The Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, an annual presentation of the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis (CSL), serves as the area’s primary venue for films made by local artists. The Showcase screens works that were shot in the St. Louis region or were written, directed, or produced by St. Louis-area residents or by filmmakers with strong local ties who are now working elsewhere. 

Because of the Covid-19 health crisis, the Showcase will be presented virtually in 2020. CSL is partnering with Eventive, which also handles our ticketing, to present the Virtual Festival. Films will be available to view on demand anytime from July 10-19. There are no geographic limits on accessing the programs. Once a ticket-holder begins watching a program, access remains available for 48 hours. 

The Showcase’s 15 film programs range from full-length fiction features and documentaries to multi-film compilations of fiction and documentary shorts. Most programs will feature recorded Q&As with filmmakers, which will also be available on CSL’s YouTube channel.

In addition to the film programs, which will be available for streaming anytime during the July 10-19 run of the Showcase, this year’s event features a series of free master classes focused on key aspects of making and marketing an independent narrative feature. These will be offered as live streams at specific times/dates during the Showcase, but recordings of the presentations will also be archived and available on the CSL YouTube channel. A free live stream on the evening of July 19 will present the Showcase jury awards — including a $500 prize to the Best Showcase Film — and announce the films that will move on to the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival in November.

This year’s Showcase includes the following:

  • America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill: A documentary feature by Joseph Puleo that explores the deep historic roots of the Hill, St. Louis’ iconic Italian neighborhood.
  • The Ballad of John Henry: A documentary feature by Matthew Rice that analyzes how an ex-slave became one of America’s greatest tall-tale heroes: John Henry. 
  • College Bound: A documentary feature by Jenna Gandolfo that chronicles a diverse group of Ritenour High School students as they overcome an array of obstacles to be accepted into some of the top universities in the country. 
  • Doc Shorts Programs: The first of the two programs focuses on food, wine, and nature, and the second is anchored by Post-Dispatch columnist Aisha Sultan’s “33 and Counting,” a true-crime story about a 70-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence for a murder she says her rapist committed. 
  • Easy-Bake: A narrative feature by writer-director-star Zoë Kennison — a Webster U. grad — in which a 22-year-old college student is informed by her doctor that she is on an unexpected biological clock: Because of a medical issue, she has only one year to conceive a child. 
  • Master Classes: A series of four free master classes — featuring filmmakers and industry professionals — focused on key aspects of making an independent narrative feature: Finding Financing (July 11), Developing a Budget (July 12), Casting (July 18), and Securing Distribution (July 19).
  • My Ireland: A documentary feature by Anthony Monaghan, a working-class immigrant now living in St. Louis, that takes a hard look at the rampant emigration, mass evictions, and homeless crisis that plague his homeland of Ireland today.
  • Narrative Shorts Programs: The 56 films in the six programs include comedies, dramas, thrillers, and experimental works.
  • Resolution: A narrative feature by former St. Louisan Jacob T. Martin in which a tight-knit group of friends gathered for a New Year’s Eve party have their night of celebration descend into chaos when the host couple breaks up.
  • Wake Up: A documentary feature by Nate Townsend that weaves together stories from four different frontlines of suicide prevention across the country. The film premiered at We Are One: A Global Film Festival.

The Whitaker Foundation again serves as the Showcase’s title sponsor. The foundation’s twofold mission is to encourage the preservation and use of parks and to enrich lives through the arts. The Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation is underwriting both the Showcase’s master classes and the $500 prize for the Best Showcase Film.

The event’s other sponsors include the Arts & Education Council, Grizzell & Co., Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Film Office, Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis Public Radio, and Washington University Film & Media Studies.

Instagram@stlfilmshowcase Twitter: @stlfilmshowcase Facebook@STLFilmmakersShowcase

For more information, the public should visit cinemastlouis.org

Stay home and still get your Q on!

To help celebrate Pride Month, the 13th Annual QFest St. Louis — presented by Cinema St. Louis (CSL) — will take place from June 19-28. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, CSL will offer all programs virtually, protecting the health of patrons. Programs can be streamed at any time during the festival’s dates. Recorded and live introductions and Q&As will be available for most film programs.

The St. Louis-based LGBTQ film festival, QFest will present a record number of 40 films (28 shorts, six narrative features, and six documentary features). The participating filmmakers represent a wide variety of voices in contemporary queer world cinema. The mission of the film festival is to use the art of contemporary gay cinema to spotlight the lives of LGBTQ people and to celebrate queer culture.

The fest is especially pleased to host the St. Louis premiere of the new bio-doc “The Capote Tapes,” about renowned novelist, playwright, and social butterfly Truman Capote (“In Cold Blood,” Breakfast at Tiffany’s”). Among the other QFest highlights is this year’s Q Classic, the 20th anniversary of Del Shore’s “Sordid Lives,” which first screened locally at the 2000 St. Louis International Film Festival.

Two films were directed by alums of QFest. Cindy Abel (“Breaking Through”) returns with the doc feature “Surviving the Silence,” about two closeted military women who were involved in the ultimate dismissal of Army Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer for admitting she was a lesbian. Two-time alum Wendy Jo Carlton (“Hannah Free,” “Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together”) directed the romantic dramedy “Good Kisser” and produced the narrative short that precedes it, “Carol Support Group.”

Several films this year have strong local connections, including a trio of projects featuring former St. Louisans: writer/co-star Gretchen Wylder’s hilarious new YouTube web series, “These Thems”; writer/co-star Kevin Spirtas’ award-winning and moving dramatic web series, “After Forever”; and the dramatic short “Bill & Robert,” which stars Brandon Smith.

Thanks to several generous sponsors, CSL is able to make the festival more accessible to all by offering five shows that will be free and open to the public for the duration of the event: all four shorts programs and the web series “These Thems.”

These Thems

For the full schedule of screenings and events, including trailers and descriptions of the films, visit the festival website at www.cinemastlouis.org/qfest.

The 2020QFest St. Louis begins on Friday, June 19, and runs through Sunday, June 28. Tickets go on sale June 1. Tickets are $10 each or $8 for Cinema St. Louis members, students with valid and current IDs, and ARTS Card holders. An all-access festival pass is available for $75. All screenings will be held virtually for residents of Missouri and Illinois via Eventive, CSL’s ticketing and online presentation partner. Direct ticket links are available on the QFest website.

QFest St. Louis is sponsored by AARP in St. Louis, Arts & Education Council, CheapTRX, Grizzell & Co., Missouri Arts Council, Panera Bread, Bob Pohrer & Donnie Engle, Regional Arts Commission, Deb Salls, St. Louis Public Radio, Cindy Walker, and Webster U. Film Series.

The festival is underwritten in part through a grant from the Creative Impact Fund for Diversifying the Arts, a partnership between the Arts & Education Council and local community leaders.

Social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/QFestSTL

Twitter: @QFestSTL

Instagram: @QFestSTL

15 arts organizations will join forces with OTSL and RAC to present a streamed concert in support of artists whose livelihoods have been directly impacted by COVID-19.

Together with 14 other arts organizations and the Regional Arts Commission (RAC), Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) is proud to announce “Arts United STL,” a free virtual benefit in support of RAC’s Artist Relief Fund, which provides critical aid to St. Louis working artists whose livelihoods have been critically interrupted by the pandemic. Produced by OTSL in partnership with the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, this benefit will take place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 31st and present performances from local arts organizations, including The Big Muddy Dance Company, The Black Rep, Circus Flora, COCA, Jazz St. Louis, The Muny, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis Ballet, St. Louis Children’s Choirs, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, The Sheldon, STAGES St. Louis, the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, and more. 

Arts United STL was first envisioned by OTSL General Director Andrew Jorgensen as a way for St. Louis’ established arts institutions to help support the community’s vibrant arts ecosystem. After an initial consultation between OTSL, RAC, and the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, a consortium of 15 organizations was invited across an array of arts mediums. In the coming days, RAC will also encourage open submissions from independent artists and other arts organizations to further highlight the artistic diversity of the city. 

More information about Arts United STL can be found on Opera Theatre’s website at ExperienceOpera.org/ArtsUnited, which will also host the live video stream on Sunday, May 31st. In addition, viewers may watch the livestream via YouTube on Opera Theatre’s channel. Viewers will be encouraged to donate to the RAC Artist Relief Fund during the concert. To date, the Artist Relief Fund has distributed $136,500 in direct support to individual artists. The goal of Arts United STL is to raise an additional $250,000 through 1,000 individual donations and sponsorships. Supporters may donate to the Artist Relief Fund at ExperienceOpera.org/ArtsUnited at any time before, during, or after the live event.

The arts and culture sector is an important driver for the St. Louis economy. According to the 2015 Americans for the Arts Economic Prosperity 5 study commissioned by RAC, the nonprofit arts and culture sector generated $590.9 million and 19,129 full-time equivalent jobs for the greater St. Louis area during that same year. Since the start of the pandemic, based on research conducted by Americans for the Arts, 89% of St. Louis City and County arts institutions have canceled events that would have reached more than 285,000 individuals.

“This benefit represents an exciting and collaborative effort to respond to the global crisis affecting the arts and culture sector in our region,” said Mont Levy, chair of the board of commissioners at RAC. “As the major public funder of arts in the region with a mandate to support individual artists, we know it is RAC’s responsibility to provide emergency support during this time of great need. We could not be more grateful to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for spearheading this event, or to the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and every participating organization for their work to highlight the rich cultural tapestry of our region and support their fellow artists.”

The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis is the largest annual funder of non-profit arts in the region, providing grants to individual artists, arts and culture organizations, and other programs since 1985. RAC established the Artist Relief Fund through the St. Louis Community Foundation on April 1st to help working artists who have lost income due to the pandemic. So far, the fund has distributed $500 and $1,000 grants to more than 130 artists and will resume accepting new relief applications once additional funds have been secured.

OTSL General Director Andrew Jorgensen says of the effort, “We are thrilled to be collaborating with so many other arts organizations to help local artists, whose work makes St. Louis an immeasurably vibrant, special place. OTSL couldn’t be happier to produce this concert in support of artists during these difficult times. This benefit will highlight a fantastic array of art from different genres that reflect the artistic diversity and traditions of this community. I am so grateful to all my many colleagues who are uniting in this remarkable way to support one another and our entire arts ecosystem.”

All participating organizations are donating their time, with production costs and staffing needs covered by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, additional staffing needs covered by St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, and an in-kind donation from Switch. The program will be directed by St. Louis Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Tom Ridgely. Arts United STL is produced in partnership with the Regional Arts Commission, and the following arts partners: The Big Muddy Dance Company, The Black Rep, Circus Flora, COCA, Jazz St. Louis, The Muny, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis Ballet, St. Louis Children’s Choirs, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, The Sheldon, STAGES St. Louis, and the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.

Here is the HEC featurette piece: https://youtu.be/Upzz841hHX4

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About Regional Arts Commission

The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC) supports artists and arts organizations through grantmaking, strategic initiatives and other programs that build capacity, improve quality and advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the region’s arts and culture sector. Celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2020, RAC has been pivotal in nurturing the vibrant art scene throughout St. Louis, awarding more than 7,000 grants totaling over $100 million since its inception in 1985. Directed by a board of 15 commissioners appointed by the chief executives of St. Louis City and St. Louis County,  RAC prioritizes quality in its support of nonprofit arts organizations, individual artists, and programs and promotes partnerships that strengthen the sector and drive progress throughout the region. RAC receives its funding from hotel/motel room sales tax revenue from St. Louis City and County. Visit www.racstl.org for more information, or follow us on Facebook at Regional Arts Commission or Twitter @RACStLouis.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Whether acting or directing, Jacqueline Thompson is drawn to characters who say something.
She is currently in rehearsal for a new Shakespeare Festival St. Louis program, “In the Works,” about different ways to tell stories. She is excited about this new venture, which hopes to engage people indifferent or intimidated by William Shakespeare.
“It’s a great tool to show how Shakespeare can be incorporated in other ways of storytelling. It’s also a great way to introduce a new demographic of audience members who are not fans of the Bard. The intersection between the classical and new work offers a starting point for new discovery,” Thompson said.

Building on the Festival’s summer productions in Forest Park and the acclaimed Shakespeare in the Streets program, “In the Works” will present contemporary American plays by writers in dialogue with Shakespeare.
The first season is headlined by the regional premiere of “Into the Breeches!”, which will be staged Oct. 28 – Nov. 24 at The Grandel Theatre. It stars Kari Ely, Ben Nordstrom, Gary Wayne Barker, Michelle Hand, Katy Keating, Mary McNulty, Laura Resinger and Thompson. It is directed by Nancy Bell, a Take Ten subject in June. https://stllimelight.com/2018/06/20/take-ten-with-nancy-bell/
The hilarious and heartwarming “Into the Breeches!” is a look at the World War II home front and a group of ladies left behind. In 1943, they band together to keep the local theater going with their very own production of “Henry V.” The all-female cast shows how art and comedy can come together in even the darkest times.
The play had its critically-acclaimed world premiere in January 2018 at the Tony-winning Trinity Repertory Company. This will be its first production in St. Louis. There will be 16 performances of “into the Breeches!” throughout the month-long run.
Chicago playwright George Brant, the play’s author, also wrote “Grounded,” which starred Anne Hathaway during its New York run.
What Thompson likes about the play is it demonstrates the power of women in solidarity.
“This message is so vital and crucial during this current time in history. Through this production, they are shifting and changing the narrative of the city and theatre. They are using the stage to guide their audience in re-imaging what these characters and story can be,” she said.
Thompson has worked with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis for five years, beginning with the “Shakespeare in the Streets” venture, “Old Hearts Fresh,” which took place in The Grove neighborhood in 2013. In fact, a mural of the show, including her likeness, is still there on Manchester Avenue.
Jacqueline Thompson at the mural in The Grove that bears her image. Photo by August Jennewein, UMSL Daily Blog.She directed “The World Begun,” the Shakespeare in the Streets production based on “Twelfth Night” and presented in the Old North city neighborhood in 2015, and co-directed “Blow Winds,” this summer’s program at the downtown St. Louis Public Library. She also acted in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Forest Park in 2016.
She is a Shakespeare fan. She likes “When the text settles into your body and full comprehension is merged with your modern interpretation.  A friend told me once that she was fascinated with how he used literary devises to translate language into art. I agree,” she said.
Thompson, who grew up in Black Jack, returned home after school in 2012 to play a role at The Black Rep. She was hired at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where she is currently an assistant professor of theater.
She has been on local stages ever since, also working with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Upstream Theater, SATE, New Jewish Theatre, Metro Theater Company and Mustard Seed Theatre.
In March, she won Best Actress in a Drama for her performance in “Intimate Apparel,” presented in early 2017 by New Jewish Theatre. Set in 1905, she played Esther Mills, a talented seamstress who makes intimate garments for a wide range of clientele in Harlem.
“She has dreams of opening a beauty parlor and being married — with no prospects in sight until a mysterious gentleman caller begins to write letters,” she said. “At the beginning of the show, the audience sees her frustration and despair of longing for things she feels she should have acquired by this age in life.”
During the process, she reflected on a poem by Sonia Sonchez:
“And I cried. For myself. For this woman talking about love. For all the women who have ever stretched their bodies out anticipating civilization and finding ruins.”
Jacqueline Thompson and Jim Butz in “Intimate Apparel.: Photo by Peter Wochniak.Thompson said Esther represents the insatiable desire and risk of the human quest to experience/find love.
“She comprised and sacrificed, hoping that this man would feel her void. She gave all of herself, hoping that she would be enough to make him stay. The play ends where it begins, except she’s loss so much — friendships, possibilities, dreams but yet, she’s there starting again,” she said.
“She represents the will to move forward in spite of pain, disappointment and circumstance. This woman approached me after the Circle Awards and said Esther is every woman’s story,” she said.
“A Human Being Died That Night”Thompson was busy last year – in addition to “Intimate Apparel,” she starred in “Dot” at The Black Rep, “A Human Being Died Last Night” at Upstream Theatre and directed “Of Mice and Men” for Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble.
She also was featured in a Super Bowl 2017 public service announcement, “Smart Phone,” by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction.
PSA Video during 2017 Super Bowl:

After “Into the Breeches!” her next project is directing “District Merchants” at New Jewish Theatre.
It is playwright Aaron Posner’s version of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” about love and litigation, deep passions and predatory lending, and will be staged Jan. 24 – Feb. 10. One description said It is about the endless complexities and contradictions of life in America.
“In the Works” will also feature family matinees of “A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness,” a new play for young audiences by the Festival’s playwright-in-residence Nancy Bell, which is inspired by the mistaken identity hijinks of “The Comedy of Errors,” as well as staged readings of the Festival-commissioned “The Thousand Natural Shocks,” a moving coming-of-age story about a teenage boy who finds strength and resilience through a high school production of “Hamlet.”
Characters that have something to say.
For a detailed In the Works schedule and to order tickets, please visit www.sfstl.com/in-the-works, or call Metrotix at 314-534-1111.
Student tickets to all performances are free with an ID but advanced reservations are recommended. A limited number of “Pay What You Can Nights” are scheduled for the “Breeches!” performances on Nov. 7 and 14, and should also be reserved ahead of time. Military discounts are available as well.
Here’s Jacqueline Thompson’s answers to our questions:1. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“I like to think it chose me. I always was curious about storytelling. My first undergrad major was journalism. The arts always created a space where my passion was greater than my fear. As a child, I was extremely shy and quiet.  I would cringe when I was called on at school but created a world of my own at home with my dolls. Creating characters with my Barbies, singing around the house and writing stories was my greatest joy. As an adult, I saw the power of sharing experiences of humanity on stage and the necessity for it to be seen through a myriad of lens.”
How would your friends describe you?
“I called one of my dear friends, Melinda, whom I have known since high school so this is real: supportive, loving, thoughtful, thrill-seeking, hilarious and smidge bit insane (Insane? Thanks friend!)”
How do you like to spend your spare time?
“What’s that? No seriously, I love music! Random fact, I also wanted to be a radio deejay growing up. I can tell what a song is from the first few seconds of listening, like a human Shazam. I enjoy live music and concerts when not working.”
What is your current obsession?
“My 2-year-old nephew and 5-month niece. They are everything good and right in my world.”
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“My sense of humor! My close friends say I’m hilarious. I’m the friend that will take you on a new adventure and you will have the most peculiar experience and remember it always.  They call it my shenanigans!”
Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“Last year, my grandmother and stepfather passed two days apart. My grandmother was my center and my stepfather had been in my life since the age of 3. After eight months of watching them suffer, my priorities and passions shifted. My focus became less about career moves and more about living a fulfilled life. I am more concerned now with cultivating and nurturing my relationships, experiencing new adventures with more traveling and being present for my family.
Who do you admire most?
“I have great admiration for my past teachers and professors in theatre. Women who nurtured, protected, inspired and challenged me to be my best self. Much love to Julie Mock, Cecilia Jenkins, Nefertiti Burton, Lundeanna Thomas and the late Carol Mitchell Leon.”
What is at the top of on your bucket list?“To perform internationally.”
What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?“I love Forest Park!”
What’s next?
“Into the Breeches” at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and directing “District Merchants” for New Jewish Theatre
Here’s More to Know:Name: Jacqueline ThompsonBirthplace: St. LouisCurrent location: St. LouisEducation: B.A., Clark Atlanta University; M.F.A., University of LouisvilleDay job: Theatre Professor at University of Missouri– St. LouisFirst job: TargetFirst role: 3rd grade — sassy kid in a church play and a butterfly.Favorite roles/plays: “For Colored Girls,” “Intimate Apparel” (Esther) and “Dot” (Shelly).Dream role/play: Would love to Direct “Head of Passes” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, interested in performing a one –woman show.Awards/Honors/Achievements: Regional Arts Grant, TCG’s Rising Leaders of Color, St. Louis Theater Circle Award for outstanding actress in a drama 2018, for “Intimate Apparel.”Favorite quote/words to live by: “One day at a time” and Mariane Williamson’s poem, “Our Deepest Fear.”A song that makes you happy: Jill Scott, “Golden”
The cast of “Dot” at the Black Rep. Jacqueline Thompson is far right.