A Late Summer Night’s Stroll: An Interactive Walk Experience in Forest Park Will Be Offered Aug. 12 – Sept. 6

Producing Artistic Director Tom Ridgely has officially announced the postponement of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” its 20th Anniversary Shakespeare in the Park production, as well as “Shakespeare in the Streets: The Ville” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Bruce Longworth, has been rescheduled for the 2022 summer season, and “Shakespeare in the Streets: The Ville”, written by Mariah Richardson and directed by Thomasina Clarke, will take place in September 2021. Final dates will be announced at a later time.

“In the end, it boiled down to the safety of the artists,” Ridgely said in a statement. “The actors’ union hired a very well-qualified epidemiologist to assess the situation, and their determination was that it just wouldn’t be safe to return to work this summer. We wish it could be otherwise, but we have to trust the experts and not take any chances when it comes to people’s health and well-being. We’ll be back though, and we’re already looking forward to how good it will feel when we can all be together again.”

The Festival will spend the additional time investing in The Ville, working closely with 4the Ville and Young Friends of the Ville, its partner organizations on Shakespeare in the Streets.

Mariah Richardson

“I am saddened about the delay but excited about the extra time and opportunity to really learn about the residents of the Ville. Their story is rooted in the earliest history of our city. And a story crying out to be heard,” said playwright Mariah Richardson.

The Festival is continuing to collect stories from current and past residents of the neighborhood and encourage anyone with a connection to submit via mail, email or phone. Details and questions are available at stlshakes.org/theville.

“A Late Summer Night’s Stroll”

In lieu of the original scheduled 20th-anniversary production of Shakespeare in the Park, the Festival is offering a new socially-distant walking experience in Forest Park. A LATE SUMMER NIGHT’S STROLL, loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will take guests on a 90-minute walk through some of the park’s most iconic spots and hidden gems.

The STROLL will use music, dance and visual art to offer a new and surprising way of experiencing both the story and the park. “Midsummer is one of the most magical and beloved plays in all of world drama. It follows the flight of four lovers into the woods and the night of lyrical transformations that drive them apart and back together again – capped by the famous and hilarious “play-within-a-play” put on by local tradesmen,” says Ridgely.

“This experience will put the walkers at the center of the story.” A LATE SUMMER NIGHT’S STROLL run evenings, Tuesday-Sunday, August 12 to September 6. Groups will be limited to 10 and under with scheduled start times to maintain social distance. The walk is free, but registration is required and will open to the public on Monday, July 13. Suggested donations are $20, and post-walk picnics will be available at an additional charge. “In this time when safe, fun, out-of-home experiences have been almost impossible to come by, we hope to create an activity that allows the people of St. Louis to reconnect with the city and each other in an act of engagement and shared pleasure,” concludes Ridgely.

More information will be available online at www.stlshakes.org/stroll. Leadership support for 2020’s Shakespeare in the Park programming is provided by The Whitaker Foundation, Emerson, The Bellwether Foundation, Edward Jones, Enterprise Holdings Foundations, The Strive Fund, the Missouri Arts Council, The Trio Foundation of St. Louis, Buckingham Asset Management, and the Regional Arts Commission.

The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of impactful theater in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community. The festival’s artistic and education programs reached over 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and have reached over one million since 2001. In 2019, the Festival received a “What’s Right with the Region” award from Focus St. Louis

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis (Tom Ridgely, Producing Artistic Director) announced Jan. 10 that its the 20th anniversary Shakespeare in the Park production will be “Much Ado About Nothing.”

The production will mark 20 years of free Shakespeare in Forest Park, one of the largest outdoor Shakespeare venues in the country. Much Ado will be directed by Bruce Longworth and begin performances on Wednesday, May 27, with an opening night set for Friday, May 29 at 8 pm, and will play through June 21.

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary Season, the Festival is expanding the amount and variety of completely free and open to the public programming in Shakespeare Glen leading up to the opening of Much Ado About Nothing. “Twenty years is a lifetime for an arts organization,” said artistic director Tom Ridgely in a statement, “and it’s a testament to both the vision of the founding board and the appetite of the people in St. Louis for world-class Shakespeare productions in a world-class public park. It means that an entire generation has grown up with the beloved summer tradition of hearing these timeless stories under the stars. These plays belong to everyone. The Festival exists to make sure everyone can enjoy them.”

On May 8-9 the Festival will kick-off the anniversary celebration with two family-friendly performances of Cymbeline, Shakespeare’s epic adventure about love, loss and reconciliation. The play follows Princess Innogen as she sets out on a journey to find her husband and – with courage and ingenuity – clear her good name.

These encore performances will be given by TourCo, the Festival’s regional touring company, and will be directed by Tom Ridgely featuring Hannah Geisz, Britteny Henry, Mary Heyl, Keating, Halli Pattison and Jenni Ryan. TourCo’s performance of Cymbeline will be the first outdoor performance of its kind. TourCo has exclusively performed in schools and community centers for the past 19 years, and this first Park performance will kick off the Festival’s 20th Birthday Bash weekend.

The Birthday Bash will celebrate the Festival’s 20th anniversary, complete with food trucks, live music, family activities, and more On May 15-17 the Shakespeare Festival is partnering with the St. Louis International Film Festival to present the inaugural Shakespeare Movie Weekend in the Glen, with three nights of Shakespeare-inspired films for all ages. On Friday, 10 Things I Hate About You starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew will kick off the weekend. 1994’s beloved and acclaimed The Lion King, based loosely on Hamlet, will follow on Saturday; and the series will end Sunday with St. Louis-born Vincent Price’s Theatre of Blood, a campy horror-comedy in which a slighted Shakespearean actor (Price) seeks poetic and murderous revenge on his critics – killing them in the same ways made infamous by Shakespeare.

Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring comedies. The central characters, Beatrice and Benedick, are thorny, intelligent, witty, and hopelessly bad at love. A battle royale ensues in a hilarious attempt to resist their overpowering mutual attraction that makes Much Ado such a timeless story of romance, suspicion and restoration. This will Bruce Longworth’s fifth Shakespeare in the Park production, following 2010’s Hamlet, 2012’s Othello, 2014’s Henry V and 2017’s The Winter’s Tale. The creative team is rounded out by Josh Smith (Scenic Design), Dorothy Englis (Costume Design), John Wylie (Lighting Design) and Kathy Ruvuna (Sound Design) and Matt Pace & Brien Seyle (Original Music).

Performances are free and open to the public. Seats and blankets may be reserved or audiences may bring their own. Please visit sfst.com for more information. Leadership support for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2020 season is provided by the Whitaker Foundation. The Festival is also funded in part by the Hearst Foundations, The Bellwether Foundation, the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis. BIOS Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of impactful theater in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community.

Bruce Longworth

The festival’s artistic and education programs reached over 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and have reached over one million since 2001. In 2019, the Festival received a “What’s Right with the Region” award from Focus St. Louis. Bruce Longworth (Director)* is a Resident Artist at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and previously directed The Winter’s Tale (2017), Henry V (2014), Othello (2012), and Hamlet (2010) for Shakespeare in the Park. He has been a faculty member in the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University since 1985 and is the Head of the Performance programs. Local and regional directing credits include Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Repertory Theatre St. Louis, Pulitzer Museum, Saint Louis Symphony, Lyceum Theatre, Mustard Seed Theatre, New Jewish Theatre, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Missouri Thespians, International Thespians and many shows for the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster. Bruce is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Actors Equity Association.

By Andrea BraunContributing WriterLove’s Labor’s Lost is a “play” in the strictest sense of the word, and it’s fun to watch the characters pontificate, read their letters aloud (even if a couple of them go awry), flirt, and stretch language to illogical limits and syllogistic absurdity.

It’s well known in theatre circles that this early work in the Shakespeare canon isn’t often performed and conventional wisdom has it that it’s simply dated. Its puns and jokes are too much of their own time for contemporary audiences to “get” them. It also could be static considering how much standing and speaking there is if the stage business isn’t choreographed to avoid it.

I’m certainly pleased that director Tom Ridgely didn’t think in those limited terms. Our new artistic director of the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has given us a comic jewel. I’m not familiar enough with the text to cite specific edits and emendations that may have been made, but I think some are there. It’s particularly hard to tell because Ridgely has paced this piece at 11 out of 10, and yet it’s wonderfully easy to follow.

The basic story is simple enough. Four young noblemen decide to take an oath to forgo romance for three years to allow time for study and contemplation, and the edict is issued that Navarre shall be singular in its observation of these rules. In a trice, four young women show up. Oops! What now?

The situation is that straightforward, but complicated by politics in that the men are the friends and companions of the  King of Navarre (Sky Smith) and the Princess of France (Kea Trevett) representing her ailing father, the King, and her attendants and have come to discuss the disposition of the Aquitaine.

Flirting ensues, complete with the young men playing
dancing Muscovites (you won’t believe it until you see it) and the Princess and
her entourage exchanging jewelry to confuse the men about their identities.
There are actually two plays-within-the-play, plus funny moments from the
scholar Holofernes (Carine Montberband) and the curate Nathaniel (Katy Keating)
whose routine reminds me of a Socratic version of “Who’s On First.”

Early in the action, we meet consummate clown Costard
(Patrick Blindauer)  as he’s being
berated by the King for illicit relations with the wench Jacquinetta (Molly
Meyer). Costard shows his own facility with language when he tries to get out
of being punished for breaking the new law about congress with a woman, for
which the Spaniard, the haughty and verbose Don Armado (Philip Hernandez), also
in love with Jacquinetta, reports him. And the course is set for merriment
throughout.

The set by Jason Simms is perfect, and contains more
you than you might expect. Melissa Trn’s costumes span the ages from the
vaguely Roman slave look sported by Costard, to  Armado’s bedazzled uniform; the Curate and
Holofernes in Elizabethan dress, the noblewomen in Bennett sisters garb sans
the bonnets, and the men’s mostly timeless attire. With John Wylie’s lights, it
all combines to create a beautiful show. Rusty Wandall incorporates wandering
minstrels in his sound design, so we’re welcomed to the show with “Meet Me in
St. Louis” as we enter, and “Gloria” complete with a Blues flag at curtain call,
and much else throughout. While the actors are mostly excellent, it’s Tom
Ridgely’s show and he’s got a winner.

The Shakespeare Festival runs in Forest Park through June 23 nightly at 8 p.m. except Mondays. Admission is free and festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with a Green Show and a 25-minute version of the play performed Thursday-Sunday nights at 7:15 by the Shakespeare Squadron.

Veteran performer Philip Hernández, the only actor in Broadway history to play both Valjean and Javert in “Les Misérables,” will headline the 2019 Shakespeare Festival St. Louis production of “Love’s Labors Lost,” May 31 through June 23, at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. Preview performances are scheduled May 29-30. Performances are held nightly, excluding Mondays, and begin at 8 p.m. 

Philip Hernandez

Hernández will portray Don Adriano de Armado, the lovelorn soldier considered to be one of Shakespeare’s finest comic creations. The actor made his Broadway debut in the Original Cast of the Tony Award-winning “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” directed by Harold Prince, and created the role of Reverend Gonzalez opposite Marc Anthony and Ruben Blades in the Original Broadway Cast of Paul Simon’s “The Capeman.” TV credits include roles on “Nurse Jackie,” “Mysteries of Laura,” “Law and Order” and “Ugly Betty,” among others. 

Joining Hernández in the Festival production are Bradley James Tejeda (Duc de Biron), a native of San Antonio, Texas, and a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama, as well as New Yorkers Kea Trevett (Princess of France) and Sky Smith (King of Navarre), both emerging stars within the Shakespeare theater circle. Trevett has appeared on stages nationally with the Classic Stage Company and the Roundabout, as well as internationally in “Antigone” (Africa Tour). Her TV and film credits include “Fosse/Verdon” (FX), “Milkwater” and “The Kindergarten Teacher.” Smith’s most recent credits include “Twelfth Night” (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival) and “Love’s Labours Lost”* (The Acting Co.). 

Kea Trevett

Festival veterans include Patrick Blindauer (Costard), who appeared in 2018’s “Romeo & Juliet”; Katy Keating (Nathaniel), most recently seen with the Festival in “Into the Breeches!” and “Blow, Winds”; and Michael James Reed (Forester/Marcadé), marking his seventh park appearance. 

Other area performers making their Festival debut include Jeffery Cummings (Boyet); Carl Howell (Dull), returning to St. Louis after appearing regionally at the Repertory Theater; Carine Montbertrand (Holofernes), most recently of Titan Theatre at Queens Theatre; Naima Randolph (Moth), an alumni of the Festival’s Shakespeare Squadron and Camp Shakespeare programs; Laura Sohn (Rosaline), a graduate of Rutgers University; Molly Meyer (Jaquenetta); and Sam Jones (Longueville). Also joining the cast are Webster University Conservatory graduates Vivienne Claire Luthin (Maria) and Kiah McKirnan (Catherine), and current student Riz Moe (DuMaine). 

Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival, will direct the production, his first since taking the helm of the organization last spring. This marks the company’s 19th season of free, outdoor, professional theater in the park. 

Creative team members include Jason Simms (Set Design) of New York; Melissa Trn (Costumes), a former St. Louisan currently living in Los Angeles; and John Wylie (Lighting) and Rusty Wandall (Sound). This marks Wylie’s sixth season with the Festival, and Wandall’s eighth.

*A note on the title, “Love’s Labors Lost”:

Spelling and punctuation in early modern English weren’t nearly as regularized as they are today. Shakespeare famously never even spelled his own name the same way twice. Similarly, the first quarto of this play is titled “Loues labors lost”; the first folio has it as “Loues Labour’s Lost”; and, the second folio, “Loues Labours Lost.” Given the lack of certainty about what exactly Shakespeare intended, there are various schools of thought on how best to render those three words in modern English. Since the British “u” in “labour” was optional even in Shakespeare’s day, the Festival has opted for the more familiar American spelling. In addition, since the title contains an allusion to the Labors of Hercules, which are referred to often, along with the work of Cupid (aka Love), the Festival opted for the plural over the contraction — hence, “Love’s Labors Lost.”

About Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of impactful theater in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community. The festival’s artistic and education programs reached over 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and have reached over one million since 2001. Leadership support for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2019 season is provided by the Whitaker Foundation. The festival is also funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis. For more information, please visit www.sfstl.com, or call 314-531-9800.

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TShakespeare Festival St. Louis’ Education Tour introduces students to themes that transcend genres, cultures and centuries

Power, ambition, courage, and fate vs. free will – issues people have grappled with no matter the culture or century – are just a few of the themes students will learn a bit more of as part of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ award-winning Education Tour, now through April 14.

The tour includes more than 100 performances and workshops conducted at 50 schools throughout the bi-state area and rural Missouri. 

The 2019 tour will feature two productions in rep: a timely interpretation of “Macbeth,” adapted and directed by Joanna Battles, and “The Last Cupcake,” an original play written by Nancy Bell and directed by Michael James Reed. “The Last Cupcake,” is a folktale set in the modern world, with plenty of laughs, a little bit of math, and a gentle message about sharing resources. It is inspired by two traditional stories, “The Magic Porridge Pot” and “The Gingerbread Man.” 

Interactive workshops will accompany the performances and provide students with the tools to write their own plays, explore language to unlock the stories and characters packed into Shakespeare’s plays, and use key principles of character education to build on the moral dilemmas presented by some of the Bard’s most infamous characters. Supplemental curriculum guides are also available online at www.sfstl.com. 

“The Education Tour is a central part of the Festival’s programming, not only because it introduces so many young people to the pleasures and benefits of Shakespeare and live performance, but also because of how it engages with the Greater St. Louis area both in Missouri and Illinois,” said Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival.

“That range is so important as the Festival looks to thicken the ties between St. Louis and larger region that we’re a part of. Shakespeare’s plays, and the theater in general, are all about revealing our interdependency. The Education Tour makes that manifest.” 

Support for the tour comes from the Monsanto Fund, a philanthropic arm of Bayer, which has sponsored the Education Tour’s visits to rural communities since 2013.

“Learning about Shakespeare can be exciting and at the same time a bit intimidating,” said Michelle Insco, Monsanto Fund program officer. “Through its annual Education Tour, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has made the works of this great classical writer accessible and relatable for students throughout the region. The Monsanto Fund is proud to support arts programs which can be enjoyed in the communities where Bayer employees live and work.” 

The Festival’s touring productions, workshops and study materials have a 19-year legacy of success in bringing to life the Bard’s characters and their words to more than 300,000 students, and in the process, have won accolades from educators throughout the region.

Shakespeare Festival is one of 40 professional theater companies selected to bring the finest productions of Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students in communities across the United States through Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. 

The Festival’s education programs also include Camp Shakespeare and the SHAKE 101 artist residency program. During the eight-week SHAKE 101 program, students receive hands-on training from professional teaching artists in performance skills, the history and language of Shakespeare, and careers in the arts.

The SHAKE 101 program will be offered to four schools in 2019: Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Ferguson, St. Cecilia’s School in St. Louis, and a combined program connecting students from Clayton and McCluer High Schools. 

In addition to support from the Monsanto Fund, the Festival’s education programs also receive generous support from the Gateway Foundation, Saigh Foundation, UMB Bank, Incarnate Word Foundation, and First Bank. Financial assistance is provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. 

About Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of new plays in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community. The festival’s artistic and education programs reached more than 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and over one million since the festival’s first season in 2001. Leadership support for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2019 season is provided by the Whitaker Foundation. The festival is also funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis. For more information, please visit www.sfstl.com, or call 314-531-9800.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Announces ‘

Tom Ridgely to direct the production set for May 31 – June 23 in Forest Park

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis announced today that “Love’s Labors Lost” will be the 2019 season main stage production at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. A comedic masterpiece by William Shakespeare, the production is scheduled May 31 through June 23; preview nights are set for May 29-30.

Tom Ridgely, executive producer of the Festival, will direct the production, his first since taking the helm of the organization last spring. 

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

Interesting point of note: “Love’s Labors Lost” features the single longest word in all of Shakespeare’s plays – honorificabilitudinitatibus. 

“’Love’s Labors Lost’is one of Shakespeare’s most dazzling and delightful comedies – and a brilliant study of the ways culture shapes courtship,” Ridgely said.  “The Bard’s insights into the different ways men and women love and want to be loved have never felt so contemporary, and the climactic final scene is one of the most moving and masterful in the canon. It’s also the perfect play for Forest Park, with its lovers and clowns cavorting all over the sumptuous royal park of the King of Navarre, and I can’t wait to share it with our audiences.”

 Formerly the artistic director and co-founder of Waterwell in New York, Ridgely was responsible for developing and producing more than a dozen world premieres and adaptations of classics. Under his leadership, Waterwell was nominated for three IT awards, a Drama Desk, a New York Magazine Culture Award and a Village Voice “Best of NYC.” He also adapted and directed Waterwell’s dual-language (English/Farsi) “Hamlet,” which was designed and performed by a company of predominantly Middle Eastern and South Asian artists. Ben Brantley of the New York Times described the production as “conceptually bracing…a magnetic reminder of where Hamlet came from and what he has lost.” 

Ridgely will be joined by creative team members Jason Simms (Set Design) of New York; Melissa Trn (Costumes), a former St. Louisan currently living in Los Angeles; and John Wylie (Lighting) and Rusty Wandall (Sound). This marks Wylie’s sixth season with the Festival, and Wandall’s eighth.

The cast for “Love’s Labors Lost” will be announced in April. 

About Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents Shakespeare and works inspired by his legacy of storytelling. Since 2001, the festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of impactful theater in exciting and accessible venues throughout the St. Louis community. The festival’s artistic and education programs reached over 50,000 patrons and students during the 2018 season and have reached over one million since 2001. Leadership support for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 2019 season is provided by the Whitaker Foundation. The festival is also funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis. For more information, please visit www.sfstl.com, or call 314-531-9800.

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