By Lynn Venhaus
We have been enriched by Steve Woolf as a titan in regional theater, and his loss will be deeply felt.

For 33 years, he guided The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, until his retirement in 2019. He died Monday at age 75.

I had the opportunity to interview and talk with him on several occasions, and I am very grateful to have been in his orbit for a bit. It was an honor. His immense love of theater was obvious from the moment you encountered him – his eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas.

I have been reviewing plays at The Repertory Theatre since 2005. Their “Take Me Out” I consider to be the gold standard for plays in St. Louis. As a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle in 2012, I have presented him with a lion’s share of awards. Every year, from 2013-2019, he was always gracious and sincere, no matter how many trips he took to the stage.

During the past decade, The Rep has earned more than 100 awards. They have led the way in innovation and excellence – in acting, direction, set design, lighting design, sound and much more.

As an Arts For Life board member, I helped facilitate his Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, for his “vision, passion and excellence,” and he was so genuine about the honor. But that’s what he did — lived an authentic life. He never forgot that he was a kid from Milwaukee living out his dream.

And so, he could inspire — he talked about the magic of live theater, being in a dark room, sharing a special experience with other people that changes us and connects us.

His work spoke for itself: He directed “Red,” one of my favorites, and he brought the complex “Oslo” to the stage as one of his final — and most intense — works. He committed to making it relatable, no easy task with a large sprawling cast.

During rehearsals for the stellar “All the Way” in 2015 (I was there to interview Brian Dykstra, playing LBJ, and Woolf, who was directing — https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article34672659.html), he told me about his experience seeing “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” in London.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Rep

He had been gobsmacked. He didn’t think The Rep could do it — very technical show, intricate — but the wheels were turning. He was so excited about trying to bring it to The Rep. “I think I’ve found a way we can do it,” he said to me later. (And it would win the Theatre Circle’s Outstanding Production, which opened the 2017-2018 season, and Best Director, Marcia Milgrom Dodge, in 2018.)

The enthusiasm he had for the process and the collaboration of “putting it all together” were so obvious. I cherish a brief interchange I had with him — in a stairwell at The Rep — about “The Humans,” which was a thought-provoker, had many layers. I had made an observation, and he wanted to hear more of my thoughts. It had received a mixed reaction — but he was firm in his fervor. He was just so darn insightful.

During an interview before the 50th season, which opened with “Follies,” he recalled the first time he saw the show as a young man studying theater. We geeked out about our mutual love of Stephen Sondheim. “Follies” was brilliant, but his other major production at The Rep, in 2012, the magnificent “Sunday in the Park with George,” was breathtaking. Truly memorable.

Every year, he would go to New York to soak up multiple theater productions. And hearing about his experiences was always a treat. During intermission of yet another “Mamma Mia!” at the Fox, I went over to chat with Joe Pollack, and Steve Woolf also came over to talk to Joe, and he regaled us with tales from his recent Broadway adventures. How fortunate to hear his vision and just how he radiated joy about theater (I mean, he was at “Mamma Mia!”).

One of my favorite Steve Woolf remembrances was, in fact, at Joe Pollack’s memorial service on March 17, 2012, at The Rep, of course. His widow, Ann Lemons Pollack, had arranged for five main speakers — all from a different facet of Joe’s life/illustrious career. Steve was the representative for theater, only fitting. He said as a critic, Joe just wanted the theater groups to “get it right.” Oh, yes, what a perfect summation.

And yes, Steve, you “got it right” more often than not. You will be missed, for your wit, your wisdom, your humanity, your desire for theater to spark conversations — and how you appreciated St. Louis audiences.

May God rest your soul. Your memory is already a blessing to me. And I hope you and Joe can continue to have some great conversations.

Mark Bernstein, retired managing director at The Rep, summed it up perfectly in a statement: “Steve always had his finger on the pulse of the St. Louis community, programming plays that resonated in the here and now, and showcasing the work of outstanding directors, designers and actors. St. Louis audiences responded by filling the seats, night after night, week after week, year after year.”

Standing O, Steve!

”Here is an article I wrote for the Webster-Kirkwood Times when he was getting multiple awards before retiring:

https://www.timesnewspapers.com/webster-kirkwoodtimes/curtain-call/article_ee301692-61dc-11e9-bcf0-1b566b2e37e4.html?fbclid=IwAR3drHmQpZXanye8Tvo9OH-cdSItTeegAOBC9WfeJ0CSmlemUlWlUpSPJ9U

Follies

My review of “All the Way,” in the Belleville News-Democrat on Sept. 17, 2015: https://www.bnd.com/entertainment/article35666526.html

My review of “Follies,” in the Belleville News-Democrat on Sept. 21, 2016: https://www.bnd.com/entertainment/article103265847.html

Photos provided by The Rep

New season includes world premieres of ‘Dreaming Zenzile’ and ‘The Gradient,’ plus ‘The Trinity River Plays,’ an original work by Rep playwright-in-residence Regina Taylor 

 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) is pleased to announce its 2021-2022 Season, featuring two world premieres. The season kicks off September 10 with the world premiere production of ‘Dreaming Zenzile,’ a musical about the South African songstress Miriam Makeba, written and performed by Grammy-nominated international music sensation Somi Kakoma.

‘Dreaming Zenzile’ will be followed by the world premiere of Steph Del Rosso’s ‘The Gradient,’ a satire set in the not-so-distant future in which a new facility promises to take men accused of sexual misconduct and rehabilitate them into responsible citizens. The Charles Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ will become a new holiday tradition under the direction of Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. The second half of the season will feature ‘The 39 Steps,’ a farce written by Patrick Barlow adapted from the novel by John Buchan and the Alfred Hitchcock film; ‘The Trinity River Plays,’ a trilogy exploring one woman’s life journey by The Rep’s playwright-in-residence, Regina Taylor; and ‘House of Joy,’ an action-adventure romance by Madhuri Shekar.

The full schedule for the 2021-2022 Season is as follows:

  • Dreaming Zenzile: September 10 – October 3, Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts
  • The Gradient: October 1 – October 24, Catherine B. Berges Theatre at COCA
  • A Christmas Carol: December 3 – 23, Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts
  • The 39 Steps: January 21 – February 13, Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts
  • The Trinity River Plays: February 11 – March 6, Catherine B. Berges Theatre at COCA 
  • House of Joy: March 18 – April 10, Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts

“We are excited to be returning to the stage for a new season of live theatre featuring the work of thought-leading playwrights including our own playwright-in-residence, Regina Taylor,” said Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. “We know our audiences have been eager to return to the theatre and we’re delighted this compelling season offers something for everyone to enjoy.”

Subscriptions for The Rep’s 2021-2022 season are available now, and single tickets go on sale August 2. For more information and to purchase, visit repstl.org

Hana S. Sharif

About The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. Visit www.repstl.org for more, and find The Rep on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright visits St. Louis to discuss her timely and important works, being presented locally by both theatre groups 

ST. LOUIS (June 18, 2021) – The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) and St. Louis Black Repertory Company (The Black Rep) are pleased to welcome two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage to St. Louis for a very special roundtable event, Telling the ‘Tale’ with Lynn Nottage on Friday, June 25 at 6 p.m. via Facebook Live and YouTube. Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Ron Himes, Founder and Producing Director of The Black Rep will spend 90 minutes in conversation with Nottage, moderated by Adena Varner, Director of Learning and Community Engagement for The Rep. 

The conversation will center on two key works by Nottage being presented by the local theatre groups: Mlima’s Tale, currently being performed by The Rep through July 11 at the Catherine B. Berges theatre at COCA; and Sweat, set to open The Black Rep’s 45th season from September 8 through 26 at the Edison Theatre at Washington University. 

“Lynn Nottage is one of the most important voices in modern American theatre, so bringing her thought-provoking, Mlima’s Tale, to life as The Rep’s first in-person production this year has been a true joy” said Sharif. “It is a gift for the St. Louis community to have two of her groundbreaking plays produced this year. I am delighted to partner with Ron Himes in this incredible opportunity to delve deeply into her work and the themes she explores.”

Himes added, “I’m looking forward to being in conversation with these two brilliant women of the theatre and to continue The Black Rep’s relationship with Lynn Nottage by presenting Sweat to open our in-person 45th Anniversary season. We have presented Intimate Apparel and Ruins in past seasons and our audiences have been moved; our artists have been challenged. Mlima’s Tale continues to elevate Nottage as one of our best American playwrights.”

Nottage is the first, and remains the only, woman to have twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. She was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2019. 

Telling the ‘Tale’ with Lynn Nottage is a free online event with an RSVP required via Eventbrite.

About The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. Visit www.repstl.org for more, and find The Rep on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

About St. Louis Black Repertory Company

Founded in 1976 by Producing Director Ron Himes, The Black Rep is one of the largest professional African-American theatre companies in the nation and the largest African American professional performing arts organization in Missouri. Quality professional dramas, comedies and musicals by primarily African American and African Diaspora playwrights are produced. Main-stage  productions and education programs combine to reach more than 80,000 people annually. For more information visit theblackrep.org

Based on the life of Miriam Makeba 

Grammy-nominated singer Somi stars in co-production that will travel the U.S.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) will launch its electrifying 2021-22 live theatre season with the world premiere production of Dreaming Zenzile, Based on the life of Miriam Makeba, written and performed by Grammy-nominated international music sensation Somi Kakoma. The musical is the first show announced for The Rep’s 2021-2022 live theatre season.

Under the direction of Lileana Blain-Cruz, the rolling world premiere production of Dreaming Zenzile, Based on the life of Miriam Makeba, will journey from the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis to the McCarter Theatre Centerto ArtsEmerson to a New York City collaboration with the Apollo TheaterNational Black Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop, all in partnership with Octopus Theatricals. The soul-stirring production includes a live jazz band playing original music and reinterpretations of Makeba’s remarkable catalog.

The arts organizations came together as a collective to bring Dreaming Zenzile, Based on the life of Miriam Makeba, back to life after the initial production and world premiere scheduled for April 2020 at The Rep was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These esteemed theatrical companies joining forces for this shared production marks a long-awaited return of live theatre after the most challenging time for both artists and patrons of the arts.

“As the daughter of Rwandan and Ugandan immigrants, this show is personal because Miriam Makeba paved the way for artists like me,” said Somi. “This work is about uplifting her legacy as a conscious revolutionary who brought Africa to the world’s center stage.”

Performances of Dreaming Zenzile, Based on the life of Miriam Makeba begin at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis onSeptember 10, 2021. The show runs September 10, 2021 to October 3, 2021 at The Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts.

Somi

Somi, whose jazz music and social consciousness has drawn comparison to Nina Simone, was nominated for a 2021 Grammy Award and received an NAACP Award for her album, Holy Room: Live At Alte Oper. Her 2017 album, Petite Afrique, won a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. Her new album honoring Makeba, titied Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba, will be released in July and can be pre-ordered here.

Somi, who wrote and stars in the musical, takes the audience to Makeba’s final performance where she raises the conscience and the consciousness of a people. The ancestors are calling – transporting her through the music and fractured memories of her past on a spiritual journey of reconciliation. 

Born in Johannesburg in 1932, Makeba called attention to apartheid in South Africa, where the white-led government forced racial segegration from 1948 to 1991. In 1968, Makeba married Black Panther and civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael and soon fell out of favor in the United States. 

“It is an incredible gift to open our season with Somi’s incomparable portrayal of the beauty and complexity of Miriam Makeba’s journey.” said Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. “I am delighted that        St. Louis audiences will be the first to experience this stunning production after 18 months of anticipation. It is a great joy to work with my colleagues across the country to support the launch of Dreaming Zenzile.”

Following the premiere at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Dreaming Zenzile, Based on the life of Miriam Makeba will receive additional productions at  McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J., and New York Theatre Workshop in New York City , in partnership with National Black Theatre and Octopus Theatricals. 

The production stars Somi Kakoma as Miriam Makeba. It will be directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, Hervé Samb will serve as musical director, with Marjani Forte-Saunders (choreography), Ricardo Hernandez (scene design), Mimi Plange (costume design), Yi Zhao (lighting design), and Justin Ellington (sound design). Special thanks to The Miriam Makeba Estate, The Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust, and The Miriam Makeba Foundation for their support and permission to create this work.

Dreaming Zenzile, Based on the life of Miriam Makeba is developed by Octopus Theatricals and the National Black Theatre, co-commissioned by Joe’s Pub at The Public and ArtsEmerson, Boston, and developed with the support of The Apollo Theatre. It was further developed at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in 2019, and received residencies with SEI Innovation studio at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, The Clarice Smith Center’s Artist Partner Program, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Rauschenberg Residency/Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and UCLA Center for the Art of Performance. The original music and arrangements of Dreaming Zenzile were made possible through the French American Jazz Exchange, a joint program of FACE Foundation and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with generous funding from Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, SACEM, Institut Français and the Ministere de la Culture et de la Communication.

About Somi

Somi Kakoma was born in Illinois to immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda. Known in the jazz world simply as ‘Somi’, she has built a career of transatlantic storytelling, and is the first African woman ever nominated in any Grammy jazz category (2021, Best Jazz Vocal Album for Holy Room; 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Vocal Album). Somi’s previous albums include Petite Afrique (2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album) and her major label debut The Lagos Music Salon feat. special guests Angelique Kidjo and Common. Both albums earned her ECHO Award nominations in Germany for Best International Jazz Vocalist. Somi recently announced a new studio album honoring the great South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba, to be released in July 2021. Somi is a Soros Equality Fellow, a USA Doris Duke Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow, a Sundance Theatre Fellow, and a former artist-in-residence at Park Avenue Armory, Rauschenberg Residency at Captiva, Baryshnikov Arts Center and UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. Somi holds undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and African Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master’s degree in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is the founder of Salon Africana, a boutique cultural agency and record label. 

About The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. Visit www.repstl.org for more, and find The Rep on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) is excited to bring an extraordinary production with a cast and crew from around the globe to St. Louis in the organization’s return to live theatre with ‘Mlima’s Tale,’ a moving, lyrical journey through the dark world of the international ivory trade from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. 

Performances of ‘Mlima’s Tale’ begin at COCA’s Berges Theatre onMay 28. The show runsMay 28 to July 11, times can be found here. Tickets begin at $20.50. 

‘Mlima’s Tale’ tells the story of a majestic and powerful African elephant murdered for his tusks. From beyond the veil of death, Mlima’s spirit follows the path of his tusks on a captivating and haunting journey through the dark world of the international ivory trade.

“As artists we are often tasked with examining our shared human experiences to help others imagine, dream and heal during a time of global crisis,” said Director Shariffa Ali. “Directing ‘Mlima’s Tale’ allowed me to dig deep into my own personal history, where as a child I would listen to the stories of my grandmother and the village elders of Nandi Hills, Kenya, planting the seed of storytelling in my soul. This cast and crew – from all over the world – has created a production that brings to life the bold majestic gestures and expressive faces of my motherland and beyond, as it so aptly exposes the social issues that come with the greed of human desire in our global economy.”

Mlima’s Tale cast includes Kambi Gathesha as Mlima, with Ezioma Asonye, Will Mann and Joe Ngo as the ensemble. The production will be directed by Shariffa Ali, Kirven Douthit-Boyd will serve as the choreographer, You-Shin Chen (scene design), Helen Huang (costume design), Jasmine Lesane (lighting design), Avi Amon (composer and sound design), Shannon B. Sturgis (stage management), R. Christopher Maxwell (assistant stage manager) and Madison Booth as the costume assistant; with Barbara Rubin and Julie Foh serving as dialect coaches.

“We are thrilled to bring Lynn Nottage’s haunting and riveting tale of globalism to our St. Louis audience,” said Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. “Mlima’s Tale is an exquisite story about culture, art, beauty, economics, greed and the incredible cost of conspicuous consumption. Through Mlima’s majestic spirit’s journey tracing its tusks around the world, we come to discover the collective power and impact of our choices.

For audience and performer safety, theatre capacity will be kept at 25 percent, in line with  St. Louis County Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines. In addition, The Rep is adhering to its comprehensive plan to keep actors, production staff and patrons safe during the return to live theatre. ‘Mlima’s Tale’ is The Rep’s only performance from the 2020-2021 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tickets will be available to the general public on May 20 at repstl.org. Subscribers will have earlier access to seating and tickets. For more information, visit repstl.org.

Campy, quirky, sexy and deeply emotional comedy runs through Feb. 28

In an effort to provide access to the best virtual programming in the nation, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is proud to present the hilarious Hi, Are You Single?, available virtually through Feb. 28. Patrons who appreciate the cutting-edge works and the intimacy of The Rep’s Studio Series will fall in love with this autobiographical one-person show, called “compelling and fresh” by the New York Times.

Ryan is searching for love. Or a date. Or at least a hookup. From encounters with drag queens to platonic lap dances, writer/performer Ryan J. Haddad guides the audience through the gay dating scene while living with cerebral palsy, sharing his provocative take on intimacy, rejection and judgment.
“Ryan J. Haddad is one of the most compelling, authentic, funny, unapologetically open voices of the 21st century,” said Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. “I am excited to share his work with our community.”
Hi, Are You Single? is produced by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in association with IAMA Theatre Company. Directed by Laura Savia and Jess McLeod and originally developed by Laura Savia, Hi, Are You Single? was recorded in an intimate theatre setting with a live audience.
“I have wanted to introduce Ryan Haddad ever since I got to Woolly,” said Woolly Mammoth Theatre Artistic Director Maria Manuela Goyanes. “He is a captivating storyteller who charms anyone he meets within seconds. Hi, Are You Single? asks us to examine sexuality through the lens of a queer man with a disability who is struggling to make meaning out of intimate interactions.”
Ryan J. Haddad is an actor, playwright and autobiographical performer based in New York. His acclaimed solo play Hi, Are You Single? was first presented in The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and continues to tour the country. Other New York credits include My Straighties (Ars Nova/ANT Fest), Noor and Hadi Go to Hogwarts (Theater Breaking Through Barriers) and the cabaret Falling for Make Believe (Joe’s Pub/Under the Radar). He has a recurring role on the Netflix series “The Politician” and has been featured on television in “Bull,” “Madam Secretary” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Haddad is a recipient of IAMA Theatre Company’s Shonda Rhimes Unsung Voices Playwriting Commission and Rising Phoenix Repertory’s Cornelia Street American Playwriting Award. 
Purchase an access code to view the online comedy Hi, Are You Single? via The Rep box office by calling 314-968-4925 or online at repstl.org. For $20, buyers will receive an email with a link usable any time through Feb. 28.
Hi, Are You Single? contains depictions and descriptions of sexual content, explicit language and discussion of ableism, racism, ageism and the stigmatization of HIV status. For more information, visit the Hi, Are You Single? page on repstl.org or call The Rep box office at 314-068-4025.

ABOUT THE REPERTORY THEATRE ST. LOUISThe Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. Visit www.repstl.org for more, and find The Rep on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.
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Article originally appeared in Arts For Life’s Feb. 18 newsletter. Article written by Kim Klick and Lynn Venhaus

After working as a professional actor and singer for more than 30 years in Las Vegas, including performing opera at the Venetian Hotel on the Strip, Kimmie decided to move back to her hometown.

To leave her comfort zone and start over at 45 years old was daunting.

“More than a few people thought I must have been crazy!” she said.

But she knew it was time for a change and she did have support.

She was hired to work at Nordstrom Department Stores and found an apartment in Valley Park.

“I thought I’d be satisfied with all of that, but I wasn’t. Frankly, I was quite miserable. I was lonely, broke and terribly homesick! Most of all, I missed performing.”

However, things slowly fell into place. She not only found her way into the St. Louis theatre scene but reconnected with childhood friends, settled down here and married Gregg Booker. They grew up in the same neighborhood, and found each other on Facebook.

She started researching St. Louis theater companies, sending out letters and headshots, hoping to be acknowledged, but no response.

One day in 2012, she came across an audition for an upcoming production of August Wilson’s “Fences” at Hawthorne Players.

“I hadn’t even heard of August Wilson! Can you believe that? Someone like me, who has done theatre her entire life, had not heard of August Wilson?”

She showed up, prepared but “terrified.”

“A little-known fact about me is that I had never done a ‘straight play’ before! I had always done musical theatre. So, to put myself in a position where I had to just ACT, well, it was unchartered territory for me, to say the least!”

She was offered the part of Rose, the long-suffering wife who is married to the lead character, Troy.

Kimmie Kidd-Booker in “Fences” at the Hawthorne Players. Photo by Larry Marsh

“It’s one of the most important, historical, emotional, heartfelt roles to exist in American Theatre. I thought, ‘What the hell did I get myself into?’” she said.
She did not need to fret.

“This was one of the best and most fulfilling theater experiences of my career,” she said.

For the record, August Wilson was not only an African American playwright, but also was an amazingly talented award-winning playwright who died too soon at the age of 60, Kidd-Booker explained.

“Fences” is part of Wilson’s celebrated “Pittsburgh Cycle,” sometimes called “The Century Cycle,” in which he wrote 10 plays, each set in a certain decade of the 20th century.

Set in the 1957, it is the sixth play of the cycle, premiered in 1985, and like the others, explores the evolving African American experience and among other themes, examines race relations.

Troy is a Negro Baseball League player who now works as a garbageman – but can’t be a driver (yet). His bitterness is apparent and affects his family – wife Rose and sons Lyons and Cory, and disabled brother Gabriel.

“Fences” won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.
“I am honored and privileged to say I performed in an August Wilson play! Being in an August Wilson play was both thrilling and terrifying. The context is historic and genuine and dramatic. His words are thoughtful and compelling and emotional,” she said.

 While “Fences” is her only August Wilson play to date, she said she is optimistic that moving forward, there will be more opportunities to educate, perform, explore and share the African American experience with everyone.

“Black History Month is just a drop in the bucket. But it is certainly a start. My hope moving forward is that we can continue to gain an understanding of each other and continue a dialogue and put fears to rest. We have many differences, but we must continue to be reminded that we are more alike than we’d like to think,” Kimmie said.

Before she debuted in “Fences,” after a year here, she was considering returning to Las Vegas.

But once she started rehearsals with the cast and crew, then bonding with everyone, she decided to stay.

“My love for theatre kept me here in St. Louis. As I began to meet other theatre people and make more and more theatre connections, I knew that this is where I belonged. These are my People!” she said.

As Eliza Haycraft in the original musical “Madam”

Kimmie recently became part of the AFL Board of Directors. She has won two Best Performance Awards for Best Featured Actress as Glinda in “The Wiz” at Hawthorne Players in 2014 and as Estonia Dulworth in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” at the Kirkwood Theatre Guild in 2019.

She was nominated as Best Actress in a Featured Role as Sister Mary Hubert in “Nunsense” at Hawthorne Players in 2015 and as The Witch in “Into the Woods” at Curtain’s Up Theater in 2018.

Among her roles in regional professional theater, she played Tom Robinson’s wife in “To Kill a Mockingbird” at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, as Lady Bird in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Spellbound: A Musical Fable”and in the ensemble of “Sweeney Todd,” as “Aunt Missy” in The Black Rep’s “Purlie” and as Evangeline Harcourt in “Anything Goes” at New Line Theatre. In January 2020, she starred as brothel owner and philanthropist Eliza Haycraft in the original musical, “Madam.”

About August Wilson

August Wilson

Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel in Pittsburgh, Penn., on April 27, 1945. His mother, Daisy Wilson, was of African American heritage. His father, Frederick Kittel, was a German immigrant.

As a child, Kittel attended St. Richard’s Parochial School. When his parents divorced, he, his mother and his siblings moved from the poor Bedford Avenue area of Pittsburgh to the mostly white neighborhood of Oakland. After facing the relentless bigotry of his classmates at Central Catholic High School, he transferred to Connelly Vocational High School, and later to Gladstone High School.

When he was 15 years old, Wilson pursued an independent education at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where he would earn his high school diploma.

Following his father’s death in 1965, a 20-year-old Wilson adopted the pen name “August Wilson” — reportedly an homage to his mother — and declared himself a poet. In 1968, Wilson and a friend, Rob Penny, co-founded the Black Horizon Theater.

Wilson remained primarily focused on making it as a poet — largely to no avail — until moving to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1978.

Wilson wrote his first notable play in 1979,” Jitney,” for which he earned a fellowship at the Minneapolis Playwright Center.

The following year, his new play, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” was accepted at the Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference. The year 1982 was particularly fruitful for Wilson, as it marked his introduction to Lloyd Richards, who went on to direct Wilson’s first six Broadway plays.

“Joe Turner,” the second part of the cycle, opened on Broadway in 1988.He took home another Pulitzer Prize in 1990, this time for The Piano Lesson, following its Broadway premiere.

Wilson died of liver cancer on Oct. 2, 2005, in Seattle. His new play, “Radio Golf,” had opened in Los Angeles just a few months earlier.

Information from www.biography.com is included here.

Mrs. Harcourt in “Anything Goes” at New Line Theatre 2018

The Rep Prioritizes Patron Safety in Decision

Virtual theatrical experiences to continue; Mlima’s Tale still scheduled for May

To ensure the health and safety of Rep patrons, artists and staff, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis will postpone the March production of Little Shop of Horrors due to recent coronavirus surges in the region.

“We are committed to keeping our Rep patrons, artists and staff safe so we can continue to bring the magic of theatre to St. Louis for many years to come,” said Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. “We are disappointed that health conditions require us to postpone our reunion, but we are fueled by the enormous generosity, patience and support of our patrons and filled with optimism, energy and excitement about the future.”

In consultation with health experts, Rep leadership remains optimistic that the combination of vaccines, safety protocols and socially distanced seating at the new Catherine B. Berges Theatre will allow the organization to produce an extraordinary in-person theatrical experience as scheduled in May with Mlima’s Tale. Written by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, Mlima’s Tale is a moving, lyrical journey through the dark world of the international ivory trade. 

Until then, The Rep continues to stretch the bounds of how patrons can experience theatre through unique and inspiring virtual events. “Cooking, Carols and Cocktails,” a four-part virtual series that highlights some of St. Louis’ best food, music and personalities, is available on demand through Jan. 31. Additionally, “The Glowy Snowy Day,” based on the book “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, reimagines the award-winning children’s book using gigantic illuminated puppets. This free, drive-through event for families runs Jan. 1-3, 2021.

Each subscriber who purchased Flex Pass tickets will be called by a member of The Rep’s box office to answer questions and walk patrons through their options. Flex Passes may be used for additional Mlima’s Tale tickets, any of The Rep’s upcoming virtual programs or saved for The Rep’s 2021-22 season.

The Rep box office team will begin calling patrons immediately, to inform them of the schedule update and thank them for their patience and their passion for live theatre. 

ABOUT THE REPERTORY THEATRE ST. LOUIS

The Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. Visit www.repstl.org for more, and find The Rep on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Mark your calendars for a magical puppet experience this week!

Together with StoneLion Puppet Theatre, we’ve created a brand-new adventure through the celebrated children’s classic, The Snowy Day. Join us to hear an enchanting adaptation of Ezra Jack Keats’ award-winning book, and watch the tale come to life in a spectacle of colossal illuminated puppets, glow artists and more – all without leaving the socially distanced safety of your vehicle. 

Because of potential inclement weather, this FREE outdoor performance will now take place January 1-3 on the Webster University campus between Big Bend Boulevard and Lockwood Avenue (just across the street from The Rep). 

Visit our website to learn more about The Glowy Snowy Day and to see a preview of StoneLion Puppet Theatre’s stunning work. Registration for the event is not required. 

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis celebrates the season with “Cooking, Carols and Cocktails,” a four-episode web series showcasing food, music and community. Join beloved local personalities, tour some of St. Louis’ favorite restaurants, take a cooking class, toss in a coordinating cocktail and experience the best music The Lou has to offer – all from the comfort of your home.

“The opportunity to learn from the most talented culinary artists in St. Louis while enjoying an in-home concert by brilliant musical powerhouses is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season,” said The Rep’s Augustin Family Artistic Director Hana S. Sharif. “We are thrilled to have created these bold, vibrant, virtual experiences that are quintessentially St. Louis.”

The four-episode web series features cooking lessons from the chefs of Turn at the .Zack in Midtown, kicking off the series with a brunch of panettone French toast, sausage and biscuits; Barcelona Tapas in Clayton, who will craft the perfect paella; Cathy’s Kitchen in Ferguson, spicing things up with seafood jambalaya and sweet and spicy chicken and Perfectly Pastry in Dutchtown, baking a St. Louis favorite: gooey butter cake. And Heather Sharpe joins each episode as veteran mixologist, with beverage sponsor Big O Ginger Liqueur.

Interspersed with the gastronomy lessons, an amazing lineup of musical performances will be featured in each episode, including Fresh Heir’s high-energy soul, funk and hip-hop blend; dynamic jazz from award-winning vocalist Joe Mancuso; rising soulful pop star Paige Alyssa and world-renowned, multicultural, genre-busting vocalist Tonina, who was named one of NPR’s favorite new artists of 2018. Songs will include traditional holiday favorites as well as some of the musicians’ top originals.

These culinary and musical tours, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will be guided by Pascal, host of “The Pascal Show;” Karl Schmitz, founder of HOMS clothing brand; musical artist Tonina and Emmy-winning TV and radio personality Julie Tristan. St. Louis-based production company Once Films takes the lead behind the camera. 

Tickets are $15 per episode or $50 for the four-show series. Purchase online now at repstl.org or call The Rep Box Office at 314-968-4925. Rep subscribers may utilize their Flex Passes for the series. For more information, visit repstl.org.


ABOUT THE REPERTORY THEATRE OF ST. LOUIS

The Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. www.repstl.org