7 Life-Affirming Things to Do This Week in St. Louis


Compass Improv Festival comes to the Improv Shop beginning Friday.
  • Compass Improv Festival comes to the Improv Shop beginning Friday.

Current events got you down? You might want to think about immersing yourself in art this weekend. Whether it's the final days of the 2016 St. Louis International Film Festival, a wonderful theatrical meditation on wartime or just the kind of improv comedy that will make you El-Oh-El in spite of political developments, we highly recommend stepping away from the computer.

Here are our top seven picks of things to do other than cry into your beer.

1. See a show that our critic has raved about
Peter Rothstein's All Is Calm is perhaps the best Christmas entertainment ever conceived, bar none. There is no nostalgia nor false sentiment in this a capella musical about one of the spontaneous truces that broke across the front lines of World War I. Instead there is a sense of slowly dawning terror as the combatants on both sides realize the war they thought would be over before Christmas turns into a long, nightmarish slog into death. And then on Christmas Eve, they decide to lay down their arms and embrace each other — they chose amity over enmity, and just like that the war stopped ... for the moment. This will be the fourth and final time Mustard Seed Theatre performs All Is Calm, so do not miss it. There are a few new song arrangements and dialogue, and the cast is slightly different, but the heart of the show remains true. All Is Calm is presented at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and at 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday (November 11 to December 4) in the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre (6800 Wydown Boulevard; www.mustardseedtheatre.com). Tickets are $30 to $35.

2. Be riveted by Dances of India
In the ancient world, cities often grew up near rivers, for the obvious benefit of having clean water nearby. In India, the nature of this relationship between people and water is sacred — all rivers are associated with goddesses. Among these is Saraswati, who is revered as the goddess of intelligence, creativity and wisdom. Called the mother of eloquent speech and melodious music, she's believed to be present at every confluence. It is the civilizing, poetic spirit of Saraswati that flows through Dances of India's 39th annual performance, The Music of Water — Tales of Adventure, Love and Magic Along India's Sacred Rivers. The group will present stories from the epic Mahabharata and other favorites from Hindu myth, as well as both a classical dance from south India and a piece that fuses contemporary style with a classic dance from northern India. The Music of Water is performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (November 11 to 13) at the Skip Viragh Center for the Arts (425 South Lindbergh Boulevard; www.dancesofinidastlouis.org). As a special treat, Saint Louis Ballet will dance George Balanchine's Serenade at Friday's show. Tickets are $15 to $20.

3. Laugh your ass off at Compass Improv Festival

St. Louis' improv comedy scenes welcome the rest of the Midwest to town for the 2016 Compass Improv Festival. More than twenty teams perform, including the local all-woman group Casual Pussy, Chicago-based Devil's Daughter (they perform the iO's signature improv style, "The Harold"), and Louisville, Kentucky's Damaged Goods (a Compass Improv Festival favorite). The performance part of this year's festival takes place from 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday and 8 to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (November 10 to 12) at the Improv Shop (510 North Euclid Avenue; www.compassimprov.org) and at the Improv Shop Annex (4742 A McPherson Avenue). Tickets are $15 for each show. A series of seminars are also being offered for improv performers who wish to learn new skills or hone the ones they already have.

4. See some amazing sculpture at the Pulitzer

Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso was ahead of his time. Rather than creating heroic sculptures of figures from myth or doing a lucrative business in the monumental bronzes that were popular in the late nineteenth century, Rosso's sculptures seem to be caught emerging from bronze or wax. These almost-manifesting faces and forms are incredibly responsive to light, giving his work a fluid, ephemeral nature not often associated with sculpture. Medardo Rosso: Experiments in Light and Form, the new exhibition at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (3716 Washington Boulevard; www.pulitzerarts.org), includes almost 100 examples of the artist's best work, including some of his photographs and drawings. Experiments in Light and Form opens with a free reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, November 11. The show continues through May 13, and the museum is open Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is free.

Turn the page for more things to do this week in St. Louis, including interactive theater.

Milwaukee 53026 plays at the film festival this weekend.
  • Milwaukee 53026 plays at the film festival this weekend.

5. Check out a totally different kind of Hamlet

Hamlet is about the prince of Denmark returning home from school to find out that his father is dead and his uncle is king and married to the queen, which means Hamlet's mother is also his aunt. Understandably distressed and haunted by his father's ghost, Hamlet contemplates either killing his uncle or killing himself. The new company Rebels and Misfits will tell the tale of the melancholy, murderous Dane in an immersive, interactive performance they're calling Hamlet: See What I See. Brandon Alan Smith (he plays Talon on Fox's Gotham) stars as Hamlet. He'll interact with the audience during the pre-show cocktail hour and during the performance as well — there are no seats, so the audience will stand in (literally) as the Royal Danish court during the performance. All of the other actors will move around and through you. To play your part you should dress festively, and refrain from touching actors unless invited to do so. Hamlet: See What I See is performed at 7 p.m. nightly (November 12 to 18) at the Barnett on Washington (3207 Washington Avenue; www.theimmersivetheatreproject.com). Tickets are $34.50 to $55. You must be eighteen or older to attend.

6. Catch some intriguing films at SLIFF
Today is the final day of the St. Louis International Film Festival, but the day's programming refuses to take the easy way out. Mean Streets: Viewing the Divided City Through the Lens of Film and Television is a free slate of films that deal with urban spaces and the racial and ethnic strife that often breaks out when people of different backgrounds share close quarters. Keith McQuirter's Milwaukee 53206 is a documentary about Wisconsin's largest city, which has a sizable African American population — and 62 percent of the men living there have served time in prison. The film explores the way mass incarceration has affected communities and the people in them. It's less depressing than you might fear. Bogdan's Journey is about a community on the other side of the world — Kielce, Poland. In 1946, citizens of Kielce killed 40 Holocaust survivors who were seeking shelter downtown. No one spoke about the attack ever again. Catholic journalist and psychologist Bogdan Bialek spent more than a decade trying to to get his fellow citizens to confront the past and find forgiveness by reconnecting with the Jewish community. Milwaukee 53206 starts at noon, and Bogdan's Journey screens at 3 p.m., both at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; www.mohistory.org).

6. See the musical that America is raving about at the Fox
Alison Bechdel's graphic novel memoir Fun Home tackles growing up in rural Pennsylvania as the daughter of a closeted funeral home director. Bechdel's recursive narration and meticulous sense of detail allow the reader to see familiar events in new ways as the narrator ages and gains perspective on things that confused her when younger. Translating that shifting sense of time and awareness to the stage is no easy task, but Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori's musical adaptation of the book was very well-received — to the tune of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Fun Home is performed Tuesday through Sunday (November 15 to 27) at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard; www.fabulousfox.com). There is no show on Thursday, November 24. Tickets are $20 to $90.

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