Review: La Traviata at Union Avenue Opera

Categories: By the Boards

John Lamb
UAO stages one of opera's greats.
An inspired moment arrives at the beginning of Act Three in Union Avenue Opera's superb rendition of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata, when the consumptive courtesan, Violetta, her chance at love lost, lies dying in her bedchamber. As the dappled lights rise to reveal Patrick Huber's set of vaulting Gothic arches, the massive stained glass window above begins to glow.

Burning like the setting sun, it is a visual grace note — the sort of distilled artistry that has given UAO's performances such concentrated force these past two decades. No, the company may not have the war chest of, say, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, but artistic director Scott Schoonover is an operatic alchemist, transforming the restraints of a limited budget into theatrical gold. Now celebrating his company's twentieth anniversary, Schoonover has made a career of rolling the artistic dice, offering a crucial proving ground for bright new voices, some of whom go on to reprise their roles on the world's most vaunted stages.

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Review: Porgy and Bess at the Muny

Categories: By the Boards

Michael J. Lutch
Alicia Hall Moran as Bess and Nathaniel Stampley as Porgy.
Despite everyone who braved the thunderclouds on opening night of the touring version of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, there was simply no getting around it: The Muny felt a little empty.

It wasn't for lack of an audience. It wasn't for lack of a strong ensemble. And it certainly wasn't for lack of a full-blooded female lead or magnificent songs. Rather, it was for lack of George Gershwin's seminal opera, Porgy and Bess, one of the most important pieces of American musical theater written in the 20th century.

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Jonathan Franzen's Dramatic Adventures in Webster Groves Real Estate: The Play!

House For Sale: One childhood home of Great American Novelist. Five BR, 1.5 bath, 3.673 sq. ft., immortalized in essay collection memorably described by the New York Times as "an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass."
A new play based on Jonathan Franzen's essay "House For Sale" opens this Saturday, October 13, at the Duke on 42nd Street, a theater in New York. Actually, it's just previews; the official opening is October 24.

The essay concerns Franzen's return to Webster Groves to sell the family home after the death of his mother. It also concerns him rifling through the liquor cabinet, reminiscing about a glum trip to the Panhandle and Disney World when he was a teenager and agonizing over choosing the right Realtor.

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YOU Can Restore Missouri's Tarnished Political Reputation: MOLLI's List Benefit Tonight

Jennifer Silverberg
Ashley Tate (far right) will be one of the performers tonight at Sticks & Stones, a benefit for MOLLI's List.
Since the bust of Rush Limbaugh went up in the state capitol, Todd Akin offered up his theories of "legitimate rape" and the legislature overrode Governor Nixon's veto of the bill that would allow employers to deny insurance coverage of birth control, Missouri has become a laughingstock among progressives and supporters of women's and reproductive rights.

Well, here's your chance for redemption. Just show up for tonight's performance of Sticks & Stones: Sluts Talk Back at the Centene Center for Arts & Education in Grand Center, hand over your $25 for a pair of tickets and know that you have just given $25 to MOLLI's List, a PAC dedicated to electing progressive, pro-choice Democratic women to state office.

Alert readers may recall that Sticks & Stones originally premiered back in the spring at Left Bank Books, but producer/director/performer Joan Lipkin has added material to reflect new political developments (AHEM Akin). There will be dancing, music, sketch comedy and "slut monologues."

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St. Lou Fringe Review: Flesh and Bone

Categories: By the Boards

Naturally, a theater piece themed around media-influenced body dysmorphia will begin with blissful, ignorant Adam and Eve romping about in their underwear. You see, before hungry, bronzed models and Photoshop, there was nothing but organic produce, beatific confidence and bold cunnilingus!

When they broke Dad's rules and partook in the fruit of that sexy, unattainable tree of knowledge, a certain unhealthy self-awareness set in and, we can only assume, the patriarch of all humanity noticed his thinning hair while his better half noticed her vulva didn't resemble the ones she'd seen in porn and, no matter how much weight she'd lost, she'd always feel fat.

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St. Lou Fringe Review: Cecily and Gwendolyn's Fantastical Missourian Anthropological Inquisitorial Probe

Categories: By the Boards

image via
How you feel about Cecily and Gwendolyn's Fantastical Missourian Anthropological Inquisitorial Probe, which runs all four days of the St. Lou Fringe (Thursday 4 p.m., Friday 8:30 p.m., Saturday 1 p.m. and Sunday 2:30 p.m., all at the Nash Building, 3000 Locust), depends on how you feel about interactive theater.

It's not the sort of interactive theater where audience members are required to make loud noises or sing silly songs at a signal from the performers. Instead the conceit here is that Cecily Marlborough and Gwendolyn Hamm, two hoopskirt-wearing ladies, have arrived in St. Louis via their magical time-traveling balloon from Victorian England (the technology of this remains unclear) and are eager to collect data on the natives and their peculiar customs. In exchange for information, they offer bribes of tea and biscuits.

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St. Louis Actors' Studio Cancels One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Kathleen Quinlan.jpg
Courtesy St. Louis Actors' Studio
Kathleen Quinlan was scheduled to star as Nurse Ratched.
For the first time in its history, the show will not go on for St. Louis Actors' Studio. The company's June production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has been cancelled. Refunds for tickets already purchased will be sent out in the next few days. Cuckoo's Nest was to have run June 12 through 17 at the Roberts Orpheum Theatre.

Founder and producing director William Roth issued the following statement.

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Vinegar Tom at SLU: Fiery, Feminist Theatre That Pulls No Punches

Categories: By the Boards
John Lamb
In Vinegar Tom, the past is the present.
Vinegar Tom is the name of an ugly, foul-smelling black cat who lurks around the periphery of the rural English village in Caryl Churchill's Brechtian play about the lives of a group of women. He's spoken to by the characters but never seen by the audience, which is unusual only because he's the cause of everyone's downfall. Or is he? Churchill's Vinegar Tom is nominally concerned with the witch trials of 17th century England, but the deeper we go in Tom Martin's taut staging of the play currently at Saint Louis University, the more clear it becomes that the witch hunt has never really ceased. More »

New Line Theatre Announces Third St. Louis Political Theatre Festival

Categories: By the Boards
Hair New Line Jill Ritter.jpg
Jill Ritter
New Line Theatre presented Hair for the 2008 festival.
The current election cycle -- which began January 20, 2009 -- is approaching the vinegar strokes, which means everybody involved gets louder and makes less sense. If you want to be involved in the process but perhaps need to refocus your thoughts, there's no better method than the theatrical. Hence the third St. Louis Political Theatre Festival, a multi-company discussion of controversial topics held in the sanctity of the theater.

This year's festival will run from September through early November, with participants yet to be determined. Scott Miller, New Line's artistic director and  theatre provacateur, graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the STLPTF and why it matters.

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Will Shakespeare to Become Biggest Hipster on Cherokee Street

When Rick Dildine moved to St. Louis from Chicago in 2009 to assume the post of executive director of the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, he, like many other newcomers to the city, was struck by the number of dead-end streets.

"They're blocked-off, chopped-up by concrete culverts covered with graffiti," he explains. "It doesn't look welcoming. The explanation was crime control."

But Dildine is an impresario by profession and nature, and he decided to look at the blocked-off streets as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. "What if we shut down the streets in the name of community?" he remembers asking himself. "That's how I came up with Shakespeare in the Streets. I said, 'Let's go into a neighborhood and get to know the people and find out what's important to them, what's cool, what excites them and adapt a Shakespeare play to their experience.'"

It took several years, but the weekend of April 27-29, Shakespeare in the Streets will make its debut with an hour-long adaptation of The Tempest called The New World at the intersection of Cherokee Street and California Avenue, arguably one of the most theatrical corners in the city, even when actors aren't there.

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