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STL’s Theatre Nuevo opens with a clown and balloons — and a serious mission

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.

“Anyone who enjoys a good laugh will enjoy it. It’s a very goofy show,” Skidis said, in an email.

But not kid-goofy, she cautioned.

"There’s a little bit of language here and there, and the innuendo is strong. Very strong," Skidis said.

But it’s also poignant, Skidis noted. The series of vignettes is inspired by a real-life photograph of a child running through a war-torn countryside holding a bouquet of balloons. It asks the question: Can childhood innocence survive adulthood?

Anna Skidis as a housewife who dreams of being a pole-dancer in New Line Theatre's "Jerry Springer: The Opera"
Credit New Line theatre
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Anna Skidis as a housewife who dreams of being a pole-dancer in New Line Theatre's "Jerry Springer: The Opera"

Skidis, 28, was barely out of childhood when she first dreamed of opening her own theater company during her days at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. After college, she planted herself firmly in the St. Louis theater scene, most recently in New Line’s “Jerry Springer: The Opera” and New Jewish’s “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding.”

The relationships built over six-or-so years have been instrumental in the debut of Theatre Nuevo, which presents new works and Latino-themed plays. The company joins more than three dozen other small, local theater troupes, many struggling to stay in business. Even so, Skidis said, the theater community has been more than welcoming, with companies offering stage lights and more.

“Little things like getting logos, what’s a good tag line,” Skidis said. “It’s just little advice here and there that I think I sort of took for granted, like being at other companies.”

Latino community: ‘No one is really telling our stories’

Although Theatre Nuevo is brand-new (“nuevo” actually means “new” in Spanish), it’s already known in some theater circles across the country. For its next production, Skidis sent out a call for new work about Latino pride.

Anna Skidis, founder of Theatre Nuevo
Credit Durrie Bouscaren
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Anna Skidis, founder of Theatre Nuevo

“We’ve gotten submissions from as far as Texas and Milwaukee,” Skidis said in an interview.

Skidis wants her company to fill a hole in the local theater scene, what she noted as a dearth of Latino-themed work.

“There is a part in a play here and there, but no one is really telling our stories,” Skidis said.

Skidis wants to counter stereotypes, such as those expressed by presidential candidate Donald Trump who recently complained about "Mexican rapists" coming across the border.

“The Latino people are good people,” she said.

The play, whose date and venue are TBA, will be a series of one-acts. Several themes are emerging as Skidis reads the scripts she’s received.

“Just having pride in your work, and pride in where you come from — and letting your pride down a little bit and letting someone help you when you need to,” Skidis said.

Skidis laughed as she said the last part about learning to accept help, something she’ll continue to need going forward. Theatre Nuevo has a fundraising party after its show this Friday. As soon as she has enough money, Skidis hopes to find a permanent home for Theater Nuevo on Cherokee Street.

What's it like to open your own theater company? Here are Skidis' recent Twitter observations:

THE BASICS

‘This Is Not Funny,’ presented by Theatre Nuevo

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, July 23-Aug. 2

Where: The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Dr., 63105

How much: $15

Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets

Information: Theatre Nuevo website

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

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