Writer-Director Helping Small Professional Theatre Sustainment Fund

By Lynn Venhaus
Cory Finley first came on my radar with “The Feast,” his original play that was produced by the St. Louis Actors’ Studio in fall 2017. Since then, he has received national acclaim for two films, “Thoroughbreds” and “Bad Education.” He is definitely one to watch.

Now he is giving back to the small theater company that gave him a shot by being one of the artists trying to help STLAS and others in St. Louis through the Small Professional Theatre Sustainment Fund. This was started to help these struggling companies pay their bills until they can safely re-open.

The coronavirus pandemic has threatened extinction for millions of small businesses all over the world, including theater companies, who will continue to be hit hard as they might not receive any funding in 2021, and if they do, it would be a small amount.

“The federal government has offered some help, but small professional theaters are not in line for major funding and the existing funding that relies on tax dollars is vanishing,” said William Roth, STLAS Founder and Artistic Director. “We decided to take matters into our own hands with the creation of the Small Professional Theatre Sustainment Fund and enlisted the help of well-known St. Louisans with careers in the arts.” 

By donating to the Fund, participants are automatically entered into a drawing to win a virtual hangout with Finley or other famous St. Louis artists Sterling K. Brown, Jon Hamm, Sam McMurray, Beau Willimon, or Neil LaBute (longtime friend of the St. Louis Actors’ Studio).

For every $75 donated to www.stlas.org/sustain, the participant’s name is placed into a drawing for 50 chances to win. The more a person donates, the better their chances are for winning. Contest ends Sept. 17 and the winner will be drawn on September 18.  

During the virtual meet-up, the winner will be able to discuss anything of interest with the artist—from acting tips and insights, to fans just wanting to spend a little quality time. Names will be drawn until all artists are spoken for. For official rules and regulations, please visit the FAQ page. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Finley wanted to get involved because he believes in their work and the mission they’re starting.

“I was lucky enough to have STLAS put on a production of my play ‘The Feast.’ I’m a huge fan of the work they’re doing and I’m very concerned about the health of theater in America generally in pandemic conditions. I think it’s a great initiative to help keep vital institutions alive,” Finley said. 

In a short-take review, I described the play this way: “One act, three actors, five genres, so says director John Pierson, who shrewdly realizes an eerie “Twilight Zone”-type mind game by Cory Finley of Clayton, Mo. The twisty-turny original play, only 65 minutes’ long, benefits from an accomplished trio of actors and Patrick Huber’s customary meticulous set and artful lighting design. Pierson’s crisp direction and keen sound design enhance the mysterious off-kilter quality.”

Pierson, a St. Louis actor, director and teacher, has been at John Burroughs School since 1993 and is chairman of the Theatre, Speech and Dance Department.

Finley, 31, a Burroughs graduate, is based in New York City, where he is a member of the Obie-winning Youngblood playwrights group at Ensemble Studio Theater. He received a commission from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation for playwrighting, and was the inaugural recipient of the Gurney Playwrights Fund for “The Feast,” which was presented first at The Flea Theater.

Three years ago this month, Finley’s play “The Feast” fit into the vision at The Gaslight Theatre, STLAS’ black-box home.

“STLAS is committed to bringing engaging theatrical experiences to our community of actors, writers, producers, filmmakers and all patrons of the arts; and to provide a strong ensemble environment to foster learning and artistic expression. Through the use of ensemble work, STLAS explore the endless facets and various themes of the human condition by producing existing and original collaborative theatre,” Roth said.

Finley received high praise for the film “Thoroughbreds,” which he adapted from his play and also directed. It was accepted for the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017, and nominated for the Audience Award in the Best of Next! competition. It played at the St. Louis International Film Festival that November. Sold to Focus Features for $5 million, the film opened in theaters in March 2018.

Finley wrote the crime-drama-dark comedy about two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut, who rekindled their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Then they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems — no matter what the cost. The cast included Anna Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke, and was the last film of Anton Yelchin, who died in a tragic accident at his home in June 2016. The film is dedicated to him.

Anton Yelchin, Cory Finley, Anya Taylor-Joy. Photo by

Indie Wire described the film as “Heathers meets American Psycho.” Rotten Tomatoes had a score of 86% and the critic consensus was: ” Thoroughbreds juggles genres with panache, delivering a well-written and refreshingly unpredictable entry in the teen thriller genre.”

In 2019, Finley scored a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay for “Thoroughbreds.” The annual awards, held since 1984, honor independent filmmakers working with small budgets. For more information on the film, visit www.thoroughbredsmovie.com

Last year, Finley directed “Bad Education,” which was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 and sold to HBO for $20 million. HBO aired it April 25 this year (Currently available in HBOMax catalog) and as of Sept. 8, it is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It is also available for rental or purchase on streaming platforms.

“Bad Education” is nominated for two Emmy Awards — Best Television Movie and Hugh Jackman for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. The Emmy Awards are Sunday, Sept. 20.

The film, based on a true story, focuses on the popular superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district as well as his staff, friends and relatives who become the prime suspects as the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history unfolds. Former Roslyn student Mike Makowsky wrote the screenplay based on the New York Magazine article “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker.

Finley said he was drawn to the script for several reasons.

“I thought the script had a really unique tone, a complex character at its center, and themes about greed, institutional failure and systemic corruption that spoke to me,” he said.

And working with the cast was a positive experience.

Jackman played Frank Tassone, who was sentenced to 4 to 12 years for the $11.2 million embezzling scheme, and Alison Janney played Pam Gluckin, an assistant superintendent who took part in the scheme.

“I was enormously lucky that my A-list cast all had the work ethic and humility of actors just starting off: particularly Hugh and Alison made my job incredibly easy and were intensely collaborative and open, as well as super-prepared,” Finley said.

He said he is not at liberty to divulge his next project just yet..

How has he been coping with the pandemic in New York?

“My partner is a medical resident who got pulled into the COVID ward right at the height of the pandemic, so I had a very intense view of the worst of it through her. But she’s now back home doing tele-health and things are much more normal,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have a job that I can do from home — the writing and prep parts of my job at least — and so I’m far less affected than many New Yorkers have been.”

What has he learned during this time of quarantine?

“It’s a total cliche, but I’ve learned how important a sense of social community is, and how badly we all need it back,” he said.

Cory FInley at Film Independent Spirit Awards. Photo by Kevin Mazur.

Q&A QUESTIONS FOR “TAKE TEN”
1. Why did you choose your profession? 
I always loved creating and managing made-up worlds: first pretend games, then Dungeons and Dragons, then school plays, then  directing film. 

2. How would your friends describe you?
Tall, polite, bad at remembering things, dad jokes, no sense of direction. 

3. How do you like to spend your spare time?
Playing basketball with great enthusiasm and minimal ability. 

4. What is your current obsession? 
Youtube chiropractic adjustment videos. Also, archived Firing Line videos of William F. Buckley debating prominent leftists of the 60s — Noam Chomsky, James Baldwin, Huey Newton. They show at once how far our politics have come and how little our discourse has changed. 

5. Who do you admire most?
In no particular order: Caryl Churchill, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lebron James. 

6. What is your favorite thing to do in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area?
Ted Drewes and the Tivoli Theatre.  

More to Know:
Name: Cory Finley
Age: 31
Birthplace: St. Louis, MO (Clayton, specifically)
Current location: Manhattan
Day job: Many years SAT/ACT tutoring
Favorite movies: Brief EncounterThere Will Be Blood

September 2020 will mark the beginning of St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s fourteenth season theme “Dramedy.”

As we continue our exploration of  human relationships, we present an offering of plays this season that tell stories of expectant families, existing relations and belief systems that we use to blame our choices and actions. Season 14 will make you think and laugh until you cry.

Our 2020-21 season:
And Baby Makes Seven by Paula Vogel
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, Annamaria Pileggi
September 18 – October 4, 2020 

Anna, Ruth and Peter await the arrival of their newborn child, but first they must rid the crowded apartment of their three imaginary children. 

“AND BABY MAKES SEVEN is a profound and clever comedy.” —Drama-Logue.

“What’s remarkable about BABY—a really lovely play—is the sense of innocence and optimism that rises from potentially dark subject matter.” —Philadelphia City Paper.

“AND BABY MAKES SEVEN is a hilariously inventive play. Playwright Vogel’s writing is witty and precise.” —Daily Californian.

“Filled with outrageous touches, AND BABY MAKES SEVEN offers one of those rare theatergoing opportunities where everything comes together in a string of magical moments. Be prepared to be enchanted seven times over.” —Austin American Statesman.

STRAIGHT WHITE MEN
By Young Jean Lee
Directed by Joanna Battles
December 4 – December 20, 2020 

When Ed and his three adult sons come together to celebrate Christmas, they enjoy cheerful trash-talking, pranks, and takeout Chinese. Then they confront a problem that even being a happy family can’t solve: When identity matters, and privilege is problematic, what is the value of being a straight white man?

“The signal surprise of STRAIGHT WHITE MEN, written by the ever-audacious Young Jean Lee, is that the play is not a full-frontal assault on the beings of the title…Ms. Lee’s fascinating play goes far beyond cheap satire, ultimately becoming a compassionate and stimulating exploration of one man’s existential crisis. Believe it or not, Ms. Lee wants us to sympathize with the inexpressible anguish of her protagonist, a middle-aged, upper-middle-class straight white man…[A] mournful and inquisitive play…” —The New York Times.

 “A prime example of dramaturgical normcore—that is, experimental plays dressing up like fourth-wall family dramas—[STRAIGHT WHITE MEN] tickles your soft aesthetic underbelly, before easing in the knife of reality…If Lee wants to dissect the conscience of our society’s most visible and powerful population, what better mode than living-room realism, sadly, our default theatrical setting? …However, if you expect deconstruction-prone Lee to break down this form through surreal flourishes or screwing with the frame, you may be surprised. Most shocking is the absence of shock. She’s too good a writer for the drama not to work on its own terms, and as such, the result is both emotionally satisfying…and unflinching in its critique of white-driven social justice.” —Time Out NY.

 “To cut to the obvious, STRAIGHT WHITE MEN is a loaded title…But the play turns out to have a disarming gentleness to it. Lee has more sympathy for her subject than scorn…STRAIGHT WHITE MEN is a family drama that on the surface looks fairly standard, but the play transcends psychological realism. Lee is wrestling with the meaning of straight white male privilege through characters who are self-conscious beneficiaries of an identity increasingly out of favor in 21st century America yet still, like it or not, in control.” —Los Angeles Times.

Hand To God by Robert Askins
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, John Pierson
February 19- March 7, 2021

After the death of his father, meek Jason finds an outlet for his anxiety at the Christian Puppet Ministry, in the devoutly religious, relatively quiet small town of Cypress, Texas. Jason’s complicated relationships with the town pastor, the school bully, the girl next door, and—most especially—his mother are thrown into upheaval when Jason’s puppet, Tyrone, takes on a shocking and dangerously irreverent personality all its own. HAND TO GOD explores the startlingly fragile nature of faith, morality, and the ties that bind us.

“The fearsome critter [Tyrone], who takes possession of a troubled teenager’s left arm in Robert Askins’ darkly delightful play really inspires goose bumps as he unleashes a reign of terror…But he’s also flat-out hilarious, spewing forth acid comedy that will turn those goose bumps into guffaws.” —The New York Times. 

“Furiously funny…Askins’ most impressive talent is his ability to make us laugh while juggling those big themes that make life so terrifying: death, depression, alcoholism, sexual guilt, emotional repression, religious hypocrisy and the eternal battle between your good puppet and your bad puppet.” —Variety. 

“A scabrously funny scenario that steadily darkens into suspense and Grand Guignol horror, this fiery clash of the id, ego and superego is also an audacious commentary on the uses of faith, both to comfort and control us.” —The Hollywood Reporter. 

“I don’t know which I want to do more: Sing Hallelujah—or wash its dirty little mouth out with soap. …Clearly a singular vision is at work here, with playwright Robert Askins venturing successfully into territory—satire—rich with potholes.” —Deadline. 

“HAND TO GOD is so ridiculously raunchy, irreverent and funny it’s bound to leave you sore from laughing. Ah, hurts so good.” —New York Daily News.

The Zoo Story/The Dumb Waiter
by Edward Albee/Harold Pinter 
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, Wayne Salomon
April 16 – May 2, 2021
Classic early one act plays by two giants of the theatre.  Edward Albee and Harold Pinter.

THE ZOO STORY – A man sits peacefully reading in the sunlight in Central Park. There enters a second man. He is a young, unkempt and undisciplined vagrant where the first is neat, ordered, well-to-do and conventional. The vagrant is a soul in torture and rebellion. He longs to communicate so fiercely that he frightens and repels his listener. He is a man drained of all hope who, in his passion for company, seeks to drain his companion. With provocative humor and unrelenting suspense, the young savage slowly, but relentlessly, brings his victim down to his own atavistic level as he relates a story about his visit to the zoo. 

“Edward Albee is a voice unparalleled in American theater.” —NY Times. 

“The dialogue crackles and the tension runs high.” —Associated Press. 

“Darkly comic and thrilling.” —Time Out NY.

THE DUMB WAITER: As the New York World-Telegram & Sun describes: “In the basement of a long-abandoned restaurant, two hired killers nervously await their next assignment. Barred from daylight and living public contact by the nature of their work, they expend their waiting time in bickering. So eerie is the situation that everything becomes comic, or grotesque, or both. Ben re-reading a newspaper and exclaiming in disbelief over the news items, Gus fussing with an offstage stove and offstage plumbing. Ben bludgeoning Gus into silence if he as much as mentions their work. Gus worrying that someone had slept in his bed. So then the ancient dumbwaiter comes to life, the suspense becomes almost unbearable—that expertly has Pinter put the nerves of his characters and audience on edge.”

“a distinguished gift for sheer, old-fashioned theatrical effectiveness, including the use of melodramatic suspense and the hint of sinister forces lying in ambush.” —NY Post

9th Annual LaBute New Theater Festival
July 9 – August 1, 2021
A Celebrated month-long festival of world premiere one-act plays.

ABOUT ST. LOUIS ACTORS’ STUDIO
 St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one of the leading professional theatres in the St. Louis. area, producing a four-show season of plays at our 97-seat Gaslight Theatre. STLAS collaborates with renown director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute to produce the LaBute New Theater Festival each July in St. Louis and each January in New York City. The festival is a one-act play competition for emerging professionals and high-school writers.

St. Louis Actors’ Studio will produce the 7th LaBute New Theater Festival. The Theater Festival will run at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle, home to St. Louis Actors’ Studio.

Professional and high school submissions were accepted October through December 2018. To be considered entries had to have no more than four characters, and be crafted specifically to exploit our intimate performance space (18′ x 18′ stage). Changes in scenery or setting should be achievable in a few seconds and with few major set moves. Our focus is on fundamental dramaturgy: plot, character, theme.

Professional, new, previously unproduced one act play submissions (45 minutes or less) included a letter of inquiry, a synopsis and a 10-page sample from the script.

Four winning plays by high school students will be presented in readings at 11 a.m. on July 20 at the Gaslight Theater. Admission to the reading free.

Six plays were chosen: One group to be performed in the first two weeks of July, the final group in the second two weeks. “Great Negro Works of Art,” a Midwest premiere from Mr. LaBute, will be performed every night for the run of the festival.

“We are thrilled that Neil will be working with us again. Lending his name and talents to foster new works in the theater is just another example of his generosity and commitment to the arts and we could not be more proud to host this ongoing event,” says William Roth, Founder and Producing Director of St. Louis Actors’ Studio.

Festival Creative Team

Neil LaBute – Film Director, Screenwriter and PlaywrightWilliam Roth – Actor, Founder, Artistic Director St. Louis Actors’ StudioJohn Pierson – STLAS Assoc. Artistic Director, Actor, Teacher English and Theatre Departments John Burroughs SchoolNathan Bush – Actor, Professor of Theatre Arts -Oregon State UniversityMichael Hogan – Actor, DirectorWendy Greenwood, Theater Instructor Parkway SchoolsFranki Cambeletta, Founder, Shift FilmsRyan Foizey, Actor, Founder, Theatre LabEdward Scott Ibur –Novelist, Director, St. Louis Literary Award, Associate Director of Dual Enrollment at St. Louis University, Director, Gifted Arts(Writers & Artist Project for Middle School & High School)Julie B. Schoettley – Documentary Film Editor, Script Development EditorElizabeth Helman – Actor, Writer, Director, Professor of Theatre Arts -Oregon State UniversityMaggie Doyle Ervin – English Department, John Burroughs SchoolPatrick Huber – Associate Director, St. Louis Actors’ Studio-Set Design and Lighting, Teacher Theater, Design and Architecture Mary Institute, Country Day Prep SchoolThe following is a list of finalists for the Festival:

July 5-14, Set One:

“Great Negro Works of Art” by Neil LaBute, Directed by John Pierson“Color Timer” by Michael Long (Alexandria, VA), Directed by Jenny Smith“Privilege” – by Joe Sutton (West Orange, NJ), Directed by Jenny Smitn“Kim Jong Rosemary” by Carter W. Lewis (Stl, MO) Directed by John PiersonJuly 20-29, Set Two:

“Predilections” by Richard Curtis (NY,NY) Directed by Wendy Greenwood  “Henrietta” by Joseph Krawczyk (NY,NY) Directed by Wendy Greenwood“Sisyphus and Icarus a Love Story” by William Ivor Fowkes (NY,NY) Directed by Wendy Greenwood“Great Negro Works of Art” by Neil LaBute, Directed by John PiersonHigh School Finalists:

Readings Saturday July 20, 2019 11 am FREE ADMISSION

“Razor Burn” by Theodore James Sanders (Houston, TX)“P.B and Gay” by Dylan Hasted (Glendale, CA)“Stressful Snacks” by Posey Bischoff (St. Louis, MO)“We’ll Go Down(In History)” by Ann Zhang (St. Louis, Mo)St. Louis Actors’ Studio (STLAS) strives to bring a fresh vision to theatre in St. Louis. Housed in The Gaslight Theater, a historic Gaslight Square, STLAS is committed to bringing engaging theatrical experiences to our community of actors, writers, producers, filmmakers and all patrons of the arts; and to provide a strong ensemble environment to foster learning and artistic expression.

WHEN:              July 5 – 28, 2019

Evening Performances – Thursday – Saturday at 8pm

Sundays at 3pm

WHERE:            The Gaslight Theater

358 N Boyle

St. Louis, MO 63108

TICKETS:           $30-Student Seniors, $35 Adult

Individual tickets are available for purchase through Ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers or Charge by Phone at 1-800-982-2787. Tickets will also be available at the theater box office one hour prior to performances.

For More Information call 314-458-2978 or visit stlas.org.

With the sort of clarity and theatrical density that only the two-hander can achieve, the season of exclusively two-character plays will journey through our most closely complex relationships: Mentor and Apprentice; Husband and wife; Mothers and Child.

Our 2019-20 season:

“Fifty Words” by Michael Weller

Directed by Associate Artistic Director John Pierson

September 20 – October 6, 2019 

While their nine-year-old son is away for the night on his first sleepover, Adam and Jan have an evening alone together, their first in years. Adam’s attempt to seduce his wife before he leaves on business the next day begins a suspenseful nightlong roller-coaster ride of revelation, rancor, passion and humor that explores a modern-day marriage on the verge of either a breakup or deepening love and understanding.

“Mr. Weller is a bold and productive dramatist.” —NY Times. 

“The best thing about Weller’s play is that it offers no easy answers for making a relationship work. Its shades of gray are less than comforting but realistic as husband and wife struggle to describe and resolve their complex feelings for each other.” —International Herald Tribune.

 

“A Life in the Theatre” by David Mamet 

Directed by John Contini

December 6 – December 22, 2019 

 Starring Founder/Artistic Director William Roth and Spencer Sickmann (Farragut North, The Feast, LaBute Festival)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Speed-The-Plow” takes us into the lives of two actors: John, young and rising into the first flush of his success; and Robert, older, anxious, and beginning to wane. Their short, spare, and increasingly raw exchanges reveal the estrangement of youth from age and the wider, inevitable and endless cycle of life, in and out of the theatre.

“A comedy about the artifice of acting… It is also about the artifice of living… An evening of pure theatre.” – The New York Times

“A comic masterpiece.” – New York Daily News

“The warmest and often the funniest play in town.” – New York Post

“[Mamet has] the most acute ear for dialogue of any American writer since J.D. Salinger.” – Village Voiceb

“Annapurna” by Sharr White

Directed by Associate Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi

February 14- March 1, 2020

After twenty years apart, Emma tracks Ulysses to a trailer park in the middle of nowhere for a final reckoning. What unfolds is a visceral and profound meditation on love and loss with the simplest of theatrical elements: two people in one room. A breathtaking story about the longevity of love.

“Sharr White’s ANNAPURNA is a comic and gripping duet…The closer [the characters] get to understanding what drove them apart, the more engrossed we become in watching them draw together.” —San Francisco Chronicle. 

“What if you had experienced the defining moment of your life—but couldn’t remember it? Sharr White’s remarkable two-person play ANNAPURNA…deals with just that dilemma, as well as other imponderables such as the vagaries of love and the philosophical clarity of impending death.” —LA Times.

 “…at the heart of each character is a lyricism that simply can’t be suffocated. Sharr White has created two fine and ferociously damaged people caught in the emotional whirlpool of not being able to live with or without each other.” —Huffington Post. 

“White’s poetry is endearing and quite lovely, and his dialogue is sharp, funny and consistently very honest…”—BroadwayWorld.com.

“Comfort” by Neil LaBute

Directed by Associate Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi

April 17-May 3, 2020

A new play by STLAS friend and associate Neil LaBute in which a successful author and her son meet after some time apart and revisit their troubled relationship. What’s at stake? Whether or not the instinctive bond between mother and child can survive not just the past, but also two new book deals.

“Mr. LaBute is writing some of the freshest and most illuminating American dialogue to be heard anywhere these days.” —NY Times. 

“No contemporary writer has more astutely captured the brutality in everyday conversation and behavior: That kind of insight requires sensitivity and soul-searching.” —USA Today.

 “It is tight, tense and emotionally true, and it portrays characters who actually seem part of the world that the rest of us live in.” —Time. 

ABOUT ST. LOUIS ACTORS’ STUDIO St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one of the leading professional theatres in the St. Louis. area, producing a four-show season of plays at our 97-seat Gaslight Theatre. STLAS collaborates with renown director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute to produce the LaBute New Theater Festival each July in St. Louis and each January in New York City. The festival is a one-act play competition for emerging professionals and high-school writers.

St. Louis Actors’ Studio is thrilled to announce that Annamaria Pileggi will join the organization as Associate Artistic Director.

She joins Founder/Artistic Director William Roth and fellow Associate Artistic Director John Pierson. She assumes her new role immediately, and in addition to her duties in artistic administration—including casting and future season planning—Anna will continue to direct during the company’s regular season.

Anna has already directed twice for STLAS, and both productions — this season’s Tribes and last season’s Blackbird — are nominated for multiple Theater Circle Awards. 

Anna is a Professor of the Practice in Drama at Washington University in St. Louis who has been on the faculty of the Performing Arts Department since 1991. She is a five-time recipient of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Award recognizing excellence in teaching.  Pileggi directs and teaches courses in Acting, Movement, Musical Theatre, and Theatre for Social Change. She also serves as an administrator and acting instructor for the department’s Shakespeare Globe Program in London.

Pileggi has an MFA in acting from Brandeis University.  In addition to her teaching, Pileggi has directed professionally at many St Louis theatres, including, New Jewish, Max & Louie Productions, Onsite, That Uppity Theatre, Muddy Waters, Dramatic License, and HotCity.

She was also on staff at HotCity as an Associate Director and Co-Producer of the theatre’s Greenhouse New Play Development Series from 2007 until the company’s closing in 2014.

ABOUT ST. LOUIS ACTORS’ STUDIO St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one of the leading professional theatres in the St. Louis. area, producing a four-show season of plays at our 97-seat Gaslight Theatre. STLAS collaborates with renown director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute to produce the LaBute New Theater Festival each July in St. Louis and each January in New York City. The festival is a one-act play competition for emerging professionals and high-school writers.