By Lynn Venhaus

Local treasure John Contini is at his best in a vibrant, vigorous portrayal of legendary actor John Barrymore that is both funny and sad at the same time, but never sags or lags for a second.

It’s a remarkable tour-de-force for a seasoned pro used to delivering classic portrayals of Shakespeare, Albee, Miller, Mamet and more during a career that has spanned over 40 years.

Barrymore came to prominence for his stage work, notably an acclaimed “Hamlet” in 1922, and went on to become one of the most influential and idolized actors of that era. His movies included “Grand Hotel,” “Beau Brummel,” “Dinner at Eight,” “Twentieth Century” and “Svengali.”

He died at age 60 in 1942, and by then, his sordid personal life had eclipsed his professional accomplishments.  

But even with the title “Barrymore,” it’s not a one-man show. One of the most surprising aspects of this captivating work is that it’s a two-hander, and sparring with an offstage prompter, Frank the stage manager, offers insight into the actor’s twilight years.

Frank is voiced by Alexander Huber, and his shifting moods come through loud and clear –exasperated and stern as he pleads and cajoles with the once-great but in serious decline star to get his act together and complete the tasks at hand, which is rehearsing for his comeback as “Richard III.”

The famous actor is, by turns, insufferable, mean, vainglorious, rueful, flamboyant, distressed, ribald and pitiable, and Contini is seamless as he swiftly moves in and out of Barrymore’s many moods.

Playwright William Luce depicts Barrymore a few months before his death as he is rehearsing the Shakespeare tragedy which would be a revival of his 1920 Broadway triumph. This is fiction, of course.

The setting is a small stage that he has rented to prepare for what he hopes will be his comeback. But he is too far gone, ravaged by alcoholism and hard living. But he sure has hilarious stories to share.

In two acts, he jokes with the audience, breaking the fourth wall, imitates his siblings Lionel and Ethel, both legendary actors themselves, and reminisces about better times. He had been married four times and is candid in sharing sexual exploits and off-color jokes.

Luce’s play was produced on Broadway in 1997, with Christopher Plummer in the title role. He won the Tony Award for his performance and reprised the role in a 2011 film adaptation.

Contini has portrayed the superstar thespian before, for the former Avalon Theatre Company at the ArtSpace at Crestwood Court in 2009 and won a Kevin Kline Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play.

While Contini commands attention from start to finish, what is also noteworthy is Erin Kelley’s supple direction. Kelley co-founded the Avalon Theatre Company and served as its managing artistic director for seven years. However, this is a fresh interpretation of that show.

Also lending their talents to this superb collaboration is scenery and lighting designer Patrick Huber, bathing the stage with a ghost light and minimal illumination for a forlorn effect, and costume designer Teresa Doggett, whose wise sartorial choices dress Barrymore in a dapper suit for the first act and in a well-worn regal outfit for King Richard III in the second act.

Emma Glose’s prop designs create a bygone era’s theatrical tools and provide a few of the actor’s possessions. Kristi Gunther, production manager, and Amy Paige, stage manager, keep things moving at a swift clip.

A witty and wise work, “Barrymore” showcases artistry while offering both comedy and pathos in a virtuosic production.

The St. Louis Actors’ Studio presents “Barrymore” in a limited engagement Dec. 1 -10 at the Gaslight Theatre, 360 N. Boyle. Performances are Friday through Sunday Dec. 1-3, and Tuesday through Sunday, Dec. 5-10, at 8 p.m. except for Sundays, which are at 3 p.m. General admission tickets are $40 each plus fees, $35 each plus fees for students with valid ID and seniors 65+, available via Ticketmaster or at the theater box office one hour before showtime. For more information, visit or email

By Lynn Venhaus

Back in his day, John Barrymore was considered one of the most influential and idolized actors of stage and screen. He died at age 60 in 1942, and by then, his personal life — four divorces, alcohol abuse — had overshadowed his professional career. However, his glorious stage work, particularly his “Hamlet” in 1922, drew rave reviews for his tragic portrayals, and his body of work has been a testament to his legendary impact.

So, it seems fitting that John Contini, one of St. Louis’ most respected and tenacious actors, would assume the title role for a new production at the St. Louis Actors’ Studio in a limited engagement Dec. 1 -10 at the Gaslight Theatre, 360 N. Boyle. Performances are Friday through Sunday Dec. 1-3, and Tuesday through Sunday, Dec. 5-10, at 8 p.m. except for Sundays, which are at 3 p.m. For more information, visit:

John Contini as “Barrymore.” Photo by Patrick Huber

The two-person play “Barrymore” by William Luce depicts the famous actor a few months before his death as he is rehearsing “Richard III,” which would be a revival of his 1920 Broadway triumph. Each act begins with a grand entrance onto the stage that he has rented to prepare for his comeback performance. He jokes with the audience, spars with the offstage prompter, reminisces about better times, and does delicious imitations of his siblings Lionel and Ethel. Frank, the stage manager that can be heard over the theatre’s loudspeaker, is voiced by Alexander Huber. The play is directed by Erin Kelley.

Produced on Broadway in 1997, Christopher Plummer won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actors in a Play, and reprised the role in a 2011 film adaptation.

Contini, who describes the actor as fascinating, has portrayed the larger-than-life thespian before, for the Avalon Theatre Company at the ArtSpace at Crestwood Court, both no longer in existence, in the summer of 2009. For that effort, he won a Kevin Kline Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play.

“I am grateful I get to revisit and revive John Barrymore,” he said.

His award-winning performance as Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” in 2014.

He has been an Equity and SAG/AFTRA actor for more than 40 years, and has performed in over 300 productions across the country. He has been in shows at the St. Louis Repertory Theatre, The Black Repertory Theatre, New Jewish Theatre, and The Muny in St. Louis, as well as the Fox in Atlanta, Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, August Wilson Theatre in New York City, Ozark Actors’ Theatre in Rolla, Mo., Maples Repertory Theatre in Macon, Mo., and the Bluff City Theatre in Hannibal, Mo., among others.

He won a St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama for his portrayal of Willy Loman in Insight Theater’s “Death of a Salesman” in 2014. For his “King Lear” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio, he received the GO Magazine Award as Best Actor. Other favorite roles include Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” Norman Thayer in “On Golden Pond” and Henry Drummond in “Inherit the Wind.” He’s appeared in the film “Four Color Eulogy” with his son Jason Contini, who is also an actor.

He has also directed over 60 productions, including “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”: at St. Louis Actors’ Studio, for which he won Outstanding Director from the St. Louis Theater Circle. Other credits include “The Gin Game,” “American Buffalo,” “Tuesdays with Morrie,” “Deathtrap” and “I Do! I Do!”

John Contini in the movie “Four Color Eulogy”

Take Ten Q &A with John Contini:

1. What is special about your latest project?

 I like that I get to revisit and revive John Barrymore, who I find fascinating.

2. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?

I could never see myself doing anything other than something in the Arts.  The arts are the windows to our culture.

3. How would your friends describe you?

Loyal, dependable and dedicated…I hope

4. How do you like to spend your spare time? 

Watching old movies, researching movies and writing and drawing.

5. What is your current obsession?

 Godzilla movies and drawing at the moment

6. What would people be surprised to find out about you? 

That I am a comic book collector, writer and artist.

7. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life? 

Professionally : the first time I appeared on stage at the age of 18. I just knew that this is what I had to do for the rest of my life.

8. Who do you admire most?

I have always admired the actor and the man Vincent Price and how he handled his life and his career.

9. What is at the top of your bucket list? 

I’m pretty easy.  Go to the Oscars or the Tonys LIVE would be fun.

10. How were you affected by the pandemic years, and anything you would like to share about what got you through and any lesson learned during the isolation periods? Any reflections on how the arts were affected? And what it means to move forward?

Father and son awards

The Covid years gave me a chance to finish the book I was writing and soon publishing, and to spend more time at home also to make plans for the future when things could open up again. It gave me time to reflect on what was important to me and how I wanted to spend the time I have left.  As for how Covid effected the Arts, I would say that the Arts became more private and personal because of the isolation. 

11. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?

Walking in different parks

12. What’s next? 

I am working on a small independent film with my son Jason and promoting my book.

Inherit the Wind

More About John Contini
Birthplace: St Louis
Current location: St Louis
Family: wife Sharon, sons Jason and Nathan, daughter-in-law Danielle
Education: highest level Master in Theatre Arts from St. Louis University
Day job: retired
First job: Bagger at South Public Market
First movie you were involved in or made: Escape From New York
Favorite jobs/roles/plays or work in your medium? Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Wily Loman in Death Of A Salesman, Barrymore, directing: classic dramas like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff
Dream job/opportunity: Work for Spielberg
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Go Magazine Award Best Actor for King Lear, Kevin Kline award Best Actor for Barrymore, St Louis Theatre Circle awards: Best Actor for Wily Loman (Death of a Salesman) and Best Director for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff
Favorite quote/words to live by: Love the ART in yourself, not yourself in the ART.
A song that makes you happy: “Comedy Tonight” from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Forum

Bobby Miller and John Contini in “King Lear”

“Barrymore” is a limited engagement Dec. 1- 10, with shows performed Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., with special performances Tuesday, Dec. 5 and Wednesday, Dec. 6. General admission tickets are $40 each plus fees, $35 each plus fees for students with valid ID and seniors 65+, available via Ticketmaster or at the theater box office one hour before showtime. For more information, visit or email

About St. Louis Actors’ Studio

St. Louis Actors’ Studio was founded to bring a fresh vision to theatre in St. Louis. Housed in The Gaslight Theater in historic Gaslight Square, STLAS is committed to bringing engaging theatrical experiences to our community of actors, writers, producers, filmmakers and all patrons of the arts; and to provide a strong ensemble environment to foster learning and artistic expression. St. Louis Actors’ Studio, through the use of ensemble work, will explore the endless facets and various themes of the human condition by producing existing and original collaborative theatre. For more information, visit

See the trailer for “Barrymore”:

John Contini, David Wassilak, Richard Lewis in “The Dresser” in 2018 at STLAS, directed by Bobby Miller.

By Lynn Venhaus

This year’s LaBute New Theater Festival dives right into blistering topical commentary on our great societal divide, and while “Safe Space” is one of the playwright’s sharpest one-acts in the fest’s nine-year history, the best play is about a troubled prizefighter who hasn’t been in the news for decades.

“One Night in the Many Deaths of Sonny Liston” by JB Heaps of New York City is a masterfully constructed conjecture about what might have happened the night the former heavyweight champion died on Dec. 30, 1970.

Both plays feature Reginald Pierre, who has frequently been a part of the festival since it began in 2013, and next to his outstanding work as Lincoln in “Topdog/Underdog” that same year, this is his finest hour, as Sonny Liston and as a theatergoer in “Safe Space.”

In a revelatory performance as Liston, Pierre conveys bravado, hurt, resentment, and toughness recounting how, as a celebrated and feared sports figure, he faded from glory as his bad boy reputation persisted.

Considered an outsider, his difficulties adjusting to fame, and those demands that led to his downfall are documented by Heaps in clever dollops of dialogue, as Liston opens up to a professional escort delivering a “Christmas present” from sordid types he does business with, at his home in Vegas.

While only hinted at, these presumed underworld figures are connected to a multi-state mob syndicate. All very shady, the real details are murky, and Heaps weaves a plausible tale because the tango Pierre does with Eileen Engel, playing this mysterious woman, is riveting.

With a world-weary air and looking glamorous in a glitzy evening gown, Engel’s smoothness makes us question whether she’s compassionate or has ulterior motives, and the more Liston spills the tea, what is her story?

As Pierre, who does not physically resemble an imposing boxer, skillfully peels back layers on Liston, he divulges a litany of hard-knock life injustices, his triumphs in the ring, and his torment over being blacklisted by the boxing establishment.

Eileen Engel, Reginald Pierre. Photo by Patrick Huber

Through exposition, Heaps shares key facts about one sharecropper’s son, born in Arkansas, an ex-con who knocked out Floyd Patterson, tussled with Muhammad Ali, hobnobbed with the rich and famous – and is included in the famous artwork on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. For real!

Thoughtfully directed by Kari Ely, she lets the drama unfold naturally while Pierre and Engel establish a rhythm, keep each other sharp, projecting both a mutual like and a distrust. It was one of the few plays in the line-up that was gripping until the very end.

The climactic impact is genuine, bolstered by the superb performances but also Heaps’ knowledge of the subject. A second-act playwright at 71, he retired from a television career as an executive producer for Showtime Sports where his shows on boxing won five Emmy Awards. (As they say, write what you know).

Liston’s death has remained suspicious for some 50 years, fueled by knowledge that he was a heavy drinker and used heroin. While no one knew for sure, his age was estimated at 40. His wife, Geraldine, whom he married in 1950, was from St. Louis and there visiting her mother over the holidays. She discovered his body about two weeks after authorities think he died.

Because Pierre gives emotional heft to a tragic, larger-than-life figure, you may want to find out more about the guy, nicknamed “The Bear,” and there is a 2019 Showtime documentary called “Pariah: The Lives and Deaths of Sonny Liston.”

Heaps’ play opens the second act, while “Safe Space” kicks off the presentation.

Engel, Anthony Wininger. Photo by Patrick Huber.

LaBute, the provocateur, through shrewd writing and supple performers, tackles the current state of “us vs. them,” the culture wars and racial friction in the U.S., in “Safe Space.” It is through the theatrical lens that he explores how we got to this point and is today’s state of outrage histrionic or necessary.

Here, he seats a privileged white woman (Jane Paradiso) next to a black theatergoer (Reginald Pierre) for a performance advertised as a special evening for African Americans to come together for this show, although they allowed others to purchase tickets too. The Man attempts to be polite in the shared space, but the Woman feels his agitation, and let the verbal sparring begin.

LaBute, the longtime playwright and screenwriter, has written a new work for every festival, and his highly verbal and rhythmic dialogue is well-suited for one of his favorite themes – political correctness. And add the divisive climate now infiltrating every aspect of daily life, and let the fur fly.

We’re at a point where any little thing we say — whether misunderstood, taken out of context, or deemed inappropriate, will be used against us in the public court of opinion. And is anyone really listening anymore or just shouting to be heard? “Safe Space” touches on all those notes.

The points of view here are strong, so if you wince at any confrontation, be warned. But it is a lively exchange that does come to some sort of truce. And a time capsule entry for 2023.

Paradise is captivating as a woman huffy about being perceived as entitled, but then demonstrating why one could understand that observation and Pierre easily throws shade with some glances and reactions, defensive about why he’s pitching a fit. Both are deft in their delivery, and John Contini astute in his direction of the rapid-fire, razor-sharp piece.

Laurel Button, Colleen Backer. Photo by Patrick Huber.

Like LaBute’s play, the others utilize the intimacy of the black box stage to their advantage. The festival features works that have up to four characters.

The other three dramas in the line-up this year include “The Blind Hem” by Bryn McLaughlin of Oregon, “DaVinci’s Cockroach” by Amy Tofte, and “The Mockingbird’s Nest” from Craig Bailey of Vermont.

I heard someone in the audience compare the offerings to a box of chocolates. The plays, always a mixed bag, are memorable when they are a touch strange and keep us off guard. Others prefer less edge, but different is better than staid.

In any case, the talent is usually affecting, and this year, the format lends itself to their particular strengths. Colleen Backer, who excels at portraying eccentrics, is a jittery scientist named Dana whose work destroys things. Perhaps she’s soulless, she seems guilty about the way her life has gone. Loathe to connection, she does engage with a staff member, Finn, who is having a bad day at an art museum in “DaVinci’s Cockroach.”

They talk about things trivial and big-picture, and you want to know more about the pair, to an extent. But hen Tofte just goes on for far too long. But Laurel Button is impressive as a kooky, colorful young woman for whom art brings joy.

“The Blind Hem” is a melancholy-tinged romance between a college professor and a former student – hence named after the ‘invisible’ stitches in a garment, and is one of those character studies where you have to read between the lines to fully grasp what is happening, and what transpired before we entered their cheap motel room. Anthony Wininger is Robert, a conflicted man fooling himself about life, while Eileen Engel is Kate, no longer in school but still naïve.

They’re fine, although unsympathetic, but does McLaughlin’s play say anything new or explore another facet of an illicit romance that we haven’t seen before?

“The Mockingbird’s Nest” takes on another familiar topic – an aging parent’s dementia but does so with a technological twist. We’ve wound up in the twilight zone, and that’s a clever aspect of Craig Bailey’s piece. But despite Backer and Paradise’s splendid portrayals, the play ultimately loses steam by not trimming what seemed to be a tacked-on ending.

The production crew is efficient in setting the scenes for each show, and Abby Pastorelli’s costume design nails each personality in a simple yet effective way. She also did the artwork shown, which is for sale.

A 10-member panel selects the plays from submissions across the country. It’s nice to see a rebound from the pandemic that halted theater, then delayed its reboot with those pesky variants.

The presentations offer food for thought, an opportunity to see something thought-provoking and watch local performers shine, but best of all, support new work.

Backer, Paradise. Photo by Patrick Huber

St. Louis Actors’ Studio presents the ninth annual LaBute New Theater Festival July 7 to 9, July 13-16, and July 20-23, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sundays at The Gaslight Theater on North Boyle in the Central West End. For more information:

St. Louis Actors’ Studio (STLAS) is pleased to announce its thrilling16th Season at The Gaslight Theater – ‘A Way Forward,’ including the following productions:

Liza Birkenmeier

Dr Ride’s American Beach House by Liza Birkenmeier, October 6-22, 2023: Directed by Associate Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi, STLAS is proud to present this play by friend and Actor/Playwright Liza Birkenmeier. Birkenmeier last performed on the STLAS stage as Una in BLACKBIRD and has gone on to become a successful playwright in New York. 

Dr Ride’s American Beach House is an intimate snapshot of queer anti-heroines. On the eve of Dr. Sally Ride’s historic space flight, four women with passionate opinions and no opportunities sit on a sweltering St. Louis rooftop, watching life pass them by.

Barrymore, By William Luce, December 1-10, 2023:

A two-week limited engagement directed by Erin Kelley, Barrymore featuresstalwart St. Louis actor John Contini’s return to the STLAS stage to reprise the role in which Christopher Plummer won a Tony for his portrayal of John Barrymore. Each act begins with a stunning entrance onto a stage that the legendary actor has rented to prepare for a comeback performance of Richard III. Barrymore jokes with the audience, spars with an offstage prompter, reminisces about better times, and does delicious imitations of his siblings Lionel and Ethel.

Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, February 9-25, 2024:

This winner of three Tony® Awards is directed by Wayne Salomon. In 1941, German physicist Werner Heisenberg went to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart, Niels Bohr. Together they had revolutionized atomic science in the 1920s, but now they were on opposite sides of a world war.

Brendan Fraser, Oscar winner for “The Whale”

The Whale by Samuel D. Hunter, April 5-21, 2024:

Now an Academy Award® Winning Film, The Whale, directed by Associate Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi, stars Artistic Director William Roth as an obese recluse, hiding away from the world and slowly eating himself to death as he is given one last chance at redemption.

LaBute New Theater Festival, July 2024:

In the return of STLAS’ month-long festival, renowned playwright Neil LaBute will delight audiences with his own new story along with the winning submissions from emerging high school and professional playwrights.

“This is a very exciting and diverse season,” says Artistic Director WIlliam Roth. “Producing a fantastic play by St. Louis’ own Liza Birkenmeier, the return of John Contini, who has been with us from day one, and welcoming Erin Kelley to our directing ranks. Each of the plays this season examines human failings, hopes and dreams as we all look for ‘A Way Forward’.”

STLAS appreciates the support of its diverse corporate sponsors including McCormack Baron Salazar, Missouri Arts Council, Regional Arts Commission, The Clifford Willard Gaylord Foundation and the Rex Foundation. 

For subscriptions and individual ticket info, visit

About St. Louis Actors’ Studio

St. Louis Actors’ Studio was founded to bring a fresh vision to theatre in St. Louis.

Housed in The Gaslight Theater in historic Gaslight Square, STLAS is committed to bringing engaging theatrical experiences to our community of actors, writers, producers, filmmakers and all patrons of the arts; and to provide a strong ensemble environment to foster learning and artistic expression.

St. Louis Actors’ Studio, through the use of ensemble work, will explore the endless facets and various themes of the human condition by producing existing and original collaborative theatre. For more information, visit

With the sort of clarity and theatrical density that only the two-hander can achieve, the season of exclusively two-character plays will journey through our most closely complex relationships: Mentor and Apprentice; Husband and wife; Mothers and Child.

Our 2019-20 season:

“Fifty Words” by Michael Weller

Directed by Associate Artistic Director John Pierson

September 20 – October 6, 2019 

While their nine-year-old son is away for the night on his first sleepover, Adam and Jan have an evening alone together, their first in years. Adam’s attempt to seduce his wife before he leaves on business the next day begins a suspenseful nightlong roller-coaster ride of revelation, rancor, passion and humor that explores a modern-day marriage on the verge of either a breakup or deepening love and understanding.

“Mr. Weller is a bold and productive dramatist.” —NY Times. 

“The best thing about Weller’s play is that it offers no easy answers for making a relationship work. Its shades of gray are less than comforting but realistic as husband and wife struggle to describe and resolve their complex feelings for each other.” —International Herald Tribune.


“A Life in the Theatre” by David Mamet 

Directed by John Contini

December 6 – December 22, 2019 

 Starring Founder/Artistic Director William Roth and Spencer Sickmann (Farragut North, The Feast, LaBute Festival)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Speed-The-Plow” takes us into the lives of two actors: John, young and rising into the first flush of his success; and Robert, older, anxious, and beginning to wane. Their short, spare, and increasingly raw exchanges reveal the estrangement of youth from age and the wider, inevitable and endless cycle of life, in and out of the theatre.

“A comedy about the artifice of acting… It is also about the artifice of living… An evening of pure theatre.” – The New York Times

“A comic masterpiece.” – New York Daily News

“The warmest and often the funniest play in town.” – New York Post

“[Mamet has] the most acute ear for dialogue of any American writer since J.D. Salinger.” – Village Voiceb

“Annapurna” by Sharr White

Directed by Associate Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi

February 14- March 1, 2020

After twenty years apart, Emma tracks Ulysses to a trailer park in the middle of nowhere for a final reckoning. What unfolds is a visceral and profound meditation on love and loss with the simplest of theatrical elements: two people in one room. A breathtaking story about the longevity of love.

“Sharr White’s ANNAPURNA is a comic and gripping duet…The closer [the characters] get to understanding what drove them apart, the more engrossed we become in watching them draw together.” —San Francisco Chronicle. 

“What if you had experienced the defining moment of your life—but couldn’t remember it? Sharr White’s remarkable two-person play ANNAPURNA…deals with just that dilemma, as well as other imponderables such as the vagaries of love and the philosophical clarity of impending death.” —LA Times.

 “…at the heart of each character is a lyricism that simply can’t be suffocated. Sharr White has created two fine and ferociously damaged people caught in the emotional whirlpool of not being able to live with or without each other.” —Huffington Post. 

“White’s poetry is endearing and quite lovely, and his dialogue is sharp, funny and consistently very honest…”—

“Comfort” by Neil LaBute

Directed by Associate Artistic Director Annamaria Pileggi

April 17-May 3, 2020

A new play by STLAS friend and associate Neil LaBute in which a successful author and her son meet after some time apart and revisit their troubled relationship. What’s at stake? Whether or not the instinctive bond between mother and child can survive not just the past, but also two new book deals.

“Mr. LaBute is writing some of the freshest and most illuminating American dialogue to be heard anywhere these days.” —NY Times. 

“No contemporary writer has more astutely captured the brutality in everyday conversation and behavior: That kind of insight requires sensitivity and soul-searching.” —USA Today.

 “It is tight, tense and emotionally true, and it portrays characters who actually seem part of the world that the rest of us live in.” —Time. 

ABOUT ST. LOUIS ACTORS’ STUDIO St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one of the leading professional theatres in the St. Louis. area, producing a four-show season of plays at our 97-seat Gaslight Theatre. STLAS collaborates with renown director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute to produce the LaBute New Theater Festival each July in St. Louis and each January in New York City. The festival is a one-act play competition for emerging professionals and high-school writers.