1964 was a memorable year for Americans. Still reeling from President Kennedy’s assassination, an escalating war in Vietnam and civil rights struggles, the U.S. was on the cusp of enormous change.
For teenage St. Louisans like Joe Hanrahan, it was an eventful time, especially that summer. The four lads from Liverpool rocked their world and they were ecstatic about the big bang of the British Invasion. The hometown Cards would make a mad dash for the pennant and face the Yankees in the World Series. And the coolest of the cool, Sean Connery as super-spy 007, was back on the big screen.
Hanrahan, a gifted storyteller, weaves his boyhood obsessions about baseball, The Beatles and James Bond into an entertaining and heartfelt amalgamation he wrote, titled “Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond.”
His memory play, presented by The Midnight Company, will evoke a sense of being there. Vividly capturing a moment in time, you can visualize a dusty ballfield, neighborhood buddies and their equal passions for rooting for the hometown team and going to the movies.
These are the quintessential boys of summer. Joe, who played baseball in four different leagues, recalls his carefree days playing pick-up ball with his pals and nights selling soda and popcorn at Sportsman’s Park..
Hanrahan, who has performed his share of quirky one-man shows over the past decade, walks down a memory lane that other generations can relate to – not just Baby Boomers. He originally wrote the show for the 2018 St. Louis Fringe Festival, and then expanded it beyond that festival’s one-hour time limit for this new presentation.
It is one of his most accessible works, and he’s completely at home on the intimate stage at The Chapel.
He draws us in by creating a specific sense of place, and how what was happening socially, politically and athletically affected these kids growing up in the city, as the ‘Lou was dynamically changing too.
And being teenage boys, enamored with a friend’s spirited recounting the entire experience of seeing the second Ian Fleming adaptation, “From Russia with Love,” the night before at the air-cooled Maplewood Theatre, is a major focus of this play. Rich in details, it’s riveting, as Hanrahan acts out the reminiscence, using Connery’s suave and debonaire demeanor, the beauty of Daniella Bianchi, and the exciting triumph over Spectre.
While Hanrahan showcases his raconteur skills, he offers copious amounts of interesting details – of the segregation issues across America, how Gussie Busch, who took over ownership of the Cardinals in 1953, led the way in integrating the team. Our Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock joined Ken Boyer, Dick Groat, Curt Flood, Julian Javier, Bill White and a young Mike Shannon in defeating the all-white Yankees dynasty in seven games.
Looking back, it was a seminal moment in American history, and Hanrahan credits David Halberstam’s book, “October 1964,” for the insight into race issues in Major League Baseball.
Hanrahan doesn’t shy away from mentioning the developing racial tensions and progress here either.
The reflections are palpable. He expresses the joys of a halcyon youth 57 years ago with panache, taking us back to the days of hi-fis playing 45s of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me” – the Beatles scored the top five positions on the Billboard Top 40 singles in America, an unprecedented achievement. Or the LP “Meet the Beatles,” which Joe hijacked from his sister.
The production is deftly directed by Shane Signorino, who has worked with Hanrahan before.
Video designer Michael B. Perkins has enhanced the one-man show with a cultural panoply of the sights and sounds of the day – the Fab Four, MLB players and the front office brass, and snippets of the Bond movie.
It’s a clever multi-media presentation. Kevin Bowman also provides crisp production and lighting design.
While he threads a boy’s look back, Hanrahan delivers dollops of theatrical wisdom. It is, after all, a work of theater – with drama and comedy.
A bonus is a magazine cover display in the lobby, courtesy of Redbirds fan George Venegoni.
Hanrahan has linked the time it was in an engaging way, guaranteed to produce smiles on a warm St. Louis summer night.
The show runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., July 8 through July 24, and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on July 25, at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander. For more information: midnightcompany.com. Tickets available at metrotix.com.
The Midnight Company will present the premiere of the full version of “NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE FOR THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS…BOND, JAMES BOND,” opening July 8, and running through July 25 at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive, 63105.
There will be performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm, with a matinee on Sunday, July 25, at 2pm. The show was originally scheduled May 24 through June 14. Tickets, at $20, will be on sale Wednesday, June 16 at MetroTIx.com. (Midnight is currently in production with HERE LIES HENRY, through June 27.)
The one-man play is written and performed by Midnight Artistic Director Joe Hanrahan.
It was performed in a shortened version at the 2018 St. Louis Fringe Festival, and audiences responded enthusiastically and critics raved. Snoops Theatre Thoughts said “A delightful show that’s part personal memoir, part history lesson, part nostalgia, and all fascinating. A difficult show to describe but what it is is excellent.”
Jeff Ritter of Limelight said, “Hanrahan jumps from omniscient narrator to 15-year old movie fanatic to baseball and theatre historian, the audience hanging on every word. The Cardinals are the talk of the town again. This show should be the talk of the town, too!”
Hanrahan said, “There’s never been a play we’ve done that’s received such enthusiastic, visceral reaction, due, surely, to the St. Louis history in the show. Not to mention Bond and baseball. At the Fringe, productions are limited to one-hour playing time, and this new version will allow us to incorporate new material that should hopefully make the show ever more entertaining and informative.”
NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE FOR THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS…BOND, JAMES BOND concerns a teen-age boy in 1964. JFK’s assassination still casts a pall on the nation. The Beatles’ emergence in February of ’64 starts to lighten the mood. The Cardinals continue the good times in St. Louis with a mad dash toward the pennant. And when a new movie hero hits the screens that summer, a bunch of boys on a baseball field have their first theatre experience, when one of their gang offers a spirited 30-minute one-man show of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.
Throughout, the playwright draws links between what’s happened and happening – from JFK to James Bond; from segregation in St. Louis to segregation in baseball’s Southern Leagues and at Florida stadiums where The Beatles played; from WWII to hardcore British film production crews and JFK hit squads; from the first cave man who stood up by the fire to the theatre musings of Peter Brook…most of it swirling in front of the eyes of a young boy, most of it sharp memories of the time it was.
Shane Signorino will direct the show, as he did at The Fringe (Shane received a Theatre Critics Circle nomination as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for for his work in Midnight’s POPCORN FALLS), and recently, directed FEAST from Tesseract. Kevin Bowman will serve as Production and Lighting Designer, Michael B. Perkins will design video support (as he did for Midnight productions of A MODEL FOR MATISSE, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, and LITTLE THING BIG THING), and Elizabeth Henning, who’s worked with Midnight on several productions, will be Stage Manager.
There will also be a concurrent exhibit in The Chapel lobby of memorabilia from 1950’s/60’s baseball, presented by George Venegoni.
Hanrahan has acted, written and directed for The Midnight Company, appearing in 2020’s only live pandemic production, SEX, DRUGS, ROCK & ROLL and currently in HERE LIES HENRY. In 2019 for Midnight he was seen in POPCORN FALLS, CHARLIE JOHNSON READS ALL OF PROUST, and in his scripts of PATIENT #47 (at The Crawl) and A MODEL FOR MATISSE (which received a Theatre Critics Circle nomination for Best New Play). Last year, before the pandemic, he was also in the casts of Metro Theater’s GHOST and SATE’s APHRA BEHN FESTIVAL.
By Lynn Venhaus Oh the irony. Henry, who is an off-kilter sort, likes to sing “On the Sunny Side of the Street” when his life is anything but – or at least appears that way. That sets the tone for “Here Lies Henry,” a kooky one-man show that opened by The Midnight Company at the Kranzberg Arts Center’s blackbox theatre last weekend.
Part jester, part blowhard, Henry’s personality is central to his act, a freeform stream of conscience where he wonders aloud why there are yellow fire trucks and repeats his schtick with some twists. He wants to tell you something that you don’t already know. He can rant but he’d rather get a laugh. Did he really say that? Did he commit any of the crimes he takes credit for?
Henry is an entertainer created by the fertile mind of quirky Daniel MacIvor, a Canadian playwright, actor and screenwriter. MacIvor specializes in solo pieces, just like Joe Hanrahan, a St. Louis theater veteran, who acts, directs, writes and produces. He adds the peculiar and curious Henry to his repertoire of uncommon characters.
Hanrahan likes choosing works that aren’t part of the mainstream, and as The Midnight Company’s latest one-man show, the first since the coronavirus public health restrictions lifted, it’s a good fit.
Hanrahan has previously performed MacIvor’s other works, “Cul-de-Sac” and “House,” and understands the rhythm the playwright attains in this 1995 work.
As he tackles love and death, Hanrahan displays Henry’s awkwardness, his impish penchant for odd jokes and puns, and builds more confidence as he weaves tall tales. Henry might be “not quite right,” but will we know?
Director Ellie Schwetye, who has worked with Hanrahan multiple times, is also familiar with the off-center and the screwball. There is an ease to the presentation, maintaining a mood where you don’t quite know what’s happening or where it will go, but you’re willing to take the ride.
That uncertainty is the chief tone throughout – as Henry, who admits he lies, embellishes stories about his parents and life. Is he serious? Is this a TED talk? Or is this a comedy club’s open-mic night? It has that feel of a guy telling big whoppers at a bar – but you can’t ignore him here as he is compelled to get on your good side.
As always, Hanrahan is entertaining in his unconventional, idiosyncratic way. “Here Lies Henry” doesn’t necessarily answer the Big Questions, but you’ll have fun with the asking.
Technically, the show flows smoothly, with Tony Anselmo’s lighting design and Kevin Bowman’s production design. Anselmo designed lighting for Midnight Company’s past works, “Popcorn Falls” and “A Model for Matisse.”
“Here Lies Henry” is an interesting look at one man’s point of view. The play is presented without intermission and runs 70 minutes.
“Here Lies Henry” will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, from June 10 to June 26, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, June 27, at the Kranzberg Black Box. For tickets, visit MetroTix.com or MidnightCompany.com. Call 314-487-5305 for more information.
By Lynn Venhaus As an ever-busy presence in the St. Louis theater community, Ellie Schwetye has created a diverse body of work — acting, directing, producing and sound design for a myriad of companies. While she has been recognized for her individual achievements with multiple St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, she thrives on collaboration.
But her name associated with a project means that there will be a high bar for quality and a sharp attention to detail, from selecting a soundtrack to a Jane Austen homage, “First Impressions,” for SATE; to guiding Will Bonfiglio to a third Circle Award for Best Actor in a Comedy in “Fully Committed” at the New Jewish Theatre; to bringing haughty Mrs. White to life in SATE’s “Classic Mystery Game” play; and portraying Emily Post, one of the hostesses in ERA’s “Trash MacBeth.”
She is the co-producer of SATE and has directed and/or worked with Equally Represented Arts (ERA), YoungLiars, West End Players Guild, New Jewish Theatre, Prison Performing Arts, The Tennesee Williams Festival St. Louis, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, The Black Rep, R-S Theatrics, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, The Midnight Company, Stray Dog Theatre, Mustard Seed Theatre and others.
Like many other artists, Ellie was eager to return to live theater when it was safe to do so — either on stage or behind the scenes. And now, it’s happening — she’s directing the one-man show “Here Lies Henry” starring frequent collaborator Joe Hanrahan, whose Midnight Company is producing.
It runs Thursday through Saturdays at 8 p.m. June 10 – 27, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. June 27, at the Kranzberg Arts Center’s black box theatre.
Most COVID restrictions have now lifted, so with larger capacity audiences allowed, tickets are now available at the door. Midnight was deemed MissouriArtSafe by the Missouri Arts Council, received permission from the City of St. Louis for the production, and followed strict safety protocols.
Written by Daniel MacIvor, Henry is a man on a mission to tell you something you don’t already know. It is an idyllic — sort of — miserable — sort of — storybook — sort of — nightmarish — sort of — remarkable — sort of — regular show.
Ellie said she was immediately drawn to the material.
“Initially, what I liked about “Here Lies Henry” was the opportunity to collaborate with Joe Hanrahan again. I’ve joked that Joe could hand me the phone book and I’d direct it, if it meant working with him,” she said..
“But, of course, the material of the play itself is a draw. The character of Henry is so quirky, he’s such an innocent — but trying desperately not to appear so. It’s a lovely, weird, off-beat meditation on love, life, and death. There’s a Virginia Woolf-like stream-of-consciousness quality to the text, as well as moments that have me thinking about David Lynch and Andrew Wyeth,” she said.
Ellie and Joe have collaborated multiple times.
“Working with Joe is always a treat. ‘Henry’ is, I think, the sixth project on which we have worked together. Joe finds and writes amazing scripts – all of which are real studies in personality,” she said.
” As both an actor-producer and a director Joe is very laid back. He comes into every project with really clear ideas, and a great sense of play and collaboration. We experiment and laugh a lot during rehearsals. Joe has a great affinity for incorporating rock and pop music into his shows, as I do. I appreciate that he lets me sound design the shows I direct, which he knows I love doing.”
Since the pandemic forced live theater to shut down in March 2020, she said she kept her theater itch scratched with some outdoor theater, video projects and “a few, now ubiquitous, Zoom plays.”
How does it feel to be ‘back in the saddle’ again?
“It’s fantastic! This is my first in-person indoor production since March 2020. It’s pretty cool to be doing this play. Directing a one-man show was the best choice to ease back into the process. The first rehearsal was both terrifying and exhilarating,” she said.
Now she is returning to produce and sound design the play “Top Girls” with SATE — Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble,
“It’s a play we had programmed and cast since before the pandemic. Both my producing partner, Rachel Tibbetts, who is directing the play, and I really love the story, the script, and non-linear storytelling of Caryl Churchill’s text and are thrilled we finally get to bring it back to St. Louis,” she said.
And while filling up her plate after such an absence is tempting, she has reflected upon the next steps after the quarantine break.
“As for easing back into commitments, I think the pandemic taught me that being busy isn’t a virtue. I love the many facets of my work in the theatre, but I don’t need to do eleven projects a year anymore. Having said that, I am quite excited for some projects this fall including “Top Girls” with SATE, directing “The Miracle Worker” at Clayton High School, and another project with Midnight later in December,” she said.
Schwetye, 39, was born and raised in St. Louis.
During the down time, she explored activities that she had an interest in, but hadn’t given herself the time to dive in — and the opportunity was much appreciated.
“Unsurprisingly, much of it has been outdoors, since that’s been the safest way to socialize. I’ve been gardening a bit. The brilliant Nicole Angeli has been my hiking guru, and it’s been lovely to explore gorgeous conservation areas in eastern Missouri and central Illinois. Last summer, I supported my sister as her ground crew while she paddled the Missouri river — 340 miles! — from Kansas City to St. Charles. Now that was the ultimate stage management gig. Being on the river for four days and the fact that our team was representing the Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper organization opened my eyes to how precious and critical the Missouri river system is to our region,” she said.
“I’ve also gotten to spend a lot of time at my family’s property in Labadie, Mo., which we affectionately and unoriginally call the Farm. We completed building a house that was inspired by a one-room schoolhouse that once sat on the property. I’ve been working with my dad for the past year on much of the finish carpentry in the house, including framing and hanging doors and cutting and installing window trim and baseboards from hemlock,” she said.
Q &A WITH ELLIE SCHWETYE
1. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“I’ve always been drawn to storytelling. Theatrical storytelling is a kind of magic. I’m also a bit of a show-off, so performing was a great outlet for that energy. As I developed though, I learned that I love directing and producing so much more. I find the process of bringing artists together in collaboration so much more rewarding than a curtain call.”
2. How would your friends describe you?
“Classic Aries: attention-seeking, passionate, optimistic, ambitious, independent, competitive, a bit selfish, impatient and impulsive.”
3. How do you like to spend your spare time?
“Recently. it’s been out at the Farm with my nieces and nephews, hiking with buddies, and reading my dad’s first edition “Foxfire” books.”
4. What is your current obsession?
“My meadow is my current obsession. It’s one little corner of the Farm. I’m keeping a path cleared through it to better observe the variety of grasses and native plants growing there. I have been trying to learn a lot more about our native species. Since I’m out at the Farm almost every week, it’s been amazing watching the changes from season to season.”
5. What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“I used to be a pretty fast runner. I won a state track meet in the 800m event.”
6. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“My college theatre experience was a defining time. I went to a women’s college, which is certainly where my feminist theatre aesthetic was solidified. Knowing that my mentors were a fashion designer who got her start on London’s Carnaby Street in the 60s, a former Breck girl-turned radical feminist bass player, and an East German dramaturg with the Berliner Ensemble probably makes a lot of sense for the theatre I like to make and watch now.”
7. Who do you admire most?
“This is the hardest question of the ten! So many people. My parents, certainly – especially my mom; my sisters. I’ve been learning more about my grandparents and ancestors, and there are a lot of hard-working, gritty folks in my family tree to admire.”
“Artistically, I admire the folks I have the privilege of collaborating with – and there are so many amazing and inspiring artists in this group! I admire my teachers, like Kelley Weber, who encouraged me to be a theatre artist. And I admire the producers who took a chance on me, like Edie Avioli and Scott Sears, and Ron Himes and Linda Kennedy.”
“And I always admire the real women from history whose stories I often get to tell – like Henriatta Leavit, Annie Jump Cannon, Williamina Fleming, Rosalind Franklin, Sr. Jacque-Marie, or Helen Keller. Theatricalized stories of real women will always be the most fascinating to me.”
8. What is at the top of your bucket list?
I keep a Google doc of plays I’d love to direct or scripts I’d love to develop. Rachel Hanks and I started musing a while back about a play based on the Stevens Sisters (Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell). Writing something original is certainly on the bucket-list. And as a some-time performer, I’m ready for the challenge of a one-woman show.
9. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?
“Discovering and exploring unexpected nature and conservation areas in the region.”
10. What’s next?
“I’m looking forward to the YoungLiars Summer Training Festival in July, then “Top Girls” with SATE in September. I’ll be directing “The Miracle Worker” at Clayton High School in the fall, then in December I’ll be performing opposite Joe Hanrahan in his new trio of short plays “Tinsel Town” about artists in LA, directed by Rachel Tibbetts. It completes a trifecta of work the three of us have collaborated on, which has included “Cuddles” and “Little Thing, Big Thing.”
More on Ellie:
Family: my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, 5 nieces and nephews, and cousins (who are like sisters). Education: The St. Louis answer: Clayton High School; the real answer: Mount Holyoke College. Day job: Production Manager with my family’s business serving the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry. First job: My first post-college job was as a professional Intern at the Black Rep. First role: Abigail Adams in the 5th grade musical “Dear Abby” (I still remember my big number!) Favorite roles/plays: My Ozark adaptation of “As You Like It”, Rachel’s and my adaptation, “First Impressions” based on “Pride and Prejudice” (and getting to play Elizabeth Bennet in it!), ERA’s “The Residents of Craigslist”. I’m also really proud of co-founding and producing SATE’s Aphra Behn Festival, celebrating women writers and directors. Dream role/play: There are two weirdo comedies I’d love to produce, direct, or perform in: “All Our Happy Days are Stupid” by Shiela Heti and “Freshwater” by Virginia Woolf, which she wrote for her sister Vanessa’s birthday party. Awards/Honors/Achievements: St. Louis Theater Circle Awards for Production, Sound Design, Directing, Script Adaptation, and Performance in an Ensemble; PopLifeSTL’s 2019 Artist of the Year 🙂 Favorite quote/words to live by: “have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves” A song that makes you happy: “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn
The Midnight Company will present four plays in 2021, including two St. Louis Premieres and one World Premiere. The Company, which presented the only live theatre in town during the pandemic with Eric Bogosian’s SEX, DRUGS, ROCK & ROLL in November 2020, and mindful of the fears and realities of the ongoing virus war, will open the season with two one-man plays in June and July.
Midnight’s Artistic Director Joe Hanrahan said, “Last November, we worked with the State’s MissouriArtSafe program, the City of St. Louis and the Kranzberg organization to make sure all safety guidelines were in place and being followed. We’ll be doing the same going forward, hoping that vaccine efforts will continue to positively affect quality of life, enabling us to provide quality theatrical experiences for our audiences.”
Hanrahan also said, “If there’s a theme to this season, with theatre coming back it’s appropriate that these shows deal with the theatre and show business. While HERE LIES HENRY focuses on the Art and Science of Lying (particularly relevant to this age of political and societal falsehoods), Marlon Brando did say ‘Acting is lying for a living.’ Our second show, NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE… specifically occurs during a young man’s introduction to live theatre, of a sort. IT IS MAGIC, our third show, actually takes place during auditions in the basement of a theatre, and TINSEL TOWN, the season closer, tells three stories set in the Los Angeles entertainment world.”
The Company opens with HERE LIES HENRY by Daniel MacIvor, June 10-27 at the Kranzberg Black Box. It will be directed by Ellie Schwetye, with Joe Hanrahan as Henry, a man in a room with a mission to tell you something you don’t already know. He’s also a liar. Midnight has presented two plays by MacIvor (a celebrated Canadian writer/performer) including CUL-DE-SAC, and then HOUSE at the 2015 St. Louis Fringe. Hanrahan performed both one-man shows, and critics said “ CUL-DE-SAC takes you places you may not want to go. But Hanrahan makes a spellbinding guide.” (Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) and “HOUSE is a perfect combination of virtuoso acting and compelling storytelling.” (Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX.)
Tickets for HERE LIES HENRY, a St. Louis Premiere, will go on sale May 10 at MetroTix.com, and prices, performances, capacity and safety procedures will be announced at that time.
Midnight will then present the rescheduled (from 2020) NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE FOR THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS…BOND, JAMES BOND, written and performed by Joe Hanrahan, directed by Shane Signorino, with video design by Michael B. Perkins. It will run July 8-23 at The Chapel. First presented at the St. Louis Fringe in 2018, the script has been expanded, and Hanrahan said, “The Fringe version of this show had to come in under an hour. This version, with additional material, should be deeper, hopefully richer.” NOW PLAYING… is a memory show, of when a teen was introduced, in an unusual way, to live theatre, while the rest of life, including baseball, James Bond, racism, The Beatles, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and more swirled around him. Michelle Kenyon in Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts called the play “…entertaining, educational, thought-provoking…” and also said it was “…difficult to describe, but what it is is excellent.”
In October, Hanrahan’s short play PATIENT #47 will be presented as part of True Community Theatre’s TRUTH, LIES, and CONFESSIONS October 1-3 at The Chapel. PATIENT #47 was originally presented at the 2019 Theatre Crawl And later in the month, Midnight will begin to add additional performers to their cast lists.
Midnight will present Mickle Maher’s IT IS MAGIC, also rescheduled from 2020, directed by Suki Peters, October 21-November 6 at the Kranzberg Black Box. IT IS MAGIC takes place in the basement of a community theatre. Two sisters, tireless long-term theatre volunteers but ignored in the artistic process, have finally received their chance to write and act for the group. While opening night of the company’s Scottish Play goes on in the MainStage above them, they’re holding auditions for the role of the Big Bad Wolf for their new script, an adult version of THREE LITTLE PIGS. But an inebriated, jaded artistic director and an unexpected, wild Third Sister intrude, delivering dire changes, dangerous chaos and, eventually, magic.
The cast for the production includes Nicole Angeli, Michelle Hand, Joe Hanrahan, Britteny Henry and Carl Overly. Chicago’s Third Coast Review called IT IS MAGIC “…one of those love letters to theatre…delightfully wacky,” and New City Stage in Chicago said “Any show that juggles loving critics with tearing their throats out is good in my book.”
Midnight has previously presented Maher’s THE HUNCHBACK VARIATIONS and AN APOLOGY FOR THE COURSE OF CERTAIN EVENTS AS DELIVERED BY DOCTOR JOHN FAUSTUS ON THIS HIS FINAL EVENING (twice each), and IT IS MAGIC will be a St. Louis Premiere. And rounding out the year (and rounding out a cycle of plays from three St. Louis theatre artists) is the World Premiere of TINSEL TOWN 3 Short Plays – 24 Hours In L.A. by Joe Hanrahan. It will run December 2-18 at Avatar Studios, a television production studio on the edge of Downtown St. Louis, near Market and Jefferson, and will be directed by Rachel Tibbetts. (Midnight has previously presented TITLE AND DEED and LITTLE THING BIG THING at Avatar.)
In TINSEL TOWN, Ellie Schwetye and Hanrahan each play characters in the three plays set in the Los Angeles entertainment world. In LATE LUNCH ON MELROSE, Hanrahan is a talent agent trying to convince his movie star client, Schwetye, to accept the new normal. In JUST OFF SUNSET, Schwetye is a rock singer/songwriter who’s just finished a frustrating gig at a club, and Hanrahan is a grizzled backup musician who’s seen it all in the industry. And in SHOOT IN SANTA MONICA, Hanrahan is a British actor brought to Hollywood for a role in a science fiction film, and Schwetye is the director trying to get her first film under her belt.
Hanrahan first worked with Tibbetts when he recruited her to direct an earlier Midnight run of SEX DRUGS ROCK & ROLL, after seeing her direction of BACHELORETTE for her home company, SATE. Thus began an association between their two companies, with Hanrahan acting in ONE FLEA SPARE, OF MICE AND MEN, DOCTOR FAUSTUS and 2020’s APHRA BEHN FESTIVAL for SATE; and Schwetye directing JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG(with Tibbetts in the cast) and A MODEL FOR MATISSE for Midnight.
But it was during the winter of 2016/2017 that these three did two plays together that demanded a third, sometime in the future, to complete a triptych. At that time, Hanrahan directed Schwetye and Tibbetts in the vampire drama, CUDDLES, for SATE, followed by Schwetye directing Tibbetts and Hanrahan in Midnight’s Irish thriller, LITTLE THING BIG THING. So a third show was needed, with (as TINSEL TOWN provides) roles for Schwetye and Hanrahan, and Tibbetts directing. And thus, the cycle will be complete, and TINSEL TOWN will bring Midnight’s 2021 season to a close.
Joe Hanrahan of St. Louis’ Midnight Company will appear in THE COCKROACH OF BROADWAY by Hope Weiner, which will be part of New York City’s Rogue Theater Festival. The Festival, featuring 14 new plays, will run virtually from December 10-13, 2020. Weiner’s play will be broadcast on Sunday, December 13, at 1:30 pm (CST). Tickets are $9.00, and are now on sale here: https://www.showtix4u.com/events/17616/?event=40500&date=114473.
About THE COCKROACH OF BROADWAY, Ms. Weiner said “Arguably, if one wanted to make law school fun one could dedicate the full three years to studying Harvey Weinstein’s recent fall from grace and come out with an amazing understanding of the current American legal system. Given that so much of the law is determined by “community standards” his case really asks us to deep dive into what our standards are. Furthermore we are also asked to deep dive into our belief in the potential for rehabilitation. As for the title, well Jesse Green made me laugh in 2018 when he reviewed the Donna Summer Musical but at the time I felt that even more so than the scourge of jukebox musicals, this title belonged to Harvey Weinstein. So at last musings on Mr. Weinstein and other men of questionable repute.” She also described the play as “…definitely a think piece. The purpose is to really invite people to take a step back and evaluate situations for themselves. It is an invitation to bring back reason.”
In the play, Hanrahan will portray Harvey Weinstein and Alan Dershowitz, while Ms. Weiner will portray the character Shadchan, a professional Jewish matchmaker or marriage broker.
In the past year, Hanrahan has appeared (pre-pandemic) in Metro Theater’s GHOST and in SATE’s APHRA BEHN FESTIVAL, and since has been seen in the virtual Arts United StL effort to help local artists and in a Zoom production of SEINFELD: A QUARANTINE EPISODE by Michael Long, and wrote COME TOGETHER, a Zoom play for St. Louis Shakespeare. And most recently he performed Eric Bogosian’s SEX, DRUGS, ROCK & ROLL for Midnight, which was the first (and still only) live theatre production during the shutdown.
Due to the continued and aggressive presence of the Coronavirus, The Midnight Company has rescheduled two of their planned productions.
NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE FOR THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS…BOND, JAMES BOND, originally scheduled for August 13 – 29, will now run July 8 – 23, 2021 at The Chapel. Midnight had also scheduled IT IS MAGIC by Mickle Maher October 29 – November 14 at The Kranzberg Black Box theatre. That production will now run October 21 – November 16, 2021 at the Kranzberg Black Box. Still on Midnight’s schedule, pending further notice, is “GIVE ‘EM HELL HARRY” September 17 – October 3 at the .ZACK Theatre, and another production to take the place of IT IS MAGIC in late October. That title will be announced shortly. Midnight’s Artistic Director, Joe Hanrahan, said “It was clear we couldn’t move forward with “NOW PLAYING…” at this time, and IT IS MAGIC has a cast of five. The restrictions of the virus have made that size of a production problematic. We’re hoping to possibly move forward with another one-person show in its place. The people at The Chapel and at The Kranzberg Arts Foundation have been wonderful, not only in their hard work and preparation for possible performances at their spaces, but in their understanding of postponements due to the virus.”
By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor In The Midnight Company’s charmer of a one-man show, “Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust” is a good match for Joe Hanrahan’s storytelling skills.
He plays an average Joe, 75, retired from insurance, whose
mundane Midwest life includes Snappy Seniors activities and family to-dos. One
day, Charlie doesn’t realize that a package of cookies as a snack at Starbucks
will lead to a reading adventure. He has what’s called “a Madeleine moment,”
and thus enters the world of French literary legend Marcel Proust, more out of
spite at his snobbish know-it-all daughter-in-law.
The cake-like cookie, sort of in the shape of a seashell,
is associated with Proust’s opus, “In Search of Lost Time,” earlier known as
“Remembrance of Things Past,” which was published between 1913 and 1927, in
seven parts. Dipping the cookie in his tea, the narrator is immediately
transported to childhood memories.
On the surface, Paris during the French Third Republic
couldn’t be more different than contemporary Indiana, but then again, Charlie is
open to the similarities and differences. At that time, France saw the rise of
the middle class and the decline of the aristocracy.
But it is through Proust’s penchant for reflection and
articulation about memory that sparks multiple revelations for Charlie.
And lest not forget perseverance. Many a literary scholar
can’t seem to work their way through all of Proust. The title in itself is a
testament to fortitude. And in modern library terms, the seven volumes amount
to 4,300 pages – and 2,000 characters.
Charlie proves to be quite an interesting character, a
meaty role designed for Hanrahan’s gifts. And he’s well-suited to bring out the
humor in playwright Amy Crider’s work, which pops with personality. She is an
astute observer of human nature, visually conjuring an assortment of regular
folks you know you know.
The Kranzberg black box is simply outfitted with a
comfortable easy chair, a well-worn living room space that provides an
immediate sense of place. Chuck Winning’s set design takes you to an everyman
nook, with photographs and artwork that mean something, a statement on the
artist’s role in society and understanding an artist’s life as influence. Tony
Anselmo’s lighting design also reflects on the lived-in quality.
Director Sarah Lynne Holt emphasizes Charlie’s dignity and
intelligence, while Hanrahan’s monologue delivery brings out the absurdities in
life we can all relate to, no matter our circumstances.
This solo sojourn is an insightful piece, a fanfare for the common man that the Midnight Company fluidly interpreted as a guy with something to say.
The Midnight Company presents “Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust” Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., May 30 to June 15, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand. For more information, visit www.midnightcompany.com
By Lynn Venhaus
Spry actors Joe Hanrahan and Shane Signorino slip into 21 different characters
to play the denizens of “Popcorn Falls,” a daffy mix of vignettes designed to
showcase performers’ strengths while paying tribute to small-town personalities
– and the power of theater.
This average American town, whose residents prefer to be
called ‘kernels,’ has seen better days, and is in danger of bankruptcy because
their waterfall has dried up, no thanks to a new dam. Without their claim to
fame, tourists and commerce has vanished. But a greedy corporation is ready to
pounce, with plans to demolish the town and turn it into a sewage treatment
center. Can the town be saved?
Because of an old arts grant, they can get enough money –
but writing and producing the play must be done in a week — despite the lack
of a theater and experienced thespians. Shades of Blaine, Missouri, the center
of “Waiting for Guffman.” Or Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland practicing in a
barn – “Hey kids! Let’s put on a show!”
Can this absurd solution work?
Sure, if our dynamic duo of intrepid mayor (Hanrahan) and loyal
custodian (Signorino) be the heroes and rally the town with the grant money
dangling before them. But in the bigger picture, can art save the world?
You can clearly figure out playwright James Hindman’s
thought process. While the optimism is unwavering in this 2017 off-Broadway comedy,
the farcical material isn’t as amusing as the portrayals.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Popcorn Falls
resembles other quirky fictional settings that evoke warm and humorous memories
– Stars Hollow, Mayberry, Greater Tuna, Bedford Falls – heck, even “Frostbite
Falls” from “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.” It provides the basis for
wacky characters and nutty situations, even if it’s derivative.
The pairing of Hanrahan and Signorino is inspired, with their
skills and talent enough to convincingly conjure up a cadre of zany townsfolk.
Hanrahan’s Ted Trundle, the beleaguered new mayor on the
verge of divorce, shares quite an interesting backstory. He is counting on the
neighboring county’s budget committee to bail them out, and enthusiastically
gathers folks at the library to cobble together the plot. Well, this turns into
a free-for-all what-did-I-get-myself-into scenario.
Signorino’s main man is head custodian Joe, who is shown at
work and at home. He frets about supporting his growing family if the town goes
belly-up. He also transforms into the majority of characters – including a
female bartender at The Sudsy Mug (as does Hanrahan), her precocious young
daughter, the dramatic cat-lady librarian who fancies herself an actress, the
snaky corrupt county official, dim but well-meaning sheriff, the one-armed owner
of the lumber yard, and a chain-smoking middle-school teacher with a vivid
imagination. Hanrahan portrays the local mortician who wants to act in the
Both stalwarts of the local theater community, Hanrahan and
Signorino work together in the manner of classic comedy duos, manic improv
pairs and old-timey vaudeville/variety acts. They know how to work a crowd, with
Hanrahan basically the straight man to Signorino’s goofy multitudes, and can easily
switch into various roles.
In an impressive turn, Signorino rises to the demand of
performing all his characters during the original play’s dress rehearsal.
Instead of costume changes, the characters are
distinguished by vocal adjustments, attitudes, posture, and perhaps a hat or
accessory or prop.
This is the kind of show The Midnight Company excels at, usually
one-acts with little frills but ambitious and often unique and interesting
material, realized by a strong but small cast. Director Sarah Whitney has deftly
guided the pair for maximum madcap effect.
If at any time it is confusing, that’s the fault of the thin
script and not the nimble actors. Hanrahan is nearly in view the entire time
while Signorino rushes about to accommodate the others. The pair seemed to be
having fun — but the parts are a challenge because of the fast pace.
The simple staging in the Kranzberg Center’s black box gives
the men a small space to fill with their clever characterizations in the
well-worn “play within a play” format.
Chuck Winning has designed a functional bare-bones set, replicating
a budget-strapped town hall meeting room. Scene changes are announced on a small
blackboard, and it would help to clean the board every night, for the layers of
chalk dust make it difficult to read the later scenes.
Tony Anselmo created a straightforward lighting design that
works well within the small confines.
Even though the material is lightweight, Hanrahan and
Signorino do considerable heavy-lifting, and they muster enough charm to sell
it, along with their sincerity and veteran work ethic. Now, if only the squirrels
wouldn’t chomp on the town hall wires because Popcorn Falls can’t afford traps.
Midnight Company presents “Popcorn Falls” Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., March
28 – April 13, in the Kranzberg Arts Center blackbox theater. Tickets are
available through MetroTix.com. For more information, visit www.midnightcompany.com
The play is performed without an intermission and is 85 minutes long.
By Lynn Venhaus
So, how does one find inspiration to play Mother Teresa? Rachel Tibbetts thought of a popular TV sitcom.
In “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at Mustard Seed Theatre, she plays Mother Teresa and two other characters – St. Thomas and Loretta.
“Mother Teresa is such a blast. I am approaching her as Mother Teresa meets ‘The Golden Girls,’” she said.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing three characters. I love the challenge of playing with physicality and voice to move from character to the next.”
The irreverent dark comedy explores the afterlife of former apostle Judas, wanting to know if sin or grief or grace will prevail, and runs from Oct. 1 to Oct. 28, Wednesday through Sunday, with no Friday performance. It is recommended for mature audiences.
The Last Days of Judas IscariotTibbetts is not the only cast member with multiple roles or who switches genders — 27 diverse characters are woven into a courtroom in downtown Purgatory, part of a jury trial to determine if Judas should remain in Hell. After all, who’s to blame/at fault for his notorious place in history, damned for all-time, his lawyer argues.
The historical and Biblical characters are sinners and saints. The play by Stephen Adly Guirgis was originally staged off-Broadway at The Public Theatre in 2005, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Guirgis went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2015, for “Between Riverside and Crazy.”
Her longtime friend and colleague Carl Overly Jr. portrays attorney El-Fayoumy.
“Carl and I get to have so much fun on stage together. It’s also very exciting to be included in an ensemble that beautifully reflects our community,” she said.
Adam Flores, resident artist at Fontbonne University, directed the production. Locally, it is the second time a regional company is tackling the show — HotCity Theatre staged it in 2006.
Besides Tibbetts and Overly, the ensemble includes: Courtney Bailey Parker, Rae Davis, Graham Emmons, FeliceSkye, Carmen Garcia, Chelsea Krenning, Jesse Munoz, Ariella Rovinsky, Chandler Spradling, Chris Ware and Eric Dean White.
Active in regional theater for more than 10 years, Tibbetts has become one of St. Louis’ most versatile artists working today.
Little Thing Big Thing with Joe HanrahanIn the past three years alone, Tibbetts has played a nun on the run, a faux vampire, a German matron trying to make sense of the World War II fallout, Athena goddess of war, a spoiled social climber in hell, Lady Macbeth, an exotic secret agent in a Hitchcock movie parody, a Spanish painter and Harvard star-mapper.
She is a founding member of Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, and has been in productions at The Midnight Company, ERA (Equally Represented Arts) Theatre, R-S Theatrics, Tennessee Williams Festival, Young Liars and West End Players Guild.
While she has been able to portray many memorable roles, one of her all-time favorite experiences was this past winter, when she played trailblazing ‘astronomer’ (data entry clerk) Henrietta Swan Leavitt in Laurwn Gunderson’s play “Silent Sky” in the West End Players Guild production.
Silent Sky, with Michelle Hand, Jamie Pitt and Rachel Tibbetts. Photo by John Lamb“I don’t know if a day has gone by since we closed where I haven’t thought about this particular line: ‘Because wonder will always get us there.’ Every aspect of working on ‘Silent Sky’ was truly an experience of wonder – the script, the director, the cast, the production ensemble,” she said.
“My grandmother passed away while working on the show. She was always supportive of me as an artist. My heart hurt, and still does, from her death, but working on the show gifted me healing,” she said.
No Exit. Photo by Joey RumpellShe has dedicated her work this year to “Grams.” And she has kept busy.
Tibbetts doesn’t only act — she directed “Run-On Sentence” for SATE this spring. With Lucy Cashion, she co-directed a new adaptation of “Antigone” at the women’s prison in Vandalia, which was a collaboration between Saint Louis University and Prison Performing Arts.
As a co-producer, she is working on a new translation of “Doctor Faustus, or the Modern Prometheus” for SATE, which opens Oct. 31. She co-produced the second annual Aphra Behn Emerging Artists’ Festival with SATE this spring.
She also filmed a movie based on Anton Chekhov’s “Platonov” with ERA Theatre and Sleepy Kitty.
Theater takes up most of her waking life.
After earning a B.A. in theatre from Oklahoma State University, she found an internship opportunity with the Delaware Theatre Company’s education department.
“I had an interest in education as well,” she said, noting that she has worked with Young Audiences of St. Louis and is a graduate of the Community Arts Training Institute at the Regional Arts Commission in 2006-2007.
This year, she marked 13 years with Prison Performing Arts and is currently their Director of Youth Programs.
“It’s very much an honor to create and collaborate with the adult and youth artists in all of our facilities,” she said.
“I have been lucky enough to have always had a job in the arts since college, and I’m very grateful to make my living doing what I love to do,” she said.
Maggie Conroy and Rachel in ERA’s “Trash Macbeth” 2016She moved to St. Louis in 2003. After getting a divorce in 2006, she discovered SATE through her friend Kim. She accompanied her to a training session and met founder Margeau Baue Steinau, and two years later, she met another kindred spirit, founder Ellie Schwetye.
“I am the artist who I am and have had the opportunities I’ve had because of them,” she said.
She considers working with her SATE family “fun, exhilarating and challenging.”
“Ellie and I focus on creating an environment where people can experiment and have fun. It’s also extremely important to us to create a community where everyone – on stage and off – feel like both themselves and their work matter,” she said.
“And I’m really proud of the magic our coven creates – our coven being Ellie, myself, Bess Moynihan and Liz Henning (resident designers),” she said.
Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts accepting award for Best Ensemble – Comedy for “First Impressions” at 2018 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards. Photo by Gerry LoveShe and Ellie are the yin and yang.
“Ellie and I work well because we complement each other. We definitely are two different individuals in many ways, and I love that about us. It creates a relationship, both personal and professional, where we can continually grow from working with — and just knowing –each other,” she said.
Because wonder will always get us there.
Here are Rachel’s answers to our Take Ten Questions:
Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
I was obsessed with the movie “Annie” as a little girl. I had the red dress. We owned the record. I would wander around the house singing, “Amaya, Amaya, I love ya Amaya,” because I couldn’t pronounce the word tomorrow. My mom tells me that there are moments where she wanted to get rid of the record because I just wouldn’t stop, but she didn’t, and I am thankful.
My parents always encouraged me to pursue the arts.
They were always taking me to see plays and musicals, but beyond the doors of our homes (my dad was in the Air Force and we moved a lot), I was pretty shy. I finally started taking theatre classes in middle school. It really helped me find my voice and a community. I was lucky to have an incredible drama teacher in high school and she also encouraged me.
2, How would your friends describe you?
Recently, a very dear friend, described me as a love-magnet. I love this. I think they would also describe me as loopy and they know what they mean.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
“Watching the ‘Real Housewives’ and then gossiping about the Real Housewives with my friends Andrew and Carl, hanging at the Crow’s Nest with Bess.”
What is your current obsession?
“Stranger Things.” I can’t leave Target without purchasing a new t-shirt. I now have a one tee limit anytime I leave there. I love everything about that show because it reminds me of everything I loved about my childhood – “E.T.,” “The Goonies,” “Ghostbusters.”
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“I’m not afraid of spiders. And maybe that I’m 40.”
St. Louis Theater Circle Awards 2018, SATE winners of Best Ensemble – Comedy and Best New Play for “First Impressions”Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“In 2006, I got divorced and I was really searching for something, so a good friend of mine, Kim, invited me to join her for a Monday night training with Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble. Then, I met Margeau. And two years later, I met Ellie. I am the artist who I am and have had the opportunities I’ve had because of them.”
Who do you admire most?
“My mom and dad, Paul and Judy. They are the kindest people I know. And they make me laugh so much.”
What is at the top of on your bucket list?
“To see Kendrick Lamar in concert.”
What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?
“Eat cheese and drink margaritas at Mi Ranchito.”
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” with Mustard Seed Theatre – actor; “Doctor Faustus, or the Modern Prometheus” – co-producer; and “First Impressions” – directing a remount performance at the women’s prison in Vandalia, Mo.
Her parents are moving here in December, so she has that to look forward to, too.
The Cherry Sisters Revisited. Rachel is bottom row, middle.MORE ON RACHEL TIBBETTS
Name: Rachel TibbettsAge: 40Birthplace: Rapid City, South DakotaCurrent location: Where St. Louis City and Maplewood meetFamily: Paul and Jude, my parents, and my fur kids: Lyric, Monroe, and RubyEducation: B.A. in Theatre from Oklahoma State UniversityDay job: Director of Youth Programs for Prison Performing ArtsFirst job: Server at Simple Simon’s Pizza in Enid, Okla.First role: Cobweb in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”Favorite roles/plays: Effie/”The Cherry Sisters,” Every role in “R+J: A Telephone Play,” Horatio in “Remember Me,” Henrietta in “Silent Sky”Dream role/play: I don’t have one.Awards/Honors/Achievements: Best Ensemble in a Comedy for “The 39 Steps” (St. Louis Theater Circle) and SATE won “Best Production of a Comedy for “As You Like It” and Best Ensemble in a Comedy/Best New Play for “First Impressions.”
Favorite quote/words to live by: “Because wonder will always get us there…” – from Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky”
A song that makes you happy: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, and with modern technology we can listen to it whenever we want.
“Judgment at Nuremburg” with Joe Hanrahan. Photo by Joey Rumpell.