Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Steve Woolf, a personal remembrance

Steve Woolf accepts the award for The Comedy of Errors
at the St. LouisTheatre Circle, 2013
Photo by Sid Hastings
There was very sad news today about July 12th  passing of Steve Woolf, a man who was one of the true luminaries of the St. Louis theatre scene. I have known Steve for many years now, but our association was almost entirely professional and mostly related to my position as Senior Performing Arts Critic at KDHX. As an actor, I auditioned for him several times and was actually cast once (in Witness for the Prosecution, 2006).

So, unlike many of the tributes to him you will see on (anti)social media and other sources over the coming days, this is less about his many fine personal qualities (which he had in abundance) and more about his intelligence and wisdom as a director and the artistic head of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis for many years.

It is, in short, a remembrance by a critic, actor, and appreciative audience member.

As someone who has been a subscriber to the Repertory Theatre for something like four decades, I had to opportunity to see and admire the changes he made in company’s fortunes and repertory choices. If there was anyone who knew how to assemble a balanced season guaranteed to please both established customers while still attracting new ones, that man was surely Steve Woolf.  When he took the company over its record had been, in my recollection, spotty, with some fine productions alternating with far too many stinkers, either because of weak scripts or misbegotten artistic concepts. Steve changed that for the better, and IMO the local theatre community is very much in his debt as a result.

I am also grateful, as a member of the St. Louis Theater Circle, for his support of our organization and his willingness to host the annual awards gala.

Ave atque vale, Steve. Your journey beyond the Galactic Rim is a sad one for the local arts community and it is safe to say you will be sorely missed.

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