By Lynn Venhaus

Heart-tugging and hopeful, “Tiny Beautiful Things” strikes universal chords as it reverberates through a darkened theater.

Now playing at The Grandel, the deeply personal journeys of people who cared enough to reach out to another human, to make that connection in cyberspace, even when they were confused or desperate or sad or angry, will smack you upside your head, resonate emotionally, and may elicit a few tears and some smiles – if you let it pull you in (and why resist?).

Perhaps listening to four people be vulnerable will prompt the proverbial light bulb to come on, illuminating what’s going on in your life. Or by hearing about others’ experiences, you will be comforted too.

The well-worn themes of love and loss provide perspective in this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling self-help book, served up by Nia Vardalos with sprinklings of humor and heaping amounts of compassion. This is not your mom’s yellowed Ann Landers’ clippings.

“Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” was published in 2012, a collection of essays from Strayed’s “Dear Sugar” advice column, which she wrote anonymously on The Rumpus, an online literary magazine. She took it over from her friend, Steve Almond, in 2010. The book also includes essays not previously published.

With a nudge from director Thomas Kail, who was given the book by journalist Marshall Heyman, Vardalos conceived it as a play, mixing in the author’s memoir along with the dating advice and grieving support.

It premiered at The Public Theater in December 2016, starring Vardalos as Sugar and three actors playing various e-mail letter writers, directed by Tony Award-winner and Emmy nominee Kail (“Hamilton,” “In the Heights,” “Fosse/Verdon”), and a revised version returned the next year.

The story’s framework is simple: The writer dispenses words of wisdom, an understanding achieved after many battles of her own, and because she is willing to expose herself to strangers, they in turn disclose their inner-most thoughts and feelings.

With such candid material to work with, producing artistic director Stellie Siteman and managing director De Kaplan knew it was the right choice for their company, Max and Louie Productions, to return with after a harsh 16 months that has changed us all.

Because we endured a pandemic period filled with isolation and self-reflection about our own lives, being with others post-coronavirus quarantine reinforces what we all know but need to be reminded about: We are not alone.

Even with the best of intentions, this could come across very Hallmark cards-like, reducing sentiments to those home décor signs urging us to “Forgive and Forget” or “Live Laugh Love,” but Vardalos and Strayed are too smart to settle for repeating platitudes, as are the women involved in this production.

Vardalos struck gold writing and starring in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” two decades ago, earning an Oscar nomination in 2003, and Strayed, who was a troubled soul trying to come to terms with her past and present through a 1,100-mile hike in 1995, published that life-changing trek in the 2012 bestseller “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.” Both are grounded women who have achieved success representing their own lives so authentically, which is the foundation here.

Director Sydnie Grosberg Ronga understood the challenges of this piece and did not embellish it with any unnecessary frills. She approached the play in a straightforward and sincere manner, which is affecting and skillfully presented by this veteran cast, anchored with authority by Michelle Hand.

Greg Johnson and Michelle Hand. Photo by Patrick Huber

The creative team’s collaboration is subtle. The minimal scenic design by master of detail Dunsi Dai suits the intent. Ronga moved, with purpose, the actors around furniture that represents their characters’ homes – including a couch, a bed, a desk and a table. Everything appears lived in, with key items placed by props designer Katie Orr, and exudes a comfortable atmosphere, accented by lighting designer extraordinaire Patrick Huber. Costume designer Eileen Engel selected casual outfits appropriate to the roles.

Two large panels rise above – are those windows to the soul? Hmmm…This isn’t supposed to resemble a psychiatrist’s office, and the set intriguingly widens the reach while narrowing the focus.

As letter writers, versatile stage actors Greg Johnston, Wendy Renee Greenwood and Abraham Shaw strike different tones as they reveal what their assorted characters are looking for or what has defined each of their lives.

As the human faces of email exchanges, they present their questions and responses in a natural way, becoming a de facto support system and sounding board. One of Johnston’s characters blurts out WTF several times, amusing the audience with such a declaration. (The play contains some strong language and adult content).

As Sugar, Hand wrestles with confidence and her conscience, showing the growth of Cheryl and depicting the raw honesty for which the writer is known. That draws the other characters in, and us, too.

Writers are often hard to portray, especially typing at a computer, for the work is such an internal process — unless there are major conflicts. With this format, we don’t follow the 80-minute show like regular storytelling — nor does it reach a dramatic conclusion – but is moving nonetheless.

What makes this so touching then? Could it be as plain as seeking meaning while we find our way, holding on to ideals and keeping faith that things will turn out all right? Or it’s OK to say we aren’t OK? Because having lived through the uncertainty and anxiety of a public health crises, something we are still processing, this performance on Friday night seemed as warm as your grandma’s chunky hand-knit afghan and as familiar as a hug from a cherished loved one.

Strayed doesn’t profess to have all the answers, nor does she say she can fix everybody and everything. But by offering examples of her struggles, exposing herself so openly, somehow, we come out of the dark and into the light. It’s that simple, but that profound.

Hand approaches each role so genuinely that you believe whatever situation she is going through, whether she is Tami, the exasperated mother of an autistic son in “Falling” at Mustard Seed Theatre; Toril Grandal, a cook serving her family’s special pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream to world leaders, in “Oslo” at The Rep; or the broken-hearted lesbian artist Pickles in “Life Sucks” at New Jewish Theatre.

She is best at bringing the humanity out in her characters, real people portraits — (cases in point, Maggie Dalton in St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s “Into the Breeches!”, who discovers her mettle while her husband is fighting in World War II, St. Louis Theater Circle Best Actress in a Comedy Award 2019; and innocent Rose Mundy, the intellectually challenged sister in “Dancing at Lughnasa” at Mustard Seed).

Anyone with a heart – lonely, heavy, hungry, normal – can relate to the personal stories shared. In a world where empathy seems to be in short supply, this work restores the belief that we get to carry each other, and through that, the broken can be healed.

If you crave the intimacy and insight that live theater can supply, “Tiny Beautiful Things” will reward you.

Wendy Renee Greenwood, Michelle Hand and Abraham Shaw. Photo by Patrick Huber

“Tiny Beautiful Things” is presented without intermission at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square in St. Louis, from July 29 to Aug. 8. Performances are at 2 p.m. on Aug. 1 and 8; at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 4 and 5, and at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 6 and 7.

Tickets are on sale at www.metrotix.com or by phone at 314-534-1111 or at the box office an hour before curtain. Socially distanced reserved seating is restricted to groups of 2 and 4 consecutive seats, and booth seating is available for groups of 4 and 6. Masks are required.

Max & Louie Productions has received its Missouri ArtSafe certification. To ensure that they may create safely, present safely, and attend safely, they pledge to Covid-19 safe protocols which patrons are encouraged to view at Max & Louie Productions’ website at www.maxandlouie.com.

‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ and an Encore of ‘Songs for Nobodies’ to be Staged

Max & Louie Productions joyfully announces its “Comeback” with the St. Louis premiere of “Tiny Beautiful Things” based on the New York Times bestseller, “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed and adapted for the stage by Oscar nominee, Nia Vardalos, playing at The Grandel Theatre July 29-August 8,2021.

“We are so pleased to reopen safely, and welcome back St. Louis audiences with a powerful, dynamic, and empathetic play about words and the power of words to connect with one another. It’s the kind of connection that we have had to be extremely grateful for this past year,” said Stellie Siteman, Producing Artistic Director of Max & Louie Productions.

When life is hard, turn to Sugar.  “Tiny Beautiful Things” follows Sugar, an online advice columnist who uses her personal experiences to help the real-life readers who pour their hearts out to her. Rich with humor, insight, compassion and absolute honesty, “Tiny Beautiful Things” is a play about reaching when you’re stuck, healing when you’re broken, and finding the courage to take on the questions that have no answers.

The cast includes Michelle Hand as “Sugar”, Greg Johnston as Letter Writer #1, Wendy Renee Greenwood as Letter Writer#2, and Abraham Shaw as Letter Writer #3.  Sydnie Grosberg Ronga directs.

Critic’s Pick! “Tiny Beautiful Things” is about the endangered art of listening to-and really hearing and responding to-other people… it works beautifully as a sustained theatrical exercise in empathy.”

The New York Times

“…a show that aims to open our eyes to the tiny moments when the world surprises us with care.”

New York Magazine 

“Heart-tugging and emotionally rewarding.”

The Huffington Post

“… a theatrical hug in turbulent times”

Variety

“Tiny Beautiful Things” will run at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, Missouri 63108. The dates of the production are July 29-August 8,2021. Tickets will go on sale Monday, June 14th 2021 at metrotix.com or by phone at (314) 534-1111. Online Socially Distanced Reserved Seating will be restricted to groups of 2 and 4 consecutive seats. Booth seating is available for a group of 4 or 6 persons. Tickets are priced from $35-$55.

**Max & Louie Productions has received its Missouri ArtSafe certification. To ensure that we may create safely, present safely, and attend safely we pledge to Covid-19 safe protocols which patrons are encouraged to view at Max & Louie Productions’ website at www.maxandlouie.com.

The 2021 season concludes with the Max & Louie Productions’ hit revival of “Songs for Nobodies” written by Joanna Murray-Smith and presented at the Grandel Theatre December 2-12th 2021.

This one-woman powerhouse performance, starring Debby Lennon, weaves the music of legendary divas Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, and Maria Callas throughout a mosaic of stories told by the everyday women who had unexpected life-changing encounters with these musical icons.

Featuring such favorites as “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Crazy,” “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” “Lady Sings the Blues,” and “Vissi d’ arte,” “Songs for Nobodies” illuminates the power of song to share a story, heal a heartbreak, and inspire a dream.

“It’s a perfectly marvelous show to kick off the holidays”, exclaimed Stellie Siteman, Artistic Director.

Critic’s Pick! “Max & Louie’s ‘Songs for Nobodies’ is an intimate triumph.”

-Calvin Wilson St. Louis Post Dispatch

“Dazzling work from Debby Lennon and lots of bang for the audiences buck in this little jewel from Max & Louie Productions.”

-Ann Pollack St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“… Lennon’s range is astonishing. Her performance as an actor who portrays five, ordinary, utterly individual women is at least as impressive as her singing.”

-Judy Newmark Judy Act Two

Ten women, all played by one extraordinary actress, in “Songs for Nobodies” is directed by Pamela Hunt and runs at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, Missouri 63108. The dates of the production are December 2-12th,2021. Tickets go on sale at metrotix.com or by phone (314) 534-1111 on October 11th,2021. Tickets are priced from $35-$60 Booth seating is available for a group of 4-6 persons.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
One of the most versatile and lauded actors in St. Louis, John Flack is
spending his summer working at what he loves, adding another comedy, drama and
musical to his extensive repertoire.

He has been a member of Actors’ Equity, for 30 years,
“right here in St. Louis,” and is grateful to be working in the profession.

“My real dream is to continue to be cast in any professional theatre production that will have me so I can have a job doing what I love while working with people I adore.”

Currently appearing in the critically acclaimed “Indecent,”
presented by Max and Louie Productions, he will be in a satirical romp through
American history, “The Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures of Israel
Potter,” July 18 – 27 at Bluff City Theater in Hannibal, Mo. Rehearsals start
July 2.

Then, he’ll play the Captain of the Inquisition in “Man of
La Mancha” in September, his only musical with Stages St. Louis this summer.

“Man of La Mancha” runs Sept. 6 to Oct. 6 and concludes
Stages’ 33rd season, its final one before they move into a new
Performing Arts Center in Kirkwood.

Flack has been working with Stages since 1990, when he
played the title role in “Snoopy!”
Ever since, he’s demonstrated his musical versatility in both comedy and drama,
playing such roles as the Underling, the butler in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and
440-year-old Merlin in “Camelot.”

“I’ve been in about 65 (Stages musicals),” he said.

“I’m so grateful to Michael Hamilton and Jack Lane, and the
team at Stages, how they value the artists. Stages gives us Equity performers more
work weeks than any company in St. Louis in the summer. They make it possible
for us to get health insurance, and live and work here,” he said.

“Oklahoma” at Stages St. Louis 2018. Photo by Peter WochniakAnother benefit of being part of a company is the
friendships forged. For “Indecent,” he was fortunate to work with his longtime
friend, Ellen Isom, who choreographed the show. They’ve been friends since
1991.

“She is not only one of the absolute treasures of St. Louis
theater, but she’s first a terrific human being,” he said.

John has been active in several regional professional theaters, including The New Jewish Theatre, Upstream Theater, The Black Rep, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and the former HotCity.

As Saul Mortera in “New Jerusalem” at New Jewish Theatre, with Rob Riordan.He appeared in three shows at The Muny — “My One and Only” (2008) and “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Camelot” in 2009.

In 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Go! Magazine List named him Best St. Louis Stage Actor.

“Indecent” is one of his biggest challenges – and one of
the finest productions he’s been part of to date, he said.

John plays The Elder: Otto, and then as part of the
ensemble, he performs various characters Yekel, Peretz, Schildkraut, Immigrant,
Bartender, Judge McIntyre and older Asch.

“What a role!” he said about Otto.

But he has seven others too. “I am on stage the entire
time,” he said.

Making each character different as part of the ensemble is
the daunting task.

“That’s the biggest challenge. They are from different times,
and to make sure they have different dialects. The play spans 50 years,” he said.
“They are all old guys like me. That’s the one thing they have in common.”

When the characters speak their native language, they speak
perfect English, but when they speak a second or third language, they speak
English with an accent.

A fierce indictment of censorship as well as a celebration
of art and love, “Indecent” combines theater, music, dance and poetry to make
an impact in an era of chaos. Flack is among the seven actors and three
musicians who play roles that span continents and decades.

By Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel,
“Indecent” is the true story of a groundbreaking scandalous play and the
courageous artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it. During its
2017 run on Broadway, it won

Sholem Asch’s drama, “God of Vengeance” debuted
on Broadway in 1923 at a time when waves of immigrants were changing the face
of America. A love story that celebrated Yiddish language and unconventional
passion, it was forced from the stage by a reactionary, fearful public.  Its fate, and that of the actors who
cherished it even as they confronted the horrors of the Nazi onslaught, are the
subject of “Indecent.”

“It’s a lovely script, beautifully written and poetic, and it’s very prescient for our time,” he said.

“Indecent” by Max and Louie ProductionsProducing Artistic Director Stellie Siteman issued a
statement: “As a proud member of St. Louis’ vibrant LGBTQ, Jewish, and Theatre
communities, I can think of no better play at this moment in time that
dramatizes a message of inclusion, tolerance and love. The belief in the power
of art is a clarion call to action.”

Joanne Gordon directed. Ron McGowan is the musical
director. Ellen Isom choreographed. Besides Flack, “Indecent” stars Alyssa
Avery, Zoe Farmingdale, Katie Karel, TJ Lancaster, Judi Mann, Kris Pineda and
Tim Schall.

“It’s a wonderful cast, really a delightful group. I love
working with these people,” John said. “And the music is tremendous.”

He is also a fan of the renovated Grandel, where the show
has been staged.

“It’s a great space, and we have a lot of positive energy
here,” he said.

John Flack won a St. Louis Circle Award as Don.

He has worked with Max and Louie Productions before, in Ken
Page’s original play, “Sublime Intimacy.” Page not only wrote it but directed
the show in 2015.

“Sublime Intimacy” was the tale of five friends who were elevated,
touched and changed by their love of a dancer and his dance overlaps,
intertwines and informs each other.

John won a St. Louis Theater Circle Award for playing Don,
an ex-Hollywood actor – Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama.

As Dan in “Next to Normal” He has been nominated
four times for St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, for two HotCity productions –
as Ned in “The Normal Heart” in 2014 (which also tied for Outstanding
Production of a Drama) and Charles Busch’s “The Divine Sister” in 2012, and as the
husband Dan in Insight Theatre Company’s “Next to Normal” musical in 2017.

With Eric Dean White in “The Normal Heart
 “Max and Louie
Productions like to present an eclectic mix,” he said. “Stellie and De love to
bring plays that they are passionate about to a St. Louis audience.”

 A mere few days
after “Indecent” closes June 30, he starts rehearsals on Tuesday, July 2 for “The
Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures of Israel Potter,” directed by
Herbie Barnes, at the Bluff City Theater in Hannibal, Mo.

He joins an ensemble cast featuring Donna Weinsting,
Jennelle Gilreath-Owens, Brian Kim and Eric Geller, all playing multiple
characters, while Erick Lindsey is Israel Potter.

Based on a novel by Herman Melville, who supposedly rescued
a tattered journal from the trash in 19th century London. Potter, a
simple farmer, is drafted into the fledgling Continental Army of the United
States of America on the eve of his wedding. He’s captured by the British,
imprisoned in England and then escapes, wanting only to return to his waiting
bride and a peaceful life in America. What ensues instead is a madcap series of
improbable events that thrusts him into one grand adventure after another,
preventing his return home.

The order this summer is drama, comedy then musical – more
memorable additions to the resume.

What’s best about building an acting career in St. Louis is
the variety of work.

As Clarence Darrow in “Never the Sinner” at New Jewish TheatreJohn said St. Louis is great for not pigeonholing an actor.
If you want to do comedy but have been mainly cast in dramas, you can. Unlike
other cities where you get typecast and they think you can only do one thing.

Lavonne Byers and John Flack in “The Divine Sister”

“We feel very lucky in St. Louis to work on different stages,” he said.

Here is our “Take Ten” Questionnaire with John Flack

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

“Wait a minute… I had a choice? I don’t remember it that
way. In an early attempt at adulting, I tried three different career paths
outside of the arts. Each one ended in failure, disappointment, and heartache.
Then I needed a job, so I auditioned for a singing waiter gig on the old
Admiral riverboat. When that job ended, I auditioned for the next (Imaginary
Theatre Company at The Rep); and so-on and so-on. I’ve just been putting one
foot in front of the other, following my heart’s desire and staying a step
ahead of creditors ever since.”

2. How would your friends describe you?

“I don’t have financial wealth, but I am blessed with an
incredible wealth of dear friends and family. I don’t mean this to be glib or
cute; but I think one of the reasons I’ve been so fortunate in this regard is
because I was taught by my parents that what others think of me (or anything
else, really) is none of my business.”

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

“I have a love/hate relationship with spare time. As a
free-lancer, empty space on my calendar is frightening to me, so I try to keep
as little open space as possible. When I do have spare time, I like to do
nothing. Take a break. Sit. Breath. Go on a hike with the dog. And, of course,
nap.”

4. What is your current obsession?

“Dachshunds. And napping.”

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

“Considering my obsession, people might be very surprised
to learn that I like all dogs, not just Dachshunds. But I really, really like
wiener dogs.

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

“Oh, no! Why are all of my “defining moments” so
embarrassing? I’m going through them in my mind, and I think they ought stay
there. I really don’t think any of them are appropriate for print. Let’s go out
for cocktails, and I’ll tell you one or two choice ‘moments’ off the record.”

7. Who do you admire most?

“Those who remain calm, kind, and dignified under difficult
circumstances large and small.” 

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

“Travel, travel, and more travel. Next up: The Eastern
Pacific rim next Spring. I can’t wait!”

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

“Eat. The restaurant scene in St. Louis is on fire. In
fact, it reminds me a lot of the theatre scene here in that there are so many
creative, energetic people doing what they love with a strong commitment to the
art and passion for excellence. Plus, I love food.”

10. What’s next? “The Almost True and Truly Remarkable
Adventures of Israel Potter” at Bluff City Theatre in Hannibal, Mo., then
“Man of La Mancha” at Stages St. Louis. I ask you, am I a lucky guy?

As Col. Pickering in Stages St. Louis’ “My Fair Lady” along with good friend Zoe Vonder Haar.MORE ABOUT JOHN FLACK:

Name: John Flack
Age: 56
Birthplace: St. Louis
Current location: St. Louis
Family: Married to Michael Marvaso
Education: Parkway West High School (for you curious STL locals), attended The
Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University
Day job: Equity Actor — which means I also have a list of side hustles the
length of my left arm
First job: Busboy at Le Soupcon, Famous-Barr
First role: Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” Parkway West
Jr High. Did you happen to catch it?
Favorite roles/plays:  Snoopy in
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” Parkway West Jr High and Scarecrow
in “The Wizard of Oz” Variety Club Theatre.

Dream role/play: Oh! So many! But my real dream is to continue to be cast in
any professional theatre productions that will have me so I can have a job
doing what I love while working with people I adore.
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Four Theatre Circle Award nominations, one award;
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama: Ken Page’s “Sublime
Intimacy”, Max & Louie. Judy Award 2018 – Best Actor in a Drama: Rabbi
Mortera, “New Jerusalem”, New Jewish Theatre. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
– Go! Magazine List 2015 – Best St. Louis Stage Actor. Riverfront Times 2007 –
Best Actor in a Play; Quentin, “After the Fall”, Muddy Waters
Theatre.

Favorite quote/words to live by: “Row, row, row your
boat, gently down the stream; Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a
Dream.”

A song that makes you happy: “Linus and Lucy” –
Vince Guaraldi Trio

John Flack in “Sublime Intimacy”Max and Louie Productions presents “Indecent” June
20-30 at The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, Missouri 63101.
Reserved seating is on sale at Metrotix.com or by phone, 314-534-1111, or at
the box office an hour before showtime. Visit www.maxandlouie.com for
more information.

The fourth annual Tennessee Williams Festival will celebrate the great American playwright with 10 days of plays, panel discussions and parties in the Grand Arts Center, set for May 9-19.“A Night of the Iguana”The steamy and startling Iguana is one of the most richly textured and dramatically satisfying plays written by Williams. Reverend Shannon has lost his flock, his religion, and has—at the very least— misplaced his sanity and sense of decency. He takes refuge at a rundown resort owned by the lusty and busty Maxine, where they are joined by the beautifully refined but repressed Hannah, and Nonno, her nonagenarian grandfather. These two may be scam artists, but they are artists all the same; as such, they offer some brief hope of redemption.

At the Grandel Theatre, 3160 Grandel Square

Bryan Batt

“Dear Mr. Williams” starts May 10Conceived, written, and performed by Bryan Batt, SAG Award winner (“Mad Men”) and Drama Desk Award nominee (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Cats); directed by Michael Wilson, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award winner (The Orphans’ Home Cycle). The tumultuous—and sometimes treacherous—journey from adolescence to adulthood is one we all must take, but Batt’s one-man tour de force proves that it’s oh so much more fascinating and fun with Tennessee Williams as your guide.

At The Curtain Call Lounge, 527 Grand Blvd.

Kelly Weber, Ellie Schwetye, Julie Layton“A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” Opens May 11Four eccentric and unforgettable women fry chicken, plan a picnic to Creve Coeur Lake, and cope with loneliness and lost dreams in an efficiency apartment on Enright Avenue in the Central West End circa the mid-1930s.

Williams gives us more laughs than usual, but no less poetry or poignancy.

At the Grandel Theatre, 3160 Grandel Square

Panels are part of TWF“Conversations with Tennessee” May 11Three panels address aspects of the author’s life and work. Each will begin with a brief performance of material from Tennessee Williams’s letters, journals, or other writing, followed by a discussion between artists and scholars. Moderated by Tom Mitchell, panelists will include Melissa Wolfe, Gregory Carr, Jesse Munoz, David Kaplan, Tim Ocel, Sophia Brown, and Henry Schvey.

At The Dark Room, 3160 Grandel Square

Ken Page

“Tennessee Williams Tribute 2019” May 12Join us as we celebrate the culmination of the opening weekend of the Tennessee Williams Festival. In poetry, prose, and song, this tribute reading reveals Williams’ take on those who are “waiting for something to happen” and those for whom “everything has happened already”.

Ken Page hosts an entertaining evening presented by a collection of Festival artists, curated by noted Williams scholar, Tom Mitchell. Stay after the performance to mix with other Festival goers and artists, as The Dark Room hosts us for drinks and light hors d’ oeuvres.

At The Dark Room, 3160 Grandel Square

Tennesee’s gravesite in Calvary Cemetery

Bus Tour May 19Retrace the roots of Tennesse Williams’ formative years. From attending high school at Soldan and University City High, to studying at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Washington University, to working downtown and exploring the city’s rich cultural institutions – Tennessee Williams’ classic works were influenced by his coming of age in St. Louis. Hosted with immense wit and charm by Williams enthusiasts, Brian Welch and Dan McGuire

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.twstl.org

Max & Louie Productions has announced its 10th sensational season with two St. Louis premieres. “Love, Linda,” the one-woman musical tour de force about the life of Mrs. Cole Porter runs Jan. 17- 27, 2019, at the Marcelle Theater. The much-anticipated Tony Award-winner “Indecent,” inspired by the true story of the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of “God of Vengeance,” runs June 20 – 30, 2019, at The Grandel Theater.
“We are thrilled to bring these powerful stories, rich in joyful human passion, stunning theatricality and spellbinding performances to St. Louis,” said Stellie Siteman, artistic director.
Linda Lee Thomas was the Southern beauty who married and was a driving force behind legendary songwriter Cole Porter at the dawn of the Roaring ‘20s. Though Cole Porter was gay, their companionship and love lasted through 35 years of marriage and a spectacular, glamour-filled life.
With innovative jazz arrangements, the timeless music and lyrics of Cole Porter weave through “Love, Linda,” examining the darker sides of their life, while also celebrating the deep love that blossomed through their unconventional relationship. The score includes “Night and Day,” “I Love Paris,” “In the Still of the Night” and “Love for Sale.”
Debby Lennon stars and Ken Page directs.
Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel penned the extraordinary “Indecent.”
“We have a story to tell you… About a play. A play that changed my life,” says Lemml the stage manager in “Indecent.” The play in question is Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance,” a once forgotten piece of Yiddish theatre.
Set at a time when waves of immigrants were changing the face of America, “Indecent,” a play with vibrant music and dance, charts the history of an incendiary drama and the path of the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it.
The play is a testament to the transformative power of art that is timelier then ever before. Seven actors and three musicians play a myriad of roles across continents and decades of time.
Zoe Farmingdale, John Flack, Katie Karel, TJ Lancaster, Judi Mann, Ben Nordstrom and Tim Schall star. Joanne Gordon directs.
Tickets for “Love, Linda” went on sale Oct. 1 at metrotix.com and by phone at (314) 534-1111. General admission tickets are priced at $45 for adults and $40 for seniors and students with ID.
Tickets for “Indecent” go on sale Jan. 2, 2019, at metrotix.com and by phone at (314) 534-1111. Tickets range in price from $60 to $40 for reserved seating.
Both theaters are in The Grand Center Arts District.
 

Ben Nordstrom and Kari Ely will play opposite one another in “Into the Breeches!,” the headlining production of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ new program titled, In the Works, set for Oct. 28 through Nov. 24, at the Grandel Theatre. Written by George Brant and directed by Nancy Bell, the month-long, ticketed production is the culmination of the Festival’s 2018 season.
Kari ElyIn addition to “Into the Breeches!,” In the Works will include a Saturday matinee family show, “A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness,” inspired by the mistaken identity hijinks of “The Comedy of Errors” and written by Bell. Also included are two staged readings of “The Thousand Natural Shocks” by playwright Michael Sáenz. Deep-dive talkbacks and art-making workshops for kids will round out the events.
For a detailed In the Works schedule and to order tickets, please visit www.sfstl.com/in-the-works, or call Metrotix at 314-534-1111. Student tickets to all performances are free with an ID but it is recommended they be reserved in advance. A limited number of “Pay What You Can Nights” are scheduled for the “Breeches!” performances on Nov. 7 and 14 and should also be reserved in advance. Military discounts are available as well.
Ben Nordstrom“One of the things that excited me most about joining the Festival was knowing that it already had plans to make this foray into producing new work alongside the classics of Shakespeare,” said Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival. “These plays each capture something beautifully distinct about our current American moment. Like Shakespeare, they show us ourselves, in a way we’ve never seen before, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share them with St. Louis.”
“Into the Breeches!” is a comedy about a fictitious theater group. It’s 1942, and with the men away at war, the director’s wife sets out to produce an all-female version of “Henry V.” She assembles an unexpected cast that showcases how art and comedy can come together in even the darkest times. The play had its critically-acclaimed world premiere in January 2018 at the Tony-winning Trinity Repertory Company. This will be its first production in St. Louis. There will be 16 performances of “Breeches!” throughout the month-long run. Brant, the play’s author, also wrote “Grounded,” which starred Anne Hathaway during its New York run.
Nordstrom, whose work includes numerous appearances at the Repertory Theatre, the Muny, New Jewish, Stages, among others, also appeared in two plays written by Bell on behalf of the Festival, and in collaboration with the St. Louis Symphony in 2016. Ely, who previously appeared in the Festival’s main stage productions of “Henry IV,” “Henry V,” and “Antony and Cleopatra,” has worked for virtually every professional theater company in St. Louis. In addition to Nordstrom and Ely, the “Breeches!” cast will include Gary Wayne Barker, Michelle Hand, Katy Keating, Mary McNulty, Laura Resinger and Jacqueline Thompson.
Gary Wayne Baker will direct the family play,  “A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness,” Bell’s story of resilience, identity and family. Cast members include Erika Flowers, Karl Hawkins, Michael James Reed and Jen Sinnen. “Outrageous” matinee performances are scheduled at 4 p.m. on Saturdays (Nov. 10, 17, 24).
“The Thousand Natural Shocks” tells the story of a high school student who explores his identity through experiences at a private military academy. The title character is encouraged and challenged by his role in the school’s production of “Hamlet.” Sáenz was commissioned by the Festival to adapt the story from his book of the same title. The story draws inspiration from the It Gets Better Project, which leads a global movement to empower LGBTQ youth worldwide. Webster Conservatory alumnus Kern McFadden will direct.  Two staged readings are scheduled at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 7-8.
Set designers Margery and Peter Spack and costume designer Michele Siler will serve as creative team members for both “Into the Breeches!” and “A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness.”
Generous support for In the Works is provided by Mont and Karen Levy. Student tickets for 18 and under are free thanks to support from PNC Arts Alive.
About Playwright George Brant:
George BrantGeorge Brant was born in Park Ridge, Illinois and studied acting at Northwestern before turning to writing for his own zeppo theater company in Chicago during the ‘90s. He now lives in Cleveland with his wife, Laura Kepley, the Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House.

His 2012 play, Grounded, about a female fighter pilot reassigned to the Air Force’s drone unit, played New York’s Public Theater in a production starring Oscar winner Anne Hathaway and directed by Oscar, Tony and Emmy winner Julie Taymor. That production won three Lortel Awards for excellence Off-Broadway and has gone on to over 125 productions in 18 countries and a dozen different languages.
Still when Into the Breeches! premiered earlier this year at the Tony-winning Trinity Rep in Rhode Island, the Providence Journal called it, out of Brant’s 20-plus plays, “his best work by far” and “a gem of a play, one of the sweetest nights of theater you’re likely to see”.
The Shakespeare Festival is proud to present the Midwest premiere of this charming, big-hearted and provocative new play by one of America’s most acclaimed and original new voices.

About Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Since its inception in 2001, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has surpassed the one million mark in attendance through its work In the Schools, In the Streets and In the Park with more than 800,00 people attending the free main stage productions at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. The organization has reached an additional 300,000 students In the Schools through its educational programming. In 2010, the Festival launched SHAKE 38, a marathon participatory presentation of Shakespeare’s entire 38-play canon community wide. In 2012, the Festival shut down its first street, Cherokee, to present a community-based play In the Streets. Leadership support for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2018 season is provided by the Whitaker Foundation. The Festival is also funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis. For more information, please visit www.sfstl.com, or call 314-531-9800.