By Lynn Venhaus

After not being on a stage since November 2019, Chauncy Thomas has made quite a comeback this summer – starring in two productions at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in Bloomington, Ill., and as the Gentleman Caller Jim in “The Glass Menagerie” and the one-act “You Lied to Me About Centralia,” which was part of this year’s Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, all outdoors.

As he leaves to return to home in New York City, he will have left St. Louis better than when he arrived, to paraphrase his favorite quote.

Chauncy, a native of Peoria, Ill., landed in St. Louis when he attended Washington University in St. Louis, earning B.A. degrees in both drama and psychology.

He built a versatile and respected career in regional professional theatre before taking off for New York City nearly eight years ago, earning two St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominations for “Intimate Apparel” at New Jewish Theatre in 2017 and “Topdog/Underdog” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio in 2013.

Chauncy Thomas as Lymon and Carli Officer as Maretha in “The Piano Lesson” at The Black Rep in 2013

His resume includes “Clybourne Park” at the St. Louis Repertory Theatre, “The Piano Lesson” at the Black Repertory Theatre, the La Bute New Play Festival at the St. Louis Actors’ Studio and multiple productions at the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival.

Since 2014, he has returned here for productions, including “Dot” at the Black Rep and “The Winter’s Tale” at St. Louis Shakespeare Festival.

“St. Louis is still a place I call home. I still feel incredibly connected to the people there, and especially the theatre community,” he said.

During the pandemic in 2020, he decided to leave New York City for Iowa to stay with his brother and his family in mid-March.

“My twelve-year-old nephew let me use his bedroom, so it was two months of sleeping under Spider-man sheets. In mid-May I trekked to Peoria to stay with my mother. My silver lining of the pandemic is getting to spend so much time with her,” he said.

“I lost all but one of my side jobs, so math tutoring was paying the bills. I got little theatre gigs here and there: zoom readings, workshops, etc. But I truly missed being on stage,” he said. “Most of my actor friends in New York either had to move or were significantly concerned with their finances, so I was still counting my blessings.”

He has worked on many Shakespeare productions and enjoys the challenge.

“I’ve been doing a decent amount of Shakespeare for a decade but last year, I think I figured out how I should approach the work. For the first eight years, I was trying to meet some standard of what I thought Shakespeare was. I’ve since learned I need to bring as much of myself and my racial identity to the work as I can. It’s what makes me unique. I love performing Shakespeare because it’s brilliant, but it also presents the challenge of making a 400-year-old stories relevant to a modern audience,” he said.

With Jacqueline Thompson in “Intimate Apparel” at New Jewish Theatre in 2017.

He has traveled to other theaters in the county, including the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater in Massachusetts.

From his base in New York City, his credits include “Romeo and Juliet” at Lincoln Center Education, “Hamlet” at RIPT Theater Company, “A Raisin in the Sun” at Bay Street Theater, “Our Town” and the television show “Madam Secretary,” in which he played a secret service agent.  

Last year, he wrote a one-act for the theatre season for the Performing Arts Department at Washington University, which was part of the live events cancelled due to the pandemic, but was performed as part of “Homecoming Voices,” four plays by alumni, in March.

His play “The Nicest White People that America Has Ever Produced,” featured a Black writer and a white director discussing race, power and artistic integrity in the film industry — a theoretical discourse that prompted real questions about friendship and ethics.

Doing Shakespeare and Williams in the same summer “has been a challenge,” but he is grateful to be working.

“It’s been crazy, but before that, it was nothing, a famine, so I’m trying to enjoy this feast,” he said. “I thought how in the world am I going to get all of this done, but after I had my mornings free, I worked on the line memorization and text analysis,” he said.

As for playing Jim in two different productions, he described it as “fascinating.”

Williams’ memory play of his family and their life in St. Louis features Jim as Tom’s friend from work who is invited to dinner at the Wingfield home to meet Tom’s sister Laura.

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, “The Moon and Beyond,” ran from Aug. 19 to 29, with its signature play, the one-act and multiple presentations by scholars and a tribute with the cast.

Playwright John Guare wrote a one-act, “You Lied to Me About Centralia,” which imagined what happened after dinner when Jim rushes off to pick up his fiancé at the Wabash train station. The 20-minute play premiered off-Broadway in 2015, and is based on Williams’ short story, “Portrait of a Girl in Glass.”

For the St. Louis Theater Crawl in 2017, the Tennessee Williams Festival performed the one-act with Julia Crump, who returns this year as Jim’s shallow and judgmental girlfriend Betty, and Pete Winfrey, who now lives in New York City, as Jim.

For the radio play version last November, when the TWF pivoted with “Something Spoken,” a series of Williams’ one-acts on radio, Thomas worked opposite Crump for the first time. They were directed by Rayme Cornell, who also directed this year’s live production, presented as a matinee on Aug. 21 and 22.

Thomas described the play as “sweet” and his character thusly.

“I felt there were several directions it could have gone, and I love where Rayme guided us. I know this isn’t technically Tennessee Williams, but it’s certainly Williams adjacent. Many of my favorite plays are American classics, and I’m rarely able to get cast in those kinds of shows, so this was a real treat. Jim is a man with big dreams, and I love to play characters with strong wants and needs; they make the most compelling characters,” he said.

With Elizabeth Teeter in “The Glass Menagerie” this summer. Photo by ProPhotoSTL.

Crump said acting with Thomas is “a master class,” because he makes “bold choices, good choices.” She described him as a “generous and talented actor.”

Elizabeth Teeter. who played Laura in “The Glass Menagerie,” said she agreed with Crump completely. She participated in an interview along with Thomas, Crump and director Brian Hohlfeld regarding TWF St. Louis on the PopLifeSTL.com Presents…podcast on Aug. 14.

“I do look at these as two separate characters,” Thomas said. “Obviously, John Guare took some liberties, and so many things are open to interpretation.”

Chauncy said the perspective of the one-act was fascinating. “I’m either bending the truth, or avoiding the truth,” he said.

As for being part of this ensemble, he described the cast as “absolutely amazing.”

“The other three actors started rehearsal on August 2, while I started on August 9, and we were in tech on the 12th, so I had to figure out what was going on at a faster rate than ever before. On my first day of rehearsal, we didn’t even do a reading of the whole play. We started with Act 2, and after listening to the other actors for the six pages before my entrance, I immediately understood what story we were telling, the tone, the pace, and where I fit into the narrative. These three actors are so vibrant, in-the-moment, and honest, that they do much of the work for me. I don’t have to ‘act’ with them; I can simply exist,” he said.

Besides Teeter as Laura, Brenda Currin plays Amanda and Bradley James Tejeda plays Tom.

Working where Tennessee Williams lived as a boy has been a special experience as well.

“In terms of performing, rehearsing, and living — not the same unit, but the same building — in the apartment where Williams lived, it’s incredibly surreal,” he said.

“To quote Jim, ‘I’m usually pretty good at expressing things, but–this is something I don’t know how to say!’ When Carrie Houk (TWF Artistic Director) called me to offer me the role and explain the production, I was in such disbelief that I didn’t tell anyone about the production for weeks. It seemed unfathomable,” he said.

“All I can say is this production feels magical. I took my first acting class as a sophomore at Washington University, and, that year, Henry Schvey, chair of the theatre department, was directing ‘The Glass Menagerie.’ I was a member of the backstage crew, which was my first experience with a mainstage production, and in many ways my introduction to theatre. And now, 17 years later, I’m performing in the play, at Williams’ home, and the opening night gift my director Brian Hohlfeld gave me is Henry Schvey’s new book about Tennessee Williams. How is this my life?” he said.

Chauncy Thomas, right, in ISF’s “The Winter’s Tale” this summer. Photo by Pete Guither.

For his second year at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, he played Camillo and four small roles in “The Winter’s Tale” and Angelo in “Measure for Measure.”

Afterwards, the festival inducted him into the 2021 Actor Honor Roll.

“Chauncy Thomas is a wonderful addition to our Illinois Shakespeare Festival Actor Honor Roll, He creates rich, nuanced characters that are accessible yet complex. Chauncy is a skilled professional who also is the consummate company member: supportive, positive, and kind. It is a pleasure to welcome him to the honor roll,” said ISF Artistic Director John C. Stark.

In 2017, to celebrate the ISF 40th anniversary, they unveiled “40 Years/40 Actors,” a media display, to recognize “the passion, skill, and talent of select festival performers from the past four decades,” and continues with the annual Actor Honor Roll.

“I’m truly touched and honored by this recognition. This theatre means so much to me! I’ve met some of the loveliest people I could ever hope to meet, it’s the closest professional theatre to my childhood home (it’s an amazing blessing to have my mother in the audience five times in one season,” Thomas said.

“It’s been instrumental in my development as a classical actor, and it’s also been the setting or overlapped with some of the biggest emotional highs and lows of my life. When at its best, a theatre is a family, and I’m thrilled to be the newest member,” he said.

‘Take Ten’ Questions and Answers:

 1. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?

“Originally, I was so fascinated about how theatre was an exploration of myself. I’m now intrigued by the power of storytelling, the interpersonal connections I make with other artists, and the exploration of the human spirit.”

Chauncy and Reginald Pierre in “Topdog/Underdog” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio in 2013. Photo by Patrick Huber

2. How would your friends describe you?

“I took some direct quotes: ‘Funny, witty, smart, creative, thoughtful, organized and an amazing friend.’

“Weird.”

“They wouldn’t.”

“Strangely intellectual and precious for a man with this many muscles.”

“Very very very intentional.”

“A chill control freak with unlikely interests.”

“Loyal, brilliant, hilarious, thoughtful, deeply introspective, principled, all around awesome.”

3. How do you like to spend your spare time?

“I spend as much time with my friends as I possibly can.”

4.What is your current obsession?

“I’m so late, but the ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender.’”

5.What would people be surprised to find out about you?

“I’m ludicrously goofy.”

6. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?

“In my early teenage years, I was very depressed and often had suicidal thoughts. No one could tell, because from the outside I seemed as if I was thriving. I was gay, in the closet and had plenty of friends, but no close ones. I was in a particularly bad place one day when I was 14 and called one of my acquaintances to ask if we could hang out. Twenty years later, I was best man at his wedding. I’m a person who struggles with feeling I may be a burden to someone, so the act of reaching out to the person who is now my oldest childhood friend was the first time I realized I was allowed to ask for emotional help when I needed it.”

7. Who do you admire most?

“My mom. She’s elegant, hilarious, benevolent, poised, and tough as nails.”

8. What is at the top of on your bucket list?

“Acting in a play I’ve written.”

9. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?

“City Museum.”

10. What’s next?

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about that, yet. But the next play on my schedule is in St. Louis in 2022.”

Chauncy Thomas

More Information on Chauncy Thomas:

Age: 36

Birthplace: Peoria, Illinois

Current location: New York City

Family: 2 full brothers, 2 half-brothers, and 2 step-siblings

Education: BAs in Psychology and Drama from Washington University

Day job: Currently a math tutor. In a non-Covid-19 world add catering waiter, chess tutor, and I occasionally portrayed historical leaders for executive leadership trainings for Fortune 500 companies.

First job: House painter

First role: A guard in my high school’s production of “Cinderella.” First professional role was Father Ant in “The Ant and the Grasshopper” for Imaginary Theatre Company.

Favorite roles/plays: Booth in “Topdog/Underdog,” Walter Lee Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun”

Dream role/play: Belize in “Angels in America”.

Awards/Honors/Achievements: One Kevin Kline Award nomination and two St Louis Theater Circle Award nominations

Favorite quote/words to live by: “Leave everyone better than you find them.”

Chauncy Thomas in “Alabama Story”

A song that makes you happy: “Groove Is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite

To listen to the PopLifeSTL.com Presents…Podcast about the Tennessee Williams Festival, visit: https://soundcloud.com/lynn-zipfel-venhaus/poplifestlcom-presents-august-14th-2021?fbclid=IwAR3lA4F4DCuAk67je9tNrFsb36G1fhaS6RFcZmOkWI0Lx6zQnvPyrCUg0jk

For more information on the Tennessee Williams Festival, visit https://www.twstl.org/

As a secret service agent in “Madam Secretary”. Photo provided.
In “Percentage America” by Carter Lewis at St. Louis Actors’ Studio. Photo by Patrick Huber.
“Clybourne Park” at St. Louis Repertory Theatre. Jerry Naunheim Photo.

By Lynn Venhaus
The stars have aligned for the triumphant return of the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis with “The Glass Menagerie” in a way you have never seen it before.

Nature cooperated with a bright, full moon in the late summer night sky Friday, and the TWF supplied the wishing and hoping that characterized the playwright during his formative years here.

Now in its sixth year, these special tributes are one I look forward to, a favorite-not-to-be-missed annual events in the city.

The passion and care that goes into each festival’s planning and programming is admirable. And the finest talent comes together to introduce us to, or offer a fresh perspective of, his signature dramas and little-known works.

To understand Williams’ dreams and desires has fueled each production, but this one – his memory play that gives us insight into his family life – is extraordinary.

The fest’s 2021 theme, “The Moon and Beyond,” aptly fits in a pandemic-guided scaled-down event. And this focus gives us an intimate local view that zeroes in on what we should see, hear and feel when we see a Williams play.

Nearly eighty years later where it was imagined, this current presentation of “The Glass Menagerie” is as organic as you will find anywhere, with naturally gifted performers honoring these four characters with a tangible vitality.

There is a brightness, a vigor to the work, as if we are discovering it for the first time. The site-specific location, outdoors behind “The Tennessee,” at 4663 Westminster Place, no doubt played a part in this, for it has become a character, a presence affecting the poignancy.

Bradley James Tejeda as Tom. Photo by ProPhoto STL

But that’s not the only imprimatur.

A young man yearning for adventure looks up at the moon while he’s out on his fire escape in St. Louis, hopeful that one day he would lead the life he dreamt of – but fretful that it would never happen unless he took steps to make it so.

From the time he was 7, Thomas Lanier Williams III lived in an apartment in the Central West End with his shoe company executive father, his Southern belle mother, his mentally fragile older sister and his younger brother Dakin, who later lived in Collinsville, Ill., for many years, and died at age 89 in 2008.

Nicknamed “Tennessee,” Williams eventually took pen to paper, and typed out stories of longing and aspirations, shaping characters from damaged people whose life didn’t turn out like they had planned.

And his stubborn refusal to not accept the status quo or to settle because that’s just the way it is, people kept reminding him – well, that admirable quality served him well.

He would go on many voyages – bur always starting from inside his heart.

What fiction he wrote would take him far, becoming known internationally as one of the world’s greatest playwrights. But here, he struggled to find his voice — returning from college at Mizzou to work at the shoe factory, and 20 years after moving from Mississippi, finally getting out of the city (until buried in Calvary Cemetery after his death in 1983).

He was impacted by his dysfunctional family, and realizing he was an outsider looking in –that hunger to be someone, and to become comfortable in his own skin, drove him during his 71 years.

All of that is apparent in “The Glass Menagerie.”

Knowing that he was fueled by a hope that could not be quelled and a fire that burned inside him to tell stories from a city neighborhood lends both a magical quality and a gravitas to the latest production.

The cast found the truth — Bradley James Tejeda as Tom, Brenda Currin as Amanda, Elizabeth Teeter as Laura and Chauncy Thomas as the Gentleman Caller Jim. All but Thomas reprised their roles from the radio play last fall, directed by Brian Hohlfeld during the “Something Spoken” streaming offering instead of live theater — (ahem, public health crisis you may recall, so they pivoted).

In most productions, the women are portrayed as victims, and their tragic life circumstances influence its staging.

However, director Hohlfeld, who has been part of the TWF since its inaugural year in 2016, has brought out every character’s depth, and so have the actors, who found a rhythm in the words and with each other.

I have previously seen a few dour versions, most of them not very good because they didn’t seem to grasp the multi-faceted nature and emphasized only the melancholy. This cast “gets it.”

The lines are delivered in a conversational manner, and a real bond can be felt between these inextricably linked people, no matter how unhappy or frustrated they appear.

The sad and desperate Amanda clings to her delusions of grandeur like a warm coat, mired in the past and overly concerned about her children’s future. Currin captures all of that, as well as the exasperation with life and her breadwinner son and helpless daughter having notions of their own.

Each character has a different viewpoint on success.

With his literary illusions, Tom can’t seem to find his way – but is about to take a leap of faith. Tejeda brings a restlessness to the role, like he is a trapped animal. But there is also a sweetness in his interactions with his sister.

Elizabeth Teeter, Chauncy Thomas. Photo by ProPhotoSTL

Thomas’ inherent charm adds a palpable compassion to the dinner guest, never pitying Laura but treating her kindly and with respect. He adds a wistfulness to Jim, who is past his high school glory days.

Teeter disappears into the delicate Laura, whose fantasy world is overtaking a daily string of disappointments. She will break your heart as a shy and peculiar girl who couldn’t overcome life’s challenge, but who lights up in conversation with Jim.

When the play premiered on Broadway in 1944, expanding on Williams’ short story “Portrait of a Girl in Glass,” director Elia Kazan noted: “Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life.”

And we have been enriched by that authenticity.

Staged outdoors, the set, designed by Dunsi Dai, is minimal, but evocative of the area. He effectively uses windows as an entry to the soul.

The sound design by Kareem Deanes includes period songs played on a victrola – and dealing with the inescapable sounds of the city, including a fire truck and sirens Friday night (Bravo, Chauncy, for not missing a beat).

Lighting designer Catherine Adams shifts between day and night, under serious moonlight, enhancing the atmosphere.

Williams spent his life trying to escape the ghosts of his past, which of course molded him into what he became. By now, the Wingfields are an all-too-familiar American tale tinged in tragedy and regret, but the power of his words remains.

He ultimately discovered, through his artistry, that he wasn’t the only lost star, and the eloquence of his semi-autobiographical work shines through in the backyard that he once called home.

The Tennessee Williams Festival runs Aug. 19-29. The headliner, “The Glass Menagerie,” is presented at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sundays, Aug. 19-22 and 26-29, behind the Tennessee, 4663 Westminster Place. Tickets must be purchased online and are available through MetroTix.com.

“You Lied to Me About Centralia” is a one-act play by John Guare that will be presented at 2 p.m. on Aug. 21 and 22 at The Tennessee.

Free, secure parking is available at Holliday, 4600 Olive, for festival patrons.

Other festival programming includes Scholars’ Panels, Walking Tour of Williams’ St. Louis, Tennessee Williams Tribute: “The Moon and Beyond” hosted by Ken Page, happy hour conversation with Blue Song author Dr. Henry Schvey, Why Did Desdemona Love the Moor reading, and more.

Lead sponsorship of the festival is provided by Emerson. Additional sponsors and the full festival itinerary can be found at twstl.org.

Photo by ProPhotoSTL

Lynn Venhaus has been reviewing professional theater since 2005, and is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle, established in 2012. A longtime journalist, she has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metropolitan area publications since 1978, earning awards along the way for news and features (and an Illinois Press Association award for reviews before they dropped the category). She has taught writing for the media as an adjunct instructor at three local colleges. A graduate of Illinois State University, she has a mass communications degree with a minor in theater. Among her life achievements are sons Tim and Charlie.

Imagine “The Glass Menagerie” performed where it first began.

A site-specific production at the historic “Tennessee,” the Westminster Place apartment  in the Central West End where it all began, will be part of the 6th annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis this summer. Brian Hohlfeld will direct.

The event will include the TW Tribute: St. Louis Woman, Scholars Panels, and a Workshop/Reading of “Why Does Desdemona Love the Moor,” which will be presented prior to its Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival engagement, to be directed by Thomas Mitchell.

Author Henry Schvey will sign his book, “Blue Song: St. Louis in the Life and Work of Tennessee Williams.” The event will feature a conversation with Schvey, a professor of drama and comparative literature at Washington University. He wrote the 2011 book, “Tennessee Williams at 100: From Washington University to the Wider World.”

Tennessee Williams Scholar Thomas Mitchell will lead a Tennessee Williams Walking Tour of the Central West End. From 1918 to 1922, Williams lived with his family at 4633 Westminster. He attended Soldan High School. He later moved to University City and studied at Washington University.

An opening weekend Block Party is also planned.

Additional productions, events and full casts will be announced at the beginning of July.

Certified with Missouri Arts Safe, the entire festival team is fully vaccinated.

About the Festival

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was established in 2016 by Carrie Houk, the award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator.  The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the 2019 Arts Startup of the Year by the Arts & Entertainment Council.

In 2014, Houk produced Williams’ “Stairs to the Roof” with such success that the ongoing annual Festival was established. The inaugural Festival was themed “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years,” followed by “The Magic of the Other” in 2017 and “The French Quarter Years” in 2018. The 2019 festival featured “Night of the Iguana” and “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.” As the years have passed, the awards have mounted. In the last two years, the St. Louis Theater Circle has given them 12 awards. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.

About Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located).

He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.”

Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer.

He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be America’s greatest playwright.

By Lynn Venhaus

It’s one thing to see a play; it’s another thing just to listen. A whole new world opens in your imagination, and the cultural icon Tennessee Williams is perfectly suited for such an experience.

To make its three remarkable radio presentations accessible, the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis has been extended through Nov.21-22, and you will be captivated by these three works anew. They are free to listen to at www.1073.org and www.twstl.org.

Williams has such a distinctive voice, and you hear his words interpreted with devotion and insight. The performances by the all-star cast assembled this year brings the works to a new level.

Through this fresh and innovative way, the festival continues to pay homage to St. Louis’ greatest playwright, who lived here during his formative years and was greatly influenced by this region.

All three works are richly rewarding aural and theatrical experiences:

Bradley James Tejeda

“The Glass Menagerie,” a beautifully rendered two-hour production of Williams’ most personal play and one of his greatest and most famous, now through Nov. 22.

“You Lied to Me About Centralia,” a delightful one-act by playwright John Guare, who imagines what took place after The Gentleman Caller left the Wingfields to meet his fiancé, Betty, now through Nov. 21.

“Glass,” an intriguing new play by Michael Aman that imagines the actress playing Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie” clashing with Tennessee when it opens in Chicago before it heads to Broadway, now through Nov. 21.

As always, stay after for a few moments to listen to Williams’ scholar-in-residence Tom Mitchell for his insight into each work. It’s interesting and informative, and really adds to the festival’s mission. They want us to know Williams intimately, and it shows. You can also take an audio tour of Williams’ St. Louis and hear education panels on his work.

The fifth annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was going to take us to Italy this spring, showcasing “The Rose Tattoo” and other nuggets from Williams, who was happy soaking up European la dolce vita in a good stretch of his chaotic life.

Then the pandemic hit. The coronavirus public health crisis forced our regional theaters to cancel. Instead, Artistic Director Carrie Houk pivoted with two different sets of programming on radio, partnering with Classic 107.3 FM.

First, this summer, a divine series of Williams’ richly textured one-acts that showcased his yearning and his desire to fit in, all in his distinctive word play. The images of his characters with their fanciful stories were vivid, as were the Southern locations. The attention to detail was strong and the acting talent sublime.

All those engaging qualities have returned with “En Evant!” which means “forward.” We’re moving on, and Houk has discussed the fragility accompanying this year strengthening us in different ways. Williams was a fragile soul, but he also had a strength about him, so necessary to survive in his personal world. A previous season was built around “The Magic of Others,” and this year’s fest also has that aspect – the outsider, the guy not like the others.

In the memory play “The Glass Menagerie,” precious Laura, who is based on Tom’s fragile sister Rose, has too many self-doubts and anxieties to fit in, although she tries. Her inner world is soothed by glass figurines.

Glass – who knew 70 some years later this family’s themes of wanting to be normal, wanting to feel something, and not wanting to be mired in the past, in the fanciful world their mother has clung to all these years, would take on more significance throughout the decades

Elizabeth Teeter

The remarkably poised Elizabeth Teeter, showing her emotional range, will break your heart as Rose.

Brenda Curran is a sympathetic Amanda, although truly a pathetic maternal figure in the pantheon of great mother roles.

She contrasts well with Teeter and Bradley James Tejeda as the protective Tom (Tennessee’s alter-ego).

Tejeda, who is also in “Glass” and was in several of the one-acts this summer, is pitch-perfect in his Williams’ roles. He’s the MVP of 2020. It is a perfect match, like Olivier and Shakespeare, and his vocal work is outstanding. I could listen to him read the phone book.

But that just-right comfortable Southern drawl enhances the character’s development as he draws us in to what Tom is going through – or in “Glass,” what Tennessee is. He’s bursting to get out of town to begin the life he imagines for himself.

He smoothly presents these lived-in characters so we can identify right away. And Williams, ultimately a tragic figure in his own life, is so transparent about his thoughts and feelings that we have an instant attachment.

Chaunery Kingsford, who was in the stunning “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 2018, plays the Gentleman Caller with the right mix of concern and confusion.

Directed by Brian Hohlfeld, a St. Louis native who knows how creative passions will take someone away for their journey, understands the Wingfields. His version is a tidy two hours and hits all the feelings, emphasizing what isn’t said is as potent as what is.

This play takes on new meaning every time I dig in, and it’s never the same experience. If you haven’t read it since high school, listen here – it’s transformative.

Chauncy Thomas

Home, that running Williams’ theme, is used by Guare in “You Lied to Me About Centralia,” featuring the tremendous power of Chauncy Thomas as Jim and Julia Crump as Betty. Julia, who played this part when the TWFest produced it for the Grand Center Theatre Crawl several years ago, is well-suited to play Williams’ roles. She’s convincing as driven Betty, who is immediately defensive for taking a trip to Granite City to see an uncle. She has ulterior motives, which she spills during her conversation with Jim. Chauncy, one of the most powerful actors on stage during his years in St. Louis, exercises a new muscle here – only his voice, and it’s no less effective.

Julia Crump

Directed by Rayme Cornell, this play illuminates the themes of “The Glass Menagerie” in a fascinating way. Just think about how a step or two in another direction could change your life.

“Glass” is interesting in its exploration of personalities and artistic temperament. With Kari Ely playing the diva Laurette Taylor taking on the role of Amanda Wingfield, you can picture her condescending looks and withering stares. And then Tejeda gets in the skin of burgeoning artist Tennessee Williams. This duet is directed by Gary Wayne Barker, a solid veteran on the St. Louis scene.

Ely, an accomplished actress in St. Louis, is flamboyant as a near-has been who wants to be famous again. Will playing Amanda produce the results she seeks? Will Williams get what he wants with his first feature-length play? All conjecture, of course, but Ely and Tejeda are convincing playing these desperate people – one on the way up and one on the way down. This one-act is 90 minutes.

Kari Ely

The vocal work here lulls us into a comfortable place. It’s fun to hear these journeys as these performers create pictures in our minds.

One of the most soothing voices is contributed by Ken Page, who is a masterful speaker. He is the festival’s host and introduces each show with his silky vocals.

So, tune in, turn up the volume, and let the magic of theater take you to new (and old) places.

Presenting sponsor is Emerson.

Donations are appreciated.

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis (TWSTL) will increase its reach this summer with a new radio show. “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” is set to launch on July 11. The program will air every other Saturday at 5 p.m. on Classic 107.3 FM. The festival decided to embark on this new venture because “It is important now to unify, elevate and enrich humanity during this very challenging year,” explains Carrie Houk, Executive Artistic Director of TWSTL.

Each episode of “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” will consist of fully produced Williams’ one-act plays along with interviews with scholars, directors and actors. Specific details of each broadcast will be posted on the websites of both Classic 107.3 (classic1073.org) and TWSTL (twstl.org).

Ken Page

Broadway legend and St. Louisan Ken Page will narrate and noted Williams scholar Tom Mitchell will offer commentary on each episode. Performers will include: Nisi Sturgis; Rayme Cornell; J. Samuel Davis; Bob Harvey; Anita Jackson; Tony Merritt II; Elizabeth Teeter; Bradley Tejeda; Rachel Tibbits; Donathan Walters; Kelley Weber; Donna Weinsting and Maggie Wininger.  Brian Hohlfeld, David Kaplan and Tim Ocel will be directing.

“The peak of my virtuosity was in the one-act plays.

Some of which are like firecrackers on a rope.” – Tennessee Williams

“Williams felt that one-acts were his strongest format,” Houk points out. “He started out in St. Louis writing one-act plays, and one of his biggest breaks was winning a competition sponsored by the Group Theater in New York—the first time he signed his name as ‘Tennessee’ rather than ‘Tom.’  He wrote more than 70 throughout his career—sometimes edgy, often experimental, and always infused with his unsurpassed poetry.  Many of them have been presented at the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.”

“Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” will be sponsored by Mary Strauss, Jane and Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation, Ted Wight, John Russell and Terry Schnuck, with more patrons to be announced in the coming weeks.

TWSTL’s reboot of their Fifth Annual Festival this fall will focus on Williams’ youth and time spent with The Mummers, an offbeat St. Louis theatre company that tried out a number of his early plays and is immortalized in Williams essay “Something Wild.” As long as conditions remain safe to produce, “Tennessee Williams: Something Wild” will run October 22 through November 1 at The Link Auditorium (thelinkauditorium.org), formerly The Wednesday Club and the theatre where The Mummers performed. 

About the Festival

Star on Walk of Fame in the Delmar Loop

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was established in 2016 by Carrie Houk, the award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator.   The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the 2019 Arts Startup of the Year by the Arts & Entertainment Council.

In 2014, Houk produced Williams’ Stairs to the Roof with such success that the on- going annual Festival was established. The inaugural Festival was themed “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years,” followed by “The Magic of the Other” in 2017 and “The French Quarter Years” in 2018. The 2019 festival featured Night of the Iguana and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. As the years have passed, the awards have mounted. Last year’s St. Louis Theater Circle gave them eleven nominations and seven awards, and this year’s seven nominations garnered four more awards. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.

Lead sponsorship of the festival is provided by Emerson.  The Festival is also funded in part by Mary Strauss, Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, The Whitaker Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Humanities Council, Trio Foundation of St Louis and the Arts and Education Council.

About Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams drawing by Al Hirschfeld

Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located). He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.” Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer. He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be America’s greatest playwright.

About Classic 107.3

Classic 107.3, “The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis”, broadcasts at 107.3 FM and on KNOU 96.3 HD2 with a mission to support the cultural landscape in the St. Louis region through programming and outreach efforts. Classic 107.3 plays a variety of music from classical to jazz, opera to blues, Broadway and more, and features local programming including the “Slatkin Shuffle”, hosted by conductor Leonard Slatkin, and Musical Ancestries™, designed to educate school-aged children about world music. In addition, the station airs interviews with artists, musicians, creators and performers, bringing their stories and events to the attention of the St. Louis community. Classic 107.3 is a non-profit station, receiving support from listeners as well as organizations like PNC, the William T. Kemper Foundation and others. More information, as well as live streaming, archived interviews, and podcasts can be found at www.classic1073.org.

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/.

            COVID-19 Pandemic Results in Production Streamcast by HEC Media

New Jewish Theatre led the way with six awards at the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Max & Louie Productions’ performance of Indecent garnered five awards, followed by four awards to The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis for its production of A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Circle’s gala event for this year’s award ceremony, originally scheduled for March 30, 2020 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, was canceled. Instead, HEC Media produced a version of the ceremonies that was streamcast on HEC Media’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/hectv/live/) as well as telecast on Spectrum channel 989 and AT&T U-verse channel 99. Here is the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/tCo0AFHbChE

Awards were given in 31 categories covering comedies, dramas and musicals as well as two categories for opera. In addition, Ken and Nancy Kranzberg received a special award for their philanthropic contributions to the arts and theater in the St. Louis area, including many developments in Grand Center. The awards honored outstanding achievement in locally produced professional theater for the calendar year 2019.

A total of 21 productions and 14 companies were recognized by the awards, including eight individuals who have received honors in previous years. Will Bonfiglio, honored as Outstanding Actor in a Comedy for his performance in New Jewish Theatre’s production of Fully Committed, received an award for the third time in the last four years.

The 2020 presentation featured nominees from two companies, Black Mirror Theatre and The Q Collective, which were represented for the first time in consideration of St. Louis Theater Circle Awards.  Each company received an award for outstanding achievement.

In all, 25 local companies received nominations in 33 categories for comedy, drama, musical and opera, as well as 125 individuals up for awards. Honorees who have previously received St. Louis Theater Circle Awards include Will Bonfiglio, J. Samuel Davis, Kari Ely, Michael Hamilton, Patrick Huber, Sean M. Savoie, Margery and Peter Spack, and Maggie Wininger.

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

Nominations for the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards were divided into categories for musicals, dramas, comedies and operas.  More than 120 local professional theatrical productions were staged in the St. Louis area in 2019.

Honorees of the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are:

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Kelley Weber, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Patrick Blindauer, Love’s Labors Lost, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy (tie)

Katie Kleiger, Pride and Prejudice, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Maggie Wininger, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Will Bonfiglio, Fully Committed, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

Kari Ely, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre

Indecent

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Carly Uding, Translations, Black Mirror Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

J. Samuel Davis, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama

Donna Weinsting, Salt, Root and Roe, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Gary Wayne Barker, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Drama

Joanne Gordon, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Production of a Drama

Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Play

Margery and Peter Spack, Brighton Beach Memoirs, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

Felia Davenport, District Merchants, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

Patrick Huber, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Sound Design

Phillip Evans, Indecent, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

Mary Engelbreit and Paige Hathaway, Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

Sarah Porter, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

Sean M. Savoie, Man of La Mancha, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Musical Director

Charles Creath, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, The Black Rep

Outstanding Choreographer

Dexandro Montalvo, Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Matilda, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Taylor Louderman, Kinky Boots, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Tielere Cheatem, La Cage aux Folles, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Kendra Kassebaum, Guys and Dolls, The Muny

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Luke Steingruby, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Q Collective

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Michael Hamilton, Man of La Mancha, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Musical

Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,

Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding New Play

Nonsense and Beauty, by Scott C. Sickles, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

La Boheme

Outstanding Achievement in Opera (tie)

Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Roland Wood, Rigoletto, Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of an Opera

La Boheme, Union Avenue Opera

Special Award

Ken and Nancy Kranzberg

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

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

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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/

St. Louis Theater Circle Awards Ceremony Cancelled, AFL’s Theatre Mask Awards Moved to July

By Lynn Venhaus

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, productions scheduled in March, April and May at New Jewish Theatre, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, Tennessee Williams Festival, Upstream Theater, West End Players Guild and the Playhouse at Westport have announced postponements, some with new dates and others to be determined.

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation has closed all its venues.

St. Louis Theater Circle has cancelled the March 30 Awards Ceremony and Arts For Life has pushed back its annual Theatre Mask Awards. Metro Theatre Company has announced some changes in scheduling.

Here is the most up-to-date information available, and updates will be happening as we get word.

The companies are following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines for social distancing, which has recommended limiting gatherings of no more than 50 for the next eight weeks. St. Louis City and St. Louis County have banned such public gatherings.

On Monday, the White House advised the public to avoid groups of more than 10 and urged older people to stay at home for the next 15 days in a set of new guidelines designated to fight a spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Kranzberg Arts Foundation
They announced Tuesday that they have followed the recommendations and guidelines put in place by our government and health officials and have moved to shut down all Kranzberg Arts Foundation venue operations. This includes theatres, galleries, clubs, restaurants, cafes, and libraries. For the time being, our tenant and resident organization offices remain open. These closures will remain in place until at least May 11:

  • The Grandel Theatre
  • The Marcelle
  • The Kranzberg Studio, Black Box, and Gallery
  • .ZACK Theatre
  • High Low
  • Sophie’s Artist Lounge
  • The Dark Room

To ticket holders, MetroTix will be reaching out and instructing guests to respond with “refund” or “donate”.
“While this is a difficult time for everyone, arts organizations and artists will be particularly impacted by COVID-19 and the disruption to their jobs. We’re asking for guests, as they are able to, to consider donating to the organizations instead of asking for a refund,” Executive Director Chris Hansen said.

“We will continue to work with our funding partners and local government agencies to find ways to help support artists and arts organizations through these unprecedented times and to make sure the arts are still felt and present in people’s daily lives,” he said.

“We will stay connected through social media and other digital platforms and will share resources, updates, and next steps as frequently as possible,: Hansen said.

West End Players Guild
West End Players Guild said Monday that Steven Dietz’s “Bloomsday,” originally scheduled for April 17 – 26, has been cancelled as the season’s final show but will be rescheduled in September as the first show of the 2020-2021 season.

WEPG said online ticket purchasers will receive an automatic full refund through Brown Paper Tickets.  “Please allow two weeks for the refund to be posted to your credit card.  Season ticket holders will be advised of refund options this week by email,” the statement said. 

Photo by Greg Lazerwitz

New Jewish Theatre
New Jewish Theatre has moved “We Are the Levinsons” to May 6 0 17. The St. Louis premiere had been scheduled to open this Thursday and run from March 19 to April 5. 

A comedy that tugs on your heart, it centers on Rosie, a divorced fiftyish TV writer with an insufferable 21 year-old daughter, who suddenly finds herself responsible for her father’s care. This thoughtful and earnest play delves into some difficult but universal passages of life. We all must give up the insolence of youth and take on the mantle of adulthood. Along the way are opportunities to love and to pursue our dreams. We are the Levinsons teaches us how we should cherish these moments with tenderness and with laughter.

Fox Theatre

At the Fox Theatre, the touring production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which had been set to open Tuesday, March 17 and run through, has been postponed but a new date has not been announced.

“We are working with the producers of the show to reschedule for dates in the near future and I will be sure to keep you updated!” Publicity Manager Megan Ketcherside said.

“We appreciate your support and please know that the health and safety of our guests is always our top priority. We will continue to look to our government and health professionals for guidance as we work through this unprecedented time in our history.,” she said.

As of March 17 announcement, “Cats” scheduled for April 7-19 and Chaka Khan scheduled for April 24 are postpone until a future date can be determined.

The Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation’s 10th annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition Finals are being moved from Saturday, April 4, to a later date, to be determined.

In the spirit of fostering the emerging talent in the St. Louis performing arts community, the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation is proud to underwrite and produce an adjudicated competition showcasing the talented teens of the St. Louis region. Students are competing for college scholarships, cash awards, prizes, and public appearance opportunities

The Playhouse @ Westport

All March events are presently cancelled, including Flanagan’s Wake due to the updated information and recommendations implemented to regarding Covid-19. “Flanagan’s Wake” had been extended through April 11, with a special St. Patrick’s Day performance March 17.

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

Refunds are available at point of purchase.

St. Louis Actors’ Studio

The St. Louis Actors’ Studio has postponed its world premiere of Neil LaBute’s “Comfort,” that was to run from April 17 to May 3 at the Gaslight Theatre, but is providing an offer for online content.

“STLAS to offer Neil LaBute’s 10 x 10 series as exclusive streaming content for its current subscribers (new subscribers to the 20/21 season) and ticket holders and will postpone the world premiere of LaBute’s play “Comfort,” said William Roth, founder and artistic director.

“While we wait at home for the virus to settle, Neil and I quickly put our heads together to see how we could entertain our best patrons as we figure out how to navigate these ever-changing waters. Neil has been so very generous to us and he truly appreciates, as I do, our ongoing collaboration as well as the patrons and artists of St. Louis.” Roth said.

Each of the 10-minute films features one actor telling their story directly to the viewer. The first five feature Frederick Weller (In Plain Sight, The Good Wife), St. Louisan Jenna Fischer (The Office), Louisa Krause (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Young Adult), Richard Kind (Luck, Burn Notice, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Judith Light (Other Desert Cities, Assembled Parties).

Weller’s character is a man who relays the story of an encounter he had with a woman sitting next to him on a flight. Fisher portrays a woman telling about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband and about her new life partner. Krause’s character is a young woman who discusses the way in which she takes control of her sexual destiny. Kind portrays a man discussing his feelings about his long-time marriage and his views on same-sex marriage as well. Light becomes a woman remembering the ‘man who got away’ while discussing her former marriage and her new boyfriend.

The second five feature Adam Brody (Some Girls), Maggie Grace (Taken; Taken 2), Jason Patric (Your Friends and Neighbors), Amy Madigan (Gone Baby Gone) and Bill Pullman (While You Were Sleeping). Each film explores the nature of human relationships, specifically themes of love and lust, told by characters at different stages in their lives.

Brody portrays a young man bemoaning his impending hair loss and talking about his ‘ideal’ woman. Grace’s character is a woman talking about a friend who was killed in a car accident while texting her boyfriend. Patric embodies a man recounting the tale of a fight between parents that he was involved in at a little league game. Madigan plays a woman confessing to slowly having lost her will to live and asks a visitor for some spiritual help. Pullman becomes a man considering the ever-changing culture around him and his evolving views on love and life

LaBute explains, “The series was initially written as exclusive content for DIRECTV’s  ‘AUDIENCE CHANNEL’ and has been rarely seen since its initial  airing on television. 10 X 10 is a collection of original monologues— five men, five women—that are performed directly to the camera and in real time, meaning there is no editing or camera trickery. It is all about the material and the actor, bringing each piece to the audience at home as purely and directly as possible.”

The 10 x 10 videos will be released weekly to STLAS patrons via email with password a protected link. They will also be providing in-home entertainment from the Gaslight courtesy of St. Louis Actors’ Studio as it can be generated and as regulations permit.

Details for the new dates for “Comfort” will be announced soon. The new LaBute play is about a mother and son meeting after some time apart to see if their relationship can survive the past and two new book deals.

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
Executive Artistic Director Carrie Houk said the multiple activities of the fifth annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis would be moved to summer. It had been scheduled for May 7 – 17 in the Grand Center.

“After careful deliberation, we 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 show WILL go on. We will be announcing new dates shortly,” she said.
.
The multi-award-winning Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis headliner is The Rose Tattoo.  There will be more than a dozen separate elements, scheduled so that attendees may attend every one during the eleven-day run, all held in the Grand Center Arts District and on The Hill. Events include:

  • 3 productions: The Rose TattooThe St. Louis Rooming House Plays, Amor Perdido
  • Academic series, “Tennessee Williams and his Midwest Experiences”
  •  “Williams Playwriting Initiative”
  • A staged reading of Glass
  • screenings of Italian-themed The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and Boom
  • Public Discussion Panels
  • La Dolce Vita Pool Party at the Last Hotel
  • Bus Tour of important Williams’ sites
  • “Tennessee Williams Tribute”
  • “TW Jam”

“In the meantime, love deeply, be kind, eat, drink, be merry and smell the roses. Lots and lots of roses!: Houk said.

Upstream Theater

Upstream Theater is postponing “Iphigenia in Splott,” set from April 17 to May 3, until the fall, Oct. 9 – 25.The regional premiere by Welsh playwright Gary Owen stars Jennifer Theby-Quinn and is directed by Patrick Siler. If you have purchased single tickets or a season passport they will honor your ticket at that time.

Stumbling around Cardiff’s gritty Splott neighborhood at 11:30 AM drunk, Effie is the kind of person you’d avoid eye contact with. You think you know her, but you really don’t—because here is someone whose life spirals through a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night, and a hangover worse than death the next day … until one night gives her a chance to be something more. Inspired by the Greek myth about a young woman offered as a human sacrifice, Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott is a blisteringly poetic monologue that drives home the high price people pay for society’s shortcomings …

.Metro Theatre Company
As of March 18, MTC’s artistic and administrative staff will go to a remote work model. Their physical office in Grand Center will be closed.

Their spring gala, After Dark, originally scheduled for May 7 will now be held Sept. 24. Tickets will automatically transfer to the new date. The Golden Ticket raffle will still happen digitally on May 7.
 
 In light of school closures, for the time being MTC’s in-school arts-integrated curriculum work is paused. While we cannot be present in person in schools, our talented education team is developing digital resources to help parents supporting their children’s learning needs while they are home. Look for some of these digital resources via email and on our Facebook page in the weeks ahead, said executive director Joe Gfaller.
 

At this time we anticipate that our summer camps will proceed as planned, starting in June. Middle SchoolGrand Theater Camp is June 1-12; Advanced Middle School Grand Theater Camp is June 15-26; High School Grand Theater Camp is July 6-10; and Creative Arts Camp for Pre-K through 5th Grade is offered July 27-August 1 and August 3-7. 

“Even as you engage in social distancing in the weeks and months ahead, we encourage you to find ways to continue to support those businesses and artists who make St. Louis such a rewarding community in which to live and raise a family. COVID-19 impacts our friends in travel and tourism, restaurants, entertainment, and small business – not to mention scores of working artsts across St. Louis,” Gfaller said.

St. Louis Theater Circle Awards

President Mark Bretz issued this statement on March 13:
“In consideration of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as decisions in the last few days by the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, the State of Missouri, Major League Baseball and many others, the upcoming St. Louis Theater Circle Awards presentation has been canceled, effective immediately.

Brown Paper Tickets said that those who already had purchased tickets to the gala, which was scheduled for Monday, March 30, will receive full refunds after contacting Brown Paper Tickets.

“We hope soon to reveal our alternative plan for announcing this year’s award recipients in each of our 34 categories. Thank you for your patience and understanding,” Bretz said.



12th Natya Indian Dance Festival – April 24- 26 – POSTPONED, Date TBD

Wydown Auditorium

Dedicated to Indian Classical dance, music and theatre, this year’s festival will include a special presentation of SAMARPAN-2, the 3.5 hour long story of India’s struggle for freedom from 16th-20th century through dance, music and drama with artists from India.

Arts For Life

AFL President Mary McCreight has suspended all public activities of the Arts For Life organization effective March 16 until at least May 1, 2020. This includes all judging activities of the Theatre Recognition Guild (TRG). The Theatre Mask Awards Ceremony has been rescheduled for July 18. The Best Performance Awards are not yet affected by this suspension as they are scheduled to take place in mid-June.

“We will continue to base our decisions on the best information available in this rapid evolving situation, recognizing the need for timely notifications. All of this uncertainty poses challenges, and we will endeavor to communicate about our plans and share decisions promptly and transparently,” she said.

“It is apparent most shows scheduled before May 1 would likely not be allowed to be open anyway given the restrictions on event/gathering sizes put in place by local authorities this weekend. We ask that all participating groups keep us apprised as to their individual decisions regarding cancellations and/or postponements as soon as possible. We know that the various licensing houses (MTI, Concord and others) are are offering generous low- and no-penalty options for groups to either postpone and/or cancel productions. Please check with your respective licensors,” she said.


Other Companies

As previously reported, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has postponed “Dreaming Zenzile” and hopes to reschedule this summer. “The Cake” in the Studio ran over the weekend, but beginning March 16, the production was suspended.

New Line Theatre closed “Head Over Heels” early because of the St. Louis City and County mandates about crowd size.

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis invites playwrights to submit original one-act plays for our 2020 Playwriting Initiative. At least three winners will be chosen by our panel of playwrights. The winning plays will be presented in a staged reading, with professional actors, as an element of the 2020 Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, May 7-17, 2020. 


The winning playwrights will be invited to attend the staged reading and to participate in a talkback panel—featuring the other winners and the judges—at the conclusion of the event. The plays, with playwrights’ biographies, will be listed in the official Festival program.The winning playwrights will be provided with Festival passes. (The Festival will not be able to provide other compensation or reimbursement.)

Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams started out in St. Louis writing one-act plays, and one of his biggest breaks was winning a competition sponsored by the Group Theater in New York—the first time he signed his name as “Tennessee” rather than “Tom.” He wrote more than seventy throughout his career—sometimes edgy, often experimental, and always infused with his unsurpassed poetry. Many of them have been presented at the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, several as world premieres. We invite you to find your inspiration in his artistry and to share it with us.

The panel is chaired by Jack Ciapciak, winner of New York University’s 2017 Goldberg Playwriting Prize and winner of our own inaugural Playwriting Initiative. Judges also include Deanna Jent, whose play Falling has been produced on Broadway, and Gregory Carr, who teaches playwriting at Harris Stowe University. 

Guidelines for submission:

  • The play must be no more than 15 minutes long.
  • The play must not have been professionally produced (although plays that have been workshopped or presented as staged readings are acceptable).
  • The play must be submitted by the author of the play.
  • Only one submission per author.
  • The author must include a statement of no longer than 250 words, including a brief biography, contact information, and author’s availability to attend the staged reading and serve on the talkback panel. (Attendance is requested but not mandatory.)
  • The play must be in a PDF in Standard Playwriting Format. 
  • Submit your materials by March 1, 2020, to [email protected] with the subject line 2020 Playwriting Initiative.

Winners will be notified no later than April 1, 2020. By submitting the play, authors give performance rights to the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis for the May, 2020 event, as well as possible other uses in connection with the 2020 Festival. Authors retain all other rights. 

For more information, visit the website: www.twstl.org