Once upon a time, the St. Louis arts community took the summer off, with a few notable exceptions (coughTheMunycough). Those days are long gone. There are art openings, plays, dance performances and book tours every month of the year. Did the Riverfront Times Fall Arts Guide have something to do with that?
Having overseen more than fifteen editions of them, I'm confident in saying "absolutely not." The local creative community flourished under its own power. If good plays were once hard to find in July of 2004, canny artistic directors soon realized they had an opportunity to fill a glaring void. Your dance company/gallery/theater troupe won't survive long in this town if you don't take your chances. As audiences grew in size, it made sense to spread out across the calendar.
With everything happening all the time, you'd think the competition for attention would be fiercer, but you'd be wrong. Artists and gallery owners go from opening to opening, vying to see everything. Dancers attend as many dance performances as they can; artistic directors share actors, costumes and props as needed. "St. Louis is not as cutthroat as Chicago/New York/San Francisco" is often said by newcomers.
There's a reason for that.
Cutthroat tactics don't result in a year-round cycle of dance, music, visual arts and theater; it ends with people nursing old wounds and fighting for attention. In St. Louis, people promote each other's work, and the work grows apace, year after year.
So what's the Fall Arts Guide for? It's a chance to see what's coming, and for figuring out now what you're going to be telling your friends about come October.
Take a look below for our picks for what to do, see and hear.
Stephanie Syjuco: Rogue States
September 6-December 29
Artist Stephanie Syjuco was born in Manila and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was three years old, which gave her an American education and an immigrant's eye for our national blindspots. It's these blindspots that inform the art in her exhibition Stephanie Syjuco: Rogue States, which opens at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard; www.camstl.org) on Friday, September 6. The title of the show comes from her installation of 22 flags that were used to represent the flags of made-up nations in various American films. Also in the exhibit is her large-scale installation Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament + Crime), which comprises artifacts representing both colonizer and colonized societies. Cultural objects such as wicker chairs and traditional rugs Syjuco purchased online, cardboard cutouts of people and actual artifacts are mixed together in a larger-than-life diorama. Nestled in the background is a color photograph of the "stone-age" tribe of the Tasadai, found on a remote island in the Philippines in the early 1970s, who were actually modern people posed by a photographer. Rogue States continues through December 29.
Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope
Composer Micki Grant and director Vinnette Carroll made history with their 1971 musical Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope. The revue was the first-ever Broadway show written and directed by black women. The show's songs are interspersed with a little bit of dialogue, the topics ranging from the inalienable right of black people to exist ("My Name Is Man") to the list of white annoyances (bad bosses, nasty clerks at the unemployment office) that populate the title track. Don't Bother Me has been praised as a combination of "block party and revival," and while the 1970s may be long gone, most of the issues remain relevant. The Black Rep opens its 43rd season with the high-energy musical. Performances are September 4 to 22 at Washington University's Edison Theatre (6445 Forsyth Boulevard; www.theblackrep.org).
Angels in America Parts One and Two
September 4-October 6
Time moves incredibly quickly. This past April, Repertory Theatre St. Louis artistic director Steven Woolf stepped down after helming the past 33 seasons. This September, incoming artistic director Hana S. Sharif embarks on her first season with the Rep. Sharif's season-opening show is definitely a statement piece: Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Parts One and Two. The Pulitzer and Tony award-winning drama tells the simultaneous stories of the early days of the AIDS crisis, a young gay couple haunted by the new plague, a young Mormon couple whose marriage is on shaky ground and the last days of hard-bitten lawyer Roy Cohn. Addiction, cowardice, lust for power and the fear of being true to yourself all factor into the groundbreaking drama. The Repertory Theatre St. Louis presents Angels in America: Parts One and Two in repertory (and on select days, back to back) September 4 to October 6 at the Loretto-Hilton Center of the Performing Arts (130 Edgar Road; www.repstl.com).
Margaret Atwood: Live in Cinemas
If you can believe it, Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale was considered science fiction, thanks to its near-future, dystopian setting. Thirty-four years of perversely regressive American politics have made it more of roadmap to our current nightmare than anyone (except Atwood) could have imagined. The Canadian author's long-awaited sequel, The Testaments, is being published this year, and to mark the occasion, Atwood appears in nationwide simulcast, Margaret Atwood: Live in Cinemas. Author and BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed will interview Atwood about her career and work, and why she chose now to return to Ofred and the land of Gilead, while several special guests will read from The Testaments. The interview can be seen locally at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 10, at Marcus Ronnies Cine (5320 South Lindbergh Boulevard), Marcus Des Peres 14 Cine (12701 Manchester Road, Des Peres) and the AMC Chesterfield 14 (3000 Chesterfield Mall, Chesterfied). For more information, visit www.fathomevents.com.