Best Performance Awards to Honor Community Theatre, Youth Productions June 30

Local performer Donna Weinsting, who has been a popular figure on stage, in films and comedy clubs throughout St. Louis for 60 years, is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from Arts For Life.

“I am beyond honored to receive this very special recognition, humbled and excited. I feel that this is a gift — to be acknowledged for something I have had a passion for nearly my entire life,” she said.

Donna Weinsting

Born Donna Collins, she grew up in St. Louis, and while her family moved several times, she landed in Oakville at age 13, and that is where she has lived ever since. She was first in a summer city park production of “Sleeping Beauty,” then a play in junior high.

“The die was cast and a 60-year career in acting and stand-up comedy was launched,” she said.

A graduate of Mehlville High School, she has never shied away from a challenge, playing leads as well as supporting and brief roles. She has performed in one-woman shows, played characters like Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jabba the Hutt in “Star Wars,” and various animals in WiseWrite plays written by 10-year-olds.

The community theater organizations she has worked with include Clayton Community Theatre, Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, and the no longer active Affton Players.

She has been on the stages of the regional professional companies The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Max and Louie Productions, New Jewish Theatre, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, Stray Dog Theatre, St. Louis Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, Upstream Theater, West End Players Guild, and the shuttered Orange Girls, Insight Theatre, OnSite, and others.

She has appeared at the Bluff City Theater in Hannibal, Mo., Ozark Actors’ Theatre in Rolla, Mo., Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock, Mo., Stages Houston and 59E59 Theatre Off-Broadway in New York as part of the LaBute New Theatre Festival.

Her honors include a Kevin Kline Award for Lead Actress, as Bessie in “From Door to Door” at New Jewish Theatre, St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Outstanding Actress as Iola in “Salt, Root and Roe” at Upstream Theater, and a St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Comedy Ensemble for “Jacob and Jack” at New Jewish Theatre, where she played both Ester and Hannah.

 She is proud of those honors but her most treasured things are her two children, five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and her 63-year marriage to her high school sweetheart, Mike.

Next up is a one-act play, “The Magic Tower,” which is part of the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis production of “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” this August.

She will be shooting a movie in Springfield this fall called “Big Mike’s Cabin,” and has appeared in “Ethan and Edna” and “Doubting Thomas.”

Zion Thomas emcee

Tickets Available for Awards Ceremony

Tickets are now available for the Arts For Life’s 24th Annual Best Performance Awards for community theater recognition on Sunday, June 30 at the Keating Performing Arts Center at Kirkwood High School, 801 W Essex Ave, Kirkwood, MO 63122

Zion Thomas will be the event’s master of ceremonies. A recent graduate of Case Western Reserve University, he is pursuing a career in film/TV.

Thomas served as the assistant director for GCPA’s “Ragtime,” and has performed the show twice — in the Union Avenue Opera production as part of the Harlem Ensemble last summer and was nominated for a St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Award for his performance as Coalhouse Walker Jr. at MICDS.

A GCPA alumnus, Thomas was BPA-nominated as Flick in “Violet” and played one of the adults in “Spring Awakening.”

Paul Pagano will serve as director. A native of St. Louis, he is the executive director and a co-founder of Gateway Center for the Performing Arts. He earned a bachelor’s degree in drama from Washington University and a master’s in theatre education from Fontbonne University.

A proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association since 2001, he has worked with The Muny, Stages St. Louis, HotCity Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and others. Besides teaching at GCPA, he has been an instructor at COCA, St. Louis University High School, and Stages Performing Arts Academy.

The ceremony will include performances from the top musicals nominated in the three Best Musical Production categories.

Paul Pagano will direct the awards ceremony

Act Two Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” and Monroe Actors Stage Company’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” lead all musical productions with 17 nominations apiece.

Gateway Center for the Performing Arts has the most nominations with 31- for “Bare: A Pop Opera” (7) and youth productions “9 to 5: The Musical” (14) and “School of Rock” (10).

Seating is reserved. Please let us know which theatre group or individual you would like to sit with in the “notes to seller” section at checkout.

BPA tickets are $30 and are available online with a service fee of $2 added:

Reservations can be arranged via the mail. Make check payable to ARTS FOR LIFE and mail to PO Box 16426, St. Louis, MO 63125.

All BPA ticket orders will be held at the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with the ticket order. If ordering for a group, please attach a list of individual names for box office pick-up.

Please contact us at if you have any special seating needs. Handicapped seating is available.

Award Nominations

Nominations are listed on the website,

“These events recognize the incredible talent we have in St. Louis community theater and honor the passion and dedication of those who build this amazing and unique theatrical community,” said Mary McCreight, AFL president.

Participating groups included Act Two Theatre, Alpha Players of Florissant, Christ Memorial Productions, Crusader Players, Curtain’s Up Theatre, Dayspring Arts and Education, Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, Goshen Theatre Project, Hawthorne Players, KTK Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse, Monroe Actors’ Stage Company, O’Fallon Theatre Works, Spotlight Productions and Take Two Productions.

Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.

For advertising rates, BPA event sponsorship or more information, email or visit the website,

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