News About Other Films, and Human Rights

December 8, 2008 at 2:54 am | Posted in activism, Chris Maue, film, stl, Theater | 2 Comments
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In keeping with the constant stream of film review posts that Brian has been faithfully putting up for the last few days, I’ve got a few events you might want to keep your eye on as well –

Doerr Center for Social Justice Education is sponsoring a showing of Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “What Would Jesus Buy.”  The event is at 1:30 in the Carlo Auditorium of Tegler Hall, 3550 Lindell Blvd.  The Showing is free, and open to the public.

Also, don’t miss Amnesty International’s Sponsored Showing of “Invisible Children.”  at  Lafayette High School from 6pm until 8pm, on Thursday the 11th.  If you haven’t seen this film yet, make a point to – it’s a real eye opener.

December 10th is International Human Rights Day, as well as A Day Without Gay – a day to protest discrimination based on sexual orientation, by not showing up to work and calling in ‘Gay’.

There are some pretty cool events going on in town, including a Day Without Gay Teach-in hosted on December 10th at the Tivoli Theater in the Loop.  The event starts at 9am, and Concludes around 4pm, with a free screening of “Milk.”  More details can be found at http://showmenohate.blogspot.com/

Finally, The Webster Film Series will be showing “Christmastime On Mars,” the psychadelic freak out Christmas feature, made over the course of six years by the Flaming Lips.   The film features amazing performances by the band, especially Wayne Coyne as the alien superbeing that saves Christmas.   The film shows December 12th, and 13th at 9pm, and the 14th at  7pm.  General admission is $6.

More info on many of these events, as well as other happenings this week in St. Louis, can be found at the Show Me Progress Blog

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Mustard Seed’s Latest Measures Up!

April 17, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Review, Theater | 3 Comments
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Even if you are the kind of person who is normally scared away by the thought of an evening of Shakespeare, you should really consider going to see Mustard Seed Theatre’s production of Measure for Measure.  This show is not to be missed!  Despite being one of Shakespeare’s most problematic plays – both because of its unbelievable plot contrivances and also because of its questionable portrayal of women – Deanna Jent does a marvelous job of keeping the play light and surprisingly hilarious without losing the deeper questions at issue.  In this production, the play has been relocated to a modern city, complete with drug dealers, prostitutes and karaoke bars.  This is Shakespeare at its raunchiest, but also Shakespeare at its most relevant.  At the heart of the story is the contrast between justice and mercy – a tension that deeply affects all of our relationships with friends, enemies, family, country, and even with God.  Images of political sex scandals (Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, the list could go on and on) may be the first to come to mind.  But really, the play touches on every aspect of human corruption and forgiveness, both in the public arena and on the personal level.

I cannot be entirely objective in reviewing this play since my hubby, Jim Butz, has one of the main roles.  I happened to think that the entire show  was utterly fantastic.  But if you don’t want to take my word for it, then read this review or this review.  Apart from Jim Butz’s fabulous performance (I can’t help it), Jason Cannon as the Duke and Jennifer Theby as Isabella were both particularly outstanding.

If you need last minute plans for tonight, Thursday nights at 8:00pm are “Pay What You Can or Pay with a Can” – in other words, pay whatever you can afford, or just bring a canned good which will be given to a food pantry.  Otherwise, tickets are $20 Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm.

Measure for Measure runs through April 27th at Fontbonne University’s Theatre.

Mary’s Wedding

April 9, 2008 at 9:21 am | Posted in Review, Theater | Comments Off on Mary’s Wedding
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Echo Theatre“Theatre should show, not tell.”

I don’t know if anyone wise ever said that, but maybe they should have. There is a certain style of playwriting that, in my view, comes closer to storytelling than to theatre. And Mary’s Wedding by Stephen Massicotte, currently being staged by the Echo Theatre Company, is one of those plays. Which is not necessarily a criticism, if you like that sort of thing. The play depicts a dreamscape in which two young Canadians fall in love in the early days of the Great War (that’s World War I for the historically challenged). Both characters, Charlie the farm boy, portrayed by Ben Nordstrom, and Mary the well-bred immigrant from England, portrayed by Magan Wiles, describe most of the action verbally, creating more of a picture in your mind rather than before your eyes. The result is mixed, as there are times when you are starkly aware that you are being talked to by an actor, whereas at other times you are completely absorbed and entranced by the story.

Despite the limits of the style, Nordstrom and Wiles are absolutely two of the finest actors St. Louis has to offer, and they do marvelously with the script given them. They make full use of the beautifully minimalist set, as well as clever and evocative use of their bodies. The chemistry between Charlie and Mary is believable and palpable. Nordstrom and Wiles both succeed in endearing themselves to the audience with a mixture of humor, sadness and the awkward delightfulness of new love. I was particularly charmed, and convinced, by the delicate Wiles’ portrayal of the crusty old Sergeant.

Mary’s Wedding runs through April 20th at the Johnson Hall Theatre in the Third Baptist Church. Tickets can be purchased online, for more information call 314.225.4329.

Peer Down into the Rabbit Hole

March 17, 2008 at 9:03 pm | Posted in Review, Theater | Comments Off on Peer Down into the Rabbit Hole
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Rabbit Hole Heartbreakingly beautiful – that’s how I would describe Rabbit Hole, the latest production in the Studio series of Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. This Pultizer Prize winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire depicts the unique suffering endured by parents who have lost a child. A topic like the death of a child can be risky; its difficult to avoid sentimentality or heavy-handedness; this production manages to pull it off with rawness and with grace. The old cliche “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry” is unapologetically true of this difficult story. One thing is for sure, if you allow yourself to be swept up into the story, you’ll leave exhausted and devastated – but also thoroughly satisfied.

The performances were quite impressive all around. Caroyln Swift was a powerhouse as the sassy Nat; she was hilarious without resorting to a caricature, and she conveyed deep sorrow without being chessy or pathetic. Victoria Adams-Zischke and Timothy McCracken were just marvelous as the grief-stricken parents – they mastered the whole range of emotions, from fear to rage to numbness with gritty reality. Ashley West at times needed to turn it down just a notch, but overall she was solid. Special congratulations to Adam King, student at the Webster Conservatory of Theatre Arts, for his finely-tuned performance.

This was not a perfect production. But its excellence far outweighs any flaws that I could point out. And frankly, when such fine performances are wedded to a sacred subject, nit-picking would feel petty and inappropriate.

Rabbit Hole runs through March 30th at the Emerson Studio Theatre in the Loretto-Hilton Center.

*As a reminder – students can get rush tickets on all Rep shows that haven’t sold out for $8.00 with a valid student ID one half-hour before the production begins. You can’t beat that deal with a stick.

(anti)Corporate Puppets

February 27, 2008 at 7:51 pm | Posted in Matthew Hurst, politics, Theater | 1 Comment
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Since last weekend one puppet show, a touring production of Avenue Q, moved on to the next town from a successful run at the Fabulous Fox Theater.  This upcoming weekend another puppet show intended for mature audiences will come into town, albeit of a more altruistic intentions than the corporate denizens of Broadway producers.  The Boxcutter Cabaret, who describe their pupper act as “a ragtag association of cardboard wigglers, horn tooters, meat chompers, and a bell-strapped human xylophone,” will put forth their activism-inspiring art in Saint Louis.  That show, which is being brought into our community through the Community Arts & Media Project, will play this Saturday March 1st, starting at 7:30pm.  Of course the show, which will “convey a general dissatisfaction with post-modern convenience and promote a return to old-timey difficulty,” might not be condusive to audiences that learn about their community through online magazines, so the $5 admission fee for adults need not suffice for a mention of where you heard about it *nudge*.

You’ll get another chance to shake your corporate puppet masters the next week as Codepink invades the Saint Louis area begining Wednesday March 5th through International Women’s Day March 7th. Maybe conquest is the wrong word for these people working to achieve social, racial, economic, and gender equality, in which egalitarianism seems within reach.  To help that happen they’ll host a round table discussion in Legacy Book and Cafe that Wednesday, followed by a seminar on Thursday March 6th in the Morris University Center Maple/Dogwood Room at SIUE.  The week is capped off that Friday the 7th with conquest of Washington University, when they’ll host an Actvist Training Campstarting at 9am (with refreshments from Black Bear Bakery) with a grassroots media workshop, continuing with peace art training from Laurie Meier, and culminating in an action workshop from Codepink/Global Exchange founder Medea Benjamin.  There they’ll shake the institutional shackles of that educational organzation whilst learning how to organize themselves without their puppet masters.

The Unseen

February 22, 2008 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Theater | 1 Comment
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Mustard SeedI cannot speak highly enough about Mustard Seed Theatre, one of St. Louis’ newest theatre companies.  Besides the fact that they are filling an important niche (it’s a loosely Christian company producing shows that focus on issues of faith and justice), and besides the fact that they are committed to social and environmental justice, they are also doing some amazing theatre.  Their recent production of Remnant was astonishingly powerful and, despite being their inaugural full-length production, it racked up an impressive 6 nominations for this years Kevin Kline Awards.

Mustard Seed’s next offering is a dramatic reading of an intriguing play, The Unseen, written by Craig Wright, who has written for TV shows Six Feet Under and Lost.  In the play, two men, Wallace and Valdez, befriend one another in the midst of being imprisoned by a powerful regime.  Apparently in neighboring cells, they have never seen each other or anyone else besides their torturing interrogator, Smash.  And they don’t know why they have been imprisoned.  When an “unseen” person begins communicating with them in code, Wallace and Valdez have to deal with issues of faith, reason, hope and despair when the possibility of escape becomes real.

Mustard Seed Theatre is producing this dramatic reading this weekend only – Saturday  the 23rd and Monday the 25th at 7pm, and Sunday the 24th at 2pm at Fontbonne University’s Theatre.  To puchase tickets by phone, call 314-719-8060.  And don’t just come to be passively entertained – stick around after the show for discussion with the cast and fellow audience members.

The Rep Calls for Jury Duty

February 12, 2008 at 9:26 pm | Posted in Review, Theater | 1 Comment
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I went to the St. Louis Rep with high expectations, since Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose happens to be one of my most favorite plays, second perhaps only to Hamlet. And the famous film version starring Henry Fonda also happens to be one of my favorite films.  For those not familiar with the story, the entire show takes place inside a jury room as the jurors deliberate the verdict of a murder case involving a 16-year old kid accused of stabbing his father in the chest. What seems to be an open-shut case turns out to be a bit more complicated when one juror stands alone in doubting the boy’s guilt.

It is hard to tell what makes this show so fascinating and enjoyable. Is it the sleuthing, worthy of Sherlock Holmes or CSI? Or is it the psychological drama which so poignantly reveals human nature at its best, worst, and hardest to pin down? Perhaps its the brilliant and natural dialogue which effortlessly and efficiently presents us with 12 unique characters, not 12 caricatures. Either way, this show is taut enough to keep you interested, but its intensity varies enough so as not to leave you exhausted. It will leave you impressed and thinking hard about justice, doubt, prejudice and the deception of appearances.

So, as I said, I had some pretty high expectations. And I am happy to say that for the most part, The St. Louis Rep’s production met those expectations. The set was just right – a drab and ordinary jury room, without ornamentation or distraction, made for the perfect blank canvas. Kudos need to go to the director as well for the astounding choreography needed for this show. Maneuvering twelve men around the stage in a way that is both natural and fluid and fits with the dialogue is no small feat. However, most of the credit goes to the actors who all did a superb job in bringing these characters to life; with the exception, that is, of Juror #8, played by Jeff Talbot. It is unfortunate that the most pivotal character of the play was the least convincing; Talbot’s acting style was stiff and unnatural. He never seemed to actually ground himself in the action, but instead remained above it – reciting memorized lines and gesturing dramatically rather than genuinely interacting with his fellow jurors. Too bad. The rest of the actors were just wonderful, most notably Steve Brady as the bigoted Juror #10, Richmond Hoxie as the logical Juror #4, Dane Knell as the elderly Juror #9, Jerry Vogel as the German-American Juror #11 and Gary Wayne Barker as the prim Juror #2.

Twelve Angry Men, presented by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, runs now through March 2, 2008 at the Loretto-Hilton Center.

Go See A Play

February 4, 2008 at 11:31 pm | Posted in Theater | 1 Comment
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There is a good chance that at some point you have seen those words “Go See a Play” on a blue bumper sticker while driving around town. Good advice, easier than ever to take. If you are a theatre lover in St. Louis, you have had much to rejoice about in the last few years – eight new theatre companies have come on the scene in the last three years alone! St. Louis has become a sleeper city of serious theatrical talent.

Just about a week ago the nominees for the Kevin Kline Awards were announced, and this year’s bunch of nominees might be the best so far in the last three years. If you fancy wearing a tuxedo or evening gown, you can actually go to a honest to goodness awards show – ticket info available on the website.

One such show that might be nomination worthy currently in production is Cherry Docs – playing through February 10th, presented by the New Jewish Theatre. I have actually read Cherry Docs, and the story, while compelling, is a bit contrived. Fortunately the New Jewish Theatre consistently produces excellent work. So I am hoping the talent of those involved will improve on a play with potential – potential to be really good or really bad.

Extra credit – Don’t suspend you disbelief any longer: KWMU review of this current production.

Film-Geek Fridays – Legacy Edition

June 29, 2007 at 1:07 pm | Posted in Film Student Fridays, Matthew Hurst, Theater, Webster Film Series | 2 Comments
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This is the weekend that Die Hard 4 comes out.  Oh I’m sorry, the film is called “Live Free or Die Hard“.  I believe it was General John Stark who originally coined the phrase “Death Is Not The Worst Of Evils…Now I know what a TV dinner feels like.”  But when I was talking to Hwy61’s own award-winning co-writer of “Franz Kafka: The Happiest Man in Happytown” Mr. Gabriel Bullard, he informed me that, “i have to see any cheesy action movie if the word “legacy” is used in more than one review”. Guess that means we won’t be waiting in line this weekend :P

Right then, so here are some film going recommendations you won’t see in the movie listings section of your newspaper this weekend.

Webster Film Series

According to the film series calendar, this documentary of experimental theater artists Robert Wilson is “More than a biography, the film becomes an exhilarating exploration of the transformative power of creativity itself”.  But if that doesn’t wet your appetite for documentary film, consider his fans Phillip Glass, David Byrne, and the late Susan Sontag who appear in the film as worth the price of admission itself. Continue Reading Film-Geek Fridays – Legacy Edition…

The Modern Bard

June 13, 2007 at 10:41 am | Posted in Gabe Bullard, Theater | 1 Comment

I know I’m late to realize it, but I just learned that this year’s Shakespeare Festival features ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ with an old-west theme.  It reminded me of This Onion article.


Thanks Gabe.  Since Sunday June 17th will be the last change to catch this unique interpretation of the bard’s comedy, Lauren and I both wanted to extend our thumbs up for this worthy adaptation. We would have mentioned something in a review sooner, except one of us mentioned the scottish play and would rather not ruin it for you. – Matthew.

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