Theater | St. Louis Public Radio

Theater

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

Updated Sept. 13, 2018 - Since we originally published this story, the mother-daughter duo of Carmen and Isabel Garcia have continued performing in musical theater separately and together.

In June they played a grandmother and granddaughter in Mustard Seed Theater’s “Luchadora”, a drama about Mexican wrestling.

Daria Finley took her sudden onset of blindness as an opportunity to get into acting.  8/16/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis native Daria Finley was focused on her career, working in the information technology department of the Department of Defense, when one day she woke up blind. She'd been diagnosed with glaucoma the year before, but her sudden onset of blindness was a shock for her and her doctors.

Finley used this life-changing experience as an opportunity to pursue things she had only daydreamed about doing before. They include modeling, acting in a short film and writing and performing a one-woman play about her experiences.

Hana Sharif will begin working with The Rep this fall and become artistic director in 2019.
The Rep

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has named Hana Sharif  as artistic director to replace Steven Woolf.

Sharif, who is associate artistic director at Baltimore Center Stage, will take The Rep post at the end of the 2018-2019 season. 

Sharif’s career includes working as a director, playwright and producer. She is the first African-American woman to head a large professional theater organization in St. Louis.

The Muny box office sells tickets for its 100th season, which has drawn criticism for its production of "Jerome Robbins' Broadway." June 30, 2018
Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio

The boos launched by a group of protesters mid-show at the Muny two weeks ago are continuing to reverberate. Actors and directors of color in St. Louis say it’s time for theaters to stop casting white actors to portray people of color.

The Muny is looking to extend its lease to 2071, and free up some funds earmarked for parking lot upkeep. A city fund for that purpose has a surplus of approximately $180,000.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The Muny is one step closer to extending its stay in Forest Park. The Board of Alderman’s Parks Committee voted 4-0 Thursday to extend the outdoor theater’s lease to 2071 and make other changes. The full board is expected to give final approval before its summer recess in mid-July.

The Muny’s lease with the city had been set to expire in 2031. The early extension will help the organization secure donors for its $100 million capital campaign,  Dennis Reagan, Muny president and CEO, told board members.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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 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.

Devonshae Ali, who plays Alice, and Gary Shepard, who has the role of Sam, are pictured in this April 2017 photo. They have both experienced homelessness in their own lives.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There was a time when Devonshae Ali, Kimberly Romine and Gary Shepard had no place to call home.

Now they all have not only permanent addresses but a new mission: helping people see what it's like to be homeless, through a play to be staged this weekend by St. Louis’ True Community Theatre.

Novice actor and video-rental entrepreneur Robert Koonce-Bey and artist Ilene Berman talk about the Shake38 play "A Day of Confusion" in this April 5 photo.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Every April, the words of Shakespeare echo throughout St. Louis — not just in theaters, but in bars, coffee shops and local parks.

It’s all part of a five-day event called “Shake 38,”  presented by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. The schedule offers 38 different performances, based on the work of the Bard.

Shannon Greir, seated in this file photo, took classes at St. Louis' Improv Shop to work her way into the theater world and produce her play, "Fat."
Provided | Shannon Greier

Shannon Geier knows what it’s like to be rejected because of the way she looks. For years, she struggled to lose weight, and was often afraid of how people would react to her.

“I felt like the love I got was conditional, based on my size,” Geier said. “[I’ve been] on blind dates and having the guy see me and turn around and run from the restaurant.”

Today, Geier is at a weight she considers healthy. Now a playwright, she hasn’t forgotten the pain of rejection, but has found a way to talk about it in "Fat," a new play on stage in St. Louis that deals with weight and body image.

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.

These are the undated logos for The Rep, the Black Rep, Stages and New Jewish theater companies.
Provided

A half-dozen St. Louis theater companies toasted to longevity in 2016.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis turned 50 years old and the St. Louis Black Repertory Company observed its 40th anniversary. Stages St. Louis marked 30 years and New Jewish Theatre Company celebrated 20.

Mustard Seed Theatre logged 10 years and St. Lou Fringe festival of performing arts commemorated five.

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.

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