The 2011-12 season of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is underway, so we caught up with artistic director Steven Woolf to hear about what else is in store. He was in Cincinnati to open a run of the Tony Award-winning Red, off the heels of its successful showing as the season opener at The Rep.
LN: Are you happy with how the audience received Red in St. Louis?
SW: They loved it, they were thrilled by it! It’s full of smart dialogue and the actors were wonderful. There’s an interesting story and discussion of art and philosophy. Plus, Rothko is a colorful character. It’s truly an amazing piece, and we got terrific word of mouth and amazing press on it. It was a great way to kick off the season!
LN: And now God of Carnage is showing. What’s been the audience take on that so far?
SW: There was screaming laughter and a big ovation at the end at the preview night. There are a lot of surprises in the show, so I’m not giving those away. It’s an adult comedy and not for the faint of hart. The setup of the story is two sets of parents who come together to negotiate who should apologize for a playground fight between their children. What happens is the parents begin to act like children themselves. They’re really quite badly behaved in a very funny way. That play won the Tony for Best Play in 2009, and I think we’re in for a good run.
LN: Which show are you most excited about this season?
SW: They’re all my children, I can’t do that. I like them all.
LN: That’s a fair answer! Tell us about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and the challenges of doing a story that everyone knows so well.
SW: The special twist on this version is that we’re doing an adaptation by Laura Eason. She’s having a very big career, including a show that’s going to Broadway next year. It’s a fanciful, lovely retelling of the story, and it’s appropriate for kids from about 10 on up and their families. It’s very physically active, charming and alive. We worked with Jeremy Cohen as director and with the playwright to recreate the whole universe of Tom Sawyer. It’s got the charm and lightness you want with this, and before you actually go see it, you might want to read or re-read the book to see how we’ve adapted it.
LN: You’ve worked in a lot of cities around the country, what is different about your audience here in St. Louis?
SW: The people here really actively participate in the playgoing. What we say is that our audiences lean forward in their seats to catch all the action and the dialogue. They really want to be part of the story. Our audience likes both the classics and the new plays, musicals and Shakespeare. There’s no actor that doesn’t come through St. Louis and remark on how wonderful the audiences are.
LN: That must keep you on your toes!
SW: It’s very interesting to do the variety. There’s a lot out there and putting together a season is not always as easy as some people think, because there are a lot of plays and we want to find work that engages the audience. They have an expectation of the work we’re going to do, and we certainly want to do wonderful work for them. This is going to be an exciting season with a lot of different types of shows, from a unique approach to Tom Sawyer; to Sunday in the Park with George, one of Sondheim’s greatest pieces; and The Comedy of Errors set in New Orleans, which is a great way to see Shakespeare.