By CB Adams

According to Charlotte’s Web author E.B. White, “The circus comes as close to being the world in microcosm as anything I know. In a way, it puts all the rest of show business in the shade.”

With the launch of its 36th season, Circus Flora continues its dedication to providing St. Louis with an entertainment that is equal parts circus arts and theatrical performance. If your idea of a circus is limited to men driving around in small cars dressed as clowns or a lion tamer snapping whip, then you are more than ready for the Circus Flora experience.

Circus Flora, with shows through July 3, is a one-ring circus, and that’s one of its best attributes. The action close and intimate, and the performers engage the audience from above, around the ring and in the aisles. Unlike the circuses of yore, Circus Flora is presented theatrically, with a plot that changes each year. This year’s is “The Quest for the Innkeeper’s Cask.” It involves the antics of the Spirit Sleuths as they seek the fabled ghost of an Innkeeper and her cask of stolen human spirits in the caves beneath St. Louis.

The plot incorporates world-renowned acts like the Flying Wallendas, local acts like the St. Louis Arches and original music, ala Django Reinhardt, performed live. The show begins with an introduction by the clown, Yo-Yo the Storyteller, played with gravitas, wit and just the right amount of spookiness by Cecil MacKinnon.

As an exquisitely costumed clown, MacKinnon keeps the plot (which she co-created with Artistic Director Jack Marsh) and performances briskly moving throughout the show. She has performed with and created shows for Circus Flora since its founding in 1986 and currently serves as the theater director – and that experience shows. She’s one of the best parts of this production.

The Spirit Sleuths are a fun mélange of Ghostbusters, Scooby Doo and Our Gang. The troupe is led by the excellent featured performers: Ambrose Martos and Britt Lower. Ambrose is an actor, clown and host who has performed with Cirque du Soleil’s Joya as well as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Good Cop and Gotham. Lower can currently be seen as the lead role of Helly in the Apple TV+ show Severance. In “Innkeeper’s Cask, “ the Heyworth, IL native acts, sings and plays the ukulele.

One of the gems of this show is the lively music, with traces of klezmer, gypsy and flamenco, that enhances the action and humor in the ring. This superb soundtrack is thanks to Janine Del’Arte, musical director, composer and arranger, as well as Miriam Cutler, composer.

Acrobats, daredevils, aerialists and tumblers are creatively woven into the “Innkeeper’s Cask” story. Returning for 2022 are The Flying Wallendas (highwire), The Flying Cortes (trapeze) and The Daring Horseman (equine companions). Also returning are The St. Louis Arches, a troupe composed of performers 11 to 18 years old, with an impressive floor show. The Arches hail from Circus Harmony, St. Louis’s only social circus school. Circus Harmony also offers recreational classes and preprofessional training. Circus Harmony uses the teaching and performing of circus arts to motivate social change.

New to this year’s Circus Flora Big Top are Sam & Louis, who perform a “Russian cradle” aerial act and Trio Black Diamond, a three-person balancing act from Ethiopia.

Circus Flora in general and “The Quest for the Innkeeper’s Cask” particular packs more for a family’s entertainment dollar while also maintaining a high level of artistic and theatrical integrity (not to mention face painting and pony rides on the midway).

The Colombian artist Fernando Botero once said, “The circus leaves a sweet memory.” “The Quest for the Innkeeper’s Cask” certain does.

Circus Flora’s “The Quest for the Innkeeper’s Cask” runs through July 3, including new theme nights: Baseball Night (June 15), Hockey Night (June 22) and Pride Night (June 29).

The Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, an annual presentation of the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis (CSL), serves as the area’s primary venue for films made by local artists. The Showcase screens works that were shot in the St. Louis region or were written, directed, or produced by St. Louis-area residents or by filmmakers with strong local ties who are now working elsewhere. 

Because of the continuing Covid-19 health crisis, the Showcase will again be presented virtually in 2021. CSL will once more partner with Eventive on the virtual festival. Films will be available to view on demand anytime from July 16-25. There are no geographic limits on access. Once a ticket-holder begins watching a program, access remains available for 48 hours. 

The Showcase’s 15 film programs range from narrative and documentary features to multi-film compilations of fiction and documentary shorts. Feature programs will include recorded Q&As with filmmakers, which will also be available on CSL’s YouTube channel. In addition to the film programs, this year’s event will feature four free master classes focused on key aspects of filmmaking. These will be offered as livestreams at specific times/dates during the Showcase. 

The July 25 closing-night awards presentation will be either an in-person outdoor party or a livestream. Visit the CSL website for updated info. Announced during the event will be nearly two dozen Showcase jury awards — including a $500 prize to the Best Showcase Film. Cinema St. Louis staff will also announce the films that will move on to the 30th annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival in November.

The 102 films and four master classes in this year’s Showcase will be available to be seen worldwide and include the following:

  • Animated and Experimental Shorts: More than two dozen animated and experimental works will be presented in two colorful shorts programs. 
  • The Balancing Act: Circus Harmony’s Jessica Henthoff directed this charming peek behind the curtains at how current and former performers coped during the pandemic.
  • Doc Shorts: Two illuminating and thoughtful documentary-short programs feature a wide range of stories and subjects.
  • The Final 19: Director Tim Breitbach tells the astonishing true story of Sgt. Dan Hefel, one of the final 19 prisoners of war to come home from Vietnam. 
  • House of Thunder: Paul Schankman produced this fascinating documentary about a pivotal but little-known Revolutionary War battle.
  • Indians, Outlaws, Marshals and the Hangin’ Judge: Director Larry Foley uses a first-person re-creation of an account written by St. Louis Republic reporter Ada Patterson to tell the story of infamous “hangin’ judge” Isaac Parker.
  • Interrobang: This sexy, “adults only” comedy anthology was directed by former St. Louisan Paige Feldman, who was an intern for the St. Louis Film Office when it produced the very first St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase in 2000.
  • Master Classes: A series of four free master classes — featuring filmmakers and industry professionals — focused on key aspects of filmmaking: Special and Visual Effects (July 17), Cinematography (July 18), Sound (July 24), and Historical Documentary (July 25).
  • Narrative Shorts: Five eclectic narrative-short programs include comedies, dramas, horror films, and thrillers.
  • Once a Hero: Showcase alum Tim Reischauer directed this poignant drama about a veteran haunted by his PTSD. 

The Whitaker Foundation again serves as the Showcase’s title sponsor. The foundation’s twofold mission is to encourage the preservation and use of parks and to enrich lives through the arts. The Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation is underwriting both the Showcase’s master classes and the $500 prize for the Best Showcase Film.

The event’s other sponsors include the Arts & Education Council, Grizzell & Co., Joni Tackette Casting, Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Film Office, Regional Arts Commission, and St. Louis Public Radio.

Instagram@stlfilmshowcase Twitter: @stlfilmshowcase Facebook@STLFilmmakersShowcase

For more information, visit

21st Annual Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase

Dates: July 16-25, 2021

Tickets: Individual tickets are $14 for general admission, $12 for Cinema St. Louis members and students with valid and current photo IDs

Passes: 5-film passes are available for $60, $50 for CSL members; all-access passes are available for $135, $105 for CSL members

Ticket and Pass Purchase:

By Lynn Venhaus Managing Editor As barren as the outdoors is of life, inside the walls of our theatrical spaces, large and small, are full of life. There are 15 shows available to audiences this weekend! There is something for every taste — pick one or two or three! And Go See a Play!

Accelerando – A Circus Spy Thriller Circus Harmony Jan. 26 at noon and 2 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 2 What It’s About: The annual show features their famous flying children with new acts, including Chinese Pole and Hoop Diving.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff“Alabama Story” Jan. 2 – 27 The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

What It’s About: A determined librarian and a
segregationist senator face off over an innocent children’s book in 1959
Montgomery. Depicting the marriage of two rabbits – who happen to have
different-colored fur – the story has Sen. E.W. Higgins calling for a book ban.
But even as the pressure mounts, librarian Emily Wheelock Reed refuses to yield
to censorship. Inspired by true events.

Directed by Paul Mason Barnes Starring: Larry Paulsen, Jeanne Paulsen, Carl Howell, Carl Palmer, Corey Allen, Anna O’Donoghue“Avenue Q” The Playhouse at Westport Plaza Jan. 25 – March 3

What It’s About: Part flesh, part felt and packed with
heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical telling the story of Princeton, a
college grad who moves into the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account.
He and his Avenue Q neighbors struggle to find jobs, dates and their life’s

Director: Lee Anne Mathews, with Music Director Charlie MuellerStarring: Andrew Keeler, Brent Ambler, Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Kevin O’Brien, Grace Langford, Illeana Kirven, April Strelinger

Of Note: For mature audiences. “Avenue Q” won Tony Awards,

“Canfield Drive” The Black Rep Jan. 9 – 27 Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University What It’s About: The world premiere production is about two high-powered news reporters from across the aisle who are thrown together during the national coverage of the aftermath following the Michael Brown shooting death in Ferguson, Mo., in summer 2014.

As they untangle facts, they struggle to keep their private
lives out of the spotlight.
Directed by Ron Himes
Starring: Kristen Adele Calhoun, Christopher Hickey, Amy Loui, Eric Conners

Of Note: Created from diverse interviews of people from
around the corner and around the world, Canfield Drive was written by Kristen
Adele Calhoun and Michael Thomas Walker. It is a National Performance Network
Creation and Development Fund Project co-commissioned by 651 Arts in
partnership with The St. Louis Black Repertory Company, and NPN.

Photo by Eric Woolsey“District Merchants: An Uneasy Comedy” New Jewish Theatre Jan. 24 – Feb. 10 Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Wool Studio Theater Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus 314-442-3283

What It’s About: Love, litigation, deep passions and predatory lending are taken to a new level. The play wades fearlessly into the complexities of life in America. It is set among Black and Jewish populations in an imagined time and place, simultaneously Shakespearean and post- Civil War Washington, D.C. Directed by Jacqueline Thompson Cast: Gary Wayne Barker, J. Samuel Davis, Karl Hawkins, Ron White, Rae Davis Of Note: In Aaron Posner’s reimagining, the play becomes less about the quality of mercy and more about how flexible a supposedly egalitarian society can be to the varied tribes struggling to find partners in America. Aaron Posner expertly blends humor, emotional truths and topics that make people think. He is able to create characters who are deeply flawed, like we are. In his “uneasy” comedy, he wants us to look at a snapshot in time, the Reconstruction Era, but what he has written is relevant to audiences today.

Fiddler on the Roof “Fiddler on the Roof” Fox TheatreJan. 29 –“L’Italiana in Algeri” Winter Opera St. Louis Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade 425 S. Lindbergh “Jekyll & Hyde” Next Generation Theatre Company Jan. 26 – Feb. 2 Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. James J. Eagan Center, Florissant

What It’s About: An evocative tale of two men – one, a
passionate doctor; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women, both in love
with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret. Murder and chaos is
pitted against love and virtue.

Starring: Keith Boyer as Dr. Henry Jekyll

Of Note: Rated PG-13 for violence.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” Looking Glass Playhouse Jan. 24 – Feb. 3 Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. 301 West St Louis Street in Lebanon, Ill. What It’s About: The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical
is a timeless work set against the backdrop of a Biblical series of events but
seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

“Love, Linda” Max and Louie Productions Jan. 18 – Jan. 27 Marcelle Theatre in Grand Arts Center

What It’s About: Linda Lee Thomas was the Southern beauty
who married and was the driving force behind legendary song writer Cole Porter
at the dawn of the roaring twenties. Though Cole Porter was gay, their
companionship and love lasted through 35 years of marriage and a spectacular,
glamour-filled life.
Through innovative jazz arrangements, the music and lyrics of Cole Porter
examine the darker sides of their life while also celebrating the deep love
that blossomed through their unconventional relationship.
Directed by Ken Page, Music Director Greg Schweizer
Starring Debby Lennon

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” Hard Road Theatre Productions Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Highland Elementary School auditorium in Highland, Ill.

What It’s about: The pop doesn’t stop in this musical about
a high school prom in 1958 and, in the second act, a 10-year reunion in 1968,
with a soundtrack that includes big hits from both decades.  

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg“The Motherf*cker with The Hat” R-S Theatrics Jan. 25 – Feb. 1 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. .Zack, 3224 Locust

What It’s About: How do you know where you’re going…if
you don’t know who has been in your home? The seriocomedy explores how 5 people
in New York navigate loyalty, trust, and duty through friendship, love and the
challenges of adulthood. And how no one should ever underestimate the
importance of cleaning up their accessories.

Directed by:

Starring: Adam Flores, Sofia Lidia, Jesse Munoz, Aaron Dodd, Taleesha Caturah

“On Golden Pond” Alton Little Theater Jan. 25 – 27 Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Alton Little Theater, 2450 N. Henry in Alton, Ill. What It’s About: At a summer lake home, the play focuses on a daughter’s turbulent relationship with her father, and also the trails of a loving couple in the twilight years of a long marriage.

“Wittenberg” Upstream Theater Jan. 25 – Feb. 10 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 7 p.m. except Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. Kranzberg Arts Center

What It’s About: It’s October 1517, and the new fall
semester at the University of Wittenberg finds certain members of the faculty
and student body at personal and professional crossroads. Hamlet (senior, class
of 1518) is returning from a summer in Poland spent studying astronomy, where
he has learned of a revolutionary scientific theory that threatens the very
order of the universe, resulting in psychic trauma and a crisis of faith for
him. His teacher and mentor John Faustus has decided at long last to make an
honest woman of his paramour, Helen, a former nun who is now one of the
Continent’s most sought-after courtesans. And Faustus’ colleague and Hamlet’s
instructor and priest, Martin Luther, is dealing with the spiritual and medical
consequences of his long-simmering outrage at certain abusive practices of the

Directed by: Philip Boehm
Starring: Casey Boland, Steve Isom, Alan Knoll and Caitlin Mickey.

Of Note: St. Louis premiere.

Photo by Jon Gitchoff“The Wolves” The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Jan. 18 – Feb. 3 Studio Theatre Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus What It’s About: Nine teenage girls prepare for battle on a
soccer field. As they stretch and warm up together, the teammates’ nonstop
banter reveals how a collection of disparate personalities bonds to form a

Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
Starring: Cassandra Lopez, Cecily Dowd, Colleen Dougherty, Cece Hill, Maya J.
Christian, Mary Katharine Harris, Esmeralda Garza, Rachael Logue, Keaton Whittaker,
Nancy Bell,

Of Note: St. Louis premiere

“Workers’ Opera” Bread and Roses Sunday, Jan. 27 Missouri History Museum 1 to 2:30 p.m. Free and open to the public What It’s About: Bread and Roses presents these vignettes of new and revised sketches about laborers, unions, and workers’ rights in the past and the present. Every sketch is full of good music, some history and lots of political humor.

Director: Kathryn Bentley, associate professor at
SIU-Edwardsville and Artistic Director of the Black Theater Workshop.

Music and script editing by Colin McLaughlin.

Of Note: Written and performed by members of Service
Employees International Union, Communications Workers of America, United Media
Guild, Actors Equity, Asbestos Workers, and others involved in the arts and
organized labor.