By Lynn Venhaus Managing EditorAnother Opening, Another Show! Summertime kicks off with annual traditions inside and outdoors — Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ “Love’s Labors Lost” opens for its month-long free admission run in Forest Park while Opera Theatre St. Louis has two shows in repertory – Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” Major musicals make their St. Louis debut this week – the still-running-on-Broadway “Be More Chill” at New Line Theatre and the Peter Allen biopic “The Boy from Oz” kicks off Stages St. Louis’s season.Joe Hanrahan’s Midnight Company presents the St. Louis premiere of the one-man-show “Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust.”It’s the last chance to see the comedy “I Now Pronounce” at New Jewish Theatre and the musical “Nina Simone: Four Women” at The Black Rep.

Start your summer by going to see a play!

Cast of ‘Be More Chill” — Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg“Be More Chill” May 30-June 22 Thursday – Sunday, 8 p.m. New Line Theatre The Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive 314-534-1111 What It’s About: “The Breakfast Club” meets “Little Shop of Horrors” in the new sci-fi rock musical, “Be More Chill,” with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and book by Joe Tracz, based on the bestselling novel by New Vizzini. It’s a look at life in the digital age, exploring teen depression, bullying and other current issues through the comic lens of sci-fi films of the 50s, horror flicks of the 80s and the teen movies of the 90s.

Directors: Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music
direction by Nicolas Valdez
Starring: Jayde Mitchell (Jeremy), Dominic Dowdy-Windsor (Squip), Kevin Corpuz
(Michael), Zachary Allen Farmer (Jeremy’s Dad), Melissa Felps (Brooke), Evan
Fornachon (Rich), Isabel Cecilia Garcia (Jenna), Grace Langford (Christine),
Ian McCreary (Jake), and Laura Renfro (Chloe).

Of Note: “Be More Chill” made its world premiere at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey in 2015, had a successful off-Broadway run, it’s now being produced across the country, and it just opened on Broadway in March. It has a Tony nomination for Best Original Score (Joe Iconis, music and lyrics).

David Elder in Stages St. Louis debut“The Boy from Oz” May 31 – June 30 Stages St. Louis Robert G. Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center 111 S. Geyer Road,

What It’s About: Dazzling and hilarious as the legendary
Peter Allen himself, THE BOY FROM OZ follows the Australian singer-songwriter
from his humble beginnings performing in backcountry pubs to his international
stardom beside such Hollywood icons as Judy Garland and her daughter Liza

Director: Michael Hamilton
Starring: David Elder as Peter Allen, Sarah Ellis as Liza Minnelli, Zach
Trimmer as Greg Connell, Corinne Melancon as Marion Woolnough, Michele Ragusa
as Judy Garland, Brad Frenette as George Woolnough, Steve Isom as Dick
Woolnough, Erik Keiser as Chris Bell, Nic Thompson as Mark Herron, Ben Iken and
Simon Desilets as Young Peter, Lydia Ruth Dawson, Bryn Purvis and Madison
Tinder as Trio, Frankie Thams as Trick, Nathanial Burich as Dealer and Ashley
Chasteen as Alice. Ensemble includes Kari Ely and Caleb Dicke.
Of Note: Thrilling news from Stages St. Louis comes in the form of two
celebratory evenings focused around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in
conjunction with performances of “The Boy From Oz.” The 8 pm performances on
Saturday, June 1 and Friday, June 7 will offer special $30 tickets to
diversity, equity, and inclusion groups at corporations and organizations
throughout the St. Louis region. The tickets will include a special post show champagne
and dessert reception featuring lively conversation with members of the cast.

Joe Hanrahan in “Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust”“Charlie Johnson Reads All of Proust” May 30 – June 15 The Midnight Company Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Kranzberg Center, 501 N. What It’s About: An older man taking a break from Christmas shopping with his family at a Starbucks. Hungry for dinner, he tides himself over with the purchase of a small package of soft, spongy cookies. When he dips one in his coffee, his snooty daughter-in-law asks him if he’s having his “Madeleine moment,” and then proceeds to lecture him about Marcel Proust and “Remembrance of Things Past” – the classic multi-volume novel inspired by the narrator dipping a madeleine cake into tea, with the taste bringing back memories of his boyhood, and leading to a retelling of his time in 19th/20th century aristocratic France. Charlie decides he’s going to read that book (not realizing it is seven books) and be able to talk about it with his daughter-in-law next Christmas. And along the way, he discovers the epic that is his own life.

Director: Sarah Holt

Starring: Joe Hanrahan

“The Dixie Swim Club” May 31 – June 19 Monroe Actors Stage Company Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Historic Capitol Theatre in 618-939-7469 What It’s About: Five Southern women, whose friendships began many years ago on their college swim team, set aside a long weekend every August to recharge those relationships. Free from husbands, kids and jobs, they meet at the same beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up, laugh and meddle in each other’s lives. The play focuses on four of those weekends and spans a period of thirty-three years.Director: Tim PaeltzStarring: Stacey Tunnicliff as Sheree Hollinger, Dawn Williamson as Lexi Richards, Terrie Thies as Dinah Grayson, Christine Miller as Vernadette Sims and Kelly Shaw as Jeri Neal McFeeley.

Will Bonfiglio is the Best Man in “I Now Pronounce.” Jon Gitchoff photo.“I Now Pronounce” May – June 2 New Jewish Theatre Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theatre Jewish Community Center, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve

What It’s About: Most weddings have something that doesn’t
go quite right – maybe several things go awry. Often these mishaps are the
things that make the most endearing memories of the occasion, but Tasha
Gordon-Solomon’s “I Now Pronounce” imagines a wedding that culminates in an
awkwardly timed fatality, and a reception that spins into a strange and
hilarious evening that leaves the bride and groom questioning just what it is
they’re celebrating. The flower girls are running amuck; the bridal party
members are more preoccupied with their own flailing relationships. But there’s
no stopping the festivities! Comedies end in marriage.

Director: Edward Coffield

Starring: Graham Emmons, Will Bonfiglio, Ryan
Lawson-Maeske, Jessica Kadish, Craig Neuman, Delaney Piggins, Frankie Ferrari

“Love’s Labors Lost” May 31 – June 23 Shakespeare Festival St. Louis 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park

What It’s About” Belonging to Shakespeare’s “lyrical”
period, which also included Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the
play tells the story of the Princess of France and her ladies who arrive on a
diplomatic mission to Navarre only to be met by a young king and his lords who
have taken a vow not to see women. Affairs of state give way to affairs of the
heart as Shakespeare reveals with great humor and compassion the way our
culture sometimes doesn’t fully prepare us for the realities of love and
intimacy. A feast of language and theatrical virtuosity, Love’s Labors Lost
shimmers with all the passion and promise of a first kiss.

Director: Tom Ridgely
Starring: Philip Hernandez as Don Adriano de Armado, Bradley James Tejeda (Duc
de Biron), Kea Trevett (Princess of France), Sky Smith (King of Navarre), Patrick
Blindauer (Costard), Katy Keating (Nathaniel), Michael James Reed
(Forester/Marcadé), Jeffery Cummings (Boyet); Carl Howell (Dull), Carine
Montbertrand (Holofernes), Randolph (Moth), Laura Sohn (Rosaline), Molly Meyer
(Jaquenetta), Sam Jones (Longueville), Vivienne Claire Luthin (Maria), Kiah
McKirnan (Catherine), and Riz Moe (DuMaine).

“The Marriage of Figaro” May 25 – June 29 Opera Theatre of St. Louis Loretto-Hilton Center 135 Edgar Road on Webster University 314-961-0644 What It’s About: Mozart’s comedy masterpiece is about complicated life at court and how love should always prevail. The maid Susanna is determined to wed her fiancé, Figaro, while the Count is equally determined to add her to his list of conquests. But Susanna and Figaro won’t allow one self-entitled nobleman to ruin their happy ending! They each hatch their own plots to teach their master a lesson. What follows is a whirlwind day of romantic intrigue, cunning schemes, and uproarious fun. The opera runs three hours and ten minutes with one intermission and is sung in English with English supertitles.

Nina Simone: Four Women. Photo by Philip Hamer“Nina Simone: Four Women” The Black Rep May 15 – June 2 Edison Theatre on Washington University campus

What It’s About: Nina Simone’s velvet voice was unafraid to
sing lyrics that cut right to the truth. Her music and her life were a personal
exploration branded in the kiln of the civil rights movement; so, in the
aftermath of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the tragic
loss of the four little girls her powerful anthems, “Mississippi Goddam,” “Sinnerman”
and “Old Jim Crow,” fueled the Civil Rights movement and changed her public
persona from songstress to activist. From the iconic “I Put a Spell on You” to “Four
Women,” Simone’s lyrics weave a story of four women alienated from themselves
and one another due to the color of their skin.

Director: Ron HimesStarring: Leah Stewart as Simone, Denise Thimes as Sarah (aka Auntie), Alex Jay as Sephronia and Camile “Cee” Sharp as Sweet Thing

“Rigoletto” Opera Theatre of St. Louis June 1 – June 30 8 p.m. Loretto-Hilton Center 135 Edgar 314-961-0644What It’s About: Verdi’s powerful “Rigoletto” is a tale of innocence lost, wrenchingly poignant and all too human, presented in English with English supertitles. Rigoletto is a bitter court jester who serves the Duke of Mantua, a lecherous womanizer. Together, they are despised throughout the city. But alone, Rigoletto is all tenderness when it comes to his innocent young daughter, Gilda. Little does he know that an ominous curse is about to take its toll. When the Duke seduces Gilda, only to then abandon her, the enraged father swears vengeance.

Cover Photo: Vivienne Claire Luthin, Kea Trevett, Laura Sohn and Kiah McKirnan in “Love’s Labors Lost” — Photo by Philip Hamer.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Edward Coffield likes to make people laugh.
As a director, his forte has been comedy, and this past year, he has helmed “Life Sucks” and “An Act of God” at the New Jewish Theatre, where he took over the reins as Artistic Director from longtime chief Kathleen Sitzer, who retired in July after 22 years.
Kathleen programmed the 2018-2019 season, and he collaborated with her. The season opened with “Raging Skillet” on Oct. 3, then “An Act of God” Nov. 29 – Dec. 16 and continues with the upcoming “District Merchants” Jan. 24 – Feb. 10, “Time Stands Still” March 28 – April 14, and “I Now Pronounce” May 16 – June 2, a wedding comedy, which he will direct.
In assuming the Artistic Director position, Coffield said he wanted to deepen and extend the relationship he had with the company for 16 years, most recently as associate artistic director.
“New Jewish has a very steady and loyal audience who are smart and love a great story,” he said.
During his tenure at NJT, he directed “Yentl,” the original 2005 production of “Driving Miss Daisy,” “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding,” “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” and the award-winning “Jacob and Jack,” among many others. He was nominated for a Kevin Kline Award for “From Door to Door” and by the St. Louis Theater Circle for his work on the farce “Is He Dead?” for St. Louis Shakespeare.
Currently, he is working on “District Merchants,” which is being directed by Jacqueline Thompson.
This adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” takes love and litigation, deep passions and predatory lending to a new level as it explores race, religion, power and money in America.
“I am very excited to produce this play. When Kathleen Sitzer (NJT’s founding Artistic Director) was planning the 2018-19 season we had several conversations about producing ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ which we had produced previously in 2005. It is one of those plays that continues to remain relevant. The Jewish people read the Torah year after year. Not because the Torah changed but because we change. Maybe that is true with great plays, they should be revisited,” he said.
“Kathleen knew about this adaptation and we both like Aaron Posner the playwright (author of “Life Sucks”) – so it seemed like the perfect time to produce this play. 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,” he said.
What might be his calling card, the signature of a Coffield production?
“People tell me I have a knack for casting well,” he said.
Coffield recently directed the comedy “An Act of God,” which the New York Times referred to as “A gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind’s attempts to fathom God’s wishes through the words of the Bible and use them to their own ends.”
In this 2015 play by David Javerbaum, God decides to introduce revised laws and doesn’t hold back.
“It’s funny, funny, funny,” he said, “plus Alan Knoll.”
Coffield and Knoll have worked on more than a dozen productions.
“We are close friends. He might be the funniest actor I know,” he said.
After three decades here, he will only take on certain projects.
“I will not direct a show that does not speak to me emotionally or intellectually,” he said.
In addition to running the J, he is on the faculty of the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University, and freelances as a director. He has directed for Insight Theatre Company, St. Louis Shakespeare, Stray Dog Theatre, Ozark Actors Theatre and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and the former Orange Girls company.
He spent 28 years at The Rep as production manager.
“He understands how the theatre business works. He connects well with artists, technicians, staff and contributors,” said Steven Woolf, Artistic Director of the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis, when Coffield was announced as NJT Artistic Director.
Working in the local theater community has its rewards, Coffield noted.
“We are a great theatre town and we continue to grow and expand. It is a very exciting time to be a theatre maker here,” he said. “I am so honored to be part of a great theatre community.”
The downside is: “There is a lot of theatre here and scheduling can be tricky,” he said.
As a new year is about to begin, he is excited about what’s ahead.
“I look forward to continue the growth and success of NJT,” Coffield said.
For more information, visit
Here are Edward’s answers to our Take Ten Questions:
Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a producer. I suppose at that point, I did not really know what that meant. I have come to learn that it means leading the collaborative process of theatre on stage and off.”
How would your friends describe you?
How do you like to spend your spare time?
“Avid Foodie and Cook.”
What is your current obsession?
“Old episodes of “Perry Mason.”
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“As gregarious as I am, I am very shy.”
Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“Years ago, in summer stock, I was stage managing a production of “Hello, Dolly!” One night as we are about to start the title song, I looked in to the audience and watched a 60-something man put his arm around his (I presume) wife. They snuggled together and sang along at the top of their lungs. I was so touched, I laughed and then teared up. It was a great reminder of the power and sweetness that the theatre has to make people change.
Who do you admire most?
“My late twin brother Philip. An actor and director – he taught me about theatre and most importantly, he taught me how to laugh.”
8. What is at the top of your Bucket List?
“A trip to Italy, Israel, Argentina …’s a long list.”
What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?
“Farmer’s Markets.”
What’s next?
“Directing ‘I Now Pronounce’ for New Jewish Theatre.”
More about Edward:
Name: Edward (Eddie) Coffield
Age: 54
Birthplace: New Mexico
Current location: University City
Family: 2 cats (Barnaby and Cornelius), amazing father and siblings, and the greatest friends in the world.
Education: University of Texas at Austin
Day job: Artistic Director-Producer the New Jewish Theatre
First job: Long John Silver – “Ahoy, can I help you!”
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Multiple nominee Best Director- Circle Awards and Kline Awards
Favorite quote/words to live by: “Prance with vigor.”
A song that makes you happy: “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin.