By Lynn Venhaus

A triumph in the ‘new normal’ was a sight for weary eyes when Stray Dog Theatre boldly went where no one else has in regional professional theater to produce an intimate, absorbing “Lobby Hero” by Kenneth Lonergan.

With live theater being one of the harshest casualties of the pandemic, watching any kind of online production has been such a welcome respite from the world’s troubles. I have enjoyed all the creative attempts to produce art, from clever Zoom plays to a mash-up of archival footage and musical acts, to radio plays and staged readings. I admire the efforts that artists are willing to take, to make art accessible through digital media. As someone who is leery of crowds during the public health crisis, being able to stay connected to people I admire for their willingness to take risks and see what happens has been a great joy. After all, theater fans cannot live on “Hamilton” replays alone on Disney Plus.

So, after shutting their doors for the remainder of the 2020 season in May, Stray Dog Theatre came up with an unconventional plan to take the four actors already cast in the drama, put them into innovative pods for their safety, space them apart at the Tower Grove Abbey, record it and make a video link available through a service. It sounded exciting because we could see it after all – and without crowd restrictions or safety worries.

The play had been scheduled for June and was one of my most anticipated shows of the season (big Lonergan fan). For the new venture, free reservations could be made to see it July 27 – 31 and people were given 72 hours in which to view it, but the cut-off was 11:59 p.m. on the last night. This audio-visual recording was made possible through arrangements with Dramatists Play Service and the playwright, and donations could be accepted. Everything was seamless – reservation confirmed, link emailed, quick connection, and then, magic happened.

The play takes place in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building. Four people’s lives intersect through their work – two security guards and two police officers on the night shift, and then are drawn into a murder investigation. These three men and one woman have distinct personalities that emerge, ordinary people who must confront moral dilemmas and ethical behavior through conflicts with each other. Lonergan is so good at revealing layers and the late-night conversations have a genuine intimacy.

Lobby Hero at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo by Justin Been

What a finely tuned quartet the performers were: Jeremy Goldmeier as Jeff, a hapless regular joe, just trying to find his way in the world but usually unlucky in life; Abraham Shaw as William, Jeff’s strict supervisor, frustrated by the failure that surrounds him – his knucklehead employee and his troublemaker brother (unseen), when all he is trying to do is succeed; Stephen Peirick as Bill, an obnoxious married police officer who abuses his power and thinks he deserves respect as a big shot; and Eileen Engel as Dawn, a rookie officer enamored with Bill but also trying to prove that she fits in to a macho man’s world.

They each have various degrees of ambition, and that is transparent. Their feelings will become apparent as they talk to each other, from initially shooting the breeze to thornier statements as details of a murder unfold. A nurse with three young children has been brutally raped and killed by a group of thugs. William’s brother is a suspect. How far will he go to protect him? Talkative and lonely, Jeff has taken a shine to Dawn, but she is enamored with Bill, until evidence of sexual misconduct is revealed. Dawn’s only been on the force for three months and has a lot to learn.

It was if I was sitting in a pew, the four well-rehearsed actors seamless in conveying multi-dimensional characters. The smart, sharp ensemble delivered dialogue-dense exchanges that went from casual to probing, puzzling to skeptical, pleasant to peeved. Loyalties swiftly shifted. Director and Artistic Director Gary F. Bell escalated the growing tensions well and shrewdly moved the players around. The fade technique worked well as exits.

With its relevance to today’s social issues, you would not realize it was a generation removed, written in 2000. And Goldmeier – in what might be his best work – makes us see every tic of his turmoil. He wants to do the right thing – but is he capable? He is intimidated by blustery Bill, who likes to throw his weight around, and wants desperately to please his boss. When William confides in Jeff, they seem to become friends.

The actors worked so well together, building the emotional energy Bell was seeking. Peirick plays well against type, being an entitled jerk, while Engel holds her own with the guys, talking tough with a torrent of profanity. She’s tiny but mighty in navigating her way in an obvious man’s world.

And, like so many key turning points, it comes down to secrets and lies. In 1808, Sir Walter Scott wrote “oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive,” and it still holds true today. Stories unravel, truths unfold, betrayals sever relationships and life gets rather messy for each of the four. They learn the hard way that there are consequences to actions.

Justin Been has proven he is quite a visionary and his remarkable technical skills were on display again. As associate artistic director and production manager, he added imaginative touches, through music and modern graphics. He evoked the location with black-and-white scenes of New York City. He and Bell had come up with the pod idea, executed by set designer Josh Smith.

 “Lobby Hero” was produced off-Broadway in 2001, after Lonergan had been Oscar-nominated for the screenplay to “You Can Count on Me.” Lonergan would finally make it to Broadway in 2014 with “This Is Our Youth,” a Steppenwolf revival of his 1996 play starring Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin. I was fortunate to see it at the Cort Theatre then, a memorable experience. Lonergan has a knack for creating vivid roles through conversations, and the gifted actors didn’t miss a beat in crafting familiar, relatable characters. After winning the Oscar for his “Manchester by the Sea” original screenplay in 2016, Lonergan oversaw a remount of  “Lobby Hero” in March 2018 at the newly renovated Hayes Theatre on Broadway, starring Michael Cera as awkward Jeff and Brian Tyree Henry as stern William (both Tony Award nominees), Chris Evans (yes, Captain America) as the compromised police officer Bill and Bel Powley as feisty Dawn.

Stray Dog hopes to be back with their season in February 2021, if all is safe to do so. They may even return virtually with another innovative project. “Lobby Hero” was a perfect choice to stage the inventive way they did.

If you need information, contact them directly by email at [email protected] or by phone at (314) 865-1995.

Stray Dog Theatre (SDT) will stream “on demand” Lobby Hero through most web browsers between 12:01 a.m. on July 27 and 11:59 p.m. on July 31, 2020. Participation is limited to the first 750 reservations, and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please note: While you have the freedom to use your reservation at any point during the dates listed above, you will only have 72- hours to finish viewing the production once you begin streaming. Reservations and viewings for Lobby Hero are free, and available beginning at 12 noon on Saturday, July 18, 2020 by visiting, www.straydogtheatre.org. In this time of COVID-19, SDT understands how important having accessible art is for audiences and artists alike.

Jeremy Goldmeier in “Lobby Hero.” Photo by Justin Been

While SDT’s production of Lobby Hero is complimentary, a donation would be gratefully appreciated. Lobby Hero Synopsis: Loyalties are strained to the breaking point when a hapless security guard is drawn into a local murder investigation; a conscience-stricken supervisor is called to bear witness against his troubled brother; and a naive rookie cop must stand up to her formidable male partner. Truth becomes elusive and justice proves costly.

Stray Dog Theatre Artistic Director Gary F. Bell directs the cast featuring Eileen Engel, Jeremy Goldmeier, Stephen Peirick, and Abraham Shaw. By partnering with Surfcode and utilizing their platform PlayPlay.tv, audiences will be able to enjoy Lobby Hero, which was recorded live, on the SDT stage, in real-time, with each actor inside an individual custom built acting booth. Rehearsals for this production were held in compliance with both state and local ordinances, including temperature checks, required face coverings and social distancing.

This Audio & Video recording was produced by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service and Kenneth Lonergan. All rights reserved. This performance is authorized for non-commercial use only. By accepting the Audio & Video recording, you agree not to authorize or permit the Audio & Video recording to be copied, distributed, broadcast, telecast or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, in any media now known or hereafter developed.

WARNING: Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution or exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures, Audio & Videotapes or Audio & Videodiscs. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and may constitute a felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000.00 fine.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a multitude of obstacles to overcome for organizations of all types, and theater groups are no exception. Sharon Hunter, Artistic Director-Producer of Moonstone Theatre Company, aims to help address some of the virus-related challenges that the St. Louis theatre community faces by forming the St. Louis Theatre Community Task Force.

“As I was thinking about how to proceed with my own company in the wake of the pandemic, I started thinking it would be helpful  to get a lot of the theaters to sit down via Zoom and discuss concerns, ideas and solutions for moving forward as we navigate the future of theatre in St. Louis,” Hunter explains.

Sharon Hunter

The Task Force will address concerns including conducting safe auditions, rehearsals and performances, finding new ways to seat audiences, maintaining the visibility of the St. Louis theatre community, new ways to offer theatre experiences and recommendations for the use of personal protective equipment.

Hunter said the Task Force, which is the first of its kind in the St. Louis area, welcomes local theatre groups of all sizes. In addition to these organizations, representatives from the St. Louis County Department of Health and the Center For Disease Control have also been invited to the first online meeting to address questions and concerns.

Theatre companies invited to participate include R-S Theatrics, The Q Collective, The Midnight Company, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, Upstream Theater, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, COCA, Shakespeare Festival STL, Black Rep, Stray Dog Theatre, Stages St. Louis, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, The Muny, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, New Jewish Theatre, Cherokee Street Theatre, The Cabaret Project of St. Louis, Max & Louie Productions, Black Mirror Theatre, Young Liars, West End Players Guild, Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis, New Line Theatre, ERA Theatre Company, STL Fringe Festival, St Louis Shakespeare, Metro Theatre Company, That Uppity Theatre Company and the Tesseract Theatre Company.

The initial meeting of the Task Force is scheduled for Thursday, April 23, at 7 p.m. Theatre groups interested in interested in participating should contact Hunter at [email protected] to get access to the Zoom link. For more info, check their Facebook page for updates: https://www.facebook.com/STLTheatre/.

By Lynn Venhaus

As a regional surge in COVID-19 cases grips the area, more local arts and entertainment events have either been cancelled or postponed in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The month-long “Hamilton” national tour stop at the Fox is now postponed, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis has cancelled its festival season and people are now moving dates from spring to either later in the year or 2021.

Based on the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization’s recommendations on social distancing and against large group gatherings, St. Louis city and county, St. Charles County and Illinois put a public health emergency plan in place. They have shutdown gatherings of 10 or more, encouraged social distancing and ordered everyone to Stay-at-Home. Announced dates: St. Louis quarantine is through April 22; Illinois is through April April 30; Missouri is through April 24; and the nation is recommended until April 30.

Here is a round-up of the latest on community theater, regional professional theater, national touring shows, certain events and venues. If alternate programming has been put into place, it’s mentioned. As everyone knows by now, things change daily, so check with websites to see the latest. I’ll update as groups provide new information.

PROFESSIONAL VENUES

Kranzberg Arts Foundation
All Kranzberg Arts Foundation venue operations have been temporarily shut down. This includes theatres, galleries, clubs, restaurants, cafes, and libraries. These closures will remain in place until at least May 11.

This includes the Kranzberg Arts Center, The Marcelle Theatre, The .Zack Theatre, The Big Top, The Grandel Theatre, The Dark Room, Sophie’s Artist Lounge and the High-Low building.

Fox Theatre
Performances at the Fabulous Fox have been postponed through April 30 and tours have been cancelled through June 7.

On April 10, the Fox announced that “Hamilton” has been postponed but no date has been set yet. It was scheduled to play at The Fox May 5 – June 7.

“The Fox is in discussion with the HAMILTON producers to reschedule the engagement and hopes to announce that information soon. said spokesman Megan Ketcherside.

Ticket holders should keep their tickets until new dates are announced. More information will be available once new dates are secured.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre hopes to bring the show to St. Louis in 2020, but as with all things related to COVID-19 and the social distancing necessary to keep guests and associates safe, theatre management will follow the lead of government and health officials in this matter> Ketcherside said.

The other shows that have been postponed: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” originally scheduled for March 17-29; Teen Talent Competition originally scheduled for April 4; “Cats,” originally scheduled for April 7-19; Celtic Woman has been rescheduled for April 20, 2021; and Chaka Khan, originally scheduled for April 24.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” will now be Dec. 22 – 27. “Cats” can’t be rescheduled for 2019-2020 but Fox is working on a future date.

Plans to reschedule other postponed shows are currently underway.  Ticket holders should hold on to their tickets – they will be honored on the new dates.

Decisions about other future shows will be made as we follow the evolving situation with the COVID-19 virus and the City of St. Louis’ determination of the length of this prohibition, public relations manager Megan Ketcherside said.

Operational hours are subject to change based on the COVID-19 situation. For now, the Fox Box Office is temporarily closed. The MetroTix 314-534-1111 phone hours are now from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Visit the website, www.fabulousfox.com/coronavirus

Family Arena

As of March 25, the Family Arena and The Family Arena Box Office is closed to the public until such time as the limit on public gatherings is lifted in St. Charles County.

Tickets are still available for purchase at Ticketmaster.com.

Manager Tom O’Keefe said if you purchased tickets at the box office for an upcoming rescheduled event that you would like a refund for, please hold on to your tickets until they re-open and they will refund your tickets at that time.

They have partnered with Ticketmaster to address all fan questions regarding the cancellation and rescheduling of live events. Visit the Ticketmaster Help Center for guidance and check back regularly for additional information and status updates, www.familyarena.com.

Stifel Theatre

The Stifel Theatre and Enterprise Center Box Offices will not open until further notice. For guests who purchased tickets to an upcoming show through the box office that has been cancelled, please hold on to your tickets until we re-open and are able to assist with your questions.

These events at Stifel Theatre have been postponed. Ticket holders should hold on to their tickets, as all tickets will be honored on the rescheduled dates.

Here are rescheduled dates:

Gabriel Iglesias, from March 13 to Oct. 15 and from March 15 to Oct. 14; Franco Escamilla, from March 14 to Nov. 13; Bob Weir and Wolf Brothers from March 18 to Oct. 14; Nathaniel Rateliff from March 19 to Nov. 14; Ron White from March 20 to Sept. 11; Bert Kreischer from April 5 to July 30; Iliza: The Forever Tour from April 23 to Sept. 24; and Trolls LIVE! From May 15-17 to Oct. 2-4.

The following events have been cancelled and refunds will be available at original point of purchase:

“Sesame Street Live,” March 27-29; TD Jakes, April 10; The Color Purple, April 11; Variety Children’s Charity featuring Steely Dan, April 23; The Spongebob Musical, May 2-3; and Mother’s Day Soul Jam, May 8.

Decisions about other future shows will be made as they continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation. Visit www.stifeltheatre.com

Chaifetz Arena

The arena is closed until further notice and in an abundance of caution, the venue will be thoroughly cleaned while closed.

They are currently working to reschedule all impacted events and will provide updates as quickly as possible. We ask all current ticket-holders to retain their tickets for these events until such time when a new date is determined as your current ticket will be valid for the new date. “Please be patient and hang tight as we work through this unprecedented time,” a spokesman said.

Additionally, they have partnered with Ticketmaster to address all fan questions regarding the cancellation and rescheduling of live events. Visit the Ticketmaster Help Center by clicking here for guidance and check back regularly for additional information and status updates as they become available.

Impacted Events: Festival Of Laughs from March 20 to Sept. 26; Sturgill Simpson from March 21 to TBD; Gateway Blues Festival from March 28 to TBD; AEW Dynamite from April 8 to Oct. 7; NF from April 11 to Aug. 15; Legends of Hip Hop, from April 17 to Nov. 7; The Millennium Tour, from April 24 to Aug. 8; Three 6 Mafia, from May 23 to Oct. 2; and Lauren Daigle, from May 29 to TBD.

The Playhouse at Westport

All March/April events were cancelled, including “Flanagan’s Wake,” which had been extended to mid-April.

John Denver Tribute May 7-10 and Rockin’ Chair June 5-6 remain scheduled.

Refunds are available at point of purchase.

REGIONAL PROFESSIONAL THEATER

Metro Theatre Company

They are partnering with Off the Page for this project “Art Apart, Together.” Share your creativity and learn more here: https://www.metroplays.org/art-apart-together

Off the Page is launching a new way to keep making art together, in this time of separation. Please head over to ART APART, TOGETHER to help us make a new work together: https://www.offthepageeducation.org/art-apart-together/

We feel really lucky to be partnering with Alliance TheatreCry Havoc Theater Company, and Metro Theater Company on this project.

EVERYONE is encourage to participate–kids, adults, teachers, students, artists, people who don’t yet identify as artists! You read or watch the prompt and then respond immediately in the art form of your choice. We work with amazing collaborators to shape your responses in to a new work and have actors record it. We make a video of our brand new, collaborative work!

New prompts each week, so you can keep generating material while we work on new scripts. We want to hear from you.

The Muny

The Muny administrative offices and box office are closed through late April. Ticketing services for the 2020 season are available online at any time.Ticketing related questions can be sent to [email protected]

“We are closely monitoring all developments regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and will continue to follow the guidance of health and government officials with the goal of keeping our staff and community as safe and healthy as possible,” the Muny statement reads on their website. 

“With the start of our 2020 season still months away, we remain optimistic that the season will proceed as planned and hope the restrictions on gatherings are lifted in early May, as scheduled. If that changes, we will adjust accordingly. Meanwhile, we continue communicating with health officials on all levels to stay fully informed and responsive to this unprecedented situation,” the statement reads.

Given the Stay at Home order for St. Louis City and County, and for the health and safety of our team, The Muny Offices are currently closed and some ticketing dates have changed. However, we’re still busy getting ready for the 2020 summer season, and we can’t wait to meet you at The Muny this summer!

Ticketing Update as of March 26 – These dates are subject to change. 

Muny Season Tickets will be mailed in early May

Season Ticket Exchanges: May 26 – 29

Single Ticket on Sale: June 1

To purchase new season tickets, or pay a current balance on existing season tickets, please visit:  muny.org/buy-tickets

To purchase season tickets with a gift card you currently have in-hand, please email The Muny Box Office at [email protected] and a Muny Ticketing agent will contact you  to process your request. If you wish to purchase a gift card, it will not be mailed until the restrictions on gatherings have been lifted. 

Also, if you are looking for a way to stay entertained during these “quiet days,” we encourage you to enjoy a specially curated set of video clips from our previous productions on our social media channels. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Cake starring Rigel Harris, Denny Dillon and Dria Brown. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The Repertory Theatre had to cancel the run of “The Cake,” which began in the Studio Theatre on March 14, but was forced to be shutdown March 16, and to postpone our Mainstage world premiere of “Dreaming Zenzile” from March 21, with the goal of mounting it this summer.

“The Cake”

An online stream of “The Cake” has been made available to all Studio Theatre patrons who previously purchased tickets at no additional cost.

There are a limited number of streaming tickets available for purchase for those who are interested in viewing the final performance of the Steve Woolf Studio Series this season. That is available through April 24.

Additionally, The Rep is collaborating with a national group of theatres to commission a series of short plays specifically developed to spark joy and connection among people who are sheltering in place. These initiatives are designed to keep the art alive and vital, even in a time of isolating quarantines.

“Keep an eye out for more entertaining content and educational resources from The Rep and our local and national partners by following us on social media,” spokesman Jeremy Goldmeier said.

On March 27, The Rep announced that they have honored the entire contracts of the guest artists who devoted their talents to “Dreaming Zenzile” and “The Cake,” despite their runs being delayed or cut short.

“In these uncertain times, The Rep felt it was imperative that these artists, whose livelihoods depend on their contracts, not bear the additional burden of lost wages in this pandemic,” a statement said.

“As you know, The Rep has an extraordinarily talented and dedicated staff that works year-round to support the productions, education, and community initiatives to serve the greater St. Louis region. We have continued to pay the full salaries of our full-time, year-round administrative staff, with no furloughs or other lapses in pay. We have moved our administrative and box office teams to work remotely to serve you during this period,” a statement said.

Play at Home

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has teamed with Baltimore Center Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, The Public Theater and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company to present Play at Home, a series of micro-commissioned short plays from some of the American theatre’s most exciting and prominent playwrights.

These new plays – which all run 10 minutes or less – are available for the public to download, read and perform at home for free at playathome.org.

In the wake of widespread event cancellations following the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the participating theatres conceived Play at Home as a way to support artists, connect people to theatre, and to ignite imagination and joy in these uncertain times.

Each organization commissioned multiple playwrights – most of whom had plays canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak – to create new works that were big, joyful and not bound by the constraints of what might be “possible” on a traditional stage.

The Rep’s commissioned playwrights feature:

Regina Taylor (playwright of The Rep’s 2020-2021 production of Oo-Bla-Dee)

Karen Zacarias (playwright of The Rep’s 2020-2021 production of Native Gardens)

Steph Del Rosso (playwright of The Rep’s 2020-2021 world premiere of The Gradient)

Guadalís Del Carmen (who appeared at The Rep as an actor in 2020’s Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles)

Tre’von Griffith (a St. Louis performer and playwright, co-founder of TLT Productions)

These plays are meant to be read at home among family and friends, and we highly encourage readers to share photos or videos of their home performances on social media using the hashtag #playathome.

Max and Louie Productions

Estelle Siteman of Max & Louie Productions said they optimistically look forward to bringing the second play of our 2020 season,”Looking for Normal” by Jane Anderson to the Marcelle. “This beautiful ,moving play full of wit and wisdom opens July 16 through the 26.2020,” she said.

Moonstone Theatre Company
Sharon Hunter said Moonstone Theatre Company has postponed their July opening of “The House of Blue Leaves” to July of 2021 at the Wool Studio Theatre at the J. They will announce our season shortly. which will now begin in November 2020 with a Neil Simon comedy.

Joe Hanrahan of The Midnight Company

The Midnight Company
Midnight Artistic Director Joe Hanrahan has moved his one-man play from May 28 – June 13 to a June 4 – 20 run. This is the premiere of the full version of “Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond,” which will be at The Chapel, 4238 Alexander Drive, 63105. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday at 2 p.m.

 It was performed in a shortened version at the 2018 St. Louis Fringe Festival, and audiences responded enthusiastically and critics raved.  Snoops Theatre Thoughts said “A delightful show that’s part personal memoir, part history lesson, part nostalgia, and all fascinating.  A difficult show to describe but what it is is excellent.”  Limelight said “Hanrahan jumps from omniscient narrator to 15-year old movie fanatic to baseball and theatre historian, the audience hanging on every word.  The Cardinals are the talk of the town again.  This show should be the talk of the town, too!” 
Hanrahan said, “There’s never been a play we’ve done that’s received such enthusiastic, visceral reaction, due, surely, to the St. Louis history of the show.  At the Fringe, productions are limited to one-hour playing time, and this new version will allow us to incorporate new material that should make the show ever more entertaining and informative.”
“Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond,” concerns  a teen-age boy in 1964. JFK’s assassination still casts a pall on the nation.  The Beatles’ emergence in February of ’64 starts to lighten the mood of the nation. The Cardinals continue the good times in St. Louis with a mad dash toward the pennant. And when a new movie hero hits the screens that summer, a bunch of boys on a baseball field have their first theatre experience when one of their gang offers a 30-minute one-man show of “From Russia with Love.”  Throughout, the playwright draws links between what’s happened and happening –  from JFK to James Bond, from segregation in St. Louis to segregation in baseball’s Southern Leagues and Florida stadiums where The Beatles were supposed to play, from WWII to British film production crews and JFK hit squads, from the first cave man who stood up by the fire to the theatre musings of Peter Brook…all of it swirling in front of the eyes of a young boy, and the memory of that time.
Shane Signorino will direct the show as he did at The Fringe (Shane just received a Theatre Critics Circle nomination as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for Midnight’s POPCORN FALLS), Kevin Bowman will serve as Production Designer, Michael B. Perkins will design video support (as he did for Midnight productions of A MODEL FOR MATISSE, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, and LITTLE THING BIG THING), and Elizabeth Henning will be Stage Manager.

There will also be a concurrent exhibit in The Chapel lobby of memorabilia from 1950’s/60’s baseball and James Bond films, presented by George Venegoni.



Grace Langford and Jaclyn Amber in “Head Over Heels” Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg



New Line Theatre


New Line managed to get two weekends of performances of “Head Over Heels” before the local government mandates of crowd size forced it to close early in mid-March.

Its June production of “Urinetown” has been cancelled.

Stray Dog Theatre

“Annie,” which was to open April 9, has been postponed, with dates to be announced.

“We will honor all tickets already purchased to any of the new performance dates once they are announced. To purchase tickets to any other future productions, please call our box office directly at (314) 865-1995.

“We are currently planning to hold the remainder of the 2019-2020 season as scheduled. Any changes or additional information will be shared as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us,” said Artistic Director Gary F. Bell.

“We would like to thank everyone for the hard work they’ve already put into the production and we would like to thank you for your patience as we work to bring you the quality story telling you, our family, deserve. Annie is that bit of light we all need right now, ‘the sun will come out tomorrow’ and we will overcome anything,” Bell said.

“We know we are not the only organization dealing with these difficult decisions and we stand with them, ready to come back stronger. Your continued support of all arts organizations is always appreciated but never more than in times like these. We look forward to seeing you soon,” he said. “Please stay safe and be kind to one another.”

Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero” is set to run June 4 – June 20

“However, due to the extreme strain currently being faced by many organizations we have made the decision to halt online sales of upcoming productions. We will resume online sales once matters have settled and the timeline of events moving forward becomes more defined,” Bell said.

“You may continue to purchase tickets for upcoming shows by calling our Box Office at (314) 856-1995 or emailing us at [email protected] Thank you for your patience and your continued support as we manage these unfortunate events.”

For more information, visit www.straydogtheatre.org

St Louis Actors’ Studio

Neil LaBute’s Ten X Ten Series 2nd Week free Video is now availalbe! Check our Twitter account for the link (http://twitter.com/STLAS1)LaBute’s Ten X Ten Series is offered as free content weekly via @STLAS1. It is a collection of original monologues initially written for AUDIENCE CHANNEL#LaBute10x10

This is in response to the cancellation of LaBute’s new play, “Comfort,” which STLAS was to stage this spring.

New Jewish Theatre

Judi Mann, Kelly Weber and Joneal Joplin in “We Are the Levinsons”

Initially, New Jewish rescheduled “We Are the Levinsons” from March 19 to May, but now they have pushed it back, along with their Sondheim musical revue, “Putting It Together.”  They would like to reschedule later this summer.

All activities at the JCCA have been suspended during the public health crisis.

For more information, please contact them by email or by phone, 314-442-3283.

Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has canceled its season. On April 7, Andrew Jorgensen, general director of Opera Theatre, announced the cancellation of the 2020 festival season that was to open May 23 and run through June 28 with this repertory: the world premiere of Tobias Picker and Aryeh Lev Stollman’s Awakenings, Bizet’s gripping opera Carmen, Strauss’ effervescent comedy Die Fledermaus, and the long-awaited company premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah

Unfortunately, due to the size of seasonal staff required to produce each opera season, it is not possible for us to assemble the same casts, creative teams, and backstage artisans at any other point in the next several months. Even if we could postpone our season by a month, we simply don’t know when it will be safe for groups to gather again. 

At this time, there is no active plan in place to move any of the 2020 productions into the 2021 Festival Season. However, they are still evaluating various options and scenarios — stay tuned for more!

For a complete list of all affected programs and public events, including information on whether an event is canceled or postponed, visit the website and scroll down for a complete list:

https://www.opera-stl.org/beyond-the-stage/updates-regarding-covid-19

This page will be updated frequently in the weeks ahead as new information becomes available regarding the status of events, including possible rescheduling or digital streaming.

“As always, our highest priority is the health of the entire OTSL family — patrons, staff, and artists,” the statement reads.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

The 2020 Shakespeare in the Park production of “Much Ado About Nothing” has been moved to Aug. 12 – Sept. 6. Producing Artistic Director Tom Ridgely said it was in order to provide the best possible chance of safely gathering artists and audiences for its 20th anniversary season. It is to be directed by Bruce Longworth.

“For the past 20 years in St. Louis, the opening of Shakespeare in the Park has helped to mark the unofficial start of summer,” Ridgely said. “This year it’s clear that the only way to care for our actors, crew, volunteers and community is to give as much time as possible for social distancing measures to take effect and hope to be one of the ways we all bring our summer 2020 to a much happier close.”

The previously announced creative team of Matt Pace & Brien Seyle (Original Music), Josh Smith (Scenic Design), Dorothy Englis (Costume Design), John Wylie (Lighting Design) and Kathy Ruvuna (Sound Design) remains the same.

In response to the widespread cancellation of live events, the Festival has already shifted to generating a full schedule of new and original content for the online and social media platforms under the umbrella of “ShakespeareTV.”

These include the previously aired “watch party” of its canceled regional tour of Cymbeline, a live reading of “Venus and Adonis” (which Shakespeare wrote during a plague-induced theater closure) and a five-night reading of Albert Camus’ postwar masterpiece “The Plague.” Together they’ve already been viewed 10,000 times.

Now through May 29 on ShakespeareTV, which can be accessed on their Facebook page:

THE ZOOM PLAYS: a weekly series of 20- to 30-minute original plays written especially to be performed live over the videoconferencing app Zoom. Created and performed by local playwrights, directors and actors.

GREEN SHOW MONDAYS: an eclectic variety program featuring music, comedy and performance from Festival favorites.

SHAKESPEARE AND CHILL: a special selection of Shakespeare-inspired movies featuring live commentary from artists and scholars, co-curated by Cinema St. Louis.

Other one-night only events to be announced.

May 29 – June 21 is SHAKE20

A 20th anniversary reboot of the beloved engagement program SHAKE38 featuring community responses to 20 of Shakespeare’s plays streaming on Facebook and Instagram Tuesdays through Sundays 8 p.m. during the Festival’s originally scheduled run, May 29-June 21.

Like the original, SHAKE20 will be a region-wide collaboration involving artists and organizations including SHAKE38 alumni: Slightly Askew Theater, Prison Performing Arts: The Alumni Group, RS-Theatrics, Poor Monsters and Theater Nuevo. More details about the program and how to apply will be shared soon.

 “In the meantime, we hope that you and yours stay well. We have planned an incredible season of free Shakespeare, and we cannot wait to share it with you. It’s an interesting time to be in the business of live theatre and touring productions, but the Festival is committed to paying our artists and staff throughout this crisis,” Ridgely said.

So, if you have ever considered becoming a member, know that we are always grateful for your support—but especially so at this time,” he said.

“During this crisis, we feel more connected to Shakespeare and his contemporaries than ever before. Biographer Jonathan Bate wrote, ‘The Plague was the single most powerful force shaping [Shakespeare’s] life and those of his contemporaries.’ During times of quarantine, Shakespeare wrote some of his most important sonnets and plays,” Ridgely said.

“We can’t claim to have his genius, but we will take inspiration from his dedication and from artists around the world that are stepping up to create, facilitate, and share stories in new and exciting ways. Stay tuned for updates on new and existing Festival programs,” he said.

For more information, visit the website sfstl.com and on social media. Visit https://www.facebook.com/shakesfestSTL

Stages St. Louis

While Stages St. Louis continues to follow guidance from the CDC as well as mandates from both local and national government, for the time being, they have made no adjustments to the schedule for our upcoming 2020 Season.

However, here are some changes regarding tickets, activities and outreach:

Single tickets for the 2020 Season will now go on sale beginning Monday, April 27.

All in-person activities with the Stages Performing Arts Academy will be canceled until the start of our Summer Semester on Monday, June 1.

The Stages administrative, production, and academy offices will remain closed until Thursday, April 23.

In the meantime, the Box Office is still open for questions or subscription ticket sales online at www.StagesStLouis.org or by phone at (314) 821-2407.

The Stages Performing Arts Academy will continue to offer digital and streaming content in order to continue performing arts education for students at home and can answer any and all questions by phone at (636) 449-5775. 

Shows are: “A Chorus Line,” May 29 – June 28; Disney’s Alice in Wonderland,” June 16 – June 28, “La Cage Aux Folles,” July 17 – Aug. 16; and “Always…Patsy Cline,” Sept. 4 – Oct. 4.

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Executive Artistic Director Carrie Houk said after careful deliberation, they find it necessary to push the 5th Annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis to summer due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Our first commitment is to keeping the company and community safe. The dates were May 10-17.

The Tesseract Theatre Company
Plans are underway to present the 2020 Festival of New Plays June 11 – 28 at the .Zack Theatre. The four plays are “Last Night” by Rachel Lynett, “All That Remains” by J.M. Chambers, “Feast” by Megan Gogerty and “The Length of a Pop Song” by Taylor Gruenloh.

For more information, contact: [email protected] or visit the website, www.tesseracttheatre.com

That Uppity Theatre Company
Joan Lipkin said they we had hoped to do a new devised piece Crossing Borders/Chasing Freedom May 2-3, “but of course that is on hold. We are still planning to do Dance the Vote Sept 26 at the Missouri History Museum,” she said.

Upstream Theater
In keeping with the evolving response to the current public health crisis, Upstream Theater is postponing our premiere of IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT until next season. The play is now scheduled to run from October 9-25.If you have purchased single tickets or a season passport we will be happy to honor your ticket at that time.

West End Players Guild

Steven Dietz’s “Bloomsday” set to open April 17 and run through April 26 has been cancelled. It was the final production of the group’s 109th season.

“As our country copes with the growing threat of the Coronavirus, one of the most important steps we must take to protect ourselves and each other is the kind of “social distancing” that is impossible at a theatrical production. Our Board of Directors believes it is highly unlikely that the need for social distancing will be any less in April than it is today, and decided that the best course of action for our company and our patrons was to act now to cancel the show,” a statement reads.

Patrons who have purchased advance tickets through Brown Paper Tickets will be issued automatic refunds. WEPG will reach out to season ticket holders in the near future with refund options.

WEPG will begin its 110th season in September.

Alfresco Productions
Auditions for “Hairspray Jr.” will be by video for the Granite City community theater production. The show is to run July 24-26 and deadline for video submissions is April 19. The age limit is from 6th grade to 18 years old. For more information, visit: https://www.alfrescoproductions.org/auditions

Alton Little Theatre

All productions and concert events through May 1 have been cancelled. Ticket holders for “Holy Laughter” and Todd Oliver and “Broadway Salutes America” may be refunded or transferred. Call 618-462-3205 for options.

“Brigadoon” has been moved from May to June, with plans for a June 5 opening, with eight performances through June 14. Season ticket holders can follow the same schedule but can call the office at 618-462-3205 anytime in May.

“Shrek” auditions have been rescheduled for Saturday, May 10, at 10 a.m. and Sunday, May 3, at 2 p.m. Director Kevin Frakes will be casting at least 30 characters. The show will run July 31-Aug. 9 for eight performances.

Clayton Community Theatre
“The Philadelphia Story” was to run March 12-22 but was cancelled after opening weekend.

They hope to premiere “Broadway Bound” July 9 -14

Curtain’s Up Theater Company
The group based in Edwardsville has postponed its production of “1776” for a future date in 2020, to be determined, and cancelled March 28 auditions. The musical was to be performed June 26-28 at The Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville. To keep informed of updates, visit www.curtainsuptheater.com

Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Kirkwood Theatre Guild cancelled its remaining two shows: “On Golden Pond” and “Shrek: The Musical,” which were set to run in April and May.

Hawthorne Players
The run of “Picnic,” set for March 27, 28 and April 3-5, was cancelled.
Auditions for “A Chorus Line,” which were scheduled March 29 have been put on hold. More information will be forthcoming. Please follow or check out website www.HawthornePlayers.com for any further announcements.

Looking Glass Playhouse
LGP began the March 12-22 run of “It’s Only a Play” but was forced to cancel it after state and local mandates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have cancelled the rest of the season, including “Rock of Ages” in May and have moved it to the opening slot in the fall.

“We are reaching out to the publishers to reschedule and are hopeful that we will be able to still perform the show in September,” he said.

They hope to announce the full season soon and for patrons who renew their season tickets for next year, they will receive a 10 percent discount.

“Currently, we are still planning our summer youth production “Alice in Wonderland Jr.” and summer fundraiser “The Rocky Horror Show.”

Monroe Actors Stage Company
The current production of “Watch Over the Rhine,” which was to run April 17-19 and 24-26, has been postponed.

Due to the current health crisis in our area, all MASC rehearsals and activities at the Capitol Theater have been postponed effective Monday, March 16. 

“The MASC Board will be discussing the plan of action moving forward regarding Watch on the Rhine, the current show in production, and the remainder of the 2019-2020 season, as we monitor the progression of this crisis. Specific information regarding these two shows will be sent out accordingly. The health and safety of our membership and patrons is our highest priority,” a statement read.

O’Fallon Theatre Works

The group cancelled “Man from Earth” in March.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” is planned for July, and auditions were recently handled by video.

Over Due Theatre Company

The group in Olivette has postponed “My Fair Lady.” It was to run April 24-26 and May 1-3.
For the time being, they are still planning on holding auditions for “Bye Bye Birdie” May 9 and 10. The show is set for July 24-26 and July 31, Aug. 1 and 2.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves
They have postponed our May production of “Rehearsal for Murder.”

“We are hopeful and fully intend to mount this production at a later date,” a statement read.

AWARDS EVENTS

St. Louis Theater Circle
Often referred to as “Theater Prom,” the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards were to take place on March 30 at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University, but the event has been cancelled. Local theater critics will still honor outstanding regional professional theater, however.

Instead, HEC will provide a streamcast of the awards on Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. on their Facebook page. So, instead of fancy outfits and schmoozing, the event will be downscaled reading of the nominations and awards.

Here is the URL link to the Higher Education Channel TV (HEC-TV):  https://www.facebook.com/hectv/live/

The event’s hashtag is #TCA20

The theater critic members of the St. Louis Theater Circle have recorded the nominations, and their voice-overs will run over photos of the nominees. Then HEC announcer Rod will announce the winner. There are 34 categories to give awards in, which cover dramas, comedies and musicals. A special award is being given to Ken and Nancy Kranzberg for their tremendous support and commitment to the arts.

Visit the Theater Circle’s Facebook page for more information.

If you would like to see who was nominated, here is the PopLifeSTL article: https://www.poplifestl.com/brighton-beach-memoirs-kinky-boots-and-man-of-la-mancha-lead-8th-annual-st-louis-theater-circle-awards/

Arts For Life

In community theater, the Arts For Life board of directors presents two awards events each year, the Best Performance Awards honor musical theater and youth productions, and the Theatre Mask Awards honor straight plays.

The fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards, which honors both dramas and comedies, was to take place at a brunch on Saturday, April 4, at The Atrium Center at Christian Hospital. However, it has been rescheduled for July 18.

The 21st annual Best Performance Awards is scheduled for Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts at Chaminade. However, the AFL board of directors will decide shortly on whether the event will be moved. Stay tuned.

For more information and to see lists of nominations, visit www.artsforlife.org.

You can get tickets to both events for the special price of $40. Visit www.artsforlife.org for more information and to see a complete list of nominees.

Emcees are Donna Northcott, a theater professor at Lindenwood University – St. Charles, for the TMAs, and local singer-actress Karen Fulks for the BPAs.

AFL President Mary McCreight has suspended all public activities of the AFL organization, effective until at least May 1. This includes all judging activities of the Theatre Recognition Guild.

“As our world, our nation and our region face a major health threat, it falls upon us as a community to adopt measures that will both foster the protection of those who work and ‘play’ in Metro St. Louis community theatre and ultimately allow AFL to continue our charitable mission of service and recognition once the threat passes,” she said.

 (Full disclosure: I am a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle and I am on the Board of Directors of Arts For Life).

ST LOUIS HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE AWARDS

In partnership with The Fabulous Fox, The Muny and The Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation, the St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards announced today the shift from in-person celebrations to virtual for their 2019-2020 season. 

The new date for this year’s medallion ceremony, also known as the nomination ceremony, will be April 28, 2020 with the awards ceremony slated for May 24, 2020. Both streamed live online at no charge, these virtual celebrations will honor each of the 42 participating schools in the 2019-2020 season, including the schools who were unable to produce their productions due to the unprecedented circumstances associated with COVID-19. Exact times and streaming information will be released at a later date. 

ARTS CENTERS AND CONCERT HALLS

The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts

All events and performances scheduled through June 1 have been cancelled at “The Hett,” which is located on the campus of McKendree University.

 “TAO Drum” has been rescheduled from March 24 for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14; and “Ishmael Beah” has been rescheduled from April 15 for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4, 2021.

The ReMINDers has been cancelled for April 6.

They are offering patrons the possibility of applying their tickets to a future event at the Hett, donating the ticket value to the University or contacting them for a full refund, less any original mailing fees. Please contact the box office during operating hours to discuss ticket disposition at 618-537-6863. The box office is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Hettenhausen Center for the Arts is located at 701 College Road in Lebanon. For more information, please contact [email protected].

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

All performances through April 12 are postponed or canceled. For information regarding tickets and schedules, visit slso.org.

The Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries

All Sheldon-presented concerts and other events through May 10 have been postponed or canceled. Plans to reschedule are underway, and ticket buyer should retain their current tickets – they will be honored for the new dates. Additional information will be provided to ticket buyers as events are rescheduled. Affected concerts include: Ian Walsh and Kevin Buckley, “Keepin’ It Reel,” March 17-18; Honoring Our Own, Miz Renee Smith, March 17; David Halen, violin, April 1; Brothers Lazaroff, April 4. Scheduling changes for events presented by non-Sheldon promoters will be handled on a case by case basis. All updates can be found at TheSheldon.org or at MetroTix.com.

The Sheldon is located at 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis.

Fair Saint Louis

Fair Saint Louis and America’s Birthday Parade events have been canceled this year due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fair Saint Louis was set to run July 2-4 at the Gateway Arch with concerts, air show, and fireworks each night.

“While we are saddened to cancel two of our region’s most popular and free Fourth of July celebrations, the safety of our community is of utmost importance to us,” said David Estes, Chairman, Fair Saint Louis. “Fair Saint Louis and America’s Birthday Parade embody the prideful spirit of our city, and over the past few weeks, we’ve seen that spirit shine so brightly within our community as we face this unthinkable challenge together.”

This year would have marked the 40th Fair Saint Louis and 138th America’s Birthday Parade.

“We look forward to returning to downtown St. Louis and celebrating with our community in the future when the time is right,” said David Plufka, Chairman, America’s Birthday Parade.

The eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are taking place in cyberspace on Tuesday, April 7, rather than at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University. That March 30 event was cancelled because of the current public health crisis. The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected the St. Louis region, with government quarantine orders in both St. Louis city and county through April 22.

The awards honoring excellence in professional regional theater for the 2019 season are being made available by the Higher Education Channel at 7 p.m. on their platforms. Their link is:  Higher Education Channel TV (HEC-TV)  


The streamcast will be able to be seen on HEC Media’s Facebook page, channel 989 on Spectrum (Charter) and channel 99 on AT&T U-verse.

HEC Announcer Rod Milam will state the winner after the Circle members voice-over the nominations in 33 categories. It is expected to take a half-hour.

The Muny, now in its second century of performances at its outdoor amphitheater in Forest Park, leads the way with a total of 25 nominations, followed by 24 for The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) and 21 for New Jewish Theatre.  Stages St. Louis follows with 13 nominations, West End Players Guild with 10 and Stray Dog Theatre with a total of eight nominees.

In all, 25 local professional companies received nominations for 51 different shows.  Lighting designer Sean M. Savoie leads all nominees with three different nominations out of a total of 125 nominated artists, including six who received two nominations apiece. The awards honor outstanding achievement in locally produced professional theater for the calendar year 2019.

More than 120 locally produced professional theatrical productions were presented in the St. Louis area last year.

Here are the nominations in dramas, comedies, musicals and opera. :https://www.poplifestl.com/brighton-beach-memoirs-kinky-boots-and-man-of-la-mancha-lead-8th-annual-st-louis-theater-circle-awards/

Ken and Nancy Kranzberg will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their long-standing commitment to the arts and theater in St. Louis, including Grand Center.

The official hashtag for the event, to be used on Twitter and Facebook, is: #TCA20

The St. Louis Theater Circle would like to thank the folks at HEC Media, including Dennis Riggs, Boyd Pickup, Rod Milam, Paul Langdon, Christina Chastain and their colleagues, for stepping up and making this streamcast production possible after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of our eighth annual gala.

The St. Louis Theater Circle includes Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Tanya Seale, Broadway World; Judith Newmark, Judy’s Second Act: Mark Bretz, Ladue News; Tina Farmer, KDHX; Gerry Kowarsky, “Two on the Aisle” HEC; Bob Wilcox “Two on the Aisle” HEC: Ann Lemons Pollack, St Louis Eats; Steve Allen, Stage Door STL; Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts; Bob Cohn, St. Louis Jewish Light; and Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL.com. Eleanor Mullin is the administrator.

For more information, visit the Circle’s Facebook page.

Archives: Lynn Venhaus’ annual awards, “The Lotties,” for 2019 :https://www.poplifestl.com/the-lotties-lynns-love-of-theater-awards-for-2019/

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
As the month winds down and students are back at school, local theater is
offering several shows that you can learn from, no matter what your interest.
The only new show this weekend is “Wit” by Alpha Players of Florissant, and
there are only three performances.
The classic American musical “Guys and Dolls” wraps up its run at Stray Dog
Theatre, so does the little-known “A Man of No Importance” by R-S Theatrics and
the local premiere of ‘Glory Denied” at Union Avenue Opera, concluding their 25th
season. The original musical “Madam” by Colin Healy has two more performances
in Hannibal, Mo., and then will be presented in St. Louis in January.
The new all-female spin on the ancient Greek tragedy “Antigone: Requiem per
Patriachus” continues at The Chapel, so if you like seeing something different,
check it out.

Whatever you do during summer’s swan song, go see a play!

“Antigone: Requiem per Patriarchus” SATE and ERA Aug. 14 – 31 (Wednesday – Saturday) at 8 p.m. The Chapel 6238 Alexander Drive, St Louis Tickets: Brown Paper or box office www.slightlyoff.org

What
It’s About: For the third production of its Season of Ritual, SATE is
collaborating with ERA to co-produce Antigone: requiem per Patriarchus; a fresh
perspective on the Sophocles classic workshopped in a collaboration between
Saint Louis University Theatre and Prison Performing Arts. Antigone explores
themes of fidelity, citizenship, civil disobedience, and the struggles and
consequences the characters within the world of the play encounter as a result
of their choices

Director:
Lucy Cashion

Starring:
Alicen Moser, Ellie Schwetye, Laura Hulsey, Miranda Jagels Félix, Natasha Toro,
Taleesha Caturah and Victoria Thomas, with Marcy Ann Wiegert providing live
percussion accompaniment.

In
2017, Prison Performing Arts began a collaboration with St. Louis University
Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Lucy Cashion, Assistant Professor of
Theatre and ERA Artistic Director, and PPA Director of Youth Programs and SATE
Artistic Director Rachel Tibbetts, taught weekly poetry, playwriting, and
development workshops with PPA participants at Women’s Eastern Reception,
Diagnostic, and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Mo.

The
group studied, explored, and wrote about the Ancient Greek Princess Antigone.
Antigone’s story of fighting civic law to obey divine law became famous in the
Classical Greek tragedy “Antigone,” which premiered in Athens in 441 B.C. Since
then, scholars, poets, and playwrights have written their own translations,
adaptations, and critiques of the Antigone story, each from a different point
of view. The continuation of this tradition resulted in a new version of
“Antigone,” which was performed in October 2017 by SLU theatre majors in St.
Louis and then with a performance by PPA participants at WERDCC in March 2018.
The collaboration now continues with this ERA/SATE co-production in St. Louis.

 photography by Joey Rumpell

Please
call (314) 827-5760, email [email protected]

Union Avenue Opera’s Glory Denied dress rehearsal on August 13, 2019.

“Glory Denied” Union Avenue Opera Aug. 16-17 and Aug. 23-24 at 8 p.m. Union Avenue Christian Church 733 Union at Enright 314-361-2881 www.unionavenueopera.org

What It’s About: America’s longest-held prisoner of war
dreams of coming home. But home is a place he will not recognize. Follow the
gut-wrenching saga of Col. Jim Thompson as he transitions from the jungles of
Southeast Asia to the tree-lined streets of suburban America. This true story
explores the unimaginable bravery asked of soldiers and the nature of home
itself. It is a story of a nation divided and a country that changed
significantly in the decade of his imprisonment.

Of Note: The opera is sung in English with projected
English text.

Each night following the performance, UAO will host an
intimate talk-back session with members of the artistic team and cast,
including special guest, Tom Cipullo, the composer and director Dean Anthony
following the opening night performance (Aug. 16).

Photo by John Lamb “Guys and Dolls” Stray Dog Theatre Aug. 8 – 24 Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with additional performances at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18, and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24. Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennesseewww.straydogtheatre.org 314-865-1995

What It’s About: “Guys & Dolls” takes us from the heart
of Depression-era Times Square, to the cafés of Havana, and into the sewers of
New York City to give us what some have called the perfect musical comedy. This
timeless tale follows ruthless gamblers, sexy nightclub performers, and the
hot-tempered law enforcers who keep them all in line.

Director: Gary F. Bell

Starring: Jayde Mitchell, Kevin O’Brien, Sarah Rae Womack,
Angela Bubash, Mike Wells

“Madam!” Bluff City Theatre Aug. 15 – 24 Bluff City Theater, 212 Broadway, Hannibal, Mo www.eventshannibal.com

What It’s About: Eliza Haycraft is dying and hates men. She
is owner of five brothels and the richest woman in the city of St. Louis who
once empowered her employees by giving them the right to refuse service to
anyone, but while the passage of The Social Evils Act of 1870 made her business
legitimate, it also took away her right to say “no.”

“Madam!” is a new musical based loosely on real events that
tells the story of her search for an heir to her sex empire while also taking a
romp through first-wave feminism and sexism in America during Reconstruction
told through the lens of Eliza’s courtesans. The music, lyrics and book are by
Colin Healy.

Director: Sydnie Grosberg-Ronga

Starring: Rosemary Watts, Kimmie Kidd, Eileen Engel,
Larissa White, Gracie Sartin, Camerone Pille and Brett Ambler.

Jodi Stockton “A Man of No Importance” R-S Theatrics Aug. 9 – 25 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. The Marcelle 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Center www.r-stheatrics.com

What It’s About: The show has music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics
by Lynn Ahrens and a book by Terrence McNally, based on the 1994 Albert Finney
film, of the same title. It tells the story of an amateur theatre group in
Dublin and their leader, who is determined to stage a version of “Salome” at
his church, despite the objections of church authorities.

Director: Christina Rios

Starring: Mark Kelley, Kellen Green, Kent Coffel, Stephanie
Merritt, Marshall Jennings, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Jodi Stockton, Dustin
Allison, Michael B. Perkins, Lindy Elliott, Nancy Nigh, Kay Love and Curtis
Moeller

Photo by Danny Brown“Wit” Alpha Players of Florissant Aug. 23-24, Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Florissant Civic Center Box Office: 314-921-5678 https://florissantmo.thundertx.com

What It’s About: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, “Wit”
is a play that simply needs to be experienced. 
The journey taken in Wit is one of beauty, pain, humor, poetry, and
above all, what it is to be human. Vivian Bearing is a genius level intellect
who has gotten very far using only her search for knowledge and her sheer force
of will.  She is a wonderfully complex
and beautifully stubborn character.  When
Vivian is diagnosed with ovarian cancer she must learn the value of kindness
and compassion, that sometimes knowledge is not enough, and that there are more
things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy. “Wit” is a
show that will stay with you long after the final curtain.”

Director: Danny Brown
Starring: Susan Volkan, Gabriel Beckerle, Tim Callahan, Kathy Fugate, Joel
Brown, Kate Weber, Lisa Hinrichs, Kyliah Thompson.
Of Note: Donations will be accepted for St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness

By Lynn Venhaus Managing EditorFor something really different, check out the St. Louis Fringe Festival, which is taking over Grand Center the next four days. Check out what’s happening with a list of shows here.More collaborations are on stage through the ‘Lou and up the river. SATE and ERA have joined forces, along with Prison Performing Arts and Saint Louis University, for a fresh take on “Antigone.”Union Avenue Opera is premiering “Glory Denied,” and author Tom Cipullo will be here opening night for a talk-balk.In Hannibal, Bluff City Theatre will open the world premiere of Colin Healy’s musical, “Madam!” (Fly North Theatricals will stage it here in January at the .Zack.)

Shows continuing include “A Man of No Importance,” “Grease” and “Guys and Dolls.”

It may be the dog days of August, but you can cool off at a local theater — GO SEE A PLAY.

The seven “Antigones” Photo by Joey Rumpell“Antigone: Requiem per Patriarchus” SATE and ERA Aug. 14 – 31 (Wednesday – Saturday) at 8 p.m. The Chapel 6238 Alexander Drive, St Louis Tickets: Brown Paper or box office www.slightlyoff.org

What It’s About: For the third production of its Season of
Ritual, SATE is collaborating with ERA to co-produce Antigone: requiem per
Patriarchus; a fresh perspective on the Sophocles classic workshopped in a
collaboration between Saint Louis University Theatre and Prison Performing
Arts. Antigone explores themes of fidelity, citizenship, civil disobedience,
and the struggles and consequences the characters within the world of the play
encounter as a result of their choices

Director: Lucy Cashion

Starring: Alicen Moser, Ellie Schwetye, Laura Hulsey,
Miranda Jagels Félix, Natasha Toro, Taleesha Caturah and Victoria Thomas, with
Marcy Ann Wiegert providing live percussion accompaniment.

In 2017, Prison Performing Arts began a collaboration with
St. Louis University Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Lucy Cashion,
Assistant Professor of Theatre and ERA Artistic Director, and PPA Director of
Youth Programs and SATE Artistic Director Rachel Tibbetts, taught weekly
poetry, playwriting, and development workshops with PPA participants at Women’s
Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Mo.

The group studied, explored, and wrote about the Ancient
Greek Princess Antigone. Antigone’s story of fighting civic law to obey divine
law became famous in the Classical Greek tragedy “Antigone,” which premiered in
Athens in 441 B.C. Since then, scholars, poets, and playwrights have written
their own translations, adaptations, and critiques of the Antigone story, each
from a different point of view. The continuation of this tradition resulted in
a new version of “Antigone,” which was performed in October 2017 by SLU theatre
majors in St. Louis and then with a performance by PPA participants at WERDCC
in March 2018. The collaboration now continues with this ERA/SATE co-production
in St. Louis.

 photography by Joey
Rumpell
Please call (314) 827-5760, email [email protected]

Public relations photo shot on August 6, 2019 for the upcoming Union Avenue Opera production of Glory Denied.

“Glory Denied” Union Avenue Opera Aug. 16-17 and Aug. 23-24 at 8 p.m. Union Avenue Christian Church 733 Union at Enright 314-361-2881 www.unionavenueopera.org What It’s About: America’s longest-held prisoner of war dreams of coming home. But home is a place he will not recognize. Follow the gut-wrenching saga of Col. Jim Thompson as he transitions from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the tree-lined streets of suburban America. This true story explores the unimaginable bravery asked of soldiers and the nature of home itself. It is a story of a nation divided and a country that changed significantly in the decade of his imprisonment. Of Note: The opera is sung in English with projected English text.

Each night following the performance, UAO will host an
intimate talk-back session with members of the artistic team and cast,
including special guest, Tom Cipullo, the composer and director Dean Anthony following
the opening night performance (Aug. 16).

Photo by ProPhotoSTL “Grease” Stages St. Louis July 19 – Aug 18 Robert G. Reim Theatre at the Kirkwood Community Center 111 South Geyer Road in Kirkwood www.stagesstlouis.org

What It’s About: Welcome to Rydell High where Danny Zuko
and his gang of Burger Palace Boys and Pink Ladies rule the school! Bursting
with explosive energy and 1950’s nostalgia, “Grease” blends an irresistible mix
of adolescent angst and All-American teen spirit to create a high-octane,
pop-culture phenomenon.

Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: Sam Harvey, Summerisa Bell Stevens, Morgan Cowling, Jessie Corbin,
Patrick Mobley, Collin O’Connor, Frankie Thams, Julia Johanos, Lucy Moon and
Brooke Shapiro.

Photo by John Lamb“Guys and Dolls” Stray Dog Theatre Aug. 8 – 24 Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with additional performances at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18, and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24. Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennesseewww.straydogtheatre.org 314-865-1995

What It’s About: “Guys & Dolls” takes us from the heart
of Depression-era Times Square, to the cafés of Havana, and into the sewers of
New York City to give us what some have called the perfect musical comedy. This
timeless tale follows ruthless gamblers, sexy nightclub performers, and the
hot-tempered law enforcers who keep them all in line.

Director: Gary F. Bell

Starring: Jayde Mitchell, Kevin O’Brien, Sarah Rae Womack, Angela Bubash, Mike Wells

“Madam!” Bluff City Theatre Aug. 15 – 24 Bluff City Theater, 212 Broadway, Hannibal, Mo www.eventshannibal.com

What It’s About: Eliza Haycraft is dying and hates men. She
is owner of five brothels and the richest woman in the city of St. Louis who
once empowered her employees by giving them the right to refuse service to
anyone, but while the passage of The Social Evils Act of 1870 made her business
legitimate, it also took away her right to say “no.”

“Madam!” is a new musical based loosely on real events that
tells the story of her search for an heir to her sex empire while also taking a
romp through first-wave feminism and sexism in America during Reconstruction
told through the lens of Eliza’s courtesans. The music, lyrics and book are by
Colin Healy.

Director: Sydnie Grosberg-Ronga

Starring: Eileen Engel, Kimmie Kidd, Larissa White, Rosemary Watts,

 “A Man of No Importance” R-S Theatrics Aug. 9 – 25 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. The Marcelle 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Center www.r-stheatrics.com

What It’s About: The show has music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics
by Lynn Ahrens and a book by Terrence McNally, based on the 1994 Albert Finney
film, of the same title. It tells the story of an amateur theatre group in
Dublin and their leader, who is determined to stage a version of “Salome” at
his church, despite the objections of church authorities.
Director: Christina Rios
Starring: Mark Kelley, Kellen Green, Kent Coffel, Stephanie Merritt, Marshall
Jennings, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Jodi Stockton, Dustin Allison, Michael B.
Perkins, Lindy Elliott, Nancy Nigh, Kay Love and Curtis Moeller

St. Louis Fringe Festival Aug. 13 – 18 Venues in Grand Centerwww.stlouisfringe.com Grid Schedule PDF: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/03b713_0374464860b54fb7bb2daff290494e83.pdf “Adios Aliens” By LightsUp Productions Kranzberg Black Box Theatre Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at 4 p.m. Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.

What It’s About: “Adios Aliens” is a work of fiction based
on non-fiction. While the names and characters are fictitious creations of the
author, the play is inspired by the real events pertaining to anti-immigrant
legislation and court judgment that occurred across small town America in the
years 2006-2007. They had real consequences for real people. Over the past 12
years the anti-immigrant sentiment has gained momentum, raising the threats
against the immigrant population.
“Adventures on the Horizon”
presented by Aspire Youth Performing Arts
.ZACK Theatre
Aug. 16 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

​What It’s About: This performance will
showcase the dramatic and musical talents of youth in a scripted play, and in
musical /dance numbers.

Headline Act:
“Check In” by because why not? Theatre company
.Zack Theatre, 3224 S. Locust
Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 1:30 p.m.
What It’s About: Allie and Danielle have been together 4 years, living a happy,
All America life with their son and Allie’s mother. But Allie’s a Dreamer, and
in the current political climate, her monthly government “Check In”
may be far less simple and safe than her family has come to expect. A new play
by Shannon Geier.

“Crawling with Monsters
presented by Latino Theater Initiatives
Kranzberg Black Box Theatre
Aug. 15 at 9 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 1 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

What It’s About: This is a multimedia stage documentary
that reveals what life is like inside the war-torn communities along the
US-Mexico border.

“Creatively Seeking”
presented by Sunday Jones, Mo, and Becky
The Olive Tree in the Grove
Aug. 15 at 8 p.m.
Aug. 16 at 8 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 2 p.m.
What It’s About: “Creatively Seeking” is an investigation of how varied artists
access work and expression through examining their inner truths. Spend an hour
onstage with a painter, life coach, aerialist and photographer and participate
in creation. Firmly based in the concept that “we are the art”, these women
walk the walk and talk the talk to bring out the humanity in artistic
connection.
Debut Cabaret Favorites
presented by Debut Theatre Company
Kranzberg Arts Center Black Box Theatre
Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 17 at noon
Aug. 18 at noon

What It’s About: This all-kid company is coming back to the
fringe and will feature the talents of St Louis’ brightest up and coming stars
in a musical theatre cabaret.

“Hark!”
Hark!
An Improvised Musical Fairy Tale
303 Pop Up @ The .ZACK
Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 9 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. 8/16/2019 @ 7:30pm

What It’s About: We get the audience’s favorite fairytale
or fable and improvise one, or two “Fragmented Fables” with our
musical accompaniment.
“I k(NO)w”
presented by Showgirl Awakening
Kranzberg Arts Center Studio Theater
Aug. 15 at 7: 30 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 1 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.
What It’s About: How do we know when we can’t “no”? Knocked flat
repeatedly by ulcerative colitis, veteran showgirl Kellita comes to know
herself through burlesque, and “NO’s” herself into autoimmune recovery. She
leaves her clothes on and lays her heart bare in this warm telling of her
unsettling partnership with her own powerful, eloquent, recalcitrant body.
Finding unexpected revelations in an airplane potty, a New Orleans nightclub,
and in a spacious room at SF General – sipping coconut water – Kellita begs the
question of her audience: in what ways do we force ourselves to digest the
indigestible?  And what happens when we
stop? With two decades of international burlesque performance under her shimmy
belt, this is Kellita’s first full-length autobiographical-storytelling show.
“I K(noW” focuses on mental, emotional and physical health in a way that’s not
just a storytelling device but also an interactive learning platform.

* “I K(no)W” is not a burlesque show *

What genre is it?

Think intimate-chat-with-a-friend meets TED Talk meets
secure attachment and autoimmume recovery lab.

What they’re saying about “I K(no)W” in San
Francisco: “There are shows that are engaging or entertaining. There are
shows that you talk about right after you see them but don’t ever think about
again. And then there are shows that start you thinking of everyone you can
send to see the show. Kellita engaged my heart, soul, gut and brain.  I K(no)W is a soul baring show.”
“InHERitance: the stories we carry”
presented by Byrd’s World – Heather “Byrd” Roberts
Kranzberg Arts Center Gallery
Aug. 16 at 9 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 4 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m.8/16/2019 @ 9:00pm

What It’s About: inHERitance is a response to the
historical, environmental, and familial influences along with a demonstration
in the quest for freedom.

“Lady Warrior”
presented by Good People Theater Company
Kranzberg Arts Center Gallery
Aug. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 3 p.m.

What It’s About: Lady Warrior is a one-woman show about a
woman on a journey she creates with her own step system to find her voice and
identity.
Matthew Marcum Hymns & Oscillations
National Headline Act
Kranzberg Black Box Theatre
Aug. 16 at 9 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 3 p.m.

“The closest thing to a breakout star that the American
performance sect has seen in decades.”  
-The New York Journal
“The Medicine Show”
presented by Ken Haller
Kranzberg Arts Center Studio Theater
Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 9 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 4:30 p.m.

What It’s About: In this 60-minute show of stories and
songs, cabaret singer and pediatrician looks at what captivated him about
medicine and the realization that being a doctor is not the same thing as being
a healer.
“My Infinite Sadness”
presented by Darrious Varner
Kranzberg Arts Center Studio Theater
Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 4 p.m.
Aug 18 at 1:30 p.m.

What It’s About: When left alone in one’s own mind, who is
it that you are really talking to? Step into the subconscious of a person
suffering with Depression. See the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the
aches and pains that are living with mental illness. Playwright Darrious Varner
introduces you to a whole new view of Depression with My Infinite Sadness.
“Nora’s Numbers”
presented by Two Are We
Kranzberg Arts Center Studio Theater
Aug. 16 at 9 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 3 p.m.
What It’s About: This one-woman show tells the tale of Nora Petrowski, a recent
widow hobbled by a bunion. Ever the cheapskate, she keeps her husband’s ashes
in an old coffee pot. With her meager budget running out and in jeopardy of
losing her home, Nora starts raising money the only way she knows how—by
running an illegal BINGO den in her living room.  Written and directed by Analicia Kocher and
2015 St. Louis Fringe Meister, Panagiotis Papavlasopoulos.

“Rhythm, Rhyme & Reason”
presented by Poetic Storyteller Oba William King
303 Pop Up @ The .Zack
Aug. 16 at 9 p.m. Adults Only
Aug. 17 at 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 3 p.m.

What It’s About: Interactive Storytelling. The fusion of
Spoken Word, Theatre, Poetry and the Traditional Art Form. It’s Storytelling
Time!

“Screaming at Optimum Pitch”
First Run Theatre
By Peg Flach
Directed by David Houghton
Cast: Kaitlyn Chotrow, Melanie Klug, Gwynneth Rausch, Nicole Gonnerman, Joshua
Teoli.
Kranzberg Black Box Theatre
Aug. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 4:30 p.m.

What It’s About: Optimum pitch. A tool that speech-language
pathologists use to determine a person’s natural voice is to speak as if in
polite agreement, “mm hmm.” Three generations tell their story.
“Secrets of the Bower House”
Chapter 1
.Zack Theatre
Aug. 15 at 9 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.

What It’s About: “Secrets of Bower House” is a
collaborative production inspired by the concept of “home.” The work
challenges traditional forms of performance and invites you on an immersive
adventure through time, memory, fantasy, and absurdity.

And join us on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. for a free
InterPlay workshop before our show. InterPlay is an active, creative way to
unlock the wisdom of the body. Located at Artica’s outdoor installation space
across from .ZACK Theatre, 3225 Locust.
“Revival: A Southern Gothic Gospel Cabaret”
presented by The Q Collective
Kranzberg Black Box Theatre
Aug. 16 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 1:30 p.m.

What It’s About: REVIVAL: A SOUTHERN GOTHIC GOSPEL CABARET
is a storytelling adventure that blends candid storytelling with dynamic music.
Revival is the theatrical unpacking of writer Bobby Britton Jr’s Texas
upbringing, experience with the Southern Evangelical Church, and his time in
conversion therapy. Revival began in late 2017, after Bobby’s first show,
“Closed for Repairs,” returned from the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Since that time, Revival has featured the talents of many of Bobby’s friends
and classmates from the Theatre Education Masters Program at Emerson College.
Revival does not seek to preach or convert. Our only goal is to be honest.
“When Women Were Birds: An Integration of Female Voice and Gravity Defying
Movement”
Inspired by a novel authored by Terry Tempest Williams
presented by St Louis Aerial Artistry
.Zack Theatre
Aug. 15 at 10:30 p.m.
Aug. 16 at 10:30 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 10:30 p.m.
Aug. 18 at noon

“A Wild and Weird Sky in the Lou”
presented by SKY
303 Pop Up @ The .ZACK
Aug. 16 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 4 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
What It’s About: Sky will be presenting three nights of some of her most
ambitiously weird and honest pieces to date at 2019’s St. Lou Fringe Festival,
located in the Grand Center Arts District. There will be her scarf, roses, some
water spillage, projections, and a chance to hear Sky talk about her work. It
will be an intimate, inclusive environment open to questions and lively
discussions about the challenges of creating art. Also, don’t forget to support
all your local artists and check out the impressive line-up of local talent at
this year’s one and only St Lou Fringe Festival!
“Politely Angry: An Hour of Socially Conscious Comedy”
presented by Krish Mohan
Kranzberg Arts Center Gallery
Aug. 16 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 18 at 4:30 p.m.

What It’s About: Krish Mohan uses his quirky attitude and
charming personality to address some of our toughest issues using his unique
brand of comedy.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Stray Dog Theatre’s “Guys and Dolls” has gusto from the guys and gumption from
the dolls, giving it an extra shot of pizzazz.

This snazzy ensemble puts oomph in every song and every
scene, and the young cast provides a freshness to the material that makes this
delightful confection very charming.

One of Broadway’s most beloved golden-age classics, the 1950
Frank Loesser musical comedy is such a fixture in school and community theater
that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen it, been on a crew
or acted in it.

Nearly everyone who has a connection to the play looks back
on it fondly, as you just can’t find fault with those peppy numbers, no matter
how times have changed. The colorful characters are based on Damon Runyon’s
short stories, included in Jo Swerling’s book and polished by the renowned late
comedy writer Abe Burrows.

“Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” – Photo by John LambGary F. Bell’s tight direction, along with Jennifer
Buchheit’s effervescent musical direction and Mike Hodges’ dynamic choreography,
has created a high-spirited production that pops with personality.

The show is not merely a blast from the past but a peppery,
spry and amusing tale of high rollers and holy rollers finding common ground in
the hustle and bustle of Times Square.

This production is distinguished by Sara Rae Womack’s bubbly Adelaide, Kevin O’Brien’s conflicted and goofy Nathan Detroit and Mike Wells’ happy-go-lucky Nicely-Nicely Johnson, whose warm tenor propels “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” to be the showstopper it should be.

Womack, employing a Betty Boop voice, delivers one of her
strongest performances to date as the optimistic entertainer Miss Adelaide, who
has been engaged to Nathan for 14 years. It’s complicated. Womack hits the
sweet spot giving long-suffering Adelaide sass but a genuine sincerity too. She
and the sunny O’Brien are terrific together, especially in “Sue Me.” And she is
a born showgirl leading the Hot Box Girls in “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Take
Back Your Mink.”

The Hot Box Girls. Photo by John LambWomack, O’Brien and Wells have energy to spare, and their
enthusiasm playing these roles is contagious, as are the wise-guys and Hot Box Girls
who all appear to be having fun.

The animated players Cory Frank as Benny Southstreet, Stephen Henley as Harry the Horse, Yianni Perahoritis as Angie the Ox, Bryce Miller as Rusty Charlie and Jordan Wolk as Liver Lips Louie shake the dust from dodgier versions and deliver that unique slang-antiquated dialogue splendidly. Then, there is comical Zachary Stefaniak just killing it as the imposing hustler Big Jule. He makes the most of his crap-game moments and doesn’t have to say much to elicit laughs.

The endearing guys have us at “Fugue for Tinhorns” and then
it’s crisply-staged jaunty song and dance, and joyful interactions after that –
especially a robust “The Oldest Established” and the title song, “Luck Be a
Lady.”

“Fugue for Tinhorns” Photo by John LambOn the other hand, Jayde Mitchell has a beautiful, well-trained
voice and croons his numbers with skill as cool Sky Masterson – especially “I’ll
Know” and “My Time of Day,” but doesn’t exhibit enough swagger as the debonair mobster.
 

Perky Angela Bubash, who smiles broadly on stage in every Stray
Dog Theatre musical she’s been in, appears to be playing against type as the
uptight Sarah Brown, a prim and proper spiritually-guided woman who questions
her ability to convert sinners to saints and then gets mixed up falling in love
with Sky. It’s a tough character to warm up to anyway – stiff and unyielding
until she drinks rum in Havana and softens to the charismatic bad boy, but Bubash’s
vocal range doesn’t always suit the demanding role, as displayed in “I’ve Never
Been in Love Before.”
It doesn’t help the romantic storyline that Bubash and Mitchell have zilch
chemistry on stage. She fares better with Womack in “Marry the Man Today.” And
they blend well with their groups. The Save-a-Soul Mission force is led gracefully
by Howard S. Bell as kind and warm-hearted Arvide Abernathy, Sarah’s
grandfather, whose added Irish accent is a plus. His superb rendition of “More
I Cannot Wish You” is touching and one of the highlights.

Jennifer Brown is a confident General Cartwright while Kaitlin Gant as Martha and Alyssa Durbin as Agatha are earnest Mission ‘dolls.’ However, Brown’s blocking in “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” obscures others from view.

Elizabeth Semko, Alyssa Wolf, Molly Marie Meyer and Kayla
Dressman are in sync and sparkle as the fizzy Hot Box Girls. Chris Moore is the
agitated Lt. Brannigan.

“Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” showstopper. Photo by John LambThe entire ensemble hits it out of the park with “Sit Down,
You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” so that “The Happy Ending” seems just a perfunctory wrap-up,
but the musical is a jolly good time.

The large band of 11 talented musicians executed the grand
score in style and kept a lively tempo throughout, with fine work by music
director Jennifer Buchheit on piano; Joe Akers and Ron Foster on trumpet; Lea
Gerdes, Joseph Hendricks and Ian Hayden on reeds; Mallory Golden on violin, P.
Tom Hanson on trombone, Michaela Kuba on cello, M. Joshua Ryan on bass and Joe
Winters on percussion.

While it’s a space crunch because of logistics, Josh Smith’s scenic design made the cityscape tall in re-imagining Times Square on that small stage while lighting designer Tyler Duenow focused on bright lights for the city that never sleeps. Costume designer Lauren Smith captured the era well. Audio Engineer Jane Wilson’s sound was smooth.

This upbeat musical stands the test of time, and SDT has made it a refreshing summer punch. Sit back, let the world go by, and enjoy!

Stray Dog Theatre presents “Guys and Dolls” Aug. 8 – 24, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue, St. Louis 63104. Special matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18 and added evening performance on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. Many shows are sold out or near sell-out, so visit the website at www.straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995 for tickets or more information.

Full disclosure: the reviewer has directed two community theater productions of “Guys and Dolls,” in 1992 and 2011.

Photo by John Lamb

Edward Albee, Kenneth Lonergan, Disney Princesses and the musicals “Annie” and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ among the 17th Season slate.Stray Dog Theatre is excited to announce its 2019-2020 season. All subscriptions and individual tickets will go on sale Aug, 1, 2019. For more information please visit our website at www.straydogtheatre.org. THE WHO’S TOMMY Book by Des McAnuff and Pete Townshend / Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend / Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon Back by popular demand!

Based on the iconic 1969 rock concept album, The Who’s TOMMY is an exhilarating tale of hope, healing, and the human spirit. The story of the pinball-playing, deaf, dumb, and blind boy who triumphs over his adversities has inspired and amazed audiences for 50 years. Intended for mature audiences.

Performances: October 10-26, 2019 | 8PM Thursday-Saturday, Additional Performances 10/20 at 2PM and 10/23 at 8PM

DISENCHANTED! Book, Music, Lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino Snow White and her posse of disgruntled princesses take the stage in the hilarious hit musical that’s anything but Grimm.

Forget the princesses you think you know – the original storybook heroines have come to life to set the record straight and give fairytales the bird. Intended for mature audiences. Performances: December 5-21, 2019 | 8PM Thursday-Saturday, Additional Performances 12/15 at 2PM and 12/18 at 8PM THREE TALL WOMEN By Edward Albee A young lawyer has been sent to sort-out the finances of an elderly client, although more than money is at issue.

With a nurse companion steadily alongside, the old woman’s conflicted life is laid bare in all of its charming, vicious, and wretched glory. Winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize, Three Tall Women, a semi-autobiographical view of the playwright’s mother, is often seen as Albee’s most personal and compelling play.

Performances: February 6-22, 2020 | 8PM Thursday-Saturday, Additional Performance 2/16 at 2PM

ANNIE Book by Thomas Meehan / Music by Charles Strouse / Lyrics by Martin Charnin

America’s most beloved orphan brings her special brand of moxie and determination to the musical stage! Based on the popular 1920s Harold Gray comic strip, this multiple Tony Award-winning favorite features unforgettable hits like “Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” and the iconic Broadway standard “Tomorrow.”

Performances: April 9-25, 2020 | 8PM Thursday-Saturday, Additional Performances 4/19 at 2PM and 4/22 at 8PM

Artwork by Justin Been

LOBBY HERO By Kenneth Lonergan Loyalties are strained to the breaking point when a hapless security guard is drawn into a local murder investigation; a conscience-stricken supervisor is called to bear witness against his troubled brother; and a naive rookie cop must stand up to her formidable male partner. Truth becomes elusive and justice proves costly. Performances: June 4-20, 2020 | 8PM Thursday-Saturday, Additional Performance 6/14 at 2PM THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME Music by Alan Menken / Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz / Book by Peter Parnell

Set in 15th-century Paris, Victor Hugo’s epic story of love, acceptance, and what it means to be a hero comes to life with an emotionally rich score. Including unforgettable music from the Disney film and new songs by Menken and Schwartz, this powerful production asks the question, “What makes a monster and what makes a man?”

Performances: August 6-22, 2020 | 8PM Thursday-Saturday, Additional Performances 8/16 at 2PM and 4/19 at 8PM

Artwork by Justin Been

SDT is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3), professional theatre company and is funded, in part, by Ameren Missouri; Area Resources for Community and Human
Services; Arts and Education Council; City of Saint Louis Recreation Division; City of Saint Louis Youth and Family Division; First Bank; Flooring
Systems, Inc.; Garden View Care Centers; Hesse Martone, P.C.; Lawrence Group; Missouri Arts Council; MOHELA; Regional Arts Commission; Saint
Louis Public Schools; Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated; Tower Grove East Neighborhood Association; United 4 Children; and Volunteer
Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Oh, that puppy love. American playwright A.R. Gurney’s absurd comedy “Sylvia” presents
a marital conflict caused by a pretty pooch. In this case, the mutt takes on
human form and talks in perfect English. To buy into the conceit is to believe
the female fur child in its interaction with her male best friend, and it’s apparent
they are a tad too close.

That’s the premise in this drawing-room comedy, originally set in the 1980s, which first appeared off-Broadway in 1995, starred Matthew Broderick and Annaleigh Ashford in a limited Broadway engagement in 2015 and has become a favorite of adventurous theater troupes and dog lovers everywhere.

In Stray Dog Theatre’s production, energetic Susie Lawrence is expressive as the preening and prancing puppy that Greg takes a shine to in NYC’s Central Park. Wearing knee pads and modern girlie outfits, Sylvia — the name’s on her tag — happily makes herself at home in an Upper West Side apartment where an empty-nest couple have started the second chapter of their life, now that the kids are grown.

Kate and Greg are a cookie-cutter WASP pair, married 22 years. Likeable Kay Love and Tim Naegelin are the longtime married couple whose relationship begins to unravel when the dog comes between them. Is he just going through a mid-life crisis or does the obsession signal more? It could be construed as a romantic triangle on the icky side.

The trouble with the husband and wife characters is that
they’re bland. And there is not much to like about the generic one-note Kate,
who is back to work teaching and working on a master’s degree in English. Irritated
the minute she’s introduced, Kate takes an immediate dislike to the dog and
tried to veto it becoming part of the family. She refers to the dog as Saliva,
which is no longer funny after the first reference.
Greg appears adrift and gains no sympathy as he does nothing to repair things
with his wife. He has lost his mojo as a financial analyst after the kids left.
He doesn’t much like his job, quarrels with his boss, and starts spending more
and more time doting on Sylvia. Playing with a dog outdoors is healthy for all,
right?

Well, not exactly, because the affection becomes creepy when Greg would rather be with the flirty dog than with humans. And it’s the only time vanilla Greg lights up.

Kate doesn’t ring true about her all-consuming hatred of the dog right away, while Greg’s bizarre behavior would alarm a therapist much quicker than when he eventually gets to one. Kate’s aggravation at the dog should grow as Sylvia chews shoes, sheds all over the couch, leaves puddles and encroaches on her personal space. The exasperation needed to build, not be at the same level as the beginning.

Photo by John LambAs the therapist in the second act, a New Age eccentric named Leslie who purposely does not want to be defined by any gender, Melissa Harlow is a hoot – and the visual sight gag of her tacky velour purple top and gold-print black palazzo pants is as amusing as her goofy accent, not unlike Martin Short as the wedding planner in “Father of the Bride.”

In fact, with her comic flair Harlow steals the whole shebang portraying three characters, two in the first act. Experienced at interactive comedy shows and mystery dinner theater where she works in St. Louis, she is the breakout star here.

Melissa Harlow and Kay Love. Photo by John Lamb

Laugh-out-loud funny as Phyllis, a typical but high-strung socialite who becomes unnerved by Sylvia’s over-enthusiastic greeting, Harlow had the audience howling as she became more agitated and unglued. The gifted comic actress recalls the classic sketches on “The Carol Burnett Show” or “Saturday Night Live.”

Her first character, Tom, is a ‘bro,’ a guy in the park who shares way too much information with Greg about interpersonal relationships and dog psychology.

Harlow is believable as all three – and it’s customary for one person to play them all. She brightened every scene she’s in, for as two acts progress in nearly two and a half hours, the play gets repetitive and somewhat tedious. Gurney could have tied everything up in a one-act because basically it’s an extended one-joke play and drags getting to its predictable conclusion.

Because she’s so animated, Lawrence is in contrast with the dull couple. That’s why Harlow’s antics are such a bright spot as well.

In the larger picture, Gurney, famous for his piercing look at the privileged Manhattanites in such works as “The Cocktail Hour” and “The Dining Room,” is making a bigger statement about humans’ desperate need to connect in an impersonal world, even if it’s with an animal.

Now that rings true. Gurney, whose best-known play is “Love Letters,” inexplicably falls back on tired clichés. The play could have benefited from more biting wit and frank social analysis.

Director Gary F. Bell has updated its time, now in 2000. He makes use of the Tower Grove Abbey’s small confines well, allowing frisky Lawrence to scamper about in scenic designer Miles Bledsoe’s suitable living quarters interior, with interesting skyline pieces as background.

Without opening up the play, it could be claustrophic. The outdoor scenes help change the scenery.

Bell dedicated the show to his own canine companion, Oliver Ogden Bell, and includes some choice quotes in the program as director’s notes, including this gem from John Steinbeck: “I’ve seen a  look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”

No one is credited with sound, but the selection of music interludes is always pitch-perfect, whether it was Bell or Associate Artistic Director Justin Been. Use of the Cole Porter song, “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” which is included with the script, is a lovely rendition because the cast has good voices.

If you are a ‘dog person,’ you might not mind the contrasts in tone, or the depicted fantasy. “Sylvia” is one of those plays that divides people, depending on their point of view. The cast and crew put forth a terrific effort, but to me, the playwright barks up the wrong tree.

Tim Naegelin and Susie Laawrence. Photo by John LambStray Dog Theatre presented “Sylvia” June 6 –
June 22 at the Tower Grove Abbey. For more information about the professional
theater troupe and their new season, which starts in August, visit
www.straydogtheatre.org