Every play performed onstage in front of an audience is more than a work of art -- it's an act of faith. The writer had to believe the script would be produced; the actors had to believe they would get the part; the director had to believe the actors would perform beautifully; the writer had to believe in the director's vision -- and so on and so on. Technique, a belief in your craft and the will to succeed only get you so far; at a certain point in the production, every person involved from conception to curtain had to have faith.
The Tin Ceiling and Off Center Theatre have a great deal of faith riding on the fourth installment of their joint production, seven/24. In the space of twenty-four hours, a consortium of fourteen writers and seven directors intend to cast, write, rehearse and stage seven ten-minute plays. It is a spectacular risk, but live theater is often about risking something in the hope that the rewards will be great. In light of this, seven/24 could carry fantastic rewards for both performers and audience.
The journey begins at 8 p.m. Friday, May 27, at the Theatre at St. John's (5000 Washington Place at Kingshighway), when all interested actors audition for roles. At 9 a.m. the following morning, successful actors are called back to begin eleven hours of rehearsal in their original (and still fresh from the typewriter) characters. And at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 28, the curtain goes up and seven new plays spring to life for the first time. Will the efforts of the cast and crew be worth it? Ah, only the audience can say -- and if the audience has a little faith, everything should work out in the end. Tickets for seven/24 are $8; call 314-351-6652 or visit www.tinceiling.org for more information about being in the cast or in the audience. -- Paul Friswold
Along Came a Spider
In the '70s the Argentinean government waged a "dirty war" against its citizens, imprisoning and killing thousands. Such tragedy doesn't seem like natural fodder for a Broadway musical. But Kiss of the Spider Woman takes the story of two prisoners -- one jailed because of his open homosexuality, the other a wannabe Che whose revolutionary rhetoric would make Evita blush -- and transforms it into award-winning entertainment. Torture? Lots of it. The prisoners take refuge in an elaborate Hollywood-style fantasy starring a seductive and murderous femme fatale who is real despite her imaginary trappings. New Line Theatre performs Spider Woman at the Art Loft Theatre (1529 Washington Avenue) at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday (May 26 through June 18). Call 314-534-1111 or visit www.metrotix.com for tickets ($10 to $18). -- Jess Minnen
Keep Flying, Dutch
Hey, hipsters, here's a hard fact: At 80 years old, Elmore Leonard is still cooler than you'll ever be. Or at least his characters are. Whether cons, cops or cowboys, they cruise through fast-paced, laid-back tales with chutzpah and style. If you've only seen the movie adaptations -- the good (Get Shorty), the bad (The Big Bounce) and the ugly (Stick) -- get to the Central branch of the St. Louis Public Library (1301 Olive Street; call 314-367-6731 for information) for a taste of the genuine article. Elmore Leonard reads from his 40th novel, The Hot Kid (a two-fisted tale of a Depression-era U.S. Marshal who takes no crap), at 7 p.m. It's your chance to rub elbows with the salty characters who fascinate you, within the safety of the master's imagination. Admission is free. -- Jedidiah Ayres
Admit it: You only know three things about A Streetcar Named Desire. It was written by former St. Louisan Tennessee Williams, Marge Simpson once portrayed Blanche DuBois, and the only line you can quote is "Stellaaa!" While visiting her sister in the Big Easy, DuBois' spirit is broken; it droops from her like Spanish moss. Was she born mad, or was her madness created through crumbling relationships and an almost childlike view of the world? Stray Dog Theatre opens its run of Williams' classic (pictured) at 8 p.m. Friday, May 27, at the Little Theatre (1 Mark Twain Circle, Clayton; 314-531-5923) and continues performing the show through June 12 (visit www.straydogtheatre.com for additional dates and times). Tickets are $15 to $18. -- Kristie McClanahan