By Lynn Venhaus

1964 was a memorable year for Americans. Still reeling from President Kennedy’s assassination, an escalating war in Vietnam and civil rights struggles, the U.S. was on the cusp of enormous change.

For teenage St. Louisans like Joe Hanrahan, it was an eventful time, especially that summer. The four lads from Liverpool rocked their world and they were ecstatic about the big bang of the British Invasion. The hometown Cards would make a mad dash for the pennant and face the Yankees in the World Series. And the coolest of the cool, Sean Connery as super-spy 007, was back on the big screen.

Hanrahan, a gifted storyteller, weaves his boyhood obsessions about baseball, The Beatles and James Bond into an entertaining and heartfelt amalgamation he wrote, titled “Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond.”

His memory play, presented by The Midnight Company, will evoke a sense of being there. Vividly capturing a moment in time, you can visualize a dusty ballfield, neighborhood buddies and their equal passions for rooting for the hometown team and going to the movies.

These are the quintessential boys of summer. Joe, who played baseball in four different leagues, recalls his carefree days playing pick-up ball with his pals and nights selling soda and popcorn at Sportsman’s Park..

Hanrahan, who has performed his share of quirky one-man shows over the past decade, walks down a memory lane that other generations can relate to – not just Baby Boomers. He originally wrote the show for the 2018 St. Louis Fringe Festival, and then expanded it beyond that festival’s one-hour time limit for this new presentation.

It is one of his most accessible works, and he’s completely at home on the intimate stage at The Chapel.

He draws us in by creating a specific sense of place, and how what was happening socially, politically and athletically affected these kids growing up in the city, as the ‘Lou was dynamically changing too.

And being teenage boys, enamored with a friend’s spirited recounting the entire experience of seeing the second Ian Fleming adaptation, “From Russia with Love,” the night before at the air-cooled Maplewood Theatre, is a major focus of this play. Rich in details, it’s riveting, as Hanrahan acts out the reminiscence, using Connery’s suave and debonaire demeanor, the beauty of Daniella Bianchi, and the exciting triumph over Spectre.

While Hanrahan showcases his raconteur skills, he offers copious amounts of interesting details – of the segregation issues across America, how Gussie Busch, who took over ownership of the Cardinals in 1953, led the way in integrating the team. Our Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock joined Ken Boyer, Dick Groat, Curt Flood, Julian Javier, Bill White and a young Mike Shannon in defeating the all-white Yankees dynasty in seven games.

Looking back, it was a seminal moment in American history, and Hanrahan credits David Halberstam’s book, “October 1964,” for the insight into race issues in Major League Baseball.

Hanrahan doesn’t shy away from mentioning the developing racial tensions and progress here either.

The reflections are palpable. He expresses the joys of a halcyon youth 57 years ago with panache, taking us back to the days of hi-fis playing 45s of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me” – the Beatles scored the top five positions on the Billboard Top 40 singles in America, an unprecedented achievement. Or the LP “Meet the Beatles,” which Joe hijacked from his sister.

The production is deftly directed by Shane Signorino, who has worked with Hanrahan before.

Video designer Michael B. Perkins has enhanced the one-man show with a cultural panoply of the sights and sounds of the day – the Fab Four, MLB players and the front office brass, and snippets of the Bond movie.

It’s a clever multi-media presentation. Kevin Bowman also provides crisp production and lighting design.

While he threads a boy’s look back, Hanrahan delivers dollops of theatrical wisdom. It is, after all, a work of theater – with drama and comedy.

A bonus is a magazine cover display in the lobby, courtesy of Redbirds fan George Venegoni.

Hanrahan has linked the time it was in an engaging way, guaranteed to produce smiles on a warm St. Louis summer night.

The show runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., July 8 through July 24, and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on July 25, at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander. For more information: midnightcompany.com. Tickets available at metrotix.com.

By Lynn Venhaus
Oh the irony. Henry, who is an off-kilter sort, likes to sing “On the Sunny Side of the Street” when his life is anything but – or at least appears that way. That sets the tone for “Here Lies Henry,” a kooky one-man show that opened by The Midnight Company at the Kranzberg Arts Center’s blackbox theatre last weekend.

Part jester, part blowhard, Henry’s personality is central to his act, a freeform stream of conscience where he wonders aloud why there are yellow fire trucks and repeats his schtick with some twists. He wants to tell you something that you don’t already know. He can rant but he’d rather get a laugh. Did he really say that? Did he commit any of the crimes he takes credit for?

Henry is an entertainer created by the fertile mind of quirky Daniel MacIvor, a Canadian playwright, actor and screenwriter. MacIvor specializes in solo pieces, just like Joe Hanrahan, a St. Louis theater veteran, who acts, directs, writes and produces. He adds the peculiar and curious Henry to his repertoire of uncommon characters.

Hanrahan likes choosing works that aren’t part of the mainstream, and as The Midnight Company’s latest one-man show, the first since the coronavirus public health restrictions lifted, it’s a good fit.

Hanrahan has previously performed MacIvor’s other works, “Cul-de-Sac” and “House,” and understands the rhythm the playwright attains in this 1995 work.

As he tackles love and death, Hanrahan displays Henry’s awkwardness, his impish penchant for odd jokes and puns, and builds more confidence as he weaves tall tales. Henry might be “not quite right,” but will we know?

Director Ellie Schwetye, who has worked with Hanrahan multiple times, is also familiar with the off-center and the screwball. There is an ease to the presentation, maintaining a mood where you don’t quite know what’s happening or where it will go, but you’re willing to take the ride.

That uncertainty is the chief tone throughout – as Henry, who admits he lies, embellishes stories about his parents and life. Is he serious? Is this a TED talk? Or is this a comedy club’s open-mic night? It has that feel of a guy telling big whoppers at a bar – but you can’t ignore him here as he is compelled to get on your good side.

As always, Hanrahan is entertaining in his unconventional, idiosyncratic way. “Here Lies Henry” doesn’t necessarily answer the Big Questions, but you’ll have fun with the asking.

Technically, the show flows smoothly, with Tony Anselmo’s lighting design and Kevin Bowman’s production design. Anselmo designed lighting for Midnight Company’s past works, “Popcorn Falls” and “A Model for Matisse.”

“Here Lies Henry” is an interesting look at one man’s point of view. The play is presented without intermission and runs 70 minutes.

Photo by Joey Rumpell

“Here Lies Henry” will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, from June 10 to June 26, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, June 27, at the Kranzberg Black Box. For tickets, visit MetroTix.com or MidnightCompany.com. Call 314-487-5305 for more information.

By Lynn Venhaus
As an ever-busy presence in the St. Louis theater community, Ellie Schwetye has created a diverse body of work — acting, directing, producing and sound design for a myriad of companies. While she has been recognized for her individual achievements with multiple St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, she thrives on collaboration.

But her name associated with a project means that there will be a high bar for quality and a sharp attention to detail, from selecting a soundtrack to a Jane Austen homage, “First Impressions,” for SATE; to guiding Will Bonfiglio to a third Circle Award for Best Actor in a Comedy in “Fully Committed” at the New Jewish Theatre; to bringing haughty Mrs. White to life in SATE’s “Classic Mystery Game” play; and portraying Emily Post, one of the hostesses in ERA’s “Trash MacBeth.”

She is the co-producer of SATE and has directed and/or worked with Equally Represented Arts (ERA), YoungLiars, West End Players Guild, New Jewish Theatre, Prison Performing Arts, The Tennesee Williams Festival St. Louis, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, The Black Rep, R-S Theatrics, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, The Midnight Company, Stray Dog Theatre, Mustard Seed Theatre and others.

Joe Hanrahan in “Here Lies Henry”

Like many other artists, Ellie was eager to return to live theater when it was safe to do so — either on stage or behind the scenes. And now, it’s happening — she’s directing the one-man show “Here Lies Henry” starring frequent collaborator Joe Hanrahan, whose Midnight Company is producing.

It runs Thursday through Saturdays at 8 p.m. June 10 – 27, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. June 27, at the Kranzberg Arts Center’s black box theatre.

Most COVID restrictions have now lifted, so with larger capacity audiences allowed, tickets are now available at the door. Midnight was deemed MissouriArtSafe by the Missouri Arts Council, received permission from the City of St. Louis for the production, and followed strict safety protocols. 

Written by Daniel MacIvor, Henry is a man on a mission to tell you something you don’t already know. It is an idyllic — sort of — miserable — sort of — storybook — sort of — nightmarish — sort of — remarkable — sort of — regular show.

Ellie said she was immediately drawn to the material.

“Initially, what I liked about “Here Lies Henry” was the opportunity to collaborate with Joe Hanrahan again. I’ve joked that Joe could hand me the phone book and I’d direct it, if it meant working with him,” she said.. 

“But, of course, the material of the play itself is a draw. The character of Henry is so quirky, he’s such an innocent — but trying desperately not to appear so. It’s a lovely, weird, off-beat meditation on love, life, and death. There’s a Virginia Woolf-like stream-of-consciousness quality to the text, as well as moments that have me thinking about David Lynch and Andrew Wyeth,” she said.

Ellie and Joe have collaborated multiple times.

Rachel Tibbetts and Ellie Schwetye in “Cuddles,” directed by Joe Hanrahan

“Working with Joe is always a treat. ‘Henry’ is, I think, the sixth project on which we have worked together. Joe finds and writes amazing scripts – all of which are real studies in personality,” she said.

” As both an actor-producer and a director Joe is very laid back. He comes into every project with really clear ideas, and a great sense of play and collaboration. We experiment and laugh a lot during rehearsals. Joe has a great affinity for incorporating rock and pop music into his shows, as I do. I appreciate that he lets me sound design the shows I direct, which he knows I love doing.”

Since the pandemic forced live theater to shut down in March 2020, she said she kept her theater itch scratched with some outdoor theater, video projects and “a few, now ubiquitous, Zoom plays.”

How does it feel to be ‘back in the saddle’ again?

“It’s fantastic! This is my first in-person indoor production since March 2020. It’s pretty cool to be doing this play. Directing a one-man show was the best choice to ease back into the process. The first rehearsal was both terrifying and exhilarating,” she said.

Now she is returning to produce and sound design the play “Top Girls” with SATE — Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble,

“It’s a play we had programmed and cast since before the pandemic. Both my producing partner, Rachel Tibbetts, who is directing the play, and I really love the story, the script, and non-linear storytelling of Caryl Churchill’s text and are thrilled we finally get to bring it back to St. Louis,” she said.

And while filling up her plate after such an absence is tempting, she has reflected upon the next steps after the quarantine break.

“As for easing back into commitments, I think the pandemic taught me that being busy isn’t a virtue. I love the many facets of my work in the theatre, but I don’t need to do eleven projects a year anymore. Having said that, I am quite excited for some projects this fall including “Top Girls” with SATE, directing “The Miracle Worker” at Clayton High School, and another project with Midnight later in December,” she said.

Ellie as Emily Post in ERA’s “Trash MacBeth” with Rachel Tibbetts

Schwetye, 39, was born and raised in St. Louis.

During the down time, she explored activities that she had an interest in, but hadn’t given herself the time to dive in — and the opportunity was much appreciated.

“Unsurprisingly, much of it has been outdoors, since that’s been the safest way to socialize. I’ve been gardening a bit. The brilliant Nicole Angeli has been my hiking guru, and it’s been lovely to explore gorgeous conservation areas in eastern Missouri and central Illinois. Last summer, I supported my sister as her ground crew while she paddled the Missouri river — 340 miles! — from Kansas City to St. Charles. Now that was the ultimate stage management gig. Being on the river for four days and the fact that our team was representing the Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper organization opened my eyes to how precious and critical the Missouri river system is to our region,” she said. 

“I’ve also gotten to spend a lot of time at my family’s property in Labadie, Mo., which we affectionately and unoriginally call the Farm. We completed building a house that was inspired by a one-room schoolhouse that once sat on the property. I’ve been working with my dad for the past year on much of the finish carpentry in the house, including framing and hanging doors and cutting and installing window trim and baseboards from hemlock,” she said.

“The Comeback Special” as part of the LaBute New Play Festival at St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Q &A WITH ELLIE SCHWETYE

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

“I’ve always been drawn to storytelling. Theatrical storytelling is a kind of magic. I’m also a bit of a show-off, so performing was a great outlet for that energy. As I developed though, I learned that I love directing and producing so much more. I find the process of bringing artists together in collaboration so much more rewarding than a curtain call.”

2. How would your friends describe you?

“Classic Aries: attention-seeking, passionate, optimistic, ambitious, independent, competitive, a bit selfish, impatient and impulsive.”

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

“Recently. it’s been out at the Farm with my nieces and nephews, hiking with buddies, and reading my dad’s first edition “Foxfire” books.”

4. What is your current obsession?

“My meadow is my current obsession. It’s one little corner of the Farm. I’m keeping a path cleared through it to better observe the variety of grasses and native plants growing there. I have been trying to learn a lot more about our native species. Since I’m out at the Farm almost every week, it’s been amazing watching the changes from season to season.”

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

“I used to be a pretty fast runner. I won a state track meet in the 800m event.”

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

“My college theatre experience was a defining time. I went to a women’s college, which is certainly where my feminist theatre aesthetic was solidified. Knowing that my mentors were a fashion designer who got her start on London’s Carnaby Street in the 60s, a former Breck girl-turned radical feminist bass player, and an East German dramaturg with the Berliner Ensemble probably makes a lot of sense for the theatre I like to make and watch now.”

“A Lovely Sunday in Creve Coeur” as part of an ensemble at The Tennessee Williams Festival in 2019

7. Who do you admire most?

“This is the hardest question of the ten! So many people. My parents, certainly – especially my mom; my sisters. I’ve been learning more about my grandparents and ancestors, and there are a lot of hard-working, gritty folks in my family tree to admire.”

“Artistically, I admire the folks I have the privilege of collaborating with – and there are so many amazing and inspiring artists in this group! I admire my teachers, like Kelley Weber, who encouraged me to be a theatre artist. And I admire the producers who took a chance on me, like Edie Avioli and Scott Sears, and Ron Himes and Linda Kennedy.”

“And I always admire the real women from history whose stories I often get to tell – like Henriatta Leavit, Annie Jump Cannon, Williamina Fleming, Rosalind Franklin, Sr. Jacque-Marie, or Helen Keller. Theatricalized stories of real women will always be the most fascinating to me.”

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

I keep a Google doc of plays I’d love to direct or scripts I’d love to develop. Rachel Hanks and I started musing a while back about a play based on the Stevens Sisters (Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell). Writing something original is certainly on the bucket-list. And as a some-time performer, I’m ready for the challenge of a one-woman show.

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

“Discovering and exploring unexpected nature and conservation areas in the region.”

10. What’s next?

“I’m looking forward to the YoungLiars Summer Training Festival in July, then “Top Girls” with SATE in September. I’ll be directing “The Miracle Worker” at Clayton High School in the fall, then in December I’ll be performing opposite Joe Hanrahan in his new trio of short plays “Tinsel Town” about artists in LA, directed by Rachel Tibbetts. It completes a trifecta of work the three of us have collaborated on, which has included “Cuddles” and “Little Thing, Big Thing.”

Ellie with John Wolbers in “First Impressions”

More on Ellie:

Family: my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, 5 nieces and nephews, and cousins (who are like sisters).
Education: The St. Louis answer: Clayton High School; the real answer: Mount Holyoke College.
Day job: Production Manager with my family’s business serving the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry.
First job: My first post-college job was as a professional Intern at the Black Rep. 
First role: Abigail Adams in the 5th grade musical “Dear Abby” (I still remember my big number!)
Favorite roles/plays: My Ozark adaptation of “As You Like It”, Rachel’s and my adaptation, “First Impressions” based on “Pride and Prejudice” (and getting to play Elizabeth Bennet in it!), ERA’s “The Residents of Craigslist”. I’m also really proud of co-founding and producing SATE’s Aphra Behn Festival, celebrating women writers and directors.
Dream role/play: There are two weirdo comedies I’d love to produce, direct, or perform in: “All Our Happy Days are Stupid” by Shiela Heti and “Freshwater” by Virginia Woolf, which she wrote for her sister Vanessa’s birthday party.
Awards/Honors/Achievements: St. Louis Theater Circle Awards for Production, Sound Design, Directing, Script Adaptation, and Performance in an Ensemble; PopLifeSTL’s 2019 Artist of the Year 🙂
Favorite quote/words to live by: “have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves”
A song that makes you happy: “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn

“Silent Sky,” which Ellie directed, at West End Players Guild in 2018
“Oedipus Apparatus” at West End Players Guild in 2017

The Midnight Company will present four plays in 2021, including two St. Louis Premieres and one World Premiere.  The Company, which presented the only live theatre in town during the pandemic with Eric Bogosian’s SEX, DRUGS, ROCK & ROLL in November 2020, and mindful of the fears and realities of the ongoing virus war, will open the season with two one-man plays in June and July.

Midnight’s Artistic Director Joe Hanrahan said, “Last November, we worked with the State’s MissouriArtSafe program, the City of St. Louis and the Kranzberg organization to make sure all safety guidelines were in place and being followed.  We’ll be doing the same going forward, hoping that vaccine efforts will continue to positively affect quality of life, enabling us to provide  quality theatrical experiences for our audiences.”

Hanrahan also said, “If there’s a theme to this season, with theatre coming back it’s appropriate that these shows deal with the theatre and show business.  While HERE LIES HENRY focuses on the Art and Science of Lying (particularly relevant to this age of political and societal falsehoods), Marlon Brando did say ‘Acting is lying for a living.’  Our second show, NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE… specifically occurs during a young man’s introduction to live theatre, of a sort.  IT IS MAGIC, our third show, actually takes place during auditions in the basement of a theatre, and TINSEL TOWN, the season closer, tells three stories set in the Los Angeles entertainment world.”
  
The Company opens with HERE LIES HENRY by Daniel MacIvor, June 10-27 at the Kranzberg Black Box.  It will be directed by Ellie Schwetye, with Joe Hanrahan as Henry, a man in a room with a mission to tell you something you don’t already know.  He’s also a liar.  Midnight has presented two plays by MacIvor (a celebrated Canadian writer/performer) including CUL-DE-SAC, and then HOUSE at the 2015 St. Louis Fringe.  Hanrahan performed both one-man shows, and critics said “ CUL-DE-SAC takes you places you may not want to go.  But Hanrahan makes a spellbinding guide.” (Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) and “HOUSE is a perfect combination of virtuoso acting and compelling storytelling.” (Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX.)

Tickets for HERE LIES HENRY, a St. Louis Premiere, will go on sale May 10 at MetroTix.com, and prices, performances, capacity and safety procedures will be announced at that time.


Midnight will then present the rescheduled (from 2020) NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE FOR THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS…BOND, JAMES BOND, written and performed by Joe Hanrahan, directed by Shane Signorino, with video design by Michael B. Perkins. It will run July 8-23 at The Chapel.  First presented at the St. Louis Fringe in 2018, the script has been expanded, and Hanrahan said, “The Fringe version of this show had to come in under an hour.  This version, with additional material, should be deeper, hopefully richer.”  NOW PLAYING… is a memory show, of when a teen was introduced, in an unusual way, to live theatre, while the rest of life, including baseball, James Bond, racism, The Beatles, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and more swirled around him.  Michelle Kenyon in Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts called the play “…entertaining, educational, thought-provoking…” and also said it was “…difficult to describe, but what it is is excellent.”

In October, Hanrahan’s short play PATIENT #47 will be presented as part of True Community Theatre’s TRUTH, LIES, and CONFESSIONS October 1-3 at The Chapel.  PATIENT #47 was originally presented at the 2019 Theatre Crawl And later in the month, Midnight will begin to add additional performers to their cast lists. 

Midnight will present Mickle Maher’s IT IS MAGIC, also rescheduled from 2020, directed by Suki Peters, October 21-November 6 at the Kranzberg Black Box.  IT IS MAGIC takes place in the basement of a community theatre.  Two sisters, tireless long-term theatre volunteers but ignored in the artistic process, have finally received their chance to write and act for the group.  While opening night of the company’s Scottish Play goes on in the MainStage above them, they’re holding auditions for the role of the Big Bad Wolf for their new script, an adult version of THREE LITTLE PIGS.  But an inebriated, jaded artistic director and an unexpected, wild Third Sister intrude, delivering dire changes, dangerous chaos and, eventually, magic.  

The cast for the production includes Nicole Angeli, Michelle Hand, Joe Hanrahan, Britteny Henry and Carl Overly.  Chicago’s Third Coast Review called IT IS MAGIC “…one of those love letters to theatre…delightfully wacky,” and New City Stage in Chicago said “Any show that juggles loving critics with tearing their throats out is good in my book.”  

Midnight has previously presented Maher’s THE HUNCHBACK VARIATIONS and AN APOLOGY FOR THE COURSE OF CERTAIN EVENTS AS DELIVERED BY DOCTOR JOHN FAUSTUS ON THIS HIS FINAL EVENING (twice each), and IT IS MAGIC will be a St. Louis Premiere.
And rounding out the year (and rounding out a cycle of plays from three St. Louis theatre artists) is the World Premiere of TINSEL TOWN 3 Short Plays – 24 Hours In L.A. by Joe Hanrahan.  It will run December 2-18 at Avatar Studios, a television production studio on the edge of Downtown St. Louis, near Market and Jefferson, and will be directed by Rachel Tibbetts.   (Midnight has previously presented TITLE AND DEED and LITTLE THING BIG THING at Avatar.)

Joe Hanrahan

 In TINSEL TOWN, Ellie Schwetye and Hanrahan each play characters in the three plays set in the Los Angeles entertainment world.  In LATE LUNCH ON MELROSE, Hanrahan is a talent agent trying to convince his movie star client, Schwetye, to accept the new normal.  In JUST OFF SUNSET, Schwetye is a rock singer/songwriter who’s just finished a frustrating gig at a club, and Hanrahan is a grizzled backup musician who’s seen it all in the industry.  And in SHOOT IN SANTA MONICA, Hanrahan is a British actor brought to Hollywood for a role in a science fiction film, and Schwetye is the director trying to get her first film under her belt.

Hanrahan first worked with Tibbetts when he recruited her to direct an earlier Midnight run of SEX DRUGS ROCK & ROLL, after seeing her direction of BACHELORETTE for her home company, SATE.  Thus began an association between their two companies, with Hanrahan acting in ONE FLEA SPARE, OF MICE AND MEN, DOCTOR FAUSTUS and 2020’s APHRA BEHN FESTIVAL for SATE; and Schwetye directing JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG(with Tibbetts in the cast) and A MODEL FOR MATISSE for Midnight.

But it was during the winter of 2016/2017 that these three did two plays together that demanded a third, sometime in the future, to complete a triptych.  At that time, Hanrahan directed Schwetye and Tibbetts in the vampire drama, CUDDLES, for SATE, followed by Schwetye directing Tibbetts and Hanrahan in Midnight’s Irish thriller, LITTLE THING BIG THING.  So a third show was needed, with (as TINSEL TOWN provides) roles for Schwetye and Hanrahan, and Tibbetts directing.  And thus, the cycle will be complete, and TINSEL TOWN will bring Midnight’s 2021 season to  a close.

“The NBR is proud to honor ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ Spike Lee, and the film’s incredible ensemble cast, along with all of our 2020 awardees,” NBR president Annie Schulhof said in a statement.

“Lee is one of our greatest filmmakers, a bold auteur with a cinematic vision and an astute perspective on human relationships, focusing at times on that intersection between the personal and the political. ‘Da 5 Bloods’ is not only a unique portrait of the experience and lingering trauma of Black Vietnam War veterans, but also a moving story of enduring friendship, a suspenseful jungle treasure hunt, and a powerful reckoning with the American dream. We are also honored to present the posthumous NBR Icon Award to Chadwick Boseman, an extraordinary talent who represented the best of what an actor could be no matter what the role.”

The NBR was established in 1909 by theater owners protesting the New York mayor’s attempt to block the exhibition of motion pictures in the city.

According to The Wrap, In the 88 years it has been naming the year’s best film, it has agreed with the Oscars 22 times, though only once (“Green Book”) in the last 11 years.

The National Board of Review is not a critics’ organization. The group is made up of “knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students” in the New York area.

The Wrap said much of its relatively high profile comes from the fact that it is normally one of the first groups to pick the year’s best films — although in this year’s extended awards season, it made its choices well after the critics’ groups that adhered to calendar-year eligibility.

Like the Oscars and most guilds, the NBR allowed films to qualify this year as long as they were being released by Feb. 28, 2021.

Plans for an awards ceremony to celebrate 2020 winners will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the full list of winners below:

Best Film:  “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Director:  Spike Lee, “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Actor:  Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”

Best Actress:  Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Supporting Actor:  Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

Best Supporting Actress:  Youn Yuh-jung, “Minari”

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies, “News of the World”

Best Original Screenplay:  Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Breakthrough Performance:  Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Best Directorial Debut:  Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth”

Best Animated Feature:  “Soul”

Best Foreign Language Film:  “La Llorona”

Best Documentary:  “Time”

NBR Icon Award:  Chadwick Boseman

NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “One Night in Miami”

NBR Spotlight Award: Radha Blank for writing, directing, producing and starring in “The Forty-Year-Old Version”

Best Ensemble:  “Da 5 Bloods”

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography:  Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”

Top Films (in alphabetical order):

First Cow
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Judas and the Black Messiah
The Midnight Sky
Minari
News of the World
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Soul
Sound of Metal

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order):

Apples
Collective
Dear Comrades
The Mole Agent
Night of the Kings

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order): 

All In: The Fight for Democracy
Boys State
Dick Johnson is Dead
Miss Americana
The Truffle Hunters

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order): 

The Climb
Driveways
Farewell Amor
Miss Juneteenth
The Nest
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The Outpost
Relic
Saint Frances
Wolfwalkers

Due to the continued and aggressive presence of the Coronavirus, The Midnight Company has rescheduled two of their planned productions.

NOW PLAYING THIRD BASE FOR THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS…BOND, JAMES BOND, originally scheduled for August 13 – 29, will now run July 8 – 23, 2021 at The Chapel.
Midnight had also scheduled IT IS MAGIC by Mickle Maher October 29 – November 14 at The Kranzberg Black Box theatre.  That production will now run October 21 – November 16, 2021 at the Kranzberg Black Box.
Still on Midnight’s schedule, pending further notice, is “GIVE ‘EM HELL HARRY” September 17 – October 3 at the .ZACK Theatre, and another production to take the place of IT IS MAGIC in late October.  That title will be announced shortly.
Midnight’s Artistic Director, Joe Hanrahan, said “It was clear we couldn’t move forward with “NOW PLAYING…” at this time, and IT IS MAGIC has a cast of five.  The restrictions of the virus have made that size of a production problematic.  We’re hoping to possibly move forward with another one-person show in its place.  The people at The Chapel and at The Kranzberg Arts Foundation have been wonderful, not only in their hard work and preparation for possible performances at their spaces, but in their understanding of postponements due to the virus.”

Photo by Todd Davis

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

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

Sharon Hunter

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

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

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

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

By Lynn Venhaus

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

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

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

PROFESSIONAL VENUES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit the website, www.fabulousfox.com/coronavirus

Family Arena

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

Tickets are still available for purchase at Ticketmaster.com.

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

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

Stifel Theatre

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

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

Here are rescheduled dates:

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

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

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

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

Chaifetz Arena

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

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

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

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

The Playhouse at Westport

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

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

Refunds are available at point of purchase.

REGIONAL PROFESSIONAL THEATER

Metro Theatre Company

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

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

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

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

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

The Muny

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

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

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

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

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

Muny Season Tickets will be mailed in early May

Season Ticket Exchanges: May 26 – 29

Single Ticket on Sale: June 1

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

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

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

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

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

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

“The Cake”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play at Home

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

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

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

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

The Rep’s commissioned playwrights feature:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max and Louie Productions

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

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

Joe Hanrahan of The Midnight Company

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

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

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



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



New Line Theatre


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

Its June production of “Urinetown” has been cancelled.

Stray Dog Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit www.straydogtheatre.org

St Louis Actors’ Studio

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

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

New Jewish Theatre

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

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

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

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

Opera Theatre of St. Louis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other one-night only events to be announced.

May 29 – June 21 is SHAKE20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stages St. Louis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

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

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

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

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

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

West End Players Guild

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

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

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

WEPG will begin its 110th season in September.

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

Alton Little Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kirkwood Theatre Guild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O’Fallon Theatre Works

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

Over Due Theatre Company

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

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

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

AWARDS EVENTS

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

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

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

The event’s hashtag is #TCA20

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

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

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

Arts For Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ST LOUIS HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE AWARDS

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

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

ARTS CENTERS AND CONCERT HALLS

The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts

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

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

The ReMINDers has been cancelled for April 6.

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

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

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

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

The Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries

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

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

Fair Saint Louis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start your summer by going to see a play!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director: Sarah Holt

Starring: Joe Hanrahan

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

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

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

Director: Edward Coffield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Spry actors Joe Hanrahan and Shane Signorino slip into 21 different characters
to play the denizens of “Popcorn Falls,” a daffy mix of vignettes designed to
showcase performers’ strengths while paying tribute to small-town personalities
– and the power of theater.

This average American town, whose residents prefer to be
called ‘kernels,’ has seen better days, and is in danger of bankruptcy because
their waterfall has dried up, no thanks to a new dam. Without their claim to
fame, tourists and commerce has vanished. But a greedy corporation is ready to
pounce, with plans to demolish the town and turn it into a sewage treatment
center. Can the town be saved?

Because of an old arts grant, they can get enough money –
but writing and producing the play must be done in a week — despite the lack
of a theater and experienced thespians. Shades of Blaine, Missouri, the center
of “Waiting for Guffman.” Or Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland practicing in a
barn – “Hey kids! Let’s put on a show!”

Can this absurd solution work?

Sure, if our dynamic duo of intrepid mayor (Hanrahan) and loyal
custodian (Signorino) be the heroes and rally the town with the grant money
dangling before them. But in the bigger picture, can art save the world?

You can clearly figure out playwright James Hindman’s
thought process. While the optimism is unwavering in this 2017 off-Broadway comedy,
the farcical material isn’t as amusing as the portrayals.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Popcorn Falls
resembles other quirky fictional settings that evoke warm and humorous memories
– Stars Hollow, Mayberry, Greater Tuna, Bedford Falls – heck, even “Frostbite
Falls” from “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.” It provides the basis for
wacky characters and nutty situations, even if it’s derivative.

The pairing of Hanrahan and Signorino is inspired, with their
skills and talent enough to convincingly conjure up a cadre of zany townsfolk.

Hanrahan’s Ted Trundle, the beleaguered new mayor on the
verge of divorce, shares quite an interesting backstory. He is counting on the
neighboring county’s budget committee to bail them out, and enthusiastically
gathers folks at the library to cobble together the plot. Well, this turns into
a free-for-all what-did-I-get-myself-into scenario.

Signorino’s main man is head custodian Joe, who is shown at
work and at home. He frets about supporting his growing family if the town goes
belly-up. He also transforms into the majority of characters – including a
female bartender at The Sudsy Mug (as does Hanrahan), her precocious young
daughter, the dramatic cat-lady librarian who fancies herself an actress, the
snaky corrupt county official, dim but well-meaning sheriff, the one-armed owner
of the lumber yard, and a chain-smoking middle-school teacher with a vivid
imagination. Hanrahan portrays the local mortician who wants to act in the
show.

Both stalwarts of the local theater community, Hanrahan and
Signorino work together in the manner of classic comedy duos, manic improv
pairs and old-timey vaudeville/variety acts. They know how to work a crowd, with
Hanrahan basically the straight man to Signorino’s goofy multitudes, and can easily
switch into various roles.

In an impressive turn, Signorino rises to the demand of
performing all his characters during the original play’s dress rehearsal.

Instead of costume changes, the characters are
distinguished by vocal adjustments, attitudes, posture, and perhaps a hat or
accessory or prop.

This is the kind of show The Midnight Company excels at, usually
one-acts with little frills but ambitious and often unique and interesting
material, realized by a strong but small cast. Director Sarah Whitney has deftly
guided the pair for maximum madcap effect.

If at any time it is confusing, that’s the fault of the thin
script and not the nimble actors. Hanrahan is nearly in view the entire time
while Signorino rushes about to accommodate the others. The pair seemed to be
having fun — but the parts are a challenge because of the fast pace.

The simple staging in the Kranzberg Center’s black box gives
the men a small space to fill with their clever characterizations in the
well-worn “play within a play” format.

Chuck Winning has designed a functional bare-bones set, replicating
a budget-strapped town hall meeting room. Scene changes are announced on a small
blackboard, and it would help to clean the board every night, for the layers of
chalk dust make it difficult to read the later scenes.

Tony Anselmo created a straightforward lighting design that
works well within the small confines.

Even though the material is lightweight, Hanrahan and
Signorino do considerable heavy-lifting, and they muster enough charm to sell
it, along with their sincerity and veteran work ethic. Now, if only the squirrels
wouldn’t chomp on the town hall wires because Popcorn Falls can’t afford traps.

The
Midnight Company presents “Popcorn Falls” Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., March
28 – April 13, in the Kranzberg Arts Center blackbox theater. Tickets are
available through MetroTix.com. For more information, visit www.midnightcompany.com
The play is performed without an intermission and is 85 minutes long.