There's a (specious) rumor floating around town that Lavonne Byers actually had to audition for the role of the cunning villainess in the recent St. Louis Shakespeare production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses
. Audition? The director and producer should have gotten down on their knees and begged her to take the role. No one can reveal the empty core in a rotten apple as effortlessly as Byers. She uses dry ice as her makeup foundation. But here's the real stunner: Byers was equally persuasive when she was stripped of all artifice. As a woman falsely imprisoned on Florida's death row for sixteen years in HotCity's production of The Exonerated
, she simply sat on the stage and smiled -- and broke your heart. There was no pretense, no affectation, nothing to hide behind. Nor did she need anything. That's the bravest kind of acting, and the purest.