Performing Arts | St. Louis Public Radio

Performing Arts

Alexis J. Roston, seen in this file photo, has performed "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" in Chicago and Milwaukee.
Provided | Milwaukee Rep

The story of a jazz a singer whose signature song drew attention to the brutal treatment of African-Americans will be on stage in St. Louis for the next two weeks.

Max and Louie Productions presents “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a drama about the iconic Billie Holiday. The setting is a fictional performance that takes place four months before her death.

The production includes a dozen of Holiday’s songs and a running commentary in which she looks back on her life of love, loss, addiction and struggle with racism.

Jacqueline Thompson plays the role of Esther in New Jewish Theatre's "Intimate Apparel."  She appears in this file photo.
Provided | Eric Woolsey

A play by New Jewish Theatre looks at the constraints placed on women in the early 1900s: the pressure to marry early, within their race.

In much of the United States, interracial marriage would be illegal for another 60 years. Miscegenation laws forbade blacks and whites from joining in wedlock until 1967.

But even as “Intimate Apparel” illustrates that taboo, it helps the theater company break out of its own limitations, given its history of largely white casts.  Four of the six characters in this play, produced by the Black Rep in 2005, are African-American. It’s the kind of opportunity New Jewish artistic director Kathleen Sitzer continually seeks.

Jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez
Photo by Betsy Newman. Courtesy of the artist.

Anyone who visits Cuba would be struck by two important musical currents: the streetwise character of modern dance music — and the elegance of classically trained performers adept at various genres.

 

St. Louisans this week have a chance to see both when pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, who hails from the Cuban Institute of Music, joins conga player Pedrito Martinez, who had no formal training. Since crossing paths in the United States in recent years, they’ve played together on stage and on recordings.

Their latest collaboration will be at Jazz at the Bistro, where they will perform fuse jazz and Afro-Cuban music, including timba, the fiery dance music that took the island by storm a couple of decades ago.

This artist's rendering shows a renovated studio space at COCA.
Provided | COCA

Hammering and drilling will soon join the chorus of tap dancing and singing at the COCA arts center in University City.

The institution will launch an expansion and renovation in early 2018. It includes a 450-seat theater, more than 8,000 square feet of studio space, a community area and a 200-car parking garage. COCA expects to complete the work in late 2019.

This collage of new RAC Fellows includes, clockwise, Agnes Wilcox, Jess Dugan and Robert McDonald Jr. and Damon Davis.
Provided and file photos

The Regional Arts Commission has chosen its 2016 Artists Fellows, who will each receive $20,000 checks to help with their work.

This is the fourth year RAC has presented the awards. Winning artists do not have to designate a specific project; they may use the money in any way that helps make their work possible.

The new group of 10 features literary, visual and performing artists, including a local performer who wants to spread his love of opera.

St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate Bisa Adero and official Poet Laureate Michael Castro met each other awards ceremony on Oct. 14, 2016 at UrbArts.
Vincent Lang

Two official St. Louis poets don’t always agree on what’s appropriate but they do concur on at least one thing: If you want change, you've got to work for it. For this pair, words are the tools.

Violinist Leila Josefowicz plays with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in this photo taken earlier this fall.
Dilip Vishwanat

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra can claim some of the glory in a Grammy Awards nomination announced today.

Violinist Leila Josefowicz was nominated for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for her performance on John Adams' Scheherazade.2,  in a February 2016 recording with the SLSO. Music Director David Robertson conducted the performance.

Father-daughter beatboxers Nicole Paris and Ed Cage have fun posing for this photo on November 5, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Millions have marveled at the beatboxing contests between father-daughter duo Ed Cage and Nicole Paris. They’ve battled it out in numerous YouTube videos and TV appearances including “The Late Late Show” and “Steve Harvey Show.”

But did you know they live in St. Louis? And that their beatboxing (percussion sounds produced mainly by mouth)  is more often collaborative than competitive?

David Robertson, the St. Louis Symphony's musical director, leads the orchestra in this file photo.
Scott Ferguson | Provided

The St. Louis Symphony ended 2016 with the healthiest bottom line in many years.

The good news includes the first balanced cash operating budget this century for the institution, which has a budget of $28.1 million, up from $26.6 million last year. The symphony saw growth in philanthropic support, and increased attendance and ticket sales.

In a news release, St. Louis Symphony President and CEO, Marie-Hélène Bernard praised the symphony's board and the generosity of the St. Louis area. She cited innovative experiences as factors in the orchestra’s achievements.

Actors play the part of other ghosts surrounding the ghost of King Hamlet in this November 3, 2016 photo.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

As the cast of “Hamlet” carefully rehearsed for opening night, they also got ready to break something: the fourth wall — the theater term for the invisible barrier between actors and audience.

In this rendition by the Rebels and Misfits Productions’ new Immersive Theatre Project, theater-goers are part of the play, opening Saturday at the Barnett on Washington event space in Grand Center.

The interaction starts with the cocktail hour. Don’t be surprised if a character beckons you over or whispers in your ear.

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.”

Grammy Award winner La Santa Cecilia performs in St. Louis

Sep 3, 2016
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.

St. Louis Symphony to perform for Spanish audiences this winter

Aug 30, 2016
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.

Kranzberg Arts Foundation to open new performing arts venue

Apr 4, 2016
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.”

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