The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival is pleased to welcome back audiences for a new season of free Shakespeare productions in 2021, beginning with the return to Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park with King Lear. 

The Festival is committed to preserving the health of our staff, actors, and audience and will share complete safety precautions closer to performance dates in compliance with the guidelines of health officials.

The 21st season of outdoor performances starting with KING LEAR starring André De Shields in Shakespeare Glen, a new 24-stop touring production of OTHELLO and the return of Shakespeare in the Streets in the historic North St. Louis neighborhood of THE VILLE.

On May 3, the company of 18 talented (and fully vaccinated) actors will come together in St. Louis for the first rehearsal of King Lear under Director Carl Cofield. Get to know their names and faces. 

This is the 2021 Shakespeare in the Park cast: 

André De Shields (King Lear), Rayme Cornell (Goneril), J. Samuel Davis (Kent), Leland Fowler (Edmund) Allen Gilmore (Fool), Nicole King (Cordelia), Jason Little (Albany), Daniel Molina  (Edgar), Carl Overly, Jr. (Cornwall), Michael Tran (Oswald/France), Jacqueline Thompson (Regan) and Brian Anthony Wilson (Gloucester). With support from Atum Jones and the St. Louis Black Rep Intern Company: Kentrell Jamison, Theorri London, Brian McKinley, Tyler White and Christina Yancy.   

Reservations for King Lear will open on May 2!  Stay tuned for more information on how to attend. The opening show of the 21st season will run June 2 – June 27.

KING LEAR

Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park June 2-27
Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award-winner André De Shields (Broadway: HadestownThe Wiz) stars in Shakespeare’s greatest — and most modern — masterpiece.

Carl Cofield (Associate Artistic Director, Classical Theatre of Harlem) directs an all-BIPOC cast from New York, Chicago and St. Louis.


OTHELLO Aug. 3 -29

TourCo presents 24 performances in Missouri & Illinois
Our new outdoor touring troupe visits public parks across the bi-state region. A Living Study Guide before each performance explores the themes and modern impact of Othello — Shakespeare’s gripping tragedy of jealousy, race and resentment.


SHAKESPEARE IN THE STREETS: THE VILLE Sept. 9-11

Annie Malone Children’s Home, 63133

After an extended storytelling residency, Shakespeare in the Streets returns with a new play based on Shakespeare and inspired by the Ville neighborhood, one of the most historically significant Black communities in America. 

(Because of Word Press Upgrade bugs, site was unavailable April 7-16, and this review was not posted during the run. Sorry for the delay/inconvenience. – Lynn Venhaus)

By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor Shakespeare’s “green-eyed monster” theme is timeless and universal, yes, but a puzzling modern interpretation of “Othello” by St. Louis Shakespeare did not best serve this epic tragedy.

Poor production quality, uneven casting and misguided,
underdeveloped character portrayals didn’t help convey the transition to the 21st
century.

Nevertheless, the show featured several strong performances
and good fight choreography staged by Todd Gillenardo.

If you want to say something about inherent racism then and
now, then say something powerfully. For all the talk in the press release about
turning this 17th century story upside down with a contemporary
slant, director Patrice Foster seemed to take the traditional story route. I
disagreed with the execution of their original concepts, which were not all
followed through.

Setting the play, which takes place in Venice and Cyprus,
in the 21st Century made no sense whatsoever. Where are we? What
world are we in? And why?

The cities were pretty much interchangeable. Jared Korte’s minimalist
set design reflected none of the exotic foreign world of this tale. Were we to
ascertain this through the Turkish music? The bedroom more akin to a young
single’s first apartment? If you are tackling xenophobia, then show it!

Based on another source material, “Un Capitano Moro” by
Cinthio, Shakespeare’s “Othello” is believed to have been written around 1603.
The Bard took the big emotions of life – love, jealousy, revenge, betrayal and
loss – to illustrate bigotry, showing how a Moorish general in the Venetian
army could be revered for his military prowess and then disdained for marrying
a Caucasian.

The couple can’t be happy because their enemy sets up a
tangled web of deceit and manipulation in order to destroy their union.

His miffed ensign Iago schemes to convince Othello that his
wife Desdemona is having an affair with former suitor Cassio, supposedly in an
effort for Roderigo to woo her instead, but really, for him to surpass Othello
in power and prestige.

In a towering performance, Reginald Pierre is compelling as
the African general whose jealousy and misplaced allegiance prove to be his
downfall. The larger-than-life role fit Pierre, who is a master at delivering
Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. A veteran of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
and Rebel and Misfits Productions’ two immersive Shakespeare presentations,
Pierre commands attention no matter what role.

He glided persuasively between scenes portraying the
victorious general, passionate newlywed and how he’s too trusting of what he’s
told. Alas, Othello allowed the lies to get inside his head, and then is
doomed. Pierre was convincing in his struggles and how he grappled with
betrayal.

Bridgette Bassa said her lines well as Desdemona, but
physically, her petite stature is such a sharp contrast to Pierre’s height, and
they did not have much chemistry. Nevertheless, the bedroom death scene is brimming
with intense emotions as Othello seethes with rage and Desdemona pleads for her
life, even though they changed the killing method.

While Bassa has often been cast in roles she has been too
young or too old for and pulled them off, Desdemona’s appearance is wrong here.
She looks like a teenager in a simple junior frock and summer wedges that don’t
visually establish a sultry woman.  

Phil Leveling smartly portrayed the complexities of Cassio,
realizing his reputation is ruined and how he’s been used. As the rich suitor
Roderigo, Jesse Munoz had the right approach, and Will Pendergast and Victor
Mendez suited their soldier roles.

Troublesome is Cynthia Pohlson’s decision to portray Iago
as broad as a Disney villain. If you view Iago, Othello’s ambitious, bitter and
sneaky ensign as a more cunning figure, then you might be as disappointed as I
was, particularly at the intrusive cackling and the exaggerated street gang
member moves.

As his wife Emilia, Hillary Gokenbach grew into the role,
and had a superb second act.

A company who has Shakespeare in the title should be able
to work with inexperienced cast members on how to not deliver the Bard’s lines
in sing-song fashion, which often happens.

The challenges of Shakespeare need to be overcome if an
ensemble is to be convincing. It didn’t help that some of the well-meaning
supporting cast players were too young for their parts – Brad Kinzel as
Desdemona’s furious dad Brabantio and Mike Stephens as the Duke of Venice.

Circling back to the stumbling block of the modern setting,
if the deception hinges on an embroidered handkerchief, switching the era to the
21st century makes no sense because no one uses handkerchiefs any
more, and really haven’t for 50 years. This is a relic of the past that’s key
to the original story but useless in new version.

In production values, Ted Drury’s sound design was fine, but the subpar staging didn’t establish the setting, and the party dance scene wasn’t as festive as it should have been. The costumes appeared to be from people’s closets, except for bulk military camoflauge outfits.

If Shakespeare presentations require fight choreographers,
should not they focus on line delivery as well? Character development is always
crucial.

Unlocking the meaning of Shakespeare is as thrilling as
recognizing the source of the Shakespeare phrases that’s become part of the
modern lexicon, and when everyone can bring those words to life, it makes a
world of difference.

The new performance space at Tower Grove Baptist Church has
possibilities. I hope the future bodes well there.

St.
Louis Shakespeare presented “Shakespeare’s Othello” April 5-13 at Tower Grove
Baptist Church, 4257 Magnolia. For more information, visit www.stlshakespeare.org

By Lynn VenhausManaging EditorIt’s opening day for our St. Louis Cardinals, but also new plays are offered this weekend, with a selection of plays currently in rotation and those making their final runs this weekend. Ah, the riches of what’s available- comedy, drama, musical, Shakespeare and new to St. Louis shows!

Go, Cards! And GO SEE A PLAY.

Terry Barber, Jennifer Theby-Quinn in “Daddy Long Legs.” Photo by John Lamb“Daddy Long Legs”Insight Theatre CompanyMarch 28 – April 14Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.The Marcelle Theatre in Grand Centerwww.insighttheatrecompany.com314-556-1293

What It’s About: Based on the classic novel, which inspired the 1955 movie starring Fred Astaire, Daddy Long Legs is a beloved tale in the spirit of Jane Austen, The Brontë Sisters and “Downton Abbey. Daddy Long Legs features music and lyrics by Tony Award-nominated composer/lyricist, Paul Gordon (Jane Eyre), and Tony-winning librettist/director, John Caird (Les Misérables), and is a “rags-to-riches” tale of newfound love.

Director: Maggie RyanStarring: Jennier Theby Quinn, Terry Barber

“Dreamgirls”Stray Dog TheatreApril 4 -20, Thursday – Saturday 8 p.m.Tower Grove Abbey2336 Tennesseewww.straydogtheatre.org314-865-1995What It’s About: In the 1960s, the Dreamettes, led by the powerful Effie White, embark on an R&B music career that leads them across the country. Romantic entanglements, Effie’s weight, racism, and the arrival of a fresh new sound in the 1970s are part of this showbiz hit (a fictional nod to The Supremes and Motown).

Director: Justin BeenStarring: Ebony Easter, Eleanor Humphrey, Abraham Shaw, Omega D. Jones, Tateonna Thompson, Don McClendon, Marshall Jennings, Robert Crenshaw, Lawrence J. Haliburton, Tony L. Marr Jr., Chris Moore, Chrissie Watkins, Jazmine Wade, Margery Handy, Chasity Cook, Rahnesha Holmes, Sierra Smith, Laurell Stevenson, Diamon Lester, Kanisha Kellum, Malaika Pedzayl-Ferguson, Ashley Santana

Monroe Actors Stage Company“Is He Dead?”Monroe Actors Stage CompanyApril 5-14Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; 2:30 p.m. SundayHistoric Capitol Theatre in downtown Waterloo, Ill.www.masctheatre.com618-939-7469

What It’s About:Director: Zona LudlumStarring:Of Note: Special $5 student performance on Thursday, April 11

“A New Brain”Hawthorne PlayersApril 5-6, 12-147:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. April 14Florissant Civic Centerhttp://www.hawthorneplayers.info/ 314-921-5678

What It’s About: By the Tony Award-winning authors of Falsettos, this musical is an energetic, sardonic, often comical story about a composer during a medical emergency. Gordon collapses into his lunch and awakes in the hospital, surrounded by his maritime-enthusiast lover, his mother, a co-worker, the doctor, and the nurses. Reluctantly, he had been composing a song for a children’s television show that features a frog – Mr. Bungee – and the specter of this large green character and the unfinished work haunts him throughout his medical ordeal. What was thought to be a tumor turns out to be something more operable, and Gordon recovers, grateful for a chance to compose the songs he yearns to produce. Director: Stephen Peirick, with music direction by Colin HealyStarring: Danny Brown, Joel Brown, Stephen Henley, Chadly Konner Jourdyn, Chris Kernan, John Kuehn, Laura Kyro, Kay Love, Stephanie Merritt, Bradley Rohlf, Dawn Schmid

Reginald Pierre as Othello and Bridgette Bassa as Desdemona“Othello”St. Louis ShakespeareApril 5 – 13Tower Grove Church4257 MagnoliaFriday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Thursday and Sunday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m.www.stlshakespeare.orgWhat It’s About: In Venice, at the start of Othello, the soldier Iago announces his hatred for his commander, Othello, a Moor. Othello has promoted Cassio, not Iago, to be his lieutenant.Iago crudely informs Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, that Othello and Desdemona have eloped. Before the Venetian Senate, Brabantio accuses Othello of bewitching Desdemona. The Senators wish to send Othello to Cyprus, which is under threat from Turkey. They bring Desdemona before them. She tells of her love for Othello, and the marriage stands. The Senate agrees to let her join Othello in Cyprus.

In Cyprus, Iago continues to plot against Othello and Cassio. He lures Cassio into a drunken fight, for which Cassio loses his new rank; Cassio, at Iago’s urging, then begs Desdemona to intervene. Iago uses this and other ploys—misinterpreted conversations, insinuations, and a lost handkerchief—to convince Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are lovers. Othello goes mad with jealousy and later smothers Desdemona on their marriage bed, only to learn of Iago’s treachery. He then kills himself.

Director: Patrice FosterStarring: Reginald Pierre, Bridgette Bassa, Cynthia Pohlson, Phil Leveling, Jesse Munoz, Brad Kinzel, Will Pendergast, Mike Stephens, Hillary Gokenbach, Victor Mendez, Lisa Hinrichs and Cece Day

Of Note: It takes place in modern Venice and Cyprus. Othello is a powerful exploration of the human condition and the disaster that can arise from our emotions. Trust is eroded and innocence is corrupted in this tragic tale of manipulation and jealousy. Featuring live jazz, this exciting, new take on one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays is not one to miss.

“Photograph 51”West End Players GuildApril 5 – 13Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., Thursday April 11 at 8 p.m.Union Avenue Christian Church733 North Union 314-367-0025 www.westendplayersguild.org

What It’s About: Anna Ziegler’s “Photograph 51” is a moving portrait of Rosalind Franklin, one of the great female scientists of the 20th century, and her fervid drive to map the contours of the DNA molecule. A chorus of physicists relives the chase, revealing the largely-unsung achievements of this trail-blazing, fiercely independent woman – largely-unsung because the men usually credited with cracking the DNA code, James Watson and Francis Crick, did so by “borrowing” Franklin’s most important discovery.

Director: Ellie SchwetyeStarring: Nicole Angeli, Ben Ritchie, John Wolbers, Will Bonfiglio, Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Alex Fyles.

Morris Robinson“The Play That Goes Wrong”The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis March 15 – April 7Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Roadwww.repstl.orgBox Office: 314-968-4925

What It’s About: Calamity, disaster, fiasco: whichever word you’d like to choose, the opening night performance of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” has gone decidedly wrong. A maelstrom of madcap madness ensues, complete with collapsing scenery, unconscious actors and a stage crew pushed to the brink. Will The Rep survive this train wreck of a play? Come find out!

Director: Melissa Rain Anderson

Cast: Ka-Leung Cheung, Ryan George, Benjamin Curns, Michael Keyloun, Ruth Pferdehirt, Matthew McGloin, John Rapson and Evan Zes.

Of Note: The Rep’s production is the first stand-alone production outside of New York and London. The Broadway run was extended, and now there is a 12-city national tour underway, but this is not a touring show.

Joe Hanrahan and Shane Signorino play 21 different characters in “Popcorn Falls.”“Popcorn Falls”The Midnight CompanyMarch 28 – April 13Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m.Kranzberg Arts Center black box theatrewww.midnightcompany.comWhat It’s About: Two actors take on 21 characters in a struggling small town. They decided to put on a play!

Director: Sarah WhitneyStarring: Joe Hanrahan, Shane Signorino

Of Note: This one-act by James Hindman is presented without an intermission.

Wendy Greenwood and Ben Nordstrom in “Time Stands Still.” Photo by Eric Woolsey“Time Stands Still”New Jewish TheatreMarch 28 – April 14www.newjewishtheatre.orgBox Office: 314-447-3283

Starring: Wendy Greenwood, Ben Nordstrom, Jerry Vogel, Eileen Engel

What It’s About: In this play, a top photojournalist recovers from a near-fatal roadside bomb blast as her long-term relationship with a reporter undergoes its own test of survival. Donald Margulies, whose widely admired plays, Sight Unseen and Collected Stories uncovered the personal wounds inflicted on the battlefronts of art and fiction writing, now takes as his subject a creative couple who have met, worked and loved amid the all too real, mortal combat of the Middle East.

Jessie Shelton and Jeremy Morris on “Waitress”“Waitress”The Fabulous Fox TheatreMarch 26 – April 7www.fabulousfox.com

What It’s About: The musical tells the story of Jenna – a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.