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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

30 Years After Founding STL Shakespeare, Donna Northcott Takes a Curtain Call

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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What's more, St. Louis' theater scene has long been defined by periods of booms and busts.

"St. Louis goes through these cycles — we're in the middle of one right now — where there's an explosion of new theater companies," Northcott says. "That has its drawbacks because while the number of companies has expanded greatly, the number of performance spaces, actors, designers, directors, technicians, funding and especially audience has not increased, so we're just dividing the same pie into smaller and smaller pieces."

If the current boom follows past precedent, some of the newer companies will eventually die off, as its members — overworked and underpaid — start to burn out as their companies search for permanent homes and consistent funding.

click to enlarge Suki Peters at Kate in 2010's Taming of the Shrew. - KIM CARLSON
  • Kim Carlson
  • Suki Peters at Kate in 2010's Taming of the Shrew.

Northcott has weathered past storms by following one simple rule: "No deficit spending. Audience has gone up and down over the years, but we just do not spend money we don't have," she says. "And while I would love to pay everyone working with us more, we have to have enough money for next season, so we have to be creative."

But as Northcott hands over the reins to Peters — staying on as a director and member of the board — St. Louis Shakespeare seems poised not merely to survive the current boom, but also to grow. The company recently found a permanent home when it signed a contract with the Ivory Theatre for its entire 31st season. What's more, Peters is looking to expand the company's repertoire beyond Shakespeare, producing works by fellow Elizabethans such as Christopher Marlowe and John Webster. She's also considering offering more modern adaptations like this month's The Liar, along with a "wildcard" production — anything from Aeschylus or Harold Pinter to Noël Coward or another Tom Stoppard.

"It's been in the works for a while," says Peters, who assures there will always be at least one Shakespeare play per season. "Donna is amazing and wildly talented. These are very big shoes to fill."

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