By Lynn Venhaus

As concerns for public health grows as the Coronavirus spreads in the U.S., many arts and entertainment events have been cancelled in the metropolitan St. Louis area. Some will be rescheduled. While others, in smaller venues, continue.

St. Louis City banned events with crowds bigger than 1,000 Thursday and St. Louis County announced Friday it is preventing crowds bigger than 250, effective immediately, until further notice.

Slowing the spread of COVID-19 is the utmost importance in making these decisions. Governors of Missouri and Illinois have declared states of emergency, as had the U.S. President on Friday.

Nationally, Broadway went dark and its 31 theatres announced they would be closed through Easter, which is April 12.

Dramatists Play Service, which holds the rights to many shows, has announced refunds to companies who have to cancel and also information regarding possibly live-streaming shows. For further information, visit https://www.dramatists.com/text/covid19cancellationpolicy.asp

Here is a list of what’s the latest news from local companies and venues, with the most up-to-date information as possible. It is best to check with a group before heading out as news can change fast.

Most companies released statements about how they have stepped up cleaning efforts and encouraging those feeling sick to stay home. They have also offered refund information. Check their social media and websites for current information.

On Thursday, the Fox Theatre announced postponement of all performances and tours through March 31.

“The Bachelor Live on Stage, scheduled for Friday, March 13 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory scheduled for March 17-29 will both be postponed.   Plans to reschedule are currently underway. Ticket holders should hold on to their tickets – they will be honored on the new dates,” statement said.

Decisions about other future shows will be made as they follow the evolving situation with the COVID-19 Virus and the City of St. Louis’ determination of the length of this prohibition, a spokesman said.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, on the campus of Webster University, is opening “The Cake” in the Studio Theatre March 13, and Friday evening announced that they would suspend all performances beginning Monday, March 16. They are postponing the opening of “Dreaming Zenzile,” set to open March 20, with hopes of rescheduling this summer.

This is a reversal of their announcement Wednesday that all their performances would continue. Here is the new statement:

“Following the declaration of a state of emergency in St. Louis County surrounding the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis must place the safety of its patrons, staff and artists above all other considerations.

Based on the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization’s recommendations against large group gatherings, The Rep has decided to cancel all performances and events beginning Monday, March 16 through the end of the season. We plan to postpone our Mainstage world premiere of Dreaming Zenzile, with the goal of mounting it this summer.

“We do not take this decision lightly, knowing that the communal connections made at public arts events are some of the strongest tools against the fears and anxieties of this moment. As we ride out this turbulent time together, we remain resolutely committed to the power of storytelling to change lives and uplift our shared humanity. Thank you for your understanding and for being a part of our Rep family. We look forward to welcoming you home again this summer.

We will be reaching out to ticketholders shortly via email, phone and/or text with more details regarding ticket options. For additional updates, stay tuned to repstl.org and our Facebook and Twitter feeds,” the statement said.

The Playhouse at Westport continues “Flanagan’s Wake” performances as planned. However, the company that owns the venue released a statement explaining their efforts.

“Our efforts in cleaning the venue have been stepped up and we will be disinfecting each seat, handrail and surface within the theatre prior to opening doors for each performance. Our bartenders will be wearing gloves, which will be changed frequently through the evening.

“In addition, Cushman & Wakefield, the property management for Westport Plaza has increased their efforts to assist in providing a safe environment for those that visit the Plaza. All public surfaces, from elevator buttons to escalator rails, to door handles and bathrooms are all being heavily sanitized multiple times throughout each day.

We, along with, many of you, are closely following and monitoring all reports issued from the CDC as well as our local and state governmental agencies and will adjust any and all protocol accordingly. At this time, all shows are playing as scheduled,” explained Sue Silverstein, vice president / general manager, Playhouse @ Westport Plaza

The Moolah Shrine have announced plans to reschedule the annual circus March 19-22 at Family Arena. Here is their statement:

For more than 78 years, the Moolah® Shriners have provided family entertainment to St Charles and St Louis region. As always, our focus has been the safety and well-being of families. After consulting with government health professionals and the Family Arena, We have decided to take strong but necessary actions to protect the health and well-being of all who plan on attending our circus.

As Shriners, we are about compassion and love; we help heal the sick, care for those in need. Our plans, for now, are to reschedule our 78th Moolah Shrine Circus for later this year. Thank you for your support, and we look forward to seeing you all later this year.

For further information, please refer to Moolah.org on Monday, March 16,” they noted.

William Roth, founder and artistic director of St. Louis Actors’ Studio, said they would offer their black box theater, The Gaslight Theatre, to performers in need of space during this pandemic.

“Many performers and band members have lost their incomes. The 100- seat Gaslight Theatre, based on availability, is offering itself up to bands whose gigs have been canceled. This offer is, of course, based on availability and the daily health regulations posted by the CDC and the local governments. As long as it’s legal we are an available venue,” Roth said. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

THE SHOW MUST GO ON
“Clybourne Park” at Alpha Players at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
The audience is limited to 200.

Note: “We are constantly disinfecting common surfaces as much as we can. We ask that high risk individuals (as defined by the CDC) or those that are exhibiting symptoms to refrain from entering the premises.”

“It’s Only a Play” at Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon, Ill. this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Note: “As of 12 March 2020 we have no intention to cancel any performances for It’s Only a Play. If we do, every effort will be made to give a minimum notice of 24 hours.”

Also, cleaning efforts stepped up and ticket refunds available.

“Flanagan’s Wake” at The Playhouse at Westport continue performances as planned, extended through April 11, with a special St. Patrick’s Day performance Tuesday.

Note: “Please be aware of your own health. If you are sick, or even questioning you are sick, please stay home. We will be happy to exchange your tickets for another performance. The top priority at the Playhouse @ Westport is the safety and the well-being of our guests, casts and employees.”

“Love Sex and the IRS” at Theatre Guild of Webster Groves this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at their theatre, Newport and Summit.

“On Golden Pond” at Kirkwood Theatre Guild this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 S. Geyer Road.

“The Philadelphia Story” at Clayton Community Center cancelled their opening night, March 12, but continue performances March 13 and 14 and at 2 p.m. March 15 in the Washington University South Campus Theatre.

“Return to Forbidden Planet” at KTK Productions in the St. John the Baptist gymnasium, 4200 Delor, this weekend and next (Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.)


“Head Over Heels” at New Line Productions at The Marcelle Theatre this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., sold out, and continuing Thursday through Saturday until March 28.

Note: “We hope to run as scheduled through March 28, but we’ll continue to monitor the news and re-assess as the situation evolves. If anyone has purchased tickets but is not feeling well, please stay home, rest up, and contact MetroTix for a refund. The usual “no refund” rule will not apply.”

POSTPONED
“The Bachelor Live on Stage” tour at The Fox Theatre March 13. Plans to be rescheduled.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” tour at The Fox Theatre March 17 – 29. To be rescheduled.

10th Annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition April 4 at The Fox Theatre. To be rescheduled.

CANCELLED
The Black Rep “Spell #7” at the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre. They had extended the run through this weekend, but cancelled it in light of the COVID-19 developments.

The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts at McKendree University
All events and performances (internal, hosted or rented) scheduled through June 1.
This includes:
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis “Cymbeline” (March 16), Young People’s Concert (March 19), TAO DRUM (March 24), The ReMINDers (April 6), and speaker, Ishmael Beah (April 15).

Patrons are offered the possibility of applying their tickets to a future event at the Hett, donating the ticket value to the University or contacting them for a full refund, less any original mailing fees.

Please contact the box office, during operating hours, to discuss your ticket disposition. The box office is open Monday – Friday from noon to 4 p.m.

College Performances Cancelled

“Cabaret” at Lindenwood University – St. Charles. Representatives will contact ticket holders on refunds.

“A Doll’s House” at Missouri Baptist University. Will transition to streaming. More information to follow.

By C.B. AdamsContributing WriterAct Inc.’s family-friendly production of Leaving Iowa, written by the multi-talented team of Tim Clue and Spike Morgan, feels like an adaptation of a personal essay. You know, the kind that appears around Father’s Day in the New York Times‘s Sunday Review with a title like, “Me and My Old Man.”

John Steinbeck took to the highways with his dog and ended up with a book called Travels With Charlie. Leaving Iowa, a memory play that weaves past and present, could just as well be titled Travels With My Dad — a mildly ironic title perhaps, given that the narrator of this play is carrying around his father’s memory and his burial ashes. 

Befitting its authors’ professional achievements as motivational speakers and improv/stand-up comedians, Leaving Iowa offers snappy, quick-paced and engaging dialogue that is well timed and sprinkled liberally with one-liners and other comedic accoutrements.

As an entertainment, it shares much with a good-quality sitcom in the vicinity of Home Improvement. It’s approach and themes are milder versions of those in A Christmas Story(movie or musical version), which was itself a softer version of humorist Jean Shepard’s novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.

Photo by John LambLeaving Iowa can feature as many as 27 performers by casting multiple character parts separately. Director Lori Renna nicely pared this production to just six by making use of the quick-changing talents of CeCe Day and John Emery.

Part of the fun of this production was anticipating whom Day and Emery would be playing the next time they emerged from the wings of the in-the-round stage at the Black Box Theater in Lindenwood’s J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts.The four other parts, played by John Reidy as Dad, Colleen Heneghan as Mom, Hunter Frederick as Don Browning and Amanda Brasher as Sis, also required the actors to portray their characters in the present and past. Hunter and Brasher delightfully transformed from young backseat nattering chatterboxes to their more mature but no less competitive adult counterparts. The play is projected through the lens of the son, Don Browning. Hunter’s likeable, identifiable and approachable portrayal of a son running the gamut of fond remembrances, regret and contrition hit his mark with ease every time.

Heneghan and Reidy as Mom and Dad respectively provided a solid base from which the rest of the play revolves. After all, doesn’t it seem like our parents never change? This was especially true as veteran actor Reidy play Dad both as a real live character as well as a tingle-inducing memory-ghost in some scenes.

As the actors bopped from scene to scene along the play’s extended time line, their efforts were well supported by the staging provided by Lori Potts, scene design by Tim Grumich, lighting design by Michael Sullivan , costume design by Jane Sullivan and sound design by Kaitlynn Ferris. To this team’s credit, all of these elements  were quietly woven into the play and provided just the right of effect to convey each scene. Sometimes, as in this case, not standing out is outstanding — and the right directorial choice.More than once, the family in Leaving Iowa piles into an imaginary car and hits a road that is sometimes metaphorical and sometimes actual. As the play ends, with Don finally finding an appropriate resting place for his father’s ashes, its resolution leaves the audience with a feeling both wistful, amused, satisfied, and…well, happy. You know that look a dog has with its head sticking out the window of a moving car, as if its smiling?Yeah, Leaving Iowa leaves you like that. 

Photo by John LambAct Inc. presents “Leaving Iowa” June 14 through June 22. Performances June 21-22 are Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Emerson Black Box Theatre at J. Scheidegger Cener for the Arts on the Lindenwood campus in St. Charles. For more information or tickets, visit www.actincstl.com

By CB AdamsContributing Writer

“Travels With My Aunt,” a 1969 novel by Graham Greene and adapted into this play by Scotsman Giles Havergal, is 10 pounds of story stuffed into an evening clutch bag. The micro-synopsis of the globe-trotting plot is that it involves the tentacled way a flamboyant octogenarian aunt tractor-beams her nephew, a stuffy retired banker with a penchant for raising dahlias, into the intrigue of her nefarious-but-not-really shenanigans.

It’s a farcical, preposterously picaresque and broad play with too much set up and a rushed conclusion. The Brits (think Monty Python to Benny Hill), have a special knack for this kind of silly comedy – the kind that breezes along asking for little of the audience, aims for titters rather than guffaws, and reveals English culture for all its myopic, stiff-upper-lip foibles.

Photo by John Lamb

It’s also the type of script that actors and directors find irresistible. And who can blame them — the men, anyway? The four-man ensemble gets to practice (and practice and practice) their British accents (plus a few other world dialects) while quick-changing into the play’s 25 male and female characters at the drop of hat, or a wig or a mustache or fedora, as required. No wonder Greene’s story has been adapted into this play, a radio play, a movie (directed by George Cukor, no less) and a musical a few years back. If he were still alive, “Travels” would have made a terrific one-man show starring Robin Williams at his maniacal, hyperactive best.

Lindenwood University’s summer repertory theatre, ACT INC’s
production of “Travels With My Aunt,” directed by Emily Jones, provides a
theater experience with a dutiful, earnest exuberance comprising one part “the
old college try” and one part “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” This manly ensemble
adroitly transitions among the play’s characters while keeping the action
moving breezily along.

The strength of this production is in this ensemble, rather
than the four individual actors – Anthony Wininger, Ted Drury, Jake Blonstein
and Timothy Patrick Grumich – who are (to their credit) interchangeable. This
interchangeability at its best is fun to watch, and requires an impressive
range of physicality and improv-like energy. The biggest laugh of the night was
the creation of a men’s restroom, complete with two urinals, using two stacks
of suitcases. At its worst, this interchangeability leaves one with a
linguistic hangover that sounds like four bland, generic degrees of Dame Edna
Everage.

Staging this relatively short one-act in the round was certainly
a highlight. The compass-like octagonal stage was a clear and effective way to
anchor each actor with his trunk filled with props, and enabled each to move
about as the action demanded. The minimal lighting was unobtrusive in the best possible
way and put the emphasis of each scene on the actors’ abilities. Likewise, the
sound design was restrained and tasteful.

Unlike the aunt in the title, this play isn’t aging well or
all that interestingly, which begs the question of why ACT INC has revisited
this script. The jokes about marijuana and sexual promiscuity (and even the
occasional profane language) land rather like quaint quips instead of the edgy bon
mots that they may have been in 1969. Some timing misfires and line flubs
notwithstanding, the obvious talents within ACT INC deserve a better vehicle.
To coin an old advertising slogan, this isn’t Greene done right, it’s merely a
trifle – Greene done “lite.”

Photo by John Lamb “Travels With My Aunt” continues at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts, Lindenwood University, June 22-23.

By Lynn VenhausManaging EditorAnd down the stretch we come! In the waning days of February, our shortest month, dusk is getting later and sure signs of spring are upon us. We can stay indoors for awhile longer — the weather is still frightful — but what awaits us inside a theater is juicy entertainment. Whether you are in the mood for taut political dramas (“Farragut North,” “Oslo”) or classic Arthur Miller (“The Crucible”) or goofy foul-mouthed puppets, the St. Louis stages are showcasing some mighty fine talent.Some local college theater departments are presenting classics, with Lindenwood taking on “Our Town” and St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley is tackling Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Washington University is presenting the first part of “Angels in America.” Such ambition! Such enthusiasm! Catch it — Go See a Play!

FRIDAY, FEB. 1, 2019 – This is a promotional photo for “Angels in America” by Washington University’s Performing Arts Department. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL Photos “Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches”Washington University Performing Arts Department Feb. 22 – March 3Thursdays and Fridays at 7 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 p.m.Edison Theatre314-935-6543www.pad.artsci.wustl.eduWhat It’s About: Tony Kushner’s epic play focuses on politics, sex and religion, switching between realism and fantasy, dealing with the tragedy of AIDS to very spiritual territory.

Director: Henry SchveyStarring: Louis Gordon and Alex Knapp are Prior and Louis, and Nathan Wetter and Stephanie Wright are Joe and Harper. Stephen Reaugh is Roy Cohn. Justin Wright is Prior’s ex-lover Belize, a nurse and former drag queen. Jacque Randolph is the Angel, Kelley Abell is Hannah, Joe’s mother. Helen Fox fills a variety of roles.

“Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport Plaza Jan. 25 – March 17 (extended run) www.playhouseatwestport.com

What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with
heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a
college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account.
He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s
purpose.

Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie
Mueller

Starring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer
Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

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

“By the Way…Meet Vera Stark” Feb. 13 – 24 Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Centerwww.webster.edu/conservatory/season 314-968-7128

What It’s About: A new comedy from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Lynn Nottage, this draws upon the screwball films of the 1930s to take a funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood. “By the Way…Meet Vera Stark” is a 70-year journey through the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African-American maid and budding actress, and her tangled relationship with her boss, a white Hollywood star desperately grasping to hold on to her career.

Photo by John Lamb“The Crucible” Stray Dog Theatre Feb. 7 – 23 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; special 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Feb. 17. Tower Grove Abbey 2336 Tennessee www.straydogtheatre.org 314-865-1995

What It’s About: Lies. Betrayal. Lust. In 1690s
Salem, a young girl leads a Puritanical purge of witchcraft against a local
farmer and his wife. As fear and excitement grow in the town, the accusations
grow more ferocious and terrifying, until no one is safe, and the truth is
obscured completely. Written by Arthur Miller and winner of the 1953 Tony Award
for Best Play.

Starring: John Proctor: Graham Emmons, Elizabeth Proctor:
Cynthia Pohlson, Abigail Williams: Alison Linderer, Mercy Lewis: Sienna DeSuza,
Rebecca Nurse: Suzanne Greenwald, John Danforth: Joe Hanrahan, Ezekiel Cheever:
Charles Heuvelman, John Hathorne: Jonathan Hey, Ann Putnam: Laura Kyro, Francis
Nurse: Chuck Lavazzi, Susanna Walcott: Zoe Liu, Giles Corey: Gerry Love, Hopkins
: Michael Maskus, Sarah Good: Liz Mischel, Thomas Putnam: Tom Moore, John
Willard: Stephen Peirick, Rev. Samuel Parris: Ben Ritchie, Betty Parris: Avery
Smith, John Hale: Abraham Shaw, Mary Warren: Chrissie Watkins and Tituba: Kelli
Wright.

Photo of Spencer Sickmann and Hollyn Gayle by Patrick Huber. “Farragut North” St. Louis Actors’ Studio Feb. 8 – 24 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m. Gaslight Theatre 358 North Boyle Metrotix.com 314-458-2978www.stlas.org

What It’s About: Stephen Bellamy is a wunderkind press secretary who has built a career that men twice his age would envy. During a tight presidential primary race, Stephen’s meteoric rise falls prey to the backroom politics of more seasoned operatives. “Farragut North” is a timely story about the lust for power and the costs one will endure to achieve it. Director: Wayne Salomon Starring: Spencer Sickmann, Peter Mayer, David Wassilak, Shannon NaraThe West End Grill and Pub will be open before and after the performances for drinks.

“The Hundred Dresses” Metro Theatre Company Feb. 3 – Feb. 25 The Grandel Theatre Metrotix.com www.metroplays.org

What It’s About: Wanda Petronski, the new girl in Room 13,
is a Polish immigrant who lives in a shabby house and doesn’t have any friends.
Every day she wears the same faded blue dress, but tells her new class-mates
that she has a hundred dresses at home. Her classmates tease Wanda about her
hundred dresses until one day she disappears from school. As guilt overtakes
the children, they decide to find out what happened to Wanda and to make
amends. But is it too late? Bullying, friendship and forgiveness are at the
center of this play adapted from the beloved Newbery Honor Book by Eleanor
Estes.

Of Note: Eleanor Estes wrote down her childhood memories while recovering from tuberculosis and became a children’s author. Her many published works are widely read; but “The Hundred Dresses” continues to be the most popular, remaining in print since its publication in 1944. It was awarded the Newbery Honor in 1945. Speaking about “The Hundred Dresses” Eleanor Estes said, “I am holding up a mirror, and the scene reflected in the mirror is a true image of childhood, and the mirror, besides reflecting, also speaks and echoes the clear, profound, unpremeditated utterances, thoughts, and imageries of these children. I like to make children laugh or cry, to be moved in some way by my writing.

Justis Drakes “Milk Like Sugar”The Black RepFeb. 13 – March 3Hotchner StudioWashington Universitywww.theblackrep.org

What It’s About: Milk Like Sugar is an astute gut-wrenching observation of the impact of racism on African American youth. We see the cyclical nature of inherited trauma, the normalization of underfunded communities, the dire need for education that nurtures latent talent, childhood hunger, the categorization of Black youth as adults, and the injustice of the criminal system. The myth of self-determination and seeing those who cannot escape their circumstance as inferior is keeping us for mobilizing and tithing whatever time and talent we might have to give into those communities. This play affirms these children need us, just as much as we need them.

Photo by Peter Wochniak

“Oslo” Feb. 8 – March 3 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 130 Edgar Road, St. Louiswww.repstl.org 314-968-4925 What It’s About: The winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play, this play by J.T. Rogers is set in 1993, when two bitter enemies shocked the world by shaking hands and agreeing to work towards peace. “Oslo” finds the unlikely story behind the historic event. The drama explores the secretive and precarious negotiations that made that moment possible and focuses on the Norwegian couple who brokered talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Director: Steven Woolf Starring: Jim Poulos, Kathleen Wise, Rajesh Bose, Ben Graney, Jerry Vogel, Michael James Reed, Amro Salama, John Rensenhouse, Michelle Hand, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Jeff Cummings, Jim Shankman, Chaunery Kingsford Tanguay, Jack Theiling and Tom Wethington. Of Note: “Oslo” is recommended for adult audiences. The show contains strong adult language and weighty discussions about global politics and diplomatic relations.

“Our Town”Lindenwood UniversityFeb. 21 – 23 at 7:30 p.m.Scheidegger Center for the Arts, St. Charles campuswww.lindenwood.edu

What It’s About: Thornton Wilder’s timeless drama of life in the mythical village of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, has become an American classic with universal appeal. It first appeared on Broadway in 1938.

Director: Patrice Foster

“The Rat Pack is Back” Friday, February 22, at 7:30 p.m.. The Fox Theatre 527 North Grand in Grand Centerwww.fabulousfox.comWhat It’s About: This spirited show recreates one of the famous “Summit at the Sands” nights when the swingin’, ring-a-ding group known as “The Rat Pack” was creating hipster legend with a free-wheeling, no-holds-barred nightclub act starring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop.

“A Streetcar Named Desire”St. Louis Community College at Florissant ValleyFeb. 21 – 24Fisher Theatre, 3400 Pershall Road www.stlcc.edu/fv/

“Transluminate”The Q Collective Feb. 21 – 23Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drivehttps://theqcollective.theater

What It’s About: A short-play festival and celebration of transgender, agender, non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid artists.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Fa la la la la! Local stages are the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season. We have merry, bright and thoughtful holiday productions opening and continuing, so pick from the pile of presents under the tree – “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” “A Christmas Story,” “All is Calm.” “Away in a Basement: Church Basement Ladies Christmas” and a “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” parody.
Comedies and dramas are presented by college theater departments: “The Crucible” at Saint Louis University, “Beyond Therapy” at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and “The Three Sisters” at Webster University.
For adult comedies pondering life, “Every Brilliant Thing” wraps up its run, “An Act of God” starts.
You are certain to find something that suits your tastes. Go see a play!
Alan Knoll in “An Act of God.” Photo by Eric Woolsey“An Act of God”
New Jewish Theater
Nov. 29 – Dec. 16
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Wool Studio Theatre
Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus, Creve Coeurwww.newjewishtheatre.org
314-442-3283.
What It’s About: Delivering a new and improved set of Commandments, God’s introduction of the revised laws is positive, insisting on separation of church and state, and encouraging us to believe in ourselves, not some elderly white guy in the sky. He sets the record straight, and he’s not holding back.
Director: Edward Coffield
Starring: Alan Knoll
 
“All Is Calm”Ann K Photography“All Is Calm”
Mustard Seed Theatre
Nov. 15 – Dec. 16
Thursdays through Sundays
Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre
6800 Wydown Blvd.www.mustardseedtheatre.com
314-719-8060
What It’s About:  Celebrate the power of peace in this acapella musical based on the true story of soldiers during World War I who for one night, put down their arms and played soccer instead of exchanging bullets.
Director: Deanna Jent
 “Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas”The Playhouse @ Westport
Nov. 8 – Jan. 6
635 Westport Plaza in Maryland Heightswww.playhouseatwestport.com
MetroTix: www.metrotix.com or 314-534-1111
What It’s About: An all-new holiday show is set in 1959, on the day of the Sunday School Christmas Program. During holiday preparations, the down-to-earth ladies are creating their own memories from Christmases past and present. Content to do things the way they have always been done, yet pondering new ideas, the reality of everyday life hits home as they plan the Sunday School Christmas Program.
As the children rehearse in the sanctuary, several of the ladies are in the kitchen finishing up the treat bags filled with apples, peanuts and ribbon candy while the others put the final touches on the nativity pieces. As they mend old bathrobe costumes, discuss the politics of who’s going to play the various roles, little do the ladies know what surprises are in store for them.
Known for their hilarious antics and subtle charm, they are once again called upon to step in and save the day!
Directors: Lee Anne Mathews and Emily Clinger, with music direction by Joseph Dreyer
Cast: Rosemary Watts, Lee Anne Mathews,
Of Note: Performances are Sundays and Tuesdays at 2 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 2 p.m., Saturdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Additionally, tickets will be available at the Playhouse @ Westport Plaza box office one hour prior to show time. Groups of 10 or more can call 314-616-4455 for special rates.
All five installments of the musical comedy “Church Basement Ladies” are inspired by the books of author/humorists Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson, including the bestseller “Growing Up Lutheran.”
“Beyond Therapy”
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Nov. 28 – Dec. 2
Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Dunham Hall Theater
618-650-2774
www.siue.edu
“A Christmas Carol”
Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Lindenwood University
Schediegger Center for the Arts, St. Charleswww.lindenwood.edu
What It’s About: An annual tradition, presenting Charles Dickens” “A Christmas Carol,” timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey through time and space, forced to confront his past, present and future through the aid of his spiritual guides.
“A Christmas Story”
Curtain’s Up Theater
Nov. 29 – Dec. 2
Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Alfresco Art Center, 2401 Delmar in Granite City
www.curtainsuptheater.com

 
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Nov. 28 – Dec. 23
Mainstage, Loretto-Hilton Centerwww.repstl.org
314-968-4925
What It’s About: “You’ll shoot your eye out”! An adaptation of the classic holiday film, “A Christmas Story” is about Ralphie Parker’s quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Filled with small-town family vignettes and colorful characters,
Director: Seth Gordon
Starring: Charlie Matthis, as nine-year-old Ralphie, and Ted Deasy, as the grown-up Ralph who narrates the play.
Brad Fraizer is The Old Man, Laurel Casillo is Mother, Spencer Slavik is younger brother Randy, Jo Twiss is Miss Shields. Tanner Gilbertson, Gigi Koster, Ana McAlister, Rhadi Smith and Dan J. Wolfe are featured child performers.
Of Note: The show had an acclaimed run at The Rep in 2009. “A Christmas Story”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
“The Crucible”
St. Louis University Theatre
Nov. 29 – Dec. 2
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Xavier Hall, 3373 West Pine Mall
314-977-3327www.slu.edu/utheatre
Tickets through Metrotix.com or 314.534-1111 or at the door
What It’s About:  The 1953 Tony Award winner for Best Play is a powerful drama about the Salem witch trials. The story of one Puritan community reveals the destruction caused by mass hysteria and socially sanctioned violence.
Director: Lucy Cashion
“Every Brilliant Thing”R-S Theatrics
Nov. 16 – Dec. 2
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.
Kranzberg Arts Center black box theatre
www.r-stheatrics.com
What It’s About: When a six-year-old starts a list of every brilliant thing in life to encourage her despondent mother, little does she know that the list will take on a life of its own and thread its way throughout the girl’s life. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this one-woman show reminds us to celebrate the beauty in our lives and in those we love.
Starring: Nancy Nigh
Ron james photo“The Holiday Stop-Motion Extravaganza Parody”
Nov. 30 – Dec. 8
St. Louis Shakespeare’s Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre
Regional Arts Commission,  in University City
Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 – 8 p.m. show; Dec. 2 – 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 5 and 6, 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8, 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3739606
What It’s About: Join Rudolph, Santa, Hermey, Bumble, the Miser Bros and other wonderful misfits as they parody your favorite 1970s childhood holiday shows by Rankin/Bass. If you’ve ever had aspirations of becoming a dentist, this parody is for you! This parody includes: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “The Year Without Santa Claus.”
Director: Suki Peters
Of Note: Magic Smoking Monkey is partnering with Shriner’s Hospital to help make the holidays merry and bright for children in the St. Louis area.  Bring a new, unwrapped toy to the box office with you on any night of the performance to be entered in a special drawing to win 4 tickets to a future Magic Smoking Monkey production.
 “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Wentzville Christian Church Theatre Group
Nov. 29 – Dec. 1
Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 6 p.m.
Wentzville Christian Church, 1507 Highway Zwww.wentzvillecc.org
What It’s About: In our American culture It’s a Wonderful Life has become almost as familiar as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The story is a natural for a stage adaptation: the saga of George Bailey, the Everyman from the small town of Bedford Falls, whose dreams of escape and adventure have been quashed by family obligation and civic duty, whose guardian angel has to descent on Christmas Eve to save him from despair and to remind him-by showing him what the world would have been like had he never been born-that his has been, after all, a wonderful life.
“It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Play”
Nov. 29 – Dec. 1
The Bankside Repertory Theatre Company                                                                                          The Jacoby Arts Center
627 E. Broadway in Alton
www.banksiderep.com
What It’s about: This beloved American holiday classic comes to captivating life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. With the help of an ensemble that brings a few dozen characters to the stage, the story of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve.
Starring: Spencer Sickman, Caitlin Mickey, Mindy Steinman Shaw, Scott Grady, Jack Dearborn, Steve Potter, Lorian Warford, Lorian Warford, Olivia Steele, and Nick Trapp.
“The Three Sisters”
Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts
Nov. 28 – Dec. 9
Wednesday through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center
Webster University campus.www.webster.edu
314-968-7128
What It’s About: Adapted by Sarah Ruhl, the Chekhov play is about three sisters trapped in a provincial Russian town after the death of their father, and lament the passing of better times and long for the excitement of Moscow. One of them has married a local teacher; another has become a teacher herself; the third has settled for a dull job in the local telegraph office. Their principal interest is focused on the officers of the local regiment, of which their father had been commandant, men who bring a sense of sophistication and the world outside to their suppressed existence. In the end the fateful pattern of their lives is made clear –their dreams will be denied but, despite all, there must always be hope, however futile, and the ways of the world are to be accepted, if not understood
Actor Miles Barbee, provided photo“Tribes”
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Nov. 30 – Dec. 16
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Gaslight Theatre, 358 N. Boyle.
314-458-2978www.stlas.org
What It’s About: Billy was born deaf into a hearing family. He was raised inside its fiercely idiosyncratic and politically incorrect cocoon. He has adapted brilliantly to his family’s unconventional ways, but they’ve never bothered to return the favor. It’s not until he meets Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness, that he finally understands what it means to be understood.
Director: Annamaria Pileggi
Starring: Miles Barbee, who is deaf; Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Bridget Bassa, Elizabeth Townsend, Greg Johnston and Hailey Medrano.
Of Note: This comedy-drama by Nina Raine was staged in London in 2010 and off-Broadway in 2012, winning the Drama Desk Award for Best New Play.
William Roth, founder and artistic director of St. Louis Actors’ Studio, has announced that they will donate $2 of each ticket price to Deaf Inc, St. Louis. Deaf Inc is dedicated to providing effective communication access to the deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals in the St. Louis area. For more on this organization, visit www.deafinc.org.
Opening Night and all Sunday and Thursday performances will be sign-interpreted for our deaf patrons. Email [email protected] for details.
For more on Miles Barbee, visit www.milesbarbee.com.
Shannon Cothran and Alicia Reve Like“Wonderland: Alice’s Rock n Roll Adventure”
Metro Theatre Company
Dec. 2 – Dec. 30
The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in Grand Center
www.metroplays.org
What It’s About: Part rock concert, part theater, all of your favorite characters as Metro Theater Company presents this new, wild and wondrous take on Lewis Carroll’s beloved, poetic tale of self-actualization. A cast of actors/musicians plays an eclectic mix of everything from soul and rock to punk to ska as Alice chases through Wonderland in search of her own inner musical voice. A fun, hip, and refreshing fusion of music, theatre and poetry, it is the search for one’s authentic self, asking how can you march to the beat of your own drummer when you’re still writing the song? It places Alice in a strange, new world, where she conquers her fears and uses her musical skills to defeat the Jabberwock.