The St. Louis Black Rep rounds up its season of virtual programming with a final mainstage production of an original work.  Do I Move You? –  based on a collection of poetry by Dr. Jonathan Smith, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Saint Louis University and President of The Black Rep Board of Directors – will stream on Vimeo June 15-30.

Smith’s collection of poetry, music, and dance pulls inspiration from Jazz, religion, love, family, and some of the greatest musicians of our time –  Donny Hathaway, Louis Jordan, and Marvin Gaye. Conceived by Producing Director Ron Himes, using devised theatre, Black Rep Director and Choreographer Heather Beal weaves a web of music, dance, and poetry. Themes of betrayal, identity, discovery, and love flow throughout the performance, culminating to answer one very important question, “Do I Move You?”

Produced at the Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, the production features the Black Rep’s Acting Intern Company Kentrell Jamison, Christian Kitchens, Theorri London, Brian McKinley, Tyler White, Jesmelia Williams, and Christina Yancy. Also featured are local Vocalist and Musical Director, Amber Rose, Dancer Samantha Madison, Percussionist Bernard Long Jr, Bass Player Jeffrey Anderson, and Lead Guitarist Dennis Brock. With scenic and projection design by Peter and Margery Spack, lighting design by Sean Savoie, costume design by Ellen Minch, sound engineering by Kareem Deanes, editing by Avatar Studios, and Kasey Dunaski as Stage Manager.

Tickets for Do I Move You? are available at theblackrep.org or by calling our Box Office at 314-534-3807. Streaming free on demand, a suggested donation of $25 will directly help support the theatre company and its artists.

The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival is pleased to welcome back audiences for a new season of free Shakespeare productions in 2021, beginning with the return to Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park with King Lear. 

The Festival is committed to preserving the health of our staff, actors, and audience and will share complete safety precautions closer to performance dates in compliance with the guidelines of health officials.

The 21st season of outdoor performances starting with KING LEAR starring André De Shields in Shakespeare Glen, a new 24-stop touring production of OTHELLO and the return of Shakespeare in the Streets in the historic North St. Louis neighborhood of THE VILLE.

On May 3, the company of 18 talented (and fully vaccinated) actors will come together in St. Louis for the first rehearsal of King Lear under Director Carl Cofield. Get to know their names and faces. 

This is the 2021 Shakespeare in the Park cast: 

André De Shields (King Lear), Rayme Cornell (Goneril), J. Samuel Davis (Kent), Leland Fowler (Edmund) Allen Gilmore (Fool), Nicole King (Cordelia), Jason Little (Albany), Daniel Molina  (Edgar), Carl Overly, Jr. (Cornwall), Michael Tran (Oswald/France), Jacqueline Thompson (Regan) and Brian Anthony Wilson (Gloucester). With support from Atum Jones and the St. Louis Black Rep Intern Company: Kentrell Jamison, Theorri London, Brian McKinley, Tyler White and Christina Yancy.   

Reservations for King Lear will open on May 2!  Stay tuned for more information on how to attend. The opening show of the 21st season will run June 2 – June 27.

KING LEAR

Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park June 2-27
Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award-winner André De Shields (Broadway: HadestownThe Wiz) stars in Shakespeare’s greatest — and most modern — masterpiece.

Carl Cofield (Associate Artistic Director, Classical Theatre of Harlem) directs an all-BIPOC cast from New York, Chicago and St. Louis.


OTHELLO Aug. 3 -29

TourCo presents 24 performances in Missouri & Illinois
Our new outdoor touring troupe visits public parks across the bi-state region. A Living Study Guide before each performance explores the themes and modern impact of Othello — Shakespeare’s gripping tragedy of jealousy, race and resentment.


SHAKESPEARE IN THE STREETS: THE VILLE Sept. 9-11

Annie Malone Children’s Home, 63133

After an extended storytelling residency, Shakespeare in the Streets returns with a new play based on Shakespeare and inspired by the Ville neighborhood, one of the most historically significant Black communities in America. 

The Black Rep continues its season of virtual programming with a mainstage production of Home, a moving love story by American playwright and screenwriter Samm-Art Williams, streaming on Vimeo beginning on April 15 and running through April 25. Nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award, the play moved from the Negro Ensemble Company to the Cort Theatre on Broadway in 1980.

Directed by Producing Director Ron Himes, Home tells the story of farm boy Cephus Miles who has inherited the family farm. He is content working the land until the girl he loves leaves for college and marries someone else. After a stint in prison for his opposition to the Vietnam War, he moves to the big city where he enjoys the fast-paced city life. His return to North Carolina, the farm, and the girl, reveals the true meaning of Home.

Produced at the Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University, the production features members of the Black Rep’s Acting Intern Company with Brian McKinley (Spell #7, Milk Like Sugar) portraying Cephus Miles, Christina Yancy (Spell #7) as Woman One/Pattie Mae Wells, and Tyler White (Spell #7, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope) as Woman Two; with scenic and projection design by Peter and Margery Spack, lighting design by Joe Clapper, costume design by Ellen Minch, and Kasey Dunaski as stage manager.

Home is supported in part by The Nebraska Rep #realchange. Tickets for Home are available at The Black Rep website at theblackrep.org or by calling our Box Office at 314-534-3807. Streaming free on demand, a suggested donation of $25 will directly help support the theatre company and its artists.

# # #

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

“Spell # 7” will be The Black Rep debut of rap artist Tef Poe. Tef Poe has received numerous Hip-Hop awards for his work, and was recently featured as a Harvard Fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Research institute.

Tef says “This is an opportunity for me to sharpen my skills and work with some of the best talent in this region.  The Black Rep is known for reimagining what’s possible in Black entertainment.  I knew this would be a challenge for me. My background obviously isn’t rooted in theatre. But the hip hop world has a few commonalities so I’m able to play into my strengths with this character. I’m honored to be a part of this production.  My respect for my cast mates and our director is insurmountable.”

“Spell # 7” will also feature Drummond Crenshaw, Robert Crenshaw, and Jacqueline Thompson as well as four of our Professional Acting Interns: Brian McKinley, Tyler White, Christina Yancy, and Camille Sharp.

“Spell # 7” is a striking choreopeom by the author of “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf”, Ntozake Shange.  Set in a bar in St Louis frequented by Black artists and musicians, actors, and performers. In a series of dreamlike vignettes and poetic monologues, they commiserate about the difficulties they face as Black artists.  The piece is framed by the narrator, Lou (played by Brian McKinley), a magician who wants to use his magic to help the artists come to terms with their Blackness and rejoice in their identities.

“Spell # 7” is the second production supported by the Sophisticated Ladies Giving Initiative.  This initiative supported last year’s production of Nina Simone: Four Women by Christina Ham.

This production is also funded with support from the Regional Arts Commission, World Wide Technology, Washington University in St. Louis, Steward Family Foundation, and Centene Corporation. “Spell # 7” is also underwritten in part through a grant from the Creative Impact Fund for Diversifying the Arts – a partnership between the Arts and Education Council and local community leaders.

“Spell # 7” is directed by Ron Himes, with choreography by Heather Beal, scenic design by Dunsi Dai, lighting design by Joe Clapper, costume design by Brandin Vaughn, and sound design by James Biko.  Jim Anthony is the stage manager and D’Angelo Himes is the assistant stage manager.

The production will run Feb. 19 – March 8 at the AE Hotchner Studio Theatre on the campus of Washington University. Tickets are available at www.theblackrep.org/, or by calling the box office at 314-534-3807.

###

About The St Louis Black Repertory CompanyThe St Louis Black Repertory Company was founded in 1976 by Producing Director Ron Himes. The Black Rep is one of the largest, professional African-American theatre companies in the nation and the largest African-American performing arts organization in Missouri. Quality professional dramas, comedies and musicals by primarily African-American and international playwrights are produced. Mainstage productions and education programs combine to reach more than 80,000 people annually.

The Black Rep will present a concert version of the
Broadway hit musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at the 560 Music Center on Saturday,
Oct, 12, for One Night Only.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a musical revue with a book by
Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., and music by various composers and
lyricists as arranged and orchestrated by Luther Henderson. It is named after
the song by Fats Waller (with Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf), “Ain’t Misbehavin’”.

The musical is a tribute to the black musicians of the
1920s and 1930s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance, an era of growing
creativity, cultural awareness, and ethnic pride. It was a time when Manhattan
nightclubs like the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of
high society and Lenox Avenue dives were filled with piano players banging out
the new beat known as swing.
An ensemble of performers present an evening of rowdy, raunchy, and humorous
songs that encapsulate the various moods of the era and reflect Waller’s view
of life as a journey meant for pleasure and play.

The Chicago Sun Times said: “Fun and off-the-charts
galvanic energy are the main orders of the day in this show… Talk about
“Spreadin’ the Rhythm Around.” Pure joy.”

The Huffington Post said: “This is a boozy, after hours
party, and we’re all invited.”

The cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in concert features cast
members from the Season 43 opening hit production of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t
Cope” led by Drummond Crenshaw, Amber Rose, Tyler White, Robert Crenshaw, and
Sieglinda Fox.

It is directed by Producing Director Ron Himes, with
musical direction by Charles Creath, choreography by Kirven Douthit-Boyd and
Heather Beal.

Proceeds from the 2019 Gala go to support The Black Rep’s
Community and Education programs such as: 
Summer Performing Arts (SPA), Teen Tech Program, The Professional Intern
Program and many others.

Other highlights of the evening will also feature a
presentation of the Frankie Muse Freeman Spirit Awards to Anne Marie Clark and
Wesley Bell as well as the Woodie King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr.
Glory Van Scott and George Faison.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is sponsored in part by Centene
Corporation, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Edward Jones, Webster University, McCormack
Baron Salazar Inc., Keith Williamson, Gisele Marcus, Tom and Barbara Feiner,
Loren and Marcia Grossman, Lionel Phillip, Hank Webber and Chris Jacobs.

For tickets or more information, contact the box office at
314-534-3807 or go online to theblackrep.org.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
At its best, “Crowns” is a jubilant celebration of family, faith and traditions, and the Black Rep’s sharp ensemble radiates joy as they take us to church. It’s a gem of a show, gleaming with polish and pizzazz.
The small cast of seven raises their glorious voices in beautiful harmonies, delivering spirituals, gospel standards, church hymns and ballads, which are woven into a story thread that includes vignettes.
As the youngest Yolanda, Tyler White, opens with hip-hop, to set the scene for her life in Brooklyn and showing her youthful energy and independent spirit. She moves down South, to stay with her grandmother, Mother Shaw (Anita Jackson), after a family tragedy. She learns about her history, forges an identity and what it means to have these “church ladies” in her life.

By honoring women who have impacted their lives, we feel the reverence and love for these role models. They are having as much fun on stage as the audience.
With outstanding creative elements, the show pops with color – especially Designer Daryl Harris’ gorgeous costumes and an incredible array of hats that reflect time periods and fashion trends.
The women are decked out in well-tailored Sunday best that reflects their characters. In a dramatic entrance, a rainbow of similar dresses is lowered for the women to change into and tell us about their journey.
Scenic Designer Dunsi Dai’s innovative set includes a large straw hat as the centerpiece. Joe Clapper’s lighting design enhances that symbolic piece.
With considerable flair, director Linda Kennedy focused on what made this 2002 gospel musical by Regina Taylor strike a chord with audiences. It has become the most produced musical in the country.
If Taylor’s name rings a bell, she is an award-winning actress, best known as the housekeeper on “I’ll Fly Away,” NBC’s critically acclaimed drama that ran for two seasons from 1991 to 1993.
She was inspired not only by her role models and the music of their churches, but also a coffee-table book, “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church,” by Craig Marberry and Michael Cunningham.
Musical Director Charles Creath expertly plays keyboards and Matthew Clark handles the percussion, a tight combo at the rear of the stage; they sound terrific. The score, with familiar gospel songs, is at times moving and other times fun.
The movements all have a purpose, too. An experienced Alvin Ailey dancer, choreographer Kirven Douthit-Boyd’s work is another bright spot, conveying the faith, hope and love of this group.
Eleanor Humphrey as Jeanette, Tyler White as Yolanda and Anita Jackson as Mother Shaw in “Crowns.” Photo by Phillip Hamer.Anita Jackson, with customary power and grace, commands the stage with her vocal prowess and leadership role.
Other likable presences include Leah Stewart as Mabel, Amber Rose as Velma, Maureen L. (Hughes) Williams as Wanda and Eleanor Humphrey as Jeanette. They work together well. Tyler White is a natural as Yolanda.
As the sole male in multiple roles, Myke Andrews’ winning personality is a plus, and he also has a strong voice.
The show is structured with vignettes that are told like at a church service – procession, morning service, wedding, funeral, baptism and recessional. It flows well, engaging us with their stories and songs.
The cast connects the message and history lessons with warmth and good cheer. They make these characters come alive – people you know or wish you knew.
The Black Rep’s production of “Crowns” runs Thursdays through Sundays Sept. 5 through Sept. 23 at Washington University’s Edison Theatre, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 534-3807 or visit www.theblackrep.org.