.” Photo by Justin Been. Will Bonfiglio won his second Outstanding Actor Award, as film star Mary Dale in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Red Scare on Sunset.” He was honored in 2017 for the one-man show, “Buyer & Cellar,” also at Stray Dog.

For costume designs, Lou Bird won for The Rep’s “Born Yesterday” vintage wardrobe in the play category and there was a tie in the musical category between Leon Dobkowski, who won for The Muny’s colorful “The Wiz,” and Darryl Harris for the elegant “Crowns: A Gospel Musical” at The Black Rep.

There was another tie in sound design in a play – besides “Streetcar,” Rusty Wandall won for Lucas Hnath’s contemporary “The Humans” at The Rep.

Laurie McConnell, left, as Birdie Hubbard in “The Little Foxes.” Photo by Patrick HuberIn drama, Laurie McConnell won Supporting Actress as forlorn
Birdie Hubbard in St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s production of Lillian Hellman’s “The
Little Foxes.” She won in 2017 for Supporting Actress in a Musical, for her portrayal
of Joanne in “Company” at Insight Theatre Company.

Eric Dean White as Satan and Chris Ware as Judas. Photo by Ann AuerbachEric Dean White, a previous nominee, won Supporting Actor for playing the slick, smooth, haughty and conniving Satan in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at Mustard Seed Theatre.

Ron Himes in “Fences”

Another previous nominee and winner, Ron Himes won Outstanding Actor as bitter garbage collector Troy in August Wilson’s “Fences at The Black Rep last winter. In 2014, The Black Rep won best ensemble and production for “The Whipping Man.”

The Black Rep’s “Torn Asunder” best new playThe Black Rep also won Best New Play for Nikkole Salter’s “Torn
Asunder,” which dramatized true stories of newly emancipated African Americans
trying to overcome the vestiges of slavery so they could reconnect with their
families.

Joy Boland won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of the imposing villainess sea witch in Variety Theater’s “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.”

Beth Leavel as Mama Rose in “Gypsy.” Photo by Philip Hamer.For their powerhouse musical performances, Corbin Bleu won Outstanding Actor as the fleet-footed matinee idol Don Lockwood in “Singin’ in the Rain” and Beth Leavel was honored as the controlling stage parent Mama Rose in “Gypsy,” both at The Muny.

Corbin Bleu in “Singin’ in the Rain” at The Muny. Photo by Phil Hamer.Leavel had been nominated three times before (“Hello Dolly!” “Oklahoma!” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” all at the Muny. She is currently performing on Broadway in a St. Louis-produced original musical, “The Prom.”

Stephanie Merritt and Kent Coffel in “The Light in the Piazza” Kent Coffel won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performance as well-meaning haberdasher Signor Naccarelli, Fabrizio’s father, in “The Light in the Piazza,” presented by R-S Theatrics in its St. Louis regional premiere.

Anything Goes at New Line Theatre. Photo by Jill Ritter LindbergTying with “Evita” for musical ensemble was New Line Theatre’s vivacious “Anything Goes.”

It was a three-peat for Ruggiero, who won for directing “Evita,” and had previously been honored for The Rep’s productions of “Follies” and “Sunday in the Park with George.”

“Regina” at OTSL was Outstanding Opera ProductionIn the opera categories, Opera Theatre of St. Louis was honored
for both Outstanding Achievement in Opera, which was given to director Patricia
Racette for “La Traviata,” and the Mark Blitzstein adaptation of “The Little Foxes”
— “Regina,” as Outstanding Production of an Opera.
Three special awards were bestowed:  To the
Muny for a century of performances celebrated during its centennial season of
2018; to Kathleen Sitzer, founder and long-time artistic director of the New
Jewish Theatre, for lifetime achievement; and to Steven Woolf, Augustin
artistic director of The Rep for more than 30 years, also for lifetime
achievement.

Sitzer retired after New Jewish Theatre’s 2017-18 season, while Woolf will retire after The Rep’s 2018-19 season this spring. Organized in 2012, the St. Louis Theater Circle includes founding members Steve Allen of stagedoorstl.com, Mark Bretz of the Ladue News, Robert A. Cohn of the St. Louis Jewish Light, Chris Gibson of Broadway World, Gerry Kowarsky of HEC-TV’s “Two on the Aisle,” Chuck Lavazzi of KDHX, Judith Newmark, now of judyacttwo.com, Ann Pollack of stlouiseats.typepad.com, Lynn Venhaus, now of St. Louis Limelight magazine, Bob Wilcox of HEC-TV’s Two on the Aisle, and Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tina Farmer of KDHX and Michelle Kenyon of snoopstheatrethoughts.com. Eleanor Mullin is the administrator.

Those who helped produce the show at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University included Andrea Torrence and Peggy Holly, who put together the slide show; awards assistance Hannah Daines, stage manager Alycia Martin and assistant stage manager Delaney Dunster, voice-over announcer Colin Nichols and box office assistants Kimberly Sansone and Harry Ginsburg.

Renowned local musician Joe Dreyer was the accompanist and Deborah Sharn performed an opening number.

Special thanks to Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Price Waterhouse Cooper LLC, who tabulate the Circle ballots, and to the awards certificate calligrapher Susan Zenner.

Contact the Circle by email: [email protected] and like us on Facebook.

Evita at The RepInto the Breeches! at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“La Traviata” at Opera Theatre of St. Louis

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

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

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

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

See you at Theater Prom Monday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Frakes

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

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

Caroline Santiago Turner

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

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

Sean Harvey in “Crazy for You”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Raisin in the Sun

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

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

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

Meadow Nguy

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

Taylor Louderman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly Hummert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

Jared Sanz-Agero

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Lynn 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 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.

Ben Nordstrom and Kari Ely will play opposite one another in “Into the Breeches!,” the headlining production of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ new program titled, In the Works, set for Oct. 28 through Nov. 24, at the Grandel Theatre. Written by George Brant and directed by Nancy Bell, the month-long, ticketed production is the culmination of the Festival’s 2018 season.
Kari ElyIn addition to “Into the Breeches!,” In the Works will include a Saturday matinee family show, “A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness,” inspired by the mistaken identity hijinks of “The Comedy of Errors” and written by Bell. Also included are two staged readings of “The Thousand Natural Shocks” by playwright Michael Sáenz. Deep-dive talkbacks and art-making workshops for kids will round out the events.
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 it is recommended they be reserved in advance. 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 in advance. Military discounts are available as well.
Ben Nordstrom“One of the things that excited me most about joining the Festival was knowing that it already had plans to make this foray into producing new work alongside the classics of Shakespeare,” said Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival. “These plays each capture something beautifully distinct about our current American moment. Like Shakespeare, they show us ourselves, in a way we’ve never seen before, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share them with St. Louis.”
“Into the Breeches!” is a comedy about a fictitious theater group. It’s 1942, and with the men away at war, the director’s wife sets out to produce an all-female version of “Henry V.” She assembles an unexpected cast that showcases 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 “Breeches!” throughout the month-long run. Brant, the play’s author, also wrote “Grounded,” which starred Anne Hathaway during its New York run.
Nordstrom, whose work includes numerous appearances at the Repertory Theatre, the Muny, New Jewish, Stages, among others, also appeared in two plays written by Bell on behalf of the Festival, and in collaboration with the St. Louis Symphony in 2016. Ely, who previously appeared in the Festival’s main stage productions of “Henry IV,” “Henry V,” and “Antony and Cleopatra,” has worked for virtually every professional theater company in St. Louis. In addition to Nordstrom and Ely, the “Breeches!” cast will include Gary Wayne Barker, Michelle Hand, Katy Keating, Mary McNulty, Laura Resinger and Jacqueline Thompson.
Gary Wayne Baker will direct the family play,  “A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness,” Bell’s story of resilience, identity and family. Cast members include Erika Flowers, Karl Hawkins, Michael James Reed and Jen Sinnen. “Outrageous” matinee performances are scheduled at 4 p.m. on Saturdays (Nov. 10, 17, 24).
“The Thousand Natural Shocks” tells the story of a high school student who explores his identity through experiences at a private military academy. The title character is encouraged and challenged by his role in the school’s production of “Hamlet.” Sáenz was commissioned by the Festival to adapt the story from his book of the same title. The story draws inspiration from the It Gets Better Project, which leads a global movement to empower LGBTQ youth worldwide. Webster Conservatory alumnus Kern McFadden will direct.  Two staged readings are scheduled at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 7-8.
Set designers Margery and Peter Spack and costume designer Michele Siler will serve as creative team members for both “Into the Breeches!” and “A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness.”
Generous support for In the Works is provided by Mont and Karen Levy. Student tickets for 18 and under are free thanks to support from PNC Arts Alive.
About Playwright George Brant:
George BrantGeorge Brant was born in Park Ridge, Illinois and studied acting at Northwestern before turning to writing for his own zeppo theater company in Chicago during the ‘90s. He now lives in Cleveland with his wife, Laura Kepley, the Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House.

His 2012 play, Grounded, about a female fighter pilot reassigned to the Air Force’s drone unit, played New York’s Public Theater in a production starring Oscar winner Anne Hathaway and directed by Oscar, Tony and Emmy winner Julie Taymor. That production won three Lortel Awards for excellence Off-Broadway and has gone on to over 125 productions in 18 countries and a dozen different languages.
Still when Into the Breeches! premiered earlier this year at the Tony-winning Trinity Rep in Rhode Island, the Providence Journal called it, out of Brant’s 20-plus plays, “his best work by far” and “a gem of a play, one of the sweetest nights of theater you’re likely to see”.
The Shakespeare Festival is proud to present the Midwest premiere of this charming, big-hearted and provocative new play by one of America’s most acclaimed and original new voices.

About Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Since its inception in 2001, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has surpassed the one million mark in attendance through its work In the Schools, In the Streets and In the Park with more than 800,00 people attending the free main stage productions at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. The organization has reached an additional 300,000 students In the Schools through its educational programming. In 2010, the Festival launched SHAKE 38, a marathon participatory presentation of Shakespeare’s entire 38-play canon community wide. In 2012, the Festival shut down its first street, Cherokee, to present a community-based play In the Streets. Leadership support for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2018 season is provided by the Whitaker Foundation. The Festival is also funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis. For more information, please visit www.sfstl.com, or call 314-531-9800.