[ {"id":"dcb7ce12-72a1-57e6-8cc6-ea965127cd26","type":"article","starttime":"1500570000","starttime_iso8601":"2017-07-20T12:00:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1500571502","priority":45,"sections":[{"features":"arts-and-culture/features"}],"application":"editorial","title":"When Caged Birds Sing","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/article_dcb7ce12-72a1-57e6-8cc6-ea965127cd26.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/when-caged-birds-sing/article_dcb7ce12-72a1-57e6-8cc6-ea965127cd26.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/when-caged-birds-sing/article_dcb7ce12-72a1-57e6-8cc6-ea965127cd26.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":3,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Bryan A. Hollerbach","prologue":"A local theater-centered organization helps incarcerated and otherwise troubled Missourians battle adversity.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["prison performing arts","shelby partridge","ppa","jail","prison","incarceration"],"internalKeywords":["#topstory"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"41fe9963-b77a-5f71-a9ee-d324a701ec2b","description":"","byline":"Photo by Suzy Gorman","hireswidth":1763,"hiresheight":1175,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/1f/41fe9963-b77a-5f71-a9ee-d324a701ec2b/5970e0a5805a2.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"760","height":"507","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/1f/41fe9963-b77a-5f71-a9ee-d324a701ec2b/5970e0a57eb0d.image.jpg?resize=760%2C507"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/1f/41fe9963-b77a-5f71-a9ee-d324a701ec2b/5970e0a57eb0d.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"200","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/1f/41fe9963-b77a-5f71-a9ee-d324a701ec2b/5970e0a57eb0d.image.jpg?resize=300%2C200"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"682","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/1f/41fe9963-b77a-5f71-a9ee-d324a701ec2b/5970e0a57eb0d.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C682"}}},{"id":"6f16e1d4-0d35-5bcb-9dd8-f131320ed4b1","description":"","byline":"Photo by Steve Tharp","hireswidth":1860,"hiresheight":1114,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/f1/6f16e1d4-0d35-5bcb-9dd8-f131320ed4b1/5970e0a5e9662.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"760","height":"455","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/f1/6f16e1d4-0d35-5bcb-9dd8-f131320ed4b1/5970e0a5e8960.image.jpg?resize=760%2C455"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"60","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/f1/6f16e1d4-0d35-5bcb-9dd8-f131320ed4b1/5970e0a5e8960.image.jpg?resize=100%2C60"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"180","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/f1/6f16e1d4-0d35-5bcb-9dd8-f131320ed4b1/5970e0a5e8960.image.jpg?resize=300%2C180"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"613","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/f1/6f16e1d4-0d35-5bcb-9dd8-f131320ed4b1/5970e0a5e8960.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C613"}}},{"id":"958aa2c7-09d9-5737-ad27-94ebc5a51756","description":"","byline":"Photo by Steve Tharp","hireswidth":1691,"hiresheight":1225,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/58/958aa2c7-09d9-5737-ad27-94ebc5a51756/5970e0a635d47.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"760","height":"551","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/58/958aa2c7-09d9-5737-ad27-94ebc5a51756/5970e0a634f7c.image.jpg?resize=760%2C551"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"72","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/58/958aa2c7-09d9-5737-ad27-94ebc5a51756/5970e0a634f7c.image.jpg?resize=100%2C72"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"217","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/58/958aa2c7-09d9-5737-ad27-94ebc5a51756/5970e0a634f7c.image.jpg?resize=300%2C217"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"742","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/58/958aa2c7-09d9-5737-ad27-94ebc5a51756/5970e0a634f7c.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C742"}}}],"revision":3,"commentID":"dcb7ce12-72a1-57e6-8cc6-ea965127cd26","body":"
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Often, the strength of the mental bars that jail many people far outstrips that of any merely material constraints, a misfortune Prison Performing Arts (PPA) strives to help incarcerated individuals conquer by way of the stage.

Shelby Partridge, the organization\u2019s director of development and operations, outlines its theatrically therapeutic efforts, for adults and children alike, at five Missouri locations: the St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center (SLCJDC), the city\u2019s Hogan Street Regional Youth Center, Missouri Eastern Correctional Center (MECC) in Pacific, Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green and Women\u2019s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia.

Partridge first provides succinct background on the criteria informing the works chosen for production by PPA (now nearing its 30th year).

\u201cFor our prison theater classes, the selection of scripts is typically built around ideas generated by the inmates themselves, either in terms of genre, theme or a specific playwright,\u201d she says. \u201cTime is spent reading and discussing each play, with the inmates voting on which script they would like to produce.\u201d

The MECC class, Partridge continues, differs a bit. It starts with writing and improvisational exercises; progresses through the creation of themed poetry, skits and songs; and culminates in a script produced by the inmates, PPA director Christopher Limber and longtime PPA volunteer and dramaturge Jerry McAdams.

So, too, does PPA\u2019s youth programming differ, taking a multidisciplinary approach in theater, improv and other classes, Partridge relates. Because the lengths of stay at the St. Louis facilities it serves differ, that programming focuses on process over performance and seeks to improve literacy and communication. \u201cThe arts are an important vehicle for learning with students who haven\u2019t been able to find success in traditional school settings,\u201d she says.

Partridge provides brief but telling metrics on how PPA\u2019s efforts benefit participants.

\u201cLast year, the department of corrections did a study of PPA\u2019s prison program and found that participants were 20 percent less likely to return to prison, \u2026\u201d she says.

\u201cWe collect written surveys from the inmate participants at the close of each semester. Over 80 percent of participants report that participation in the program improves their mental health and self-confidence, and over 75 percent report improved social skills.

\u201cAll outside guests to in-prison productions are surveyed after each performance and Q&A session, and 100 percent of respondents answer \u2018yes\u2019 when asked if they feel the PPA program can help inmates improve social and communication skills necessary for successful re-entry to society.\u201d

Partridge also provides insights into recent performances, as well as general favorites.

\u201cPPA commissioned a new work, Run-On Sentence, by St. Louis playwright Stacie Lents, and a public audience saw its debut June 22 at WERDCC,\u201d she says. \u201cIt\u2019s phase one of PPA\u2019s New Plays Initiative, which pairs a playwright with a group of inmates to create a work that speaks to their human experiences. \u2026

\u201cA yearly favorite for many is the Spring Hip Hop Poetry Project at the SLCJDC. Since 2004, PPA has utilized the public school spring break at the center to provide a full week of intensive arts programming that culminates with a lively and moving performance \u2013 featuring the original, unfiltered writings of the young people \u2013 for family members and PPA supporters.

\u201cIt gives the public a raw look at the daily challenges facing our St. Louis city youths. What they have to say is extremely relevant, and it\u2019s important that we, as St. Louisans, listen. The courage they show \u2013 opening up about their hopes and fears \u2013 is astonishing.\u201d

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Partridge goes into greater detail about the productions that, over time, have garnered the greatest favor among participants and audiences alike.

“A long-standing PPA favorite is the 2002 production of Hamlet, directed by PPA founder Agnes Wilcox, which was featured in a full, one-hour episode of NPR’s This American Life,” she relates, adding that that episode (which appears online at thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/218/act-v) recently reaired with updates about the men involved.

\u201cIn 2014, our Hip Hop Poetry Project titled Still I Rise celebrated the works of the beloved Maya Angelou,\u201d Partridge continues, referring to the renowned poet and native St. Louisan perhaps most famed for the poem \u201cI know why the caged bird sings\u201d and the autobiography of the same title. \u201cThe young people were immersed in her poetry, and it was fascinating to see how her writing inspired them creatively.\u201d

Although PPA\u2019s spring efforts publicly concluded toward the end of June, Partridge notes the organization is already working on an exciting and challenging offering coming later this year.

\u201cPPA recently began a summer collaboration with Saint Louis University\u2019s Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Lucy Cashion, assistant professor of theater, and PPA director Rachel Tibbetts are teaching weekly poetry, playwriting and development workshops at WERDCC.

\u201cThe group will study, explore and write about the ancient Greek princess Antigone. Antigone\u2019s story of fighting civic law to obey divine law became famous in the classical Greek tragedy Antigone, which premiered in Athens in 441 B.C. Since then, scholars, poets and playwrights have written their own translations, adaptations and critiques of the Antigone story, each from a different point of view.\u201d

In that vein, the university\u2019s theater majors will reimagine Sophocles\u2019 Antigone in St. Louis in October, with WERDCC participants in the PPA theater class following suit next spring in a further example of what Partridge calls \u201cthe transformative, healing power of art in corrections.\u201d

Prison Performing Arts, 3547 Olive St., Suite 250, St. Louis, 314-289-4190, prisonperformingarts.org

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"}, {"id":"7a54830a-1a40-5d50-a04e-c0841108dbbd","type":"article","starttime":"1500570000","starttime_iso8601":"2017-07-20T12:00:00-05:00","priority":40,"sections":[{"dining":"arts-and-culture/dining"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Dinner & A Show: Tapped","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/article_7a54830a-1a40-5d50-a04e-c0841108dbbd.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/dinner-a-show-tapped/article_7a54830a-1a40-5d50-a04e-c0841108dbbd.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/dinner-a-show-tapped/article_7a54830a-1a40-5d50-a04e-c0841108dbbd.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Mabel Suen","prologue":"Area beer aficionados likely rejoiced two months back with the debut in Maplewood of Tapped, which features a 48-draft self-pour system that allows guests to sample as much or as little of the locally focused selection as desired.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["dinner & a show","tapped","maplewood"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"13f3f9d4-8113-5683-abf7-49e69bbc4927","description":"","byline":"Photo by Mabel Suen","hireswidth":1755,"hiresheight":1180,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/3f/13f3f9d4-8113-5683-abf7-49e69bbc4927/595fc52c5399c.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"760","height":"511","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/3f/13f3f9d4-8113-5683-abf7-49e69bbc4927/595fc52c51b3b.image.jpg?resize=760%2C511"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/3f/13f3f9d4-8113-5683-abf7-49e69bbc4927/595fc52c51b3b.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"202","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/3f/13f3f9d4-8113-5683-abf7-49e69bbc4927/595fc52c51b3b.image.jpg?resize=300%2C202"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"689","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/3f/13f3f9d4-8113-5683-abf7-49e69bbc4927/595fc52c51b3b.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C689"}}}],"revision":5,"commentID":"7a54830a-1a40-5d50-a04e-c0841108dbbd","body":"
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Area beer aficionados likely rejoiced two months back with the debut in Maplewood of Tapped, which features a 48-draft self-pour system that allows guests to sample as much or as little of the locally focused selection as desired.

The establishment comes from St. Louis natives Ryan and Lindsay Reel and fills the space previously occupied by A Pizza Story, inheriting its wood-burning oven and full kitchen for its own menu of pizzas, appetizers and more.

The dining and drinking area seats 60 to 65 and sports a wall full of more than 70 vintage pre-Prohibition prints that illustrate brewing history in St. Louis and beyond. \u201cWe wanted it to be a celebration of craft beer and local brewing,\u201d Lindsay Reel says. \u201cWe\u2019re trying to be super local, though that\u2019s not a definitive rule. Our only official rule is no macro brews.\u201d

To that end, visitors can find everything from the likes of Ferguson Brewing Co.\u2019s pecan brown ale to Schlafly Beer\u2019s hard apple cider on draft. The roster rotates based on seasonal availability and also includes a number of alternatives, among them eight wines such as Banfi Wines\u2019 Eufloria.

To start, patrons open a tab at the host\u2019s stand with a state ID and credit card in exchange for a radio-frequency identification bracelet. A sensor in the bracelet can activate any module of the iPourIt tap-control system with a mere touch, recording the product poured per ounce. Information about each libation is available via tablet controls.

\u201cIt\u2019s a great opportunity to sample something; it\u2019s a matter of putting a splash in your glass and giving it a taste,\u201d Ryan says. \u201cA lot of people love this and say, \u2018I\u2019m not a full-glass person.\u2019 They\u2019d rather try a lot of different things.\u201d

To pair with their drinks, Tapped guests can choose from a menu of casual Neapolitan-inspired pies, sandwiches and snacks \u2013 all available to order at a walk-up counter in front of the house pizza oven. The pizza dough features 4 Hands Brewing Co.\u2019s Contact High seasonal wheat beer and comes in combinations such as margherita, veggie and artichoke with pepperoni. A gluten-free crust and vegan cheese are also available.

Appetizers include toasted ravioli, Bavarian pretzels, spinach-artichoke Rangoon and beer-marinated wings with a sweet bourbon glaze. Additional options include a pastrami sandwich, a Mason-jar salad, beer-battered cod, and kielbasa served with German-style potato salad and beer kraut.

Happy hour runs Monday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. and features 20 percent off beer, wine and pizza \u2013 a fine prelude to enjoying a production of On Golden Pond from Insight Theatre Company.

Tapped, 7278 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314-899-0011, tappedstl.com

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Story: Retired English professor Norman Thayer and his wife Ethel have visited the same cabin on the shores of Golden Pond in the woods of Maine for 48 years. He\u2019s about to turn 80, she\u2019s nearing 70 but they look at life through different prisms.

While Norman revels in being cantankerous while complaining about nearly everything, Ethel views the glass as a hearty half-full. She\u2019s happy that their only child, 42-year-old, childless divorcee Chelsea, will be visiting them for the first time in eight years. In the meantime, she spoils Chelsea\u2019s childhood boyfriend Charlie with biscuits and coffee as he makes his rounds as the local mail carrier.

Chelsea calls ahead to inform her mother that she\u2019s bringing along her new boyfriend Bill and his teenage son Billy Jr. When they arrive, the long-standing tension and friction between Norman and Chelsea immediately is palpable. They probably love each other, but they certainly don\u2019t know how to communicate, ironic for the former English teacher.

Norman, though, takes a shining to Billy Jr. When Ethel tells him that Chelsea and Bill are leaving Billy Jr. behind for a month at Golden Pond while they go to Europe, Norman unexpectedly finds himself with a new fishing partner. There may be some new tricks for the old dog yet.

Highlights: Savvy interpretations by veteran performers John Contini and Peggy Billo help artistic director A.S. Freeman deliver a smooth rendition of this warm-hearted, entertaining drama by Ernest Thompson.

Other Info: Ozark Actors Theatre offers three comedies and/or musicals in its summer season, now in its 30th anniversary year. The 2017 edition marks the fourth year under producing managing director Stephenie Moser and the initial participation of artistic director Freeman. It\u2019s a pleasant, 100-mile journey from St. Louis down I-44 to Rolla, where OAT performs at the Cedar Street Playhouse, a renovated church that features a decent-sized stage and comfortable, raked seating.

Coincidentally, Insight Theatre Company in St. Louis currently is staging its own production of On Golden Pond, drawing inevitable comparisons between the two renditions. Each succeeds on its own, and sometimes different, merits.

The OAT show takes place on Jack Golden\u2019s handsome set design, focused on the large living room in the Thayer cabin, with a dilapidated screen door at stage right that is a running joke in the story, and some steps at stage left that lead to unseen bedrooms and a bathroom. A window in the back alludes to the nearby lake where Ethel listens for the romantic wailing of the inhabitant loons, something emphasized in Blake Hardin\u2019s sound design.

Jenna Light contributes costumes that match the various players and Kevin Shaw satisfactorily lights scenes to complement the action. Laura Light fills the set with props ranging from a mounted fish to Norman\u2019s fishing poles to board games and an old black rotary phone as well as Ethel's charming little puppet which resides on the mantelpiece.

Contini conveys the churlish nature of Norman while also underscoring his tender feelings for his wife and especially his rejuvenation with the arrival of an unexpected fishing buddy in Billy Jr. He\u2019s especially fine in a striking scene when Chelsea arrives at the cabin and walks right by Norman to embrace her mother. Contini\u2019s sad, sorrowful look says volumes.

Billo is wonderful as the irrepressible Ethel, a role that garnered an Oscar for Katharine Hepburn in the 1982 film version opposite Henry Fonda in his own Academy Award-winning portrayal of Norman. Billo\u2019s chemistry with Contini is smooth and seemingly effortless as she captures the love of life that has guided Ethel for nearly half-a-century in marriage with her beloved husband.

Phoenix Lawson is a delight as the amiable Billy Jr. Some of the show\u2019s best moments are watching Contini\u2019s reactions as he learns the latest \u201cjingo\u201d of the kids from his young friend, while Lawson shows Billy dutifully tackling various books around the cabin \u201cassigned\u201d to him by Norman.

Sabra Sellers convincingly displays the peevish nature of Chelsea, still carrying the chip on her shoulder alluded to by her mother from years of trying to please her distant father. Kevin Edwards shows the genuine friendliness of Bill, a dentist who doesn\u2019t know how to handle Norman\u2019s brusque and taciturn responses to Bill\u2019s awkward conversation about sleeping arrangements. Craig Phillips finds the humor in the role of Charlie, the mailman who didn\u2019t marry Chelsea because Norman \u201cwouldn\u2019t let\u201d him.

On Golden Pond is a sweet tale of old love and new friendship. Under Freeman\u2019s careful direction, his cast brings out the humanity of Thompson\u2019s interesting characters, even with their foibles, in agreeable fashion.

Play: On Golden Pond

Company: Ozark Actors Theatre

Venue: Cedar Street Playhouse, 701 North Cedar, Rolla, MO

Dates: July 20, 21, 22, 23

Tickets: $14-$22; contact 573-364-9523 or boxoffice@ozarkactorstheatre.org

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

"}, {"id":"211c9bee-6be3-11e7-a85e-cb7846d9f436","type":"article","starttime":"1500400860","starttime_iso8601":"2017-07-18T13:01:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1500401505","priority":40,"sections":[{"features":"arts-and-culture/features"}],"application":"editorial","title":"More Hits Than Misses with Magic Smoking Monkey's 'AFI Top 100 Films' Parody: Theater Review","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/article_211c9bee-6be3-11e7-a85e-cb7846d9f436.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/more-hits-than-misses-with-magic-smoking-monkey-s-afi/article_211c9bee-6be3-11e7-a85e-cb7846d9f436.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/features/more-hits-than-misses-with-magic-smoking-monkey-s-afi/article_211c9bee-6be3-11e7-a85e-cb7846d9f436.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"by Mark Bretz","prologue":"Story: Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre, which has regaled audiences for 20 years with its silly, slapstick and sometimes sophisticated salutes to cinema, both good and bad, recently took on the Herculean task to comically summarize the American Film Institute\u2019s newest compilation of the Top 100 American movies in the history of cinema, in about 100 minutes. Amazing.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["magic smoking monkey theatre","suki peters","regional arts commission","american film institute","afi top 100","theater","review"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"7ec125cc-6b38-11e7-ae74-4774e566926c","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":null,"versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"640","height":"360","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/ec/7ec125cc-6b38-11e7-ae74-4774e566926c/596d2eb4abb7d.image.jpg?resize=640%2C360"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/ec/7ec125cc-6b38-11e7-ae74-4774e566926c/596d2eb4abb7d.image.jpg?resize=100%2C56"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/ec/7ec125cc-6b38-11e7-ae74-4774e566926c/596d2eb4abb7d.image.jpg?resize=300%2C169"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/ec/7ec125cc-6b38-11e7-ae74-4774e566926c/596d2eb4abb7d.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":4,"commentID":"211c9bee-6be3-11e7-a85e-cb7846d9f436","body":"

Story: Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre, which has regaled audiences for 20 years with its silly, slapstick and sometimes sophisticated salutes to cinema, both good and bad, recently took on the Herculean task to comically summarize the American Film Institute\u2019s newest compilation of the Top 100 American movies in the history of cinema, in about 100 minutes. Amazing.

Highlights: There were considerably more hits than misses in the Magic Monkey\u2019s wacky and inspired effort to present its interpretation of a mostly stellar list of flicks. Sold-out audiences attested to an appreciation of the troupe\u2019s frenetic follies to pull off its seemingly impossible or at least daunting and improbable task.

Other Info: Who can argue with the minds who put together this madcap salute to cinema\u2019s greatest contributions? Suki Peters, artistic director for the Monkey\u2019s parent company St. Louis Shakespeare, conceived and somehow directed this fast-paced comic juggernaut. While failing in its goal of condensing a century of cinema into a 60-minute paean to the silver screen, the effort still managed to average only a minute apiece distilling the basics of 100 screenplays lauded by AFI as the best among hundreds of thousands of movies.

Ben Ritchie combined his encyclopedic knowledge of all things silver screen with astute contributions by Shualee Cook, Roger Erb and Chris Jones, which made this effort frequently hilarious while also pointing out shortcomings of the AFI\u2019s roster.

For example, revisiting Easy Rider in the last decade revealed how painfully dated that flick has become, and yet inexplicably it\u2019s #84 on the AFI\u2019s revised list. Perhaps Platoon (#86) or Tootsie (#69), while fine films, don\u2019t warrant inclusion on such a prestigious roster, but \u2018expert\u2019 minds put it together, so there. And then there\u2019s Intolerance, a 1916 work by D.W. Griffith, supplanting his racist Birth of a Nation more as an historical novelty than greatness.

You can see the challenge presented when the AFI assembled its latest version of the Top 100. Each of us has opinions of which flicks should or shouldn\u2019t be included. Part of the charm of the Magic Monkey comedy was to inspire one to check out again treasured films we may not have viewed in too many years, whether Apocalypse Now (#30) or Dr. Strangelove (#39).

Peters wisely used a raised screen in the background to count down the Top 100, beginning with a goofy send-up of Ben-Hur (#100) with Erb doing his best one- dimensional Charlton Heston impression, down to a cough-and-you-missed-it muttering of \u201cRosebud\u201d by Jones to capsulize Citizen Kane at #1 (and the inspiration for the Monkey\u2019s outstanding poster design).

Ritchie provided hilarious imitations of Robert DeNiro (Goodfellas, The Godfather Part II, etc.) and Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo\u2019s Nest), with Erb delivering the famous penultimate line from the classic Nicholson detective caper: \u201cForget it, Jake, it\u2019s Chinatown\u2019 (#21).

Some efforts, such as the take-off on 1927\u2019s Sunrise, fell totally flat because of unfamiliarity, while others like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial\u00a0were inspired bits of whimsy. The play was at its best when Erb, Jones or Ritchie were involved, although Alyssa Ward contributed a spot-on version of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

Delightful parodies of Annie Hall and 2001: A Space Odyssey hit the ball out of the park, while rendition of The Wild Bunch, Spartacus and Nashville were strike-outs. That\u2019s what one might expect, though, with such a formidable challenge of a show. It\u2019s to the credit of director Peters and her frenzied cast that The AFI\u2019s Top 100 parody succeeded far more often than in flopped.

The cast also included Rachel Bailey, Brennan Eller, Fox Smith, Ron Strawbridge, Nate Cummings and Morgan Maul-Smith. Frequently one couldn\u2019t tell the players without a scorecard without photos in the program.

Small matter. Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre kept its packed house at the Regional Arts Commission laughing at its antics and staring in wonderment at how too many mediocre flicks made this latest AFI list. Beauty, indeed, is in the eye of the beholder. The Deer Hunter over Young Frankenstein? Get out of town!

Play: AFI\u2019s Top 100 Greatest American Films of All Time \u2013 A Parody

Company: Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre

Venue: Regional Arts Commission

Dates: Run concluded

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

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Story: A \u201croustabout\u201d named Chad is released from prison somewhere in the Heartland in the 1950s. While traveling on his motorcycle, he enters a town searching for a mechanic to fine-tune his vehicle. The best mechanic happens to be a young woman named Natalie, who instantly is smitten by this guitar-playing, handsome stranger, much to the chagrin of Dennis, an awkward young man hopelessly in love with her.\u00a0

Chad wiles away time at the local bar, which is run by the tough-talking Sylvia. One of her regular customers is Natalie\u2019s widowed father Jim, who routinely shares life\u2019s laments with old friend Sylvia. While encouraging the local citizens to enjoy life, Chad learns that Mayor Matilda, with the assistance of Sheriff Earl, strictly enforces the Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act, which prohibits most fun for the denizens.

The roustabout is determined to loosen up the town, but finds himself tongue-tied when he sees the beautiful Sandra, who has recently moved to the village to run its museum. Dennis, whom Chad has selected as his \u201csidekick,\u201d volunteers to deliver a Shakespearean sonnet to Sandra on Chad\u2019s behalf to win her heart for the roustabout. Before he can do that, however, Natalie arrives in the guise of \u201cEd,\u201d dressed like a boy so that she can mingle with Chad even if he isn\u2019t attracted to her.

While Mayor Matilda clamps down on the frivolity beginning to invade her village, Chad finds himself surprisingly attracted to \u201cEd.\u201d Sandra also pursues Ed after the young lad delivers the romantic sonnet to her.

If you\u2019re keeping score, Chad wants Sandra but is intrigued by Ed; Dennis yearns for Natalie; Sylvia finds herself falling for Jim, who is spurned by Sandra; and Mayor Matilda\u2019s son Dean avoids returning to military camp after meeting Sylvia's daughter Lorraine. Everyone heads for the abandoned old amusement park outside town to hide from Mayor Matilda and to pursue their happiness. Will love conquer all?

Highlights: The Muny offers a fast-paced, lively night of rockabilly with its inaugural presentation of All Shook Up, a 2004 jukebox musical which features the songs of Elvis Presley and a book by Joe DiPietro that is based on Shakespeare\u2019s comedy Twelfth Night.

Other Info: In typical Shakespearean fashion, the characters take little time falling in love with each other. Who needs exposition when you have a musical ripe with such classic tunes sung by \u201cThe King\u201d as Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, Devil in Disguise, Hound Dog, Don\u2019t Be Cruel, Burning Love and two dozen others, including the title tune?

All Shook Up opened on Broadway in 2005 and closed that same year after just 246 performances. That seems puzzling, but if The Muny\u2019s version is any indication, one reason may have been the relative paucity of big ensemble dance numbers in the latter part of the musical, given the wealth of material and the energy created in several of the show\u2019s earlier efforts, such as Heartbreak Hotel and Follow That Dream.

The strength of All Shook Up is best realized in big, fun-loving numbers which underscore Jessica Hartman\u2019s pulse-pounding choreography, at least in The Muny\u2019s version. That\u2019s when All Shook Up really rocks the house. The second act doesn\u2019t feature as many of those ensemble efforts, getting mired down in The Bard\u2019s convoluted tale to its detriment, even if the cast is appealing and well attuned to the comedy at hand.

Director Dan Knechtges is accomplished at combining comedy and music, as witnessed by previous Muny efforts including Seussical and Mamma Mia! In the case of All Shook Up, he is inestimably complemented by Luke Cantarella\u2019s magnificent scenic design and a truly impressive video design concocted by Greg Emetaz.

A patron could spend as much time analyzing the rich, colorful details in Cantarella\u2019s work (including an old poster of rock icon and St. Louis legend, the late Chuck Berry), whether in Sylvia\u2019s atmospheric honky-tonk or the precise pieces in the amusement park, not to mention the giant background jukebox display covered with a cavalcade of tunes made famous by Elvis. Similarly, Emetaz\u2019s video work is some of the best ever devised for a Muny production, richly enhancing the look of the show.

Not to be outdone, costume designer Leon Dobkowski dresses the citizens in this sleepy hamlet in drab attire which suddenly explodes into a rainbow of vibrant colors on the ensemble number, C\u2019mon Everybody, with some flashy legerdemain that is both dazzling and delightful.

Add John Lasiter\u2019s handsome lighting, an amusing sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge, Kelley Jordan\u2019s era-precise wig design and the inspired musical direction by Charlie Alterman and you have the recipe for a rollicking good time.

One down side to All Shook Up is the annoying tendency in musicals to deliver some of their tunes in abbreviated fashion. In the case of All Shook Up, an extra 15 minutes or so to accommodate complete versions of familiar songs would be a plus rather than a problem.

Knechtges has a fine cast to work with on this appealing journey into America\u2019s musical past. Tim Rogan makes Chad a likable \u2018roustabout\u2019 while underscoring his rebellious edges in a good-hearted way. Caroline Bowman shows off her beautiful voice and a knack for comedy as well as the love-struck Natalie and the unintentionally-pursued Ed, while Barrett Riggins brings out all of the goofy but earnest qualities of Dennis.

Liz Mikel belts out standards such as Heartbreak Hotel and That\u2019s All Right with gusto and pizzazz as Sylvia, while Lara Teeter demonstrates his dancing and comic abilities as the good-hearted and lonely Jim. Ciara Alyse Harris and Paul Schwensen make an appealing young couple as Lorraine and Dean, and Felicia Finley delivers the goods as the lusty, beautiful museum proprietor Sandra. Hollis Resnik is amusing as prudish Mayor Matilda, pairing off well with local performer Jerry Vogel as her mostly dutiful and quietly passionate Sheriff Earl.

Here\u2019s a vote for more big, brassy ensemble numbers in the second act to better maintain the momentum of powerful joy radiating in the fast-paced, delightful first half of All Shook Up. Ballads are fine, but it\u2019s the Burning Love in sprawling dance numbers that really propels this paean to Elvis and his musical era.

Musical: All Shook Up

Company: The Muny

Venue: The Muny in Forest Park

Dates: Through July 19

Tickets: Free to $90; contact 314-534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Phillip Hamer and Eric Woolsey

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\"GardenOfGlass_Fletcher_023.jpg\"
GardenOfGlass_Fletcher_023.jpg

In addition to its customary organic wonders, the Missouri Botanical Garden (colloquially \u201cMoBot\u201d) currently is greeting guests with an exhibition of inorganic loveliness.

That 30-piece exhibition, which opened May 13 and runs through Aug. 13, bears the title \u201cGarden of Glass\u201d and comes courtesy of artist Craig Mitchell Smith of Lansing, Michigan.

Katie O\u2019Sullivan, MoBot\u2019s senior public information officer, sketches the origin of the glass-based exhibition by Smith. \u201cHe had been in contact with our event team,\u201d she says, \u201cand stopped through Missouri after an exhibition at Disney\u2019s Epcot center in 2014 with some sample pieces.\u201d

Subsequently, she continues, Smith tailored the exhibition\u2019s components to MoBot\u2019s extant floral splendors.

\u201cHe worked throughout the last year on making pieces that fit well in the Climatron,\u201d O\u2019Sullivan says. \u201cAlmost all of the pieces are Craig\u2019s variation of plants that appear on our grounds and in the Climatron or that are associated with [MoBot] projects.\u201d

An appreciation for nature\u2019s beauty has long guided his work, says Smith, whose website (craigmitchellsmith.com) states that he\u2019s been working in glass for more than a decade and that, at one point, he owned a flower shop.

\"GardenOfGlass_Olson_040.jpg\"
GardenOfGlass_Olson_040.jpg

In addition to the Climatron, the exhibition\u2019s main site, work from it appears in MoBot\u2019s Linnean House, Ridgway Visitor Center and Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, with just a pair of pieces on exterior display.

Those wondering how works of art largely formed of glass will withstand the metro area\u2019s often-ferocious summer storms needn\u2019t fret, according to O\u2019Sullivan. \u201cOnly two pieces are outside, but rest assured, they\u2019re sturdy,\u201d she says. \u201cMost of Craig\u2019s other exhibits have been outside, and his pieces are built to last.\u201d

And well they should. The MoBot exhibition, for example, took \u201cseveral years in development,\u201d Smith says, during which he enjoyed \u201cfree reign to produce what I wanted,\u201d after touring the local landmark several times to gain a better heuristic vantage on what, exactly, to craft.

\u201cAll my shows are custom-built for their environments,\u201d the artist says. \u201cI feel strongly that it\u2019s important to integrate the work into the beautiful gardens. I don\u2019t insert exclamation points into a garden. Rather, I consider my work to be a comma, a place to stop and pause.\u201d

Here, Smith sought spaces that could accommodate works comfortably. After conceptualizing and designing, as well as (immediate) approval by MoBot, the physical artistry commenced.

\u201cIt took a full year for my crew and [me] to produce this work,\u201d he says. \u201cI produce the metalwork as well as the glass here in my Michigan studio. Just as I strive to make the glass up here fluid and organic, I challenge myself to do the same in stainless steel. The scale of the show required the hiring of two additional welders.\u201d

\"GardenOfGlass_Olson_021.jpg\"
GardenOfGlass_Olson_021.jpg

Even at that, Smith confesses, the MoBot exhibition posed various challenges.

\u201cWhen designing a show, it\u2019s important to scale the work to the venue,\u201d he says. \u201cThe massive ceiling height of the Climatron required appropriately scaled pieces \u2013 hence the 47-foot-tall waterfall! Artists, like everyone else, must obey one law: the law of physics. I can imagine massive pieces, but will they stand up under their own weight? The engineering of the pieces requires an intuitive understanding of forces, and I push the envelope as often as possible.\u201d

Smith expands on that artistic modus operandi by focusing on a specific work.

\u201cThe dandelion piece, titled Making a Wish, is the tallest freestanding sculpture in the shell, at 22 feet,\u201d he says. \u201cSupporting the piece and unseen by the public is a massive concrete and stainless steel [base] \u2026 If I do my job right, you shouldn\u2019t even think about what holds the work up \u2013 all of our efforts should seem effortless.

\u201cThe cabling of the individual drifting seeds of the dandelion is an engineering work of art in itself. The very talented staff at Missouri Botanical Garden ran nearly 8,000 feet of cable strung from tree to tree while I stayed on the ground and directed where I wanted the individual seeds to be placed. I have a terrible fear of heights and was most grateful to the staff for their fearlessness, either climbing ladders or being in the lift to install the glass.\u201d

Similar site-specific challenges, says Smith, centered on a tree \u201cencrusted\u201d with 1,000 monarchs and a tribute to a perfidious field of flowers from The Wizard of Oz. \u201cThough there are, in total, 100 poppies, there are dozens of clusters of them throughout the conservatory,\u201d he says. \u201cWe took great care installing these pieces, making each blossom appear to react to its environment and its neighboring flowers, as if having a conversation.

\"Garden
Garden of Glass_Night_Du33.jpg

\u201cI made a point of angling some of the blossoms, as though looking back at you. Bearing in mind that children attend the show, we positioned pieces at their height. I want the glass to interact with its environment and the people who view it.\u201d

Smith then revisits the exhibition\u2019s sheer scale as its most significant challenge. \u201cMy Michigan studio, at 4,000 square feet, seems ample until you use it to produce a show of this size,\u201d he says. \u201cAll the work had to be engineered to fit through my studio doors.\u201d

Nevertheless, Smith admits to relishing challenges, whether of topic, technique or timing.

\u201cI\u2019m happiest when producing something I\u2019ve never done before,\u201d he says. \u201cI\u2019d much rather be too busy than not busy enough. \u2026 I am currently entertaining offers from several other gardens and will make my decision based on where I can learn the most.\u201d

Ticket prices for \u201cGarden of Glass\u201d vary, and all of Smith\u2019s pieces at MoBot can be purchased for collection or donation. Daytime admissions to the exhibition run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Aug. 13; evening admissions (Thursdays to Saturdays), from 7 to 11 p.m. through Aug. 12.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, 314-577-5100, mobot.org

"}, {"id":"6fdbac08-83bd-57c9-82a6-76bd3df40550","type":"article","starttime":"1499965200","starttime_iso8601":"2017-07-13T12:00:00-05:00","priority":40,"sections":[{"dining":"arts-and-culture/dining"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Dinner & A Show: Charleville Brewing Company & Tavern","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/article_6fdbac08-83bd-57c9-82a6-76bd3df40550.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/dinner-a-show-charleville-brewing-company-tavern/article_6fdbac08-83bd-57c9-82a6-76bd3df40550.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/dining/dinner-a-show-charleville-brewing-company-tavern/article_6fdbac08-83bd-57c9-82a6-76bd3df40550.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Mabel Suen","prologue":"A bit of historic Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, came to St. Louis two months back with the launch of Charleville Brewing Company & Tavern in the city\u2019s Lafayette Square neighborhood.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["charleville brewing company & tavern","dinner & a show","lafayette square"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"ea32e039-8bdf-53f9-8d35-fbe9c386952a","description":"","byline":"Photo by Mabel Suen","hireswidth":1830,"hiresheight":1132,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/a3/ea32e039-8bdf-53f9-8d35-fbe9c386952a/595cf07286f9f.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"760","height":"470","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/a3/ea32e039-8bdf-53f9-8d35-fbe9c386952a/595cf0728517e.image.jpg?resize=760%2C470"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"62","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/a3/ea32e039-8bdf-53f9-8d35-fbe9c386952a/595cf0728517e.image.jpg?resize=100%2C62"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"186","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/a3/ea32e039-8bdf-53f9-8d35-fbe9c386952a/595cf0728517e.image.jpg?resize=300%2C186"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"633","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/a3/ea32e039-8bdf-53f9-8d35-fbe9c386952a/595cf0728517e.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C633"}}}],"revision":5,"commentID":"6fdbac08-83bd-57c9-82a6-76bd3df40550","body":"
\"CharlevilleHiRes-03.jpg\"
CharlevilleHiRes-03.jpg

A bit of historic Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, came to St. Louis two months back with the launch of Charleville Brewing Company & Tavern in the city\u2019s Lafayette Square neighborhood.

The new venture \u2013 an extension of Charleville Vineyard Winery & Microbrewery from the self-styled \u201cMother City of the West,\u201d roughly an hour\u2019s drive south of the metro area \u2013 comes courtesy of a culinary partnership with St. Louis\u2019 Hamilton Hospitality Group.

That entity\u2019s Paul and Wendy Hamilton own Vin de Set, Eleven Eleven Mississippi, 21st Street Brewers Bar, Moulin Events and PW Pizza, while Jack and Joal Russell own the parent Charleville operation, which launched in 2003.

\u201cA year or so back, we talked about doing our own brewery,\u201d says Hamilton managing partner Jason Arnold. \u201cWhen this all came together, we decided that we\u2019d love to do what we do on the food side of things, while they do what they do best on the beer side.\u201d

The 5,000-square-foot Lafayette Square property \u2013 a former mechanic\u2019s shop that also once functioned as a stable house \u2013 features a 100-seat dining room, full kitchen, bar, brewery, courtyard and small patio. St. Louis\u2019 Cohen Architecture Co. worked on the build-out for the space, which combines industrial elements with earth and wood tones that approximate the rural feel of its Ste. Genevieve County parent.

The kitchen offers what Charleville\u2019s director of operations, Tait Russell, refers to as innovative but still comforting tavern food. Snacks and appetizers, for example, include everything from beer-brined fried chicken wings, spicy pork rinds and fried chicken livers to lobster corn dogs.

\u201cThe concept behind our menu is primarily upscale Midwest and Southern cuisine,\u201d says executive chef Ryan Luke. \u201cWe\u2019ll be focusing a lot on what we can get across the street [at the Hamiltons\u2019 urban garden] \u2013 greens from our greenhouse and fresh eggs from the chicken coop. We\u2019ll also be utilizing beer and wine to showcase the great work Charleville does.\u201d

Bruschetta topping options include brie/apple, burrata/bacon, house-smoked cured salmon and more, among them weekly seasonal selections. Sandwiches come with fennel-and-cabbage coleslaw or bacon-potato salad and include a beef patty melt, a \u201ccountry\u201d Cuban and the Sloppy Joe Joe, a variant of the childhood favorite. Platters include bacon-wrapped meatloaf, beer-battered fried catfish and Luke\u2019s specialty, a beer-brined smoked and fried Amish half chicken.

Desserts comprise a coffee stout brownie, house-made ice cream, Key lime pie and a root beer float. All in all, with its varied menu, Charleville Brewing Company & Tavern makes a fine locale to enjoy a meal before heading to Albert Herring from Union Avenue Opera.

For zymurgy devotees, meanwhile, Charleville\u2019s new location features a seven-barrel brew house designed to craft five or six core year-round beers as well as seasonal and limited releases. (Head brewer Kevin Klein mentions that Charleville\u2019s 30-barrel flagship offers around 30 varieties throughout the year.)

Pine and pineapplelike notes characterize the top-selling Hoptimistic IPA. Other lighter summertime selections include Half Wit Wheat and Paul\u2019s Pils; initially brewed exclusively for Hamilton properties, the latter proved so popular and sold out so fast that it became an all-year offering. At press time, according to the listing, seasonal beers were Charleville\u2019s seductive Box of Chocolate Belgian ale and the new Long White Cloud pilsner.

The bar otherwise features nonalcoholic house-made root beer as well as four of Charleville\u2019s signature wines, such as barrel-fermented chardonel \u2013 a fruity libation with Missouri oak overtones. Also offered are shandy and sangria, as well as cocktails like the Charlerita, which replaces the tequila typical of margaritas with wine.

\u201cWe\u2019ve been more of a tourist destination in wine country for the past 14 years, so we\u2019re looking forward to bringing our beer to the masses and connecting more with the St. Louis community,\u201d Russell says. \u201cWe\u2019re trying to make good beer for good people.\u201d

Charleville Brewing Company & Tavern, 2101 Chouteau Ave., St. Louis, 314-241-4677, charlevillebeer.com

"}, {"id":"81b0e215-4652-5dca-99fe-9605cb9fa185","type":"article","starttime":"1499965200","starttime_iso8601":"2017-07-13T12:00:00-05:00","lastupdated":"1499971563","priority":35,"sections":[{"columns":"arts-and-culture/columns"}],"application":"editorial","title":"Ready Readers: Sing a Song of Summer","url":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/article_81b0e215-4652-5dca-99fe-9605cb9fa185.html","permalink":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/ready-readers-sing-a-song-of-summer/article_81b0e215-4652-5dca-99fe-9605cb9fa185.html","canonical":"http://www.laduenews.com/arts-and-culture/columns/ready-readers-sing-a-song-of-summer/article_81b0e215-4652-5dca-99fe-9605cb9fa185.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":3,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Sheila Oliveri","prologue":"When considering books to read with your little ones, parents, mix fiction, nonfiction and poetry \u2013 but consider also sing-and-read storybooks, based on familiar songs, nursery rhymes or fingerplays learned in school. Five Green and Speckled FrogsOne of the most popular preschool songs remains \u201cFive Green and Speckled Frogs.\u201d (Those unfamiliar with it should just ask some children for a rendition, which should prove a lot more fun than Googling the ditty!) Priscilla Burris has written and illustrated an adaptation, appropriately titled Five Green and Speckled Frogs, which is going to all 2-year-olds in the Ready Readers summer program.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"bf5e20b1-14cc-53c3-93f6-5b60c27dcaac","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"427","height":"500","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/f5/bf5e20b1-14cc-53c3-93f6-5b60c27dcaac/595e9958ccff1.image.jpg?resize=427%2C500"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"117","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/f5/bf5e20b1-14cc-53c3-93f6-5b60c27dcaac/595e9958ccff1.image.jpg?resize=100%2C117"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"351","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/f5/bf5e20b1-14cc-53c3-93f6-5b60c27dcaac/595e9958ccff1.image.jpg?resize=300%2C351"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"1199","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/f5/bf5e20b1-14cc-53c3-93f6-5b60c27dcaac/595e9958ccff1.image.jpg"}}},{"id":"f9918d21-948d-55df-a26e-06491cd40d28","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/png","width":"184","height":"213","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/99/f9918d21-948d-55df-a26e-06491cd40d28/595e99589e5bf.image.png?crop=184%2C213%2C12%2C1&resize=184%2C213&order=crop%2Cresize"},"100": {"type":"image/png","width":"100","height":"116","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/99/f9918d21-948d-55df-a26e-06491cd40d28/595e99589e5bf.image.png?crop=184%2C213%2C12%2C1&resize=100%2C116&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/png","width":"300","height":"347","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/99/f9918d21-948d-55df-a26e-06491cd40d28/595e99589e5bf.image.png?crop=184%2C213%2C12%2C1"},"1024":{"type":"image/png","width":"1024","height":"1185","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/99/f9918d21-948d-55df-a26e-06491cd40d28/595e99589e5bf.image.png?crop=184%2C213%2C12%2C1"}}},{"id":"107ef201-8abf-575e-bff9-ef1704100125","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"178","height":"217","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/07/107ef201-8abf-575e-bff9-ef1704100125/595e995857cbb.image.jpg?crop=178%2C217%2C18%2C0&resize=178%2C217&order=crop%2Cresize"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"122","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/07/107ef201-8abf-575e-bff9-ef1704100125/595e995857cbb.image.jpg?crop=178%2C217%2C18%2C0&resize=100%2C122&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"366","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/07/107ef201-8abf-575e-bff9-ef1704100125/595e995857cbb.image.jpg?crop=178%2C217%2C18%2C0"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"1248","url":"https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/laduenews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/07/107ef201-8abf-575e-bff9-ef1704100125/595e995857cbb.image.jpg?crop=178%2C217%2C18%2C0"}}}],"revision":7,"commentID":"81b0e215-4652-5dca-99fe-9605cb9fa185","body":"

When considering books to read with your little ones, parents, mix fiction, nonfiction and poetry \u2013 but consider also sing-and-read storybooks, based on familiar songs, nursery rhymes or fingerplays learned in school.

\"Five
Five Green and Speckled Frogs

One of the most popular preschool songs remains \u201cFive Green and Speckled Frogs.\u201d (Those unfamiliar with it should just ask some children for a rendition, which should prove a lot more fun than Googling the ditty!) Priscilla Burris has written and illustrated an adaptation, appropriately titled Five Green and Speckled Frogs, which is going to all 2-year-olds in the Ready Readers summer program.

\"It's
It's Raining, It's Pouring

Burris\u2019 adaptation shows five green and sparkly speckled frogs as they enjoy a hot summer day at a backyard pool. They begin perched atop the speckled log mentioned in the song, contentedly snacking on bugs (Yum!) served in clear zippered bags. Burris depicts cannonballs, swan dives and cheerful leaps as each frog takes a turn jumping \u201cinto the pool, where it was nice and cool.\u201d

Children should instantly relate to the brightly dressed characters, whose outfits include swimsuits, flip-flops, sunglasses, hats, inner tubes, swim goggles and floaties.

\"I
I Aint Gonna Paint No More!

Besides being a song-story, this count-and-sing book can serve as a preschool math lesson. Parents, don\u2019t miss the chance to engage children in counting the frogs on each page and asking them to predict what will happen next. Also, encourage them to touch the illustrations \u2013 they should notice the sparkly speckles are raised, providing a textural experience in addition to a textual one.

For a second entertaining singalong experience to share with children, try It\u2019s Raining, It\u2019s Pouring from writer Kin Eagle and illustrator Rob Gilbert. Based on the traditional rhyme, the book extends the action with additional lyrics and plot complications. Besides battling rain, the old man and his wife must contend with clouds, wind, bees and more in their quest for a peaceful night\u2019s sleep.

Gilbert\u2019s illustrations for this book celebrate silliness while, hopefully, engaging young readers\u2019 imaginations. Their detail should spark countless conversations \u2013 and giggles \u2013 as children and adults explore the colorful drawings together.

Finally, I Ain\u2019t Gonna Paint No More! from writer Karen Beaumont and illustrator David Catrow showcases an explosion of color and rhyme that starts as a story, but quickly introduces an opportunity for song. Its creators pay tribute to children\u2019s natural curiosity and ingenuity by showing a tyke gleefully experimenting with paints inadvertently left within reach. Young readers should delight in anticipating rhymes as that creatively resourceful child adorns himself with a reckless rainbow. But never fear, parents \u2013 it all comes off in the bath at the end.

At Ready Readers, we know that “Kids Who Read Succeed!” If you enjoy reading and sharing the magic of books, please consider reading aloud to a classroom of preschool children in an underserved area of our community as a Ready Readers volunteer. Check out our website: www.readyreaders.org.

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\"midsummer-vegetable-kabobs-1.jpg\"
midsummer-vegetable-kabobs-1.jpg

My favorite summer meals take place alfresco. With a chilled glass of wine or a cold beer in hand, as well as fresh food sizzling away, life feels fine. I love shopping at the local farmers market on sunny Saturday mornings, gathering whatever seasonal produce and herbs I can get, and then grilling everything for a fresh, summery lunch or dinner.

My style for easy meals, especially during summer, always leans toward what I call the \u201cno-recipe recipe.\u201d Aside from throwing some oil, aromatics and acids into a blender for the dipping sauce, the following recipe mostly consists of layering fresh, vibrant vegetables on skewers \u2013 and then quickly grilling and serving them.

SUMMER SQUASH SKEWERS WITH BASIL DIPPING SAUCE

The vegetables listed below make a great guideline for fresh summery skewers, but feel free to experiment with your own seasonal favorites. Fresh eggplant, tomatillos, stone fruits and melon would all make splendid additions or substitutions on these skewers.

Yields | 10 skewers |

BASIL DIPPING SAUCE

SUMMER SQUASH SKEWERS

| Preparation \u2013 Basil Dipping Sauce | In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Set aside.

| Preparation \u2013 Summer Squash Skewers | Heat an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan to medium-high.

Remove skewers from water. Layer each skewer with an equal number of cherry tomatoes and segments of onion, red and green bell pepper , zucchini and summer squash. Brush vegetables lightly with basil dipping sauce. Grill each skewer for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown. Serve with extra basil dipping sauce on the side.

Sherrie Castellano is a former health coach turned food writer, photographer and pop-up chef based in St. Louis. A collection of Sherrie\u2019s recipes, stories and images can be found on her Saveur Blog Award-nominated website, With Food + Love. Sherrie is currently the marketing director for Midwest-based Big Heart Tea Co.

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Story: The fifth annual LaBute New Theater Festival hosted by St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio at the Gaslight Theater is, like its predecessors, divided into two parts. The first edition, running through July 16, features four different one-act plays, including one by festival namesake Neil LaBute. Three plays will be presented in Part II, which will be performed July 21-30, with LaBute\u2019s effort part of that segment as well along with two different entries.

Highlights: The first part of the 2017 festival features some solid writing by four gifted playwrights, whose works are brought to life by a versatile cast under the direction of John Pierson and Nancy Bell. Playwrights, performers and technical crew ensure that the 2017 LaBute New Theater Festival is off to a fine start.

Other Info: LaBute himself was on hand at the opening-night performance to greet participants and audience members alike with STLAS artistic director William Roth. He was joined in the \u201cplaywrights\u2019 row\u201d in the audience by writers Ron Radice, Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich and Carter W. Lewis, whose works comprised Part I, as well as Tearrance Chisholm, whose play will be featured in the festival\u2019s second set.

Chauncy Thomas and Greg Hunsaker star in LaBute\u2019s contribution, Hate Crime, which opens the evening. Two lovers portrayed by Thomas and Hunsaker discuss the former character\u2019s impending marriage to another, older man. He talks about the insurance policies they have taken out on each other, and then he coolly discusses how Hunsaker\u2019s character will murder the older groom on his wedding night itself.

Like many of LaBute\u2019s works, Hate Crime deals with nasty, aggressive people thinking and doing all manner of mayhem, although in this case the ending seems telegraphed fairly early, at least in my interpretation. Thomas gives his character a cunning, calculating edge as he appears to easily manipulate Hunsaker\u2019s baser, less intelligent and more insecure individual.

More than what is said, LaBute\u2019s script relies on crafty interpretations by the actors in its two roles to elevate suspense and create a sense of unease for more than one reason. While not as powerful as previous of his efforts such as Kandihar or Here We Go \u2018Round the Mulberry Bush, which he\u2019s written for earlier festivals, Hate Crime nonetheless is well crafted and well performed, especially under Pierson\u2019s careful and studied direction.

Pierson also guides the second effort in the first half of Part I, a nifty, amusing vignette by Radice titled Waiting for Erie Lackawanna. In this adventure into the theater of the absurd, a young man waits at a train station en route to a job interview. He\u2019s approached by two other well-dressed men, like him each carrying a valise and looking to be of some importance in their stylish suits.

These two individuals, though, are eccentric and peculiarly exaggerated in their bizarre responses to the interviewee-to-be. Their argumentative posture puts him ill at ease, and despite his courteous behavior he finds himself more and more ostracized for no apparent reason.

Radice pays homage to Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, Jean-Paul Sartre and even Oscar Wilde in this witty albeit weird little story. Pierson makes good use of the cozy Gaslight Theater stage to accentuate the claustrophic effect felt by the young man in search of a job as he\u2019s pinned between the two taller and more menacing fellows. Watch also as the three valises are switched furtively back and forth by the two veteran train-waiters, who seem to revel in their bizarre behavior.

Spencer Sickmann and Reggie Pierre are engaging as the attache case-swapping duo, the former given to fits of sneezing and quirky mannerisms while the latter conveys a personality that wavers between menacing and convivial. As the unsuspecting arrival, Ryan Lawson-Maeske is appropriately confused and apprehensive of the duo who bring unwelcome anxiety to his day. Will he see them again? That\u2019s part of the conundrum of Radice\u2019s tale.

Bell directs the third vignette, Sacred Space by Blumenthal-Ehrlich. Two women preparing a body and its soul for journey to the after-life are shocked when they see a text message appear on the wall behind them. The note appears to be from an unknown and unseen source. As one of them accepts the notion of contact, the other fights to ignore it until a flurry of messages cascades in rapid sequence, and they come to a sobering realization of what the notes mean.

Sophia Brown and Kim Furlow do a good job delineating the differences between the more skeptical woman (Brown) and the believer (Furlow). Bell\u2019s direction accelerates the pace of the piece as the messages increase, although the story\u2019s ending seems more like a laundry list than a poignant statement when it\u2019s finished. Kelly Robertson also appears as \u201cThe Deceased.\u201d

The edition\u2019s most interesting segment is Lewis\u2019 play titled Percentage America. Bell and Thomas meet in person after introducing themselves to each other via an Internet dating site. Bell\u2019s character suggests that Thomas\u2019 character might enjoy playing a game she learned from a couple, using the exaggerations of social media to build a story.

They find themselves following the sad and increasingly troubling saga of a teenage girl who is increasingly victimized by the crude, ignorant and rampant ugliness that pervades social media in the guise of \u201cinformation.\u201d While their characters become more absorbed by this sordid style, Kelly Schaschl portrays the lonely young girl, isolated in a corner of the stage under Pierson\u2019s focused direction.\u00a0 Schaschl also glibly plays a number of vacuous news anchors who giddily update their audiences with new \"facts\" about the girl.

Carter\u2019s script sings with the truth of how often what passes as information in the 21st century is instead an updated witch trial in which unsuspecting individuals are pilloried and skewered for no logical or ethical reason. Lewis pinpoints the rampant use of adjectives which color perceptions of accuracy in today\u2019s media, all for the sake of gaining attention for so-called purveyors of knowledge.

While the story goes on a bit too long, it\u2019s a scary cautionary tale which should be heeded by anyone enslaved to illegitimate media outlets. Lindsey Steinkamp and Isabella Koster contribute to the piece with voices of various friends.

Patrick Huber handles the set and lighting designs, complemented by the costume and props designs by Carla Landis Evans. Pierson and Bell provide sound designs.

Part I of the LaBute New Play Festival offers some intriguing works for consideration, ones selected from more than 200 entry submissions. Check it out both for entertainment and education.

Play: LaBute New Theater Festival, Part I

Company: St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio

Venue: Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle

Dates: July 13, 14, 15, 16

Tickets: $30-$35; contact 1-800-982-2787 or ticketmaster.com

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Patrick Huber

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Story: May Day 1900 is fast approaching, and the town leaders of Loxford in East Suffolk, England are in a quandary. Every girl suggested to be the May queen is shot down by the investigative prowess of Florence Pike, housekeeper to the stuffy, autocratic Lady Billows.

When the committee comprised of the vicar, the constable, the schoolmarm and Lady Billows runs out of potential female candidates, none of whom passes their stringent moral muster, Superintendent Budd timidly offers a suggestion: How about a May king? A greengrocer named Albert Herring, he says, is as pure as the driven snow, primarily because of his domineering, widowed mother.

The committee visits the home of Albert and his mum to give them the wonderful news that he has been selected to be May king. This sits very well with Mum, who relishes both the designation and the 25 pounds which accompany it, but shy Albert is unhappy with the thought of being paraded around in white.

Come May Day, Albert\u2019s happy-go-lucky pal, Sid the butcher, and Sid\u2019s girlfriend Nancy the baker spike Albert\u2019s lemonade with rum. Loosened up eventually with the liquor and depressed when he overhears Sid and Nancy talking about him later, Albert escapes his house for a night of adventure.

When the next morning arrives and Albert is missing, a search committee is formed to find the AWOL king. Surely Albert has not soiled the proper judgment of the committee by doing anything untoward, has he? What will people think?

Highlights: Union Avenue Opera\u2019s 23rd season is off to an invigorating start with a charming rendition of this three-act chamber opera written in 1947 by British composer Benjamin Britten. Light-hearted in concept and smooth in execution, Albert Herring makes for an evening of gentle comedy and melodious music winningly delivered by conductor Scott Schoonover, director Tim Ocel and their entire cast and crew.

Other Info: Britten\u2019s entertaining comedy is a well-prepared souffle, light and frothy in taste and texture albeit gently skewering the stuffed shirts who make it their duty to foist their definition of morality on others, a continual concern in any society.

Eric Crozier\u2019s libretto is based on a short story by French writer Guy de Maupassant. Given the generally easy-going nature of the work, Britten wrote his music to be performed as a chamber opera rather than a full-fledged orchestra. UAO artistic director Schoonover not only elicits a hearty and healthy reading of the score by his dozen or so musicians, he also imbues the interpretation with musical points which accentuate the work\u2019s comic elements.

For his part, stage director Ocel renders an amusing adaptation of the story with a cast that interprets the sundry types of stock characters with just the right touch of whimsy, neither overblown nor under-utilized. That careful balance pays handsome dividends for the audience.

Christine Brewer, who is the major name on the marquee, is in excellent form as the pushy Lady Billows. She utilizes her famous soprano voice to succinctly shape the starchy superiority of the town matriarch, wagging her imposing cane in the face of anyone who dares challenge her. It\u2019s an amusing performance as well as an accomplished musical one.

Tenor David Walton shines in the title role. The resignation in his face says everything you need to know about Albert, who is his mother\u2019s dutiful son even at the expense of his own enjoyment until he is appalled at the prospect of being paraded around as someone else\u2019s epitome of virtue. Walton\u2019s accomplished voice suitably handles Albert\u2019s musical laments in graceful style.

The splendid supporting cast includes Camdenton, Mo. native Nathaniel Buttram as the irrepressible butcher Sid, Holly Janz as the sympathetic baker\u2019s daughter Nancy and Debra Hillabrand as the officious busybody Florence Pike. UAO favorite Anthony Heinemann delights as the town politician who kowtows all too easily to the blustery Lady Billows, while Mark Freiman lends his rumbling bass to the role of the simple-minded constable.

Also appearing are Janara Kellerman, whose formidable mezzo-soprano as Albert's mother dominates Britten\u2019s score as powerfully as Lady Billows rules over the denizens of Loxford. Leann Schuering and David Dillard do justice to the roles of town teacher and vicar, respectively, while Gina Malone, Victoria Butero and Seth Drake sparkle as the mischievous children Emmie, Cis and Harry, respectively.

Kyra Bishop\u2019s scenic design features some plump, comfy furniture which represents Lady Billows\u2019 abode, as well as a tall, handsomely stocked storefront that represents Albert\u2019s grocery mart, enhanced with Laura Skroska\u2019s judiciously selected props. David Levitt shrewdly lights the imposing set whileTeresa Doggett\u2019s costumes pinpoint both locale and period.

With Ocel and Schoonover each providing spirited guidance, Union Avenue\u2019s Albert Herring makes for a most humorous and enchanting offering.

Opera: Albert Herring

Company: Union Avenue Opera

Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union Blvd.

Dates: July 14, 15

Tickets: $30 to $55; contact 361-2881 or unionavenueopera.org

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

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Story: It\u2019s springtime, which for Norman and Ethel Thayer means a return to their beloved cabin on the shores of Golden Pond in the woods of Maine. Norman\u2019s 80th birthday is at hand, and Ethel, 10 years his junior, is busy preparing for that particular occasion.

Their only child, 47-year-old Chelsea, plans to visit them for the first time in seven years. She\u2019s divorced and is bringing along her new boyfriend, a dentist named Bill Ray, as well as Bill\u2019s teenage son Billy Jr.

Norman is a retired English professor who revels in being tart-tongued, using his acid wit on family members as well as outsiders such as Charlie, the middle-aged mail carrier who still carries a torch for Chelsea going back to their childhood years. It\u2019s also apparent that Norman is beginning to lose his memory, something he fights valiantly but which seems to be inexorable.

When Chelsea arrives, the long-time tension between father and daughter is renewed once more. She stays only briefly, asking if her parents would mind taking care of Billy Jr. while she and Bill go off to a Europe for a month. During that short period, Norman and Billy Jr. forge an unlikely friendship based on fishing, humor and a shared enthusiasm for life.

Highlights: Fine performances by her cast under the gentle direction of Trish Brown epitomize the humanity and compassion of Ernest Thompson\u2019s script in Insight Theatre Company\u2019s inaugural presentation at its new home, .ZACK Incubator in Grand Center, as it opens its 10th anniversary season.

Other Info: On Golden Pond premiered on Broadway in 1979 and was adapted to the screen in 1981, winning Oscars for Henry Fonda as Norman and Katharine Hepburn as Ethel and co-starring Jane Fonda as Chelsea. It\u2019s a relatively slight story in which nothing much happens, but it\u2019s effectively told and provides performers with the opportunity to sink their teeth into several well-written roles by playwright Thompson.

Brown\u2019s cast includes Insight Company stalwarts Joneal Joplin and Susie Wall, who work seamlessly together as the aging New England couple. Jop\u2019s portrayal of Norman is played with a meaner edge than I\u2019ve seen the character etched in previous productions, especially in the first act. He also, though, is most effective in conveying Norman\u2019s deep love for Ethel, on whom he increasingly relies as his health begins to wane.

Wall shows the depth of Ethel\u2019s love for her husband of nearly 50 years as well as her affection for their daughter and her innate friendliness with strangers such as Bill or familiar faces like Charlie, whom she invites in from his route for coffee and biscuits to set and chat a bit. She also can be stern in Ethel\u2019s rebuke of her adult daughter\u2019s penchant for self-pity when Chelsea\u2019s around Norman.

The supporting cast turns in very steady and reliable performances, which underscore both the gentleness and the sharp-tongued aspects of Thompson\u2019s two-act script. Jenni Ryan displays both Chelsea\u2019s fondness for her mother as well as her uneasiness around her argumentative father, who is more comfortable conversing about baseball with her than discussing her life and relationships.

Eric Dean White and Kurt Knoedelseder add to the humor of the story as Chelsea\u2019s lover Bill and her childhood sweetheart Charlie. White pairs off amusingly with Joplin as the middle-age boyfriend discusses his planned sleeping arrangements with Chelsea in a testy conversation with her cantankerous and manipulative father.

Knoedelseder is ingratiating in scenes Charlie shares with Ethel and later in a tender moment when he sees Chelsea again for the first time in many years as their touching friendship is poignantly reconnected.

By adding two years to the age of Billy, 20-something Michael Pierce convincingly portrays a 15-year-old in his mannerisms as well as his slouching posture and accessible nature. It\u2019s gratifying to watch Billy take to the novels recommended by old English prof Norman when they\u2019re not baiting hooks to reel in the big ones in the pond while they\u2019re bonding in a boat.

Matt Stuckel\u2019s set design includes a video design with a shimmering pond seen through the Thayer window, as well as a dilapidated screen door that provides ongoing humor in the first act. Geordy Van Es\u2019 lighting design handsomely underscores scenes at various points in the day, while Robin Weatherall\u2019s sound design enhances the story with the call of loons on the nearby water.

On Golden Pond showcases the talents of director Brown\u2019s carefully chosen cast to get Insight Theatre\u2019s 10th season off to a fine start.

Play: On Golden Pond

Company: Insight Theatre Company

Venue: .ZACK Incubator, 3224 Locust Street

Dates: July 13-16, 20-23

Tickets: $20-$35; contact insighttheatrecompany.com or 534-1111

Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.

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Story: Pseudolus is a slave in ancient Rome. As slaves go, his lot isn\u2019t awful. He is the personal attendant to Hero, son of Roman senator Senex, whose house stands between one to its right owned by the elderly Erronius and a building on the left where Marcus Lycus runs a house of ill repute, providing courtesans for his clientele.

Above everything else, Pseudolus desires his freedom. So, when Hero approaches him and says that he longs for a lovely young courtesan named Philia next door, Pseudolus proposes a deal: He\u2019ll help Hero meet the fair Philia in exchange for his own freedom. When Senex and his overbearing wife Domina leave for a visit to Domina\u2019s mother in the country, Pseudolus springs into action.

He convinces Lycus that Philia has contracted the plague from her time in Crete and is very contagious. Lycus agrees to move Philia out of his house and lets Pseudolus bring her next door, where she meets Hero. The two youngsters are attracted to each other, but Philia warns that she is contractually bound as a virgin to the lusty Roman soldier, Miles Gloriosus.

Pseudolus persuades Hysterium, chief slave in the house of Senex, to help him pair the two young people, but naturally all manner of complications ensue. When Senex arrives back home unexpectedly, Philia mistakes him for Gloriosus. Hysterium is able to get Senex to temporarily move to Erronius\u2019 empty house, but is thrown off guard when the elderly neighbor suddenly shows up after years of searching for his son and daughter, who had been taken by pirates in their infancy.

Eventually, Pseudolus is condemned to death by Gloriosus, but the wily slave isn\u2019t finished quite yet. Freedom can be a powerful incentive.

Highlights: With the invaluable capabilities and generosity of Jeffrey Schecter, The Muny has overcome unforeseen challenges to deliver a consistently funny and endearing rendition of this fabled musical comedy, which won six Tony Awards in 1962.

Other Info: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum marked the first Broadway production which featured both music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a man so famous now that he has a theater on the Great White Way named in his honor. Based on farces written originally by Roman playwright Plautus around 200 B.C., Forum is as much a comedy as it is a musical.

Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, the latter of whom is most well known as the creator of the TV series, \u201cM*A*S*H,\u201d wrote the amusing book for the show, which originally was produced by the legendary Harold Prince. While Prince had a storied career, Muny artistic director and executive producer Mike Isaacson deserves his own accolades for a savvy, frantic and last-minute search to find a replacement for Peter Scolari in the show\u2019s leading role of Pseudolus after Scolari\u2019s losing fight with allergies resulted in him having no voice just four days before Forum opened in Forest Park.

Isaacson called Schecter, who had just left St. Louis after appearing as Scuttle the seagull in last week\u2019s Muny production of The Little Mermaid. Schecter returned and, while holding a copy of the script in his hand throughout the opening-night presentation, acquitted himself superbly and doubtless eased the anxieties of the cast and crew working this show.

In truth, Schecter\u2019s opening number, Comedy Tonight, started in shaggy and apprehensive fashion. Before that piece was concluded, though, he had rebounded admirably, the ensemble was singing confidently and the show, as the clich\u00e9 has it, did go on, maintaining a high level of accomplishment throughout.

In addition to Schecter, whose portrayal of Pseudolus was humorous both in his delivery and in his mannerisms, director Gary Griffin deserves considerable credit for integrating his late arrival into the musical\u2019s complicated numbers so deftly. Music director Brad Haak also ensured the evening\u2019s success, leading The Muny orchestra in an invigorating reading of Sondheim\u2019s hummable score.

Teaming flawlessly with Schecter is John Tartaglia, whose interpretation of the perpetually nervous Hysterium provides the show\u2019s biggest laughs, especially in the second act when the panic-stricken slave is dressed in drag and learns that both Domina and Philia are wearing the same outfit. That is the stuff that farce is made of and director Griffin keeps the pace properly frantic in order to milk maximum laughs from such a situation.

Seasoned pros such as Mark Linn-Baker as Senex, Jason Kravits as Lycus and E. Faye Butler as Domina are smooth and polished in their roles, particularly when the two men join Schecter and Tartaglia on the entertaining number, Everybody Ought to Have a Maid. The quartet does a nice little dance to the effervescent choreography created by Alex Sanchez to enhance the tune.

For sheer musical pleasure it\u2019s hard to beat Ali Ewoldt\u2019s stunning voice as Philia on the amusing ballad, Lovely, which she sings in duet with the agreeable Marrick Smith as Hero. As with other tunes in the score, it sounds somewhat surprising and deceptively simple for Sondheim, whose later shows often feature brilliant but difficult compositions.

Local actor Whit Reichert garners a good deal of laughs as the amiable Erronius, who is sent on a long trek around the Seven Hills of Rome by Hysterium to get him out of the way. Nathaniel Hackmann relishes the role of the thick-headed, vainglorious soldier Gloriosus, hamming it up effectively.

There also are appealing performances by Khori Michelle Petinaud, Katelyn Prominski, Emily Hsu, Lainie Sakakura, Jutina Aveyard and Molly Callinan as the enthusiastic erotic slave girls Tintinabula, Panacea, The Geminae, Vibrata and Gymnasia, respectively. Marcus Choi, Justin Keyes and Tommy Scrivens each are show-stealers as proteans, soldiers and especially as Lycus\u2019 trio of eunuchs, who sound and dress a lot like the ewoks from Star Wars.

Tim Mackabee\u2019s set design features the three two-story houses and plenty of doors to allow for effective farce, lushly lit by Rob Denton. Mara Blumenfeld\u2019s costume design is most entertaining with the courtesans and eunuchs, John Metzner\u2019s wig design complements the costumes and the sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge augments the action.

The Muny\u2019s production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum averts tragedy and overcomes unforeseen challenges to deliver comedy tonight in appealingly raucous, ribald fashion.

Musical: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Company: The Muny

Venue: The Muny in Forest Park

Dates: Through July 11

Tickets: Free to $90; contact 314-534-1111 or metrotix.com

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of Phillip Hamer and Eric Woolsey

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2016 Mikado.jpg

Seven decades have passed since the debut of the newest of the three productions forming the 23rd summer season of Union Avenue Opera, yet to quote a line from Bob Fosse\u2019s cinematic classic All That Jazz, \u201ceverything old is new again.\u201d

That season commences this evening with Albert Herring, first staged in 1947, this summer starring tenor David Walton; continues with the Rodgers and Hammerstein (Richard and Oscar II, that is) standard Carousel, first staged in 1945, starring baritone Wes Mason and mezzo-soprano Christine Amon; and concludes with H\u00e4nsel und Gretel, first staged a mere 124 years ago, in 1893, starring mezzo-soprano Emma Sorenson and soprano Julie Tabash Kelsheimer.

UAO founder and artistic director Scott Schoonover describes the collaborative selection process that led the troupe to these three works.

\u201cWe knew we wanted Christine Brewer to be part of our season, as well as director Tim Ocel,\u201d he says, \u201cso the three of us came up with the selection of Albert Herring \u2013 a show Tim and I have been wanting to do, which has the wonderful role of Lady Billows that Christine has performed to great acclaim many times over.

\u201cUAO had been talking about producing a classic, golden-age-of-Broadway work for the past couple of years, and I thought Broadway star Ken Page would be the perfect director to bring that idea to life on our stage. He and I came up with the choice of Carousel, a show which many opera companies, most notably the Lyric Opera of Chicago, have produced with great success.

\u201cWith our presentation of [Richard] Wagner\u2019s Ring cycle from 2012 to 2015, we began building a fan base of patrons who love German romantic music. H\u00e4nsel und Gretel was chosen in part to offer those patrons another example of this wonderful style of opera.\u201d

Brewer echoes Schoonover in discussing her contribution to the first production, characterized as her \u201conly comic role\u201d in a UAO press release.

\u201cI love [20th-century British composer] Benjamin Britten\u2019s music,\u00a0\u2026\u201d she says. \u201cI\u2019ve probably sung the role of Lady Billows in Albert Herring a dozen times, and what I love so much about this score is just how real his characters are.\u00a0\u2026

\u201cAnd it\u2019s fun for me to play a comic role, since there aren\u2019t a lot of laughs in Tristan und Isolde or some of the [Johann] Strauss roles that I sing, like the Dyer\u2019s Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten \u2026 or Chrysothemis in Elektra,\u201d continues Brewer, referring first to a Wagnerian opera, then to a Sophoclean tragedy.

Similarly, Karen Coe Miller addresses potential complications of directing H\u00e4nsel und Gretel, especially in the way of counterbalancing the notion that everyone knows, perhaps too well, the source material.

\u201cFor me, the challenge in approaching any well-known work is rediscovering the element of surprise,\u201d she says. \u201cIf I\u2019d never heard this story before, when would I laugh, feel empathy or be horrified? What aspects of the story are so familiar that an audience may not even notice them anymore?\u00a0\u2026 I look for opportunities to find an element of surprise in the storytelling that can wake me up as a director and as an audience member. There\u2019s something wonderful about revisiting a familiar story as an adult and finding something new.\u201d

From strictly a conductor\u2019s perspective, Schoonover reflects on what most interests him about Albert Herring and Carousel, which he himself will helm in that capacity. (Kostis Protopapas will conduct H\u00e4nsel und Gretel.)

\u201cAlbert Herring intrigues me as a conductor because of the opportunity to work with a select chamber orchestra,\u201d he says. \u201cBritten scored the work for a dozen players, and because of that, the solo players are featured throughout, giving the ensemble the rare opportunity to explore different orchestral colors and textures in an operatic setting and, more importantly, to bring to life the brilliant musical characterizations of each role that Britten weaved into the score.

\u201cCarousel will offer many challenges that I look forward to tackling. The music itself is direct, accessible and often poignant, but there\u2019s quite a bit of underscoring dialogue and accompanying dancers that will be different for me.\u201d

In that it features almost half again as many troupers as the other two productions combined, Schoonover continues by reflecting on the extra difficulties Carousel\u2019s size could pose.

\u201cOne of the biggest challenges UAO will have is figuring how to make everything unfold on our small stage,\u201d he confesses. \u201cThere\u2019s a troupe of professional dancers, 16 chorus, all the principal singers, a few actors with speaking parts and three children. We\u2019ve had this many people onstage at one time before, including our production of Doubt last year, but we\u2019ve never had everyone dancing at the same time \u2013 that will be a challenge!\u201d

Schoonover concludes by relating, in general, what most enthuses him about this season.

\u201cI sincerely urge people to give H\u00e4nsel und Gretel a try \u2013 it\u2019s certainly a production that I\u2019m excited about,\u201d he says. \u201cThe score is lush, tuneful and at turns thrilling, and while the story is based on a Grimm fairytale, the story is dark and full of magic that will delight all ages.

\u201cThe cast is top-notch and has a wonderful chorus of local children that comes in toward the end of the show. I know director Karen Coe Miller will have lots of surprises in store for our audiences.\u201d

Union Avenue Opera, 733 N. Union Blvd., St. Louis, 314-361-2881, unionavenueopera.org

Marquee Matters

Union Avenue Opera will stage these three productions for its latest season, all starting at 8 p.m.

Albert Herring, July 7, 8, 14 and 15

Carousel, July 28 and 29 and Aug. 4 and 5

H\u00e4nsel und Gretel, Aug. 18, 19, 25 and 26 (in German with English supertitles)

The prices of individual tickets and season subscriptions vary. For more information, call 314-361-2881, email info@unionavenueopera.org or visit unionavenueopera.org.

\"Doubt
Doubt - Christine Brewer (c) John Lamb and Union Avenue Opera 2016.jpg
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\"LaBute\"

Greg Hunsaker and Chauncy Thomas rehearse a scene for the 5th annual LaBute New Theater Festival.

It never hurts to ask.

Several years ago, when St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio mounted a production of Neil LaBute\u2019s The Shape of Things, co-founder and artistic director William Roth was annoyed to learn his presentation was opening on the same night as another production of the same work at a community college theater here.

How annoyed? Well, he contacted the publisher, who expressed sympathy but offered little else, saying \u201cWhat do you want us to do?\u201d Roth replied, \u201cI want Neil to come to my opening.\u201d

Shortly after, Roth received an email from none other than the playwright himself. \u201cI understand you want me to come to your opening,\u201d LaBute wrote. \u201cI can do that.\u201d

Ultimately, LaBute \u2013 also a noted film director and screenwriter \u2013 couldn\u2019t make that engagement. However, he and Roth discovered they shared similar ideas about the state of theater. LaBute thereupon suggested that St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio stage productions of some of his shorter works, so Roth responded with a presentation titled Just Desserts that did just that, including a new monologue by LaBute.

The playwright liked Roth\u2019s idea of the LaBute New Theater Festival and agreed to contribute an original work for the inaugural 2013 edition. He\u2019s done that every year since. This year\u2019s version, which runs in two segments from July 7 through 30, features a new play by LaBute titled Hate Crime, with Chauncy Thomas and Greg Hunsaker performing under John Pierson\u2019s direction.

Each year, LaBute makes an effort to attend the festival, which focuses on \u201creaching out to emerging playwrights,\u201d says Roth, who calls LaBute \u201ca nice Midwestern guy once you get to know him,\u201d despite the often dark and sometimes misogynistic nature of his stories.

St. Louis Actors\u2019 Studio annually solicits entries to the festival, which Roth says have numbered between 200 and 400 per year. Entrants send manuscripts from throughout the United States, as well as from Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Mexico and New Zealand.

Less than two years ago, Roth expanded the festival by taking a version of it to New York City, in January 2016; this past January, he did the same, again with new pieces by LaBute.

The playwright has built a considerable reputation for himself and his own works. Now, Roth observes that the LaBute New Theater Festival enjoys a \u201cnice reputation around the country,\u201d too.

Finalists for Set 1 (July 7-16) are Hate Crime, by LaBute, directed (again) by Pierson and starring Thomas and Hunsaker; Waiting for The Erie Lackawanna, by Ron Radice of Andover, Massachusetts, directed by Pierson and starring Spencer Sickmann, Reggie Pierre and Ryan Lawson-Maeske; Sacred Space, by Barbara Blumenthal-Ekrlich of Needham, Massachusetts, directed by Nancy Bell and starring Sophia Brown and Kim Furlow; and Percentage America, by Carter Lewis of St. Louis, directed by Pierson and featuring Bell, Thomas and Kelly Schaschl.

Works scheduled for Set 2 (July 21-30) are Hate Crime once more; How\u2019s Bruno, by Cary Pepper of San Francisco, directed by Bell and featuring Thomas, Lawson-Maeske, Pierre and Sickmann; and Sin Titulo, by Tearrance Chrisholm of St. Louis, directed by Linda Kennedy and featuring Patrice Foster, Pierre and Jaz Tucker.

Plays written by high school students will be presented as readings at The Gaslight Theater on July 8 at 11 a.m. Admission is free.

Check out part or all of the festival for yourself from July 7 to 30. Performances start at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at The Gaslight Theater. Tickets cost $30 for students and seniors and $35 for general admission for adults. To purchase tickets, call 1-800-982-2787, click on ticketmaster.com or visit the theater box office an hour prior to a performance.

"} ]