Performing Arts | St. Louis Public Radio

Performing Arts

Artist William Burton Jr. talks with Black Rep founder Ron Himes as he works on a mural on the side of the theater company's office building on October 31, 2016.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

In the mid-1970s, Ron Himes started a St. Louis theater company to tell the stories of African-Americans.

This week, Himes and the Black Rep are marking a milestone — the company’s 40th anniversary — with a fundraising concert, and the launch of a mural project. Both are designed to draw attention to the company, which is emerging from years of turmoil.

Marjorie Owens is The Prima Donna/Ariadne in Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne on Naxos at Opera Theatre” presented by Opera Theatre St.  Louis during 2016, its 41st season.
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre St. Louis

Opera Theatre of St. Louis is celebrating important gains in financial support and audience growth.

On Friday, the company released numbers for record-breaking fundraising as well as increases in diversity and opera-goers under the age of 50. Luring younger audiences is a crucial component for a successful future, according to general director Timothy O’Leary.

The jazz-electronica group Koplant No emerged several years ago at the University of Iowa.
Provided by Koplant No

When an emerging jazz band seeks to make a fresh statement, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that its musicians would embrace the modern sounds they grew up with.

That explains the path of Koplant No, a quartet that fuses intricate jazz composition with improvisation, electronica and elements of hip-hop to capture a listener’s imagination. The Midwestern group, which this weekend returns to Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis, has a light and airy sound that can sound a bit like a futuristic movie soundtrack.

For a while, even its members didn’t know how to precisely describe what they play, saxophone player Joel Vanderheyden said. But they've agreed on a description, perhaps after learning that some listeners feel that hearing the music is like taking a journey.

“Only in probably the last couple of years we sort of stumbled upon the label of cinematic electro jazz,” he said.

Left to right: Nathan Maul, Sherard Curry and Anna Drehmer in Tesseract Theatre's "Am I Black Enough Yet?" by Clinton Johnston
Tesseract Theatre

The title of an upcoming play by St. Louis’ Tesseract Theatre is a loaded question: “Am I Black Enough Yet?”

It's a challenge that could cause discomfort but the play aims to make fun of the query with a playful approach. The first order of business is to proclaim that the entire audience is “black.” Those who were already black get to be “uber-black.”

Humberto Howard | Criteria Entertainment

The St. Louis Ballpark Village is usually a venue for throwing back a few cold ones and watching the Cardinals game. But today the venue will give locals a taste of Los Angeles. La Santa Cecilia, a modern band that fuses Mexican roots music and Pan-American sounds, from cumbia to soul, is the headliner for the En Vivo Latino Music Festival.

Kelvin Urday, center, rehearses "21 Chump Street" with, from left to right, Kevin Corpuz, Omega Jones and Phil Leveling.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis theater company opens a show by playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda tonight. No, it’s not the blockbuster “Hamilton,” although of course that’s what Miranda is known for.

R-S Theatrics is staging “21 Chump Street,” an earlier, shorter musical, as part of trio of one-acts named “Love? Actually … .” It definitely has those Miranda hallmarks: hip-hop, social issues and moral questions, in its telling of a real-life story of love, deception and a drug sting in a Palm Beach, Fla. high school.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs in Lucerne, Switzerland, 2012
Provided by Dilip Vishwanat and the St. Louis Symphony

The St. Louis Symphony will be launching its third tour in almost two decades in Europe this February.

The Symphony will perform Feb. 8-11 in the Spanish cities of Madrid, Oviedo and Valencia. The musicians will present works by composers John Adams, Antonin Dvorak, Aaron Copland, and others.

St. Louis residents will have a chance to hear those works in January before the group leaves for Spain.

Ignite Theatre company is one of nine groups to take up residence in .ZACK
Provided by Ignite Theater Company

Nine young arts groups will find a home this fall at .ZACK, the new performing arts incubator.

Created by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, the space aims to foster collaborations among the St. Louis performing artists. Its inaugural class will include dance companies, theater troupes and youth outreach initiatives.

Em Piro founded St. Lou Fringe in 2011.
Em Piro

From a modern-day operatic tribute to “The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg” to a woman interacting with a toy chicken, St. Lou Fringe offers entertainment that can’t be found on any other local stage.

But can the Fringe still fly without its original founder? Em Piro is leaving the organization after its fifth festival, which opens Friday.

In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Piro about her collaborative approach, how the festival has grown in step with St. Louis’ arts community and the future of Fringe.

Future home of .ZACK
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation is developing the new multi-media arts space called .ZACK (pronounced Zack). Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s Director of Operations Chris Hansen said the project will help develop the broader St. Louis theater scene.

“There needs to be a synergy in this new theater district that we’re developing here in Grand Center” he said. “It becomes a place where the performing arts world not only works but they start to build community and fellowship.”

Each of these 2015 shows won two or more St. Louis Theater Circle Awards.
Stages St. Louis, St. Louis Actors' Studio, Opera Theatre St. Louis

The Repertory Theater of St. Louis and Stages St. Louis were the top winners among two dozen companies in Monday night’s fourth Theater Circle Awards. Each of the troupes had five wins. Four of Stages’ awards were for the musical “Anything Goes.”

Michael Uthoff, second from left, talks with students, along with Dance St. Louis’ Janet Brown. (Brown is in the middle on the right-hand side of the photo).
Dance St. Louis

Dance St. Louis is under new leadership as it winds down its 50th season, after executive and artistic director Michael Uthoff announced he's leaving after 10 years.

"I’m 72 and I figure I need some time to smell the roses," Uthoff said.

The newsies including Alex Prakken, kneeling on the right behind the small boy, surround Jack's love interest, Katherine
Deen van Meer

Updated 2:10 p.m., Jan. 19, 2016 — This story was originally published on Jan. 14, 2016 and has been updated to include an extended cut of Nancy Fowler's interview with Alex Prakken for "St. Louis on the Air."

Countless boys and girls have sat in the audience at St. Louis’ Fox Theatre and dreamed of one day performing on its stage. For one young man from Ladue, that dream is coming true.

Participants enjoy being part of the 2015 "Act Your Pants Off' St. Lou Fringe event.
Allan Crain

Five-year-olds are known for their openness to new experiences and their steady growth. In its fifth year, the St. Lou Fringe festival is no different.

As the Fringe gears up for 2016, it’s adding new events and positioning itself as a five-month-long series rather than a nine-day festival.

Show Me Arts Academy kids rehearse a dance to Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" during the program's launch last year
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Nine months ago, Marty Casey launched Show Me Arts Academy in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in Ferguson. The program tries to reach kids in poor neighborhoods who may not respond well to sports, school or other activities.

“When we take that time out and we give that special attention, you literally see their whole attitude and their world just change,” said Casey.

Songs from "The Wild Party," "Bat Boy" and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" will be part of New Line's 25th anniversary concert.
New Line Theatre

St. Louis’ New Line musical theater company has something to sing about this week: its silver anniversary.

On Tuesday and Wednesday nights (Jan. 5 and 6), New Line will present a concert called “25 Years to Life!” featuring songs from shows dating back to its 1991 debut. The event showcases 16 New Line veterans including Ryan Foizy, Taylor Pietz, Anna Skidis and Zachary Allen Farmer.

St. Louis Dancers Step-Up co-founder Keith Williams works with performers for Dance Speaks Volume I.
Sara Burke

For more than a year, St. Louis dance professionals have worked to create a performance responding to the death of Michael Brown.

On Friday at 7 p.m., the public can see the result of their efforts at Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive St., in Grand Center. “Dance Speaks Volume I" is presented by St. Louis Dancers Step-Up, in cooperation with the Grand Center Arts Academy Theatre Department.

Larissa White, Sicily Mathenia and Cameisha Cotton as the Heathers in New Line Theatre's "Heathers"
Jill Ritter Lindberg / Provided by New Line Theatre

When Scott Miller founded St. Louis’ New Line Theatre in 1991, his mission was to present edgy musicals. Problem was, hardly any were available.

“So in the early years, we did some shows that I wrote and we did some re-imagined shows, like ‘Camelot’ with a really small cast, that kind of thing,” Miller said.

Twenty-five years later, it’s a very different story.

A scene from "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," presented by the Black Rep in 2014
Provided by the Black Rep

The events of Ferguson have resulted in an explosion of arts activism in St. Louis. Painters, performers and arts movers and shakers have created a tremendous body of work around racism and other barriers to social justice.

But activism is nothing new to the Black Rep.

Clockwise from top left, Damon Davis, Freida Wheaton, Michael Castro, Brian Owens, Lee Patton Chiles, De Nichols
St. Louis Public Radio file photos

For the past year, a tragic and powerful muse has fed the energy and work of St. Louis-area artists.

The shooting death of Michael Brown and the unpeeling of issues that followed have inspired a bounty of work with a social-justice mission. As we near the Aug. 9 anniversary of Brown’s death, we talked with a number of arts professionals about their work in the wake of the turmoil:

Mike Isaacson
The MUNY

On June 15, The Muny kicked-off its 97th season with “My Fair Lady.” Scheduled this season are three premiere productions along with returning favorites such as “Hairspray.”

On Friday’s “Cityscape,” Mike Isaacson, artistic director and executive producer of The Muny, joined host Steve Potter to discuss this season’s productions. Isaacson also had a hand in producing the Broadway musical “Fun Home,” which received five Tony Awards.  

So, what goes into lining up The Muny’s season?

Joan Lipkin
Willis Ryder Arnold

"Uppity" is a word with a history of keeping women and minorities "in their place." But when Joan Lipkin named her theater company in 1989, she showed marginalized people that their "place" was in the spotlight.

Since then, That Uppity Theatre has celebrated the LGBT population and people with various abilities and addressed issues including abortion and racism. The work has provoked thought, fostered acceptance and won numerous awards.

Promotional photo for "House"
Joe Hanrahan

What’s it like to have a mother whose seven-foot-tongue slices your arm (eight stitches!) and a wife who greets your boss in thigh-high boots and consistently claims she's on the phone with "nobody?"

Leverage Dance Theater at Shakespeare Festival's House Stage
Nancy Fowler

Drama, passion and war are all part of this year’s Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park, as they have often been since 1997.

What’s new this summer is the addition of more local dancers, jazz artists, Latin musicians and a DJ (full list, below). You can see them on a new House Stage near the main stage, just prior to the production of the firey “Antony and Cleopatra.”

Syna So Pro aka Syrhea Conaway
Durrie Bouscaren

Musician Syna So Pro, aka Syrhea Conaway, has a hot date Thursday night at The Sheldon.

The St. Louis artist is the special guest of the cutting-edge classical group Alarm Will Sound. It's part of the orchestra's effort to bring together artists from "diverse and unexpected backgrounds" to collaborate and produce new music.

Left to right. Thelma Steward, Freida Wheaton, Amy Kaiser, Ilene Berman, Shualee Cook, Cecilia Nadal, Kelly Pollack
Nancy Fowler

St. Louis women honored by the St. Louis Visionary Awards took home trophies Monday night but not before announcing visions of their own.

This was the first year for the revived awards, which skipped 2014 after Grand Center Inc. withdrew its sponsorship. At the Sun Theater ceremony, many of the seven awardees took the podium to not only say “thanks” but to tell the crowd of more than 300 about their passions.

Show Me Arts Academy kids rehearse to Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk"
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Frustration gripped local singer and actress Marty Casey in the days after Michael Brown’s death at the hands of then-Officer Darren Wilson. This weekend, a little more than six months later, Casey and 10 other people launched Show Me Arts Academy, the organization born from her call.

From Left, Frank Schwaiger, Nancy Fowler, Willis Ryder Arnold, Bruno David and Leslie Laskey
Donna Korando | St. Louis Public Radio

This week, St. Louis Public Radio debuts its first arts podcast,"Cut & Paste."

We invite local visual and performing artists to tell stories. Who inspires them? What are their successes? Where have they stumbled along the way? Sometimes, in the conversation, it's us doing the stumbling! But we always have fun. We hope you will, too.

In “Briefs: A Festival of Short Lesbian and Gay Plays,” the list of local theater celebrities is anything but brief. 

The Feb. 24-26 weekend festival includes such veteran and award-winning directors as Edward Coffield, Annamaria Pileggi and Ed Reggi, and actors Donna Weinsting, Troy Turnipseed and Ken Haller. Even burlesque performer Lola Van Ella gets into the act. 

Where: La Perla (312 N. 8th Street), 63101

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