Metro Theater Company (MTC), St. Louis’s premiere professional theater for youth and families and St. Louis’ third-oldest theater company, opens its 2021/22 Season with Digging Up Dessa — a poignant, funny, and empowering family-friendly adventure that champions women in science while highlighting self-discovery in young people. Best for ages 10 and up, MTC presents Digging Up Dessa live at the Grandel Theatre, October 17 – November 7, with socially distant seating. A virtual streaming option is also available October 21 – November 7 at Tickets are $20-$36 and available through MetroTix. 

Digging Up Dessa, written by playwright Laura Schellhardt, had its world premiere at The Kennedy Center in 2018 as part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. The Washington Post celebrated it as a “handsome, funny show,” with D.C. area critics calling it “thoughtful entertainment that is intelligent and involving” (DC Theatre Scene) and “full of heart and innovation…. a rewarding piece of theatre for young audiences” (Theatre Bloom). 

Metro Theater Company’s production of Digging up Dessa is directed by MTC Artistic Director Julia Flood. The all-St. Louis four-member cast of performers includes Rae Davis as Dessa, John Katz as Nilo, Alicia Revé Like as Esther, and Lizi Watt as Mary Anning. 

Dessa is a modern-day 12-year-old with no shortage of mysteries to solve and fossils to find. Her days are filled with buried treasures just waiting to be uncovered. But when her family of three unexpectedly becomes a family of two, this smart, funny young scientist struggles to overcome her grief and anger at all the changes in her world. Dessa’s unlikely comfort comes from a remarkable new friend, one only she can see and hear—Mary Anning, the 19th-century paleontologist who discovered a breakthrough dinosaur fossil at the age of 12 and became a pioneer in her field. But why is her portrait not on the museum wall alongside those of her male counterparts? Dessa decides that she’s going to fight to earn Mary the respect she deserves. With help from her new classmate and once-rival, Nilo, Dessa unearths secrets of the past and present—for Mary’s legacy and her own way forward.
Digging Up Dessa is a 70-minute production with no intermission. The play is recommended for ages 10 and up.  
Themes of the play include comedy-drama-adventure, empowerment for girls, resilience, history, STEAM, and grief. 

WHEN: October 17 – November 7, 2021Sundays at 2 p.m.: Oct. 17, 24, 31 & Nov. 7
Fridays at 7 p.m.: Oct. 22, 29 & Nov. 5
Saturdays at 4 p.m.: Oct. 23, 30 & Nov. 6Wednesdays – Fridays at 10 a.m.: School matinees available upon request for in person field trips
WHERE: The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, MO 63103

TICKETS: Tickets are $20-$36 and are available now through MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or
Online virtual streaming begins at $20 and is available October 21 – November 7 through the MTC website at (The video for the virtual streaming is from a mid-October filmed performance.)  

School groups can enjoy live performances or virtual field trips at heavily discounted rates, with streaming tickets available for $5 or less and in-person tickets available for $10 per student.

PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN VIEWING PERIOD: Metro Theater Company is committed to ensure that economic barriers do not prevent families from experiencing its programs. MTC is offering a three-day pay-what-you-can viewing period October 21 – 23 for both virtual streaming and in-person performances. More information at

COVID-19 SAFETY: Metro Theater Company has been approved as Missouri ArtSafe Certified. MTC continues to update its policies to protect all patrons from COVID-19 exposure risks. For Digging Up Dessa, the following safety measures apply:   

• Mask wearing is required for ages 2+• Guests ages 12+ must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and will be asked to show proof of vaccination upon arrival at The Grandel• Unvaccinated patrons ages 12+ with documented medical conditions must be able to provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance or a negative antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance• A minimum of two empty seats and one empty row will separate all parties from one another in the theater
For more detailed information on Metro Theater Company’s COVID health policies, please visit

Digging Up Dessa is supported in part by Berges Family Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, Emerson, Crawford Taylor Foundation, PNC Arts Alive, The Shubert Foundation, Whitaker Foundation, Centene Charitable Trust, and Missouri Arts Council. Streaming of Digging Up Dessa is part of MTC Remote, a new virtual initiative supported by PNC Arts Alive.

About Metro Theater Company: Since 1973, Metro Theater Company has been creating productions that respect young people’s intelligence, tell compelling stories, stimulate curiosity and provoke thoughtful reflection. The Company has reached a total audience of more than two million and has a national reputation for excellence in the field of professional theater for young audiences. Institutional support for Metro Theater Company is provided Berges Family Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, Emerson, Crawford Taylor Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Whitaker Foundation, Children’s Theater Foundation of America, Missouri Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Arts and Education Council. Metro Theater Company has received major honors and awards, both locally and nationally. The company is led by Artistic Director Julia Flood and Managing Director Joe Gfaller. For more information, visit

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