Not that long ago, college theater was about young kids putting white flour in their hair and pretending to be adults. Those days are gone. Anyone who saw Magan Wiles' delectable performance as Babe in last fall's St. Louis University mounting of Crimes of the Heart, or caught Webster University's revelatory production of the little-seen musical Violet in February knows how consistently impressive student productions can be. Professionalism pervades. And why not, when Fontbonne University hires Broadway veteran Ken Page to direct a substantive Godspell and Washington University regularly jets in British actress Jane Lapotaire to counsel the Shakespeare productions. (Would that our local resident theaters were as receptive to importing such vital talent!) Because tickets to student shows are usually inexpensive -- and sometimes even free -- university productions have become the best theater deal in town. Not to mention the best-kept secret, and more's the pity.
Correction published 10/8/03:
In the original version of this item, we inadvertently overcredited actress Magan Wiles. Wiles was indeed delectable as Babe in Crimes of the Heart last fall, but she was nowhere to be seen in Violet in February. The above version reflects the corrected text.