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Theater

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. 

rc)Left to right. Drew Battles (Serge), John Pierson (Ma and Larry Dell (Yvan) talk and laugh about "Art" and life
Nancy Fowler

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter,” poet Khalil Gibran wrote. Nowhere is laughter between companions more important than in the Tony Award-winning play, “Art,” presented by the St. Louis Actors’ Studio, beginning tonight.

But wait, shouldn’t a play called “Art” be about art? Well, it is — and isn’t.

Shualee Cook and Sara Burke
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Since 2002, the Visionary Awards have honored 68 St. Louis-area women for contributions to the arts, but this year's list includes a first.

Shualee Cook, 37, a transgender woman, is honored as an Emerging Artist for her skills as a playwright. Cook’s “An Invitation Out” opens at Mustard Seed Theater Friday, April 17.

Gubernatorial hopful Henry Lee Neale  (Stephen Peirick) and his wife Elizabeth Neale (Maggie Conroy) are all smiles.
Provided by OnSite Theatre

Missouri’s next gubernatorial election is a year and a half away, but a St. Louis play gets a rolling jump-start on the campaign.

The OnSite Theatre comedy, called “Off the Record,” opens this Friday and runs for two weekends. The play by Alec Wild takes place aboard a moving school bus that delivers a fictitious candidate — and the audience — to a handful of local campaign stops.

Artistic director Ann Marie Mohr said that even the ticket-holders have an active part in the show.

'A Midsummer Night's Dream' was the big winner for the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
Provided by the Rep

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis was the biggest winner at Monday night's local Theater Circle Awards.

The Rep won nine awards, overall, more than any other company. Five of them were for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

From New Line's "Passing Strange," 2011
Jill Ritter

When Scott Miller founded New Line Theatre in 1991 it was a risky proposition, in more ways than one.

The nonprofit would occupy a tight niche: musicals only. It would also ride the first wave of a national trend, producing work about topics avoided by many in polite St. Louis company: politics, violence, race, sexuality and religion.

David Royal recites "Fire and Ice" as Gitana's Cecilia Nadal looks on
Nancy Fowler

The death of Michael Brown and its aftermath have invigorated a core group of protesters. Now, at least one of them is becoming an actor as well an activist.

Je'Caryous Johnson
IMDB

Je’Caryous Johnson may not be a household name, but next to Tyler Perry, he is the most successful African-American playwright going, whose stage productions have grossed more than $100 million.

Working on new chandelier from "Phantom"
Nancy Fowler

A new chandelier, updated special effects and a sense that the main characters have spent some time in a therapist’s chair: these are all changes included in Cameron Mackintosh's new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Lydia Berry, number 100, in orange leotard
The Muny

Ever thought about trying out for America's oldest, largest outdoor theater?

Each year, the 98-year-old St. Louis Muny holds open auditions; anyone can come. Singers and dancers try out on different weekends.

Jerry, Keith Thompson, left, asks Montel, Marshall Jennings, right, why he's brought Andrea, Christina Rios, to the show.
Jill Ritter Lindberg

Adults with diaper fetishes, dancing Klansmen and blasphemous portrayals of religious figures are all part of “Jerry Springer: The Opera.” So it's fitting, really, that edgy New Line Theatre is the company bringing this irreverent musical to St. Louis.

Lee Patton Chiles, left, and Cecilia Nadal
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When Cecilia Nadal of Gitana Productions heard about Michael Brown's shooting death, she raced right over to Ferguson. She wanted to participate in the protests and try to understand what happened, but she also “knew that I was looking for something."

Nancy Bell, left, is interviewed by Willis Ryder Arnold and Nancy Fowler.
Stephanie Zimmerman

Nancy Bell has enjoyed a thriving soap-opera career and nabbed top TV gigs including “Law and Order" and “Star Trek." So what's she doing in St. Louis, reworking the words of none other than Shakespeare?

It all started five years ago, when Saint Louis University lured Bell away from the big time, with a teaching job. Now, she's a regular player in the local theater scene.

Fox Smith and Ben Nordstrom star in White to Gray.
John Lamb

Forty-eight hours after the ocean liner S.S. Lurline left Honolulu for San Francisco, the sun rose on “a day that will live in infamy.” In a new drama based on this real-life voyage that began two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, a young couple is caught in the crossfire.

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