By Lynn Venhaus

Challenges.
As we march through the third winter of the pandemic, we’re still adjusting to a ‘new normal,’ whatever that is. The regional professional theater companies have had more than their share of challenges, as COVID-19 outbreaks continue to affect rehearsals and performances.

Bravo to everyone trying to create art in trying times. We learn as we go, as we try to adapt, follow the rules for safe practices and try to fit in multiple shows that seem to be scheduled in clusters. Shining a spotlight on those who are doing their very best is important.

This year, I was fortunate to see 63 shows, not counting touring, college or community theater, and I appreciate the local theater companies working with me when my dear sweet uncle/father figure was in hospice and eventually passed on in mid-summer, and how they fit me in, sometimes at the end of a run, and then when some health issues arose for me in December, helping me to juggle a crazy schedule. (Unfortunately, after spending 10 days in the hospital in January, I can speak about nightmare ER experiences all too well. Life happens, and I appreciate the consideration.) Through my podcast, PopLifeSTL, we were able to interview local professionals to help promote their productions, and while we recently took a three-week break, we’re back at it, and happy to support the arts.

So, I finally finished my annual Lynn’s Love of Theatre Awards, aka “The LOTTIES,” for 2022, a few weeks later than intended. I don’t follow a rigid format of capping off recognition. Some categories may have 5, others 8 or more. If it looks like everyone gets a trophy, so be it. The folks mentioned are deserving of honors.

This is my own list. It is separate than my voting in the annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards and nominations, which will be announced soon (Monday, Feb, 6 on KWMU noon to 1 p.m.). I am one of the founding members. Our awards ceremony will be on Monday, April 3, at The Loretto-Hilton Center at Webster University. Yes, theater prom will return! Exciting.

I’ve been selecting the LOTTIES since 2014. I am attempting to go back and put Lotties of years’ past into my website archives, so they are all in one place here. Stay tuned…But in the meantime, I wanted to recognize what I thought was excellence in 2022. Granted, I missed a handful of productions, but overall, was impressed with outstanding work from our best and brightest. It is thrilling when you see live theater achieve its grand goals. (And I will never take it for granted ever).

I am privileged to witness such creative spirits at work here. This weekend, I return to seeing theater after a rather crazy and unplanned January that included an outpatient procedure that went awry and resulted in internal bleeding to deal with, which meant two hospital stays. But I’m getting stronger every day, and eager to return to sitting in auditoriums, watching live theater. I regret I had to miss several shows, but again, life…ob-la-di, ob-la-da.

I look forward to an exciting year ahead, and I am very appreciative of all the well-wishes. Onward and upward.

Photo by Philip Hamer

EVENT OF THE YEAR: “The Karate Kid – The Musical” at Stages St. Louis.

St. Louis was ready for its close-up. A pre-Broadway world premiere at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center had east and west coast creatives, stars and glitterati convening for a musical in the works for a Broadway debut. The effort was impressive, and it was fun to be a part of its creative birth.

Photo by Joey Rumpell

PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR: “Bronte Sister House Party” at SATE.

A very original play by Courtney Bailey, directed by Keating, designed by Bess Moynihan and Liz Henning, was one of the most fun theatrical experiences of the year. This world premiere was the tonic I needed after a death in the family, and I am so grateful that I was able to see it at the end of its run (THANK YOU).

Every element came together for an interactive event that percolated with good humor and delightful creative touches. The Brontë sisters of Victorian literary fame (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) are trapped in a purgatorial time loop where they must throw a fabulous house party every night for eternity. Only when they reach The Point of Celebratory Reverence, the highest point of celebration that a party can achieve, will they be released. An absurd, feminist revisionist tribute to all the women artists who’ve created under pressure and still had it in them to throw a good party. What a terrific ensemble – Maggie Conroy, Rachel Tibbetts, Cassidy Flynn, Bess Moynihan, Joel Moses, Vicky Chen and LaWanda Jackson — and a kicky dance party.

COMPANY OF THE YEAR: The St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre “The Black Rep.” They raised the bar with a line-up that included the profound and insightful “Between the Sheet,” August Wilson’s “Jitney” and “The African Company Presents Richard III,” not to mention the shimmering “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea.”

ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Ron Himes. Forty-six years after founding The Black Rep,he remains at the top of his game – he directed “Between the Sheet,” “Jitney,” and “The African Company Presents Richard III” and starred in “Jitney,” and at The Rep, in “Stick Fly.”

THE SHOW MUST GO ON CITATION: The Muny, after storm devastation, Put on “Legally Blonde” a night later! What a herculean effort.

MVPs of 2022
Summer Baer
Molly Burris
Olajawon Davis
Eileen Engel
Melissa Felps
Liz Henning
Joel Moses
Bess Moynihan
Ben Ritchie
John Wolbers
Metro Theatre Company’s outreach and traveling efforts to provide youngsters with theatrical opportunities that matter.

Jeffrey Kargus and Jason Meyers “The Lonesome West”

Best Supporting Performer in a Comedy, Female or Non-Binary Role

Cassidy Flynn, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Valentina Silvia, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
Tielere Cheatem, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Bess Moynihan, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Jilanne Klaus, “Barefoot in the Park,” Moonstone Theatre Company
Hannah Geisz, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, St Louis Shakespeare Festival

Best Supporting Performer in a Comedy, Male or Non-Binary Role

Bradley J. Tejeda, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis
Joel Moses, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Eric Dean White, “Hand to God,” St Louis Actors Studio
Chauncy Thomas, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Ted Drury, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
John Wolbers, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Ryan Burns, “Bandera, Texas,” Prism Theatre Company

Molly Burris and Ryan Lawson-Maeske in “Dear Jack, Dear Louise”

Best Performer in a Comedy, Female or Non-Binary Role

Colleen Backer, “Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
Molly Burris, “Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
Rachel Tibbetts, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Maggie Conroy, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Claire Karpen, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Rayme Cornell, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival

Hand to God

Best Performer in a Comedy, Male or Non-Binary Role

Mitchell Henry- Eagles, “Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
Isaiah di Lorenzo, “Every Brilliant Thing,: St Louis Shakespeare
Jeff Kargus, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
Jason Meyers, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
Ben Ritchie, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Ryan Lawson-Maeske, “Dear Jack Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
Stanton Nash, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival

The Bee Play

Best Supporting Performer in a Drama, Female or Non-Binary Role

Rachel Tibbetts, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
Coda Boyce, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Alex Jay, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Donna Parrone, “Romeo and Juliet,” St Louis Shakespeare
Alex Jay, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Riley Carter Adams, “The Bee Play,” New Jewish Theatre
Sarajane Alverson, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
Rachel Hanks, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild
Summer Baer, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company

Summer Baer, Michael James Reed “Proof”

Best Supporting Performer in a Drama, Male or Non-Binary Role

Cameron Jamarr Davis, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Joey Saunders, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
Michael James Reed, “Proof,” Moonstone Theatre Company
Joseph Garner, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild
Jeffrey Wright, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
Wali Jamal Abdull, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep

Good People

Best Performer in a Drama, Female or Non-Binary Role

Jennifer Theby Quinn, “Iphigenia in Splott,” Upstream Theatre
Chinna Palmer, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
LaVonne Byers, “Good People,” Stray Dog Theatre
Summer Baer, “Proof,” Moonstone Theatre Company
Kelly Howe, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company

Jitney at the Black Rep

Best Performer in a Drama, Male or Non-Binary Role

Joel Moses, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild
Jeff Cummings, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
Kevin Brown, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Erik Petersen, “Romeo and Juliet,” St Louis Shakespeare
Olajuwon Davis, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Stephen Peirick, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
John Wolbers, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company

Winds of Change St Louis Shakespeare Festival

Best New Play

“Bronte Sister House Party” by Courtney Bailey, SATE
“Winds of Change,” by Deanna Jent, St Louis Shakespeare Festival
“St Louis Woman,” by Joe Hanrahan, The Midnight Company
“Roll With It!,” by Katie Rodriguez Banister and Michelle Zielinski, The Black Mirror Theatre
“Bandera, Texas,” Lisa Dellagiarino Feriend, Prism Theatre Company

Sweeney Todd. Photo by Philip Hamer

Best Musical Director

James Moore, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Walter “Bobby” McCoy, “In the Heights,” Stages St Louis
Andrew Resnick, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St Louis
Jermaine Hill, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Colin Healy, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
Cullen Curth, “Jerry’s Girls,” New Jewish Theatre
Tre’ von Griffin, “Midsummer Night’s Dream, St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Zach Neumann, “Ordinary Days,” Tesseract Theatre Company
Tim Clark, “Urinetown,” New Line Theatre

A Chorus Line at Stages St Louis. Philip Hamer

Best Choreographer

Keone and Mari Madrid, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
Luis Salgado, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Dena DiaGiacinto, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
Patrick O’Neil, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Heather Beal, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep
Josh Rhodes, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny

In the Heights at Stages St Louis

Best Supporting Performer in a Musical, Female or Non-Binary Role

Kate Baldwin, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
Amanda Robles, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Melissa Felps, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Janelle Gilreath, “Urinetown!,” New Line Theatre
Sarah Gene Dowling, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre
Tami Dahbura, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Nasia Thomas, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Grace Langford, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Stray Dog Theatre
Dawn Schmid, “Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre
Rachel Bailey, “Triassic Parq: The Musical,” Stray Dog Theatre

“Something Rotten!” at New Line Theatre

Best Supporting Performer in a Musical, Male or Non-Binary Role

Jordan Wolk, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
Clayton Humburg, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Marshall Jennings, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Kevin O’Brien, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Stray Dog Theatre
Luis-Pablo Garcia, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Jeffrey Izquierdo-Malon, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Mykal Kilgore, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny
Evan Tyrone Martin, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Bryce Miller, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre
Shea Coffman, “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” The Muny

The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Stray Dog Theatre

Best Lighting Design in a Musical

Bradley King, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
John Lasiter, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Sean M Savoie, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Sean M. Savoie, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
Jason Lyons, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny
Tyler Duenow, “Ride the Cyclone,” Stray Dog Theatre

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Muny. Philip Hamer photo

Best Set Design in a Musical

Anna Louisoz, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Derek McLane, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
Michael Schweikardt, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Ann Beyersdorfer, “Camelot,” The Muny
Rob Lippert, “Something Rotten!,” New Line Theatre
Edward E. Hayes, Jr. and Greg Emetaz, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny

Stray Dog Theatre’s A Little Night Music

Best Costume Design in a Musical

Samantha C. Jones, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Brad Musgrove, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Leon Dobkowski, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” The Muny
Eileen Engel, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre
Eileen Engel, “Triassic Parq The Musical,” Stray Dog Theatre
Robin L. McGee, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Sarah Porter, “Urinetown,” New Line Theatre
Alejo Vietti, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny

“Forget Me Not” at St Louis Actors’ Studio

Best Lighting Design in a Play

Patrick Huber, “Forget Me Not,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
Jasmine’ Williams, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep
Bess Moynihan, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
John Wylie, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Joseph Clapper, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
Jesse Alford, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

“Between the Sheet” at the Black Rep

Best Sound Design in a Play

Lamar Harris, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
Kareem Deanes and Rusty Wandall, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Zeck Schultz, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Jackie Sharp, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep
Lamar Harris, “Jitney,” The Black Rep

Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea at The Black Rep

Best Costume Design in a Play

Daryl Harris, “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea,” The Black Rep
Liz Henning, “St Louis Woman,” The Midnight Company
Liz Henning, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
Michele Fredman Siler, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Andre Harrington, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Oona Natesan, “House of Joy,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

St Louis Woman, The Midnight Company

Best Set Design in a Play

Bess Moynihan, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
Josh Smith, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Margery and Peter Spack, “Dontrell, Who Was Kissed by the Sea.” The Black Rep
Jamie Bullens, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Rob Lippert, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Dunsi Dai, “Dear Jack Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
Margery and Peter Spack, “The Last Stop on Market Street,” Metro Theatre Company

Dynamic Duos

Liam Craig and Whit Reichert, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Molly Burris and Ryan Lawson-Maeske in “Dear Jack Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
Jeff Kargus and Jason Meyers, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
Nicole Michelle Haskins as Sofia and Gilbert Domally as Harpo in ‘The Color Purple” at The Muny
Matt Pace and Brien Seyle, original music for “Much Ado About Nothing,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Best Performer in a Musical, Female or Non-Binary Role

Anastacia McCleskey, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Carmen Cusack, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Isabel Leoni, “In the Heights,” The Muny
Eileen Engel, “Ride the Cyclone!,” Stray Dog Theatre
Jeanna de Waal, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Lauralyn McClelland, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St Louis

Stephen Henley as The Balladeer in “Assassins”

Best Performer in a Musical, Male or Non-Binary Role

Ben Davis, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Jovanni Sy, “The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
Stephen Henley, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
Ryan Alvarado, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Corbin Bleu, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Danny McHugh, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St Louis

“Laughter on the 23rd Floor” at New Jewish Theatre

Best Ensemble in a Comedy

“Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
‘Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
“Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
“The Residents of Craigslist,” ERA Theatre
“Heroes,” Albion Theatre
“The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

Rodney’s Wife by The Midnight Company. Photo by Joey Rumpell.

Best Ensemble in a Drama

“The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
“Jitney,” The Black Rep
“The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
“Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
“The Christians,” West End Players Guild
“Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep

“Ride the Cyclone” at Stray Dog Theatre

Best Ensemble in a Musical

“Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
“In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
“The Color Purple,” The Muny
“A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
“Jerry’s Girls,” New Jewish Theatre
“Ride the Cyclone!” Stray Dog Theatre
“Triassic Parq The Musical,” Stray Dog Theatre
“Urinetown!,” New Line Theatre
“Ordinary Days,” Tesseract Theatre Company
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Stray Dog Theatre
“The Karate Kid: The Musical,” Stages St. Louis
“Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre

Much Ado About Northing, St Louis Shakespeare Festival

Best Director of a Comedy

Bruce Longworth, “Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
Keating, “Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
Andrea Urice, “Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
Eddie Coffield, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
Robert Ashton, “The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
David Kaplan, “The Rose Tattoo,” Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

The African Company Presents Richard III at The Black Rep

Best Director of a Drama

Ron Himes, “Jitney,” The Black Rep
Gary F. Bell, “The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
Ron Himes, “The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
Joe Hanrahan, “Rodney’s Wife,” The Midnight Company
Ellie Schwetye, “The Christians,” West End Players Guild
Ron Himes, “Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep

Jerry’s Girls at New Jewish Theatre

Best Director of a Musical

Rob Ruggiero, “Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
Luis Salgado, “In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
Lili-Anne Brown, “The Color Purple,” The Muny
Bradley Rolf, “Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
Gayle Seay, “A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
Ellen Isom, “Jerry’s Girls,” New Jewish Theatre
Justin Been, “A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre
John Tartaglia, “Mary Poppins,” The Muny
Scott Miller, “Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre
Elisabeth Wurm, “Ordinary Days,” Tesseract Theatre Company

The Rose Tattoo, Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

Best Production of a Comedy

“Bronte Sister House Party,” SATE
“Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” New Jewish Theatre
“Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” New Jewish Theatre
“Much Ado About Nothing,” St Louis Shakespeare Festival
“The Lonesome West,” West End Players Guild
“Hand to God,” St Louis Actors’ Studio
The Rose Tattoo, Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis

“The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre

Best Production of a Drama

“The Normal Heart,” Stray Dog Theatre
“Jitney,” The Black Rep
“The African Company Presents Richard III,” The Black Rep
“Good People,” Stray Dog Theatre
“Proof,” Moonstone Theatre Company
“Between the Sheet,” The Black Rep
“The Christians,” West End Players Guild

“Sweeney Todd” at The Muny. Philip Hamer

Best Production of a Musical

“Sweeney Todd,” The Muny
“In the Heights,” Stages St. Louis
“The Color Purple,” The Muny
“A Chorus Line,” Stages St. Louis
“Assassins,” Fly North Theatricals
“Urinetown!”, New Line Theatre
“Ordinary Days,” Tesseract Theatre Company
“Something Rotten!” New Line Theatre
“A Little Night Music,” Stray Dog Theatre

“The Christians,” West End Players Guild. Photo by John Lamb

The St. Louis Black Repertory Company announces the Morehouse College Glee Club in a special benefit concert Saturday, November 12, 2022, as part of the organization’s annual GALA at the 560 Music Center at 560 Trinity Avenue. 

“This has been an extraordinary year, and we are so happy to be bringing the Morehouse College Glee Club to St. Louis audiences,” said Ron Himes, Founder and Producing Director of The Black Rep. “There is no better way to celebrate our ability to experience the joy of live performance together than to hear these voices. The Black Rep made a five year commitment to present an HBCU Chorale group each year at our Gala.”

The all-male Glee Club was formed at the historically Black men’s university in Atlanta in 1911. They have performed around the world, as well as at historic events such as the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, former President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, and at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral – a notable alumni of the Glee Club and Morehouse University.

Under the direction of Dr. David E. Morrow, the Glee Club will perform a repertoire of African and American songs for St. Louis audiences. Tickets are available for purchase now.

Funds raised at the annual GALA directly support The Black Rep’s Community and Education programs including classes and workshops, Summer Performing Arts, Teen Tech Training, Professional Fellowships, and Regional Touring Company season for school and community audiences. Shanti Parikh and Dennis Reagan are the co-chairs of the fundraising event.

For concert tickets contact The Black Rep at 314-534-3807 or visit www.theblackrep.org.

By Lynn Venhaus

Bigotry is an ugly thing to witness, even in the context of 1821. It’s expected, but always unsettling, no matter what period.

So, when the first scene of “The African Company Presents Richard III” opens with a condescending and arrogant white supremist shutting down a competing Shakespearean production, that sets the tone for a battle between right and might.

As Stephen Price, the haughty and cruel producer at the Park Theatre, Eric Dean White will make your skin crawl. He is threatened by their success and will use his influence to get the powers-at-be to make it hard on them.

While our sympathies lie with the performers in The African Company, they are having their own conflicts to deal with from within that threatens their existence too.

This 1994 play within a play by Carlyle Brown is a provocative showcase for compelling artists in The Black Rep’s latest riveting work. And opens the Black Rep’s 46th season in fine fashion.

Based on a true story, Brown’s drama is set in pre-Civil War New York when two productions of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” are vying for audiences. Slavery was not outlawed yet, but there were more free blacks living there.

Shakespeare famously said, “The play is the thing,” and The African Company, through the Black Rep’s hard-hitting production, shows you why art can break barriers, and all the challenges are worth it.

Cameron Jamarr Davis as James Hewlett as Richard III. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The first black theatre in the U.S., The African Company of New York was a downtown theater growing in popularity with not only black audiences, but white audiences too. Their satires drew crowds, particularly when it was about the status quo white society. And the unenlightened were outraged those blacks had a voice. How dare they tackle the Shakespeare and other British classics!

William Henry “Billy” Brown had turned his home’s backyard into The African Grove, where blacks could socialize as society became increasingly segregated, then he expanded to theater, founding The African Company.

Price’s company has paid a renowned British actor, Junius Brutus Booth (father of John Wilkes Booth), a pretty penny and a sweet contract promising a full house, so they want a return on the investment, more revenue, and will not play nice.

The black theater doesn’t have the luxuries afforded the other theater, and most of the actors work as domestic servants or as laborers or in other roles.

“We all charade one great role of the happy, obedient Negro,” says character James Hewlett, the first black Shakespearean actor in U.S., and is playing the lead role.

Some of the cast is worried about the police shutting them down. What if they are taken to jail?

Director Ron Himes keeps the tension simmering both in racial friction and the tussling actors. He ensures that the company’s commitment to art is a focal point, while he laces this distinctive history lesson with humor and music.

As Hewlett, Cameron Jamarr Davis is passionate about the work, and doubles-down on his conviction, despite mounting odds – and a complicated romantic entanglement.

Ann Johnson, the actress playing Lady Anne, is exhausted by her day job and feelings that don’t seem to be reciprocated in equal measure. She is confused by the part and the play’s action, and not afraid to say so. Coda Boyce gives a fierce performance as someone speaking up for herself, and not compromising in a world that expects her to be subservient.

Alex Jay is a strong Sarah, who tries to keep things going smoothly, and is an accomplished seamstress. Costume designer Andre Harrington has beautifully captured the period and the royal costumes.

Olajuwon Davis is tough and tenacious in his portrayal as the dedicated, steadfast promoter Brown, who tries to not let what he calls “silly” views of white people grind him down. He channels his anger into action.

In real life, Brown wrote “The Drama of King Shotaway,” which is considered the first play by an African American and was about the black Caribbean war of 1796 against white settlers. Somehow, it’s been lost. However, what he did for blacks in theater will never be forgotten.

Papa Shakespeare is trying hard to keep them together. He’s quite a storyteller, a repository of history and wisdom – and colorful, as played by Wali Jamal Abdull. As the racist constable, Dustin Petrillo is a despicable meanie.

The simple set, designed by Jamie Bullins, doubles as a rehearsal hall and a theatrical stage, well-accented by Jasmine Williams’ lighting design.

This well-acted, well-staged play is a noteworthy moment in time that will resonate with modern audiences, for its power is timeless.

The Black Rep presents “The African Company Presents Richard III” Sept. through Sept. 25 at the Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University. For more information, visit www.theblackrep.org

Photos by Phillip Hamer

By Lynn Venhaus

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it’s going to rain today

  • Randy Newman, “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” 1968

As the gap between the haves and the have-nots keeps widening in America, August Wilson’s “Jitney,” the first play of his 10-play cycle in 10 decades of history, couldn’t be timelier.

The play, which is set in the 1970s in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, has lost none of its bite, and in the loving hands of The Black Rep, it is spellbinding. A richly textured tale of economic struggles, racial tensions, fathers, sons, hope, dreams, loss, strength, and the need for and meaning of community.

A jitney refers to an independently owned unlicensed car for hire. Because regular cab drivers did not service the Hill District, Wilson presented this urban renewal scenario for a makeshift gypsy cab service.

The city has decided to condemn the building, which threatens to eliminate Becker’s Car Service, and the owner frets about finances as the other characters have worries of their own. This lyrical production is powerful storytelling at its finest.

Wilson introduces us to the men who make a living driving these cabs as they sit around a dingy office waiting for the phone to ring – as well as the relatives and passengers who stop by.

The era vibrantly portrayed is after the Civil Rights Amendment, but segregation still exists, and the characters deal with those issues. Could home ownership even be possible? The soldiers who fought in Vietnam returned home (or not) with their own stories to tell.

These passionate souls have bonded – or avoided it – through their lives’ triumphs and travails. No one’s had it easy, and the world-weariness shows. But the hope for second chances is palpable.

Featuring a superb ensemble of actors who bring out distinctive characteristics that you won’t soon forget, “Jitney” is a powder-keg of emotions and the evergreen need for connection and kindness in a cold, cruel world.

As the former mill worker who has his share of problems, Kevin Brown gives a powerhouse performance, equal parts fire and compassion.

Becker is grappling with his shame over his son’s prison time for murder. Clarence “Booster” Becker was convicted for killing a white college girlfriend, who had accused him of rape after her father found out about their relationship. As the wayward son, Phillip Dixon offers a complex performance as he seeks to patch up his rift with his dad and a fresh start.

Another standout young actor, Olajuwon Davis, plays Vietnam veteran Darnell Williams, aka Youngblood, and you can feel his desire to realize the American Dream for his family as he works two jobs.

Alex Jay is memorable as Rena, his spunky pregnant girlfriend, and brings out the yearning to be part of middle-class society as they’re starting out, their lives in front of them, dreaming of bright futures.

The cast is enlivened by the dynamic of ace performers J. Samuel Davis, who plays Fielding, and Ron Himes, the director who was called to fill in as Turnbo a few days before the show began its run. Both titans in the local theater community, they are multiple winners and nominees of the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, and their ease slipping into these roles is one of the joys of seeing them at work.

Fielding is a driver whose life has been marred by alcoholism and Turnbo, a cranky guy who knows it all, likes to stir up trouble.

Another bright spot is Edward Hill as Doub, a Korean War veteran who keeps it all together at the service.

Rounding out the cast is Robert A. Mitchell as Shealy, a local bookie who does not drive but spends his time there using the pay phone to run his numbers game, and Richard Harris as Philmore, as a hotel doorman who gets rides from the guys.

Director Himes capitalizes on Wilson’s ability to draw us into his world that is so vivid. The production is enhanced by spot-on music choices reflecting that era, an impeccably designed set by Harlan D. Penn, the always exquisite lighting design of Joseph W. Clapper and sharp sound design from Justin Schmitz. Jamie Bullins’ costume design shrewdly reflects the characters.

As Wilson chronicled African American life during the 20th century, we learned about specific journeys in a way that resonated universally. Call them ordinary people, but on stage, they create a stunning portrait of America – and they make a beautiful noise. All but one of his 10 plays are set in his hometown.

Because of the Black Rep’s unwavering commitment to Wilson’s plays, we St. Louisans have been fortunate to experience his Pittsburgh plays, or Century Cycle, in the highest quality possible.

These productions, now in the company’s second go-round, have enriched not only my theater-going but also my understanding of humanity. I look forward to the rest I have not seen.

Whether you have seen any or none, engage a ride with “Jitney” May 4-May 29.

The Black Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents August Wilson’s “Jitney” May through May 29 at the Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. For tickets, visit
For more information, visit
www.theblackrep.org

The St. Louis Black Repertory Company revisits the opening production of its 45th Anniversary Season with Sweat by Lynn Nottage in a celebratory performance at the William Inge Theater Festival in Independence, Kansas. Addressing the complexities of race, class and friendship at a pivotal moment in America, the powerful work will be directed once again by Founder and Producing Director Ron Himes.

The William Inge Theater Festival will celebrate its 39th anniversary April 21-23, 2022 by honoring Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage with the Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award. Lynn Nottage is the first Black woman to receive the award.

Nottage is the only woman to date to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama two times. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning plays are Ruined and Sweat, and they are two among scores of  award-winning stories written for theatre, film, and television. 

“Playwright Nottage tensely captures the root of our current political and racial tension in society today,” said Himes. “Are we only looking out for ourselves or are we responsible for each other?”

Says William Inge Center for the Arts Producing Artistic Director, Hannah Joyce, “I believe audiences will be deeply moved by Nottage’s work which champions the everyman, the working class, and marginalized. She writes the struggle and humanity of her characters with enormous compassion and respect. There’s no finer playwright in our country than Lynn Nottage to represent true excellence in the American theatre. The William Inge Center for the Arts is long overdue in the presentation of this recognition. We are honored by her acceptance of the Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award.”

The cast of Sweat for The Black Rep’s production features Velma Austin (Cynthia), Wali Jamal Abdullah (Brucie), Amy Loui (Tracey), Don McClendon (Evan), and Brian McKinley (Chris). Franklin Killian (Jason), Blake Anthony Edwards (Stan), Gregory Almanza (Oscar), and Kelly Howe (Jessie) will all be joining the cast once again, as well as Christina Yancy (U/S Cynthia).

The production will feature Scenic Design by Tim Jones, Lighting Design by Jonathan D. Alexander, Costume Design by Hali Liles, Sound Design by Kareem Deanes, and Properties Design by Meg Brinkley. Fight Choreography was done by Paul Steger who is certified by the Society of American Fight Directors and holds advanced certificates from the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat & Fight Directors. Jim Anthony is the Stage Manager and Acting Fellow Taijha Silas is the Assistant Stage Manager.

Nottage will attend the Festival and accept the Award in person; she will join writers such as Wendy Wasserstein, August Wilson, Neil Simon, Paula Vogel, Stephen Sondheim, David Henry Hwang, and Arthur Miller—among many other theatre luminaries—who have traveled to Independence to accept the Festival’s Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award. 

The Black Rep’s “Sweat”

About The Black Rep

The Black Rep, a 45-year-old legacy Black arts organization, is committed to producing, re-imagining, and commissioning work written by Black playwrights and creating opportunities for new voices and youth. Founded by Producing Director Ron Himes, the vision for The Black Rep continues: a more equitable distribution of opportunities and resources for Black professionals and students in the theatre; improved representation on and back-stage in the theatre industry; and a fostered community culture of support and mentorship for those who will follow.

For more information: www.theblackrep.org

The Muny, the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and The Midnight Company, with nine, eight and six awards, respectively, led the way at the 2022 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, which were held in a virtual, streaming ceremony on HEC Media on Monday, March 28, 2022.

The Muny’s 2021 production of “Chicago,” which returns to open its 2022 season, took top honors for an individual show with seven awards. Denis Jones, director and choreographer of “Chicago,” and Joe Hanrahan, artistic director of The Midnight Company, each was honored with two individual awards to lead all honorees.

Nominees in more than 30 categories vied for honors covering comedies, dramas, musicals and operas produced by local professional theater and opera companies in the combined calendar years of 2020 and 2021.

Because the coronavirus pandemic brought about the cancellation of so many productions by nearly all local professional theater companies, approximately 75 productions were considered for nominations for the combined years of 2020 and 2021. This compares to roughly 120 to 130 productions normally considered in one year alone.

The eighth annual award ceremony, which was to have been held ‘live’ at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the campus of Webster University, was canceled in February 2020 due to the escalating number of cases of COVID-19. Instead, that event was held virtually in a highly polished presentation produced by HEC Media and streamed on HEC’s YouTube channel, Facebook page and web site, as was this ninth annual event. There was no ceremony of any type by the Theater Circle in 2021.

For the ninth annual ceremony, members of the St. Louis Theater Circle considered nominees from shows produced in the first three months of 2020 and the last eight months of 2021 combined. In addition, a few shows produced between April 2020 and May 2021 were included.

The winners for the ninth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are:

Michelle Hand and Nicole Angeli in “It Is Magic”

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Comedy, Female or Non-Binary Role

  • Nicole Angeli, “It Is Magic,” The Midnight Company

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Comedy, Male or Non-Binary Role (Tie)

  • Joe Hanrahan, “It Is Magic,” The Midnight Company
  • Carl Overly, Jr., “It Is Magic,” The Midnight Company

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Comedy, Female or Non-Binary Role

  • Ellie Schwetye, “Tinsel Town,” The Midnight Company

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Comedy, Male or Non-Binary Role

  • Adam Flores, “The Thanksgiving Play,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

  • Seth Reiser, “A Christmas Carol,” Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Sound Design

  • David R. Molina, “King Lear,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival
“Dress the Part”

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

  • Christina Leinecke, “Dress the Part,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding Set Design in a Play

  • Margery and Peter Spack, “The Ville: Avengeance,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Drama, Female or Non-Binary Role

  • Elizabeth Teeter, “The Glass Menagerie,” Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Drama, Male or Non-Binary Role

  • Brian McKinley, “Spell #7,” The Black Rep

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Drama, Female or Non-Binary Role

  • Laurie McConnell, “Annapurna,” St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Drama, Male or Non-Binary Role

  • Andre De Shields, “King Lear,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding New Play

  • “Tinsel Town,” by Joe Hanrahan, The Midnight Company
“Tinsel Town” by Joe Hanrahan

Outstanding Achievement in Opera

  • Patricia Racette, “La voix humaine,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of an Opera

  • “Gianni Schicchi,” Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Musical Director

  • Charlie Alterman, “Chicago,” The Muny

Outstanding Choreographer

  • Denis Jones,“Chicago,” The Muny
Smokey Joe’s Cafe

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Musical, Female or Non-Binary Role

  • Natascia Diaz, “On Your Feet!,” The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Musical, Male or Non-Binary Role

  • Adam Heller, “Chicago,” The Muny

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

  • Sean M. Savoie, “Jersey Boys,” Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

  • Edward E. Haynes Jr. and Kevan Loney, “Smokey Joe’s Café,” The Muny

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

  • Emily Rebholz, “Chicago,” The Muny
Diana DeGarmo “Always…Patsy Cline”

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Musical, Female or Non-Binary Role

  • Diana DeGarmo, “Always…Patsy Cline,” Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Leading Performer in a Musical, Male or Non-Binary Role

  • Christopher Kale Jones, “Jersey Boys,” Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy (Tie)

  • “Dress the Part,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival
  • “It Is Magic,” The Midnight Company

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

  • “Two Trains Running,” The Black Rep

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

  • “Chicago,” The Muny

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

  • GQ and JQ, “Dress the Part,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding Director of a Drama

  • Carl Cofield, “King Lear,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival
Two Trains Running

Outstanding Director of a Musical

  • Denis Jones, “Chicago,” The Muny

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

  • “Dress the Part,” St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Outstanding Production of a Drama

  • “Two Trains Running,” The Black Rep

Outstanding Production of a Musical

  • “Chicago,” The Muny

In addition, arts philanthropists Nancy and Ken Kranzberg were honored with a special award which was originally presented at the 2020 in-person ceremony.  Michael Hamilton and Jack Lane, co-founders of Stages St. Louis and the troupe’s recently retired artistic director and executive producer, respectively, were honored as well for their body of work. The Kranzbergs and Lane each gave a recorded acceptance speech during the virtual ceremony.

The mission of the St. Louis Theater Circle is simple: To honor outstanding achievement in St. Louis professional theater. Other cities around the country, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., pay tribute to their own local theatrical productions with similar awards programs.

Andre DeShields in “King Lear”

Members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen (stagedoorstl.com); Mark Bretz (Ladue News); Bob Cohn (St. Louis Jewish Light); Tina Farmer (KDHX); Michelle Kenyon (snoopstheatrethoughts.com); Gerry Kowarsky (Two on the Aisle, HEC Media); Chuck Lavazzi (KDHX); Rob Levy (Broadwayworld.com); Judith Newmark (judyacttwo.com); Ann Lemons Pollack (stlouiseats.typepad.com); Lynn Venhaus (PopLifeSTL.com); Bob Wilcox (Two on the Aisle, HEC Media); and Calvin Wilson (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Eleanor Mullin, local performer and arts supporter, is group administrator.

For more information, contact stltheatercircle@sbcglobal.net or ‘like’ the St. Louis Theater Circle on Facebook.

By Lynn Venhaus
A domino chain of events have a devastating effect on a group of blue-collar steel workers in Lynn Nottage’s hard-hitting play, “Sweat,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2017 and retains its timeliness.

The Black Rep’s outstanding production, which kicked off its 45th season on Sept. 9 and continues through Sept. 26, features powerful performances in a lived-in atmosphere.

You know these characters, the ‘little guys’ who’ve worked the factory floor for years and thought their labor unions would protect them when the corporate owners moved operations to another country for a cheaper labor force.

Set in a local tavern where the Olstead mill workers hang out in Reading, Pennsylvania, this could have taken place in Granite City or Centralia, Ill., or near the shuttered car plants in St. Louis.

Director Ron Himes knows this and understands how today’s political and racial tensions are much the same as then, as well as immigration issues. Those are addressed in two story arcs — changing demographics and the territorial birthright felt by the longtime Caucasian residents.

Sadly, this tale is often not one of fiction in real lives — and has become familiar to anyone living anywhere in the Rust Belt, part of those Northeast and Midwestern regions where an industrial decline has been going on for decades, especially where coal and steel were economy mainstays.

The 2015 play starts and ends in 2008, but most of it takes place in flashback eight years earlier – in 2000, a pivotal time in America, after NAFTA is in place and corporations are going to Mexico. Transparency is not a word in these companies’ vocabulary, as they leave communities shattered and people broken.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in 1994 and created a trilateral trade bloc.

The action veers from longtime friends celebrating birthdays, laughing, joking and talking about their lives to escalating tension as uncertainty about their jobs increases, along with harsh outlooks on their economic futures.

This ensemble is nimble and natural, conveying the complexities of their relationships with skill and emotional depth. The cast projects how longtime friends act and what their workplace is like with ease.

Nottage’s dialogue is shrewd and perceptive about race, class and identity. She understands the frustrations of these characters, and the lens in which they view the world.

Nottage, who is the only woman to win the Pulitzer Prize twice for Drama, first for “Ruined” in 2009, frequently writes about marginalized people.

For Cynthia and Tracey, is friendship or survival stronger? The actresses Amy Loui and Velma Austin expertly convey their conflicts and mood shifts, show how friendships sour when misunderstandings and envy erupt.

Their friend Jessie drinks too much and once had dreams of traveling the world but got a job at the factory and stayed. Kelly Howe gives what could be a stereotype some nuance – and superbly displays various levels of inebriation.

The cast is anchored by Stan, the bartender who was injured on the job at the mill and reflects on multiple labor issues as he is often the voice of reason – and at least history.

He attempts to put things in perspective and tells the young bucks who are chomping at the bit that they should be outraged by the bosses, not the little guys trying to get ahead like they are.

In his Black Rep debut, Black Anthony Edwards is impressive as the guy who’s good at listening, who speaks common sense, and has made lemonade out of the lemons he was given impairing his leg and being unable to work at what he did for years.

Physically, he looks like the character Stan. Praise to the costume designer Hali Liles for her spot-on outfits depicting the wardrobes of ordinary people living in the Rust Belt.

After they strike, and Cynthia and Tracey’s sons Chris and Jason are laid off, their lives are altered forever after tensions explode in violence. The fight choreography by Paul Steger is fluid and the cast well-rehearsed to make it seem natural.

Chris wanted to make something of himself, and Brian McKinley earnestly portrays his yearning to achieve, especially after watching his dad Brucie (frequent Black Rep performer A.C. Smith) fall on hard times after being shut out at a textile plant.

The boys serve prison sentences, as reflected in the opening scene with parole officer Evan, played with authority by Don McClendon. Franklin Killian is strong as the hothead redneck Jason, now tattoed on his face and a white supremist. He perfectly embodies the once fun-loving guy now a lost soul.

The subject of the boys’ rage is represented by Oscar, a Colombian American who works as the bar’s busboy but seizes an opportunity to make more money by replacing striking workers. The regular clientele are seething about this ‘scab.’

Oscar, well-played by Gregory Almanza, pours out his heart to Stan, telling him about how ignored he is, perceived to be an immigrant when he was born in the U.S. His dad swept floors at the mill, now he wants to achieve more. He is caught in the crossfire of misplaced fury.

The scenic design by Tim Jones aptly captures this world, with detailed property work by Meg Brinkley, all expertly lit by lighting designer John D. Alexander. The jukebox works well, thanks to the terrific sound design by Kareem Deanes.

Featuring one of the year’s best ensembles, a timely tale and expert production elements, “Sweat” is not to be missed.

Velma Austin as Cynthia. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

“Sweat” will continue through Sept. 26, with Thursday show at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.

$15 student rush tickets are available for all shows — 30 minutes before the show with a valid student I.D.

For more information: www.theblackrep.org

Season subscriptions and single tickets for “Sweat” are available at www.theblackrep.org or by calling the Box Office at 314-534-3807. Groups of 12 or more may also reserve tickets by phone. Seating will be at 50 percent capacity; for complete information on current health protocols please visit www.theblackrep.org.

The Black Rep’s 45th Anniversary Season sponsors include the Arts and Education Council, The Black Seed Initiative, Centene Charitable Trust, Missouri Arts Council, Regional Arts Commission, Rodgers-Townsend, The Shubert Foundation, the Steward Family Foundation, and Washington University in St. Louis.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

Our top priority for reopening is the health and safety of our staff, artists and patrons. We have been working diligently to bring live theatre back. The Black Rep is part of the growing coalition of St Louis performing arts venues and producers that have agreed upon Covid-19 Vaccination/Testing and Mask Requirements for audiences, artists and staff through the end of 2021.

Everyone must be fully vaccinated or have received a negative covid test results no more than 72 hours prior to coming on campus. A Covid19 vaccination card or a negative test result must be presented upon entering the building.

Masks are required at all times while indoors on campus. Even if you are seated in pods and distanced, masks must remain in place.

Everyone will need to complete the visitorscreening.wustl.edu within 2 hours of your arrival to campus. You will receive a message indicating that you are cleared to come to campus and you will be asked to present the “cleared” message to ushers at the entrance of the building. For those without smart phones, there is a station in Mallinckrodt where you can complete the screener on an iPad. If you receive a message that you are “not cleared”, we ask that you not come to campus or leave campus if you are completing the screener on campus.

The St. Louis Black Repertory Company opens its 45thAnniversary Season September 10 with an in-person production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sweat” by Lynn Nottage. Addressing the complexities of race, class and friendship at a pivotal moment in America,
the powerful work will be presented in person at the Edison Theatre at Washington University and directed by Founder and Producing Director Ron Himes. Previews begin on Wednesday, September 8.

A courageous and heartbreaking story explores the lives of a tight-knit group of factory workers who spend their days drinking, sharing secrets, and laughing. When layoffs and strikes create tension within the group the trust is broken. “Playwright Nottage tensely captures the root of our current political and racial tension in society today,” said Himes. “Are we only looking out for ourselves or are we
responsible for each other?”

The cast features Velma Austin (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Screened in Porch), A.C. Smith (King Hedley II, The Trials of Brother Jero), Amy Loui (Canfield Drive, Three Ways Home), Don McClendon (Blues for Mr. Charlie), and Brian McKinley (Home, Spell #7). Franklin Killian, Blake Anthony Edwards, Gregory Almanza, and Kelly Howe will all be making their debut at The Black Rep

The production will feature Scenic Design by Tim Jones, Lighting Design by Jonathan Alexander, Costume Design by Hali Liles, Sound Design by Kareem Deanes, and Properties Designed by Meg Brinkley.

Fight Choreography will be done by Paul Steger who is certified by the Society of American Fight Directors and holds advanced certificates from the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat & Fight Directors. Jim Anthony is the Stage Manager and Technical Fellow Tatiana Durant is the Assistant Stage Manager.

Season subscriptions and single tickets for “Sweat” are available at www.theblackrep.org or by calling the Box Office at 314-534-3807. Groups of 12 or more may also reserve tickets by phone. Seating will be at 50 percent capacity; for complete information on current health protocols please visit www.theblackrep.org.

The Black Rep’s 45th Anniversary Season sponsors include the Arts and Education Council, The Black Seed Initiative, Centene Charitable Trust, Missouri Arts Council, Regional Arts Commission, Rodgers-Townsend, The Shubert Foundation, the Steward Family Foundation, and Washington University in St. Louis

  • Set to emerge from the pandemic for live audiences, the compelling new season of work features both well-established and new Black voices, the Black Rep has announced. The St. Louis Black Repertory Company will begin its 45th anniversary with in-person performances beginning in September at the Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis.

    The season opens with “Sweat,” a Pulitzer-Prize winning drama fitting for the current times, followed by “Dontrell,
    Who Kissed the Sea,” exploring one young man’s present-day heroic quest. The season continues with “Fireflies,” a
    telling of the complexities of love and color, and “Behind the Sheet,” the untold story behind the sacrifices made for
    a significant medical breakthrough. The season closes with “Jitney,” August Wilson’s powerful look at one
    community’s unwavering determination and connection. Each production will include post-show talk backs and
    intergenerational matinees.

    “As we all pick up the pieces of our life in our community, we wanted to include a range of plays that explore how
    people define their self-worth and cope with society’s view,” said Ron Himes, Founder and Producing Director of
    The Black Rep. “With each of our five productions this season we’ll ask our audience to join us to explore their own
    identity and place. And, I personally can’t wait to see everyone.”

    Sweat by Lynn Nottage September 8-26, 2021 at the Edison Theatre, Washington University

    Addressing the complexities of race, class and friendship at a pivotal moment in America, this heartfelt drama tells
    the story of a group of co-workers who find friendship working on a factory floor. With layoffs and picket lines
    entering the picture, these friends must decide if they should look out for each other – or prioritize themselves.

    Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea by Nathan Alan Davis January 12-30, 2022 at the Edison Theatre, Washington
    University

    When 18-year-old Dontrell Jones decides to voyage into the Atlantic Ocean in search of an ancestor lost during the
    Middle Passage, his family struggles with the thought of losing their prized son. Blending poetry, humor, wordplay
    and ritual, this rhythmic journey is a present-day hero’s quest to explore the lengths and depths we must go to
    rewrite history’s wrongs.

    Fireflies by Donja R. Love February 9-27 at the Hotchner Studio Theatre, Washington University

    Set in the Jim Crow South, “Fireflies” tells the story of Olivia, the inspiring speechwriter and force behind her
    charismatic husband Charles and his freedom movement. When four little girls are bombed in a church, the
    couple’s relationship is thrown into jeopardy.

    Behind the Sheet by Charly Evon Simpson March 16-April 3 at The Berges Theatre, COCA
    This compelling work challenges what history remembers and reframes the very origin story of a great medical
    breakthrough. This production is made possible in part by the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan
    Foundation Science and Technology Project along with additional support from Caleres and The Black Rep’s
    Sophisticated Ladies.

    Jitney by August Wilson May 11-29 at the Edison Theatre, Washington University

    Set in the late 1970’s, August Wilson’s first in his 10-play cycle of 10 decades of history in Pittsburgh takes place
    in the midst of urban renewal and follows a group of men who make a living driving gypsy cabs, as they navigate
    love as fathers and sons, loss and hope, and ultimately, community.

    Subscriptions are available for purchase now by calling the box office at (314) 534-3807 or online
    at www.theblackrep.org. Groups of 12 or more may also reserve tickets by phone. Opening Night packages as
    well as a New Flex Pass are available, along with an early purchase Post Pandemic discount.

    Season and individual production support has been provided by: The Arts & Education Council, Black Seed
    Initiative, Caleres, Centene Charitable Foundation, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Missouri Arts Council, Regional
    Arts Commission, Rodgers-Townsend, Shubert Foundation, Steward Family Foundation, and Washington
    University in St. Louis, with additional support from the Black Communities Investment Initiative of the St. Louis
    Community Foundation.

    About The Black Rep
    The Black Rep, a 45-year-old legacy Black arts organization, is committed to producing, re-imagining, and
    commissioning work written by Black playwrights and creating opportunities for new voices and youth. Founded
    by Producing Director Ron Himes, the vision for The Black Rep continues: a more equitable distribution of
    opportunities and resources for Black professionals and students in the theatre; improved representation on and
    back-stage in the theatre industry; and a fostered community culture of support and mentorship for those who will
    follow.

    For more information: www.theblackrep.org

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright visits St. Louis to discuss her timely and important works, being presented locally by both theatre groups 

ST. LOUIS (June 18, 2021) – The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) and St. Louis Black Repertory Company (The Black Rep) are pleased to welcome two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage to St. Louis for a very special roundtable event, Telling the ‘Tale’ with Lynn Nottage on Friday, June 25 at 6 p.m. via Facebook Live and YouTube. Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Ron Himes, Founder and Producing Director of The Black Rep will spend 90 minutes in conversation with Nottage, moderated by Adena Varner, Director of Learning and Community Engagement for The Rep. 

The conversation will center on two key works by Nottage being presented by the local theatre groups: Mlima’s Tale, currently being performed by The Rep through July 11 at the Catherine B. Berges theatre at COCA; and Sweat, set to open The Black Rep’s 45th season from September 8 through 26 at the Edison Theatre at Washington University. 

“Lynn Nottage is one of the most important voices in modern American theatre, so bringing her thought-provoking, Mlima’s Tale, to life as The Rep’s first in-person production this year has been a true joy” said Sharif. “It is a gift for the St. Louis community to have two of her groundbreaking plays produced this year. I am delighted to partner with Ron Himes in this incredible opportunity to delve deeply into her work and the themes she explores.”

Himes added, “I’m looking forward to being in conversation with these two brilliant women of the theatre and to continue The Black Rep’s relationship with Lynn Nottage by presenting Sweat to open our in-person 45th Anniversary season. We have presented Intimate Apparel and Ruins in past seasons and our audiences have been moved; our artists have been challenged. Mlima’s Tale continues to elevate Nottage as one of our best American playwrights.”

Nottage is the first, and remains the only, woman to have twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. She was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2019. 

Telling the ‘Tale’ with Lynn Nottage is a free online event with an RSVP required via Eventbrite.

About The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. Visit www.repstl.org for more, and find The Rep on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

About St. Louis Black Repertory Company

Founded in 1976 by Producing Director Ron Himes, The Black Rep is one of the largest professional African-American theatre companies in the nation and the largest African American professional performing arts organization in Missouri. Quality professional dramas, comedies and musicals by primarily African American and African Diaspora playwrights are produced. Main-stage  productions and education programs combine to reach more than 80,000 people annually. For more information visit theblackrep.org