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Recognition of stellar productions by nearly two dozen local theater companies will take center stage when the St. Louis Theater Circle presents its second annual awards ceremony honoring the best in local professional theater, on stage and behind the scenes, on Monday, March 17, 2014 at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), 524 Trinity Avenue in University City.
All of a sudden it’s nearing the end of December and thoughts of New Year’s resolutions dance in our heads. Before we enter 2014, however, let’s reflect on what the past year has given us on local stages.
Story: Hannah Senesh was born in 1921, the only daughter of a Hungarian journalist/playwright and his wife. After her father died when she was six years old, Hannah lived with her mother Catherine and brother Giora in Budapest. An experience with anti-Semitism in her early teens awakened her interest in Zionism. She graduated from high school on the eve of World War II and was thrilled to be accepted into the Agricultural School for Young Women in Nahalal in the British Mandate of Palestine.
Story: The stage manager welcomes the audience to the fictional village of Grover’s Corners, New Hamsphire, and introduces us to various residents who make up the community. The play he presents is divided into three acts, titled Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Eternity.
Way back in the days when I was a lad, Labor Day marked the beginning of the school year. Now, of course, school districts and universities get their fall semesters underway a couple of weeks earlier.
Story: Sarah is a photojournalist who has been on assignment covering the Iraq War. When she is severely injured by a roadside bomb, she is flown to Europe, where she is met by her partner, James. A reporter himself, James had left Iraq earlier after suffering a mental breakdown brought on by his own coverage of the war.
Story: In the spring and summer of 1776, the members of the Second Continental Congress, presided over by John Hancock of Massachusetts, debate endlessly various issues set before them. One subject they haven’t discussed, though, is independence from Great Britain, a point of increasing agitation to delegate John Adams of Massachusetts.
Story: Novelist George Schneider has recently returned from a vacation to Europe, which he had taken to help ease the grief he experienced at the death of his wife. George hasn’t yet come to terms with that death, which followed what he considered an idyllic 12-year marriage.
Marsha Mason’s horizons have expanded significantly from her childhood in St. Louis. The one-time Catholic schoolgirl attended Holy Rosary grade school in North St. Louis and later Mary Queen of Peace when her family moved to Crestwood. She became interested in theater while attending Nerinx Hall High School and the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University before embarking on her illustrious stage and film career.
The year 2012 was tumultuous in many respects, so perhaps fittingly Wicked is the title of the production that brings down the curtain on the last 12 months. A record drought plagued the St. Louis area, temperatures sweltered in an elongated summer and the area’s economy staggered toward a slow but steady recovery. All of this took place in the face of impending doom predicted centuries ago by the Mayan calendar.
Story: Small-town attorney Atticus Finch is a respected leader in his community, the hamlet of Maycomb, Alabama in 1935. Widower Finch is accustomed to being paid in food, kindling wood or anything else that his impoverished clients can give him in exchange for his legal services.
Local residents don’t have to leave the city to take in top-notch art, music and theatrical entertainment. Find out which of the past year’s productions wowed some of our town’s most prominent names.
Joan Quicksilver, Owner, The Quicksilver Company: A musical theater devotee for a lifetime, I was profoundly affected this year by the gripping coming-of-age drama about a young son of a poor English miner who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. Billy Elliot: The Musical, which played the Fox Theatre, was a joyous celebration of a boy�s journey to make his dreams come true. Not only was it a terpsichorean masterpiece, but the plot gave the audience an insight into the clash between a father who expects his son to remain in the harsh world of the mining community and the yearning of Billy to move onward to another destiny. Elton John�s score is electric! The evening was one of humor, heart and passion. This 2009 Tony Award-winning musical was not only my favorite production of the year, but one of the most cogent and eloquent theater shows ever for me.
Story: Bingham, the worrisome president of Quail Valley Country Club, is besieged with complications. He’s found out that the scratch golfer he eagerly welcomed as a new member earlier in the year has abandoned ship and joined forces with Bingham’s cursed rival, Crouching Squirrel. To make matters worse, he learns of the defection only after he’s made a lavishly foolish bet with Dickie, his rival at Crouching Squirrel, who informs Bingham that the prized golfer is now playing for his team. And Quail Valley vice president Pamela bluntly tells Bingham that the board has decided to fire him if he doesn’t win the vaunted match after failing to do so for several years.
Story: Works from the canon of composer John Kander and his long-time partner, the late lyricist Fred Ebb, fill this tidy musical revue that was conceived by director Scott Ellis, choreographer Susan Stroman and librettist David Thompson. Featuring selections from shows such as Chicago, Cabaret, The Happy Time, The Rink and New York, New York, it opened on Broadway in March 1991 and closed a year later after 408 performances.
Story: Rob Gordon is a walking encyclopedia of rock music. He’s so in tune with the sounds of his life that he has vinyl selections in his own independent record store categorized autobiographically. His Championship Vinyl shop is a haven for nerdy guys who like to browse through his legion of prized LPs, or maybe even work there as is the case with assistants Barry and Dick.
Story: Tom Wingfield, one of four characters in this two-act drama, describes it as “a memory play.” Serving also as narrator, he says that “I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” Tom then describes the fragile world of his Southern transplant mother, his physically handicapped older sister and himself, working at a shoe factory in St. Louis in 1938 and dreaming of the life of a poet and world traveler.
The year 2011 yielded an abundance of significant news in local theater. Eleven presentations stood out above the rest. In ascending order, here’s a list of the year’s best productions:
STORY: Becca is folding clothes as her sister, Izzy, relates the latest in her series of misadventures. Seems Izzy landed a punch on another woman at a local bar, who, as it turns out, is the ex-girlfriend of Izzy’s lover, Augie. Becca’s disapproval abruptly turns to envy, though, when Izzy reveals that she is pregnant. This is startling news to Becca, who has been grieving the death of her 4-year-old son, Danny, for several months.
Play: “Becky’s New Car”
Musical: “Jersey Boys”
Play: “The Giver”
Financial forecasters say that the Great Recession is winding down, with encouraging signs of an improving economy outweighing lingering negative effects such as high unemployment.
Play: “Another Home Invasion”