Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Fowler

Arts and Culture Reporter

Nancy Fowler is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, with a particular delight in the stories of people working in that intersection.

She received a regional Emmy Award for news writing at WXYZ-TV in Detroit, and the Pride St. Louis' Felton T. Day Award for service to St. Louis' LGBT community. Her numerous fellowships include USC Annenberg’s NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater, and the Wake Forest University Addiction Studies Program for Journalists.

Email her: NFowler@STLPublicRadio.org

Follow her on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

The Muny's 100th season includes several favorites that will return to the stage of the outdoor theater.
Provided | The Muny

The Muny outdoor theater today announced a 100th season that honors its St. Louis heritage, classic musicals and the African-American rendition of Dorothy’s journey into Oz.

The banner season includes several favorites such as “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Muny-goers last saw the musical about the tribulations of a St. Louis family against the backdrop of the 1904 World’s Fair nine years ago.

Melanie Barrier was adopted at age 10 by a Columbia, Missouri ,couple, after living in 20 different foster homes.
Carolina Hidalgo| St. Louis Public Radio

Melanie Barrier went into the Florida foster care system as a newborn. She lived in 20 foster homes before she was adopted at age 10.

Stability existed in only one realm: music. As a child traveling from family to family, Barrier took along her beloved songs of the 1970s.

Daje Shelton and her high-school boyfriend, Antonio Shumpert, welcome their baby boy, Ahkeem, into the world.
File | Provided | Jeff Truesdell

By the time Daje Shelton of St. Louis was 17, she’d already lost lots of friends to gun violence. One was shot while waiting at a bus stop, another while walking to the store.

Shelton had few outlets for expressing her grief and coping with emotions about that trauma. In her world, fighting, not talking, was a typical way to address conflict. After one fight, she was expelled from high school.

Sept. 30, 2017. Dail Chambers works on a piece called A Song for the Black Rising at the St.ART event in Forest Park. Chambers the piece examines repetition and and reflects the current Stockley verdict protests and the 20th-century Great Migration of
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The two-day St.ART festival this weekend is billed as a street art event, but it takes places in parks, not streets.

It opened Saturday at Langenberg Field in Forest Park with local artists including Basil Kincaid, Cbabi Bayoc and Peat Wollaeger covering 8- by 10-foot canvasses with mostly black and white materials including paint, spray paint and quilted pieces.

The stark images represent deep divisions within the St. Louis community, said organizer Michael Tompkins.

“The segregation, not just in race, but also in the socioeconomic divide,” Tompkins said.

September 22, 2017 photo. Some Oktoberfest revelers in St. Charles' Frontier Park weren't happy to see protesters in a Sept. 22 demonstration.
Ryan Delaney| St. Louis Public Radio

People protesting daily against what they see as systemic police violence against African-Americans aren’t the only St. Louis-area residents who say they want to be heard.

Many white residents don’t support the protests. They can’t understand why demonstrators are pinning their protests to the not-guilty verdict for Jason Stockley, a white, former St. Louis police officer who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011. Smith was 24.

Two men confront a crowd of demonstrators during a protest Friday night in St. Charles. It was the eighth day of protests following the not-guilty verdict of white ex-St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley on first-degree murder charges.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

One week after a judge acquitted former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of murder in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith, protesters continued their push for change, taking their message Friday to the mostly white city of St. Charles.

September 20, 2017 photo. About 100 people attended a town hall meeting at the O'Fallon Park Recreation Complex.
File photo | Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

The next police chief of St. Louis needs to reign in a department that has allowed its officers to too quickly use deadly force and frequently mistreat African-Americans, residents said Wednesday night.

St. Louis is preparing to hire someone to replace former Chief Sam Dotson, who retired April 19, the day after Mayor Lyda Krewson was took office. Since then, Larry O’Toole has led the department as interim chief.

Protesters marched peacefully and largely in silence throughout downtown St. Louis early Monday morning. 9/18/17
Brit Hanson | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:45 p.m. to recast throughout, add details about cleanup — When morning broke Monday, about 100 people already were in the streets of downtown St. Louis to silently protest the acquittal of former St. Louis officer Jason Stockley and high schoolers in the suburbs were walking out of classes.

It was the fourth day of action since a judge decided Stockley wasn’t guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. More than 150 people have been arrested since Friday’s verdict, including 123 people Sunday night in downtown, where businesses mended broken windows Monday.

An evening protest took place in the Delmar Loop, which hosted a largely peaceful demonstration Saturday before a few people broke several windows.

Sept. 11, 2017 photo. Prison Performing Arts Sescond Acts Ensemble members Robert Morgan (left) and Lyn O'Brien are buddies as well as fellow actors.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ Prison Performing Arts serves 1,000 inmates every year, some as actors, others as audience members. But leaving prison doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to the program.

Through its Second Acts Ensemble alumni troupe, PPA provides a theatrical outlet on the outside for those who honed their acting skills behind bars.

In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Robert Morgan and Lyn O’Brien, two Second Acts members, about how PPA and recently deceased founder Agnes Wilcox changed their lives.

September 12, 2017 photo. Shakespeare in the Streets' "Blow, Winds," inspired by "King Lear," is staged on the steps of the St. Louis Public Library, Central Library, downtown.
Provided | Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

More than 1 million of us call the St. Louis area home.  But depending on whether you live in Affton, Ladue, Wellston or any other of the 90 municipalities — and where you went to high school — the experience varies widely.

A new play puts a Shakespearean spin on living in St. Louis. “Blow, Winds,” inspired by “King Lear,” is this year’s production of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ Shakespeare in the Streets.

Pulitzer Arts Foundation

Updated September 1 with St. Louis on the Air remembrance –

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the life and legacy of Agnes Wilcox, who died unexpectedly in Canada earlier this week.

Among the many people who could talk about Wilcox, the founder of Prison Performing Arts, three joined us:

Storyteller Bobby Norfolk once worked as a park ranger at The Arch. The lack of represenation of York in the Museum of Westward Expansion helped inspire his current performance.
File photo | Provided | Bobby Norfolk

Who were the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition across the Western United States? The obvious answer is Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. But many likely don't know that an enslaved African played a crucial third role.

Lewis and Clark are famous for undertaking the “Corps of Discovery” in the early 1800s. But another man, York, typically only receives a footnote in history books.

St. Louis storyteller Bobby Norfolk wants the change that. In our latest Cut & Paste arts and culture podcast, we talk with Norfolk, whose Sept. 15 storytelling event at The Link Auditorium in the Central West End focuses on York’s experience, which included adventure, hardship and terrible mistreatment.

Good Life Growing operates 20 "hoop houses," which are a kind of greenhouse.
File photo | Provided | James Forbes

An urban farming nonprofit is the winner of a competition for a free restaurant space in St. Louis’ Old North area.

James Forbes and his partners at Good Life Growing will open Old North Provisions, a restaurant, grocery store and co-op at 2720 N. 14th St.

They’ll offer their own and other local produce on store shelves, a buffet line and take-out packages. Forbes said his operation will provide an alternative to neighboring Crown Candy Kitchen, known for its ice cream and hearty sandwiches.

Mazy Gilleylen bounces on a trampoline outside her home in Overland. Summer 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Mazy Gilleylen of Overland is looking forward to her 12th birthday in September. But she’s dreading what comes next.

Approaching puberty is alarming for transgender kids like Mazy. To them, the changes can feel like like a betrayal of who they really are. Doctors can prescribe puberty-blocking drugs to prevent unwanted prevent breast growth or a deepening voice. But the cost is out of reach for many families.

July 27 photo: Mark Kelley helps cast members of "In the Heights" stage a fight while Christina Rios looks on from behind him.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

This has been a super-crazy week for St. Louis theater professional and mom Christina Rios.

One of her three younger children started kindergarten. Her teenager entered her junior year of high school. And her theater company R-S Theatrics geared up to open its largest-ever production: “In the Heights.”

Dan Viggers' Fringe play "Liberals vs Zombies vs Conservatives" traps people of opposing political persuasions in a house with zombies.
Provided | St. Lou Fringe

The 2017 St Lou Fringe festival of performing arts opens Thursday with a new menu of choices. For example, paying for one show will get you a free “Meatball” on the side.

“Meatball Séance,” to be exact. That’s the name of one of two dozen non-highlighted productions this year. When you buy a ticket to one of the three main performances — “A Song for Vanya,” “Snow White” and Ashleyliane Dance Company’s “Evolution” — you get a voucher for “Meatball” or other non-headliners including “Liberals vs Zombies vs Conservatives,” one of two zombie-themed shows this year.

Natasha Toro (Vanessa) and Marshall Jennings (Benny) are shown on the bottom row. Jesse Muñoz (Usnavi) and Cassandra Lopez (Nina) are on the top.
Provided | Autumn Rinaldi | R-S Theatrics

Way before his blockbuster play “Hamilton,”  Lin-Manuel Miranda was a college student, struggling with a script about his upbringing in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

On Friday, Miranda’s early musical “In the Heights” comes to St. Louis' .Zack Theatre in the Grand Center area. The R-S Theatrics play tackles one of today's toughest subjects: immigration. It's a huge draw for local Latino actors and those from other states, including one theater professional from New York City.

This file photo of painter Rey Alfonso shows him during a 2015 return visit to Matanzas, Cuba, where he was born and grew up.
Provided | Patricia Alfonso

When Cuban-born painter Rey Alfonso was 12, his mother died. The next year, he built a raft and set out alone for the United States, away from Fidel Castro's Cuba and all that was familiar.

It would be the first of many attempts to pursue a new life. After the raft sank a few miles off shore, the Cuban Coast Guard picked him up and sent back to his grandmother’s house. A few months later, he tried once more and again, his raft sank.

This is an image of late actor Eartha Kitt from "Angelitos Negros #1," a video by artist Mickalene Thomas.
Provided | Contemporary Art Museum

Many St. Louisans have been watching the Contemporary Art Museum closely since an exhibition last fall was viewed as offensive to black people, particularly women.

But an upcoming display could leave CAM visitors with a better impression. On Sept. 8, the museum opens four shows, including one featuring the work of Mickalene Thomas, an African-American multimedia artist.

Local art collector Adrienne Davis said Thomas’ images of black women stand in stark contrast to those of Kelley Walker, a white male artist whose Sept. 2016 exhibition outraged many visitors.

Matthew Kerns poses for a portrait with his late father's mounted deer head. The head, of the first deer his father killed, is now his prized possession. July 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Who among us hasn’t grappled with building a relationship with our parents?

Matthew Kerns, director of the St. Lou Fringe festival of performing arts, struggled to bond with a father who was very different from him. Kerns was a gay theater kid; his dad was a stereotypically “manly” man who drove a truck and hunted deer.

File photo: Customers line up outside Crown Candy Kitchen, which sits across from 2720 N. 14th Street. (June 5, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Contestants in the Fantasy Food Fare competition have been sweating it out in overtime to see who would make the final-three list for a free restaurant space in St. Louis' Old North neighborhood.

The list was set to be released on Tuesday. But Nos. 3 and 4 were too close to call. Finally, Wednesday night, the six judges decided to the only thing to do was expand the list to four finalists for the 2720 N. 14th St. location, across from Crown Candy Kitchen.

It took several years for members of St. Louis' skating community to renovate the old St. Liborius church. A company called Hogan Street Partners owns the building; a nonprofit called Liborius Urban Arts Studios operates the space.
File photo | Provided | Ashley Seering

In recent years, St. Louisans have turned abandoned buildings into apartments, art galleries and restaurants.  But a grassroots effort has repurposed a north St. Louis space into a much more active venue.

File Photo. Alderman Terry Kennedy says the delay in naming a St. Louis poet laureate could stretch into next year.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When members of the Board of Aldermen created St. Louis' poet laureate position, they intended to promote unity. Indeed, inaugural official poet Michael Castro was lauded for building bridges with his words.

But now the post has become a lightning rod for disagreement. 

At issue is whether the task force that recommended Castro's replacement complied with the ordinance that established the position. If not, city aldermen want to know if that invalidates the task force's choice of Jane Ellen Ibur as the city’s next poet laureate.

File: The Knuckles met and became friends before their musical collaboration began.
File photo | Provided | The Knuckles

Don’t put Rockwell Knuckles and Aloha Micheaux in a box.

He’s known as a rapper and she’s more of a pop singer, who made it to the finals in “American Idol” in 2005. But the St. Louis performers shun labels in their collaboration known as The Knuckles.

File photo: Under the leadership of Rick Dildine, attendance at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has grown by 55 percent and contributed revenue has increased 38 percent.
Provided | Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

The executive and artistic director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is resigning to take another job.

Rick Dildine will become artistic director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival on Aug. 1.

Dildine, who joined the St. Louis organization in 2009, resigned once before, in 2014. He took a similar position in Lennox, Massachusetts and returned one year later.

Nika Marble is an artist, musician and head bartender at Elaia and Olio. (June 23, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Nika Marble’s artistic toolbox holds an eclectic mix: A shot of tonic, a staccato note and a sharp pair of scissors.

Each tool is in service of one of her artistic endeavors: music, mixology and collage making. But as she dons one hat after another, how does Marble define herself? In this reboot of our Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Marble about an identity crisis that plagues many creative people.

“Am I am I an artist who waits tables? Or am I a waiter who occasionally makes art?” Marble said. “This is a thing that has worried myself and a lot of my friends in their lives.”

Planning for this year’s St. Louis Pride has been marked by some disagremeents.
Provided | St. Louis Pride

Over the decades, St. Louis’ PrideFest has grown from a few dozen people daring to come out for a day, to 200,000 community members and supporters gathering to celebrate.

Now, as St. Louis gets ready for its 36th PrideFest, the annual event is experiencing some growing pains. Planning for this year’s gathering has been marked by conflict. For Pride St. Louis President Matt Harper, it’s been a period of trying to balance the contradictory opinions of a disparate community.

“You just can’t please everyone,” Harper said.

June 12, 2017 photo. Patty Prewitt (right) and Amy Sherrill perform a scene from "Run-On Sentence" in the Prison Performing Arts production at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center
Provided | Prison Performing Arts

A St. Louis-based organization called Prison Performing Arts (PPA) is taking a fresh approach in its 27-year-old effort to turn inmates into actors.

The program is known for the “thees,” “thous” and “forswears” of Shakespeare’s scripts. But a contemporary play on stage Thursday at the Women’s Eastern, Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia expands PPA beyond The Bard.

“Run-On Sentence” is based on interviews done with those inside the institution. Inmate Patty Prewitt said the playwright Stacie Lents took time to really understand their world.

File photo: St. Louisan Chris Akerlind won a 2017 Tony Award for his lighting work in "Indecent," featuring Adina Verson. right, and Katrina Lenk, as Rifkele and Menke.
File | Provided | Carol Rosegg/Courtesy of Sam Rudy Media Relations

A St. Louis theater professional took home a Tony Award Sunday night.

Chris Akerlind, resident lighting designer for Opera Theatre of St. Louis, won the Tony for Best Lighting Design of a Play for his work in the Broadway show, “Indecent!”

Akerlind has been with Opera Theatre since the early 1990s. This is his second Tony Award. In 2005, he won in the same category for “A Light in the Piazza.”

Stéphane Denève will be the St. Louis Symphony's next music director.
Photo by Drew Farrell | Courtesy of St. Louis Symphony

The St. Louis Symphony has named Stéphane Denève as its next music director.

Denève, music director of the Brussels Philharmonic and principal guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, will serve as music director designate during the 2018-2019 season. His three-year term begins with the 2019-2020 season.

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