Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Symphony Review: Superlative Respighi and Mozart highlight Stephanie Childress's second appearance on the SLSO podium

One of the delights of the recent live and digital concert series at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has been the way they have focused on the SLSO string section. I have been impressed with their sound for some time now, but I was most strongly reminded of it this past weekend (April 16-19) in the second two programs (the first was April 9-11) led by our new Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress.

[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview.]

L-R: Xiaoxiao Qiang, Shannon Farrell Williams,
Stephanie 
Childress

This was most apparent in the work that closed the concert (which I saw on Saturday the 17th), the third and last of the "Ancient Airs and Dances" suites by 20th century Italian composer and musicologist Ottorino Respighi. That historical sensibility of the musicologist informs the “Ancient Airs and Dances” suites, which are transcriptions of the works of Italian composers from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Written under the shadow of fascism in 1931, the third suite is the most dramatic and even melancholy of the three, and the only one written for string ensemble alone. With moods ranging from romantic yearning to tragic nobility, it calls for players with a wide expressive range and a conductor who is sensitive to both the work’s technical demands and its emotional depth.

Ms. Childress and the SLSO strings were all of that in abundance Saturday night. The opening “Italiana” flowed gracefully like the two galliards on which it’s based. The “Arie di corte” reflected the many mood changes of the six love songs that form its basis, from refined courtly romance to rustic lust, complete with a seriocomic imitation of a bagpipe drone. The “Siciliana” third movement seemed to radiate nostalgia and regret. It and the concluding “Passacaglia” demonstrated the robust, full-bodied sound of the full ensemble at its best.

The “Passacaglia,” in fact, was a remarkable achievement all by itself. It’s the only one of the four movements based, not on a lute tune, but rather on a work written for the more expressive Baroque guitar (by Count Ludovico Roncalli, from his 1692 “Capricci Armonici”). It covers a wider emotional range than many of the other originals, which may be one reason why Respighi chose to simply orchestrate it without substantial changes. The result is a work of tragic grandeur, and Ms. Childress and her forces gave us every ounce of that in this powerful and moving performance.

Ancient Airs and Dances

The concert opened with a pair of works that allowed us to hear the SLSO winds in fine form along with their fellow members of the band, beginning with a bright and brash romp through the Overture in D major, written in 1790 by Italian-born virtuoso cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini. Xiomara Mass and Cally Banham were an elegant and precise presence on oboes, Roger Kaza and Julie Thayer bright and powerful on the horns, and the reliable Andrew Cuneo an elegant voice on bassoon. It was an excellent way to open the evening, and I was disappointed that the applause for it didn’t go on longer.

The Mozart Sinfonia concertante in E-flat major for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, K. 364 was next, featuring excellent solo performances by violinist Xiaoxiao Qiang and violist Shannon Farrell Williams. Essentially a symphony with a group (a pair, in this case) of instrumental soloists, the sinfonia concertante was a popular form when Mozart wrote his for a 1779 European tour. His contribution to the form often gets high marks for the way it gives equal prominence to both of its solo instruments.  Ms. Qiang and Ms. Williams made the most of that as they merrily flipped melodic lines back and forth and took their star turns at cadenzas both flashy (in the noble Allegro maestoso first movement) and heartfelt (in the romantic Andante second movement). I had the sense that I was watching a convivial musical conversation between them and Ms. Childress

Regarding that slow movement, Ms. Childress and the musicians gave it an especially poignant sense of what Shakespeare’s Duke Orsino calls “a dying fall” that “came o'er my ear like the sweet sound / That breathes upon a bank of violets.” It was a fine contrast to the brisk sense of occasion of the first movement and the elegant dance of the last.

Next at Powell Hall: Local favorite Leonard Slatkin returns Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3 pm, April 24-26, to conduct Britten’s “Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge,” Ravel’s “Tzigane” (with Assistant Concertmaster Erin Schreiber in the virtuosic solo part), and Ginastera’s demanding “Variaciones concertantes,” op. 23. Only 300 tickets will be sold for each performance and strict health protocols will be in place. For more information, visit the SLSO web site.

Meanwhile, the SLSO’s digital concert series continues with on-demand performances of “Night Music,” through April 24; “The Heart of the Matter,” through May 8; and, from April 22 through May 22, a concert from last fall’s chamber music series featuring works by Debussy, Ravel, and the mightily underrated Germaine Tailleferre.

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of April 19, 2021

Now including both on-line and live events during the pandemic. To get your event listed here, send an email to calendar [at] stageleft.org.

Arts for Life presents an on-demand video stream of their fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards, honoring excellence in community theatre productions during 2020, on their YouTube channel. Act Two Theatre’s production of the farce “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” leads this year’s Theatre Mask Awards nominations with nine. Alton Little Theater, with its two productions of “Inherit the Wind” and “The Miracle Worker,” earned 12 nominations in total – six for each. Two classic comedies by Clayton Community Theatre, “The Philadelphia Story,” and Monroe Actors Stage Company, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” both received eight nominations apiece. Arts For Life announced the TMA nominations on March 12, during the nonprofit organization’s first-ever virtual trivia night. For more information: www.artsforlife.org

The Black Mirror Theatre Company presents Nuts and Bolts: Playwriting 101, an interactive, 6-week introductory class on Zoom, Thursdays from 7 to 9 pm through May 6. "Are you interested in writing your first short play, improving your playwriting basics or simply joining a short-term writing group to give your skills a spring work out? Join local playwright Michelle Zielinski in an exploration of the elements that make a good play." For more information, send emtil to blackmirrortheatrestl [at] gmail.com

Home
The Black Rep presents Home by Samm-Art Williams, recorded at Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus and streaming on demand from Thursday, April 15, through April 25. "Directed by Producing Director Ron Himes, Home tells the story of farm boy Cephus Miles who has inherited the family farm. He is content working the land until the girl he loves leaves for college and marries someone else. After a stint in prison for his opposition to the Vietnam War, he moves to the big city where he enjoys the fast-paced city life. His return to North Carolina, the farm, and the girl, reveals the true meaning of Home." For more information: http://theblackrep.org

The Blue Strawberry
presents Open Mic Night with Sean Skrbec and Patrick White Sundays at 7 pm. "Come on down and sing, come on down to play, or come on down to listen and enjoy." The club is operating under a "COVID careful" arrangement with restricted indoor capacity, mask requirements, and other precautions. The Blue Strawberry is on North Boyle in the Central West End. For more information: bluestrawberrystl.com.

Sister City Circus
Circus Harmony in St. Louis and Circus Circuli in Stuttgart, St. Louis's German sister city, present Sister City Circus, on Circus Harmony’s YouTube page.  "Through a series of online meetings, workshops, and classes the two troupes created 6 different circus acts and then filmed them at iconic architectural locations in each of their cities." This and many other Circus Harmony videos are available at the Circus Harmony YouTube channel.

First Run Theatre presents its 2021 Virtual Reading Festival Friday through Sunday, April 23-25, at 6:30 pm via Zoom. "Please join us for three nights of play readings from four different midwestern playwrights. We use our Reading Festival every year to help us make programming choices for the next season. We invite you to stay with us after the readings to discuss the plays and let us know which shows you would like to see on next year’s season." For more information: firstruntheatre.org

Fly North Theatricals presents three new free digital series. Their new digital line up includes The Spotlight Series, the Grown-Up Theatre Kids Podcast, and Gin and the Tonic. The Spotlight Series highlights the Fly North family of students and actors performing songs from previous FNT shows. In the Grown-Up Theatre Kids podcast you can join Colin Healy and Bradley Rohlf every other Friday as they explore life after drama club and what it means to make a living in theatre far from the lights of broadway. Gin and the Tonic is a "reckless unpacking of music history’s weirdest stories hosted by Colin Healy.” The Spotlight Series and Gin and the Tonic are available at the Fly North Theatricals YouTube channel and the Grown-Up Theatre Kids podcast can also be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Sticher, other podcast platforms. All three are updated on a bi-weekly (every other week) basis.

The Lemp Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Fistful of Hollers through May 8. "Gun slingers, dance hall girls, cowboys, gold diggers, cowboy boots and ten-gallon-hats will abound. Rowdy cowboys will duel to the death as the crooked sheriff watches with glee. But none of these characters are as dangerous as Nasty Nate, he’s the orneriest gun in the west and word is that he’s going to be stirring up trouble at the Lemp Mansion." The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place in south city. For more information: www.lempmansion.com

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
Metro Theater Company presents The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show (La Oruga Muy Hambrienta Espectáculo), a bilingual production based on the books by Eric Carle, April 25 thru May 16. "He's enchanted generations of readers since he first began nibbling his way to our hearts in 1969. Now, everyone's favorite caterpillar takes the stage in a dazzling, critically acclaimed production – featuring a menagerie of more than 75 larger-than-life, magical puppets." Live performances take place outdoors at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, 210 E. Monroe Avenue in Kirkwood. MO. The production is also available via on-demand video streaming April 28 through May 16. For more information: www.metroplays.org

Moonstone Theatre Company presents Moonstone Connections, a series of in-depth interviews with arts leaders by company founder Sharon Hunter. New episodes air the third Tuesday of each month; see linktr.ee/moonstoneconnections for more information.

The Muny presents Attuned: Cast Me at the Muny, a nine-part podcast that "showcases audition tips and funny stories, while offering an inside look at what makes casting a Muny show so challenging." The series is available on demand at the Classic 107.3 web site. For more information: classic1073.org/podcasts

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, in collaboration with Baltimore Center Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, The Public Theater and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, present Play at Home, a series of micro-commissioned short plays from some of the American theatre's most exciting and prominent playwrights. These new plays – which all run 10 minutes or less – are available for the public to download, read and perform at home for free at playathome.org.

Adena Varner and family
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents a live video stream of the WiseWrite Digital Play Festival running until the end of the Rep's 2020-2021 season. “Step into the imagination of three young playwrights as The Rep presents professional readings of their new plays.” The production is directed by Adena Varner, the Rep's Director of Learning and Community Engagement. For more information: repstl.org.

Deal Orlandersmith in
After the Flood
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and All Arts present Until the Flood, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, via on-demand streaming. "On August 9, 2014, Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an African American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting ignited weeks of social unrest, propelled the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted a controversial investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Celebrated writer, performer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith traveled to St. Louis and conducted interviews with dozens of people who were grievously shaken by Brown’s shooting and the turbulent aftermath. From these intimate conversations, Orlandersmith created eight unforgettable characters who embody a community struggling to come to terms with the personal damage caused by these events." For more information: allarts.org

R-S Theatrics presents While the Ghostlight Burns, a virtual discussion series featuring R-S Artistic Director Sarah Lynne Holt in conversation with St. Louis theatre artists, Mondays at 7 pm.  Conversations will be archived at the R-S Theatrics YouTube channel. For more information: r-stheatrics.com/while-the-ghostlight-burns.html

Come Together
The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival presents streaming videos from the SHAKE20 festival, including re-imagined, condensed versions of classic Shakespeare plays and new takes on old favorites like Joe Hanrahan's Come Together, at the Shakespeare Festival Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pg/STLShakesFest/videos

The St. Louis Writers' Group presents a reading of David Hawley's play Screens on Monday, April 19, at 6:320 pm via Zoom. "Nadine and Ben have planned a nice dinner at their apartment for a few intimate friends. The trouble is, everyone keeps looking at their screens, so Nadine suggests a game: anyone can use their phone, but any calls, texts, emails, pictures or whatever, have to be shared with the whole group there that evening. Maybe some embarrassing stuff will come out, but that's the fun part." For more information, visit the St. Louis Writers' Group Facebook page.

SATE, in collaboration with COCA and Prison Performing Arts, presents Project Verse: Creativity in the Time of Quarantine. Project Verse presents two new plays: Quatrains in Quarantine by e.k. doolin and Dream On, Black Girl: Reflections in Quarantine by Maxine du Maine. The performances are streamed free of charge on SATE’s website and Facebook page. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

Classic Mystery Game
SATE also offers streaming performances of the shows originally scheduled for live 2020 productions: The Mary Shelley Monster Show, As You Like It (produced for SHAKE20, Project Verse, and Classic Mystery Game. The shows are available on their YouTube channel.

 

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Symphony Preview: Springtime, then and now

This weekend (April 16-18) St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress returns to the podium to lead the orchestra in yet another program of springtime music, from an animated 18th-century overture to an early 20th century suite based on courtly dances from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Boccherini by Pompeo Batoni -
Public Domain, Wikipedia

The concert opens with the local premiere of the Overture in D major, written in 1790 by Italian-born virtuoso cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini. Despite its brevity (around 5 minutes or so), it’s sometimes referred to as a “sinfonia” because it consists of three interconnected movements played without pause:  Allegro con molto spirito, Andantino, Allegro come prima.

The opening and closing movements are essentially identical: lively (if not downright brash) with prominent parts for the winds. Which, in this case, means two oboes, two horns, and a bassoon. The middle section is more tranquil and could easily be an operatic aria. It’s a pretty jolly way to start the proceedings, in any case. If you’d like to check it out in advance, Richard Egarr and the Academy of Ancient Music have a fine one for you on YouTube, performed on period instruments.

Boccherini is not an “A-list” composer, so if his name is familiar to you at all, it’s likely because of the extremely popular minuet from his String Quintet in E, Op. 11, No. 5 or his  Cello Concerto in B flat major. My own favorite (if less well known) Boccherini work is his Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D. This piece has a bouncy fandango final movement that includes parts for castanets and a sistrum, a kind of rattle that dates back to ancient Egypt—which must have raised some eyebrows back in the late 18th century. His 1780 “La Musica Notturna delle Strade di Madrid” (“Night Music of the Streets of Madrid”) is also worth a listen, reflecting as it does the many years he spent in Spain.

“But I digress,” as Tom Lehrer would say.

The concerts continue with something that will probably be more familiar, the Sinfonia concertante in E-flat major for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, K. 364, by Mozart. Written when the composer was touring Europe in 1779, the work is generally considered to be Mozart's most successful experiment in this form, which is essentially a symphony with a group (a pair, in this case) of instrumental soloists.

The Mozart family, c. 1780
en.wikipedia.org

In writing a sinfonia concertante, Mozart was tapping into a popular trend. A Classical-era version of the Baroque concerto grosso, it was, as Tim Munro writes in his program notes, “all the rage” in Mannheim, where composers of the “Mannheim school” were cranking them out. The form also attracted the attention of both Haydn and J. C. Bach (one of Johann Sebastian’s many composing sons). The former  wrote a 1792 sinfonia concertante that was a major hit in London while the latter, who also spent a good deal of time in the English capitol, wrote eighteen of them.

Mozart’s contribution is much admired for the way it gives equal prominence to both of its solo instruments, the violin and the viola. Mozart was, as Thomas May writes in program notes for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, “an excellent violinist [who] loved to play viola in string quartet ensembles, enjoying the perspective of being ‘in the middle.’" It’s fortunate, then, that this weekend’s soloists are not strangers brought together for the event but rather members of the SLSO: violinist Xiaoxiao Qiang and violist Shannon Farrell Williams.

That seems especially appropriate when you consider the way New York Philharmonic program annotator James M. Keller described the Presto final movement:

For a moment we are transported to the drawing room of an 18th-century aristocrat. The conversation is clever and cultured, but suddenly all heads turn as one of the assembled eminences—a Voltaire, perhaps, or a Franklin—imparts an observation that towers above the surrounding babble, and then brings the proceedings back to earth with an irrepressible chortle.

If you’re going to have irrepressible chortles, you probably want them coming from folks who know each other, right? Anyway, if you want to eavesdrop on their party, there is a plethora of good performances on YouTube. I rather like this one by the New York Classical Players because of the sheer energy of the interpretation.

Respighi and Claudio Guastalla in 1932
by Archivio Storico Ricordi,
CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia.org

The concerts conclude with the last of the three “Ancient Airs and Dances” suites by Ottorino Respighi. Although known for his trio of blockbuster tone poems celebrating his adopted city of Rome, Respighi wrote a wide range of music, including transcriptions of the works of Italian composers from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The “Ancient Airs and Dances” collections fall into that latter category, consisting of orchestrations of works originally written for that most intimate of string instruments, the lute.

Written over a period 14 years, the suites cover a lot of emotional territory. The third suite, which dates from 1931 (two years before Respighi stopped composing and five before his death), is the most dramatic and even melancholy of the three, and the only one written for string ensemble. The four movements and their sources, as given in the score, are as follows:

1. Italiana (Anonymous: Italiana (Fine sec. XVI) – Andantino): This is a combination of two galliards—the anonymous “Italiana” and “La Cesarina” by the 16th century Italian lutenist and composer Santino Garsi da Parma. The galliard was a lively dance, often paired with the more sedate Pavane. Respighi makes the entire movement rather stately.

2. Arie di corte (Jean-Baptiste Besard: Arie di corte (Sec. XVI) – Andante cantabile – Allegretto – Vivace – Slow with great expression – Allegro vivace – Vivacissimo – Andante cantabile): Yes, there are a lot of tempo indications and swift changes of mood here, mostly because this is a mashup of six “Airs de cœur” (love songs) written and/or collected  by the Burgundian lutenist/composer/anthologist Jean-Baptiste Besard  in his 1603 lute compilation “Thesaurus harmonicus.” That far back in history, it’s not always clear who was the composer and who was the collector.

3. Siciliana (Anonymous: Siciliana (Fine sec. XVI) – Andantino): As lutenist Paul O’Dette writes in the notes for his excellent collection of the original tunes Respighi adapted for his three suites, this piece was “commonly known as Spagnoletta throughout seventeenth-century Italy and Spain. Numerous settings of it survive for lute, guitar and various ensemble combinations.” Respighi’s transcription gives the tune an emotional range not present in the original.

4. Passacaglia (Lodovico Roncalli: Passacaglia (1692) – Maestoso – Vivace): The passacaglia is a dance based on a series of variations on a simple tune. Baroque giants like Bach used it as the foundation for massive examples of musical architecture, but even in its original form for Baroque guitar this one, from Count Ludovico Roncalli’s 1692 “Capricci Armonici,” covers a lot of expressive territory. “The wide variety of strumming and plucking techniques employed by Roncalli,” notes Mr. O’Dette, “is mirrored by Respighi’s colourful orchestration.”

OK, maybe that’s more than you really needed to know about this lovely work, which runs under 20 minutes. But I found it fascinating to hear the performances of the originals by Mr. O’Dette and his fellow musicians juxtaposed with Respighi’s transformations. It gave me an added degree of insight into just how ingenious he was in his arrangements, while still respecting the originals. There’s a fine performance of Respighi’s work by the Chamber Orchestra of New York on YouTube if you want to make the comparisons yourself, since the link to the album by O’Dette and company includes excerpts of each track.

The Essentials: Stephanie Childress conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and soloists Xiaoxiao Qiang (violin) and Shannon Williams (viola) in Boccherini’s Overture in D major, Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante, and Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances,” Suite No. 3. Performances are Friday at 11 am, Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm, April 16-18, at Powell Hall in Grand Center. Only 300 tickets will be sold for each performance and strict health protocols will be in place. For more information, visit the SLSO web site.

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review: The SLSO strings get to the heart of the matter in a rich romantic digital concert

The title of the fifth concert in the on-demand video series by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO), “The Heart of the Matter,” reflects not only the powerful emotional content of the four short works for strings that make up the program, but also the fact that the string section is often regarded as the heart of the orchestra. Under the baton of Music Director Stéphane Denève, that heart beats with real passion in this concert, which is available through May 8th.

[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview.]

The concert opens with Elgar’s “Serenade in E minor,” Op. 20.  With two dance-like movements bracketing a sweetly amorous Larghetto, the “Serenade” was inspired by the composer’s love for his wife Alice. The string sound is rich and warm, and Maestro Denève’s interpretation brings out all the sweeping romance in Elgar’s music. The Larghetto is an especially attractive mix of sentiment and nobility while the opening and closing movements gambol trippingly on the bows of the SLSO strings.

Stéphane Denève conducts the SLSO strings

Next is Tchaikovsky’s “Andante Cantabile.” Originally the second movement of his 1871 String Quartet No. 1, it was so touching that it soon had a life of its own as a work for string orchestra. Mr. Denève’s take on it allows the composer’s irresistibly melodic score to speak for itself, without either downplaying or overstating its lush Romanticism. Perhaps best known in an arrangement for solo cello with either piano or orchestral accompaniment, it works every bit as as well as an ensemble piece that, like the Elgar, shows off the rich sound of the SLSO string section.

The second half of the concert features what Mr. Denève, in his spoken comments, describes as a pair of “beautiful meditations on loss, love, and life.” It begins with Puccini’s 1890 “I Crisantemi” (“The Chrysanthemums”). Written in a single night in response to the news of the death of a close friend, this brief, beautiful work gets a typically nuanced reading from Mr. Denève and the band.

The concert concludes with Anna Clyne’s “Within Her Arms.” Like Puccini’s “Crisantemi,” it was composed in just 24 hours in response to news of a death—in this case, the passing of Ms. Clyne’s mother in 2009. It begins with a soft, despairing sigh that slowly builds to a mix of anguish and even anger. About two-thirds of the way through, there’s an abrupt break, like a pause for breath, followed by something that sounds like acceptance.

The scoring for 15 strings means that each individual player can be clearly heard, so there’s no room for error. And there aren’t any in this performance, which reaches out and grabs you by the heart, not letting go until the tranquil final notes. Assistant Concertmaster Erin Schreiber and her characteristic red violin lead the way here with some fine solo lines, but everyone in this ensemble is top notch.

In his comments, Maestro Denève asks why we enjoy listening to sad music these days. The reason, he suggests, is that works like “I Crisantemi” and “In Her Arms” “speak to that astounding capability that makes us all human, the power of compassion.” If so, perhaps we need to hear a lot more sad songs these days, since our nation and, indeed, or world seem desperately in need of a compassion upgrade.

Performed and recorded at Powell Hall last November 20th, The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s “Heart of the Matter” concert was originally intended to be performed for a live audience, but a rise in COVID-19 cases obliged them to perform without one. It runs around 45 minutes and is available on demand through May 8th. Information on upcoming SLSO concerts, both live and on-demand, is available at the orchestra’s web site.

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Review: Stephanie Childress makes her SLSO conducting debut with a spring in her step

“Spring work,” wrote famed naturalist John Muir, “is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” By that standard, there was over an hour of spring work on display at Powell Hall last weekend (April 9-11) as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s newly appointed Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress led the SLSO strings in a cheerfully blooming program of music for strings by Britten, Dvořák, and contemporary British composer Sally Beamish.

[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview.]

As Ms. Childress noted in her introductory chat with the audience, the common thread among the three works was childhood. Britten used tunes recycled from his youthful compositions (he began writing at the age of 5) in his “Simple Symphony”; Dvořák’s “Serenade for Strings” was inspired, in part, by the birth of his first child; and Beamish dedicated “The Day Dawn” to her friend Christine McKemmie, whose daughter Zoe had just died. “[T]he piece symbolizes new beginnings,” she wrote, “recalling the sense of calm Chris felt on the day of the funeral, dawning bright after a week of rain.”

Originally written with student ensembles in mind (and when the composer himself was only 20), Britten’s symphony is, in indeed, simple enough for both young audiences and performers, but it’s also sophisticated enough to appeal to adults. And in the hands of a polished professional ensemble like the SLSO strings, it yields delightful details of wit and nuance that might escape less experienced players.

Stephanie Childress
stephaniechildress.com

This was very apparent in Ms. Childress’s interpretation, which brought out the rambunctious fun of the “Boisterous Bourrée” first movement, delivered delicate and cheerful precision in the “Playful Pizzicato” second, and was sweetly nostalgic in the “Sentimental Sarabande.” A lively romp through he “Frolicsome Finale” brought the entire business to a most successful conclusion. Indeed, the echoes of that last movement continued to frolic in my memory for days afterwards.

Beamish’s “The Day Dawn” is a more serious affair for a larger ensemble (around 40 players, twice the size of the Britten symphony) and with a degree of musical detail that made me glad I was seated close enough to the band to hear it all clearly. Opening with an early spring sunrise in the low strings followed by a pop-up thunderstorm and a return to sylvan tranquility, it’s a richly evocative piece that conjures up images of the Scottish highlands and the Shetland islands that provided the work’s titular folk tune.

That tune is heard most clearly in the dramatic central section and again at the very end, played simply and sweetly by violinists Celeste Golden Boyer and Erin Schreiber, but it seems to me that it lies at the heart of the sonically layered and richly contrapuntal body of the work as well. The orchestra played it with heart and polish under Ms. Childress’s sympathetic direction.

Dvořák’s Op. 22 “Serenade” concluded the program. It’s a work that has always been a favorite of mine and, based on her pre-concert comments, a favorite of Ms. Childress’s as well. Certainly her reading of it was loving and finely shaded—clearly the product of someone attuned to the sunny springtime mood (the work was completed in May 1875)—that permeates the serenade’s five melody-saturated movements.

That said, there were times when I found her approach perhaps a bit too loving and lyrical. I would have preferred a brisker tempo in the Moderato opening movement, for example, and a bit less lingering over the poetic trio section of the Tempo di valse second movement. There was, on the other hand, a bracing energy to both the Scherzo and the final Allegro vivace as well as real beauty in the sentimental Larghetto, so on the whole I can’t complain. It was a fine performance, and perfectly played by all concerned.

This was Stephanie Childress’s debut as a conductor (she appeared as a violin soloist with the orchestra March 26-28), and it was intriguing to watch her at work. Her podium style was elegant and precise, neither flamboyant nor overly reserved. I had the sense that she felt great confidence in the expertise of her orchestra and was content to simply keep them moving in the direction they had already carefully rehearsed.

London Symphony violinist Hugh Bean once opined that conducting “is the strongest evidence I’ve yet seen that telepathy, in one form or another, exists.” Seeing Ms. Childress in action, I’m inclined to agree.

Next at Powell Hall: Ms. Childress returns Friday at 11:30 am, Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm, April 16-18, to conduct Luigi Boccherini’s “Overture in D major,” Mozart’s “Sinfonia concertante” (K.364), and the third of Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances” suites. Only 300 tickets will be sold for each performance and strict health protocols will be in place. For more information, visit the SLSO web site.

Meanwhile, the SLSO’s digital concert series continues with on-demand performances of “Night Music” (which I reviewed on March 31) through April 24 and “The Heart of the Matter” through May 8.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of April 12, 2021

Now including both on-line and live events during the pandemic. To get your event listed here, send an email to calendar [at] stageleft.org.

Arts for Life presents an on-demand video stream of their fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards, honoring excellence in community theatre productions during 2020, on their YouTube channel. Act Two Theatre’s production of the farce “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” leads this year’s Theatre Mask Awards nominations with nine. Alton Little Theater, with its two productions of “Inherit the Wind” and “The Miracle Worker,” earned 12 nominations in total – six for each. Two classic comedies by Clayton Community Theatre, “The Philadelphia Story,” and Monroe Actors Stage Company, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” both received eight nominations apiece. Arts For Life announced the TMA nominations on March 12, during the nonprofit organization’s first-ever virtual trivia night. For more information: www.artsforlife.org

The Black Mirror Theatre Company presents Nuts and Bolts: Playwriting 101, an interactive, 6-week introductory class on Zoom, Thursdays from 7 to 9 pm through May 6. "Are you interested in writing your first short play, improving your playwriting basics or simply joining a short-term writing group to give your skills a spring work out?Join local playwright Michelle Zielinski in an exploration of the elements that make a good play." For more information, send emtil to blackmirrortheatrestl [at] gmail.com

Home
The Black Rep presents Home by Samm-Art Williams, recorded at Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus and streaming on demand from Thursday, April 15, through April 25. "Directed by Producing Director Ron Himes, Home tells the story of farm boy Cephus Miles who has inherited the family farm. He is content working the land until the girl he loves leaves for college and marries someone else. After a stint in prison for his opposition to the Vietnam War, he moves to the big city where he enjoys the fast-paced city life. His return to North Carolina, the farm, and the girl, reveals the true meaning of Home." For more information: http://theblackrep.org

The Blue Strawberry
presents Open Mic Night with Sean Skrbec and Patrick White Sundays at 7 pm. "Come on down and sing, come on down to play, or come on down to listen and enjoy." The club is operating under a "COVID careful" arrangement with restricted indoor capacity, mask requirements, and other precautions. The Blue Strawberry is on North Boyle in the Central West End. For more information: bluestrawberrystl.com.

The Blue Strawberry presents There's a Spring in My Step with singer/songwriter/conductor John McDaniel on Friday, April 16, at 7:30 pm. "Join St. Louis's own John McDaniel, Grammy and Emmy Award winner, as he leaps into Spring with songs and stories from his years on Broadway and television." The club is operating under a "COVID careful" arrangement with restricted indoor capacity, mask requirements, and other precautions. The show will also be available as a live video stream. The Blue Strawberry is on North Boyle in the Central West End. For more information: bluestrawberrystl.com.

Sister City Circus
Circus Harmony in St. Louis and Circus Circuli in Stuttgart, St. Louis's German sister city, present Sister City Circus, on Circus Harmony’s YouTube page.  "Through a series of online meetings, workshops, and classes the two troupes created 6 different circus acts and then filmed them at iconic architectural locations in each of their cities." This and many other Circus Harmony videos are available at the Circus Harmony YouTube channel.

Circus Harmony celebrates World Circus Day on Saturday, April 17, with performances from from 12- 2 and 6-7 pm outside of Steve’s Hot Dogs at 3457 Magnolia Avenue. "You need to mention Circus Harmony when you order for a portion of your purchase to support us. It also counts if you do an online order through Steve's website! Plus, if you go next door to the Tik Tok Tavern, and mention our name when you get something there, they are also participating in this Word Circus Day celebration in support of Circus Harmony!" For more information: circusharmony.org.

Fly North Theatricals presents three new free digital series. Their new digital line up includes The Spotlight Series, the Grown-Up Theatre Kids Podcast, and Gin and the Tonic. The Spotlight Series highlights the Fly North family of students and actors performing songs from previous FNT shows. In the Grown-Up Theatre Kids podcast you can join Colin Healy and Bradley Rohlf every other Friday as they explore life after drama club and what it means to make a living in theatre far from the lights of broadway. Gin and the Tonic is a "reckless unpacking of music history’s weirdest stories hosted by Colin Healy.” The Spotlight Series and Gin and the Tonic are available at the Fly North Theatricals YouTube channel and the Grown-Up Theatre Kids podcast can also be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Sticher, other podcast platforms. All three are updated on a bi-weekly (every other week) basis.

The Lemp Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Fistful of Hollers through May 8. "Gun slingers, dance hall girls, cowboys, gold diggers, cowboy boots and ten-gallon-hats will abound. Rowdy cowboys will duel to the death as the crooked sheriff watches with glee. But none of these characters are as dangerous as Nasty Nate, he’s the orneriest gun in the west and word is that he’s going to be stirring up trouble at the Lemp Mansion." The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place in south city. For more information: www.lempmansion.com

Moonstone Theatre Company presents Moonstone Connections, a series of in-depth interviews with arts leaders by company founder Sharon Hunter. New episodes air the third Tuesday of each month; see linktr.ee/moonstoneconnections for more information.

The Muny presents Attuned: Cast Me at the Muny, a nine-part podcast that "showcases audition tips and funny stories, while offering an inside look at what makes casting a Muny show so challenging." The series is available on demand at the Classic 107.3 web site. For more information: classic1073.org/podcasts

Opera Theatre of St. Louis presenss Belonging in Opera: Learning from Our Past, Engaging with Our Future, an online symposium Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, April 13th. "Explore the rich canon of Black composers and engage in discussion about inclusion and equity within opera with current Black composers, artists, and administrators. Led by Dr. Naomi André, University of Michigan professor and author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement, this educational and inspiring series is free to all and will be livestreamed on OTSL’s Facebook and YouTube channels." For more information: opera-stl.org/belonging

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, in collaboration with Baltimore Center Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, The Public Theater and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, present Play at Home, a series of micro-commissioned short plays from some of the American theatre's most exciting and prominent playwrights. These new plays – which all run 10 minutes or less – are available for the public to download, read and perform at home for free at playathome.org.

Adena Varner and family
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents a live video stream of the WiseWrite Digital Play Festival running until the end of the Rep's 2020-2021 season. “Step into the imagination of three young playwrights as The Rep presents professional readings of their new plays.” The production is directed by Adena Varner, the Rep's Director of Learning and Community Engagement. For more information: repstl.org.

Deal Orlandersmith in
After the Flood
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and All Arts present Until the Flood, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, via on-demand streaming. "On August 9, 2014, Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an African American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting ignited weeks of social unrest, propelled the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted a controversial investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Celebrated writer, performer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith traveled to St. Louis and conducted interviews with dozens of people who were grievously shaken by Brown’s shooting and the turbulent aftermath. From these intimate conversations, Orlandersmith created eight unforgettable characters who embody a community struggling to come to terms with the personal damage caused by these events." For more information: allarts.org

R-S Theatrics presents While the Ghostlight Burns, a virtual discussion series featuring R-S Artistic Director Sarah Lynne Holt in conversation with St. Louis theatre artists, Mondays at 7 pm.  Conversations will be archived at the R-S Theatrics YouTube channel. For more information: r-stheatrics.com/while-the-ghostlight-burns.html

Come Together
The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival presents streaming videos from the SHAKE20 festival, including re-imagined, condensed versions of classic Shakespeare plays and new takes on old favorites like Joe Hanrahan's Come Together, at the Shakespeare Festival Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pg/STLShakesFest/videos

SATE, in collaboration with COCA and Prison Performing Arts, presents Project Verse: Creativity in the Time of Quarantine. Project Verse presents two new plays: Quatrains in Quarantine by e.k. doolin and Dream On, Black Girl: Reflections in Quarantine by Maxine du Maine. The performances are streamed free of charge on SATE’s website and Facebook page. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

Classic Mystery Game
SATE also offers streaming performances of the shows originally scheduled for live 2020 productions: The Mary Shelley Monster Show, As You Like It (produced for SHAKE20, Project Verse, and Classic Mystery Game. The shows are available on their YouTube channel.

 

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Symphony Preview: Voices of spring

“When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding,” quoth The Bard, “[s]weet lovers love the spring.” In that same vein, I think music lovers, sweet or otherwise, will love the essence of youthful vernal exuberance that flows from the three works for string orchestra that comprise the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) program this weekend (April 9-11). At the podium will be the SLSO’s new Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress, making her local conducting debut.

Benjamin Britten circa 1930

The concerts will open with Benjamin Britten’s “Simple Symphony” from 1933, when the composer was just out of his teens and looking for a way to make his mark in the musical world. Realizing that there was a demand for quality works that could be performed by student ensembles, he came up with a piece that was technically easy enough to be performed by a student string orchestra (or a quartet for smaller schools) while still being musically sophisticated enough to appeal to a wider audience.

With an added nod to the world of childhood, he recycled tunes from his own early career as a composer, which began at the age of 5. Britten, like the Virginia Bluebells that pop up in gardens at this time of year, was an early bloomer.

It’s likely that you’ve heard the irresistible “Simple Symphony” before. The SLSO last presented it in 2017, but the consistently charming melodies and droll movement titles (“Boisterous Bourrée,” “Playful Pizzicato,” and so on) have made it a favorite of classical music broadcasters. Back in the Day it was also popular with record companies looking for something that was short enough to fit easily on one side of an LP with room left over for an overture. If you’d like to revisit it again before the concert, though, Maureen Buja’s informative article at Interlude includes a complete performance by Steuart [sic] Bedford and the Northern Sinfonia.

Sally Beamish
Photo: Ashley Coombes

Next is a work that conjures up images of a spring sunrise followed by a pop-up thunderstorm and a return to sylvan tranquility. It’s “The Day Dawn,” written by British composer Sally Beamish a few years after her move to Scotland in 1990 at the age of 34. The title, writes the composer, “is based on an old Shetland fiddle tune of the same name, which was traditionally played at the Winter Solstice to mark the dawn of lengthening days. Dedicated to my friend Christine McKemmie, who was living in Shetland when her young daughter Zoe died, the piece symbolizes new beginnings, recalling the sense of calm Chris felt on the day of the funeral, dawning bright after a week of rain.” 

That traditional fiddle influence is heard most clearly about halfway through as the music turns more dramatic, suggesting either a sudden squall or maybe a ceilidh at the local pub, and then returns again briefly in the tranquil final moments. It’s wonderfully evocative music that reminds me of the trips to the Scottish highlands my wife and I took many years ago.

Since this will be the work’s local premiere, you might want to make its acquaintance first. There is, fortunately, a fine performance by Ola Rudner and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra on YouTube.

The concerts will close with yet another work that will almost certainly be familiar to many of you: the Serenade for Strings, Op. 22, by Antonin Dvořák. Dating from 1875, when the Czech master was almost exactly the same age as Sally Beamish when she relocated to Scotland, it was effectively Dvořák’s first big hit. It brought him to the attention of a wider audience during the same year in which he also was presented with what Dr. Michael Fink calls  “a generous yearly allowance” by the Austrian government and a first child by his new wife.

Anton and Anna Dvořák in London, 1886
en.wikipedia.org

He was, as a result, in rather a sunny springtime mood (the work was completed in May, in fact)—something you can hear clearly every one of the serenade’s five melody-saturated movements. Like Tchaikovsky’s 1880 Serenade for Strings (an excellent performance of which concludes the SLSO digital concert which is available on demand through April 10th), the Dvořák work is organized along symphonic lines, with thematic connections between the movements and even a return, in the energetic finale, to the opening tune for the first movement. It also has that same sense of Mozartian grace that one hears in the Tchaikovsky, although Dvořák was not quite as much of an Amadeus fanboy.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that this program should very much fall in Ms. Childress’s wheelhouse, since she began her professional life as a violinist before moving to the other side of the podium. In fact, she made her SLSO performance debut as co-soloist with Kristin Ahlstrom in Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor March 26-28. Leading a string orchestra seems an ideal way to make her conducting debut.

The Essentials: Stephanie Childress leads the strings of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in music of Benjamin Britten, Sally Beamish, and Antonin Dvořák Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3 pm, April 9-11, at Powell Symphony Hall in Grand Center. Only 300 tickets will be sold for each performance and strict health protocols will be in place. For more information, visit the SLSO web site.

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Symphony Digital Preview: Mourning becomes electric

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) continues its digital season April 8th through May 8th with an on-demand program of four short works that showcase the SLSO string section under the direction of SLSO Music Director Stéphane Denève. The title of the concert, “The Heart of the Matter,” reflects not only the fact that the strings are often regarded as the heart of the orchestra, but also the powerful emotional content of all four of these works.

Anna Clyne
Photo: Christina Kernohan

In my preview of an earlier SLSO digital offering, I noted that the emotional state of a composer sometimes has little to do with the content of their work. In this program, though, the connection between art and life is quite close.

The opening piece is an excellent example. As SLSO Communications Manager Caitlin Custer writes in her program notes, London-born composer Anna Clyne was working on an “energetic, chaotic” piece in the spring of 2009 when she learned that her mother had died:

“I sat at the piano with a candle and a beautiful photo of her from that week,” she says. “And I just wrote this music over the course of the next 24 hours. It was my instinct to process this by writing music. I felt very close to her through that process of writing.”

The closeness is clearly audible in the music, which begins with a soft, despairing sigh that slowly unfolds and builds to a mix of anguish and even anger—sometimes for the full ensemble, sometimes for individual players. Suddenly, about two-thirds of the way through, there’s an abrupt break, like a pause for breath, followed by something that sounds like acceptance. It’s almost like the five stages of grief described by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” condensed into fifteen intense musical minutes. Listen to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra recording at YouTube and see if you don’t agree.

Edward Elgar, circa 1900
en.wikipedia.org

The mood lightens with Elgar’s “Serenade in E minor,” Op. 20.  With two dance-like movements bracketing a sweetly romantic Larghetto, the “Serenade” is officially dedicated to the organ builder and amateur musician, Edward W. Whinfield. The real spirit behind it, though, belongs to Elgar’s wife Alice, for whom he wrote it as a kind of third wedding anniversary present and who, as the composer noted in his original manuscript, “helped a great deal to make these little tunes.” Like the rest of the works on the program, the “Serenade” is so popular that you have almost certainly heard it many times, but if not, Timothy Judd’s Listeners’ Club blog has links to a complete performance by the Hallé Orchestra under Sir Mark Elder, along with a details analysis of each movement.

Speaking of familiar music, the odds that anyone reading this has not heard the next item on the menu often enough to hum it are likely quite roughly the equivalent of the proverbial snowball in Hades. Tchaikovsky’s “Andante Cantabile” started out life as the second movement of his first major work, the 1871 String Quartet No. 1. The quartet was a hit and the second movement so moving (it supposedly brought Leo Tolstoy to tears) that it soon had a life of its own as a work for solo cello and string orchestra.

The program for this concert makes no mention of a cello soloist, though, so I have to assume this is an arrangement for string orchestra only. In any case it is, to borrow some words from Keats, “a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.”

GiacomoPuccini
Giacomo Puccini
See page for author,
Public domain,
via Wikimedia
Commons

The last work on the concert brings us full circle with a work written as a memorial. Puccini’s 1890 “I Crisantemi” (“The Chrysanthemums”) was written, as the composer wrote in a letter to his brother, in a single night in response to the news of the death of Puccini’s friend Amadeo di Savoia, Duke of Aosta. Originally scored for string quartet, it’s often heard in a string orchestra version as well, which is presumably what’s on the program here. Regardless of the arrangement, the piece has proven to be popular with both audiences and the composer himself, who re-used both of its themes in his 1893 opera “Manon Lescaut.”

And in case you’re wondering “why chrysanthemums?”, the answer is that in Italy the flower is commonly associated with death, somewhat the way lilies are in the English-speaking world. “During the period leading up to November 2,  Il Giorno dei Morti, or Day of the Dead,” notes the “Italian Connections” blog, “Italians flock to the cemeteries to commemorate their dead, very often leaving chrysanthemums at a gravesite.”

The Essentials: From April 8th through May 8th, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Stéphane Denève, presents an on-demand digital livestream of music by Anna Clyne, Edward Elgar, P.I. Tchaikovsky, and Giacomo Puccini.  Details are available at the SLSO web site.

This article originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

St. Louis theatre calendar for the week of April 5th, 2021

Now including both on-line and live events during the pandemic. To get your event listed here, send an email to calendar [at] stageleft.org.

Arts for Life presents an on-demand video stream of their fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards, honoring excellence in community theatre productions during 2020, on their YouTube channel. Act Two Theatre’s production of the farce “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” leads this year’s Theatre Mask Awards nominations with nine. Alton Little Theater, with its two productions of “Inherit the Wind” and “The Miracle Worker,” earned 12 nominations in total – six for each. Two classic comedies by Clayton Community Theatre, “The Philadelphia Story,” and Monroe Actors Stage Company, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” both received eight nominations apiece. Arts For Life announced the TMA nominations on March 12, during the nonprofit organization’s first-ever virtual trivia night. For more information: www.artsforlife.org

The Black Mirror Theatre Company presents Nuts and Bolts: Playwriting 101, an interactive, 6-week introductory class on Zoom, Thursdays from 7 to 9 pm through May 6. "Are you interested in writing your first short play, improving your playwriting basics or simply joining a short-term writing group to give your skills a spring work out?Join local playwright Michelle Zielinski in an exploration of the elements that make a good play." For more information, send emtil to blackmirrortheatrestl [at] gmail.com

The Blue Strawberry
presents Open Mic Night with Sean Skrbec and Patrick White Sundays at 7 pm. "Come on down and sing, come on down to play, or come on down to listen and enjoy." The club is operating under a "COVID careful" arrangement with restricted indoor capacity, mask requirements, and other precautions. The Blue Strawberry is on North Boyle in the Central West End. For more information: bluestrawberrystl.com.

Sister City Circus
Circus Harmony in St. Louis and Circus Circuli in Stuttgart, St. Louis's German sister city, present Sister City Circus, on Circus Harmony’s YouTube page.  "Through a series of online meetings, workshops, and classes the two troupes created 6 different circus acts and then filmed them at iconic architectural locations in each of their cities." This and many other Circus Harmony videos are available at the Circus Harmony YouTube channel.

Fly North Theatricals presents three new free digital series. Their new digital line up includes The Spotlight Series, the Grown-Up Theatre Kids Podcast, and Gin and the Tonic. The Spotlight Series highlights the Fly North family of students and actors performing songs from previous FNT shows. In the Grown-Up Theatre Kids podcast you can join Colin Healy and Bradley Rohlf every other Friday as they explore life after drama club and what it means to make a living in theatre far from the lights of broadway. Gin and the Tonic is a "reckless unpacking of music history’s weirdest stories hosted by Colin Healy.” The Spotlight Series and Gin and the Tonic are available at the Fly North Theatricals YouTube channel and the Grown-Up Theatre Kids podcast can also be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Sticher, other podcast platforms. All three are updated on a bi-weekly (every other week) basis.

The Lemp Mansion Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents A Fistful of Hollers through May 8. "Gun slingers, dance hall girls, cowboys, gold diggers, cowboy boots and ten-gallon-hats will abound. Rowdy cowboys will duel to the death as the crooked sheriff watches with glee. But none of these characters are as dangerous as Nasty Nate, he’s the orneriest gun in the west and word is that he’s going to be stirring up trouble at the Lemp Mansion." The Lemp Mansion is at 3322 DeMenil Place in south city. For more information: www.lempmansion.com

Lindenwood University Theatre presents an on-demand streamed performance of the musical Urinetown from 10 am Friday to 11:45 pm Saturday, April 9 and 10. "Winner of three Tony Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards and two Obie Awards, Urinetown is a hilarious musical satire of the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, municipal politics and musical theatre itself!" For more information: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/49346

Moonstone Theatre Company presents Moonstone Connections, a series of in-depth interviews with arts leaders by company founder Sharon Hunter. New episodes air the third Tuesday of each month; see linktr.ee/moonstoneconnections for more information.

The Muny presents Attuned: Cast Me at the Muny, a nine-part podcast that "showcases audition tips and funny stories, while offering an inside look at what makes casting a Muny show so challenging." The series is available on demand at the Classic 107.3 web site. For more information: classic1073.org/podcasts

Opera Theatre of St. Louis presenss Belonging in Opera: Learning from Our Past, Engaging with Our Future, an online symposium Tuesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, April 6th and 13th. "Explore the rich canon of Black composers and engage in discussion about inclusion and equity within opera with current Black composers, artists, and administrators. Led by Dr. Naomi André, University of Michigan professor and author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement, this educational and inspiring series is free to all and will be livestreamed on OTSL’s Facebook and YouTube channels." For more information: opera-stl.org/belonging

Pathway
The Performing Arts Department at Washington University presents the MFA Student Dance Concert: Pathway via on-demand video through April 11. "This dance concert takes us on a journey that combines three distinct paths. One moves us through the world of grief, the powerful rollercoaster of human emotions. The next takes us on the passage of both the power and grace of Muslim women.  In the final piece, we are immersed in the force of our neglect of Nature and her rebellious response." For more information: edison.wustl.edu

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, in collaboration with Baltimore Center Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, The Public Theater and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, present Play at Home, a series of micro-commissioned short plays from some of the American theatre's most exciting and prominent playwrights. These new plays – which all run 10 minutes or less – are available for the public to download, read and perform at home for free at playathome.org.

Adena Varner and family
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents a live video stream of the WiseWrite Digital Play Festival running until the end of the Rep's 2020-2021 season. “Step into the imagination of three young playwrights as The Rep presents professional readings of their new plays.” The production is directed by Adena Varner, the Rep's Director of Learning and Community Engagement. For more information: repstl.org.

Deal Orlandersmith in
After the Flood
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and All Arts present Until the Flood, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, via on-demand streaming. "On August 9, 2014, Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an African American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting ignited weeks of social unrest, propelled the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted a controversial investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Celebrated writer, performer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith traveled to St. Louis and conducted interviews with dozens of people who were grievously shaken by Brown’s shooting and the turbulent aftermath. From these intimate conversations, Orlandersmith created eight unforgettable characters who embody a community struggling to come to terms with the personal damage caused by these events." For more information: allarts.org

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s production of Human Resources, created by Telephonic Literary Union, on demand through April 11. "Together with the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and Telephonic Literary Union, The Rep presents a unique and interactive audio experience. Dial the hotline to access a menu of unexpected options, in a playful twist on the all-too-familiar customer service phone maze. Featuring new works by playwrights Brittany K. Allen, Christopher Chen, Hansol Jung and Zeniba Now, Human Resources invites callers to chart their own journey. Whether you're looking for self-knowledge, witness, or deliverance, help is only a phone call away." For more information: repstl.org.

R-S Theatrics presents While the Ghostlight Burns, a virtual discussion series featuring R-S Artistic Director Sarah Lynne Holt in conversation with St. Louis theatre artists, Mondays at 7 pm.  Conversations will be archived at the R-S Theatrics YouTube channel. For more information: r-stheatrics.com/while-the-ghostlight-burns.html

Come Together
The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival presents streaming videos from the SHAKE20 festival, including re-imagined, condensed versions of classic Shakespeare plays and new takes on old favorites like Joe Hanrahan's Come Together, at the Shakespeare Festival Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pg/STLShakesFest/videos

SATE, in collaboration with COCA and Prison Performing Arts, presents Project Verse: Creativity in the Time of Quarantine. Project Verse presents two new plays: Quatrains in Quarantine by e.k. doolin and Dream On, Black Girl: Reflections in Quarantine by Maxine du Maine. The performances are streamed free of charge on SATE’s website and Facebook page. For more information: slightlyoff.org.

Classic Mystery Game
SATE also offers streaming performances of the shows originally scheduled for live 2020 productions: The Mary Shelley Monster Show, As You Like It (produced for SHAKE20, Project Verse, and Classic Mystery Game. The shows are available on their YouTube channel.
 
Union Avenue Opera offers Sneak Peeks of its 2021 season operas Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) and The Cradle Will Rock on its YouTube channel.

Looking for auditions and other artistic opportunities? Check out the St. Louis Auditions site.
For information on events beyond this week, check out the searchable database at the Regional Arts Commission's Events Calendar.
Would you like to be on the radio? KDHX, 88.1 FM needs theatre reviewers. If you're 18 years or older, knowledgeable in this area, have practical theatre experience (acting, directing, writing, technical design, etc.), have good oral and written communications skills and would like to become one of our volunteer reviewers, send an email describing your experience and interests to chuck at kdhx.org. Please include a sample review of something you've seen recently.