The Best Things to Do in St. Louis This Weekend, August 30 to September 2

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The Japanese Festival is in full swing this weekend. - COURTESY OF MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
  • COURTESY OF MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
  • The Japanese Festival is in full swing this weekend.

Four days of bike races, three hours of film, two different festivals and baseball all over — it's a holiday weekend, youse guys! Happy Labor Day to the real heroes, America's Unions. Take Monday off, you've earned it.

1. Love's Labours Something
Insight Theatre Company ends its season with Shakespeare in Love, Lee Hall's stage adaptation of the popular film of the same name. William Shakespeare is a struggling playwright hampered by writer's block. Maybe it's because there's no real inspiration behind his current work-in-progress, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. He's besotted with the beautiful Rosalyn, who is currently involved with the powerful Master of the Revels. That's when he encounters Thomas Kent, a surprisingly attractive young actor. Thomas is really Viola, daughter of a noble family, a fact he soon discovers. Of course they fall in love, but she's already engaged to another man. Shakespeare's gonna have to really work to write his way out of this mess. Shakespeare in Love is performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday (August 29 to September 15) at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square; www.insighttheatrecompany.com). Tickets are $20 to $40.

2. It’s a Conspiracy
Richard Hannay is enjoying a night out at the music hall when the crowd is panicked by gunshots. He comforts a distressed woman, who talks him into taking her to his place. There she reveals some very intimate things about herself; she's a spy, those shots were meant for her and she knows there's a secret organization that wants to steal British military secrets. Her murder later that night proves the truth of her wild claims, setting Hannay on the path to uncover the truth of the "39 Steps," her last words. Patrick Barlow's comedy-thriller The 39 Steps is adapted from Richard Buchan's very serious novel of the same name. As you're watching St. Louis Shakespeare's season-opening production of the play, you may feel your own paranoia increasing. That's because the small cast of four actors perform more than 100 roles throughout the play. The 39 Steps is performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (August 30 to September 7) and 7:30 p.m. Sunday and Thursday (September 1 and 5) at the Tower Grove Baptist Church (4257 Magnolia Avenue; www.stlshakespeare.org). Tickets are $15 to $20.

3. Big Boys Weekend
It's a big year for the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden (4434 Shaw Boulevard; www.mobot.org): The Sumo have returned. A trio of the traditional wrestlers – Byamba, Yama and Hiroki – will demonstrate Japan's national sport in the Cohen Amphitheater several times throughout the festival. These demonstrations are always popular, so get there early to stake out a good spot. Of course, the fest is about more than sumo; there are demonstrations of traditional cooking, flower arranging, martial arts, folk dancing and meditation. This year's Japanese Festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday (August 31 to September 2). Admission is $8 to $16.



The second of the Gateway Cup's four races takes place on Saturday in Francis Park. - MATT JAMES PHOTOGRAPHY
  • MATT JAMES PHOTOGRAPHY
  • The second of the Gateway Cup's four races takes place on Saturday in Francis Park.
4. Fast Francis
The Tour de Francis Park is the second race in this year's Gateway Cup bicycle race series, which shows off a different St. Louis neighborhood in each of four races. The race course in Francis Park (Eichelberger Street and Donovan Avenue; www.gatewaycup.com) is a 1.3-mile square with fields of up to 150 cyclists vying to get around those hard right angles in timed heats that start at 11 a.m. Saturday, August 31. The Women's Pro riders start at 4:30 p.m. and race for 55 minutes; the Men's Pros go at 5:30 p.m. for a grueling 75 minutes. The Tour de Francis Park is free for spectators.

5. All Praise to St. Nicholas
There are numerous ways to spend the last weekend of summer, but none will leave you as well fed as the St. Louis Greek Festival at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (4967 Forest Park Avenue; www.opastl.com). Now in its second century, the festival is jam-packed with food, traditional Greek dance and music — but seriously, don't miss the food. Famous for both the quality and quantity of its concessions, the Greek Fest sets a heavy table, from the delicate spanokopita to the burly pastitsio (baked pasta with ground lamb and béchamel sauce), and expects you to come hungry. Once you've hit the air-conditioned dining tent, you can tour the historic church and browse the market. The St. Louis Greek Festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday (August 31 to September 2); the Athens on the Street kick-off party from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, August 30, is a slightly scaled-down version of the fest. Admission is free.

6. It's A-Mazing
Labyrinth, which is somehow 30 years old at this point, is the platonic ideal of a cult film. Start with Jim Henson's creatures, throw in a screenplay by Monty Python's Terry Jones, get a young Jennifer Connelly to play the lead and then top it all off with David Bowie as the enigmatic Goblin King, Jareth — it's quite a concoction. The musical story of a young girl (Connelly) entering an otherworldly labyrinth in order to rescue her younger brother has Muppet-y goblins, the gentle giant Ludo and a dancing Bowie. What the world needs now is Labyrinth, sweet Labyrinth. The favorite film of two or three generations is screened at 11:55 p.m. Friday and Saturday (August 30 and 31) at the Landmark Tivoli Theatre (6350 Delmar Boulevard; www.landmarktheatres.com). Tickets are $8.

7. The Big Desert
There's only way to truly experience David Lean's three-plus-hour epic Lawrence of Arabia, and that's on the largest screen available. Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events have jointly arranged just such a screening of the digitally restored film at 6 p.m. Sunday, September 1, at theaters nationwide. Shot on 65mm film in various desert landscapes, Lean and cinematographer Freddie Young composed every moment of every scene as if it were a painting. T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is an archeologist specializing in the Middle East who is ordered by the British army to act as a liaison with the Bedouin tribes of the Arabian Peninsula during World War I. Lawrence forges close bonds with the Bedouins and joins their fight for independence from Turkish and European interests, even going so far as to lead a raid on the port of Aqaba. Along with O'Toole, the film stars Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn. You can see it locally at the Marcus Ronnies 20 Cine (5320 South Lindbergh Boulevard; www.fathomevents.com). Tickets are $13.47.

8. Pop Goes Molina
It's the last month of regular season baseball, so every game counts for teams on the wild-card hunt, such as the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards start September with a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants, with the first game being particularly interesting. Not only is it a day game in September, but the Cardinals and Nathan's Famous hot dogs have teamed up to bring the first 30,000 fans a unique Yadier Molina Funko Pop. Funko Pops are small soft vinyl figures representing the famous and infamous, each depicted with a uniquely large and square-ish head. The Molina Funko Pop is captured signaling for an intentional walk, and a small percentage of the figures are painted entirely gold and silver in honor of Yadi's many Gold Gloves and his four Platinum Gloves. The game starts at 1:15 p.m. Monday, September 2, at Busch Stadium (601 Clark Avenue; www.stlcardinals.com). Tickets are $10.90 to $225.90.
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