St. Louis Public Radio
December 30, 2016
A half-dozen St. Louis theater companies toasted to longevity in 2016.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis turned 50 years old and the St. Louis Black Repertory Company observed its 40th anniversary. Stages St. Louis marked 30 years and New Jewish Theatre Company celebrated 20. Mustard Seed Theatre logged 10 years and St. Lou Fringe festival of performing arts commemorated five.
The area’s loyal patrons are a big reason why so many local companies have staying power, according to Felicia Shaw, executive director of the Regional Arts Commission. “St. Louis has branded itself as a theater town,” Shaw said. “People like it; they support it with their attendance, their philanthropy, and with the rave reviews.” Some St. Louis theater companies, like the Black Rep and New Jewish, address a specific population, Shaw said.
“It’s important for people to see their stories being told,” Shaw said. “But the stories are also universal, and that keeps a variety of people coming back.” That universality is expressed by a large number of large and small theater companies, unusual for a city of this size, Shaw said.
“Everything from tiny little groups like Stray Dog and even Magic Smoking Monkey Theater and That Uppity Theatre Company and Slightly Askew,” Shaw said. “When you put it all together, it’s over 100 companies, doing high-quality theater.” New performances spaces also add to the vibrancy of the St. Louis theater scene, Shaw said. Debuting and updated venues like .Zack and The Grandel bode well for local theater in years ahead. Both venues are in the Grand Center area, a burgeoning theater district which already houses the Kranzberg Arts Center and The Marcelle. “Where else do you see a theater district growing right before your very eyes?” Shaw said.
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