Performing Arts | St. Louis Public Radio

Performing Arts

Kevin Gardner is a Gateway Men's Chorus member and an Master Sergeant in the Air Force.
Carolina Hidalgo| St. Louis Public Radio



The deep camaraderie of singing with other gay men drew Kevin Gardner to St. Louis’ Gateway Men’s Chorus. Eleven years later, the Air Force Master Sergeant believes it’s time for the group to broaden its focus.


Marsha Evans and the Coalition at the 1860 Saloon on February 24. The band played blues, hip-hop, and r&b songs during their performance.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Marsha Evans is no stranger to the blues. She has performed blues music all her life and can be found performing at venues across St. Louis with her band, Marsha Evans and the Coalition.

But Evans doesn’t confine her passion for the blues to the stage. She’s a strong advocate for the music. For weeks, she and other musicians in the St. Louis region have discussed ways to honor the legacy of the blues and keep the treasured African-American art form alive.

“You’re pouring your life in three or four minutes of musical expression — your innermost emotions, all of the pain you felt on any particular day for a number of months or years,” she said.

Visual artist and RAC grantee Ellie Balk works on a mural. She hopes to use some of her RAC fellowship money to create a workbook to demystify the process of creating public art.
Michael Toolan

The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis has reached a major milestone in a program supporting local artists.

In 2013, RAC began awarding $20,000 to 10 Artist Fellows. Today, the group announced its fifth round of grants, bringing the total to $1 million.

This album was recorded live at Club Imperial in 1965.
George Edick

When George Edick Jr. was in elementary school, he received a present he’ll never forget: a guitar from Ike Turner.

Edick grew up in the 1950s around musicians like Turner who played at his father’s Club Imperial, 6306-28 West Florissant Ave., in the Walnut Park West neighborhood in northwest St. Louis.

The run-down building escaped the wrecking ball last month after the St. Louis Preservation Board voted to save it.

The St. Louis Symphony performs at Powell Hall in a 2016 concert.
File | St. Louis Symphony

The St. Louis Symphony has announced its 2018-2019 schedule, which includes a mixture of classics and new works.

The method of selecting the lineup was also new. For its 139th season, the orchestra asked its musicians to weigh in.

It just made sense to include them, according to Marie-Hélène Bernard, symphony president and CEO .

Carmen and Isabel Garcia with a Clydesdale, on location in September 2017 at Grant's Farm for a promotional St. Louis Blues video.
Carmen Garcia

For years, teenager Isabel Garcia performed in school plays as her mother, Carmen, beamed from the audience.

Isabel knew her mom once loved to perform, too, and had the playbills to prove it. But she’d never seen her mother on stage.

Michael Ferguson and Betsy Bowman starred in Bluff City Theater's 2017 presentation of The Glass Menagerie.
Joe Anderson

A small theater company in Hannibal is giving larger St. Louis troupes a run for their money in a regional awards competition.

The 4-year-old Bluff City Theater is nominated for 12 Broadway World regional awards for the 2017 season, including Best Theater Company. Larger, more established institutions like Stages St. Louis and The Rep typically dominate the annual contest. A public vote decides the winners.

Provided | Anthony Volkman

For seven years, Ackerman School music teacher Anthony Volkman has spent his summers creating the school's annual holiday program on a budget likely to make The Grinch flinch.

“We had $400,” Volkman said. “We had basic costuming; we made sets out of cardboard and paper.”

But this year, the program will be more elaborate, thanks to a $3,000 grant from the Maritz marketing company. It's not a huge amount — enough for props for kids in wheelchairs, professional lighting and more microphones — but the impact on the kids in this K-8 Special School District building in Florissant is incalculable.

Left to right. Chorus members Samantha Madison, Kelli Lowe, Melissa Pickens, Khalid McGhee, De-Rance Blaylock, Robert Crenshaw, Duane Martin Foster, a NYC chorus member and Gheremi Clay in the October production of The Drum Major Instinct.
Provided | Theater of War

A theatrical performance coming to St. Louis on Friday ties the words of Martin Luther King Jr. to recent protests here, with the goal of getting people to talk about racism, gun violence and policing.

“The Drum Major Instinct” is based on a sermon King delivered in  February 1968, in which he encouraged followers to work not for individual glory, but collective justice. The New York company Theater of War Productions is staging the dramatic reading and choral event.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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: 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.”