In the summertime, theatre seems to take a backseat to other events, but with the rising popularity of the Shakespeare Festival in the Glen, it has become apparent that it is not only sought out by a certain crowd. Enduring the free-seat-heat at the Muny has become just as much of a sweat-soaked custom as a Cardinal Game at the Stadium, even if you’re not a regular theatre-goer. St. Louisians have been ready to crack open a bottle of white in Shakespeare Glen and surround themselves with the park fireflies since 2001, when it opened for the first time with Romeo and Juliet.
Weather from June to September in our city can be both oppressive and serene, but we take it all—the bug bites as well as the sunburns—just to experience an outdoor concert or an event where we will inevitably run into at least one person we know. Because—let’s face it—that’s part of St. Louis culture, too.
This is the third year the Grand Center Theatre Crawl has put on an outdoor “sneak peek” of local theatrical companies using the unusual technique of “glimpsing into” each story on the stage. Located at the “Intersection of Art and Life,” audiences wander from location to location every half-hour from 6-9pm along Grand Boulevard to get a taste of what our city has to offer on St. Louis stages. This year, the Crawl takes place on Friday, July 3rd, an evening when most people are planning a fireworks display for their holiday weekend and scoring tickets to the newest highest-grossing summer blockbuster. But the participants in the Crawl remain confident in another great turn-out.
The Crawl gives the public a chance to see what’s to come in each company’s upcoming season but, most importantly, it provides them an opportunity to discover something they are not aware of, or something that attracts them that they might not have acknowledged before—a moment of insight to take away, or a scene between two characters that hits close to home, affecting them more emotionally that they anticipated. For most directors and actors, these experiences are the goal of Good Theatre, and the reason they give their hearts, their talents, their time, and sweat. To change someone’s life with art is extremely rewarding.
Past President of St. Louis Public Radio and Grand Center Theatre Crawl’s organizer, Peggy Holly, restates this importance. “It puts a lump in my throat to hear someone say, ‘I never heard of [this theatre company] before, but they're really, really good. Let's get tickets.’ St. Louis has a remarkable live theater community—over 20 professional companies. The culture is so rich that one literally cannot see it all; there are not enough days on the calendar. ‘The Crawl’ has been growing, but still includes less than half the companies. I think everyone involved is anxious to see it continue to grow.”
This year, nine different theatrical companies are showcasing their works, and the Crawl continues to expand—its audience, as well as participating companies, directors, and actors. And looking at the Crawl’s full schedule for July 3rd, it is apparent how diverse St. Louis’s culture can be, from black box theatre, Union Opera Theatre, to the St. Louis Fringe Festival. An expansive range of lavish to minimalist, classic to avant-garde, there’s something at the Crawl for just about everyone.
Gary Bell, Artistic Director of Stray Dog Theatre explains why the Crawl is so rewarding. “Those attending the Theatre Crawl will be energized by how much theatre there is in Saint Louis. [I hope audiences take away] an appreciation for the multiple types of art—theatre, visual, Opera—that Saint Louis has to offer.”
William Roth, Founder and Director of St. Louis Actor’s Studio, has participated in the Theatre Crawl since its beginning. “We are always willing and interested in showing the community what a great theater city St. Louis is…getting them to understand that the Arts in St. Louis measures up to anything they can find anywhere in the world,” Roth states. “Our home, The Gaslight Theater on Boyle Ave in Gaslight Square, is just around the corner from Grand Center, so we do whatever we can to draw that connection to the theater going public…participants will be amazed by how many options for great theater they will have."
Despite their range of style and subject matter, these companies are in agreement that they hope audiences will take away something special from this event. Rose Terranova, Director of Community Relations at the Grand Center, weighs in on why it is so rewarding to give St. Louis a “taste” of live theatre.
“Grand Center had its origin as a theater and entertainment destination in the early 1900's, and I love honoring and continuing that rich history and legacy,” Terranova says. “I hope patrons are wowed with the extent and variety of the theater culture in St. Louis and become regular supporters.”
Stephen Peirick, a local playwright, will be featuring his piece On Solid Ground. He expresses his excitement for the upcoming crawl and representing Stray Dog.
“I love to be a part of an event that features such a broad spectrum of theatre works that can be found in our city!” Peirick states. “And I hope there are some folks in this city who are discovering some of these companies for the first time! Really, it's like a buffet…I hope audiences walk away from my piece thoroughly entertained, but also with an understanding of how Stray Dog Theatre natures new works, and excited about their offerings in the season ahead! To me, that's the whole point of the event—to entice current and potential audience members to want to see more."
On Solid Ground, photo courtesy of Steven Peirick
Rachel Tibbets is the Associate Artistic Director for Prison Performing Arts. They have participated in the Crawl in the past, and will take part this year as well with ‘Shakespeare’s Moon.’ “[The most rewarding thing about the Theatre Crawl is] being a part of a vibrant and thriving community of theatre artists, and having a platform to showcase the scope of the talent here in St. Louis,” Tibbets explains. “There is such variety offered in the Grand Center Theatre Crawl, [and] audiences can get a sense of how diverse and creative St. Louis theatre is in one evening.”
Prison Performing Arts, Grand Center Theatre Crawl 2014, photo courtesy of Virginia Lee Hunter
R-S Theatrics’ artistic director Christina Rios also describes why sharing stages with other companies at the Crawl is so worthwhile and valuable.
“It is the opportunity to work with some of our favorite people while producing a piece that we love, in an event that is filled to the brim with some of our favorite theatre companies—and all so that we can bring what we love to do to a wider audience, in the hopes that they'll want to come back for more,” Rios explains. “It's kind of a win-win-win-win.”
“I feel comfortable saying that I believe that we all genuinely hope that we are able to make someone think and feel about live theatre the way they haven't before,” Rios adds. “I'm not interested in cultivating a group of people who only come to R-S shows, not only do we not produce enough pieces a year to make that even feasible, but look at all the amazing theatre they'd be missing. I am genuinely hopeful that we will help de-mystify live theatre to those who might not feel as comfortable going to a live performance, and at the same time, showing seasoned theatre-goers that there's more going on in this amazing city than just your larger venues and regional theatre.”
2012 Production of Funny from Autobahn, photo by Autumn Rinaldi
Scott Schoonover, Artistic Director and Conductor for Union Avenue Opera Theatre is especially proud to participate again in the middle of Union’s 2015 Season: their current cast of incredible singers in the production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni will be performing at the Crawl, so it is the perfect opportunity to experience a bit of this dark and passionate music if you haven’t before.
Don Giovanni 2015, photo courtesy of Union Avenue Opera and John Lamb
“We really appreciate being included in the "theatre" category—at its heart and certainly the [way] we approach it—opera IS theatre,” Schoonover says. “Great storytelling, with beautiful sets and costumes with a full orchestra and professional singer/actors to bolster the drama. I hope the audiences take away this sense of opera as theater and perhaps we can convince a few non-opera patrons to give us a chance!”
“First, everyone should have fun!” Peggy Holly affirms. “But many people who have lived in St. Louis all their lives, as well as new transplants, have no idea what superb quality work goes on and how much of it there is—everything from family-oriented productions to very adult, challenging work.”
Holly’s enthusiasm says it all, and her excitement is contagious. “Our community should be very, very proud,” she says. “Few know that St. Louis is a huge theater town. I would hope they will take away [the] knowledge of a company they hadn't known before, and the understanding that live theater is an entertainment bargain and a great alternative to heading to the multiplex.”
The full Crawl Schedule on July 3rd is as follows:
‘Cold in Hand’ by Steve Apostolina – St. Louis Actors’ Studio
‘On Solid Ground’ by local playwright Stephen Peirick – Stray Dog Theatre
‘Taste of Fringe’ – St. Louis Fringe Festival
‘Shakespeare’s Moon’ – Prison Performing Arts
‘Venus in Furs’ by David Ives – West End Players
‘Abundance’ by Beth Henley – Dramatic License Theatre
‘Funny’ from ‘Autobahn’ by Neil LaBute – R-S Theatrics
Highlights from Insight Theatre
‘Don Giovanni’ – Union Avenue Opera Theatre
The Grand Center Theatre Crawl will be held Friday, July 3rd, 6-9pm
This event is FREE! Registration is required, click here to save your spot!
Stay for the After Party, and there WILL be prizes!
For more information, visit the GrandCenter page at:
To visit the unofficial Save the Date Facebook page for updates, go to: www.facebook.com/events/492683097547791
Click on the interactive map with the locations of each Performance: