With more than 30 professional acting and production companies in town, St. Louis is a bonafide mecca for theater-lovers. A new, challenging, entertaining show opens every week, with some weeks providing an embarrassment of theatrical riches. Such is the case this week as the curtain goes up on five shows offering something for every dramaturgical desire.
“Emergency” – The Black Rep
Thursday, Sept. 5-15
Just one month after losing their 20-year home in the Grandel Theater in Grand Center, The Black Rep will begin their 37th season with “Emergency,” performed in the A.E. Hotchner Studio at Washington University’s Mallinckrodt Center. The play, developed by writer/performer Daniel Beaty, is a solo tour de force for actor Ron Conner, who portrays a cast of 40 characters through slam poetry, multi-character transformation, and song. The story? A slave ship emerges in front of the Statue of Liberty, sending New York into a whirlwind of emotion and exploration. This results in a stirring commentary on what it is to be human and the longing to be free. For tickets and information, visit The Black Rep website, or call (314) 534-3810.
“The Purpose Project: Thao’s Library” – Mustard Seed Theatre
Thursday, Sept. 5-15
Written and performed by Elizabeth Van Meter, “Thao’s Library” tells Van Meter’s own story of emotionally recovering from a personal tragedy when she happens upon a photograph of Thao, a 25-year-old Vietnamese woman born with life-threatening birth defects as a result of Agent Orange. Thao has created a makeshift library in her village. Van Meter then sets off on a journey—carrying a suitcase stuffed with books—to find the woman. She finally locates Thao and her family, whose love outshines the poverty surrounding them, and the two forge a bond that eventually will change both of their lives forever. This one-woman multimedia piece is an emotional roller coaster on a journey of healing and discovery. Tickets are available through the Mustard Seed Theatre website, or call (314) 719-8060.
“My Fair Lady” – Stages St. Louis
Friday, Sept. 6 – Oct. 6
Very few are unfamiliar with the story of Professor Higgins transforming Eliza Doolittle from a lowly flower girl in Victorian London into a ravishing upper class, well-born lady. “My Fair Lady,” the Lerner and Loewe classic American musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” has been moving audiences for more than 50 years. The score features such standards as “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” and “The Rain in Spain,” to name just a few. When “My Fair Lady” opened on Broadway in 1956, critics called it “a miraculous musical,” and “a work of theater magic,” superlatives that still hold true today. For tickets visit Stages St. Louis’ website, or call 314.821.2407.
“Parade” – R-S Theatrics
Friday, September 6–15
This little performed musical dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused and convicted—despite the lack of any evidence—of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. The trial became a circus, sensationalized by the media, which gave rise to antisemitic tensions. Eventually, Frank’s death sentence was commuted by the governor after he reviewed over 10,000 pages of testimony. The bizarre and tragic events that followed led to the rise of two prominent—but opposing—groups: The KKK and the Anti-Defamation League. “Parade” is passionate and haunting, for those that like a little substance and history with their musical theater. For tickets visit the R-S Theatrics website or call 314-456-007.
“Entertaining Mr. Sloane” – HotCity Theatre
Friday, September 6-21
Joe Orton’s scandalous 1964 comedy, “Entertaining Mr. Sloan,” weaves an amusingly sordid tale about a middle-aged brother and sister vying for, shall we say, the attentions of a sexually ambidextrous, brooding and dangerous hoodlum. The show—breezy and very often funny—features repressed desires, power plays and an unsolved murder, through all of which Orton exposes the underbelly of the ’60s polymorphous sexuality. For tickets visit the HotCity Theatre website, or call 314.289.4060.