The Kevin Kline Awards charged up the local theater community.

While Kline and Landesman were willing to travel halfway across the country at their own expense to honor St. Louis theater, Mayor Francis Slay was unable to travel six blocks. We all know Hizzoner loves a good evening at the theater. You can rest assured that on June 19, opening night of the Muny, he'll be sitting in the front row waiting to be acknowledged from the stage. But he couldn't find time to support an organization that's striving to bring cohesiveness to St. Louis theater. Slay was invited to participate in the evening's well-received video sequence, in which people recalled their favorite theater memories. Police Chief Joe Mokwa was a good sport; he appeared onscreen and spoke about the importance of a vital theater to St. Louis. The mayor declined even to sit for a taping.

Had Slay attended, he'd have felt the galvanizing energy that accrued by bringing all elements of the theater community — and yes, there is a St. Louis theater community (at least, there was that night) — under one roof for the first time. To that extent, the first annual Kevin Kline Awards gala had a positively historic feel about it.

So where does the theater community go from here? A swellegant evening is a glory unto itself, but it doesn't solve problems. There are still lots of issues to deal with. An awards ceremony doesn't create new theater spaces in the downtown area; it doesn't make theater a viable profession in which an artist can support this vocation. Yet it's just possible that this particular evening might have done something equally significant, for in a little over two hours it instilled that aforementioned sense of joined pride and purpose.

"Lightning in a bottle": The Kevin Kline Awards electrified St. Louis theater.
Autumn Rinaldi
"Lightning in a bottle": The Kevin Kline Awards electrified St. Louis theater.

When Kline stood at the podium and referred to theater as "lightning in a bottle," everyone in the Orpheum not only heard his words, they felt them. They were an electric charge that sparked through the room. If that lightning can continue to strike in the weeks and months to come, then the residue of the first annual Kevin Kline Awards might well lead to lots of "good theater," far to the west of New York.

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