After a seemingly endless period of COVID-induced artistic stasis, a time during which creators were forced to suspend the sharing of their works with the public (or, at best, find new and innovative ways to put themselves out there), 2021 has finally seen the reintroduction of the arts into our public lives. As vaccinations have rolled out across the country and people attempt in earnest to regain a sense of normalcy, we're finding that the artists we love haven't been just sitting on their hands throughout the pandemic — they've been honing their crafts, channeling difficult feelings into their work and re-emerging with a renewed sense of purpose.
It's not to say anything about whether any of this was worth it, but it is inspiring to see what St. Louis' creative community is capable of doing under the most trying of circumstances. In keeping, our Fall Arts Guide celebrates some of the artistic endeavors we're most excited about in this decidedly different year. Of course, no attempt to fully catalog all of these efforts would ever be complete; instead, we tasked several members of our staff with highlighting the stage productions, concerts, gallery showings and other forms of artistic expression that have most piqued their interest for this fall season.
We're crossing all of our fingers and toes that all these events are still able to go on as planned, but of course, with the delta variant bringing yet more uncertainty into our lives again, we're all too aware that anything can happen. That is to say: Make sure you check with the venues and organizations behind these events before you leave your home, and make sure that you're following all of the safety guidelines asked of you — chief among them, please get your shots! We're ready for next year to be a full-blown and unmitigated arts extravaganza, but that's going to take everyone pitching in to do their part. —Daniel Hill
St. Louis Sound
August 28, 2021 to January 22, 2023. Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Boulevard. Free. 314-746-4599.
There's no question that music runs through the veins of St. Louis. From Scott Joplin to Chuck Berry to Jay Farrar to Nelly, there are St. Louis legends across almost every genre. To celebrate this fact, for the rest of this year through 2022, the Missouri History Museum's St. Louis Sound exhibit will be free to the public at the Missouri History Museum. Nearly 200 artifacts will be displayed from national acts, local legends and essential venues in the St. Louis music scene, including the stage floor from Mississippi Nights. Check out cool outfits worn by the all-female punk band the Welders, in addition to those worn by Willie Mae Ford Smith and Tina Turner. Guitar lovers will be drooling at the ones owned by Chuck Berry, Jeff Tweedy, Albert King and Mel Bay. There's even a section of pieces from Gaslight Square during the jazz scene of the 1920s. There's an exciting range of items to see, and not just from the places in STL music history you're so used to seeing highlighted. And for your listening pleasure, bring your headphones to enjoy a curated playlist of St. Louis musicians while you browse the exhibit. —Jack Probst
Texts from My Family: A Comedy Show
8 p.m. Thursday, September 2. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Avenue. $10. 314-352-5226.
Families can be embarrassing. Luckily, parents and grandparents have learned to text, so everything doesn't have to be a long-winded call about what your more successful siblings are doing or why you didn't pick up the previous three times they called. Instead, dads can text dad jokes and grandmas can text asking why in the world you would dye your hair pink, and it all stays safely in your phone. Texts From My Family is a show where the performers enter their passcodes to show off just how funny their interactions with their families genuinely are. Comedians Emily Hickner and Alexis Winford host an evening full of stories and texts from people like you. The evening features family stories from Matt Barnes, Danielle Howard, Aaron Brooks, Angela Smith, Michelle Kidwell and Mandy Bouckaert. It's an excellent opportunity to see that your family isn't the weirdest one in St. Louis (or to recoil in horror when you realize they are.)
The Works of Farah Al Qasimi
September 3 through February 13. Contemporary Art Museum, 3750 Washington Boulevard. Free. 314-535-4660.
The time of the COVID-19 quarantine was productive for artist Farah Al Qasimi. Featured in the Contemporary Art Museum beginning on September 3, her upcoming work spans a 60-foot wall. Titled "Everywhere there is splendor," her exhibit has photography, video and performances.
The multi-media work explores themes of culture, domesticity, labor and escapism. Several pieces feature family photographs or other pieces of her family's history. A press release from the Contemporary Art Museum says Al Qasimi "found it ever more urgent to deepen her connection with her family's past" after reflecting on the uncertainty of the future, along with the tumultuous past year.
Additionally, four more exhibitions will debut at CAM alongside Al Qasimi's exhibition, running from September 3 to February 13, 2022:
"Shara Hughes: On Edge" includes more than 30 vibrant paintings and is the first major solo museum exhibition from the artist.
"Summer Brooks: The New Garden Variety" is scultpor Summer Brooks challenging beauty standards for African American women. A press release says the artist hopes "to engage viewers in conversations about stereotypes placed onto people of color by colorism and racism."
"Lorna Simpson: Heads" is an exhibition of two digital animation videos by Simpson herself. The videos detail Simpson's process of working with collage and photo manipulation.
"Kathy Butterly: Out of one, many / Headscapes" is a ceramic sculpture exhibit. Butterly combines two different projects of hers, one set from 1996 to 2018 and one set mostly made just for the CAM exhibit. "Out of one, many" is based off pint glasses and explores female figures, while "Headscapes" surveys the mind.
The Contemporary Art Museum is free and open to the public Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. beginning on September 3.
September 8 through 26. Edison Theatre, 6465 Forsyth Boulevard, University City. $15 to $55. 314-935-6543.
Written by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, Sweat explores the intersection of economics, race and cultural identity through a meeting of friends in a fictional bar in Reading, Pennsylvania, with reviews of the play noting that its characters represent blue-collar workers who voted for Donald Trump as president. Described as a "deeply heartfelt drama" with plenty of humorous elements, the play sees its characters' friendship tested by layoffs and the outsourcing of work, as the friends are forced to decide between looking out for one another or fending for themselves. The Black Rep's production of the award-winning play is directed by Ron Himes, and runs from September 8 through 26. For tickets and more information, visit theblackrep.org.
Shakespeare in the Streets: Avengeance
8 p.m. September 9 through 11. Annie Malone Home, 2612 Annie Malone Drive. Free. 314-531-0120.
All the world's a stage, and the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival is once again venturing beyond its summer home in Forest Park to prove it with Shakespeare in the Streets. Marking its tenth production after a pandemic-canceled 2020, the annual program, which is free to the public, ventures into St. Louis neighborhoods to stage a locally produced original play inspired by one of the bard's timeless classics.
This year, that classic is none other than Hamlet — but in this adaptation, titled Avengeance, the tragedy departs from Hamlet's royal anxieties in Denmark to land in the Ville in north St. Louis, where a young man wrestling with the decision to leave his family home is visited by the ghosts of famed comedian and activist Dick Gregory and pioneering Black hair-care entrepreneur Annie Malone.
Written by Mariah Richardson and directed by Ville resident Thomasina Clarke, the play pivots on the notion of revenge for the current state of a once-thriving neighborhood now hard-hit by depopulation, disinvestment and disillusionment. "Hamlet's premise is his father's ghost coming back wanting to be avenged," Clarke notes in an interview. "These ghosts have come back to ask for change, not just from the community, but from the city at large, which has abandoned them."
Among the all-persons-of-color cast is Carl Overly, Jr., who played Cornwall in St. Louis Shakespeare Festival's nationally lauded production of King Lear earlier this year. And while Hamlet and King Lear may tilt on the fate of nations, Clarke says the drama of Avengeance will be no less substantial or cutting in its portrayals of destiny and betrayal. "Right now, we're in a tragic mode, but we don't have to remain here," she says, describing both the play's setting and the neighborhood in which she still lives. "It's a story of hope," she adds, "and the hope is that people will come to understand that there is value here, and to stop giving up and walking away from it."
Avengeance premiers September 9 at 8 p.m. at the Annie Malone Home in the Ville neighborhood. For more information, visit stlshakes.org/production/theville/ or call 314-531-9800. The performances are free.
Music at the Intersection
September 10 through 12. Grand Boulevard and Washington Avenue. $55 to $300.
The inaugural Music at the Intersection Festival will see headliners including Roy Ayers, Gregory Porter and Lalah Hathaway joined by more than forty local acts spanning across such genres as blues, rock & roll, jazz, soul, R&B and hip-hop. Additionally, national acts including Lee Fields & The Expressions, Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Ikebe Shakedown, Keyon Harrold, the Soul Rebels featuring GZA, Bettye LaVette, DM-FunK, the Baylor Project and Don Bryant featuring the Bo-Keys will all perform as well. The ambitious undertaking will take place across six venues in Grand Center, with performances at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, the Big Top, the Sheldon Concert Hall, the Grandel Theatre, Jazz St. Louis and the Open Air tent. Tickets are available in the form of single- or multi-day passes, ranging from $55 to $300 for VIPs. For more information, visit musicattheintersection.org.
September 10 to October 3. The Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. $29 to $99. 314-968-4925
The Rep is hosting not one, but two world premieres this fall. Up first: the long-awaited debut of Dreaming Zenzile kicks off the season and hits the stage on September 10. Originally scheduled for a March 2020 release but pushed back due to COVID-19, the musical maps the life of South African musician and activist Miriam Makeba. In an interview with the RFT in March 2020, the writer and main performer Somi Kakoma said that "the idea is that we just ask people to dream for 90 minutes." Dreaming Zenzile will take place live at the Loretto-Hilton Center from September 10 to October 3.
- COURTESY ST. LOUIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
- St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has a slate of (free!) shows planned for this fall in Forest Park.
Dinosaur Jr. with Ryley Walker
8 p.m., Thursday, September 16. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard. $30 to $35. 314-726-6161.
If you've been missing the power of live, loud, bone-crunching rock & roll during the pandemic, Dinosaur Jr. is ready to give you a booster dose. The September 16 concert will be one of the biggest shows to happen at the Pageant since it came back to life after suffering (yet somehow surviving through) the sudden closure of all things fun during the pandemic. And no non-medical industry was hit harder than the live music entertainment business. While restaurants had to try to pivot to curbside and everyone else learned how to wear masks, the concert industry mostly sat, defeated, until people could get a vaccine. And while there are many more things we can do now since those first early dark days of the pandemic, live music has remained a rare treat. The Pageant is trying to keep the doors open, too, so there are rules in place now to help keep everyone safe. The venue was one of the first in town to announce that patrons must have a vaccine or a recent negative test to enter. And guests will need to wear a mask, too. But it's a small price to pay to be baptised by the glory that is the Dinosaur Jr. live show. If you've seen it before, you know that in addition to the mask, you'll want to bring earplugs, too. Dino does it loud.—Jaime Lees
Bacon and Babes: Drag Brunch
12 p.m. Sunday, September 19. Mad Art Gallery, 2727 South Twelfth Street. $40. 14-771-8230.
Brunch has become a trendy meal to gather with friends, but it can be tiring to host it yourself. The bacon must be crisp, the eggs can't be runny, the toast can't be burnt and the mimosa must constantly be flowing for all your guests. It's stressful as hell trying to please everyone, and your friends aren't even Instagram influencers! Solve all these problems by convincing your group to buy tickets to the Bacon and Babes Drag Brunch at Mad Art Gallery. You get all the fun of brunch without having to prepare it, plus there's a drag show. Your $40 ticket includes a catered buffet by chef Ron Buechele and one complimentary mimosa. (Just one? Well, this is brunch, of course, so bucket mimosa specials are just $15.) Performers include Andy Whorehal, Chasity Valentino, Lucy Couture, Roxxy Malone and Noah Mazzaratie Steele. It's bound to be a loud, proud and spectacular event not to be missed. —Jack Probst
SLSO at Forest Park
7 p.m. Wednesday, September 22. Art Hill, 1 Fine Arts Drive. Free.
Once a year, the world-class musicians of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra serve up a free concert in the scenic environs of the world-class Forest Park. Led by Music Director Stéphane Denève, the SLSO delivers a selection of classical favorites, music from film and patriotic songs, capping off the event with a fireworks show. It's the perfect excuse to pack a picnic basket and lay out a blanket at the base of Art Hill for a night of family fun or a romantic evening with the one you love — and all for free!—Daniel Hill
Theo Welling: "Mama Cat," Work in Progress
Friday, September 3-Saturday, September 25. Reception and artist talk 3 p.m. on Friday, September 24 at The May Gallery at Webster University, Sverdrup 123.
Cathy Daniels, known not just in St. Louis but to activists around the world as Mama Cat, has been a force of humanitarian transformation for many years. But it was the police violence in Ferguson that brought about the PotBangerz, a nonprofit "movement within the movement" aimed at getting hot food and essentials out to the unhoused population in St. Louis while advocating for their needs and rights as human beings and neighbors.
Theo Welling has been documenting Mama Cat and her work for over a year, when he hasn't been out shooting features and The Lede (see page 5) every week for the Riverfront Times (hey, thats' us!). "It's a mixture of everything in her life," he says. "Protest and politics, family life, outreach, opening a transitional house for women who are unhoused, and food. Food is the basis of everything."
This show at The May Gallery will be Welling's first chance to display some of the shots he's taken of St. Louis' matron saint. "The loose goal is to make a book of it eventually," he says, but at this show you can expect to see lush prints of the kinds of shots Welling has become known for: still portraits, portraits in motion, and an eye for the details that make a human being unique. Due to COVID-19, the show itself is appointment only, but there will be a reception on September 24 where Welling will speak about this project. And he'll be just in time, because Mama Cat has made it known that she is moving to Florida soon. Some cities have characters; St. Louis has a pot-banging angel — at least for now. —Evan Sult
The Rolling Stones
7:30 p.m. Sunday, September 26. The Dome at America's Center, 701 Convention Plaza. $66.50 to $699. 314-342-5201.
If the remaining Rolling Stones can survive this year, then so can we. Just recently, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dropped off of this tour shortly before passing away. But the deeply saddening loss of a core member of the band and one of the best drummers of all time could not stop this tour — not even a once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) worldwide pandemic could stop this tour. The greatest living rock band in the world just keeps on pushing through and will likely continue to give performances that are second to none. It's just what they do. This concert is a rescheduled date from June, when it was postponed because of COVID-19, so if you're fully vaccinated and not scared of catching a breakthrough case, the concert gods (who now include Charlie Watts) are smiling down on you for this Rolling Stones appearance. There are plenty of tickets available for you to scoop up, including some spots in the pit that usually go for four times the price they're listed at now. —Jaime Lees
October 1 through 24. The Center of Creative Arts, 6880 Washington Avenue. $25 to $85. 314-725-6555.
Just after the Rep's world-premiere of Dreaming Zenzile comes the first-ever performance of The Gradient. Written by Steph Del Rosso, the play is a satire. It takes place in the future, when men who are accused of sexual misconduct are taken to a facility that must rehabilitate them into responsible citizens. The show starts its run on October 1 at the Center of Creative Arts and ends on October 24. Purchase tickets online at repstl.org.