Theater

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.”

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.

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.

Meghan Baker and Michael James Reed play the husband and wife in "Love's Labor."
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation will take on new role this weekend — as the stage for an original play.

The Pulitzer and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis are teaming up to present a play called “Love’s Labor.”  The production weaves together words from the Bard and  modern-day language in a story about a couple on the brink of divorce.

Steve Woolf has worked in Cleveland, Cincinnati and New York as well as St. Louis. He's among the first to receive Webster University’s Declaration of Merit.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

A local family has given the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis a sizeable 50th anniversary gift: $1 million.

The endowment from the Augustin family will support The Rep’s Steven Woolf in his artistic director position.

A scene from "Menudo Pops," a spoofy  commercial for popsicles created from a traditional Mexican dish that's made from the stomachs of animals.
Mike Snodderley

This month, St. Louisans can experience something they’ve likely never seen or heard before: 90 minutes of local theater focused on Latino themes and characters.

Theatre Nuevo is staging a series of one-act plays in English, Spanish and a sprinkling of Spanglish, from the touching tale of a struggling family restaurant to a new take on “Little Red Riding Hood.”

The presentation is the brainchild of Anna Skidis Vargas, a local theater professional who wants to honor her heritage. Skidis Vargas, who's from Southern Illinois, has Mexican-American roots. She said the project gives all Latinos a chance for visibility.

On the floor: Lindsay Gingrich (Meredith). Back, left to right: Sarajane Alverson (Trisha), Eileen Engel (Frances), Frankie Ferrari (Mindy), Shannon Nara (Georgeanne). The sashes were changed from pink to white in the final rendition of the costume.
Justin Been | Stray Dog Theatre

A Stray Dog Theatre play opening Thursday immerses us into a June tradition: the pressure cooker of a perfect wedding.

One of the characters isn’t a person  but a teal-blue bridesmaid’s dress with a wide white satin sash. Thus the name: “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” The wedding party is attired in matching perfection. And the bedroom in a Knoxville, Tenn. mansion where the play is set is also “just so,” with its ornate wall decorations, lace curtains and crown molding.

But soon, audiences discover that while the set and the wedding party look made-to-order, things are much messier underneath, according to Stray Dog founder and director Gary Bell.

Nancy Anderson as Titania in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
J. David Levy | Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

It has been a bloody two summers in Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park.

“The past two years have been a lot of death on stage,” said Rick Dildine, artistic and executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. “There is a high body count. Henry IV, Henry V, Antony and Cleopatra … I wanted something that ended with marriage and happiness.”

Austin and Ryan Jacobs share the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Tim Carter is with Ryan on the right. Carter plays the role of Oberan.
J. David Levy

“What fools these mortals be!” Puck famously utters in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

St. Louis audiences may be fooled in Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' production that lets the spritely Puck be two places at once.  The secret?  Puck is played by identical twins, Austin and Ryan Jacobs, transplants from Houston.

The brothers, who just graduated from Webster University, join us for our latest Cut & Past podcast to talk about sharing the role in the play and a childhood on the stage. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens Friday in Forest Park.

Henry Schvey and Carrie Houk, of Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Tennessee Williams was not the world’s biggest fan of the town he grew up in. But that’s not stopping the first-ever Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis from happening here in tribute to one city's greatest playwrights and most beloved iconoclasts.

Melissa Gerth and Arnela Bogdanic in rehearsal at Grbic Banquet Hall, where "Bosnian/American: The Dance for Life" plays April 15-16 before moving to Fontbonne University.
Traci Clapper

The generation gap is said to be narrowing as more millennials move back in with, and seek advice from, their parents. But in St. Louis, the chasm may be growing for one group of young adults.

Two decades ago, Bosnian genocide survivors arrived in St. Louis penniless and ravaged by war. In one generation, they’ve built businesses, bought homes and raised children who are succeeding at high school and college — and assimilation. A new Mustard Seed play, “Bosnian/American: The Dance for Life,” explores the lives of these young adults, weaving their story around a traditional Bosnian tale about a young sheep and a menacing wolf.

Kim Furlow and Emily Baker during a rehearsal of "A Comfortable Fit," part of the "Briefs" festival of LGBT plays
Briefs festival

St. Louis’ annual “Briefs” festival of LGBT plays is toasting its success this weekend.

During the event’s five years, audiences have grown and the festival has moved into a larger space. The number of  submissions has increased, and more esteemed playwrights and actors are participating. This year’s playwrights include Kansas native James Still, who was nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize and three times for an Emmy Award.

A dinner party with Isaac (Jonathan C. Kaplan), Jory (Rachel Christopher), Emily (Leigh Williams) and Amir (John Pasha) in The Rep's "Disgraced" starts off on a friendly note but soon takes a different turn.
Peter Wochniak / ProPhotoSTL.com

This year’s most widely produced play in the country is on stage right now at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. 

“Disgraced” centers on an ambitious New York attorney grappling with his Islamic roots in a post-9/11 world. But the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is really about everyone’s American experience, people of all faiths or no faith, according to playwright Ayad Akhtar.

Julia Flood, the artistic director of Metro Theater Company, and Trigney Morgan, who plays Cassius Clay in “And In This Corner…Cassius Clay.”
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Picture this moment: A Louisville mother and her two sons are huddled in a hug after hearing the news about the murder of Emmett Till. There are tough questions about why and no clear answers to be had.

Erin Renée Roberts as Nina and Ron Himes as Kenyatta look at photographs of Nina's late mother in the Black Rep's "Sunset Baby"
Phil Hamer

Revolution is not for the faint of heart; neither is parenthood. In The Black Rep’s production of the play “Sunset Baby,” the character Kenyatta finds connecting with his grown daughter is perhaps more difficult a challenge than enduring years as a political prisoner.

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.

Taylor Steward, Antonio Rodriguez, Em Piro and Pete Winfrey in "Bad Jews"
Eric Woolsey

‘Tis the season for blue-light specials and blow-up Santas. But if you want to get away from December’s traditional trimmings, three plays open this week that have nothing to do with the holidays.

Except for one thing. Like the season, the productions are all about relational angst. Cue the piercing release of pent-up resentment and painful regret. At least it won’t be tied up with a big shiny bow.

Three prisoners share their stories through performance.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Recent national prison reforms have included shortening sentences for drug offenders and releasing a number of prisoners because of the changes in sentencing guidelines. Yet roughly 32,000 people are incarcerated in Missouri.

UMSL theater professor Jacqueline Thompson, second from left, with local actors Tiffany Knighton, Kenyatta Tatum and Reginald Pierre in a 2015 social-justice workshop
'Every 28 Hours' project

The city of Ferguson will be a muse for a gathering of playwrights from across the country. Two dozen theater artists will tour the area Wednesday to get ideas for 90 one-minute plays about police shootings of African Americans across the country.

The theater project is called “Every 28 Hours.” It references a widely quoted but also disputed statistic for how often a black person is killed by police in the United States.

A scene from R-S Theatrics' "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play," showing at the Ivory Theatre through Sept. 20
Michael Young / Proivded by R-S Theatrics

In a post-apocalyptic world, what do you have in common with the other survivors? Finding food? Making fire?

Doh! It’s your love of “The Simpsons” show, of course. Specifically, a 1993 episode called “Cape Feare,” according to a drama called “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” by St. Louis’ R-S Theatrics. It’s a Russian Doll of a play, a spoof within a spoof, showing through Sept. 20 at the Ivory Theatre.

Actor Ben Nordstrom
Durrie Bouscaren

He’s a two-time Kevin Kline Award-winner, and a well-known star of the Muny’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" and numerous Stages St. Louis shows including “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” Plus, he has years of New York and regional experience.

But actor Ben Nordstrom doesn’t hesitate to play second fiddle. Or third. Or a mere chorus guy named “Mike” in the The Muny’s current production of “Oklahoma,” which is also his home state.

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.

Sara Sapp as Child B, Sarah McKenney as Child A and Steven Castelli as Clown in Theatre Nuevo's "This Is Not Funny"
Theatre Nuevo

A clown, a poet, two children and two newscasters walk … onto a stage.

It’s not a joke (although it has jokes). It’s a play called “This Is Not Funny,” by a new company named Theatre Nuevo, opening tonight at the Chapel off Skinker near Forest Park. But the name’s a contradiction, said founder and director Anna Skidis.

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?"

Fun Home website

Updated 6/8/2015:  On Sunday night, “Fun Home," which was produced by St. Louis-based Fox Theatricals, took home five Tony awards, including the Tony for best new musical. Nominated for 12 awards in Broadway’s biggest night of the year, the musical also took home awards for best actor in a musical for Michael Cerveris, best score, best book and best director for Sam Gold.

“Fun Home” is based on a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel.

It’s about a woman who grew up in the family funeral home business, whose father’s death takes her on an emotional but comic journey. The saga includes her own coming out as a lesbian only to find out her father wants to come out, too.

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.”

Anna Skidis
Durrie Bouscaren

St. Louis’s Anna Skidis is an acclaimed actor and singer. She’s also a genius.

Skidis, 28, is obviously smart. But "genius" is what they call employees of Apple’s Genius Bar, who help people figure out how to make their devices work properly.

Olive, played by Kim Furlow, and Florence, played by Colleen Backer, both standing, surrounded by friends, in in Dramatic License's "The Odd Couple"
John Lamb

A great dichotomy surrounds the idea of women and friendship. “I just love her to death,” one might say. “But I hate her for being so pretty/thin/young/talented.”

Dramatic License Productions is putting a new emphasis on the complexity of female friendships and other women-centered issues. The Chesterfield Mall-based theater company has a new mission to present a majority of work by, for and about women, according to founder Kim Furlow. 

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