The cast and crew of this year’s Shakespeare in the Streets production worked for a year to bring its take on the Bard’s “King Lear” to the steps of the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library, downtown.
But the Sept. 15 opening day of “Blow, Winds” coincided with another big event in St. Louis: Judge Timothy Wilson's non-guilty verdict in the murder case against Jason Stockley. Shakespeare Festival St. Louis canceled the weekend run amid protests against the verdict.
Theatergoers will have a chance to see it next summer. The festival plans to present “Blow, Winds” June 15-16, in connection with its annual event in Forest Park.
The decision honors the efforts of more than 100 artists, interim festival director Jennifer Wintzer said.
“Giving these artists the opportunity to share all the hard work is the most ideal component of making sure it comes back to the stage,” Wintzer said.
Story of complicated love
Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer, who is white, shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011. Protesters began marching on the night of the verdict in a movement that continues two months later.
In September, when playwright Nancy Bell learned of the cancellation, she was disappointed but supportive of the demonstrators.
“The theater in the streets that needs to be happening is the protests that you are seeing every day and night,” Bell said.
The play’s theme of St. Louisans’ complicated love for the city resonates now more than ever, Wintzer said.
“It’s timely; it’s relevant,” she said. “I think it’s important that we continue to tell the story. It was a story that came out of conversations with people all over our city.”
This year’s festival in the park production is “Romeo and Juliet." Elena Araoz, a New York-based director, actor and playwright will direct the play, which runs June 1-24. The Theatre Communications Group will also be holding its annual conference in St. Louis during that same period, on June 14-16, providing a national audience for both Shakespeare Festival productions.
Shakespeare in the Streets will take a break next year and return in 2019. The festival will consider permanently moving the Streets play from its traditional fall slot to coincide with the June event.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to engage our audiences who often come to the park to come to Shakespeare in the Streets as well,” Wintzer said.
Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL