Spring Arts Guide

Dick's Big Outburst
It's almost unfathomable now, but in 1977 Richard Pryor had his own weekly TV show on NBC. It was a doomed effort from the beginning. Pryor believed he would have the freedom to do and say what he wanted (within reason) with the show, but he hadn't counted on the fear and humorlessness of a network Standards and Practices office. He was ordered to remove skits and change his language and ideas before the show could get to air, and even then they censored him. The first episode had the opening removed without Pryor's knowledge just before it aired. For the final episode, Pryor himself censored the show. He instead performed a 40-minute routine solely for the in-house audience, a routine that featured the comic adopting and dropping the persona of Mudbone, an old man who speaks his mind — profanely and profoundly — about racist bosses and the tawdry business of TV while network functionaries tried to cut him off. Performance artist Donelle Woolford re-creates that historic routine in her new piece, Dick's Last Stand. Woolford's current work documents the role played by the phallus in art and politics, particularly in the oral tradition. Dick's Last Stand is part and parcel of that tradition, as well as being a pointed examination of identity. Donelle Woolford presents Dick's Last Stand at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at White Flag Projects (4568 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-3442). Admission is free, but tickets are required; they're available via a link at www.whiteflagprojects.org. — Paul Friswold

Friday, May 23

You Shouldn't Go Home Again
Teddy is a philosopher from a hardscrabble North London family who has made a new life in America. Part of that new life is his wife, Ruth, also a working-class Londoner who is now the mother of three sons. The couple returns to Teddy's family home so that his surviving relations — his father, uncle and two brothers — can meet Ruth for the first time. What follows is a series of misunderstandings, arguments, reconciliations and the cryptic reshuffling of family dynamics. Harold Pinter's The Homecoming is a dark and unsettling drama that offers no concrete answers. Instead, as in all of Pinter's best plays, multiple truths and possibilities are to be found in the long pauses of terse speeches, the physical actions of the players and the way a character lights a cigar. St. Louis Actors' Studio presents The Homecoming at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (May 23 through June 8) at the Gaslight Theater (358 North Boyle Avenue; 314-458-2978 or www.stlas.org). Tickets are $30 to $35. — Paul Friswold

Zulimar Lopez Hernandez stars as Violetta in UAO’s La Traviata.
Zulimar Lopez Hernandez stars as Violetta in UAO’s La Traviata.
Spring to Dance Festival 2014 Oklahoma Ballet Pushing Pennies.
Spring to Dance Festival 2014 Oklahoma Ballet Pushing Pennies.

Saturday, May 24

Mozart 'n' Mizrahi
Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the start of blockbuster-film season, but in St. Louis the blockbusters come in the form of opera. Opera Theatre of St. Louis opens its new season at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 24, with a new production of The Magic Flute by the king of the blockbusters, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This fairy tale about a prince and a bird catcher questing to rescue a beautiful princess is both directed and designed by Isaac Mizrahi — take that, CGI malarkey. But Mozart 'n' Mizrahi is just the tip of the iceberg this year. The season continues with Gaetano Donizetti's comic love story, The Elixir of Love (opening Saturday, May 31). After that, it's time for a trip to Paris in June with the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek's Twenty-Seven (Saturday, June 14). This new opera focuses on Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas' legendary salon for the artistic elite. The season closes with one of the great double acts — Christine Brewer and Kelly Kaduce star in Francis Poulenc's haunting Dialogues of the Carmelites (Wednesday, June 18). Poulenc's luminous score underlines the stark horror of the French Revolution as the Reign of Terror threatens to consume even a convent. All shows are performed in repertory through Sunday, June 29, at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus (130 Edgar Road; 314-961-0644 or www.opera-stl.org). Tickets are $25 to $125. — Paul Friswold

Thursday, May 29

Who Doesn't Want a Hardbody?
When you think of more or less typical Broadway musical fare, your mind most likely doesn't light on "pickup truck." But Hands on a Hardbody is just that: a Broadway musical about a truck — or more exactly, the people who covet it. The plot is derived from a true story that first came to national attention via S.R. Bindler's 1997 documentary film of the same name. In Longview, Texas, a local car dealership staged an endurance competition, the winner of which would drive home a brand-new pickup truck (the titular "hardbody"). Twenty-four contestants vie to keep one hand on the truck for the longest amount of time without leaning on the vehicle or squatting down for relief; there's your ready-made material for drama and comedy right there. Hands on a Hardbody's music was composed by Phish's Trey Anastasio with assistance from Amanda Green, who wrote the lyrics for the stage version of High Fidelity. New Line Theatre starts the contest at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (May 29 through June 21) at the Washington University South Campus Theatre (6501 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights; 314-534-111 or www.newlinetheatre.com). Tickets are $10 to $20. — Alex Weir

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