The Tesseract Theatre Company is moving to the Marcelle Theatre with two new plays by local playwrights. The St. Louis premieres of “The Length of a Pop Song” by Taylor Gruenloh and “All That Remains” by JM Chambers will open in July.

“The Length of a Pop Song,” directed by Karen Pierce and featuring the cast of Rhiannon Creighton, Donna Parrone, and Kelvin Urday, will run July 8 – 17.

“All That Remains,” directed by Brittanie Gunn and featuring the cast of Luis Aguilar, Melody Quinn, Morgan Maul-Smith, Nyx Kaine, Sherard Curry, and Victor Mendez will run July 22 – 31.

Performances will be Friday and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 4 pm.

The Length of a Pop Song by Taylor Gruenloh: Lex has no choice but to move back into her parent’s house after another incident of self-harm. Her mother wants to help prepare her for an upcoming trial against an adult website hosting non-consensual videos of Lex, but Lex can’t find a reason to look forward to tomorrow.

All That Remains by JM Chambers: Gary survives a school shooting and isn’t dealing with the trauma well. Gary’s wife Elaine is trying her best to hold it all together, take care of Gary, work, pay the bills, and deal with her own sadness. Gary and Elaine can’t go on living this way forever and soon they both reach a breaking point.

The Marcelle Theatre is located at: 3310 SAMUEL SHEPARD DRIVE, SAINT LOUIS, MISSOURI 63103

Tickets are available for both plays at MetroTix.com. $20 for general audience and $15 for students.

Questions can be sent to Tesseract Theatre at [email protected]

By Lynn Venhau

The truth is out there, “The X Files” told us during 11 seasons on television. For believers of any paranormal or extra-terrestrial phenomena, some sort of proof helps build a convincing case. “Anomalous Experience” earnestly scratches the surface but is only a piece of an ever-evolving puzzle for truth-seekers.

Inspired by true events, Joe Hanrahan’s original play is a serious-minded drama taking a clinical approach as a public lecture by a psychiatrist who has endured ridicule about his studies into alien abductions and features two patients sharing their experiences.

The Midnight Company’s world premiere production opens its 25th season and runs at the .Zack May 5 – 21.

A key component of science fiction during the last half of the 20th century – the so-called ‘Atomic Age’ — has been stories centered on aliens, whether Unidentified Flying Objects, abductions, or exploratory visits from extra-terrestrials.

But now, with the government acknowledging UFOs and recent sightings of unknown aircraft by military pilots, which are being investigated (even if Area 51 folklore remains shrouded in mystery), tales this century are more accepted and not viewed as merely the rantings of kooks.

However, a heavy dose of skepticism exists about alien abductions. That’s the focus of actor-playwright Hanrahan, who based his character on a real professor who forged ahead in his research despite the nay-sayers.

Joe Hanrahan. Photo by Joey Rumpell

Hanrahan won a St. Louis Theater Circle Award in March for his original play “Tinsel Town,” which is three showbiz vignettes taking place over a 24-hour period in Los Angeles, presented in 2021, and was nominated for his nostalgic one-man show “Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals…Bond…James Bond.”  This is a different direction, and he has meticulously researched the subject to present it in a matter of fact, not preachy or fearful, way.

The sobering material touches on such familiar cases as Roswell, N.M., and goes back to ancient times (Chariots of the Gods) through production designer Kevin Bowman’s impressive slide show.

Given Midnight’s penchant for small character studies, the show is simply yet effectively staged, with Kevin Bowman’s minimal set.

Director Morgan Maul-Smith strips it down to maintain an air of gravitas through the actors – Hanrahan as James Collins and Joseph Garner and Payton Gillam as the two patients Scott and Virginia who believe they were abducted by aliens.

Anxious and apprehensive about their reception, but steadfast in their beliefs that something profound happened to them, Virginia and Scott share their harrowing experiences and re-enact hypnotic regression in a natural progression. 

Photo by Joey Rumpell

Both performers are engaging in conversations with Hanrahan, and Garner looks directly at the audience with his compelling experience. He is particularly haunting in his graphic descriptions of a breeding incident, and his struggles to cope with what has taken place. Gillam is effective in her recount of how her life changed, including her marriage.

That eerie uncertainty is carried through Ellie Schwetye’s masterful sound design and Tony Anselmo’s lighting design.

After their recount, it’s anti-climactic when the 80-minute play ends, because we don’t go farther in their lives. It would be interesting to see how their lives changed in the years since their encounters, if they felt they were being observed or studied.

This uncommon tale benefits from the strong actors, but the play is more sensible than sensational – just in case you were looking for escalating melodrama and shifting behaviors. As we’ve become accustomed to in fictional narratives on aliens, this is just the beginning.

“Anomalous Experience” is a thought-provoking look into unexplained abnormal events that make for a modern ghost story, although light on thrills and chills.

Photo by Joey Rumpell

The Midnight Company presents “Anomalous Experience” May 5 – 21, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., although the final show is Saturday, May 21 at 8 p.m., at the .Zack, 3224 Locust in the Grand Center Arts District of St. Louis. For tickets, visit www.metrotix.com. For more information, visit www.midnightcompany.com

The .Zack is a Kranzberg Arts Foundation space. Follow the COVID-19 guidelines currently in place. Masks are currently optional for patrons.

The Midnight Company, celebrating its 25th Anniversary Season in 2022, is announcing its lineup of productions for this landmark year.

Midnight will open with ANOMALOUS EXPERIENCE by the Company’s Artistic Director, Joe Hanrahan, running May 5-21 at the Kranzberg Black Box Theatre.

Inspired by true events, the play is designed as a public lecture from a respected psychiatrist.  He’s been dealing with professional ridicule for his research into the phenomenon of Alien Abduction.  In the course of the play, he will present two patients who, in very different ways, have been victims of their perceived abductions. While he’s not exactly sure what’s going on, the psychiatrist is convinced that something real, something profound, is happening to these people and to our world. 

Hanrahan said “The recent recorded sightings by military pilots and renewed government interest in UAPs provide the current backdrop for this modern ghost story.”  ANOMALOUS EXPERIENCE will be directed by Morgan Maul-Smith.  Recently she directed ON GOLDEN POND at Kirkwood Theatre Guild and EARWORM by Shualee Cook at Tesseract, and she’s also directed in Montana at Missoula Children’s Theater.

Midnight’s second show of the season will be RODNEY’S WIFE by Richard Nelson, directed by Joe Hanrahan, running July 7-23 at The Chapel. The play is set in Rome, 1962. Rodney is a fading American movie star, brought over to star in one of the first Spaghetti Westerns.  With him is his (second) wife, his daughter from his first marriage and his sister, whose husband, Rodney’s agent, just died, leaving her grasping on to her brother, getting into the middle of everything happening to his family. 

This powerful yet delicate 2004 play won critics’ raves, with New York’s Time Out saying “Nelson plunks his characters down at the crossroads of erotic tension and family guilt,” citing its echoes of “the closely observed simplicity of Chekhov” as well as “the eloquent bitterness of Albee.”  Hanrahan said,

Morgan Maul-Smith. Photo by Rachel Bailey

”Rome in1962 was the most exciting city in the world. The playwright has taken the passion and lust for living characteristic of the time and place, and infused it into a tumultuous day and a half in the lives of these characters.” The cast will include Kelly Howe as Faye (RODNEY’S WIFE), Rachel Tibbetts as Eva (Rodney’s sister) and John Wolbers as Rodney. The Italian villa set will be designed and lit by Bess Moynihan, with costumes by Elizabeth Henning.

The final show of the season will be ST. LOUIS WOMAN, written and directed by Joe Hanrahan, running October 6-22 at the .ZACK.  The show tells the stories of women who inspired and helped forge the legendary history of St. Louis music, and then spread that sound around the world.  The One-Woman Show with Music – performed by St. Louis singer/actress LAKA – begins with “Frankie And Johnny” and “St. Louis Blues”, two songs that put St. Louis on the musical map. 

And continues with characterizations and songs of Willie Mae Ford Smith (the Godmother of Gospel), Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday (who didn’t live in St. Louis, but played often at the Plantation Club, a hotspot on Delmar Boulevard in the 40’s, where the best black musicians of the day entertained white audiences), Tina Turner and more. 

Their abilities to rise above their troubled beginnings in a racially divided city and time, and to pour their souls into memorable song, provide the narrative for an exhilarating, inspiring show.  Hanrahan said “The first time I heard LAKA sing, I knew I wanted to work with her.  We talked of collaboration, and it led to ST. LOUIS WOMAN.  It’s our take on great music that came out of St. Louis, and the legendary women who made it.”

The Midnight Company made its debut in 1997, with a production of Eric Bogosian’s POUNDING NAILS IN THE FLOOR WITH MY FOREHEAD at the original home of the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis. Since then the Company has presented 50 productions, most new to St. Louis, along with several original scripts written by Hanrahan. 

Their seasons have included such modern classics as WAITING FOR GODOT, SKYLIGHT, GIVE ‘EM HELL HARRY and A JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, and featured noted contemporary playwrights Wil Eno, Conor McPherson, Steven Dietz, Daniel MacIvor and Mickle Maher.

David Wassilak formed the Company with Hanrahan in 1997, and was part of the group till his departure in 2007. Sarah Whitney then joined Midnight in 2010 as Associate Artistic Director, and directed many of its productions till she left the Company in 2020.

Kelly Howe. Photo by Todd Davis.

The Company has performed in a variety of spaces – recently at the venues of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation and The Chapel – and productions in the past have been presented at spaces of The Missouri History Museum, Christ Church Cathedral, The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill, The Philadelphia Fringe Festival, The Jesse James Farm in Kearney, MO, Stray Dog’s Tower Grove Abbey, Winter Opera, pubs including McGurk’s, Dressel’s and The Great Grizzly Bear (and former pubs such as The Monocle and Cafe Balaban/Herbie’s Vintage 72), former trlrvision production studiosTechnisonic and Avatar, the former venue St. Marcus Theatre, Carrie Houk’s former Maplewood Acting workshop HH Studio, and warehouses at The Lemp Brewery, plus a production at The historic Learning Center (formerly the Wednesday Club) for The Tennessee Williams Festival, and several appearances at both the St. Louis Fringe Festival and the St. Louis Theatre Crawl.  

While at the Post-Dispatch, theatre critic Judy Newmark wrote, “The Midnight Company have gone out of their way to demonstrate that theatre is an art, not a building…their imagination and refusal to accept conventional limits can teach something to all of us us, in theatre or not.”

A visit to the website, MidnightCompany.com, offers a look at all previous Midnight shows, including photos, graphics, video, and reviews, and there’s a Blog with commentary on influences on the group’s work, decisions on choosing the plays they present, takes on trends in St. Louis theatre, the Women We Love series and much more.


   LAKA in ST. LOUIS WOMAN photo:  Todd Davis

By Lynn Venhaus

Set in Dublin, “Bloomsday” is a little charmer that whisks you away to the Emerald Isle in a time travel love story. (Yes, you read that right).

Written by Steven Dietz in 2017, the playwright has an ear for the rhythms of youthful adventurers and the wistful reminiscences of older adults.

“Bloomsday” highlights James Joyce’s use of the Irish capital city’s landmarks during an ordinary June 16 in 1904, the setting for his masterwork novel, “Ulysses,” which was published in 1920.

There is such devotion to the novel that every June 16, fans dress up as characters and celebrate Bloomsday in Dublin, some making a pilgrimage.

With his literary use of modernism, the Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and critic is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

The West End Players Guild opened its 110th season with Dietz’s witty drama, which had been postponed from last year during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. His play, “This Random World,” was previously performed in the Union Avenue Christian Church basement.

With minimal staging representing several locales, West End is well-suited to produce such an intimate play. The pleasing set design features a view of Dublin’s shops and pubs lining cobblestone streets, with excellent artwork by Marjorie Williamson and Morgan Maul-Smith.

Four endearing performers star as a young couple, Robbie and Caithleen, in scenes from 35 years ago, and as the older Robert and Cait one day last June.

Megan Wiegart and Jeff Lovell. Photo by John Lamb.

Jeff Lovell, topped with a straw boater hat familiar to Joyce fans, plays the 55-year-old American college professor Robert, whose life changed during one magical day. He was 20 years old and taking a walking tour highlighting James Joyce’s Dublin.

That’s when he met tour guide Caithleen, 20, played with verve by Megan Wiegert. She won Robbie’s heart that day — but he did not take her back to America with him. Why not? The dreamer in her was certainly willing.

Wondering what might have been with “the one who got away” is the focus in this no-frills yet delightful production. The takeaway is to make the most of the present before it is past because we can’t get back lost time.

The cast conveys the urgency to pursue that road less taken so that looking back isn’t such a heartache. Dietz injects humor into the discoveries as the quartet moves back and forth through time, reliving the impetuousness of youth as the older adults look back with regrets and “what ifs.”

Could it still happen after all these years? The older Robert, with the benefit of hindsight, has returned to Dublin for a reunion with Caithleen, who now calls herself “Cait.” However, he finds the spunky young Caithleen instead, having somehow traveled back in time to that only day they spent together. She remains full of wanderlust, and he remembers her attractive qualities.

The young – and directionless — Robbie is played earnestly by an energetic John T. Moore, and the older Robert realizes he should have been more decisive.

Colleen Heneghan is a sweet-natured Cait, playing the spry but aged woman with a twinkle in her eye and a song still in her heart. The yearning to experience all that life offers is still there, although she basically settled for complacency. In her conversations with her younger self, she is surprisingly candid and explains her choices.

Both women have worked to perfect convincing Irish dialects, and those lovely lilts are uplifting.

Costume Designer Tracey Newcomb has outfitted the foursome in suitable attire for travels, age and time periods while Jackie Aumer accented the scenes with appropriate props.

The four are an engaging ensemble – all making their WEPG debut — and the creative team has made this a memorable romantic comedy. Director Jessa Knust, also making her debut, has ensured that the unusual format is understandable. She was assisted by Karen Pierce.

Celtic folk tunes are used effectively to set a merry mood, and Ted Drury’s sound design is noteworthy, with Mason Hagarty crisply operating the sound board. Jacob Winslow has done a nice job with the lighting design.

I felt like I was on an interesting journey, which is a good thing after being mostly housebound during quarantines and the 18-month public health crisis.

After all, no one is alone in wondering what might have been. Having some interesting points to ponder was entertaining live theater.

John T. Moore, Colleen Heneghan, Jeff Lovell, Megan Wiegart in “Bloomsday.” Photo by John Lamb.

The show has seven performances from Sept. 17 through Sept. 26, with Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting at 8 p.m. on the second weekend and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union in the Central West End. For tickets and more information, visit www.westendplayers.org

This season, the theater company is employing touchless ticketing, socially distanced seating and indoor masking of all patrons and front-of-house staff and volunteers. They are operating under special policies and procedures to minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission and infection.  For full details on our public health policies, please visit www.WestEndPlayers.org/covid-19-policies/.

The Tesseract Theatre Company is changing gears and identity starting late spring 2019. The company will no long be producing a September – May calendar season. Instead it will premiere is first annual Festival of New Plays, premiering three new works over the course of two weeks, starting May 15 through the 26. These full productions will be performed in rep, so all three shows will be available to be seen each weekend of the festival.

The three shows, to be performed at the .Zack, 3224 Locust, are “Earworm” by Shualee Cook, “Dates” by Elizabeth Breed Penny and “Hoist” by Erin Lane.

“Earworm” will be directed by Morgan Maul-Smith.

“Earworm” tells the story of Candles Out, a decade-old punk rock break up song seeking closure with five people whose lives she’s entwined with in very different ways – a strange trip involving music and memory and how each affects the other.

Show dates and times:Wed. May 15 @ 7pmSun. May 19 @ 2pmThur. May 23 @ 7pmSat. May 25 @ 8pmSun. May 26 @ 2pm

In “Dates,” to be directed by Tinah Twardowski, Caroline has been finding it hard to live in the outside world: literally. And the more her friends try to help, the higher she builds her walls.

Dates and times:Fri. May 17 @ 8pmSat. May 18 @ 2pmSun. May 19 @ 7pmWed. May 22 @ 7pmSun. May 26 @ 7pm

In “Hoist,” to be directed by Kevin Bowman, Skyler, a recently returned Iraq war veteran, attempts to forget, so she can continue to exist in peace. Unfortunately, the effects of her military experience, and the return of an old flame, complicate her mostly good intentions.

Dates and times:Thur. May 16 @ 7pmSat. May 18 @ 8pmFri. May 24 @ 8pmSat. May 25 @ 2pm

Tickets are available by calling MetroTix at 314-534-1111 at the Fabulous Fox box office, or by visiting www.metrotix.comTesseract tells big stories small. The company’s mission is to be an artistic home for diverse artists and a leader in new play development in the Midwest.For more information, visit www.tesseracttheatre.com