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Beacon blog: A 'Stella'r moment

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 15, 2011 -Last week we held the fundraiser I told you about, "The State of Tennessee: a centennial tribute to Tennessee Williams," and I am happy to report it was a great success and great fun. The most hilarious moment came at the end of the theater portion when a brief "Stella!" yelling contest produced an unexpected impromptu performance by two of my favorite people.

The event was held at the Gaslight Theater and the reception was a few doors north at William Roth's Eleven space. Lana Pepper produced and directed a truly moving evening of theater that feature selected scenes from "The Glass Menagerie," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "A Streetcar Named Desire."

The St. Louis references that are found in Williams' work clearly pleased the audience, and the cast did a great job bringing the scenes to life. The readers' format made us all focus on Williams' great words and seemed to make the scenes all that much more powerful.

During the planning for the event, Lana told me she intended to hold a "Stella!" yelling contest to help lift everyone's spirits after an hour of such serious scenes. I did a little calling around to see if anyone was interested in participating but no one really bit, so I was a little dubious about how it would go.

When the performance was over, one of the actors stepped forward to conduct the contest. She did a great job of slowly coaxing participation from the audience. While this was going on, I noticed former Kirkwood High School principal Franklin McCallie get out of his seat and head to the back of the theater. The next thing I know, here comes Franklin ... all 6'6" of him ... storming down the aisle right past me without a word and onto the stage. At the back of the theater he had removed his tie and put on a torn T-shirt. Everyone was a little perplexed and wondering what was going on ... it was real "reality TV" moment.

Franklin faces the audiences and lets out an impassioned "Stella!" There's some good-natured laughter and he lets out another one. This time we all applaud. But he's still not getting off the stage and I can tell no one is quite sure what to do. He lets out a third plea to Stella only this time a woman seated next to where I am standing stands up and yells back "Shut up, Stanley!" It's Franklin's wife Tresa McCallie. The pair then proceeds to execute a half dozen lines of the play that they rehearsed earlier that afternoon. It was great.

Well, everyone's spirits were definitely lifted; and we headed to the reception where Chef Chris Lee from Cafe Ventana was cooking up gumbo and a red bean stew, both served over rice. For dessert, Chris made Ventana's signature beignets on the spot. Powdered sugar on hands and lapels gave away who was indulging in the tasty New Orleans treats.

Schalfly Beer donated an assortment of beer to the bar and Luxco donated its Rebel Yell bourbon for mint juleps. Local public relations maven Laura Slay donated a case of wine from her favorite wine store.

We always send out email evaluations after our events and the reviews that are coming in all reflect that a good time was had by all. If you missed this great Beacon event and are feeling a little left out, the Beacon Festival kicks off on Memorial Day. 

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