By Andrea BraunContributing WriterLove’s Labor’s Lost is a “play” in the strictest sense of the word, and it’s fun to watch the characters pontificate, read their letters aloud (even if a couple of them go awry), flirt, and stretch language to illogical limits and syllogistic absurdity.

It’s well known in theatre circles that this early work in the Shakespeare canon isn’t often performed and conventional wisdom has it that it’s simply dated. Its puns and jokes are too much of their own time for contemporary audiences to “get” them. It also could be static considering how much standing and speaking there is if the stage business isn’t choreographed to avoid it.

I’m certainly pleased that director Tom Ridgely didn’t think in those limited terms. Our new artistic director of the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has given us a comic jewel. I’m not familiar enough with the text to cite specific edits and emendations that may have been made, but I think some are there. It’s particularly hard to tell because Ridgely has paced this piece at 11 out of 10, and yet it’s wonderfully easy to follow.

The basic story is simple enough. Four young noblemen decide to take an oath to forgo romance for three years to allow time for study and contemplation, and the edict is issued that Navarre shall be singular in its observation of these rules. In a trice, four young women show up. Oops! What now?

The situation is that straightforward, but complicated by politics in that the men are the friends and companions of the  King of Navarre (Sky Smith) and the Princess of France (Kea Trevett) representing her ailing father, the King, and her attendants and have come to discuss the disposition of the Aquitaine.

Flirting ensues, complete with the young men playing
dancing Muscovites (you won’t believe it until you see it) and the Princess and
her entourage exchanging jewelry to confuse the men about their identities.
There are actually two plays-within-the-play, plus funny moments from the
scholar Holofernes (Carine Montberband) and the curate Nathaniel (Katy Keating)
whose routine reminds me of a Socratic version of “Who’s On First.”

Early in the action, we meet consummate clown Costard
(Patrick Blindauer)  as he’s being
berated by the King for illicit relations with the wench Jacquinetta (Molly
Meyer). Costard shows his own facility with language when he tries to get out
of being punished for breaking the new law about congress with a woman, for
which the Spaniard, the haughty and verbose Don Armado (Philip Hernandez), also
in love with Jacquinetta, reports him. And the course is set for merriment
throughout.

The set by Jason Simms is perfect, and contains more
you than you might expect. Melissa Trn’s costumes span the ages from the
vaguely Roman slave look sported by Costard, to  Armado’s bedazzled uniform; the Curate and
Holofernes in Elizabethan dress, the noblewomen in Bennett sisters garb sans
the bonnets, and the men’s mostly timeless attire. With John Wylie’s lights, it
all combines to create a beautiful show. Rusty Wandall incorporates wandering
minstrels in his sound design, so we’re welcomed to the show with “Meet Me in
St. Louis” as we enter, and “Gloria” complete with a Blues flag at curtain call,
and much else throughout. While the actors are mostly excellent, it’s Tom
Ridgely’s show and he’s got a winner.

The Shakespeare Festival runs in Forest Park through June 23 nightly at 8 p.m. except Mondays. Admission is free and festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with a Green Show and a 25-minute version of the play performed Thursday-Sunday nights at 7:15 by the Shakespeare Squadron.

By Lynn Venhaus Managing EditorAnother Opening, Another Show! Summertime kicks off with annual traditions inside and outdoors — Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ “Love’s Labors Lost” opens for its month-long free admission run in Forest Park while Opera Theatre St. Louis has two shows in repertory – Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” Major musicals make their St. Louis debut this week – the still-running-on-Broadway “Be More Chill” at New Line Theatre and the Peter Allen biopic “The Boy from Oz” kicks off Stages St. Louis’s season.Joe Hanrahan’s Midnight Company presents the St. Louis premiere of the one-man-show “Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust.”It’s the last chance to see the comedy “I Now Pronounce” at New Jewish Theatre and the musical “Nina Simone: Four Women” at The Black Rep.

Start your summer by going to see a play!

Cast of ‘Be More Chill” — Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg“Be More Chill” May 30-June 22 Thursday – Sunday, 8 p.m. New Line Theatre The Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive www.newlinetheatre.org 314-534-1111 What It’s About: “The Breakfast Club” meets “Little Shop of Horrors” in the new sci-fi rock musical, “Be More Chill,” with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and book by Joe Tracz, based on the bestselling novel by New Vizzini. It’s a look at life in the digital age, exploring teen depression, bullying and other current issues through the comic lens of sci-fi films of the 50s, horror flicks of the 80s and the teen movies of the 90s.

Directors: Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music
direction by Nicolas Valdez
Starring: Jayde Mitchell (Jeremy), Dominic Dowdy-Windsor (Squip), Kevin Corpuz
(Michael), Zachary Allen Farmer (Jeremy’s Dad), Melissa Felps (Brooke), Evan
Fornachon (Rich), Isabel Cecilia Garcia (Jenna), Grace Langford (Christine),
Ian McCreary (Jake), and Laura Renfro (Chloe).

Of Note: “Be More Chill” made its world premiere at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey in 2015, had a successful off-Broadway run, it’s now being produced across the country, and it just opened on Broadway in March. It has a Tony nomination for Best Original Score (Joe Iconis, music and lyrics).

David Elder in Stages St. Louis debut“The Boy from Oz” May 31 – June 30 Stages St. Louis Robert G. Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center 111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwoodwww.stagesstlouis.org

What It’s About: Dazzling and hilarious as the legendary
Peter Allen himself, THE BOY FROM OZ follows the Australian singer-songwriter
from his humble beginnings performing in backcountry pubs to his international
stardom beside such Hollywood icons as Judy Garland and her daughter Liza
Minnelli.

Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: David Elder as Peter Allen, Sarah Ellis as Liza Minnelli, Zach
Trimmer as Greg Connell, Corinne Melancon as Marion Woolnough, Michele Ragusa
as Judy Garland, Brad Frenette as George Woolnough, Steve Isom as Dick
Woolnough, Erik Keiser as Chris Bell, Nic Thompson as Mark Herron, Ben Iken and
Simon Desilets as Young Peter, Lydia Ruth Dawson, Bryn Purvis and Madison
Tinder as Trio, Frankie Thams as Trick, Nathanial Burich as Dealer and Ashley
Chasteen as Alice. Ensemble includes Kari Ely and Caleb Dicke.
Of Note: Thrilling news from Stages St. Louis comes in the form of two
celebratory evenings focused around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in
conjunction with performances of “The Boy From Oz.” The 8 pm performances on
Saturday, June 1 and Friday, June 7 will offer special $30 tickets to
diversity, equity, and inclusion groups at corporations and organizations
throughout the St. Louis region. The tickets will include a special post show champagne
and dessert reception featuring lively conversation with members of the cast.

Joe Hanrahan in “Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust”“Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust” May 30 – June 15 The Midnight Company Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Kranzberg Center, 501 N. Grandwww.midnightcompany.com What It’s About: An older man taking a break from Christmas shopping with his family at a Starbucks. Hungry for dinner, he tides himself over with the purchase of a small package of soft, spongy cookies. When he dips one in his coffee, his snooty daughter-in-law asks him if he’s having his “Madeleine moment,” and then proceeds to lecture him about Marcel Proust and “Remembrance of Things Past” – the classic multi-volume novel inspired by the narrator dipping a madeleine cake into tea, with the taste bringing back memories of his boyhood, and leading to a retelling of his time in 19th/20th century aristocratic France. Charlie decides he’s going to read that book (not realizing it is seven books) and be able to talk about it with his daughter-in-law next Christmas. And along the way, he discovers the epic that is his own life.

Director: Sarah Holt

Starring: Joe Hanrahan

“The Dixie Swim Club” May 31 – June 19 Monroe Actors Stage Company Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Historic Capitol Theatre in Waterloowww.masctheatre.org 618-939-7469 What It’s About: Five Southern women, whose friendships began many years ago on their college swim team, set aside a long weekend every August to recharge those relationships. Free from husbands, kids and jobs, they meet at the same beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up, laugh and meddle in each other’s lives. The play focuses on four of those weekends and spans a period of thirty-three years.Director: Tim PaeltzStarring: Stacey Tunnicliff as Sheree Hollinger, Dawn Williamson as Lexi Richards, Terrie Thies as Dinah Grayson, Christine Miller as Vernadette Sims and Kelly Shaw as Jeri Neal McFeeley.

Will Bonfiglio is the Best Man in “I Now Pronounce.” Jon Gitchoff photo.“I Now Pronounce” May – June 2 New Jewish Theatre Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theatre Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeurwww.newjewishtheatre.org

What It’s About: Most weddings have something that doesn’t
go quite right – maybe several things go awry. Often these mishaps are the
things that make the most endearing memories of the occasion, but Tasha
Gordon-Solomon’s “I Now Pronounce” imagines a wedding that culminates in an
awkwardly timed fatality, and a reception that spins into a strange and
hilarious evening that leaves the bride and groom questioning just what it is
they’re celebrating. The flower girls are running amuck; the bridal party
members are more preoccupied with their own flailing relationships. But there’s
no stopping the festivities! Comedies end in marriage.

Director: Edward Coffield

Starring: Graham Emmons, Will Bonfiglio, Ryan
Lawson-Maeske, Jessica Kadish, Craig Neuman, Delaney Piggins, Frankie Ferrari

“Love’s Labors Lost” May 31 – June 23 Shakespeare Festival St. Louis 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park www.shakespearefestivalstlouis.org

What It’s About” Belonging to Shakespeare’s “lyrical”
period, which also included Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the
play tells the story of the Princess of France and her ladies who arrive on a
diplomatic mission to Navarre only to be met by a young king and his lords who
have taken a vow not to see women. Affairs of state give way to affairs of the
heart as Shakespeare reveals with great humor and compassion the way our
culture sometimes doesn’t fully prepare us for the realities of love and
intimacy. A feast of language and theatrical virtuosity, Love’s Labors Lost
shimmers with all the passion and promise of a first kiss.

Director: Tom Ridgely
Starring: Philip Hernandez as Don Adriano de Armado, Bradley James Tejeda (Duc
de Biron), Kea Trevett (Princess of France), Sky Smith (King of Navarre), Patrick
Blindauer (Costard), Katy Keating (Nathaniel), Michael James Reed
(Forester/Marcadé), Jeffery Cummings (Boyet); Carl Howell (Dull), Carine
Montbertrand (Holofernes), Randolph (Moth), Laura Sohn (Rosaline), Molly Meyer
(Jaquenetta), Sam Jones (Longueville), Vivienne Claire Luthin (Maria), Kiah
McKirnan (Catherine), and Riz Moe (DuMaine).

“The Marriage of Figaro” May 25 – June 29 Opera Theatre of St. Louis Loretto-Hilton Center 135 Edgar Road on Webster University campuswww.opera-stl.org 314-961-0644 What It’s About: Mozart’s comedy masterpiece is about complicated life at court and how love should always prevail. The maid Susanna is determined to wed her fiancé, Figaro, while the Count is equally determined to add her to his list of conquests. But Susanna and Figaro won’t allow one self-entitled nobleman to ruin their happy ending! They each hatch their own plots to teach their master a lesson. What follows is a whirlwind day of romantic intrigue, cunning schemes, and uproarious fun. The opera runs three hours and ten minutes with one intermission and is sung in English with English supertitles.

Nina Simone: Four Women. Photo by Philip Hamer“Nina Simone: Four Women” The Black Rep May 15 – June 2 Edison Theatre on Washington University campus www.theblackrep.org

What It’s About: Nina Simone’s velvet voice was unafraid to
sing lyrics that cut right to the truth. Her music and her life were a personal
exploration branded in the kiln of the civil rights movement; so, in the
aftermath of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the tragic
loss of the four little girls her powerful anthems, “Mississippi Goddam,” “Sinnerman”
and “Old Jim Crow,” fueled the Civil Rights movement and changed her public
persona from songstress to activist. From the iconic “I Put a Spell on You” to “Four
Women,” Simone’s lyrics weave a story of four women alienated from themselves
and one another due to the color of their skin.

Director: Ron HimesStarring: Leah Stewart as Simone, Denise Thimes as Sarah (aka Auntie), Alex Jay as Sephronia and Camile “Cee” Sharp as Sweet Thing

“Rigoletto” Opera Theatre of St. Louis June 1 – June 30 8 p.m. Loretto-Hilton Center 135 Edgar Roadwww.experienceopera.org 314-961-0644What It’s About: Verdi’s powerful “Rigoletto” is a tale of innocence lost, wrenchingly poignant and all too human, presented in English with English supertitles. Rigoletto is a bitter court jester who serves the Duke of Mantua, a lecherous womanizer. Together, they are despised throughout the city. But alone, Rigoletto is all tenderness when it comes to his innocent young daughter, Gilda. Little does he know that an ominous curse is about to take its toll. When the Duke seduces Gilda, only to then abandon her, the enraged father swears vengeance.

Cover Photo: Vivienne Claire Luthin, Kea Trevett, Laura Sohn and Kiah McKirnan in “Love’s Labors Lost” — Photo by Philip Hamer.

New Urban-Rural Settings for Shakespeare in the Streets

Rehearsals Begin for ‘Love’s Labors Lost’ – Opens May 31 in Forest Park

The nationally-recognized Shakespeare in the Streets program will highlight the stories of not just one community, but two – Normandy, Missouri and Brussels, Illinois — for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ first urban-rural exchange Sept. 12-14. The performances will be inspired by the Bard’s play, “As You Like It.”

Audiences will choose whether to start in Normandy or Brussels — 45 minutes from one another — where Act One will begin at the same time in both locations. Act Two will take place on busses that transport the audience members to the banks of the Mississippi River. The final act will occur on the water between Missouri and Illinois where the actors will unite to share not only the same space but also the same story. Partners include Beyond Housing, the Normandy Schools Collaborative and Brussels High School. Event locations, casting and creative information will be released in July. 

In October, the Festival will unveil Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s 1957 12-part suite titled, “Such Sweet Thunder,” an extraordinary but long-forgotten piece of work inspired by different Shakespearean characters. In 1960, French choreographer Maurice Béjart used it as the score for an avant-garde ballet. The work will be revived in partnership with Jazz St. Louis to reconstruct the score, Big Muddy Dance Company to create new choreography, and the Festival, which will weave the pieces together with Shakespearean scenes and sonnets. A fourth partner, Nine Network, will host the resulting three free performances Oct. 3-5 in its Public Media Commons. Additional details will be released in late summer.

‘Love’s Labors Lost’ – May 31 through June 23

The Bard’s comedic take on love and courtship will resonate throughout Shakespeare Glen when the Princess of France (Kea Trevett) and her ladies arrive in the King of Navarre’s (Sky Smith) royal forest during Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ production of “Love’s Labors Lost,” May 31 through June 23, in Forest Park. Performances are nightly, excluding Tuesdays, and begin at 8 p.m. Preview performances are scheduled May 29-30. 

Highlights of this lyrical comedic production include original music composed by St. Louis-based Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra, a diverse cast under the direction of the festival’s Executive Producer Tom Ridgely, and a forested set that blurs that line between stage and park. 

“Love’s Labors Lost” features Shakespeare’s largest cast of comic characters, including four sets of lovers, and is the only one of his plays set in a park. The story revolves around the princess and her ladies who arrive on a diplomatic mission to Navarre, only to be met by the young king and his lords who have taken a vow not to see women. Affairs of state give way to affairs of the heart as Shakespeare reveals with great humor and compassion the way our culture sometimes doesn’t fully prepare us for the realities of love and intimacy. 

“I think Love’s Labors Lost asks the question of what happens when the ideas of love that young people absorb from their culture have totally unprepared them for what it’s like to actually be in a relationship with another human being,” Ridgely said. “The Bard’s advice to young lovers, I think, is how grand gestures don’t always pan out. Nor do disguises. He’s asking them to be curious, to get to know the actual person.” 

         The nightly Green Show will begin at 6:30 p.m. and feature local musicians, family art activities and roving performers. Free backstage tours will begin at 6:30 p.m. in front of the main stage. A 20-minute mini-play of “Love’s Labors Lost” will be performed Friday through Sunday by the Festival’s advanced teen ensemble, the Shakespeare Squadron. 

         Open lawn seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Premium seating, priced at $10 and $20, can be reserved online beginning Wed., May 1, at www.sfstl.com until noon the day of the show, or purchased after 5:30 p.m. in the Glen. Festival souvenir picnic blankets, comfortable for two and pre-set in the blanket seating area, are also available for $40. 

         Picnic fare, including sandwiches, snacks, beer, wine, soda, and water are available for purchase, provided by the Saint Louis Zoo. Audiences will be able to purchase Schlafly’s signature craft beer, available exclusively at the production in Forest Park. Cash, debit, and credit cards are accepted in Shakespeare Glen. 

         Four performances – June 4, 6, 13 and 20 – will be American Sign Language interpreted, thanks to support from Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Mind’s Eye Radio will also audio describe a performance for the visually impaired. 

         For a full cast and creative team list, please visit www.sfstl.com.  

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 was recognized as a “What’s Right with the Region” finalist by 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 Snapchat: shakesfestSTL

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Plays with substantial women roles were spotlighted at the seventh annual St.
Louis Theater Circle Awards March 25, with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’
musical production of “Evita” and a homegrown “A Streetcar Named Desire” from
the third annual Tennessee Williams Festival each receiving seven awards.

Both iconic female-lead shows had received the most
nominations, 11 apiece, when the Circle announced them in January. The awards
recognized outstanding work locally produced by regional professional companies
during the calendar year 2018.

Nominees Kari Ely and Michelle Hand in “Into the Breeches!”The comedy “Into the Breeches!”, the first play in Shakespeare
Festival St. Louis’ new program, “In the Works,” won four awards. The world
premiere was in January 2018, with its first St. Louis performances in
September. The comedy from Chicago playwright George Brant is about a
fictitious theater group in 1942, and with the men away at war, the director’s
wife sets out to produce an all-female version of “Henry V.” It had roles for
six women and two men. In addition to awards for ensemble, director Nancy Bell
and best production, Michelle Hand won best actress.

The Circle, which includes veteran area theater critics, annually recognizes outstanding work in comedies, dramas and musicals, and with two opera categories.

Each of the 33 categories featured five nominees, with 23 local companies cited for 54 shows, and 120 artists receiving nods, including 10 with two apiece.

This year, there were three ties: sound design in a play, costume design in a musical and musical ensemble.

Evita won seven awards from the Circle“Evita,” the vibrant Tony Award-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical, earned awards for musical direction (Charlie Alterman), choreography (Gustavo Zajac and Mariana Parma), set design (Luke Canterella), lighting (John Lasiter), director (Rob Ruggiero, his third), ensemble and production of a musical.

The landmark “A Streetcar Named Desire,” written in 1947 by the great American playwright Tennessee Williams, who spent his formative years in St. Louis, earned honors for Sophia Brown as Outstanding Actress – for her heart-wrenching portrayal of the emotionally needy and mental fragile faded beauty Blanche Dubois, sound design (original music by Henry Palkes and sound by Amanda Werre), lighting design (Sean M. Savoie), set design (James Wolk), direction (Tim Ocel), ensemble and production of a drama.

The 18 other awards went to separate shows, with both The
Black Rep and The Muny winning three apiece, and The Rep adding two more for earning
the most, nine.

Jeff Cummings and Katy Keating in “Life Sucks.” Photo by ProPhotoSTLIn comedy, Katy Keating won for Supporting Actress as feisty but unrequited lovesick Sonia in New Jewish Theatre’s “Life Sucks,” a ‘sort of’ adaptation of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” by Aaron Posner. She was also part of the award-winning ensemble of “Into the Breeches!”.

Isaiah Di Lorenzo in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Photo by Ron James.Isaiah Di Lorenzo won Supporting Actor as The Player, the leader of the Tragedians, in St. Louis Shakespeare’s production of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” He also was in the award-winning ensemble of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Will Bonfiglio as Mary Dale in “Red Scare on Sunset.” Photo by Justin Been. Will Bonfiglio won his second Outstanding Actor Award, as film star Mary Dale in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Red Scare on Sunset.” He was honored in 2017 for the one-man show, “Buyer & Cellar,” also at Stray Dog.

For costume designs, Lou Bird won for The Rep’s “Born Yesterday” vintage wardrobe in the play category and there was a tie in the musical category between Leon Dobkowski, who won for The Muny’s colorful “The Wiz,” and Darryl Harris for the elegant “Crowns: A Gospel Musical” at The Black Rep.

There was another tie in sound design in a play – besides “Streetcar,” Rusty Wandall won for Lucas Hnath’s contemporary “The Humans” at The Rep.

Laurie McConnell, left, as Birdie Hubbard in “The Little Foxes.” Photo by Patrick HuberIn drama, Laurie McConnell won Supporting Actress as forlorn
Birdie Hubbard in St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s production of Lillian Hellman’s “The
Little Foxes.” She won in 2017 for Supporting Actress in a Musical, for her portrayal
of Joanne in “Company” at Insight Theatre Company.

Eric Dean White as Satan and Chris Ware as Judas. Photo by Ann AuerbachEric Dean White, a previous nominee, won Supporting Actor for playing the slick, smooth, haughty and conniving Satan in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at Mustard Seed Theatre.

Ron Himes in “Fences”

Another previous nominee and winner, Ron Himes won Outstanding Actor as bitter garbage collector Troy in August Wilson’s “Fences at The Black Rep last winter. In 2014, The Black Rep won best ensemble and production for “The Whipping Man.”

The Black Rep’s “Torn Asunder” best new playThe Black Rep also won Best New Play for Nikkole Salter’s “Torn
Asunder,” which dramatized true stories of newly emancipated African Americans
trying to overcome the vestiges of slavery so they could reconnect with their
families.

Joy Boland won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of the imposing villainess sea witch in Variety Theater’s “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.”

Beth Leavel as Mama Rose in “Gypsy.” Photo by Philip Hamer.For their powerhouse musical performances, Corbin Bleu won Outstanding Actor as the fleet-footed matinee idol Don Lockwood in “Singin’ in the Rain” and Beth Leavel was honored as the controlling stage parent Mama Rose in “Gypsy,” both at The Muny.

Corbin Bleu in “Singin’ in the Rain” at The Muny. Photo by Phil Hamer.Leavel had been nominated three times before (“Hello Dolly!” “Oklahoma!” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” all at the Muny. She is currently performing on Broadway in a St. Louis-produced original musical, “The Prom.”

Stephanie Merritt and Kent Coffel in “The Light in the Piazza” Kent Coffel won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performance as well-meaning haberdasher Signor Naccarelli, Fabrizio’s father, in “The Light in the Piazza,” presented by R-S Theatrics in its St. Louis regional premiere.

Anything Goes at New Line Theatre. Photo by Jill Ritter LindbergTying with “Evita” for musical ensemble was New Line Theatre’s vivacious “Anything Goes.”

It was a three-peat for Ruggiero, who won for directing “Evita,” and had previously been honored for The Rep’s productions of “Follies” and “Sunday in the Park with George.”

“Regina” at OTSL was Outstanding Opera ProductionIn the opera categories, Opera Theatre of St. Louis was honored
for both Outstanding Achievement in Opera, which was given to director Patricia
Racette for “La Traviata,” and the Mark Blitzstein adaptation of “The Little Foxes”
— “Regina,” as Outstanding Production of an Opera.
Three special awards were bestowed:  To the
Muny for a century of performances celebrated during its centennial season of
2018; to Kathleen Sitzer, founder and long-time artistic director of the New
Jewish Theatre, for lifetime achievement; and to Steven Woolf, Augustin
artistic director of The Rep for more than 30 years, also for lifetime
achievement.

Sitzer retired after New Jewish Theatre’s 2017-18 season, while Woolf will retire after The Rep’s 2018-19 season this spring. Organized in 2012, the St. Louis Theater Circle includes founding members Steve Allen of stagedoorstl.com, Mark Bretz of the Ladue News, Robert A. Cohn of the St. Louis Jewish Light, Chris Gibson of Broadway World, Gerry Kowarsky of HEC-TV’s “Two on the Aisle,” Chuck Lavazzi of KDHX, Judith Newmark, now of judyacttwo.com, Ann Pollack of stlouiseats.typepad.com, Lynn Venhaus, now of St. Louis Limelight magazine, Bob Wilcox of HEC-TV’s Two on the Aisle, and Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tina Farmer of KDHX and Michelle Kenyon of snoopstheatrethoughts.com. Eleanor Mullin is the administrator.

Those who helped produce the show at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University included Andrea Torrence and Peggy Holly, who put together the slide show; awards assistance Hannah Daines, stage manager Alycia Martin and assistant stage manager Delaney Dunster, voice-over announcer Colin Nichols and box office assistants Kimberly Sansone and Harry Ginsburg.

Renowned local musician Joe Dreyer was the accompanist and Deborah Sharn performed an opening number.

Special thanks to Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Price Waterhouse Cooper LLC, who tabulate the Circle ballots, and to the awards certificate calligrapher Susan Zenner.

Contact the Circle by email: [email protected] and like us on Facebook.

Evita at The RepInto the Breeches! at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“La Traviata” at Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Veteran performer Philip Hernández, the only actor in Broadway history to play both Valjean and Javert in “Les Misérables,” will headline the 2019 Shakespeare Festival St. Louis production of “Love’s Labors Lost,” May 31 through June 23, at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. Preview performances are scheduled May 29-30. Performances are held nightly, excluding Mondays, and begin at 8 p.m. 

Philip Hernandez

Hernández will portray Don Adriano de Armado, the lovelorn soldier considered to be one of Shakespeare’s finest comic creations. The actor made his Broadway debut in the Original Cast of the Tony Award-winning “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” directed by Harold Prince, and created the role of Reverend Gonzalez opposite Marc Anthony and Ruben Blades in the Original Broadway Cast of Paul Simon’s “The Capeman.” TV credits include roles on “Nurse Jackie,” “Mysteries of Laura,” “Law and Order” and “Ugly Betty,” among others. 

Joining Hernández in the Festival production are Bradley James Tejeda (Duc de Biron), a native of San Antonio, Texas, and a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama, as well as New Yorkers Kea Trevett (Princess of France) and Sky Smith (King of Navarre), both emerging stars within the Shakespeare theater circle. Trevett has appeared on stages nationally with the Classic Stage Company and the Roundabout, as well as internationally in “Antigone” (Africa Tour). Her TV and film credits include “Fosse/Verdon” (FX), “Milkwater” and “The Kindergarten Teacher.” Smith’s most recent credits include “Twelfth Night” (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival) and “Love’s Labours Lost”* (The Acting Co.). 

Kea Trevett

Festival veterans include Patrick Blindauer (Costard), who appeared in 2018’s “Romeo & Juliet”; Katy Keating (Nathaniel), most recently seen with the Festival in “Into the Breeches!” and “Blow, Winds”; and Michael James Reed (Forester/Marcadé), marking his seventh park appearance. 

Other area performers making their Festival debut include Jeffery Cummings (Boyet); Carl Howell (Dull), returning to St. Louis after appearing regionally at the Repertory Theater; Carine Montbertrand (Holofernes), most recently of Titan Theatre at Queens Theatre; Naima Randolph (Moth), an alumni of the Festival’s Shakespeare Squadron and Camp Shakespeare programs; Laura Sohn (Rosaline), a graduate of Rutgers University; Molly Meyer (Jaquenetta); and Sam Jones (Longueville). Also joining the cast are Webster University Conservatory graduates Vivienne Claire Luthin (Maria) and Kiah McKirnan (Catherine), and current student Riz Moe (DuMaine). 

Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival, will direct the production, his first since taking the helm of the organization last spring. This marks the company’s 19th season of free, outdoor, professional theater in the park. 

Creative team members include Jason Simms (Set Design) of New York; Melissa Trn (Costumes), a former St. Louisan currently living in Los Angeles; and John Wylie (Lighting) and Rusty Wandall (Sound). This marks Wylie’s sixth season with the Festival, and Wandall’s eighth.

*A note on the title, “Love’s Labors Lost”:

Spelling and punctuation in early modern English weren’t nearly as regularized as they are today. Shakespeare famously never even spelled his own name the same way twice. Similarly, the first quarto of this play is titled “Loues labors lost”; the first folio has it as “Loues Labour’s Lost”; and, the second folio, “Loues Labours Lost.” Given the lack of certainty about what exactly Shakespeare intended, there are various schools of thought on how best to render those three words in modern English. Since the British “u” in “labour” was optional even in Shakespeare’s day, the Festival has opted for the more familiar American spelling. In addition, since the title contains an allusion to the Labors of Hercules, which are referred to often, along with the work of Cupid (aka Love), the Festival opted for the plural over the contraction — hence, “Love’s Labors Lost.”

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. 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.

#  #  #

TShakespeare Festival St. Louis’ Education Tour introduces students to themes that transcend genres, cultures and centuries

Power, ambition, courage, and fate vs. free will – issues people have grappled with no matter the culture or century – are just a few of the themes students will learn a bit more of as part of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ award-winning Education Tour, now through April 14.

The tour includes more than 100 performances and workshops conducted at 50 schools throughout the bi-state area and rural Missouri. 

The 2019 tour will feature two productions in rep: a timely interpretation of “Macbeth,” adapted and directed by Joanna Battles, and “The Last Cupcake,” an original play written by Nancy Bell and directed by Michael James Reed. “The Last Cupcake,” is a folktale set in the modern world, with plenty of laughs, a little bit of math, and a gentle message about sharing resources. It is inspired by two traditional stories, “The Magic Porridge Pot” and “The Gingerbread Man.” 

Interactive workshops will accompany the performances and provide students with the tools to write their own plays, explore language to unlock the stories and characters packed into Shakespeare’s plays, and use key principles of character education to build on the moral dilemmas presented by some of the Bard’s most infamous characters. Supplemental curriculum guides are also available online at www.sfstl.com. 

“The Education Tour is a central part of the Festival’s programming, not only because it introduces so many young people to the pleasures and benefits of Shakespeare and live performance, but also because of how it engages with the Greater St. Louis area both in Missouri and Illinois,” said Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival.

“That range is so important as the Festival looks to thicken the ties between St. Louis and larger region that we’re a part of. Shakespeare’s plays, and the theater in general, are all about revealing our interdependency. The Education Tour makes that manifest.” 

Support for the tour comes from the Monsanto Fund, a philanthropic arm of Bayer, which has sponsored the Education Tour’s visits to rural communities since 2013.

“Learning about Shakespeare can be exciting and at the same time a bit intimidating,” said Michelle Insco, Monsanto Fund program officer. “Through its annual Education Tour, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has made the works of this great classical writer accessible and relatable for students throughout the region. The Monsanto Fund is proud to support arts programs which can be enjoyed in the communities where Bayer employees live and work.” 

The Festival’s touring productions, workshops and study materials have a 19-year legacy of success in bringing to life the Bard’s characters and their words to more than 300,000 students, and in the process, have won accolades from educators throughout the region.

Shakespeare Festival is one of 40 professional theater companies selected to bring the finest productions of Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students in communities across the United States through Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. 

The Festival’s education programs also include Camp Shakespeare and the SHAKE 101 artist residency program. During the eight-week SHAKE 101 program, students receive hands-on training from professional teaching artists in performance skills, the history and language of Shakespeare, and careers in the arts.

The SHAKE 101 program will be offered to four schools in 2019: Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Ferguson, St. Cecilia’s School in St. Louis, and a combined program connecting students from Clayton and McCluer High Schools. 

In addition to support from the Monsanto Fund, the Festival’s education programs also receive generous support from the Gateway Foundation, Saigh Foundation, UMB Bank, Incarnate Word Foundation, and First Bank. Financial assistance is provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. 

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.

ST. LOUIS, January 25, 2019 
— The musical Evita, which opened the 51st season of
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis last September, and the Tennessee Williams
Festival’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire each has garnered 11
nominations to lead the list of contenders for the seventh annual St. Louis
Theater Circle Awards.

Winners in more than 30 different categories covering comedies,
dramas and musicals will be announced at the awards ceremony on Monday, March
25 at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University, home of
The Rep.  In addition, nominations also
have been announced for two categories in opera.

Tickets once again will be $15 apiece and can be obtained
through Brown Paper Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com
or at the Loretto-Hilton Center box office on the night of the event.
Llywelyn’s Catering will offer a selection of snack boxes, desserts and drinks
available on a pay-as-you-go basis at the event.

The Rep leads the way with a total of 21 nominations,
followed by 18 for The Muny and Stray Dog Theatre’s 15 nominees.  Some 23 local professional companies received
nominations for 54 different shows.  A
total of 120 artists have been nominated, including 10 who received two
nominations apiece. The awards honor outstanding achievement in locally
produced professional theater for the calendar year 2018.

In addition, three special awards have been announced:  To The Muny for a century of performances
celebrated during its centennial season of 2018; to Kathleen Sitzer, founder
and long-time artistic director of the New Jewish Theatre, for lifetime
achievement; and to Steven Woolf, Augustin artistic director of The Rep for
more than 30 years, also for lifetime achievement.

Sitzer retired following the conclusion of her company’s
2017-18 season, while Woolf will be retiring at the conclusion of The Rep’s
2018-19 season this spring.

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To
honor outstanding achievement in St. Louis professional theater. Other cities
around the country, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San
Diego, San Francisco and Washington D.C., pay tribute to their own local
theatrical productions with similar awards programs.

Nominations for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are
divided into categories for musicals, dramas, comedies and opera.  Nearly 130 locally produced professional
theatrical productions were presented in the St. Louis area in 2018.

The nominees for the seventh annual St. Louis Theater Circle
Awards are:

Outstanding
Ensemble in a Comedy

Into the Breeches!, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Life Sucks, New Jewish Theatre

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Stray Dog Theatre

The Realistic Joneses, Rebel and Misfits Productions

Red Scare on Sunset, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding
Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Kari Ely, Into the Breeches!, Shakespeare Festival
St. Louis

Carmen Garcia, Luchadora!, Mustard Seed Theatre with
Theatre Nuevo

Jennelle Gilreath, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,
Stray Dog Theatre

Katy Keating, Life Sucks, New Jewish Theatre

Shannon Nara, Red Scare on Sunset, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding
Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Gary Wayne Barker, Into the Breeches!, Shakespeare
Festival St. Louis

Isaiah Di Lorenzo, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,
St. Louis Shakespeare

Brad Fraizer, A Christmas Story, Repertory Theatre of
St. Louis

Stephen Henley, Red Scare on Sunset, Stray Dog
Theatre

Carl Overly Jr., Luchadora!, Mustard Seed Theatre
with Theatre Nuevo

Outstanding
Actress in a Comedy

Sarajane Alverson, Raging Skillet, New Jewish Theatre

Michelle Hand, Into the Breeches!, Shakespeare Festival
St. Louis

Nancy Nigh, Every Brilliant Thing, R-S Theatrics

Ruth Pferdehirt, Born Yesterday, Repertory Theatre of
St. Louis

Heather Sartin, The Great Seduction, West End Players
Guild

Outstanding Actor
in a Comedy

Will Bonfiglio, Red Scare on Sunset, Stray Dog
Theatre

Alan Knoll, An Act of God, New Jewish Theatre

Luke Steingruby, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,
Stray Dog Theatre

Robert Thibaut, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,
St. Louis Shakespeare

Pete Winfrey, The Importance of Being Earnest,
Insight Theatre Company

Outstanding
Director of a Comedy

Gary F. Bell, Red Scare on Sunset, Stray Dog Theatre

Nancy Bell, Into the Breeches!, Shakespeare Festival
St. Louis

Edward Coffield, Life Sucks, New Jewish Theatre

Pamela Hunt, Born Yesterday, Repertory Theatre of St.
Louis

Anna Skidis Vargas, Luchadora!, Mustard Seed Theatre
with Theatre Nuevo

Outstanding
Production of a Comedy

Born Yesterday, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Into the Breeches!, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Life Sucks, New Jewish Theatre

Luchadora!, Mustard Seed Theatre with Theatre Nuevo

Red Scare on Sunset, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding
Ensemble in a Drama

As It Is in Heaven, Mustard Seed Theatre

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Mustard Seed Theatre

The Little Foxes, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Macbeth: Come Like Shadows, Rebel and Misfits
Productions

A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams Festival
St. Louis

Outstanding
Supporting Actress in a Drama

Nicole Angeli, Doctor Faustus, or the Modern Prometheus,
SATE

Lana Dvorak, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee
Williams Festival St. Louis

Laurie McConnell, The Little Foxes, St. Louis Actors’
Studio

Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Silent Sky, Insight Theatre
Company

Brandi Threatt, Torn Asunder, The Black Rep

Outstanding
Supporting Actor in a Drama

Chuck Brinkley, The Little Foxes, St. Louis Actors’
Studio

Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Tribes, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Thom Niemann, Admissions, Repertory Theatre of St.
Louis

Spencer Sickmann, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee
Williams Festival St. Louis

Eric Dean White, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,
Mustard Seed Theatre

Outstanding
Actress in a Drama

Elizabeth Birkenmeier, Blackbird, St.
Louis Actors’ Studio

Sophia Brown, A Streetcar Named Desire,
Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Kari Ely, The Little Foxes, St. Louis
Actors’ Studio

LaShunda Gardner, Torn Asunder, The
Black Rep

Angela Ingersoll, End of the Rainbow,
Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Actor
in a Drama

Ron Himes, Fences, The Black Rep

Nick Narcisi, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee
Williams Festival St. Louis

John Pierson, Blackbird, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Rob Riordan, New Jerusalem, New Jewish Theatre

David Wassilak, The Dresser, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Outstanding
Director of a Drama

Lorna Littleway, Fences, The Black Rep

Bobby Miller, The Dresser, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Tim Ocel, New Jerusalem, New Jewish Theatre

Tim Ocel, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee
Williams Festival St. Louis

Annamaria Pileggi, Blackbird, St. Louis Actors’
Studio

Outstanding
Production of a Drama

Blackbird, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

End of the Rainbow, Max & Louie Productions

Fences, The Black Rep

New Jerusalem, New Jewish Theatre

A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams Festival
St. Louis

Outstanding Set
Design in a Play

Dunsi
Dai, End of the Rainbow, Max & Louie Productions

Gianni
Downs, The Humans, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Peter
and Margery Spack, Blow, Winds, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Peter
and Margery Spack, Life Sucks, New Jewish Theatre

James
Wolk, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding
Costume Design in a Play

Lou Bird, Born Yesterday, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Megan Harshaw, The Little Foxes, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Amy Hopkins, Red Scare on Sunset, Stray Dog Theatre

Michele Friedman Siler, Into the Breeches!, Shakespeare Festival
St. Louis

Michele Friedman Siler, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee
Williams Festival

Outstanding
Lighting Design in a Play

Rob
Lippert, Silent Sky, Insight Theatre Company

Jon
Ontiveros, Macbeth: Come Like Shadows, Rebel and Misfit Productions

Peter
E. Sargent, A Christmas Story, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Sean
M. Savoie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams Festival St.
Louis

Nathan
Schroeder, Silent Sky, West End Players Guild

Outstanding Sound
Design in a Play

James
Blanton, Silent Sky, Insight Theatre Company

Rusty
Wandall, A Christmas Story, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Rusty
Wandall, The Humans, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Amanda
Werre, Life Sucks, New Jewish Theatre

Amanda
Werre, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Set
Design in a Musical

Luke
Cantarella, Evita, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Dunsi
Dai, Crowns: A Gospel Musical, The Black Rep

Paul
Tate dePoo III, Singin’ in the Rain, The Muny

Michael
Schweikardt, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Muny

James
Wolk, Mamma Mia!, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding
Costume Design in a Musical

Leon
Dobkowski, The Wiz, The Muny

Colene
Fornachon, Anything Goes, New Line Theatre

Daryl
Harris, Crowns: A Gospel Musical, The Black Rep

Robin
L. McGee, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, The Muny

Alejo
Vietti, Evita, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding
Lighting Design in a Musical

Rob
Denton, Jersey Boys, The Muny

Rob
Denton, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Muny

Tyler
Duenow, Jesus Christ Superstar, Stray Dog Theatre

John
Lasiter, Evita, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Sean
M. Savoie, Mamma Mia!, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding
Musical Director

Charlie Alterman, Evita, Repertory Theatre of St.
Louis

Rick Bertone, Jersey Boys, The Muny

Jennifer Buchheit, The Robber Bridegroom, Stray Dog
Theatre

Charles Creath, Crowns: A Gospel Musical, The Black
Rep

Nicolas Valdez, Anything Goes, New Line Theatre

Outstanding
Choreographer

Camille A. Brown, The Wiz, The Muny

Tony Gonzalez, Mamma Mia!, Stages St. Louis

Dana Lewis, Oklahoma!, Stages St. Louis

Rommy Sandhu, Singin’ in the Rain, The Muny

Gustavo Zajac and Mariana Parma, Evita, Repertory
Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding
Ensemble in a Musical

Anything Goes, New Line Theatre

Evita, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, The Muny

The Robber Bridegroom, Stray Dog Theatre

The Zombies of Penzance, New Line Theatre

Outstanding
Supporting Actress in a Musical

Joy Boland, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Variety
Theatre

E. Faye Butler, The Wiz, The Muny

Julia Knitel, Gypsy, The Muny

Macia Noorman, The Light in the Piazza, R-S Theatrics

Megan Sikora, Singin’ in the Rain, The Muny

Outstanding
Supporting Actor in a Musical

Kent Coffel, The Light in the Piazza, R-S Theatrics

Matthew Curiano, Oklahoma!, Stages St. Louis

Zachary Allen Farmer, The Zombies of Penzance, New
Line Theatre

Nathan Lee Graham, The Wiz, The Muny

Sean MacLaughlin, Evita, Repertory Theatre of St.
Louis

Outstanding
Actress in a Musical

Michele Aravena, Evita, Repertory Theatre of St.
Louis

Sarah Ellis, Oklahoma!, Stages St. Louis

Beth Leavel, Gypsy, The Muny

Kay Love, The Light in the Piazza, R-S Theatrics

Sarah Porter, Anything Goes, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actor
in a Musical

Corbin Bleu, Singin’ in the Rain, The Muny

Tielere Cheatem, The Light in the Piazza, R-S
Theatrics

Phil Leveling, The Robber Bridegroom, Stray Dog
Theatre

Pepe Nufrio, Evita, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Blake Price, Oklahoma!, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding
Director of a Musical

Justin Been, The Robber Bridegroom, Stray Dog Theatre

Linda Kennedy, Crowns: A Gospel Musical, The Black
Rep

Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, Anything Goes,
New Line Theatre

Josh Rhodes, Jersey Boys, The Muny

Rob Ruggiero, Evita, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding
Production of a Musical

Anything Goes, New Line Theatre

Crowns:  A Gospel
Musical, The Black Rep

Evita, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Jersey Boys, The Muny

The Light in the Piazza, R-S Theatrics

Outstanding New
Play

Stacie Lents, Run-On Sentence, SATE

Scott Miller, The Zombies of Penzance, New Line
Theatre

Nikkole Salter, Torn Asunder, The Black Rep

John Wolbers, Doctor Faustus, or the Modern Prometheus,
SATE

Vladimir Zelevinsky, The Great Seduction, West End
Players Guild

Outstanding
Achievement in Opera

Susan Graham, Regina, Opera Theatre of
Saint Louis

Kenneth Overton, Lost in the Stars,
Union Avenue Opera

Susanna Phillips, Regina, Opera
Theatre of Saint Louis

Patricia Racette, La Traviata, Opera
Theatre of Saint Louis

Shaun Patrick Tubbs, Lost in the Stars,
Union Avenue Opera

Outstanding
Production of an Opera

An American Soldier, Opera Theatre of
Saint Louis

L’elisir d’amore, Winter Opera Saint
Louis

La Traviata, Opera Theatre of Saint
Louis

Lost in the Stars, Union Avenue Opera

Regina, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen,
stagedoorstl.com; Mark Bretz, Ladue News;
Bob Cohn, St. Louis Jewish Light;
Tina Farmer, KDHX; Chris Gibson, Broadwayworld.com; Michelle Kenyon,
snoopstheatrethoughts.com; Gerry Kowarsky, Two
on the Aisle (HEC-TV); Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Sarah Bryan Miller (opera
only), St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Judith Newmark, judyacttwo.com; Ann
Lemons Pollack, stlouiseats.typepad.com;
Lynn Venhaus, St. Louis Limelight
Magazine; Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle (HEC-TV); and Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Eleanor
Mullin, local actress and arts supporter, is group administrator. 

For more information, contact [email protected]
or ‘like’ The St. Louis Theater Circle on Facebook.

                                                            ###

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Announces ‘

Tom Ridgely to direct the production set for May 31 – June 23 in Forest Park

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis announced today that “Love’s Labors Lost” will be the 2019 season main stage production at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. A comedic masterpiece by William Shakespeare, the production is scheduled May 31 through June 23; preview nights are set for May 29-30.

Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival, will direct the production, his first since taking the helm of the organization last spring. 

Belonging to Shakespeare’s “lyrical” period, which also included ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ the play tells the story of the Princess of France and her ladies who arrive on a diplomatic mission to Navarre only to be met by a young king and his lords who have taken a vow not to see women. Affairs of state give way to affairs of the heart as Shakespeare reveals with great humor and compassion the way our culture sometimes doesn’t fully prepare us for the realities of love and intimacy. A feast of language and theatrical virtuosity, ‘Love’s Labors Lost’ shimmers with all the passion and promise of a first kiss. 

Interesting point of note: “Love’s Labors Lost” features the single longest word in all of Shakespeare’s plays – honorificabilitudinitatibus. 

“’Love’s Labors Lost’is one of Shakespeare’s most dazzling and delightful comedies – and a brilliant study of the ways culture shapes courtship,” Ridgely said.  “The Bard’s insights into the different ways men and women love and want to be loved have never felt so contemporary, and the climactic final scene is one of the most moving and masterful in the canon. It’s also the perfect play for Forest Park, with its lovers and clowns cavorting all over the sumptuous royal park of the King of Navarre, and I can’t wait to share it with our audiences.”

 Formerly the artistic director and co-founder of Waterwell in New York, Ridgely was responsible for developing and producing more than a dozen world premieres and adaptations of classics. Under his leadership, Waterwell was nominated for three IT awards, a Drama Desk, a New York Magazine Culture Award and a Village Voice “Best of NYC.” He also adapted and directed Waterwell’s dual-language (English/Farsi) “Hamlet,” which was designed and performed by a company of predominantly Middle Eastern and South Asian artists. Ben Brantley of the New York Times described the production as “conceptually bracing…a magnetic reminder of where Hamlet came from and what he has lost.” 

Ridgely will be joined by creative team members Jason Simms (Set Design) of New York; Melissa Trn (Costumes), a former St. Louisan currently living in Los Angeles; and John Wylie (Lighting) and Rusty Wandall (Sound). This marks Wylie’s sixth season with the Festival, and Wandall’s eighth.

The cast for “Love’s Labors Lost” will be announced in April. 

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. 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.

#

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.

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.