FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Clayton Community Theatre’s production of the classic romantic comedy “The Philadelphia Story” swept the 2021 Theatre Mask Awards, winning seven out of its eight nominations.

For the second year in a row, a virtual ceremony took place. On April 3, the 17-minute pre-recorded announcement honored excellence in community theater productions of comedies and dramas, as the TMAs have done since 2015.

Only for 2020, Arts For Life scaled back the format to reflect the number of eligible plays performed before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. Awards were presented in 10 non-musical play categories instead of the usual 18.

TMA Steering Committee co-directors Melissa Boyer and Tim Naegelin announced the winners. The presentation is available on Arts For Life’s YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

Clayton Community Theatre, last year’s big winner in both comedy and drama with “Biloxi Blues” and “A Soldier’s Play,” added to their overall total of 28 awards and 113 nominations. They won for Play, Director Heather Sartin, Leading Actress Kelsey McCroskey, Supporting Actress Caitlin Souers, Costume Designer Julie Smailys, Lighting Designer Nathan Schroeder and Set Designers Andrew Cary, Zac Cary and Heather Sartin.

They staged “The Philadelphia Story” in March 2020. The 1939 play by Philip Barry deals with family dynamics and class prejudice at the affluent Lord estate, where everyone has gathered for socialite Tracy Lord’s second wedding, but romantic entanglements ensue and she must choose between three men – her fiancé, ex-husband and reporter covering the society event.

The winning actresses, McCroskey and Souers played Tracy Lord and her younger sister Dinah respectively. This is Schroeder’s third award for lighting design, winning for CCT’s “Macbeth” in 2015 and “A Soldier’s Play” last year.

Act Two Theatre’s production of the comedy “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” won two – for Best Supporting Actor Todd Micali and Best Ensemble. The St. Peters-based group had led this year’s awards with nine nominations.

They staged the 2004 farce by Michael Parker in February 2020. It is about a California billionaire who has bequeathed all of his assets to his only daughter, Constance – except the $22 million yacht he wanted Josephine to have, a $25 million art collection left to Renee, and some priceless antique automobiles willed to Marjorie. She arrives at her father’s mansion with her lawyer to find out who these women are and discovers the butler seems to hold the key.

Micali, playing the bumbling detective Davis, has won in the supporting actor category before –as Felix Ungar, in “The Odd Couple” in 2016, and a Best Performance Award for Comedic Actor in multiple roles in “Spamalot” in 2014.

Alton Little Theater won one for Leading Actor, Shea Maples, in “Inherit the Wind.” He played the character Matthew Harrison Brady, which is based on attorney William Jennings Bryan, in the drama that is a fictional account of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trail.

Arts For Life announced the TMA nominations on March 12, during the nonprofit organization’s first-ever virtual trivia night.

“The TMAs were able to do eight shows last year and so the show must go on. Several categories were combined to allow for more nominees,” said AFL President Mary McCreight.

Naegelin explained the reasoning behind 2021’s awards ceremony.

“2020 was a difficult year. Most theatre was cancelled after March, but the TMA Steering Committee and the AFL Board of Directors believed the Theatre Recognition Guild had reviewed enough shows to make a successful TMA event. With only eight shows eligible, some categories were combined so that we did not lose the integrity of our awards and nominations.  To that end, there was not a division of drama and comedy categories for this year,” Naegelin said.

During 2020, beginning in mid-March, because of the public health emergency in Illinois and Missouri. performance venues were closed, gatherings limited to a percentage of capacity and safety protocols in place, including social distancing and face coverings to lessen community spread.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, AFL adopted measures to foster the protection of those who work and play in metropolitan St. Louis-southwest Illinois community theater.

“We will continue our charitable mission of service and recognition once it is safe to do so,” McCreight said.

The Philadelphia Story

The 2020 TMA winners are:

BEST PRODUCTION
“The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre

BEST DIRECTOR
Heather Sartin, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre

BEST LEADING ACTOR
Shea Maples, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater

BEST LEADING ACTRESS
Kelsey McCroskey, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theater

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Todd Micali, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theater

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Caitlin Souers, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theater

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Julie Smailys, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Nathan Schroeder, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre

BEST SET DESIGN
Andrew Cary, Zac Cary and Heather Sartin, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre

BEST ENSEMBLE
Act Two Theatre, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?”

Winners can record an acceptance speech, no more than two minutes in length, and send it by April 9 to [email protected]

AFL will upload the recording to its YouTube channel.

Who’s in Bed with the Butler? cast

AFL Adjusts Events in 2020-2021/Mission Remains the Same

Last year, AFL transitioned to streamed formats for both their TMA and Best Performance Awards (musical theater and youth productions) shows honoring productions in 2019.

The BPAs have been cancelled in 2021, and the few musicals that were performed in early 2020 will be considered for the 2022 awards. In April 2020, the AFL president suspended all public activities of the AFL organization, and then the board extended suspension of the Theatre Recognition Guild judging activities, for the BPA branch (musicals), through July 1, 2021.

“All is well with AFL. We will survive and look forward to meeting again in July.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I thank all theater groups who are working to create a safe and pleasing future,” McCreight said.

McCreight emphasized that the AFL board will continue to base their decisions upon the best information currently available and will continue to share information promptly and transparently.

Naegelin is hopeful that more productions will be able to be mounted in 2021.

“I love the work that AFL/TMA does in supporting and promoting community theatre.  From helping provide a sense of community, to providing scholarships, and mentoring at risk students in local theatre programs, AFL/TMA provides a full range of support to the St. Louis metro area.  I’m excited that we can continue that, even in our limited way, in 2021, he said.

AFL was founded in 1994 by Lucinda Guyrci as a local non-profit organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the under-served and the community. The BPAs have honored musical theater since 1999 and the TMAs have honored plays since 2015.

To see a complete list of the nominees and awards history, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

Be sure to subscribe/like to our social media: https://www.facebook.com/artsforlifestlouis, https://twitter.com/arts_for_life and YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

AFL’s 2021 Theatre Mask Awards, honoring excellence in community theatre
productions of plays during 2020, will be pre-recorded and premiere as a virtual
ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 3, on AFL’s YouTube Channel.
Act Two Theatre’s production of the farce “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” leads this
year’s Theatre Mask Awards nominations with nine. Alton Little Theater, with its two
productions of “Inherit the Wind” and “The Miracle Worker,” earned 12 nominations in
total – six for each.

Two classic comedies by Clayton Community Theatre, “The Philadelphia Story,” and
Monroe Actors Stage Company, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” both received eight
nominations apiece.

Arts For Life announced the TMA nominations on March 12, during the nonprofit
organization’s first-ever virtual trivia night.

Awards in nine non-musical play categories will be announced. The format has been
scaled back to reflect the number of eligible plays.

Normally, 11 community theater companies participate in the TMAs, with awards in 18
categories, but last year’s shutdown forced show cancellations.

“The TMAs were able to do eight shows last year and so the show must go on. Several
categories were combined to allow for more nominees,” said AFL President Mary
McCreight.

Tim Naegelin, co-chair of the TMA Steering Committee, explained the reasoning behind
2021’s awards ceremony.

“2020 was a difficult year. Most theatre was cancelled after March, but the TMA
Steering Committee and the AFL Board of Directors believed the Theatre Recognition
Guild had reviewed enough shows to make a successful TMA event. With only eight
shows eligible, some categories have been combined so that we do not lose the
integrity of our awards and nominations. To that end, there will not be a division of
drama and comedy categories for this year,” Naegelin said.

During 2020, beginning in mid-March, a shutdown because of the global COVID-19
pandemic happened. Because of the public health emergency in Illinois and Missouri.
performance venues were closed, gatherings limited to a percentage of capacity and
safety protocols in place, including social distancing and face coverings to lessen
community spread.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, AFL adopted measures to foster the protection of
those who work and play in metropolitan St. Louis-southwest Illinois community theater.
“We will continue our charitable mission of service and recognition once it is safe to do
so,” McCreight said.

TMA Eligible Shows
For this year’s TMA awards, Act Two Theater in St. Peters garnered nine nominations –
for production, actress, supporting actor and actress, director, costume design and
lighting design, and as the only nominee for Best Ensemble, has won that award
already.

They staged the 2004 farce by Michael Parker in February 2020. It is about a California
billionaire who has bequeathed all of his assets to his only daughter, Constance –
except the $22 million yacht he wanted Josephine to have, a $25 million art collection
left to Renee, and some priceless antique automobiles willed to Marjorie. She arrives at
her father’s mansion with her lawyer to find out who these women are and discovers the
butler seems to hold the key.

Act Two, with 43 nominations since 2016, swept the 2017 TMAs, with “Drop Dead”
winning Best Comedy and “The Boys Next Door” winning Best Drama.

Over the years, Clayton Community Theatre has received 113 nominations, sweeping
last year’s TMAs with “A Soldier’s Play” and “Biloxi Blues” as winners in drama and
comedy.

They staged “The Philadelphia Story” in March 2020, the classic romantic comedy by
Philip Barry about privileged Tracy Lord, who is divorced from CK Dexter Haven, and
engaged to a successful young snob. A society paper sends a reporter to cover the
wedding arrangements, and she finds herself interested. Romantic entanglements
ensue. It has eight nominations – for production, director, actress, supporting actress
(2), lighting, costume and set designs.

“The Solid Gold Cadillac,” the 1954 play by George S. Kaufman and Howard
Teichmann, has a little old lady beat wicked corporate shareholders at their own game.
MASC staged it in February 2020 and has received eight nominations – for director,
actor, actress, supporting actor and actress, costume, set and lighting designs.

The Alton Little Theater has a total of 12 nominations, with six for “Inherit the Wind” –
production, director, actor, supporting actor and set design, which they staged last
January and February, and six for “The Miracle Worker” – production, director, actress
(2), costumes and set design, which they produced last October. Kevin Frakes is a
three-time nominee for both his set designs and directing “The Miracle Worker.”
“Inherit the Wind” is the fictional account of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial by Jerome
Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson tells the story of

Helen Keller, blind and deaf after childhood fever, and her governess and teacher,
Annie Sullivan.

Looking Glass Playhouse received four nominations – for production, actor, supporting
actor and set design for “It’s Only a Play,” a comedy by Terence McNally about an
opening night after-party where a producer, playwright, director, actors and their friends
eagerly wait for the reviews. They presented it in March 2020.

Since 2015, Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., has received 83
nominations over the years, Alton Little Theatre over 80 nominations, and Looking
Glass Players in Lebanon, Ill., 43 nominations.

The 2020 TMA nominations include:

BEST PRODUCTION
“Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
“It’s Only a Play,” Looking Glass Theatre
“The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater
“The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre
“Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre

BEST DIRECTOR
Lee Cox, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Kevin Frakes, “The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater
Paul James, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Heather Sartin, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre
Rebecca Zimmermann, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST ACTOR
Howard S Bell, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Shea Maples, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Steve Shininger, “It’s Only a Play,” Looking Glass Playhouse
David Zimmerman, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST ACTRESS
Kelsey McCroskey, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theater
Marisa Puller, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Emily Schneider, “The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater
Maria Wilken, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company
Kya Wonders, “The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Matt Dossett, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company
Brad Kinzel, “It’s Only a Play,” Looking Glass Playhouse
Brant McCance, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Todd Micali, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theater

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Linda Daly, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Jenifer Elias, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company
Monica Lee, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theater
Trish Nelke, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?”, Act Two Theatre
Caitlin Souers, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theater

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Lee Cox, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theatre
Jean Heckmann, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Julie Smailys, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre
Rebecca Zimmerman, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Nathan Schroeder, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre
Todd Wilken, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST SET DESIGN
Andrew Cary, Zac Cary and Heather Sartin, “The Philadelphia Story, Clayton
Community Theatre
Kevin Frakes, “The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater
Kevin Frakes, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Chris Resimius, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Brad Sanker, “It’s Only a Play,” Looking Glass Playhouse
Todd Wilken, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST ENSEMBLE
Act Two Theatre, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?”

AFL Adjusts Events in 2020-2021/Mission Remains the Same

Last year, AFL transitioned to streamed formats for both their TMA and Best
Performance Awards (musical theater and youth productions) shows honoring
productions in 2019.

The BPAs have been cancelled in 2021, and the few musicals that were performed in
early 2020 will be considered for the 2022 awards. In April 2020, the AFL president
suspended all public activities of the AFL organization, and then the board extended
suspension of the Theatre Recognition Guild judging activities, for the BPA branch
(musicals), through July 1, 2021.

“Arts for Life is plugging along with theater-starved actors for a new day! On Friday,
AFL proceeded to produce our first ever Virtual Trivia Night to announce the Theatre

Mask Awards (TMAs) nominations. It was well-attended and a lot of fun,” McCreight
said.

“With the Best Performance Awards cancelled this year due to not being able to have
shows in 2020, heads were down. But old habits don't die. The Trivia Night’s audio and
visual musical categories brought us back to life,” she said.

“All is well with AFL. We will survive and look forward to meeting again in July. Where
there’s a will, there’s a way, and I thank all theater groups who are working to create a
safe and pleasing future,” McCreight said.

McCreight emphasized that the AFL board will continue to base their decisions upon the
best information currently available and will continue to share information promptly and
transparently.

Naegelin is hopeful that more productions will be able to be mounted in 2021.

“I love the work that AFL/TMA does in supporting and promoting community theatre.
From helping provide a sense of community, to providing scholarships, and mentoring
at risk students in local theatre programs, AFL/TMA provides a full range of support to
the St. Louis metro area. I'm excited that we can continue that, even in our limited way,
in 2021, he said.

Co-chair Melissa Boyer was optimistic as well.

“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the TMAs. I’m excited to co-chair this
committee and look forward to finding ways to grow the TMAs and find opportunities for
people to be involved with this wonderful, dedicated group. We are all looking forward to
theatres being able to safely open again and welcoming new members to the TMA
Theatre Recognition Guild,” Boyer said.

AFL was founded in 1994 by Lucinda Guyrci as a local non-profit organization dedicated
to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the under-served and the
community. The BPAs have honored musical theater since 1999 and the TMAs have
honored plays since 2015.

“We hope that you and your loved ones have stayed safe during this difficult time,”
McCreight said. “Because of your commitment to our community and belief in our
mission, my optimism is not diminished about AFL being able to move forward once this
unprecedented time passes.”

Besides co-chairs Boyer and Naegelin, the TMA Steering Committee officers are Laurie
Blanner, recorder; Linda Daly, marketing facilitator; and Keaton Treece, Theatre
Recognition Guild director.

To see a complete list of the nominees and awards history, visit the website:
www.artsforlife.org

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]
 The YouTube Channel link:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

The awards be available afterwards for later viewing. Please subscribe to the Arts For Life
STL channel so you can get a reminder of the event.
Be sure to subscribe/like to our social media:
https://www.facebook.com/artsforlifestlouishttps://twitter.com/arts_for_life

There’s no business like show business! Arts For Life is devoted to supporting community theater in these pandemic times and will host its annual Trivia Night – only with a few twists.

The event is set for Friday, March 12, with rounds beginning at 7 p.m. but ‘doors’ open at 6:30 p.m. Teams can have up to 8 players and the cost is $10 per person/$80 a team. Mulligans and 50-50 tickets are available separately.

During the evening, nominations for the sixth annual Theatre Mask Awards will be announced. A scaled-back format is planned for a virtual awards ceremony on April 3. The TMAs honor plays – both comedy and drama – produced by community theater companies in the St. Louis metropolitan area, including the metro-east and St Charles County.

The Best Performance Awards, which recognizes excellence in community musical theatre, have been cancelled for this year.

“We hope groups will come together from their homes to share in the camaraderie of the arts community and have a fun evening celebrating theater,” said AFL President Mary McCreight. “AFL plans to return to its regular activities once it is safe to do so during this public health crisis.”

Using the teleconferencing platform Zoom, the AFL Board of Directors is producing an evening of eight rounds of 10 all-theater questions.

Colin Dowd, who is on the AFL Board of Directors and has been a BPA winner and TMA nominee, will be the host.

Registration will close on March 10. When registering, the team needs to designate a team captain. Information updates will be sent to the team captain to pass along to their teammates.

Players are encouraged to wear cast T-shirts that evening. (Pajama pants optional!).

To register or for more information, visit the website, www.artsforlife.org

Any questions may be directed to AFL Secretary Kim Klick — email [email protected]

By Lynn Venhaus

Clayton Community Theatre was the big winner at this year’s Arts For Life’s fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards, taking the top prizes for both Outstanding Production of a Comedy  – “Biloxi Blues” – and Outstanding Production of a Drama – “A Soldier’s Play.” Combined, the two plays won eight awards.

The 2020 Theatre Mask Awards, honoring excellence in community theatre productions of dramas and comedies during 2019, included winners in 18 non-musical play categories. Nine community theater companies throughout the St. Louis Metropolitan region, including three counties in the metro-east, participate in the TMAs.

This year’s event was a pre-recorded virtual presentation online on Saturday, July 18, instead of the usual brunch because of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally scheduled for April 4, the TMAs were moved to mid-July, then ultimately cancelled because of the public health emergency and the gathering restrictions in St. Louis County.

Melissa Boyer and Tim Naegelin, members of the TMA Steering Committee and the Arts For Life board of directors, were the co-hosts. Brant McCance was the tech and video coordinator.

“We were able to still provide an opportunity for our local arts community to come together online and celebrate the many outstanding achievements of the previous year,” said AFL President Mary McCreight.

Clayton Community Theatre, formed in 1998, also was honored for Outstanding Large Ensemble for “Biloxi Blues,” and Director Sam Hack. It was back-to-back wins for their Eugene Trilogy by Neil Simon. In 2018, they won comedy production and direction for “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” The second play in Simon’s semi-autobiographical series won five awards overall.

Two “Biloxi Blues” actors were recognized – Michael Bouchard for Lead Actor and Sam Guillemette for Supporting Actor in a Comedy.

“A Soldier’s Play” won three, including Nada Vaughn for Director of a Drama and Nathan Schroeder for Lighting Design of a Play. Schroeder was a previous winner for “Macbeth” in 2015.

Clayton Community Theatre had notched 24 nominations — “Biloxi Blues” (13), “A Soldier’s Play” (10) and “Eurydice” (1). CCT also broke a record for having the most acting nominations from a single show – 8 for “Biloxi Blues.”

Other multiple award winners included Act Two Theatre, two for “Plaza Suite” – Amanda McMichael for Lead Actress in a Comedy and Jean Heckmann for Costume Design of a Play; Monroe Actors Stage Company for “It’s a Wonderful Life” – Sarah Polizzi for Supporting Actress and Randy Manning for Supporting Actor in a Drama; and Theatre Guild of Webster Groves won two – Matthew Linhardt for Lead Actor in Drama as McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Anna Drake as Outstanding Juvenile Performer for ‘The Bad Seed.”

O’Fallon TheatreWorks won two for “The Miracle Worker” – Kaylee Ryan for Lead Actress in a Drama as Helen Keller and Chris and Ellie Lanham for Outstanding Set Design of a Play, which they have won two previous times – in 2016 for “The Diary of Anne Frank” and in 2018 for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Awards went to Alton Little Theater for Outstanding Small Ensemble in a Play – “A Twisted Christmas Carol” and Looking Glass Playhouse for Supporting Actress in a Comedy – Pam Boker in “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves had led all area community theaters with 27 nominations.

Special Achievement Awards went to Alton Little Theater for “Vintage Voices” and Hawthorne Players for “Voices of Valhalla: Hayrides through History,” both unique applications of theater that take place in the fall around Halloween. Each theater troupe presents stories of the people buried in local cemeteries.

The 40-minute awards video is available on the AFL You Tube channel: https://youtu.be/5Peni8T5UA8

AFL had previously announced the switch to virtual for the Best Performance Awards, which honors musical theater and youth productions. That ceremony was streamed Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. on the AFL YouTube channel.

TMA winners have an opportunity to send an acceptance speech to AFL, and it will be posted on social media.

For the groups who have not picked up their trophies, please contact Mary McCreight at [email protected]

To see a complete list of the nominees and winners for both TMAs and BPAs, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

“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,” McCreight added.

McCreight said AFL appreciates the support shown during these difficult times.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies – the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.

AFL was founded in 1994 by Lucinda Gyurci as a local non-profit organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the under-served and the community. The BPAs have honored musical theater since 1999 and the TMAs have honored plays since 2015.

“We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe during this difficult time,” McCreight said. “Because of your commitment to our community and belief in our mission, my optimism is not diminished about AFL being able to move forward once this unprecedented time passes.” 

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

Be sure to subscribe/like to our social media: https://www.facebook.com/artsforlifestlouis, https://twitter.com/arts_for_life and YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

By Lynn Venhaus
Christ Memorial Productions’ presentation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Oklahoma!” won eight Best Performance Awards for choreography, music direction, lighting, costumes, acting and Best Featured Dancer while Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s production of the George and Ira Gershwin 1920s musical-screwball comedy “Nice Work If You Can Get It” won seven, including Best Large Ensemble Musical Production, Best Director and five acting awards, from Arts For Life Sunday.

It was KTG’s sixth win for musical production since 2000. Both shows had been nominated for 17 awards apiece. “A New Brain,” which was a local community theater premiere for Hawthorne Players, won Best Small Ensemble Production.

Arts For Life is a nonprofit organization that encompasses 140 communities and 8,460 square miles in St. Louis city, county and St. Charles County in Missouri and Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in Illinois.

Founded in 1994 by Lucinda Gyurci as a group dedicated to the healing power of the arts, AFL has honored community theater musicals for performances and achievements since 1999 (BPAs), plays since 2015 (Theatre Mask Awards) and expanded awards in youth musical theater in 2013.

Best Small Ensemble Musical “A New Brain”

But this is the first time AFL did not host a live gala. Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the ceremony was re-imagined as a pre-recorded virtual celebration. The 21st annual BPAs took place June 14, which was the original date, but transitioned to a streaming format broadcast on Facebook and YouTube.

AFL President Mary McCreight said the coronavirus safety measures in place and restrictions on gatherings in St. Louis County were factors in the decision to cancel the live show but still have some sort of event.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for our local arts community to come together online and celebrate the many outstanding achievements of the previous year,” McCreight said.

Performances from nominees for large ensemble musicals, two small ensemble musicals and five youth productions premiered on AFL’s YouTube channel for 10 days leading up to the awards, and are now available there, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

There were 15 community theaters and 10 youth-only groups who participated last year. More than 60 judges in the Theatre Recognition Guild scored 46 shows — 19 large ensembles, 3 small and 24 youth, featuring 939 roles. For 2019, there were 154 individual nominations from 22 groups, with 36 percent first-time nominees and 65 percent first-time winners.

Goshen Theatre Project, which led all groups with 18 nominations, won five youth awards overall for “Les Miserables School Edition,” including Best Youth Musical Production, Supporting Actress Natalie Cochran as Eponine, costume design (Terry Pattison), lighting design (Halli Pattison and Blake Churchill) and Bennett English as Best Youth Musical Performance as Jean Valjean.

Other multiple winners in the youth categories were Riverbend Theatre, which won three for “The Drowsy Chaperone” — director (Kristi Doering), music direction (Michael Frazier/Alison Neace) and lead actor (Jayson Heil as the Man in Chair), and Young People’s Theatre, which won two for “Newsies” – best supporting actor (Will Dery as Les) and set design (Brisby Andrews and Gary Rackers).

Norbert Leo Butz

Thirty-three awards honoring excellence during 2019 were announced by past winners and members of the AFL board of directors, with two special guest presenters — Norbert Leo Butz, two-time Tony Award winner who grew up in St. Louis, and Hana S. Sharif, the Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

Butz, who also announced the youth musical production winner, told the audience to believe in themselves, even when it’s hard, and follow their dreams, noting he had supportive parents and “great” teachers.

“Believe in yourself and keep on being grateful. Stick to it,” he said from his home in New Jersey. “(Performing arts) feeds our soul, our minds, our hearts.”

AFL donated to Butz’s charity, The Angel Band Project, which uses music therapy to help victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence and advocates for rights of survivors. For more information, visit www.angelbandproject.org

Jennifer Kerner

Four special honors were given out to Jennifer Kerner for her inclusion efforts, Bennett English for Best Youth Musical Performance as Jean Valjean in Goshen Theatre Project’s “Les Miserables: School Edition,” Kayla Dressman for Best Featured Dancer as Dream Laurie in  CMP’s “Oklahoma!” and Diane Hanisch, the BPA musical director/conductor for the past 20 years, who won a national Spotlight Award from the American Association of Community Theatres, presented by Quiana Clark-Roland. A Lifetime Achievement Award was not designated this year.

Kerner’s recognition was for her advocacy on inclusion and helping to make the live theater experience accessible to all individuals. Kerner, a local singer and actress, works to help place people with developmental disabilities in jobs. She has guided local theater companies in providing sensory-friendly performances and has worked to create comfortable environments for those on the autism spectrum and those with sensory processing disorders.

McCreight was thrilled about Hanisch’s national award.

Diane Hanisch

“This award is designed to help pay tribute to an individual for long or special service. It recognizes outstanding dedication, service and contribution to your organization. It is for someone who has made a significant impact on the quality of your organization. Diane has done just that with per professionalism and charm. She is a gem! Not only can she calm the nerves of a 12-year-old singing a solo, but others who are singing in front of 700 people for the first time. She arranges and writes the music, gathers her professional band, and conducts the show with aplomb. Diane cares as much about our legacy as anyone involved on the Arts for Life Board. No one is more deserving,” she said.

The annual Youth Scholarships, which are awarded to two students pursuing a degree in the arts, were announced, with Alaina Bozarth, a graduate of Metro East Lutheran High School, and Josiah Haan, a graduate of Fort Zumwalt High School, each given $500. Bozarth plans to major in musical theatre at Belmont University in Louisville, Ky., and Haan plans to major in technical theatre and design at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

Other ensemble nominees include “Hello, Dolly!” from Wentzville Christian Church, “Oklahoma!” from Monroe Actors Stage Company and “The Bridges of Madison County” from Alpha Players of Florissant for Best Large Ensemble and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” from O’Fallon TheatreWorks for Best Small Ensemble.

For Best Youth Production, in addition to “Les Miserables,” nominees include “The Drowsy Chaperone” from Riverbend Theatre, “Matilda” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, “Newsies” from Young People’s Theatre and “Spring Awakening” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

CMP’s Oklahoma!

For the record books, Kimberly Klick won her sixth BPA for choreography for CMP’s “Oklahoma!”. She had previously won for CMP’s “Mary Poppins” and “The King and I,” plus “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Big the Musical” and “Fiddler on the Roof” for other companies. It was her 10th overall, including wins for Best Featured Dancer in “Brigadoon” in 2000, Lead Actress for Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” 2006 and Jo in “Little Women” in 2008, and Cameo Actress in “Titanic” 2003.

It was three in a row for Jonathan Hartley, who won for lighting design of “Oklahoma!” and had won last year for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at DaySpring Center for the Arts; he won for set design for DSA’s “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2017. Stephanie Fox won her third in four years for choreography in Gateway Center for the Performing Arts shows – “Spring Awakening” 2019, “Carrie the Musical” 2017 and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” 2016. Terry Pattison also won her third for costume design since 2017: “Peter Pan,” “The Lion King Jr.” and “Les Miz,” all for Goshen Theatre Project, and won set design for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in 2018.

Joe Paule Sr. won his third for musical direction, for CMP’s “Oklahoma!”, following CMP’s “The King and I” in 2014 and Hawthorne Players’ “The Producers” in 2010. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award last year. It was the second award for Michael Frazier and Alison Neace for musical direction, this year for Riverbend Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” and for Alton Little Theatre’s “The Spitfire Grill” in 2011.

Other multiple winners included two for Alpha Players of Florissant’s “The Bridges of Madison County” for Lead Actor (Cole Guttmann) and Cameo Actress (Chelsie Johnston) and Take a Bow Showcase for “Annie” – juvenile performer (Leontine Rickert) and duo/group (Matthew Joost and Carole Ann Miller).

Winners Will Shaw and Kimmie Kidd-Booker in “Nice Work If You Can Get It”

In the acting categories, Mike Huelsmann’s award for Best Featured Actor as Jud Fry was his third, after Lead Actor as Javert in Take Two Productions’ “Les Miz” (2013) and as part of Best Duo/Group in Looking Glass Playhouse’s “Young Frankenstein” 2015. Kimmie Kidd-Booker’s award for Best Featured Actress as Estonia Dulworth in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” was her second win, after Best Featured Actress in “The Wiz” in 2014. George Doerr IV won his second, as Igor in Alfresco’s “Young Frankenstein,” after winning Best Actor in 2017 for Alfresco’s “The Rocky Horror Show.”

The virtual program included the following production team: directors Mary McCreight and David Wicks Jr., video supervisor Kim Klick, visual designers Colin Dowd and Bethany Hamilton, voice-over announcer Ken Clark and host Karen Fulks.

A list of winners is included here, below.

AFL’s Theatre Mask Awards was originally set for April 4, then moved to July 18, but now will also be a virtual celebration. The 2020 TMAs will honor excellence in community theater productions of dramas and comedies during 2019 in a live interactive viewing event at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 18, on the AFL Facebook page and YouTube Channel. The awards show will be recorded beforehand and the content will remain on social media.

On March 16, McCreight suspended all public activities of the AFL organization because of the public health crisis. The extension has been extended until further notice. Both TRG and TMA branch judges and participating groups will receive announcements on future developments. As the region re-opens, social distancing and wearing face coverings continues. At this time, all AFL performance venues remain closed.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies – the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.

Any company that won can have a representative pick up their trophies on July 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Clayton Community Theatre, which is located at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road, St. Louis, MO 63117.

Riverbend Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone

A souvenir program is available to download online: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YlomcYjVNqDNqmPTCrYGSjnAtDwkn9QT/view

A limited number of copies will be available for purchase as well.

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

To see a list of the 2019 nominees and winners, as well as the awards history 1999-2019, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

Follow AFL on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2020 Best Performance Award Winners:

Best Musical Production Large Ensemble: “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Musical Production Small Ensemble: “A New Brain,” Hawthorne Players

Best Youth Musical Production: “Les Miserables: School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Director: Dani Mann, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Project

Best Musical Direction: Kathy Eichelberger and Joseph Paule Jr., “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Choreography: Kimberly Klick, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Lead Actor: Cole Guttmann, “The Bridges of Madison County, “Alpha Players of Florissant

Best Lead Actress: Jaclyn Amber, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Featured Actor: Mike Huelsmann, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Featured Actress: Kimmie Kidd-Booker, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Supporting Actor: Caleb Long, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Supporting Actress: Dianne M. Mueller, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Actor in a Comedic Role: George Doerr IV, “Young Frankenstein,” Alfresco Productions

Best Actress in a Comedic Role: Margery Handy, “The Wizard of Oz,” Alton Little Theater

Best Cameo Actor: Jacob Streuter, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Looking Glass Playhouse

Best Cameo Actress: Chelsie Johnston, “The Bridges of Madison County,” Alpha Players of Florissant

Best Actor in a Non-Singing Role: Will Shaw, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Actress in a Non-Singing Role: Maria Wilken, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild

Best Duo/Group: Matthew Joost and Carole Ann Miller, “Annie,” Take A Bow Showcase

Best Set Design: Matt Dossett, “The Little Shop of Horrors,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

Best Lighting Design: Jonathan Hartley, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Costume Design: Krysta Wenski, “Oklahoma!” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Juvenile Performer: Leontine Rickert, “Annie,” Take a Bow Showcase

Best Youth Director: Kristi Doering, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Music Direction: Michael Frazier and Alison Neace, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Choreography: Stephanie Fox, “Spring Awakening,” Gateway Center for the Performing Arts

Best Youth Lead Actor: Jayson Heil, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Youth Lead Actress: Alli McDonald, “Once Upon a Mattress,” St. John’s UCC Performing Arts Camp

Best Youth Supporting Actor: Will Dery, “Newsies,” Young People’s Theatre

Best Youth Supporting Actress: Natalie Cochran, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Costume Design: Terry Pattison, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Youth Set Design: Brisby Andrews and Greg Rackers, “Newsies,” Young People’s Theatre

Best Youth Lighting Design: Halli Pattison and Blake Churchill, “Les Miserables School Edition,” Goshen Theatre Project



By Lynn Venhaus
Arts For Life’s 21st annual Best Performance Awards will now take place in cyberspace on Sunday, June 14, rather than at the Skip Viragh Center for the Performing Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory School. This year’s gala gathering has been cancelled and reimagined because of the current public health situation.

The 2020 Best Performance Awards, honoring excellence in community and youth musical theater productions presented during 2019, will premiere at 2 p.m. as a live interactive viewing event on the AFL Facebook page, but the awards show will have been pre-recorded. In addition to the BPA Facebook Watch Party, the video will be on the AFL YouTube channel as a live event and then will remain for later viewings. Please subscribe so you can get a reminder of the event.

Arts For Life will announce winners in 33 categories and will reveal the annual youth scholarship awardees. There will also be several special presentations. The Lifetime Achievement Award will not be presented this year.

Jennifer Kerner

Arts For Life will honor Jennifer Kerner with a Special Achievement Award for her advocacy on inclusion and helping to make the live theater experience accessible to all individuals. Kerner, a local singer and actress, works to help place people with developmental disabilities in jobs. She has guided local theater companies in providing sensory-friendly performances and has worked to create comfortable environments for those on the autism spectrum and those with sensory processing disorders.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire St. Louis Metropolitan region. Mandatory stay-at-home orders remain in effect for all 8,460 square miles that the Arts For Life family calls home: St. Louis city and county, St. Charles County and the Metro-East.

With the need to maintain social distancing and to wear face coverings to lessen community spread, as well as the fact that all AFL performance venues remain closed at this time and that there is considerable uncertainty as to when large group events will be allowed to resume, the AFL board made the difficult decision to cancel the annual BPA gathering and transition to a streamed format .

AFL President Mary McCreight emphasizes that the AFL board will continue to base their decisions upon the best information currently available in this rapidly evolving situation and will continue to share information promptly and transparently, mindful of the need for our community to receive timely updates.

“While we are disappointed that we cannot produce the regular in-person ceremony that so many people look forward to attending, we hope that moving to a stream-based format will still provide an opportunity for our local arts community to come together online and celebrate the many outstanding achievements of the previous year,” McCreight said.

In an emergency notification on March 16, McCreight had previously suspended all public activities of the AFL organization, effective until at least May 1. At the most recent regularly scheduled meeting, held via teleconference on April 18, the board voted to extend the suspension through July 31 with the following two exceptions:

The Board has not yet taken a final decision regarding the fifth annual Theater Mask Awards ceremony set to honor achievements in non-musical plays. The brunch ceremony had already been rescheduled from April 4 to July 18 at the Atrium Banquet Center on the Christian Hospital campus in North St. Louis County. Stay tuned for announcements regarding any potential changes that might further affect the timing and/or location of this upcoming event.

Because of the suspension of public activities, the Theatre Recognition Guild (TRG) judging activities for the BPA branch (musicals) are suspended through July 31. However, activities for the TMA branch (non-musical plays) may resume slightly earlier if conditions permit. TMA branch judges and participating groups should be alert for any announcements regarding future developments.

“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,” the president added.

For those who have purchased BPA tickets, AFL will contact you about refund options and how your money can be returned. Instead of receiving a refund you might also consider treating the purchase amount as a tax-deductible donation to AFL.

“We appreciate your support. I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies – the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.

To see a list of the nominees, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

For this year’s honors, the Gershwin 1920s musical-screwball comedy “Nice Work If You Can Get It” from Kirkwood Theatre Guild and the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Oklahoma!” from Christ Memorial Productions each garnered 17 nominations apiece, including Best Large Ensemble.

Kayla Dressman

CMP’s “Dream Laurie,” Kayla Dressman, will receive a special award for Best Featured Dancer.

Among youth groups, the Goshen Theatre Project scored 18 nominations – 13 for “Les Miserables School Edition” and 5 for “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” Bennett English, who played Jean Valjean, will receive a special award for Best Youth Musical Performance.

Other ensemble nominees include “Hello, Dolly!” from Wentzville Christian Church, “Oklahoma!” from Monroe Actors Stage Company and “The Bridges of Madison County” from Alpha Players of Florissant for Best Large Ensemble and “A New Brain” from Hawthorne Players and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” from O’Fallon TheatreWorks for Best Small Ensemble.

For Best Youth Production, besides “Les Miserables,” nominees include “The Drowsy Chaperone” from Riverbend Theatre, “Matilda” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, “Newsies” from Young People’s Theatre and “Spring Awakening” from Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

Fifteen theater groups and 10 youth-only groups participate in the BPAs, which has honored musical theater since 1999. AFL was founded in 1994 by Lucinda Guyrci as a local non-profit organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the under-served and the community.

This year, judges scored 46 shows — 19 large ensembles, 3 small ensembles and 24 youth productions — from 27 participating groups, featuring 939 roles. For 2019, there are 154 individual nominations from 22 groups, and 36 percent are first-time nominees.

“We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe during this difficult time,” McCreight said. “Because of your commitment to our community and belief in our mission, my optimism is not diminished about AFL being able to move forward once this unprecedented time passes.” 

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

Be sure to subscribe/like to our social media: https://www.facebook.com/artsforlifestlouis, https://twitter.com/arts_for_life and YouTube channel.

By Lynn Venhaus

Greetings! This is a people, places and events column about local and national showbiz items that will appear regularly. Feel free to message me with interesting tidbits.

Today we provide some ways to fill your quarantine days and nights, a list of resources for artists, updates on the Theatre Proms and more.

MRS. AMERICA: St. Louis anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly was an Alton, Ill. housewife when she gained national attention in conservative politics, fighting the Equal Rights Amendment and founding the Eagle Forum in 1972. She’s the subject of a nine-part miniseries, “Mrs. America,” which starts Wednesday, April 15 on Hulu. The first three episodes: “Phyllis,” “Gloria” and “Shirley” will air then, then each week through May 27, depicting the battles between Schlafly and the leaders of the women’s movement in the 1970s.

The cast includes Cate Blanchett as Schlafly, Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug and Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm.

Fun fact: I saw Schlafly debate Betty Friedan on the ERA during college. Phyllis came up to the podium, looking like Betty Crocker, and said: “How many women want to get drafted?” A guy in the audience yelled out: “How many men do?” When Betty came up, in a mumu, she clearly had the crowd on her side. Illinois State University, 1973.

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THEATER PROMS: Springtime is awards season for the theater community, but this year, the mandatory Shelter-in-Place doesn’t allow gatherings of 10 or more. Therefore, events have been cancelled, rescheduled and rebooted

Often referred to as “Theater Prom,” the eighth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony was to take place on March 30 at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University, but the event had to be cancelled. Local theater critics still honored outstanding regional professional theater.

Instead, HEC provided a streamcast of the awards on Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. on their Facebook page. The event was downscaled reading of the nominations and awards, but hey, it’s #TCA20. You can still see it! Here is the YouTube link:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/tCo0AFHbChE

The theater critics recorded the nominations, and their voice-overs ran over photos. Then HEC announcer Rod Milam announced the winner. There were 34 categories to give awards in, which cover dramas, comedies and musicals. All in a half hour.

Many thanks to HEC Media, including Dennis Riggs, total pro announcer Rod Milam and ace producer Paul Langdon. Thanks to our theater buddy Andrea Torrence for the work on the graphics – the photos really made the virtual. event “pop.” I applaud your sharp professional skills and your devotion to local theater.

A special award was given to Ken and Nancy Kranzberg for their tremendous support and commitment to the arts. Where would St. Louis arts be without the Kranzbergs?

Here are the winners:
https://www.poplifestl.com/indecent-creve-coeur-new-jewish-theatre-are-big-winners-at-eighth-annual-st-louis-theater-circle-awards-ceremony/

Congratulations to the winners AND the nominees, and everyone who gave of their heart and soul to produce live regional professional theater with such passion and panache in 2019.

It truly was a fantastic year, especially for drama, and what a crowded field of talent among the 125 artists nominated and 51 shows from 25 different companies.

It is a privilege to see such a variety of theater during the year, and as a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle, it has been a real joy these past eight years.

In due time, we’ll be back in darkened theaters watching people create magic. We’ll get to hug and laugh again, and marvel at this thing called art that connects us all.

Even virtually for one evening — that was a welcome respite from the sad, terrifying and anxious daily news, wasn’t it, in what’s become the norm in our current global pandemic. People really seemed to enjoy it, lifted spirits – some casts had Zoom parties.

I look forward to seeing you all again, in the “After Times.”

If you want 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/

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.

 (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).
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HELP IS HERE: How can you help all the artists around the region and homebound folks around the region? During this unprecedented time of isolation, Stay-at-Home mandate, social distancing to #flattenthecurve, here are some resource links:

Gateway Resilience Fund: https://stlgives.org/covid19/gateway-resilience-fund/

This fund will provide short term monetary relief to employees and owners of independent bars, restaurants, and shops in the St. Louis area affected by closures and other circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Curbside STL: https://www.curbsidestl.com/

CurbsideSTL was created to help support our local independent restaurant and retail businesses and their workers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Regional Response Fund: https://stlgives.org/covid-19-regional-response-fund/

The fund will be used to direct resources to regional nonprofits that are working with local communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.

St. Louis COVID-19 Artist Relief Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/st-louis-covid19-artist-relief-fund

Any individual artist living in the St. Louis metro area who has had an event, gig, or paying opportunity canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis can apply for funding.

Support for Artists and Production Crews:

• I Lost My Theatre Gigs resource list and donation site: https://ilostmytheatregigs.squarespace.com/

• Freelance Artists Resource List: https://covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com/ 

 Alive STL: https://alivestl.org/ 314-993-2777

 Safe Connections: https://safeconnections.org/ Hotline: 314-531-2003

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org/ Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 Text support: Text “LOVEIS” to 22522

Broadway may be dark, but today you can be a light for the theater community.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS launched the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund to help those onstage, backstage and behind the scenes during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Through your donation to this special fund, administered by The Actors Fund, you can ensure entertainment professionals get the health care, emergency financial assistance and counseling they need.

Any others I miss?

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THEATER UPDATES: I try to keep up with the latest news on cancellations and postponements. Here’s the new one. https://www.poplifestl.com/?p=1845
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THE SHOW MUST GO ON: OverDue Theatre Company had to cancel “My Fair Lady” this spring but has put together a Quarantine Concert for Facebook Live on Friday, April 17, at 7 p.m. Special guests include Kaitlyn Mayse, Lauren Molina and Nikki Snelson. Featuring Kimmie Kidd, Eleanor Humphrey and Kay Love, there are 17 performers from the OverDue family who will perform too.

SOME GOOD NEWS: You know him, you love him from “The Office,” the immortal Jim Halpern of the Jim and Pam office romance. Actor John Krasinski has started his own web series, “Some Good News,” and the first episode on March 29 was such a hit, he has produced two more, all dropping on Sunday nights. It’s both inspiring and distracting.

The first one features an interview with Steve Carell, as they reminisce about “The Office.” Watch here: https://youtu.be/F5pgG1M_h_U

John Krasinski

The second features the cast of “Hamilton”:
And here is the third: https://youtu.be/Eg08rJGKjtA

You can follow his page on Facebook for updates and a link to submit good news.

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CINEMA STL: Like everyone else, Cinema St. Louis has rescheduled some events. Here are the new dates/information: Classic French Film Festival: Working to move to late July/early August; St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival: Moving from May 1 to hopefully this summer; QFest: Moving from mid-May to possibly July; Filmmaking camps: Camps slated for June and July will continue as scheduled for now; I Love Movies Trivia Night: Still scheduled for Friday, June 5, with backup dates of Friday, Aug. 28, or Friday, Sept. 4; St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase: This event is currently scheduled to go on as planned in July – deadline May 31; Golden Anniversaries: Films of 1970: The six-film fest is now slated for the following Saturday-Sundays: Aug. 22-23, Aug. 29-30, and Sept. 5-6 at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library; SLIFF: Hoping to go as scheduled in November.

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TEAM LEGEND: About a year ago, singer-guitarist Joanna Serenko won the St. Louis Teen Talent Showcase, sponsored by the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation. Now she’s a contestant on “The Voice.”

Joanna Sorenko

The poised and talented 2019 Kirkwood High School graduate had a four-chair judges’ turn for her blind audition during Feb. 24 night’s season premiere. She sang Amy Winehouse’s R&B rendition of The Beatles’ classic “All My Loving,” and new judge Nick Jonas fought for her to be on his team. Here’s her performance link:

https://www.nbc.com/the-voice/video/nick-jonas-fights-for-joanna-serenko-who-sings-all-my-loving-voice-blind-auditions/4121502

The Battle Rounds began March 23, and Joanna was paired with Roderick Chambers to sing Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over.” Here is the duet:

https://youtu.be/lVmvz9v5KgE

Kelly Clarkson described their duet as “effortless and beautiful and passionate,” and coach Nick called her a “flawless singer” but picked Rod as the winner — then John Legend stole Joanna, so she advances to the Knockout Rounds on Team Legend. EGOT Legend said she had a lot of “style and grace” in her voice.

Both the Battle and Knockout Rounds were taped earlier, so they aren’t affected by the virus shutdown. However, the live shows in May might be, which follows the Knockout Rounds. Go Joanna! (Tune in April 13).

For the first show, a viewing party took place at the Marcus Des Peres Cinema. Due to the pandemic, that can’t happen now. If it starts up again, I’ll let you know.

She used to sing in the choir at Kirkwood’s United Methodist Church and moved here from Cleveland in 2010.

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AND THAT’S A WINNER: Sports commentator and hometowner Joe Buck is reaching out to sports fans, asking them to send videos so he can provide a “play-by-play” of what they’re doing while staying at home — perhaps dribbling in place? Just be careful what you send him.

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HARRY POTTER INTERACTION: Want to escape to fantasy worlds during this global pandemic? “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has launched a new website called Harry Potter at Home – a free magical resource to keep readers of all ages entertained while staying at home. In addition to the existing interactive features on WizardingWorld.com, the site creators have added new activity kits, “nifty magical craft videos,” quizzes, puzzles, and more. You can also listen to the first book on Audible for free or download and read it from a digital library.

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AND HE SCORES! Congratulations to Tom Calhoun, one of the nice guys in local media and the St. Louis Blues announcer for 33 years, who was recognized with three honors by the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame. He was recently inducted, presented with the President’s Choice Award and given a commemorative 1500th-game plaque at the fourth annual Illinois Enshrinement Dinner.

Tom Calhoun, Tom Morris and Laila Anderson

A veteran of KMOX, WIBV and other stations, he is currently an adjunct communications professor at Southwestern Illinois College and general manager of its campus radio station, Blue Storm. He has never missed a Blues game since 1987 — until the global pandemic sidelined the team and the NHL cancelled the season. (Just think: a year ago, on April 10, we won the first of the 16 games we needed to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs).

Cutline: Pictured, left to right, Tom Calhoun, head of the St. Louis National Hockey League Off-Ice Crew Tom Morris and St. Louis Blues inspiration and “super-fan” Laila Anderson. Photo by Bill Greenblatt

APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE: The Black Rep was awarded the August Wilson American Century Cycle Award by Christopher Rawson of the Pittsburgh Gazette on its opening night of “Two Trains Running.”

In 2008, they were the third company in America to complete the 10-play American Century cycle and are currently two-thirds of the way through it for the second time. Each of the 10 plays are set in a different decade of the 20th century.

The Black Rep board at ceremony – Rawson at far right. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Rawson, the newspaper’s senior theater critic and an August Wilson House board member, made the presentation Jan. 10. The award was established only recently, so presentations are being made gradually to the 15 qualifying companies.

 “August is still alive, first, in the people, places and stories from what we call August Wilson’s Hill, and second, in the theaters around the country that bring them to life. This award, presented jointly by his hometown newspaper and his childhood home, celebrates the conjunction of these two. It says that we are all connected in August’s work, through our recognition of its rich humanity and spiritual passion,” he said.

Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero Wilson, sent thanks to The Black Rep “for your ongoing support of his legacy and for continuing to tell the stories for many generations to come. You ‘belong to the band’!” The quotation comes from Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean,” where “the band” refers to those who struggled to free black Americans from slavery and Jim Crow.

Meadow Nguy

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IN THE CREDITS: Meadow Nguy of O’Fallon, Ill., makes an appearance in the seventh episode of the new Amazon Series “Hunters” starring Al Pacino. She was seen in “Law and Order: SVU” last November, and has been on “Madam Secretary” and “The Blacklist.”
She moved to New York after graduating from Indiana University with a degree in musical theater. She appeared on stages in St. Louis, including the 2012 “Spring Awakening” at Stray Dog Theatre and their world premiere of “Spellbound,” and in the metro-east during her high school years. She won the Illinois Musical Theater Award, her ticket to the Jimmy Awards in 2012.

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BOOKSHELF: New Line Theatre Artistic Director Scott Miller is also a prolific writer. His latest, “Idiots, Heathers, and Squips,” digs into a new batch of original, interesting musicals produced the first 15 years of the millennium.

He does deep dives into these 11 that represent “the astonishing variety and fearlessness of this new Golden Age:  Urinetown, Sweet Smell of Success, Jerry Springer the Opera, Passing Strange, Cry-Baby, Next to Normal, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, American Idiot, Heathers, and Be More Chill.

It’s available on Amazon for $17.96: https://www.amazon.com/Idiots-Heathers-Squips-Musical-Theatre/dp/B084DR2HNW


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MK Andersen

LISTEN IN: MK Andersen’s “The First Hundred Days.” She is inspired by the idea that if the first hundred days of a presidency are the most pivotal and important, then the first hundred days of X,Y and Z must also be important. New ones are released every Tuesday: https://yourdaybymk.com/podcast-first-hundred-days
:
MK, who operates a wedding planning business, is a graduate of University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in political science. For the podcast she has talked to a writer at Netflix, a former university president and others. In episode 2, a fascinating talk with former FCC Chairman Newton Minow  (1961-1963) is here. Minow, 94, served under President Kennedy. He practices telecommunications law in Chicago and in 2016, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.

Fun fact: “Gilligan’s Island” creator Sherwood Schwartz named the tiny ship that took that fateful trip for Minow because he thought he had ruined television. Minow is noted for a speech in which he called American television a “vast wasteland.”

Reel Times Trio

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REEL TIMES TRIO: Of course I’m going to plug my own, Reel Times Trio podcast, which is Carl “The Intern” Middleman, myself and a rotating guest to discuss the latest movie releases, what’s out on DVD and streaming, what’s new in Hollywood and Broadway, what’s happening locally, good TV and more.

We’re on iTunes and SoundCloud, and have a Facebook page where we post episodes each week. We also are posted here at PopLifeSTL.com
During the pandemic, after a brief layoff, we have transitioned to Zoom.  Find us here: https://soundcloud.com/lynn-zipfel-venhaus

Bill Hader and Henry Winkler in “Barry”

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ICYMI: Need something to do?
HBO has unlocked the vault on nine popular series that you can watch for free on HBO Now or HBO Go, or if you have cable TV, now through May 31. The shows are: Barry, Big Little Lies, The Wire, The Sopranos, Succession, Veep, Silicon Valley, Six Feet Under, True Blood and Ballers.

Here are musicals and shows to watch online: https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Broadway-From-Home-157-Musicals-Shows-You-Can-Watch-Online-20200319

Need to know where you can find a movie to watch, whether it’s streaming or not? Check out www.justwatch.com or download the app on your phone.

Did you miss Andrea Bocelli’s free streaming concert from Milan on Easter Sunday? Here is the YouTube link to the half-hour concert, featuring the famed opera singer performing “Ave Maria,” “Santa Maria” and “Amazing Grace”: https://youtu.be/huTUOek4LgU

He told NBC News: “I believe in the strength of praying together. I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone – whether they are believers or not – truly needs right now. Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded earth’s pulsing heart…”

One of the best ads yet on staying safe for the good of a city, Here’s Doner Advertising Agency’s uplifting message to Detroit: https://youtu.be/JJzlXhXrD7I

Playwright Nancy Bell and Director Lucy Cashion teamed up for “MUTE: A Play for Zoom” that debuted on Facebook April 5. Spencer Lawton was the production manager. )Main photo is a screen shot of the Zoom play, a remarkable achievement.) Here is the Vimeo link to the half-hour production: https://vimeo.com/405178212?fbclid=IwAR2hkRVBGu78QK8rLQWmb6pY-e7fynRixVlGxky1vvhWNxyN3kKY8PrCP0s
Here is our review: https://www.poplifestl.com/visionary-apocalyptic-farce-mute-a-play-for-zoom-brings-joy-in-modern-storytelling/

Ali MacGraw

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MEMORY LANE: Valentine’s Day marked the 50th anniversary of bestseller “Love Story,” the young romance that had hearts aflutter back when I was in high school. This is actually my own book cover.

And the movie turns 50 in December. I wrote about the movie’s impact. We all wanted to be Ali MacGraw. We sure did copy her fashions. Here is that link:
 https://www.poplifestl.com/love-story-at-50-the-iconic-romance-revisited/

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WORD: “The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are.” — Terence McNally (1938-2020), in his Lifetime Achievement Award speech at last year’s Tony’s.

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

By Lynn Venhaus

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

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation has closed all its venues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Greg Lazerwitz

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

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

Fox Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Playhouse @ Westport

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

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

Refunds are available at point of purchase.

St. Louis Actors’ Studio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“After careful deliberation, we find it necessary to push the 5th Annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis to summer due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Our first commitment is to keeping the company and community safe.The show WILL go on. We will be announcing new dates shortly,” she said.
.
The multi-award-winning Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis headliner is The Rose Tattoo.  There will be more than a dozen separate elements, scheduled so that attendees may attend every one during the eleven-day run, all held in the Grand Center Arts District and on The Hill. Events include:

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

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

Upstream Theater

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Louis Theater Circle Awards

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

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

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



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

Wydown Auditorium

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

Arts For Life

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

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

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


Other Companies

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

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

By Lynn VenhausManaging EditorThree metro-east community theater groups and a veteran youth program won multiple awards at the 20th annual Best Performance Awards sponsored by Arts For Life on June 9. 

The awards recognize excellence in community and youth
musical theater, with 27 groups participating from St. Charles County to
Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in Illinois as part of the St Louis
Metropolitan area. It is the oldest and longest continually running theater
awards in St. Louis.

“Into the Woods” Curtain’s Up Theater CompanyCurtain’s Up Theater Company won six awards for its production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” including Best Large Ensemble Musical, Directors Glenn Saltamachia and Jeffrey Yapp-Ellis, Music Director Liz Murphy White, Costume Design Donna Saltamachia, Comedic Actress Miranda Mobley as Little Red and Supporting Actor Dennis Folwarczny as Cinderella’s Prince. It had received 16 nominations, the most for any show. The 1986 musical is a twist on Brothers Grimm fairy tales, exploring the consequences of wishes and quests.

“Dames at Sea” Alfresco Productions“Dames at Sea” at Alfresco Productions won four,
for Best Small Ensemble Musical, Best Leading Actress Morgan Ladyman,
Supporting Actress Elizabeth Semko and Best Choreography Ashley Pavlige. It had
received 12 nominations. The 1966 musical romantic comedy is an homage to
nostalgic 1930s movie musicals.

Bryce Miller won Best Youth Actor for “Big Fish” from Shooting Star Productions“Big Fish” at Shooting Star Productions won six
awards in the youth categories: Best Youth Production, Best Choreography Ellen
Isom, Best Music Director Ross Bell, Best Actor Bryce Miller as Edward Bloom,
Best Supporting Actress Carolyn Karutz as The Witch and Best Set Design Marty
Strohmeyer and Christopher Phillips. It had received 14 nominations. Based on
the 2003 movie by Tim Burton, adapted from David Wallace’s 1998 book, “Big
Fish” tells the larger-than-life tale of traveling salesman Edward Bloom, a man
who leads an extraordinary life according to the stories he shares.

Mia Williams won Best Youth Actress as Rafiki in “The Lion King Jr.” from Goshen Theatre ProjectThe Goshen Theatre Project in Madison County won three
awards — for leading actress, Mia Williams, as Rafiki, and costume design
Terry Pattison, for “The Lion King Jr.” (the crowd gasped when the
walking giraffe came out and the kids came down the aisles in their animal
costumes), and another one for Terry Pattison for set design for “Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang.”

Glenn Guillermo in “Bells Are Ringing”

Winning two awards were Alpha Players of Florissant’s “Bells Are Ringing” for Cameo and Non-Singing Actor, while Christ Memorial Productions’ “The Wizard of Oz” won for Juvenile Performance and Non-Singing Actress, and Looking Glass Playhouse won lighting design for “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and best actor for “Newsies.”.

Another first occurred – both the youth supporting actor
and adult featured actor won for playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson in “Guys and
Dolls” at Riverbend Theatre and Kirkwood Theatre Guild respectively, Spencer
Domer and Christopher Strawhun.

“Guys and Dolls” Riverbend TheatreThis year, 48 shows – 21 large, 7 small and 20 youth —
were eligible for BPA awards consideration, with 1,302 artists judged for
nominations. Trophies were awarded in 33 categories.

 “Theater is alive
and kicking in 2019 and local theaters in metro St. Louis and Illinois are to
be commended for a job well done,” McCreight said. “The awards are a wonderful way
for all actors and tech crews to celebrate and enjoy each other’s successes and
be recognized and rewarded.”

Since it began in 1998, AFL’s goal has been “Making a
Dramatic Difference” and is proud to salute, support and serve the theater
groups in the metropolitan St. Louis area. The non-profit organization
continues to be passionate about the healing power of the performing arts.

Morgan Ladyman, Best Actress as Ruby in “Dames at Sea”AFL President Mary McCreight said the group is dedicated to
promoting public awareness of local community theater, encouraging excellence
in the arts and acknowledging the incredible people who take part.

“St. Louis is an amazing city, especially for the arts.
There are over sixty theatre companies at home here, a third of which are
community theatre. As we watch music education and theatre programs rapidly die
in our schools, the need to keep community theatre alive is more important now
than ever,” McCreight said.

The best musical award was the first for Curtain’s Up
Theater Company, and with his win, director Glenn Saltamachia made AFL history.
He is the first person to win both Best Director Awards at the Best Performance
Awards and at the Theatre Mask Awards in April, which honors dramas and
comedies. He won the TMA for directing “Frost/Nixon” at Looking Glass Playhouse,
and that drama was tied with Actors’ Attic, for “The Curious Incident of the
Dog in the Night-time,” as Best Play – Drama.

He shared the director’s award with Jeffrey Yapp-Ellis, who
started as assistant director but made such an impact on set design, staging
and concept that he was billed as a co-director.

“It has been an incredible year! To win the TMA and BPA for
Directing in the same year is an honor I could never have dreamed of.  I have worked with two outstanding companies-
– LGP and CUTC, and I have been blessed and extremely lucky to have had
outstanding, talented, wonderful casts, production crews, technicians, and
musicians to work with,” Saltamachia said.

 “The honor is more a
reflection of their talent, hard work and determination than anything I have
brought to the table. I have always said my greatest talent as a director is
that I surround myself with extremely talented, capable people who share my
passion for good theatre. The fact that both my shows also won for Best
Ensemble in their respective categories proves my point,” he said.

Saltamachia said he was bit by the theater bug when as a
brand new second lieutenant in the Air Force, he auditioned for the Kessler Air
Force Base Little Theatre production of “Charley’s Aunt.”
“Throughout my Air Force career, I would participate in productions wherever we
were stationed when I had the time and circumstances allowed,” he said. “After
retiring from the Air Force in 1997 in Belleville, I began to hear of all the
great local community theaters, and in 1999, I got up the nerve to audition for
the Looking Glass Playhouse production of “Oliver!” and I’ve never stopped.”

Saltamachia has directed 10 shows for LGP since 2001, his
first being “The Odd Couple.” Then, he worked with some Edwardsville people who
were starting a theater company, Curtain’s Up. He appeared in “The Curious
Savage” and has directed six shows for them, the first was “Fiddler on the
Roof” in 2008.

Over the years, he has directed shows for Clinton County
Showcase in Breese, Hard Road Productions in Highland, and in Belleville, Brass
Rail Players, Downtown Players and Cathedral Players. 

“The thing I love most about directing is the process. I
love everything about it!  From script
analysis, planning conferences for concept development, set design and staging
months before production. Then the fun starts with auditions and rehearsals,”
he said. “But the absolute best part is watching as a group of diverse people;
who may not have known each other before, come together, work hard and share
their talents to produce something we are all are proud of. And on the way we
become a family who love each other and develop friendships for life.”

“Thanks to AFL. I am honored and humbled, but I am smart
enough to know I didn’t win these awards by myself,” Saltamachia said. 

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” Goshen Theatre ProjectTerry Pattison, who won awards for costume design and set
design for Goshen Theatre Project, said the group is in its fifth season.

“The Lion King had 46 kids in it, all under the age of 15.
There were well over 160 costumes, all hand-created. Most of the masks and
animals were constructed from a high-density foam so they stayed light weight,”
she said.

The animal costumes included: Lions, lioness, hornbills,
ostrich, zebra, gazelle, egrets, giraffes, wildebeasts, rhino, meerkat, warthog
and various birds.

 “I am honored to
have received two BPA’s this year, one for costuming and the other for scenic
design. I am always creating something in one way or another and it is a
humbling experience to have been recognized against all the other talent in the
St. Louis community theater circuit,” Pattison said.

Lucinda Gyurci, who founded Arts for Life in 1998, said she
continues to be inspired by community theater productions.

“Big Fish” Shooting Star Productions“I feel fortunate to have watched many young people, who
grew up in community theatre, become wonderfully talented adults; some making
their way to Broadway; some establishing their art in local professional
theatre; and some bringing up their next generation in their own footsteps on
the stage,” she said.

Joe Paule Sr. received the Lifetime Achievement Award for
his work as a musician in numerous pit bands, orchestras and as a music
director. Kim Klick and Glenn Guillermo were honored with two special awards,
“TRG Recognition 20th Anniversary Exceptional Volunteer Award,” citing
extraordinary above and beyond service.

Sean Harvey “Crazy for You”

Two special youth awards were given to Caroline Santiago
Turner, who received Best Youth Musical Performance for “Violet,” and
Sean Harvey, named Best Youth Featured Dancer, as Bobby in “Crazy for
You,” both produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

Allison McDonald of Timberland High School and Kira Averett
of Mascoutah received the 2019 AFL Youth Scholarships.

The ceremony was directed by Ken Clark, with music
direction by Diane Hanisch. Ryan Cooper served as master of ceremonies for the
fifth time.

The complete list of awards is as follows:
Best Large Ensemble Musical: “Into the Woods,” Curtain’s Up Theater Company
Best Small Ensemble Musical: “Dames at Sea,” Alfresco Productions

Best Youth Musical: “Big Fish,” Shooting Star Productions
Best Direction: Glenn Saltamachia and Jeffrey Yapp-Ellis, “Into the Woods,”
Curtain’s Up Theater Company

Best Direction- Youth Production: Paul Pagano, “Violet,”
Gateway Center for the Performing Arts
Best Music Direction: Liz Murphy White, “Into the Woods,” Curtain’s Up Theater
Company

Best Music Direction – Youth Production: Ross Bell, ‘Big
Fish,” Shooting Star Productions
Best Choreography: Ashley Pavlige, “Dames at Sea,” Alfresco Productions

Best Choreography – Youth Production: Ellen Isom, “Big
Fish,” Shooting Star Productions

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Austin Turnbull, Jack Kelly,
“Newsies,” Looking Glass Playhouse

Best Leading Actor – Youth Production: Bryce Miller, Edward
Bloom, “Big Fish,” Shooting Star Productions

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Morgan Ladyman, Ruby,
“Dames at Sea,” Alfresco Producifion

Best Leading Actress – Youth Production: Mia Williams,
Rafiki, “The Lion King Jr.,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Actor in a Featured Role: Christopher Strawhun,
Nicely-Nicely Johnson, “Guys and Dolls,” Kirkwood Theatre Guild
Best Actress in a Featured Role: Elizabeth Breed Penny, Paulette, “Legally
Blonde,” Hawthorne Players

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Dennis Folwarczny,
Cinderella’s Prince, “Into the Woods,” Curtain’s Up Theater Company

Best Supporting Actor – Youth Production: Spencer Domer,
Nicely-Nicely Johnson, “Guys and Dolls,” Riverbend Theatre

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Elizabeth Semko, Joan,
“Dames at Sea,” Alfresco Productions
Best Supporting Actress – Youth Production: Carolyn Karutz, The Witch, “Big
Fish,” Shooting Star Productions

Best Actor in a Comedic Role: Matthew Hansen, Franz, “Rock
of Ages,” Take Two Productions
Best Actress in a Comedic Role: Miranda Mobley, Little Red Riding Hood, “Into
the Woods,” Curtain’s Up Theatre Company

Best Actor in a Non-Singing Role: Kevin Michael Hester, Dr.
Kitchell, “Bells Are Ringing,” Alpha Players of Florissant
Best Actress in a Non-Singing Role: Nicky Collett, Wicked Witch/Miss Gulch,
“The Wizard of Oz,” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Duo or Group Performance: Abby Cockerham, Laura Megan
Deveney and Theresa Peters Nigus as Donna, Linolium and Betty in “The Great
American Trailer Park Musical,” Act Two Theatre
Best Actor in a Cameo Role: Glenn Guillermo, Carl, “Bells Are Ringing,” Alpha
Players of Florissant
Best Actress in a Cameo Role: Julia Gilbert, Babette, Disney’s “Beauty and the
Beast,” Alfresco Productions

Best Youth Performer: Victor Landon, Munchkin Mayor, “The
Wizard of Oz,” Christ Memorial Productions

Best Costume Design: Donna Saltamachia, “Into the Woods,”
Curtain’s Up Theater Company

Best Youth Costume Design: Terry Pattison, “The Lion King
Jr.,” Goshen Theatre Project

Best Set Design: Terry Pattison, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,”
Goshen Theatre Project

Best Set Design – Youth Production: Marty Strohmeyer and
Christopher Phillips, ‘Big Fish,” Shooting Star Productions

Best Lighting Design: Jason Koonce, “Bloody Bloody Andrew
Jackson,” Looking Glass Playhouse
Best Lighting Design – Youth Production: Jonathan Hartley, “Disney’s Beauty and
the Beast,” DaySpring School of Arts

For more information, visit www.artsforlife.org

“Dames at Sea” Alfresco ProductionsFor a PDF of the BPA nominations for 2018, here is the
link:

http://nebula.wsimg.com/b255dc30a55d222d652ab689930da965?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

BPAs honor excellence in community musical theatre; Theatre Mask Awards recognize excellence in plays

Arts For Life will celebrate its 20th
anniversary June 9 at the annual Best Performance Awards, which honors
excellence in community theater and youth musicals. It is the oldest and
longest continually running theater awards in St. Louis.

Since it began in 1998, AFL’s goal has been “Making a Dramatic
Difference” and is proud to salute, support and serve the theater groups in the
metropolitan St. Louis area. The non-profit organization continues to be
passionate about the healing power of the performing arts.

AFL President Mary McCreight said the group is dedicated to
promoting public awareness of local community theater, encouraging excellence
in the arts and acknowledging the incredible people who take part.

“St. Louis is an amazing city, especially for the arts.
There are over sixty theatre companies at home here, a third of which are
community theatre. As we watch music education and theatre programs rapidly die
in our schools, the need to keep community theatre alive is more important now
than ever,” McCreight said.
Admission is $25 in advance on the www.artsforlife.org
website, or $26 with credit card at the door. All tickets are reserved seating.
Formal attire is requested.

The special event starts at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh
Center for the Performing Arts on the Chaminade College Preparatory School campus,
425 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Ryan Cooper, a local professional actor, will return as
master of ceremonies for the fifth time.

When Lucinda Gyurci founded AFL, the first awards were
handed out in 1999, with 14 musicals from 11 groups nominated through the group’s
judging panel, the Theatre Recognition Guild.

“I wasn’t sure the Best Performance Awards would go beyond
one year. The first year was extremely difficult, being met with (sometimes
hostile) negativity, trepidation of being judged, a tremendous amount of work
and no funds,” Gyurci said. “However, barring past the nay-sayers, the event
happened by sheer will. One could feel the electricity in the air at the event
and for the first time the participants realized this was an opportunity to
recognize excellent work and celebrate each other within the theatre community.”

Gyurci said it was the first theater event in St. Louis
that was like the Tony Awards, which makes it the area’s oldest and longest
continually running theatre awards.

This year, 48 shows – 21 large, 7 small and 20 youth — produced
by 26 community theater groups in St. Louis, St. Charles County and metro-east
Illinois were eligible for BPA awards consideration, with 1,302 artists judged
for nominations.

Trophies will be awarded in 33 categories. Performances
from the 13 nominated musicals for best productions – small (3) and large (5) ensembles
and youth (5) – will be included.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is being given to Joe Paule
Sr., a longtime musician and musical director. He was one of the orchestra
nominees in 1999.

“Theater is alive and kicking in 2019 and local theaters in
metro St. Louis and Illinois are to be commended for a job well done,”
McCreight said.
“The awards are a wonderful way for all actors and tech crews to celebrate and
enjoy each other’s successes and be recognized and rewarded,” McCreight said.

For the first time ever, metro-east theater groups
dominated the Best Musical – Large and Small Ensemble categories, with 5 of the
8 nods: Alfresco Productions, Curtain’s Up Theater, Goshen Theatre Project,
Looking Glass Playhouse and Riverbend Youth Theatre

Nominations were announced at the 10th annual AFL Trivia
Night Feb. 2, with 43 percent of nominees recognized for the first time. Goshen
Theatre Project in Madison County led the BPA nominations, with 23 – 12 for
“The Lion King Jr.” and 11 for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

Curtain’s Up Theater Company in Edwardsville earned 19 – 16
for “Into the Woods,” and 3 for “Little Miss Sunshine” – and tied with Alfresco
Productions in Granite City with 19 – 12 for ‘Dames at Sea” and 7 for “Beauty
and the Beast.”

The Alpha Players of Florissant received 11 nominations,
with 7 for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and 4 for “Bells Are Ringing.”

Among youth productions, Shooting Star led the way with 14
for “Big Fish.”
Two special youth awards will be given to Caroline Santiago Turner, who will
receive Best Youth Musical Performance for “Violet,” and Sean Harvey,
named Best Youth Featured Dancer, as Bobby in “Crazy for You,” both
produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.

The Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon, Ill., lead all AFL
nominations, with a total of 31, which included 22 BPA nods and 9 Theatre Mask
Awards nominations.

Their musical, “Newsies,” garnered 14 nominations, while
musicals “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and “The Wizard of Oz” each scored 4.
On the TMA side, their production of the drama, “Frost/Nixon” received 9 and
won 4.

Five years ago, AFL started the Theatre Mask Awards, which
recognizes work in straight plays produced by community theater. Ten groups
currently participate, and a judging panel evaluated 25 shows – 12 dramas and
13 comedies — for the 2018 calendar year.

The fourth annual event took place on April 6 at a brunch celebration
at The Atrium banquet center on the campus of Christian Northeast Hospital,
with a sold-out crowd of 256 in attendance. Longtime radio personality Vic
Porcelli was the host.

Kevin Frakes of Alton Little Theater received the Lifetime
Achievement Award for his 40 years as a performer, director, producer and set
designer. He is currently president of the ALT board of directors.

Awards were presented in 18 categories, with LGP’s
“Frost/Nixon” tying with Actors’ Attic’s local premiere of “The Curious
Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” for Outstanding Drama Production.

Clayton Community Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s
“Brighton Beach Memoirs” won three awards, including outstanding comedy
production and for actor Patrick Blanner as Eugene and director Sam Hack.

“Frost/Nixon” also won for director Glenn Saltamachia,
supporting actor Mike Russell (as Reston) and large ensemble.
The two leading performers in “The Curious Incident,” Dan Haller and Emily
Brutton, won acting honors.

Other multiple winners included O’Fallon TheatreWorks’ play
version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which won two — supporting
actress for Tori Stukins and costume design for Carole Lanham.

The drama “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” received awards
for two different theater groups’ productions. Alton Little Theater’s show won
lighting design for Lee Cox and Dennis R. Stephenson and the O’Fallon Theatre
Works’ play won set design for Chris and Ellie Lanham.

Alton Little Theater also won outstanding actress in a
comedy – Alison Beach as three different ‘heiresses’ in “Who’s in Bed with the
Butler?”

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves was honored with three
acting awards. Kaylee Ryan won outstanding juvenile performance in “The
Children’s Hour” while Will Shaw won supporting actor in a comedy in Steve
Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”” and Sarah Hirshfield won supporting
actress in a comedy in Neil Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.”

Clayton’s “Bus Stop” won Best Large Ensemble.

“I am proud of the dedication of the TMA Steering Committee
and Director Glenn Guillermo,” McCreight said. “The AFL Board of Directors
congratulates all participants/nominees in last year’s shows. I am happy to see
the TMAs thriving and creating a niche for yourselves in the theater
community.”

Visit the website for more information:
www.artsforlife.org. For a PDF of the BPA nominations for 2018, here is the
link:

http://nebula.wsimg.com/b255dc30a55d222d652ab689930da965?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1