The local not-for-profit arts organization, Arts For Life, has announced that it will return to in-person judging of community theater productions beginning July 1.

With the goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference,” AFL is passionate about the healing power of the performing arts, and is proud to salute, support, and serve the theater groups in the St. Louis, MO-IL Metro East region.

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

Since 1999, the annual Best Performance Awards has celebrated achievements in musical theater and youth productions. In 2015, the Theatre Mask Awards were started to honor outstanding work in plays – in both dramas and comedies.

About 25 community theater organizations are eligible to participate in AFL.

Additionally, the group is seeking volunteer judges to evaluate shows and performers for their annual awards recognizing excellence in the region. Volunteers are the “eyes and ears” of AFL, ambassadors in the community. The deadline for applications is Monday, June 7.

Judges are required to attend a meeting before they are assigned shows to score. You must be 18 years old or older and choose either musicals or plays. If interested, fill out the form here for the Theater Recognition Guild, either the TMAs or BPAs:

Mandatory judges’ training meetings will be on the Zoom teleconference platform, offered at three different dates and times: Wednesday, June 23, and Sunday, June 27, both at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, June 26, at 1 p.m. The TRG chairmen will go over AFL’s policies and procedures, giving the judges the tools to be fair and conscientious.

For not-for-profit registered theater groups who want their shows to be eligible for accolades, they must fill out the paperwork eight weeks prior to opening night. Those forms are located here:

“Welcome back! AFL is thrilled to see our theatre groups getting ready to start putting on shows again. We are recruiting judges, scheduling training and looking forward to getting back to enjoying theatre in the St. Louis-Metro East areas,” said AFL President Mary McCreight.

“Thank you to everyone who stayed the course and who are still excited to entertain. We are ready and hope you are too. See you soon!” McCreight said.

AFL had suspended judging activities beginning in April 2020 because of the coronavirus public health emergency in Illinois and Missouri. The board of directors adopted measures to foster the protection of those who work and play in community theater until it would be safe to return.

As the CDC and local officials have recently eased restrictions and more Americans are vaccinated, the AFL board of directors, at their May 15 meeting, agreed to move forward and resume normal operations on July 1.

In mid-March 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic shutdown included closing performance venues, limiting capacity at gatherings, and protocols for social distancing and face coverings.

AFL had transitioned to virtual streamed formats for both their TMA and BPA shows honoring productions in 2019 last summer and for the recent TMAs recognizing shows produced in early 2020 and one in the fall.

The BPAs were cancelled for 2021. and the few musicals that were performed in early 2020 will be considered for the 2022 awards, along with those performed from July through December in 2021.

AFL board members have continued their focus on encouraging and promoting community theater in the region and supporting charitable programs. They will award two annual youth scholarships in June.

In recent years, AFL has initiated an Adopt-a-Student mentoring program and presented an online series on diversity and inclusion last fall.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies – the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.

AFL was founded in 1994 by Lucinda Guyrci dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the under-served and the community.

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at or visit the website,

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