The Best Things to Do in St. Louis This Weekend, March 15 to 17

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Bisa Butler. Black Star Family, first class tickets to Liberia (2018). 85 x 79 inches. Cotton, silk and denim. Courtesy of artist and Claire Oliver Gallery
  • Bisa Butler. Black Star Family, first class tickets to Liberia (2018). 85 x 79 inches. Cotton, silk and denim. Courtesy of artist and Claire Oliver Gallery

Because St. Louis loves a holiday (and a drink), this weekend sees two St. Patrick's Day parades and parties on successive days. Dare you attend both? If your partying days are behind you, take your pick of a pair of interesting art shows, a play that has to fail to succeed and a romantic performance by the Gateway Men's Chorus.

For more details on St. Patrick's Day festivities, see our guide to all the fun.

1. Fashion for Life
For black Americans, dressing well was not merely a matter of fashion — it was necessary for survival. In the era of sundown towns and the Green Book, when black families took the highways of America they dressed to the nines to show white America that they were people of substance, respectable and decent and not going to start any trouble. As they did with many of the rules enforced upon them, these early Americans took what little was allowed to them and made it their own source of pride. Hats were cocked at rakish angles, colors were vibrant and cuts were cleaner and sharper than what white America wore. In time, black styles were appropriated by the mainstream. Again and again the cycle has repeated itself, moving from black subcultures to the malls and schoolyards of middle America. The art show Fashioning the Black Body explores the ways in which fashion defines and projects the black identity in a variety of media. Mickalene Thomas' silkscreen I've Been Good to Me shows a black woman adorned and surrounded by color and pattern in her home. Mario Moore's oil painting One Day in the Land of Milk and Honey depicts a black figure laying flat on the ground, beneath it a subway platform upon which mills a group of faceless people in identical hoodies. Fashioning the Black Body opens with a free reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 15, at Projects+Gallery (4733 McPherson Avenue; www.projects-gallery.com). The show continues through May 4.

2. That's Love
For the second show of its 32nd season, the Gateway Men's Chorus draws its inspiration, appropriately enough, from the letter B: "B" as in ballads, blues and Broadway. The selected songs in Seasons of Love are about the life cycle of love, from first infatuation through passion to heartbreak and back on to hope. It should be a cathartic evening that celebrates a fundamental human experience. Seasons of Love is performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (March 15 and 16) at Union Avenue Christian Church (733 North Union Boulevard; www.gmcstl.org). Tickets are $20 to $25.



3. In Behn's Name
Aphra Behn was a Restoration-era playwright, poet and spy who lived solely on the fruits of her own work and intelligence. She's become something of a guiding light for the Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, which has established a festival in Behn's name for emerging women writers. This year's edition features three short plays, each one helmed by a female director. Delaney Piggins' "Burden of Proof" is about three university students returning home to testify in the sexual-assault case of a former teacher. "Intervals," by JM Chambers, explores in a series of monologues the nature of homelessness and how it affects people emotionally and psychologically. "V," by E.K. Doolin, centers on a woman weary of genius who turns to the physicality of yoga for solace. To her dismay, the class roster includes several geniuses, each more annoying than the last. The Aphra Behn Emerging Artists' Festival takes place at 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday (March 15 to 17) at the Centene Center for the Arts (3547 Olive Street; www.slightlyoff.org). Tickets are $15.

It's St. Patrick's Day on Saturday and Sunday. - KELLY GLUECK
  • KELLY GLUECK
  • It's St. Patrick's Day on Saturday and Sunday.

4. The Big Five-O
Fifty years ago St. Louis was a city with a population close to a million (although it was melting away rather quickly) and no parade in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Joseph McGlynn Jr. organized the parade for the first time that year, and then continued organizing and overseeing it for the next five decades. Now, in 2019, St. Louis enjoys one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades in the country, one that also happens to raise the city's population back to its old glory days, at least for one day: An estimated quarter-million people return to downtown to see it. This year's momentous Downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade starts at noon Saturday, March 16, at the intersection of 20th and Market streets (www.irishparade.org), and you better believe McGlynn — now St. Louis Irish Consul McGlynn — will be there. More than 120 units of floats, marching bands, inflatables and marchers will take to the streets, and the popular Irish Village entertainment area will again be open for business, with its vendors of food, drinks and merchandise. There will be live music throughout the day, plus a kids' area with bounce houses and photo opportunities galore. Admission remains free, even after all these years.

5. Whoops!
The Conley Polytechnic Drama Society, one of England's lesser-known community theater groups, has been bequeathed a large sum of money to produce a new play. The company decides on the 1920s murder-mystery The Murder at Haversack Manor mostly because it has parts enough for all the actors.

That's the fictitious background for The Play That Goes Wrong, which is actually a physically demanding comedy created by the Mischief Theatre Company, a very real performance troupe. As its title implies, the play within the play is a spectacular catastrophe before the curtain goes up. Props break, cues are missed and at least one actor is knocked unconscious, which starts a very public row about which cast member gets to play the part to the finale.

As you might imagine, making the play go wrong requires strenuous rehearsal and split-second timing from both the cast on stage and the cast back stage, the latter of whom are actors playing techs. Every role is demanding, because a mistake can result in very real injury — but when everybody hits their marks, you see a flawless, outrageously funny actor's nightmare unfold in real time. The Play that Goes Wrong closes out the Repertory Theatre St. Louis' current season. Performances take place Tuesday through Sunday (March 15 to April 7) at the Loretto-Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road; www.repstl.org). Tickets are $19 to $92.

6. Dogtown Goes Green
The Dogtown St. Patrick's Day parade will return once again to the streets on March 17 and, for the second year in a row, will feature an early start time. One year ago, the Dogtown parade began at 10 a.m. after it fell on the same day as the downtown parade (historically held on the Saturday before the holiday). Since March 17 is a Sunday this year, the two events avoided the fate, yet the Dogtown parade will still make an effort to stay family friendly with an 11 a.m. start time.

The reason? Last year’s parade went so smoothly, says organizer Jim Mohan of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Over the years, Mohan has seen many adults return to the parade after decades of attending as children. Organizers want that same experience to continue and hope that moving the parade up from the traditional 12:30 p.m. beginning will provide a more inclusive (read: not quite so alcohol-fueled) space.

Organizers don’t want to eliminate the fun of St. Patrick’s Day with an early start time, Mohan stresses. “We’re not trying to be killjoys, but as Hibernians but we want to emphasize the Hibernian nature of the parade,” he says. Instead, Mohan hopes that the earlier start time can provide a space for everyone to get something out of the event. Food, drinks and T-shirts from Dogtown-based businesses will follow the parade, along with live music. “We wanted to bring the neighborhood more into this,” Mohan says. “We wanted them to feel like this was their event too.”

Dogtown's St. Patrick's Day parade starts at 11 a.m. Sunday, March 17, at Tamm and Oakland avenues (www.stlhibernians.com). All outdoor events and beverage sales end at 6 p.m.

Rachel Whiteread, English, born 1963; Untitled (Twenty-Five Spaces), 1995; resin; variable dimensions, smallest: 16 ½ x 11 x 11 ¼ inches, largest: 16 ½ x 18 1/8 x 20 1/8 inches; Private Collection; Image courtesy the artist/ Gagosian, London/ Luhring Augustine, New York/ Galleria Lorcan O’Neill
  • Rachel Whiteread, English, born 1963; Untitled (Twenty-Five Spaces), 1995; resin; variable dimensions, smallest: 16 ½ x 11 x 11 ¼ inches, largest: 16 ½ x 18 1/8 x 20 1/8 inches; Private Collection; Image courtesy the artist/ Gagosian, London/ Luhring Augustine, New York/ Galleria Lorcan O’Neill

7. What's Inside Counts
Rachel Whiteread emerged on the London art scene in the "cool Britannia" era of the late '80s and early '90s. The country was doing well financially and culturally, and people were ready to buy contemporary art made by contemporary British artists. Whiteread established herself as a leading light with her casts of everyday objects, which solidified the negative space in, under and/or around them in materials such as wax, plaster, concrete and resin. House, Whiteread's massive, freestanding concrete cast of the interior of an entire three-story Victorian house, earned her the prestigious Turner Prize in 1993, making her the first woman to win. Rachel Whiteread, the new exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum, is a retrospective of the artist's career that showcases 96 objects. They range from the small Untitled (Pink Torso), a voluptuous form of the inside of a hot water bottle cast in pink dental plaster, to the expansive Untitled (Twenty-Five Spaces), translucent resin casts of the underside of various chairs and stools arrayed on a game-board-like grid. The exhibit is on display Tuesday through Sunday (March 17 to June 9) at the Saint Louis Arts Museum (1 Fine Arts Drive; www.slam.org), and tickets are $6 to $12 (but free on Friday).
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