Be excited about Greeks bearing gifts at St. Louis County's Greek Fest this weekend.
Memorial Day weekend is upon us, which means the festivals (Greek, dance, art and meat) are upon us. We also have an opera about the queen of mean, and the return of one of the most popular musicals of the young century.
1. Gorge yourself on dance
Dance St. Louis has coordinated the Spring to Dance Festival
for eleven years now, but this year's installment appears to the largest ever mounted at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; www.touhill.org
). There are three rounds of performances every night, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby and then moving to the Lee Theatre at 6 p.m. and finishing on the Main Stage at 7:30 p.m. Companies scheduled to dance include Hui Hula 'O Punahele Hula Halau, Wewolf, Pas de Monkéy Dance Project and several joint performances by combined ballet companies (the Houston Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, and the San Francisco Ballet and National Ballet of Cuba). How much will you pay for all this movement? Not as much as you might fear. Tickets to the 6 p.m. shows are $10, and 7:30 p.m. performances cost $15, while the lobby shows are free. If you want to go all out, you can see all three shows for $20. Spring to Dance takes place on Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26.
2. Get outside with art
Schlafly's Art Outside
began in 2004 as a showcase for St. Louis artists who couldn't get a foot in the door at other art fairs. Fifteen years later, more than 60 area artists and artisans are slated to fill the front lot of the Schlafly Bottleworks (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; www.schlafly.com
) for this year's fair. Painters, photographers, jewelry makers, wood workers — you can find everything from the hand-carved bone pendants of Keltner's Carvings to the modern rag dolls and stuffed animals of Riley Construction. This year's Art Outside takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (May 25 to 27), with bands playing all three days, art activities for the kids and fresh food and beer sold on-site. Admission is still free.
3. Visit with the animals of evening
It's almost guaranteed that when you meet someone new to St. Louis, you ask them if they've been to the Saint Louis Zoo (www.stlzoo.org
), which, as we all know, is free. But during the Prairie Farm Summer Zoo Weekends
, the zoo stays open late and hosts special activities Friday through Sunday (May 25 to September 3, except for Friday, June 15). On Jungle Boogie Fridays, local musicians ranging from bluesman Marquise Knox to the classic piano rock of the Midnight Piano Band play in the center of the zoo. You can take a half-hour guided Safari Tour ($5) and get up close to the residents while you’re there.
4. She's nasty by nature
BENJAMIN ELOVEGA, COMMISSION BY MATTHEW COSGROVE. (C) ONYX
Susan Graham takes on the role of a nasty woman in Regina.
Regina Hubbard Giddens became wealthy and powerful by choice. Denied her share of the family fortune inherited by her two brothers, she marries the rich but mild-mannered Horace for his money. When her brothers offer her a buy-in on their new financial scheme, she's infuriated by Horace's rejection of the plan and even more angered by his outright refusal to just give her the money. This sets Regina on a path to ruin every man in her extended family, and her chosen tools are murder, blackmail and whatever else comes to mind. Lillian Hellman's play The Little Foxes
provides the basis for the opera Regina
, written and composed by Marc Blitzstein. Opera Theatre St. Louis presents Regina as its second show of the summer, with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in the title role, at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Webster University's Loretto-Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road; www.opera-stl.org
). The show is performed six more times in repertory through June 24. Tickets are $25 to $185.
5. Lose yourself in a cornucopia of meat
It's no secret that St. Louis is home to many, many people of German descent. And yet St. Louis’ Germans have been unusually quiet of late. Soulard's Oktoberfest has recalibrated itself as a smaller, more family-friendly event, Strassenfest has seemingly fallen off the calendar, and while various craft breweries have picked up the slack, it's not like the old days, when A-B's German workers paraded through the streets on Labor Day with beer steins in hand and volkslieder in their hearts.
And then from out of nowhere comes Sausage Fest
, courtesy of the rejuvenated and proudly German Das Bevo (4749 Gravois Avenue; www.dasbevo.com
). This celebration of ground spiced meat forced into casings is just what St. Louis needs on the long Memorial Day weekend. Surprisingly for something so German, the whole idea started with a joke.
“[St. Louis Post-Dispatch
restaurant critic] Ian Froeb did a review a while back and he said we were a 'sausage fest,'" laughs Bridgette Sesti Fyvie, Das Bevo's marketing and event planning maven. "We laughed about it, but when we started talking about actually doing a sausage fest. It really is the main thing on our menu. We're big fans of G&W Sausage, and this is a chance to show them off."
For Sausage Fest, Das Bevo has prepared a menu that ranges from traditional favorites to the more outre reaches. “The Beet on the Brat” is a bratwurst with red beet relish and a Chicago-style garnish of celery salt, pickle, sport peppers and tomato, while “Carolina on my Mind” is a weisswurst with chili, creamy coleslaw and mustard. The “Firestarter” begins with a jalepeno-cheddar bratwurst and then piles on pickle chiles and habanero aioli, while the “Hard Knack Life” is a porky knockwurst with pickled chiles and burnt onion barbecue sauce.
Sausage Fest takes place from 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 26. Admission is free.
6. Enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle
The Greeks know how to party — why do you think fraternity houses are part of the Greek system? The St. Louis Greek Fest
at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church (1755 Des Peres Road, Town & Country; www.stlouisgreekfest.com
) is one of the largest parties of the year, with Olympian portions of food and drink served up all day long. Souvlaki, dolmathes, tiropita and a selection of delightful pastries are available, as is domestic and Greek beer, plus Ouzo and Metaxa. The Kyklos-Hellenic Dance Group performs multiple times in the indoor Hellenic Center throughout the festival, and outside there will be music, a Greek market and tours of the church's Byzantine-style murals. The St. Louis Greek Fest takes place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday and 11 a.m to 8 p.m. Monday (May 25 to 28). Admission is free.
7. Make it your mission to see a musical
(c) JULIETA CERVANTES 2017
The Book of Mormon is back to shock and "awww" you.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton
is the show that captured the attention — and ticket money — this year, but it's not the only big-name show coming to town. Trey Parker and Matt Stone's raucous musical The Book of Mormon
returns for a brief run this Tuesday through Sunday (May 29 to June 3) at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard; www.fabulousfox.com
). The story of two Mormon missionaries in Uganda won multiple Tony awards for its crass 'n' catchy songs and its skewering of organized religion. Despite all this, The Book of Mormon
ends up coming down on the side of those who believe, giving it a sweetness that shines through the filth. Tickets are $39 to $150.