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The Black Rep

Obituary: Beloved St. Louis Stage Veteran Linda Kennedy Dies At 68

Aug 16, 2019
Linda Kennedy in 2013
File photo | Erin Williams

Linda Alton Randall Kennedy, a staple of the St. Louis theater scene for more than four decades, passed away this morning (Friday, August 16) after a battle with cancer.

Her son Terell Randall Sr. confirmed her passing via Facebook. She was 68.

“With a heavy heart, I am sorry to have to say that my mother Linda Kennedy now has her wings,” Randall said.

She was perhaps best known as an actress but contributed to the St. Louis theater scene in nearly every capacity – including director, consultant, coach, stage manager and even costume designer.

Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2014, writers Michael Walker and Kristen Adele Calhoun met for the first time as grad students in New York City through a play-reading group. On that same day, a young man named Michael Brown was shot nearly 1,000 miles away in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown’s death sparked protests nationwide and led to more conversations about police brutality in the country.

“It just felt like we needed to stop play reading and start play writing,” Walker said. He went on to create "Canfield Drive" with Calhoun, a play about two high-powered news reporters bringing two very different perspectives to their coverage of the unrest that followed the police shooting.

J. Samuel Davis (L) and Ron Himes (R) joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh.
Alex Heuer, provided | St. Louis Public Radio

Actor and St. Louis native Robert Guillaume died at the age of 89 on Tuesday, October 24.

His role as the butler Benson won him Emmys for best supporting actor in a comedy in 1979 and best actor in a comedy in 1985, making him the first African-American to win either.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with members of the local acting community about how Guillaume influenced their careers.

Ron Himes, Beverly Foster and Dr. John Morris discussed how Alzheimer's disease impacts African-American patients and families.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

African-Americans over the age of 70 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as white people. While there are no answers, said Dr. John Morris, director of the Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University, there are some factors that might be contributing to this gap.

"Lines in the Dust" is playing at The Black Rep from January 11 - 29 . Its themes revolve around inequity in education.
The Black Rep

On Jan. 14, 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace made one of the most indelible speeches in the fight against racial equality ever to be made in the United States.

“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever,” Wallace, a Democrat, said at his inauguration.

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.

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.

Actor Dan Kelly aims his gun, as a cop in "You Try It" by Neil LaBute, part of the "Every 28 Hours" theater collaboration. Actors Joel Beard, Noble Montgomery and Theresa Masters look on.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Every day, in St. Louis or elsewhere, a black person shudders in fear after seeing a police officer approaching. Every day, a cop makes a lightning-quick decision that could mean life or death.

Linda Kennedy and Alicia Like joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss "Miss Julie, Clarissa and John."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

This week marks the opening of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company’s 40th anniversary season with the Midwest premiere of “Miss Julie, Clarissa & John,” a play by Mark Clayton Southers.

The Black Rep’s founder and producing director Ron Himes, actress Alicia Like and artistic associate Linda Kennedy joined St. Louis on the Air on Friday to discuss the production and the rest of the season. 

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Singer-songwriter Donny Hathaway was born in Chicago but grew up in St. Louis. Known for songs like “The Ghetto” and “This Christmas,” Hathaway began singing in his grandmother’s church choir and playing the piano at age 3. Hathaway was a prolific musician but also grappled with mental illness throughout his life.

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.

Aine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio.

The founder and producing director of St. Louis’ Black Repertory Company, Ron Himes, was a freshman in high school the first time he was exposed to a live play. And then, it was only under extenuating circumstances.

“I think it was only because I was in the honors group,” Himes said on Friday’s “Cityscape.” “The students in the honors group got to go to cultural events, which didn’t make any sense. It seemed like everybody but the honors group needed it.”

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.

St. Louis Theater Circle Announces 2015 Nominees

Jan 30, 2015
Provided by the Actors Studio

The St. Louis Theater Circle, a group of local theater critics, released its 2015 award nominees on Friday. 

“It was, I think, a terrific year,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch theater critic Judith Newmark told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. “It was a year in which we lost one theater — that’s always going to happen. There also are some new people on the horizon. And it was a year in which, I think Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, which is a free event that draws huge crowds, really came into its own with a double production of ‘Henry IV’ and ‘Henry V.’”

Black Rep Stages 'A Raisin In The Sun'

Nov 21, 2014
The Black Rep

The Black Rep is bringing the iconic 1950s drama “A Raisin in the Sun” back to St. Louis.

This is the first time the company will stage “A Raisin in the Sun,” although 10 years ago it presented “Raisin,” a musical adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s drama about a black family’s experiences in Chicago.

“It is an American story. It is definitely about dreams and living life on the American landscape for the African-American and the quest for the piece of pie,” said actress Andrea Frye, who plays “Mama” Lena Younger.

Detail from the poster for Purlie
The Black Rep website

The musical "Purlie" is a “biting satire” about race relations according to The Black Rep founder Ron Himes. Himes is adamant about the show’s contemporary relevance in view of the Ferguson protests.

“The play deals with civil rights issues; it deals with racial bigotry; it deals with Southern white privilege and a community that is not willing to change and integrate; and that all sounds very familiar,” he said.

Courtesy of Portfolio Gallery

A member of the St. Louis Zoo-Museum District board is reviving the prospect of a new subdistrict of black arts organizations.

An amendment to House Bill 186, passed by the Missouri legislature in 2005, allows the creation of the African American History Museum and Cultural District. But adding it to the ZMD would have to be approved by popular vote — and an election can cost  up to $1 million — so the issue has languished for nine years.

Mustard Seed Theater

Alicia Reve' Like plays Nella, a bright patch in an Alabama family whose quilts tell stories of segregation and the civil rights movement.

Last February, Alicia Reve' Like portrayed a motel maid who whooped up on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Black Rep’s “The Mountaintop,” the story of King’s last hours.

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

There are many reasons you might want to see the Black Rep’s current production of Ntozake Shange’s poem series “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” at the Missouri History Museum.

Of course, you get that deep, hard look into the lives of black women in the 1970s as seven characters wearing seven different colors leap, lament and laugh their way through Shange’s classic language.

Provided by Afriky Lolo

St. Louisans can explore the area's broad past including black history through larger-than-life puppets, Gee’s Bend, Ala., quilters and exhibits by members of the Alliance of Black Art Galleries.

The recently formed Alliance of Black Art Galleries will debut its first collaborative exhibit in February in connection with St. Louis’ 250th birthday celebration.

The Black Rep Presents 'The Meeting'

Jan 17, 2014
(Courtesy The Black Rep)

As far as we know, the only time Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X met was a brief greeting in passing outside a courthouse in 1965.

But if they had ever had a conversation, what would it have been like? That premise is the basis of Jeff Stetson’s “The Meeting,” currently being performed by the St. Louis Black Repertory Company.

In the play, Malcolm X (played by Ka’ramuu Kush) invites Dr. King (Matthew Galbreath) to a meeting in a Harlem hotel room, where the two men debate the best methods of obtaining racial equality.

Courtesy of the Black Rep

The actual meeting never happened. But “The Meeting,” opening Wednesday, dramatizes the “what ifs” of a one-hour conversation between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

The Black Rep will stage its presentation of “The Meeting” through Jan. 26 in its 37th-season home at Harris-Stowe State University.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: After a two-month search, the St. Louis Black Repertory Company has secured a stage for its 37th season. The theater company will present three of its four 2013-2014 shows at Harris-Stowe State University’s Emerson Performance Center.

Courtesy of Stewart Goldstein

After being ousted from their home at The Grandel Theatre in Grand Center, The Black Rep theater company has found a new place for its productions at Harris-Stowe State University.

The company will now hold its performances at the Emerson Performance Center on the school’s campus, which seats over 200. The Grandel Theatre was owned by Grand Center Incorporated, which sold it earlier this summer.

(Courtesy of Stewart Goldstein)

Last year, Ron Conner led Black Rep casts in four out of five productions, and from the first, became one of my favorite actors to watch. This year he leads the Black Rep away from its twenty-six year home at the Grandel Theater to the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theater on the campus of Washington University and opens the new season with a sizzling one man show, Emergency. (The Black Rep was recently unceremoniously dumped from their long-time home. Hotchner will not be a permanent space for them, but was the perfect space for this particular show.)

Ron Himes
Provided by Mr. Himes

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Much is unknown about the Black Rep’s future after losing its Grandel Theater home at the close of the troupe’s 36th year. But one thing’s for certain, according to Black Rep founder Ron Himes.

“We will have a 37th season,” Himes said.

Erin Williams

Linda Kennedy is the artistic associate over education and community programs for The Black Rep, which includes coordinating their annual Summer Performing Arts program for youth ages 8-17.

Heather Beal

The various iterations of Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are wide-ranging and diverse.

One retelling, The Wiz, shares the story from an African-American perspective.  The musical won seven Tony Awards in 1975.

The St. Louis Black Repertory Company closes its season with The Wiz, with performances from May 29th – June 30th.

Todd Davis

Anne Frank and Emmett Till were young victims of racial injustice and hatred. 

In her diary, Frank provided a harrowing account of when she and her family were forced into hiding to escape the oppression of Nazi Germany.  Emmett Till of Chicago was visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955 and was murdered after allegedly flirting with a white woman.

Host Steve Potter talks with Janet Langhart Cohen, the playwright of a one-act play called ANNE & EMMETT

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 23, 2012 - Anne Frank and Emmett Till both died in their early teens but the legacies of their short lives have inspired millions.

They never met, of course. Till was born in Chicago just two years before Frank went into hiding in Nazi Germany, later dying in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

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