This week in St. Louis, you can slide a giant slide. You can celebrate catsup. You can even pay homage to the great cats of the Internet. In other words, this is a wonderful time to do something a little different.
Here are our picks for the week's best things to do — three of them absolutely free.
1. See an updated opera
Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado has suffered from the passage of time, but only for cultural reasons — the music is as sharp and witty as it ever was. But what was acceptable comedy in nineteenth-century England — white actors in yellow-face and singing in pidgin English — is no longer welcome. Union Avenue Opera and director Eric Gibson have updated the setting to the 1920s, and the location is now a gentleman's club in a fictional town. More importantly, it is the British institutions (military, government and monarchy) that are satirized, not the Japanese people. And so the intertwined tales of trombonist Nanki-Poo and his love for the unattainable beauty Yum-Yum, an executioner who has to cut off his own head before he can do anyone else, and an edict that an execution be carried out within the month, can all collide in a club in Titipu guilt-free for the audience. The Mikado is performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (July 8 to 16) at Union Avenue Christian Church (733 North Union Boulevard; www.unionavenueopera.org). Tickets are $30 to $55.
2. Check out some artsy bowling pins in Maplewood
Maplewood's annual celebration of Bastille Day, Let Them Eat Art, this year takes on a bowling theme: Heads Will Bowl. This is in honor of Saratoga Lanes' centennial, an amazing achievement for any business. Local design firms were given five-foot-tall bowling pins to decorate for the occasion, which will be on display next to the main stage. Twenty-five actual bowling pins were reimagined as a canvas for local artists, and these will also be displayed and auctioned off. Let Them Eat Art also features live music from Vote for Pedro, Raw Earth, Spaceship and others, as well as kids' activities and performances by Circus Kaput. A parade at 6 p.m. proceeds down Railroad Street (at Sutton Boulevard) to Saratoga Lanes to officially kick off the event. Let Them Eat Art takes place from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday at and around Saratoga Lanes (2725-A Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; www.cityofmaplewood.com/ltea). Admission is free.
3. Catch a theater festival in the Central West End
St. Louis Actors' Studio's LaBute New Theater Festival is your chance to experience seven new, bracing one-act plays by emerging and established playwrights in an intimate setting. The format breaks the program into two sets of two weekends, with a new play by Neil LaBute as a linchpin for both programs. The festival is better attended every year, with rapt, attentive audiences the norm and not the exception (no damn cellphone interruptions). The LaBute New Theater Festival takes place at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday (July 8 to 31) at the Gaslight Theater (358 North Boyle Avenue; www.stlas.org). Set one of the plays is performed July 8 to 17, and set two takes place from July 22 to 31. Tickets are $30 to $35.
4. Slide your way through Dogtown
Slide the City, a 1,000-foot-long inflatable water slide, returns to St. Louis this Saturday in a new location (Oakland and Tamm avenues; www.slidethecity.com) but with the same all-day party and wet fun as last time. Also new is the wave time system, which means no waiting in line during the block of time your ticket is valid. Choose from noon to 2 p.m., 2 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Other options include the $60 ultimate slider ticket (as many runs as you can make between 9 a.m. and noon) and the $99 all-day slider, which lets you make as many trips as you like throughout the day. All tickets include a mouth guard and an inflatable tube. Tickets for the best value, three rides during your slot, are $40 to $45.
Turn the page for four more things to do in the Lou this week