LaBute New Theater Festival Improves With Strong Plays in Second Week

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Caroline Adams, Chopper Leifeit and GP Hunsaker in Susan Steadman's The Thing with Feathers.
Round two of the LaBute New Theater Festival continues this weekend at The Gaslight Theater, and as a general rule, the one-act plays of the second half are much stronger than those of the first. Many earlier works relied on a similar narrative conceit -- strangers meet, secrets are revealed -- but this new raft of plays is more ambitious. The short pieces feature supple writing, plot twists, and plausible resolutions, making for a night of varied and fully fledged dramatic works.

See also: LaBute Festival Returns With a Mostly Entertaining Collection of New Plays

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The Adorably Creepy (and a Little Bit Racist) Skeleton Cartoons of Dr. Crusius

Categories: Arts

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Washington University School of Medicine
January and February.
In an age when advertising was still a novel way to introduce customers to your product, the St. Louis-based Antikamnia Chemical Company printed whimsical calendars featuring morbid-yet-fascinating sketches of skeletons acting out everyday life.

The company's name, Antikamnia, means "opposed to pain," and it produced a patented fever reducer and pain reliever at the turn of the 20th century. Sure, the medicine was technically toxic and made your skin turn blue, but that just makes the skeleton illustrations even more apt.

When the owners of Antikamnia Chemical Company were looking for an artist to illustrate their advertising calendars, they settled on fellow St. Louis College of Pharmacy graduate Louis Crusius, who used his drug-store windows to display the sketches he drew in his free time. Crusius dressed his skeletons in the clothes of the time and gave them funny little sayings or titles, keeping his illustrations lighthearted despite their macabre subjects.


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Stages St. Louis Produces a Winner in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"

Categories: Arts

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Peter Wochniak
Wickets for everyone! Betsy Dilellio and Ben Nordstrom know How to Succeed.
Summer is the season of musicals in St. Louis, and one of this season's most luminous stars is no doubt Stages St. Louis' relentlessly peppy rendition of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the delicious 1961 send-up of corporate culture, midcentury gender roles, and scheming one-upmanship — all set to cheerful, toe-tapping song.

Directed by Michael Hamilton, Stages has spared few expenses on the Pulitzer-winning favorite, delivering a production rich in clever sets, marvelous costumes and boasting an unsinkable cast that performs Frank Loesser's frothy score with near manic zeal. It's the sort of winning, fast-paced production that has the audience grinning from the opening moment J. Pierrepont Finch (that's Finch, F.I.N.C.H.) descends from his window washer's scaffold till he closes the show, a fat cat in a pin-stripe suit.

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Stray Dog Theatre's Funny Girl Stumbles With Miscast Lovers, Curse of Barbra Streisand

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Stray Dog's Funny Girl stumbles a bit.
There are really two stars in any revival of Funny Girl, the much-lauded but rarely produced musical now playing at Stray Dog Theatre: Barbra Streisand and whoever else happens to be cast in the role of Fanny Brice.

That may sound unfair, but there's a reason this beloved show, which tells the tale of Brice's rise to stardom at the Ziegfeld Follies, has never been revived on Broadway: Rarely has a role been so closely associated with an individual performer as Fanny is with Barbra. Her turn in the 1964 Broadway musical, which ran for more than 1,300 performances, catapulted Streisand to superstardom, a state of grace she beatified with an Oscar for the 1968 film version.

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Review: The LaBute New Theater Festival at the Gaslight Theater

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Reginald Pierre and Emily Baker in Steve Karp's Rubbas.
Now in its second year, the LaBute New Theater Festival continues to show promise as a showcase for new works by both emerging and seasoned playwrights. Presented by the St. Louis Actors' Studio, the festival places strict requirements on its submissions. Plays must have no major set changes. They must have no more than four characters, and they must run no more than 45 minutes. The idea is to highlight the most essential aspects of dramaturgy: character development, dialogue and plot.


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Firecracker Press, Local Artists Selected for St. Louis' First CSA for Art

Categories: Arts

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CSA STL
Cassandra Howard, Gardiner Rhoderick and Katy Peace of CSA STL.
Nine local artists specializing in photography, fibers, comics, sculptures, painting and printmaking have beat out 41 other applicants to become the first producers for CSA STL, a community-supported, agriculture-inspired model for connecting St. Louis with art.

Last month, three friends announced they wanted to change the way St. Louis pays for art by adapting the community supported agriculture model for the fine arts. Subscribers will pay $300 for three months of original works, which breaks down to $11.11 per piece of art.

See also: Three Friends Want to Change How St. Louis Buys Art, Get Local Artists Paid

"I really think this project is a really exciting way to get people involved in their local arts communities," says Katy Peace. She's organizing the program, called CSA STL, with two friends, Gardiner Rhoderick and Cassandra Howard. "We want to break down the barriers to entry for both artists and consumers."

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Review: Jon Rafman's The end of the end of the end at CAM

Categories: Arts

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David Johnson
Installation view, The end of the end of the end.
As staff at the Contemporary Art Museum has busied themselves lately crafting cat puns, flooding social media with cat videos and shamelessly making the rounds to worry — publicly — whether those madcap kitties from its Internet Cat Video Festival should be considered "art" or not, there's been precious little mention of a complementary exhibit at CAM that also surveys Internet obsession — Jon Rafman's The end of the end of the end, which provides a decidedly darker vision of people's digital fixations.

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Steve McQueen's Missouri Years, an Illustrated History

Categories: Arts, History

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Illustration by Tim Lane
Long before actor Steve McQueen famously hopped behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang in Bullitt or broke out of a POW camp in The Great Escape, the actor -- once dubbed the "King of Cool" -- was a rejected child, living on a hog farm in central Missouri.

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What the Hell Is St. Louis Thinking? Book Finds Upstart Publisher for November Release

Categories: Arts

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Kickstarter/STL Curator
If you give Henry Goldkamp a typewriter, coffee and cigarettes, he'll give you a poem on the spot.
Nearly a year has passed since local poet Henry Goldkamp began dropping off typewriters around St. Louis. Each acted as a prompt, of sorts: Signs asked passersby to participate in a collective book writing project, titled What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?

Five-thousand submissions and a Kickstarter campaign later, that book -- curated by Goldkamp and designed by a local graphic artist -- has finally found a publisher, Bottle Cap Press, and a release date: November 22.

"Maybe only a 1,000 were worth a second look," says Goldkamp, a scraggly bearded 25-year-old who spent months reviewing and transcribing messages that ranged from a paragraph to multiple pages in length. Some were short and sweet. Many were short and dumb.

"There were 250-plus that just said 'Poop'," laughs Goldkamp. "But some of them were laid out so beautifully that we're thinking of just scanning them and using those as pages."

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Review: The Addams Family at the Muny

Categories: Arts

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Phillip Hamer
Normal is as normal does in The Addams Family.
Of all the surprises that come bubbling to the surface in The Addams Family, the rambling, crowd-pleasing, knowing musical that opened this week at the Muny, perhaps the biggest shocker is this: Gomez Addams, that patriarch of the morbid, just wants his little Wednesday to find a nice young man, settle down, and be happy.

Wait. What?

That's right, folks, as US Weekly would put it: America's First Family of the Macabre Is Just Like Us!

Scary, right?

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