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Sunday, June 24, 2018

BLOW, WINDS • Shakespeare in the Streets: Downtown St. Louis

Playing out on the steps of the St. Louis Central Public Library, Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare in the Streets celebrated its sixth year last weekend. Originally scheduled to run in September 2017, the acquittal of former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley generated protests downtown, making it necessary for Shakespeare in the Streets to cancel due to security concerns. Galvanized by these developments, Nancy Bell’s original adaptation was modified with the help of playwriting fellow, Mariah L. Richardson, to further address the divisions, as well as the strengths, within St. Louis. Past productions have concentrated on one neighborhood, but this year, South County, West County, North County and the City were all cunningly incorporated into the tragedy of King Lear, or in this case, King Louis. Tom Martin keenly directed a top-notch cast, and the contributions by Central Baptist Church Choir, The Gentlemen of Vision Step Team and Genesis Jazz Project provided an intense boost to the production. Margery & Peter Spack’s spectacular projections provided a feast for the eyes, transforming the library’s exterior to a sprawling St. Louis City flag design, neon landscapes, lightning-charged storms, and a magnificent stone brick castle -- complete with battlements, torch sconces and crests.

Central Baptist Church Choir, King Louis (Joneal Joplin),
Fool (Adam Flores) and cast.
Photo credit: J. David Levy
Joneal Joplin is an imposing but foolish King Louis. With a blind eye to the injustices within his own kingdom, Louis decides to take a step back from his duties. He’s prepared to distribute his kingdom among his daughters, but only after they make excessive declarations of their love for him. Jeanitta Perkins and Katy Keating are a hoot as the shallow, sniping daughters, Goneril and Regan. They lay it on pretty thick, and proudly declare their alma maters in reply to that age-old St. Louis inquiry (most irritating for those of us who aren’t from here), “Where’d you go to high school?”. The youngest and most favored daughter is Cordelia, played by Erika Flowers Roberts, and she refuses to answer silly questions about high schools and is only interested in justice -- not the acquisition of one of her father’s territories. Edmund goes largely ignored as the king’s illegitimate son, but he also wants to shine a light on the inequities in the kingdom, and Reginald Pierre plays him passionately. Michelle Hand is Kent, a loyal advisor to King Louis who is banished for daring to challenge him, and Adam Flores is charismatic as the king’s fool, about the only one the king will begrudgingly listen to. Forced into homelessness after Regan and Goneril refuse to receive him, King Louis is compelled to see his kingdom with new eyes and connect with his subjects, while Cordelia and Edmund rally to drive away fears to bring St. Louis back together.

Kent (Michelle Hand), King Louis (Joneal Joplin)
and Central Baptist Church Choir.
Photo credit: J. David Levy
There’s hardly a better way to come together for a real sense of community than attending one of these shows, and the feeling of camaraderie lingers long after the play is over. Keep an eye out for the next one. Their production runs are short, but are always a splendid way to see local theatre in a unique way.

Incidentals
• Original Playwrights Note: “During our frequent conversations with residents, we heard many stories about their love for St. Louis and the pride they have in their neighborhoods.  But we also heard about their frustration with problems that seem to be ingrained, not only in our city, but throughout the world, including inequality, injustice, and violence. This project sheds light on what there is to celebrate in our city, while still acknowledging the problems we all face. Our fate belongs to one another.” -- Nancy Bell, Playwright

Image from last year’s rehearsal,
Margery & Peter Spack projection design.
Photo credit: J. David Levy
• “My major contribution was to rewrite the Fool’s Prophecy. It is no longer a prophecy but a call to arms; to rise up, join together, and make change that benefits the whole city. I like that idea. That is my dream for my city.” -- Mariah Richardson, Playwriting Fellow

• At one point the Gentlemen of Vision are divided up into two opposing camps -- one for Regan and the other for Goneril, and they try to outdo each other in a step-battle to the death. Amazing.


BLOW, WINDS

Written by Nancy Bell with additional material by Mariah L. Richardson, adapted from Shakespeare’s King Lear
Music & Lyrics by Lamar Harris
Directed by Tom Martin
St. Louis Public Library, 1301 Olive Street
Run concluded | tickets: FREE
Performances 8:30pm nightly

The Gentlemen of Vision Step Team.
Photo credit: J. David Levy
Remix Cast
King Louis: Joneal Joplin* 
Goneril: Jeanitta Perkins*
Regan: Katy Keating
Cordelia: Erika Flowers Roberts
Edmund: Reginald Pierre 
Illinois: Jaz Tucker
Kansas: Elvedin Arnautovic 
Fool: Adam Flores 
Kent: Michelle Hand 
Poor Tom: Isaiah Di Lorenzo

The Fool’s Chorus
Minerva Lopez Montaigne 
Emily Korte 
Karla Boresi 
Elias Dernlan

Margery & Peter Spack projection design.
Photo credit: J. David Levy
Creative
Stage Manager: Richard B. Agnew*
Music Director/Composer: Lamar Harris
Choreographer: Charlie Johnson
Costume Designer: Jennifer ‘JC’ Krajicek
Associate Producer: Kristin Rion
Scenic and Projection Designers: Margery & Peter Spack
Associate Director: Jacqueline Thompson
Choir Director: Minister Christopher J. Watkins
CEO/Founder, Gentlemen of Vision Rites of Passage Inc.: Marlon Wharton
Lead Producer: Jennifer Wintzer
Lighting Designer: John Wylie
Step Team: The Gentlemen of Vision

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

The Gentlemen of Vision Step Team.
Photo credit: J. David Levy
Musicians
Woodwind I: Chris Hubbard
Woodwind II: John Menner
Woodwind III: Jeff Hany
Woodwind IV: Klaus Bank
Woodwind V/Band Leader: Hugh Jones
Bone I: Jamie Burchett
Bone II: Jim Owens
Bass Bone: Paul Ahlemeyer
Trumpet I: Sandy Roll
Trumpet II: Keith Huffman
Trumpet III: Van Williams
Guitar: Robert Hardcastle
Bass: Tung Morey
Percussion: Scott Waggoner
Percussion: Jacob Bisaillon

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