Slightly Askew Challenges Gender Roles New and Olde in Or,

Categories: Arts

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Joey Rumpell/Rumzoo Photography
Slightly Askew untangles Aphra Behn in Or,.
Aphra Behn was arguably the most dangerous playwright in Restoration England. A former spy who believed in personal freedom, free love and the power of the word, Behn's most unsettling trait was perhaps her gender. What sort of woman would write so openly of her sexual desires with Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan army only recently toppled from power?


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St. Louis Actors' Studio Breathes Boozy Life Into "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
A night of cocktailing turns ugly in Virginia Woolf.
After another dull faculty party, George and Martha return to their comfortably ramshackle home to prepare for guests. Newspapers and books are stacked about the floor, and the coffee table is a forest of dirty glasses hiding a single half-eaten apple and George's pipe. The only tidy place in this wood-paneled sitting room is the fastidious cocktail table off to the side, complete with sparkling glasses ready to go.

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God of Carnage: Parents Say the Darndest Things at Stray Dog Theatre

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Parents lead by example in God of Carnage.
Early on in Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage, Veronica speaks of "the art of coexistence." Veronica is FOX News' idea of a liberal, only more annoying and humorless. She speaks to her guests with a nasty tone of passive-aggression, and she's writing a book about the crisis in Darfur but she's never been to Africa. As played by Sarajane Alverson, Veronica is sandpaper applied directly to the face. It's no wonder that the art of coexistence in her home quickly devolves into so much verbal poo flinging.

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Black-ish Actress, Kinloch Native Jenifer Lewis Will Give Webster U. Commencement Speech

Categories: Arts

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Publicity photo via
Jenifer Lewis is coming home for Webster University's graduation.
Jenifer Lewis has been living in LA and acting in movies and TV shows for almost three decades, but just ask her and she'll tell you her roots are in St. Louis -- more specifically, in the historically black city of Kinloch.

Or as Lewis herself told fellow demonstrators at a Ferguson protest in Los Angeles days after the death of Michael Brown: "I'm from the ghetto. Don't get this Hollywood shit twisted."

In May, the actress featured in ABC's hit comedy Black-ish and the new movie The Wedding Ringer is donning a new role: speaker at Webster University's 96th annual commencement ceremony.

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Bashir Lazhar: Upstream Theater's One-Man Show Takes Audience to Somber School

Categories: Arts

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Peter Wochniak/Pro Photo STL
J. Samuel Davis as Bashir Lazhar.
Violence is the undertow that inexorably tugs on Bashir Lazhar. It drags on his clothes, it makes his hands flicker nervously and it holds him in place, unable to move forward with his life. But we don't know any of this in the beginning of Upstream Theater's one-man show written by young Canadian playwright Évelyne de la Chenelière. All we know is that Bashir (played with verve by J. Samuel Davis) is an uncertain substitute teacher painstakingly rehearsing possible introductions to his new class, and the way he stumbles over his assignment signals the violence that clings to this new place like a caul.

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St. Louis Theater Circle's 2015 Award Nominees

Categories: Arts

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John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre's Cabaret, one of the nominees for outstanding production of a musical.
From tales of the Marquis de Sade to a groundbreaking production of Tennessee Williams' rarely performed early work, Stairs to the Roof, 2014 was an exciting year for St. Louis-area theater. Although the town lost one of its best theater companies when HotCity Theatre called it quits, several new companies have rushed in to fill the void. Stalwarts like St. Louis Shakespeare's Donna Northcott and Prison Performing Arts' Agnes Wilcox announced they were stepping down, while newcomers like Sarah Porter and Caroline Amos brought exciting new energy to St. Louis stages. Through it all, there have been some marvelous ensemble performances -- everything from the St. Louis Actors' Studio production of Pinter's masterpiece, The Homecoming, to new plays like Rebecca Gilman's Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976.

The best in St. Louis theater will be honored at the 2105 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards ceremony on Monday, March 23 at the COCA auditorium (for those who can't make the event, the ceremony will also be televised on HEC-TV).

Here, then, is a list of the nominees:

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Safe House: Rep's Latest Considers the True Price of Freedom

Categories: Arts

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Jerry Naunheim Jr.
Take refuge in the Rep's Safe House.
The Pedigrew family is in a state of suspended animation. As free blacks in 1843 Kentucky, they own property and can work for wages. But they can't be outside at night, they can't close the doors on their home or storage shed, and they can't cross Lincoln Creek — in fact, none of them can even dip a toe in the waters which border the county. Freedom clearly isn't always as free as you'd think.

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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Story of Race and Hypocrisy Still Merits a Telling at the Rep

Categories: Arts

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Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.
Richard Prioleau and Shannon Marie Sullivan are the happy couple whose parents don't approve of their interracial romance in the Rep's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis continues its season with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Todd Kreidler's richly conceived stage adaptation of the 1967 film.

Starring Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier in the roles of Joanna "Joey" Drayton and John Prentice, Jr., the film served as a cultural touchstone in the country's evolving civil rights movement. William Rose's screenplay detailed with granular precision the struggles of Joey's white and liberal parents to accept their daughter's African-American fiancé over the course of an afternoon. It was heady stuff, as the Draytons owned up to their liberal hypocrisies, eventually summoning the courage of their convictions.

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COCA Hires Acclaimed Dancers Antonio and Kirven Douthit-Boyd to Head Youth Program

Categories: Arts

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Kelly Glueck
Antonio (left) and Kirven Douthit-Boyd at a press conference announcing their new roles at COCA.
Last week's announcement that St. Louisan Antonio Douthit-Boyd would take a full-time position at Center of the Creative Arts was both a humbling and unusual homecoming for the artist. Humbling because it was at COCA that Antonio, at the age of sixteen, took his first leap toward a career that today has landed him as one of the most celebrated contemporary dancers in the word. Unusual because, in many ways, Antonio feels that he's never really left St. Louis.

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Forty Years of the Brown Sisters: Decades-Long Photo Series Leaves Family Narrative to Viewer

Categories: Arts

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Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass., 1984. Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery.
A curious thing occurs midway through Nicholas Nixon: Forty Years of the Brown Sisters, the intimate and overwhelming series of photographic portraits now on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Starting in 1975, Nixon began taking a group portrait of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters each year at family gatherings. In those early portraits, the young women, who ranged in age from 15 to 25 at the project's inception, look defiantly at the camera. With the exception of Bebe (who, no doubt trying to be supportive of her husband's whim, looks openly at Nixon's lens), the sisters seem skeptical — jaws set, lips tight, arms crossed.

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