The Show Goes On

Dennis gazes back admiringly at St. Louis theater's year that was.

The St. Louis acting pool is large and deep. This year I saw work by Colleen Backer, Kine Brown, Lavonne Byers, Katie Consumas, Brooke Edwards, Kari Ely, Julie Foldesi, Michelle Hand, Alexis L. Kinney, Julie Layton, Nancy Lewis, Paris McCarthy, Amy Schwarz, Kat Singleton, Kathleen Sitzer, Margeau Baue Steinau, Julie Venegoni and Magan Wiles that was as professional as any theatergoer should hope to see. And this is only the women!

Obviously not all these actresses can receive Kevins; there are far more worthy candidates than there are slots for nominees. But the PTAC can help to cultivate audiences that will see and appreciate these actresses and their peers. Already the KK posters, which list plays on view throughout the city, have become the cynosures of lobbies everywhere. But now the already valuable Web site at www.kevinklineawards.org needs improving. When the site becomes mandatory reading on at least a weekly basis, it will serve as St. Louis theater's most important selling tool, locally and nationally.

Attention must be paid. We don't need an explosion of plays that are attended by eight people (three of whom are reviewers). On the other hand, I've been told that some shows that received negative notices on this page have enjoyed solid attendance after the reviews appeared, which is reassuring, for it suggests that people are going to the theater because they want to be there.

No theater company should rely on reviews to sell its shows. Word-of-mouth sells shows (and kills them). But when most productions run for two weeks, there's barely time for that. The most pressing challenge for local theater is the wooing of prospective new viewers. In its own self-interest, the theater community needs to band together through an aegis like the PTAC and learn how to promote itself; it needs to find funding for advertising. Foundations must be persuaded that, in the short term, getting bodies into the seats is more important than student outreach.

It may well be that the Kevins arrived in St. Louis at the most opportune moment. Despite the occasional bruised feelings over winning and losing, the PTAC must be doing something right: The last time I looked, the Eads Bridge had not been sold.

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