Snapshots from St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s “A Late Summer Night’s Stroll”

2020 was set to be a banner year for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, a name change —St. Louis Shakespeare Festival— was announced early in the year, and planning for this season’s production of Much Ado About Nothing was in full gear. Then COVID 19 appeared on the world stage, and “Much Ado…” became “what to do…”

Producing Artistic Director Tom Ridgely and his staff may have taken a cue from the Bard himself while they struggled to cobble some sort of production together. It was interesting to learn recently that the actor and playwright William Shakespeare learned to work around frequent plagues throughout his lifetime. (You can read more about this in an article in STL Magazine authored by Shakespeare Festival’s Tom Ridgely or Stephen Greenblatt’s piece in The New Yorker: WhaShakespeare Actually Wrote About the Plague.)

After 20 years of staging free Shakespeare performances in Forest Park, which drew an average of 2000 per night (some performances saw crowds of 3 to 5,000 people), Shakespeare Festival’s Development Associate Tori Rezek came up with an inventive performance, a walk through the Forest Park titled A Late Summer Night’s Stroll.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Photos courtesy of CWEnders Beki Marsh & Janice Forsyth

With backing from 14 generous sponsors, the event, which took place August 12 through September 6, featured 14 arches created by 14 local artists that meandered from Shakespeare Glen across from the Saint Louis Art Museum down the hill to Government Drive, around the Boathouse to the foot of the Grand Basin. Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival  Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival  What awaited guests as they followed the path were performances by over 50 actors and musicians from 12 area arts organizations.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare wrote the script for the 1st and 14th stops, while dialogue at the remaining 12 was written or composed by the presenting arts organization with vetting by the Shakespeare staff.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

As a nod to current times, masks and measuring tape were incorporated as props.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

About 1,000 people (scheduled in socially distanced groups of 10) were able to attend A Late Summer Night’s Stroll  over 23 nights. It’s estimated that an additional 2,000 people scanned QR codes and took self-guided tours during the festival. The self-guided tour featured excerpts read by local actors paired with music inspired by or thematically related to the play.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s annual gala, which is vital to the organization’s bottom line, was on the calendar for early spring. Unfortunately, this event collided with the coronavirus shutdown so organizers quickly pivoted to a virtual gala, “To Thy Own Self Be True,” which was hugely successful netting more than was raised in previous years. And 2020’s gala was featured in an entertaining Bloomberg News report about hosting galas around the country during the pandemic titled Tuxedo Tops and Pajama Bottoms.

Thanks to CWEnder and Artistic Producing Director Tom Ridgely for sharing so much helpful information for this post, to CWEnder and Shakespeare Board Member Jessica Holzer for her input, and to CWEnders Beki Marsh and Janice Forsyth for all the great photographs.

Visit St. Louis Shakespeare Festival website to stay updated on what’s next.

STL Village celebrates 6th anniversary with virtual Village Aglow event

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Web/Tech  STL Village

Virtual program will feature a variety of local talent

In 2020, STL Village continues to be a bright light for older adults in our community. During this challenging time, our mission of bringing services and companionship to those who would otherwise be isolated has never been more critical.

To keep this light shining bright, we invite the public to support our community of caring by attending our virtual event:

Village Aglow Celebrates the Light

 Monday September 21, 7 p.m. 

The sixth annual Village Aglow gala is free to view and will be streamed online at:

https://vimeo.com/449541642

This uplifting half-hour program features local artists including renowned musician Phillip Graves and singer Adrianne Felton-King, the poetry of William Bruege,  a spoken word performance by the St. Louis Story Stitchers, and a Ballroom Dance Academy performance with Marsha Shepley and Don Peterson.

While no tickets or reservations are required to view the event, the goal is to raise $25,000 for STL Village operating expenses. This annual fundraiser is a significant source of financial support for the nonprofit’s services to members as well as its community outreach programs.  

“We are neighbors helping each other stay connected,” said Madeline Franklin, executive director of STL Village. 

“Providing safe transportation to medical appointments and grocery deliveries to members’ homes have always been a part of our mission. And since the pandemic, we have moved all of our social activities and educational events online with Zoom.”  

Franklin added that volunteers have also been making more friendly calls to check in with members and ‘just chat’ due to the need for staying home and social distancing during Covid-19. 

STL Village is a grassroots community organization founded in 2014 and is one of over 250 independent organizations nationwide that are part of the village movement   supporting older adults who desire to age in place. STL Village is a member of the Village to Village Network, a nonprofit organization providing guidance to villages worldwide. 

For more information on Village Aglow or our member services, contact STL Village at 314-240-5020 or visit stlvillage.org.

# # #

STL Village is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Contact: Madeline Franklin, mfranklin@stlvillage.org

Nature reclaims the vegetable garden

Nicki's Central West End Guide Urban Gardens  Missouri Chapter of the Nature Conservancy Magnificent Missouri John McPheeters Holliday Bowood Farms  There has been so much confusion and noise hitting us from every corner of our lives this year that, like everyone, I have sought to find peaceful moments whenever and wherever I can.

A special example is Bowood Farms’ overgrown vegetable garden, which in this year of the pandemic has been allowed to return to a natural state. The sight of tall sunflowers and groups of birds swooping over the brush into the dense trees, while insects hum (loudly!) in the background, is truly calming.Nicki's Central West End Guide Urban Gardens  Missouri Chapter of the Nature Conservancy Magnificent Missouri John McPheeters Holliday Bowood Farms

In years past the garden has been filled with neat rows of vegetables waiting to be harvested for Bowood’s Cafe Osage, but not this year when the cafe was closed during planting season, and no one knew if and when restaurants would reopen. 

For now, I welcome the change and the peace the garden affords. It seems even more appropriate with the passing of Bowood Farms’ founder John McPheeters in early June. John was a true visionary in creating the beautiful, imaginative garden shop and cafe on the northern edge of the CWE, guiding its evolution into a treasured destination over the ensuing years.

John was also a staunch supporter of both the Missouri Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and Magnificent Missouri, In a serendipitous way, it seems fitting that the garden was left untended and allowed to return to nature this summer.

Bowood Farms, Cafe Osage & Holliday are open (check websites for hours), 4600-4605 Olive St. (314) 454-6868.