Two Theatre Circle Award nominations
for West End’s 2015 shows.
West End Players Guild productions received two nominations for 2016 St. Louis Theatre Circle awards, which were announced January 29. The awards are for work during calendar 2015.
Elizabeth Van Pelt was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama for her work as Avery in Rapture, Blister, Burn, our last show of the year, presented in November.
Michael Brightman was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy for his work as Bradley in Mr. Marmalade, our first show of the year, presented in February.
And…. West End Players Board member Nathan Schroeder was nominated for Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play for Mr. Burns, presented by our friends at R-S Theatrics.
Next up: Willy Russell’s Educating Rita
Get your tickets now – Show will run February 12-21
Winter is here. The snow is flying and the temperature is dropping. What better time for a very warm-hearted comedy, Willy Russell’s Educating Rita, presented February 12-21 by West End Players Guild at the theatre in the Union Avenue Christian Church?
Warming up the theatre was one of playwright Russell’s goals in writing the play, as he told The Guardian in an interview last year.
“The Royal Shakespeare Company had asked me to write something for a season of experimental work. Their London home was in what’s now the Donmar Warehouse. When I went in, I thought: ‘oh, it’s one of those brick-box, black-drapes places. There’s no way I’m going to write that kind of play.’ I thought: ‘I want to put some warmth in there.’”
And warm the house he did. The play opened to rave reviews, thanks in part to a career-making star turn by actress Julie Walters in the title role. Walters reprised the role in the award-winning 1983 movie version, co-starring Michael Caine as Professor Frank Bryant.
Tom Kopp appears as Frank in the West End Players production, with Maggie Wininger as Rita Susan White. Jan Meyer directs the production, assisted by Danny Austin.
Frank is a tutor of English in his fifties whose disillusioned outlook on life drives him to drink and to bury himself in his books. Enter Rita, a forthright 26-year-old hairdresser who is eager to learn. After weeks of cajoling, Rita slowly wins over the very hesitant Frank with her innate insight and refusal to accept no for an answer. Their relationship as teacher and student blossoms, ultimately giving Frank a new sense of self and Rita the knowledge she so craves.
Educating Rita is “Round Three” of a season-long look at the “Battle of the Sexes,” which began in September with David Ives’s Venus in Fur. In November, West End Players offered Gina Gionfriddo’s witty and insightful look at 21st-century feminism, Rapture, Blister, Burn. The season concludes in April with Lee Blessing’s Great Falls, an unusual and intriguing “road trip” story about an older man and a younger woman struggling to get their broken lives back on track.
Performances of Educating Rita will be on Thursday (second week only), Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 and Sunday matinees at 2:00. All performances are at the theatre in the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Ave. (just north of Delmar). Free parking and the theatre entrance are in the rear of the church. Tickets to the show are on sale now; click here to buy yours.
Rita Susan White (played by Maggie Wininger) is a London hairdresser with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the education her working-class upbringing denied her. Determined to expand her horizons and her world she enters the Open University, where her biggest challenge turns out to be not her studies but her tutor – Frank Bryant, 50’s, burnt out and more interested in his bottle than his job. Maggie loves Rubyfruit Jungle. Frank thinks it is trash until Rita makes him read it, and he realizes he may have more to learn from her than the other way around. (Photo credit: John Lamb)
Last curtain call for three stars of our stage.
2015 ended sadly for West End Players Guild as we lost three of our longest-serving and most beloved members.
In November, Fay McKenna died at the age of 82. Fay first graced our stage in 1957 and remained active in the troupe for the rest of her life – more than 55 years! She acted, directed, produced, served on the Board and brightened all of our lives with her gentle, winning ways and her opening night parties. She was an emeritus member of our Board at the time of her death. For more information on Fay’s life, click here.
A second great lady of the St. Louis theatre, Dorothy Davis, died in December at age 84. For many decades Dorothy charmed audiences at West End Players Guild, ACT Inc., Kirkwood Theatre Guild, Theatre Guild of Webster Groves and others. She saved some of her most memorable performances for her golden years, such as her featured role in ACT Inc.’s unforgettable production of Noel Coward’s Waiting in the Wings. Read more about Dorothy here.
Dorothy was preceded in death, by two weeks, by her husband, constant companion and biggest fan Jerry Davis, 86. The always-dapper Jerry was one of the happiest gents you could ever hope to meet, always ready with a hearty hello, a story and a smile. He was a well-known and much loved volunteer at WEPG and other theatre companies. More about Jerry’s life can be found here.
West End Players Guild dedicates the 2015-16 season to the memory of these wonderful friends and long-time partners. We will miss and remember them always.
Mark your calendar!
Grand Center Theatre Crawl 2016 is July 1st.
The Grand Center Theatre Crawl returns Friday evening, July 1. This year 19 theatre companies will offer peeks at their artistry, and it’s all free. Grand Center will be hopping and you’ll want to be there. For more information, click here.