Miller, too, recently decided with his board to leave the Klines behind.

Like Reggi, Miller notes that only Los Angeles has similar pay requirements for actors. He, too, believes that St. Louis can't be fairly compared to LA.

But money isn't the primary reason New Line walked.

Tony Award winner Kevin Kline came to St. Louis for the first Kline awards ceremony.
Gerry Love
Tony Award winner Kevin Kline came to St. Louis for the first Kline awards ceremony.
Steve Isom at the inaugural Kline ceremony.
Steve Isom at the inaugural Kline ceremony.

"Originally, the Kevin Klines were going to do all kinds of marketing and developmental support," he says. "Personally, I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of competing for making art. Philosophically, we have a problem with the Kevin Klines telling us how to run our company. We're running a successful business. For the Kevin Klines, who aren't running a successful business..."

He says the local theater scene is healthy. He says the party for the Klines isn't even that great anymore. And, he says, most city folks have never even heard of the awards anyway.

"I think they are a curiosity at this point," he says.

Miller may be right. The average St. Louisan — not an actor or producer or married or related to anyone who is — probably isn't aware of the Kevin Kline Awards at all.

Andrea Torrance doesn't tread the boards. She is, however, a theater snob — it says so right on her blog, www.stlouistheatresnob.blogspot .com. She's simply a highly interested but ultimately uninvolved observer of the scene.

But she's never felt the need to attend a Kline awards ceremony.

"It always seemed to me that, unfortunately, not many people even know that there is an organization here to honor excellence in St. Louis," says Torrance. "I think the main goal of the organization is to raise awareness, but the folks who know about it are mainly theater folks and their families."

While she says she follows the nominations for the awards and enjoys reading who won, that information has no influence on what shows she'll see or what companies she enjoys.

Then again, she says, "I don't know that the Tonys influence what Mary and Joe from Middle America will go see when they take the big trip to New York."

And regardless of whether the Klines continue to live on and thrive, the theater scene in St. Louis surely will do so.

While local message boards have been alight with bad feeling, finger pointing and complaints, it can't be surprising that theater folks see change and react with, well, drama.

And, yes, the moaning can be a voyeuristic thrill to read. But some folks in the Yahoo! group warn that a little perspective would be a better response.

In one long-frothing Yahoo! thread, a theater director summed it up nicely.

"I have noticed that the theaters or individuals who have a problem with the new KK guidelines that will be phased in over time have not offered an alternative," he writes. "Easy to bitch. So I am asking as a non-compliant theater company. What do you think the guidelines should be?"

The author notes that he "could [not] care less if the KKs live or die." He continues, "If you do theatre and love theatre just keep doing it and who cares?...So let's let it go and ask ourselves 'What can I do to make my show kick ass?' and let it go. If the KKs apply to you, well, good luck and if they don't, well, good luck as well. Just do the theatre and quit sweating the small stuff."

Wrote another online wag: "If this weren't causing so much worry and division in the local community, it would just be funny.

"Maybe," the writer added puckishly, "someone will write a play."

Correction published 2/22/11: In the original version of this story, we erroneously described St. Louis Shakespeare's success at the Kevin Kline Awards. Though the troupe has been nominated for several awards, it has never won.
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