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Arts & Culture

Seven standing ovations later, the St. Louis Beacon got a chance to talk to Jack Lane, the executive producer and co-founder with Michael Hamilton of Stages St. Louis, about Stages' new show, "Promises, Promises." Lane, a native New Yorker and former actor co-founded the nonprofit Stages in 1987. Growing from a budget of $50,000 to a $3.5 million budget now, Stages has blossomed into a mainstay of the local theater scene.

’The Kids Are All Right’

The title of "The Kids are All Right," a very engaging, mostly comedic look at how traditional difficulties can afflict a thoroughly modern family, can be taken at least two ways.

Val Safron, who shared the stage with the likes of Tallulah Bankhead and whose acting credits included the 1990 Disney Channel movie, "Back to Hannibal: The Return of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn," died of pneumonia on July 13 at Mother of Good Counsel Home. She was 90 and had lived in University City and Richmond Heights for many years.

A memorial Mass for Mrs. Safron will be celebrated on Friday at St. Roch Catholic Church.

Casey McCausland sees his work on the Soldiers Memorial as a way of giving back.
Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon | 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - When Casey McCausland was in second grade, he was told to draw what he wanted to be when he grew up. While most of his classmates turned in pictures of rock stars, doctors and firemen, McCausland submitted a picture of a helicopter hovering over a battlefield. The picture was very vivid. McCausland had drawn bombs exploding and a helicopter struggling to stay in the air. Amid the chaos, a soldier dangled from a rope attached to the helicopter, coming to save the day.

The plants around the World War II statue reflect the colors of the flag. Soldiers memorial
Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon | 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Casey McCausland and the Mission Continues aren't the only ones helping the Soldiers Memorial . With virtually no funding from the city or state, an army of volunteers -- not all military -- maintain and improve the memorial and its garden.

"We've had so many people involved," said master gardener Martha Conzelman.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: On Sept. 29, 1963 -- "Stan Musial Day" in St. Louis -- 27,576 fans rose to their feet as the 42-year-old Cardinals great was driven around the field seated on the back of a convertible. Team owner August "Gussie" Busch Jr. spoke on behalf of the loyal legions at Busch Stadium that Sunday afternoon and for the countless thousands watching the pre-game retirement ceremonies on live TV at home.

"We wish you could go on forever," Busch said.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When two gangs of African-American girls began fighting in the halls of Kirkwood High School this spring, Robyn Jordan, Monica Gibbs and a group of their high-achieving African-American friends got fed up. They organized to combat racial stereotypes and visited middle schools to urge girls to avoid fights when they get to high school.

Jordan and Gibbs found themselves dealing with negative stereotypes among some teachers and other students even as they wrestle with what it takes for an African-American student to achieve in a predominantly white school in a predominantly white town where they feel as though they are expected to fail.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Bernard "Bernie" Lipnick prepared well to become a rabbi, a role he actively served in for four decades at Congregation B'nai Amoona. But being a pulpit rabbi was never his goal.

"I became a rabbi - that was my title - but I didn't want to do rabbinic work," he told the St. Louis Jewish Light in 2008. "What I wanted to do was Jewish education."

A civil-rights bridge with Obama's visit

Mar 10, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Tonight Sister Antona Ebo will deliver the invocation at the fundraising dinner at which President Barack Obama will be guest of honor. Forty-Five years ago to the day, she was part of a group of St. Louisans who went to Selma, Ala., in reaction to "Bloody Sunday," three days before on March 7, 1965.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Kennedy Center awards have been handed out and the concert celebrating the gifts the award winners have given to America will be shown in a two-hour prime-time special at 8 p.m., Dec. 29 on CBS.

One of Sumner High School's gifts to the world will stand center stage with rock star Bruce Springsteen; actor Robert De Niro; comedian, writer and producer Mel Brooks; and jazz pianist Dave Brubeck.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: During an interview with the Beacon last summer, noted civil rights lawyer Frankie Freeman said she was ready to wind down, take life easy after more than a half century of civil rights work and public and private appointments. But duty has called once again, and she couldn't say no. She seldom can when the issue involves education and city schools.

Elsie Roth shows off a book that describes her father's heroism during World War I, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Mary Delach Leonard | 2009 St. Louis Beacon photo

If you visit the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington this Veterans Day, chances are you will not see the Distinguished Service Cross awarded to Army Sgt. William Shemin for heroism in France during World War I.

Shemin was awarded the medal -- the nation's second-highest military decoration -- for leaping from a trench into heavy machine gun and rifle fire to carry three wounded comrades to safety.

Vito Comporato, right, and another worker during the construction of the Gateway Arch.
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Archives

On the morning of Oct. 28, 1965, ironworker Vito Comporato peered down from atop the Gateway Arch and watched what looked like hundreds of ants gathering on the riverfront 630 feet below.

There were Boy Scout ants with American flags and busloads of the city's schoolchildren ants.

The mayor ant was down there, too, probably with the rest of the VIP ants on a dignitary platform the size of a twig.

Bernar Venet, 2 Arcs x 4, 230.5 Degree Arc x 5. The pink sign on the recent photo The safety of children who come to Citygarden is the sole responsibility of their caregivers. Playing in or near or on sculpture is inherently dangerous.
Rachel Heidenry and Donna Korando

Philanthropist M. Peter Fischer didn't mince words at the St. Louis Award ceremony Thursday. Do the Gateway Mall right, he said, and keep the hands of commercial developers and politicians off it.

Fischer, who is the 82nd person to receive the award, is known for elusiveness rather than garrulousness. It was a surprise to many that he was willing not only to accept the St. Louis Award for his philanthropy but also that he was also going to receive it in a public ceremony.

Streetcar "car-card" advertisement
Provided by Tower Grove Park

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Visitors won't be coming on streetcars to see the lily ponds in bloom as they once did -- note the "car card" advertisement above that would have been posted on the interior of a United Railways Co. streetcar. And more than likely, you won't see women in long dresses holding parasols and men in Victorian suits standing on lily pads.

But what you will find these days in the middle of historic Tower Grove Park are the same three lily ponds, newly revived after a $400,000-plus renovation. And they are looking as they did nearly a century ago when people rode streetcars to see them in full bloom, and some did pose for pictures standing on lily pads.

Learning about bonobos by meeting Lucy

Sep 17, 2008
Baby Lucy, a bonobo) is cradled by her mother, as sister Lexi looks on.
Photo by Marian Brickner | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 17, 2008 - Do you know what a bonobo is?

St. Louis photographer Marian Brickner says the 10 years she has invested in chronicling the endangered ape species will be worth it if more people are able to answer yes to that question.

"I simply wanted people to know they exist," said Brickner, a determined woman who has spent countless hours observing bonobos through her camera lens at the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida.

Vacation at home : Day 5

Aug 18, 2008
the busch tomb. 2008. 300 pixels wide
Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon Archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 18, 2008 - Up on West Florissant Avenue lies a major part of St. Louis history: Bellefontaine and Calvary cemeteries

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 15, 2008 - If there's a common theme to some of this summer's movies - other than comic books and half-remembered TV programs - it may be that a sense of exhaustion with the trappings of big-budget and CGI-enhanced action-adventure films has begun to creep in. Just as the success of "E.T." and the "Star Wars" films led to more playful special-effects extravaganzas in "Gremlins" and "Ghostbusters" 25 years ago, many of this summer's films seem to be saying, "We already know how to blow things up or send an 18-wheeler careening upside-down across a freeway. Now what?"

The Lens: Summery judgment, part five

Aug 15, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 15, 2008 -  Perhaps I should explain that post regarding "Speed Racer." Based on a poorly animated Japanese TV series, the latest film by the two brothers responsible for that cycle of diminishing returns known as the "Matrix" trilogy is a candy-colored nightmare, a bad trip that, while occasionally striking, just goes on and on. (It's 135 minutes long, roughly the length of five episodes of the TV series.) It's gaudy, indulgent and horrific to consider - but the question remains: Who thought this was a good idea?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 14, 2008- mThe Olympics are in full swing. Our athletes are bringing home the gold.

Still, all is not well in Beijing. Concerns have been swirling around Beijing's air quality for months. China's weather exacerbates the effects of the pollution. And if Mother Nature has any consistency at all, it's in being inconsistent. It will be largely a matter of luck whether the best -or worst- air quality corresponds with the outdoor Olympic events.

So you have to entertain a college student

Aug 14, 2008
A view down Washington Avenue. 2008. 300 pixels
Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 14, 2008 - It may seem daunting when your visitor is too young to enjoy the local brews but too old to be awed by the Science Center. Grant's Farm and the Magic House are no longer the easy solutions for filling an afternoon. But you may be surprised that coming up with an itinerary is actually pretty simple.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 14, 2008 - A trip to Florence, Italy, is hard to beat. It's also a long, expensive plane ride away, and with the weak dollar, you'll won't get a lot of panini for your money. So, think of this day as Florence, Missouri style, and head to St. Charles (OK, it's not on the Arno, but the Missouri is a river, plus there's history, shopping and great people watching, too.)

Letter from China: From dumplings to Gossip Girls

Aug 14, 2008

This post first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 14, 2008 - My favorite restaurant here in Beijing is nestled inconspicuously between my hotel and the closest subway stop. I don't even know the name of this place because the sign is written in Chinese characters, but I do know that it serves delicious dumplings for 5 yuan. It was here that a friend and I ran into a lively French-speaking Chinese diplomat. We had ventured into the restaurant at 10 p.m. for a late dinner of dumplings, but chance led us to an enjoyable cultural exchange.

Kiel mask detail. 2008. 300 pixels
Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 14, 2008 - After months of work on a plan to reopen the long-dark Kiel Opera House in downtown St. Louis, the St. Louis Blues owners and McEagle Properties aren't ready yet to say that they can raise the curtain and put entertainment back on stage there. But they are continuing to move in that direction.

The Lens: Damming with faint praise

Aug 12, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 12, 2008 - The new documentary "Up the Yangtze," now playing at the Tivoli, tells the human side of the largest hydroelectric project in the world, China's Three Gorges Dam. It is written and directed by a Chinese-Canadian, Yung Chang, whose grandfather told him stories of the old China. Though a real eye-opener, it falls well short of its potential.

The Lens: Happy campers and Jolly Roger

Aug 12, 2008
Photo provided by the author

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 12, 2008 - Way back at the beginning of June, I took part in a one-week filmmaking experience. As with any production, there were months of planning, discussion, revision and tension. During the week of shooting, there was the typical drama, ego and crying you would find on any set. This particular set, however, was populated with a dozen 8-year-olds who were given the chance to play out a fantasy and make an actual movie.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 12, 2008 - "Get Smart" was a witty but minor TV comedy series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry at a time (1965) when television and movie screens were overrun with secret agents and their preposterous gadgets. The humor was broad and, like most TV comedies of its time, concentrated more on the recurring foibles of the main characters - agent Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), his patient supervisor the Chief (Edward Platt) and his female counterpart Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) - than on the complexities of plot. Agent 86 never saw a case that couldn't be solved in less than 30 minutes.

The circus circle 'erases all other lines'

Aug 11, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 11, 2008 - In a world where safety relies on the strength of a string or the bonds between aerialists' fingers, there is no room for distrust. That's why, when Roey Schafran tumbles with Mnar Asdi, these children born on different sides of a deep conflict simply become Israeli acrobats.

"To me, they're just Israeli circus kids," said Matthew Viverito, 18, a member of the youth troupe, the St. Louis Arches. He will study at Florida State University this fall. "In the beginning, I couldn't tell them apart."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 11, 2008 - Maybe the calendar says that there are five weeks or so before the end of summer, but anyone whose life is affected in any way by the school year knows that summer is almost over, autumnal equinox  or no autumnal equinox.

And how will we look back on the movies of the summer of '08, the hits, the misses, the embarrassments? 

The Lens: Well manor-ed

Aug 10, 2008

This post first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 10, 2008 - Literary adaptations can be tricky, especially when they have already been done very well. A case in point is “Brideshead Revisited,” which was made into a magnificent 11-part miniseries aired by PBS in 1981. That adaptation, which made Jeremy Irons a star, did more justice to Evelyn Waugh’s novel and was more satisfying overall. Still, English majors and other Anglophiles will have to see this new 135-minute film – now playing at Plaza Frontenac – if only for the clothes, cars, settings and contrasts.