A Late Summer Night’s Stroll: An Interactive Walk Experience in Forest Park Will Be Offered Aug. 12 – Sept. 6

Producing Artistic Director Tom Ridgely has officially announced the postponement of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” its 20th Anniversary Shakespeare in the Park production, as well as “Shakespeare in the Streets: The Ville” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Bruce Longworth, has been rescheduled for the 2022 summer season, and “Shakespeare in the Streets: The Ville”, written by Mariah Richardson and directed by Thomasina Clarke, will take place in September 2021. Final dates will be announced at a later time.

“In the end, it boiled down to the safety of the artists,” Ridgely said in a statement. “The actors’ union hired a very well-qualified epidemiologist to assess the situation, and their determination was that it just wouldn’t be safe to return to work this summer. We wish it could be otherwise, but we have to trust the experts and not take any chances when it comes to people’s health and well-being. We’ll be back though, and we’re already looking forward to how good it will feel when we can all be together again.”

The Festival will spend the additional time investing in The Ville, working closely with 4the Ville and Young Friends of the Ville, its partner organizations on Shakespeare in the Streets.

Mariah Richardson

“I am saddened about the delay but excited about the extra time and opportunity to really learn about the residents of the Ville. Their story is rooted in the earliest history of our city. And a story crying out to be heard,” said playwright Mariah Richardson.

The Festival is continuing to collect stories from current and past residents of the neighborhood and encourage anyone with a connection to submit via mail, email or phone. Details and questions are available at stlshakes.org/theville.

“A Late Summer Night’s Stroll”

In lieu of the original scheduled 20th-anniversary production of Shakespeare in the Park, the Festival is offering a new socially-distant walking experience in Forest Park. A LATE SUMMER NIGHT’S STROLL, loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will take guests on a 90-minute walk through some of the park’s most iconic spots and hidden gems.

The STROLL will use music, dance and visual art to offer a new and surprising way of experiencing both the story and the park. “Midsummer is one of the most magical and beloved plays in all of world drama. It follows the flight of four lovers into the woods and the night of lyrical transformations that drive them apart and back together again – capped by the famous and hilarious “play-within-a-play” put on by local tradesmen,” says Ridgely.

“This experience will put the walkers at the center of the story.” A LATE SUMMER NIGHT’S STROLL run evenings, Tuesday-Sunday, August 12 to September 6. Groups will be limited to 10 and under with scheduled start times to maintain social distance. The walk is free, but registration is required and will open to the public on Monday, July 13. Suggested donations are $20, and post-walk picnics will be available at an additional charge. “In this time when safe, fun, out-of-home experiences have been almost impossible to come by, we hope to create an activity that allows the people of St. Louis to reconnect with the city and each other in an act of engagement and shared pleasure,” concludes Ridgely.

More information will be available online at www.stlshakes.org/stroll. Leadership support for 2020’s Shakespeare in the Park programming is provided by The Whitaker Foundation, Emerson, The Bellwether Foundation, Edward Jones, Enterprise Holdings Foundations, The Strive Fund, the Missouri Arts Council, The Trio Foundation of St. Louis, Buckingham Asset Management, and the Regional Arts Commission.

The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of impactful theater in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community. The festival’s artistic and education programs reached over 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and have reached over one million since 2001. In 2019, the Festival received a “What’s Right with the Region” award from Focus St. Louis

Love at the River’s Edge , the latest new work from Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ internationally recognized Shakespeare in the Streets initiative, will open on Friday, September 13, 2019. The world premiere play is based on Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and is the culmination of a year’s work in Calhoun County, Illinois and north St. Louis County, Missouri. It is part of Shakespeare Festival’s ongoing work to bridge the urban-rural divide and elevate the voices of Midwest artists and residents. Love at the River’s Edge opens with one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” The players are Midwestern families and their journey of love, community and reconciliation will take audience members from Pagedale, Mo. to Calhoun County, Ill., with the mighty Mississippi in a starring role. The performances will begin at 7 p.m. outside the 24:1 Coffee House/Cafe at the intersection of Page and Ferguson.

After Act 1, the cast and audience will journey together by bus and on the Golden Eagle Ferry from north St. Louis County, across the river to Calhoun County. The second act of the production will take place on the riverbank with the Mississippi River as the backdrop. The entire experience including travel will take approximately three hours and 30 minutes. Tickets will be free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended and will open on Aug.15.

“Love at the River’s Edge” is written by acclaimed St. Louis playwright Mariah Richardson , directed by Kathryn Bentley , and shares stories from Normandy, Mo. and Brussels, Ill. The two partner communities and their surrounding counties are the Festival’s first-ever urban/rural Shakespeare in the Streets collaboration. Bentley and Richardson will be joined on the creative team by musicians Syrhea Conaway and Colin McLaughlin who will be composing original music for the production and Kendrick Lawson-Knight (Set Designer), Felia Davenport (Costumes) and Jayson M. Lawshee (Lighting Designer).

The ensemble cast is comprised of professional actors and community members and is led by local students. Included in the cast are Brussels High School graduate Lindsey Watters (Rosalind), Normandy High School student Margaret Mischeaux (Cee Cee), Brussels High School student Ellie Nolte (Phoebe), and Shakespeare Squadron alumnus Daniel Clear (Oliver). Other notable cast: Normandy High School teacher Lisa “Mama Lisa” Gage (Duchess), acclaimed St. Louis jazz singer and actress Anita Jackson (Adam), Shakespeare Festival favorite Eric Dean White (Wittmond), Shakespeare in the Streets veteran Chris Ware (Jackson) and other natives of the St. Louis, Brussels and Normandy community.

Students from Brussels High School and Normandy Schools Brussels High School student and cast member Ellie Nolte has been working on the project for the last year, “What I think is so great about this project is how we’ve been given the chance to work with people from Normandy and bridge the gap between our school and theirs. I personally really enjoy having the opportunity to work with kids my age who come from such a different background and connect with them because of our differences rather than in spite of them. It’s truly amazing how quickly I became close to these people I had never met, never even imagined meeting, and now I’m very glad I did.” “Social division and fragmentation are the most serious challenges facing our generation,” said Executive Producer Tom Ridgely in a statement. “And nowhere is the divide as wide as it often feels between our urban and our rural communities. It’s a rift Shakespeare knew intimately – he spent his entire adult life moving between the country and the city. Shakespeare in the Streets has always been about breaking down the barriers that separate us in St. Louis, and I can’t think of a more powerful way to do that than by breaking bread and sharing the stories of our good neighbors in Normandy and Brussels.” Richardson, Bentley and the SITS creative team have been working in Calhoun County and north St. Louis County since early 2018: building relationships, leading conversations and collaborating with residents to create the new play. Organizational partners include Beyond Housing, Brussels High School and the Normandy Schools Collaborative. “We are simply thrilled to be a part of this innovative, one of a kind event that brings Shakespeare in the Streets to the 24:1 footprint,” said Chris Krehmeyer, President and CEO of Beyond Housing. “Linking our community with the folks from Brussels, Ill., is a great representation of how our region can come together.” 24:1 is a nationally-recognized community development effort created by Beyond Housing toaddress the fundamental challenges within the 24 municipalities in the Normandy school district in North St. Louis County.

Page and Ferguson intersection, where the play will be performed. Shakespeare in the Streets is underwritten by PNC Arts Alive with generous support from the Whitaker Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts: Creativity Connects, the Strive Fund, and Moneta Group. Leadership support for all of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ new work initiatives comes from Karen and Mont Levy. It is in partnership with Beyond Housing, the Normandy Schools Collaborative and Brussels High School. Shakespeare in the Streets ( www.sfstl.com/streets ) is an internationally-recognized program that celebrates local stories and takes high-quality professional arts directly to those who may not otherwise experience it. A Festival playwright, designer, and director spend a year conducting conversations and research in a community. The playwright draws directly from the stories shared to write an original play, inspired by the neighborhood, and based on the work of Shakespeare. With Festival resources, the community then comes together to perform the new play in a weekend-long outdoor celebration. About Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of impactful theater in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community. The festival’s artistic and education programs reached over 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and have reached over one million since 2001. In 2019, the Festival received a “What’s Right with the Region” award from Focus St. Louis. Leadership support for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2019 season is provided by the Whitaker Foundation. The festival is also funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis. For more information, please visit www.sfstl.com, or call 314-531- 9800. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shakesfestSTL Twitter: @shakesfestSTL Instagram: ShakesfestSTL

The Golden Eagle Ferry and the Brussels, Ill. river banks.Artistic Team Bios Mariah L. Richardson (Playwright) A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Richardson received her BA in Communications from the University of New Mexico and an MFA from Smith College in Playwriting. Recipient of the Regional Arts commission $20,000 Artist Fellowship 2016, Richardson was named to the Confluence Regional Writers Project with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis for 2019. In 2018 she was their playwright fellow and helped rewrite Shakespeare in the Streets’ performance of Blow Winds . Mariah is the author of the plays: all that… , Sistahs Indeed!, Delilah’s Wish , ¡Soy Yo! , Idris Elba is James Bond, and Chasing the White Rabbit . Her last play, in partnership with Jazz St. Louis and commissioned by A Call to Conscience Theatre for Social Change, Next to Normal: The Thelonius Monk Story , premiered to sold-out crowds.Kathryn Bentley (Director) is an Associate Professor of Theater Performance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where she is the Artistic Director of SIUE’s Black Theatre Workshop as well as the Director of the Black Studies Program. Some of her directing credits include Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Colored Museum , Since Africa , Venus, Only Just a Minute , and Intimate Apparel . Kathryn is the Artistic Director of Bread and Roses Missouri. She commits herself to community-engaged arts collaborations, striving to create compassionate artistic experiences, using theater to lift social consciousness.

Mariah RichardsonKathryn Bentley

Three emerging playwrights – two from St. Louis and one from Chicago – have been selected to participate in a new initiative developed by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis called the Confluence Regional Writers Project.

As part of the program, the festival has also selected St. Louisan Carter Lewis, a two-time nominee for the American Theatre Critics Award, as well as the Festival’s 2019 Playwrighting Fellow.

Mariah L. Richardson and Shualee Cook of St. Louis, and Kristin Idaszak, of Chicago, will participate as the emerging playwrights. 

“Confluence brings together two of the Festival’s top priorities: investing in local artists and engaging with our surrounding region,” said Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival. “This sparkling cohort of writers is speaking from the unique perspective of not only who they are, but also where they live and work. If we truly want to understand what’s going on in America today, we need voices like theirs as part of our country’s cultural conversation.” 

In addition to fostering a regional culture of playwriting, the new program and its annual Playwriting Fellowship, will also include an annual Emerging Playwrights Cohort, staged readings, public workshops and a fully-produced new work for the stage. Nancy Bell, who authored the dynamic Shakespeare in the Streets productions, will serve as Confluence project director. 

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us to work with these very talented up and coming playwrights who live both locally and regionally throughout the Midwest. While St. Louis has a tremendous theatre scene, with lots of great opportunities for actors, directors and designers, we thought it important to cast a light on the ones who actually start the process for everyone else, the playwrights themselves,” Bell said. “The Emerging Playwrights Cohort will help us do just that by creating more resources for playwrights and helping to foster a more vibrant culture of new play development throughout our region.” 

Each cohort will attend a weekend retreat in February as well as monthly visits to St. Louis throughout the year for writing sessions, day-long workshops and mentorship activities with Lewis. Each will then be committed to producing a new full-length work. 

As part of his year-long residency at the Festival, Lewis, a playwriting and dramaturgy professor at Washington University in St. Louis, will receive a commission for a new work to be developed during the Festival. Through the years, Lewis has been recognized with several national playwriting awards including: the Julie Harris – Playwriting Award; the State Theatre – Best New American Play; the Cincinnati Playhouse Rosenthal New Play Prize (1996, 2001); the New Dramatist Arnold Weissberger Playwriting Award; and the Playwright’s Center Jerome Residency, to name a few. Lewis’ play, “While We Were Bowling,” won the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Award for Best New American Play. 

In addition to the mentoring with Lewis, the festival will also provide each cohort with a stipend, workshops with guest artists and industry professionals, dedicated time and space to write together, as well as actors, a director and rehearsal time for a public reading of the work in St. Louis. 

Background highlights of playwrights: 

Mariah L. Richardson

Richardson most recently served as the Playwriting Fellow in the remounting of the Festival’s 2018 Shakespeare in the Streets “Blow, Winds” production. Additional works of hers have premiered at the Kranzberg Theatre (“Soy Yo! An Afro-Latina Suite”), St. Louis Community College (“Idris Elba is James Bond,” “Sistahs Indeed!”) and Metro Theater Company (“Delilah’s Wish”/Kevin Kline Award, 2011).  Richardson has performed with both Metro Theater and the St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre. She received her Communications degree from the University of New Mexico and an MFA in Playwriting from Smith College. 

Shualee Cook

Cook’s most recent work includes “Sunset Artists of the American West” (Chicago’s About Face Theatre) and “Cercle Hermaphroditos” (National Queer Theatre in New York). She also served as Resident Playwright with Tesseract Theatre (“Earworm”) in St. Louis and as the spring/summer resident at Stage Left in Chicago. Cook’s other plays that have received productions or readings include “Tempest in a Teapot” (R-S Theatrics, 2016 Idle Muse Athena Festival), “An Invitation Out” (Mustard Seed Theatre, 2017 Benchmark Theatre Fever Dream Festival), “Osgood Rex” (Saint Lou Fringe), “The Geography of Nowhere” (Mustard Seed Theatre), and “Music of the Goddess” (SATE’s Aphra Behn Emerging Artists Showcase). She was also a finalist for the 2016 David Calicchio Prize, the 2016 Jane Chambers Award, the 2015 and 2016 Goodman Theatre Playwrights Unit, and was this year’s Honorable Mention Playwright for the Annual Parity Commission. 

Kristin Idaszak

Idaszak is a playwright, dramaturg, performance maker, and the Artistic Director of Cloudgate Theatre. Her play, “Second Skin,” received the Kennedy Center’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and the Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award.  “Another Jungle” (Relentless Award Honorable Mention) received its world premiere with Cloudgate Theatre and The Syndicate in April 2018. Idaszak’s work has also been developed through residencies at the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Stage Left Theatre, and the Qualcomm Institute at Calit2 in San Diego. Kristin has co-created collaborative original work that has been seen at the WoW Festival at La Jolla Playhouse and the Blurred Borders Festival, an international showcase of contemporary dance theatre. Her numerous awards and accolades include: Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work nominee; two honorable mentions on the Kilroys’ List; 2015 Kennedy Center Fellow at the Sundance Theatre Lab; and two Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellowships. Idaszak is an adjunct faculty member at The Theatre School at DePaul University. 

The Confluence Regional Writers Project is generously funded by Sondra and Dorsey Ellis.

About Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of new plays in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community. The festival’s artistic and education programs reached more than 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and over one million since the festival’s first season in 2001. Leadership support for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2019 season is provided by the Whitaker Foundation. The festival is also funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis. For more information, please visit www.sfstl.com, or call 314-531-9800.