ArtFul Living: St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

Mystique, music, hot jazz –
find it all this month

The very mention of the Salem Witch Trials conjures mystique. What was reality and what was imagination? How could an entire village, and beyond, become involved in what history has come to recognize as mass hysteria instigated by a group of teenage girls? Centuries later, the Salem Witch Trials still intrigue.

This month, the Missouri History Museum and Metro Theater Company present Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, a play by Laurie Brooks, telling the tale of the “original mean girls” of Salem, Massachusetts. Following historical accounts, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren and Betty Paris meet deep in the dark woods of Puritan New England to unite in a secret society. The play addresses how these girls formed alliances, made and broke promises, and struggled for power at a time when outlets for imagination and hopes for their futures were severely limited. When the girls force the slave Tituba to tell their fortunes, they ignite a crucible of events, burning out of control. The resulting Salem Witch Trials saw more than 100 women–and men–jailed and 20 executed. Gossip, secrets and accusations—such as found in today’s society—form the catalysts of the Salem Witch Trials.

Metro Theater Company has been creating “accessible sensory productions that respect young people’s intelligence, tell compelling stories, stimulate curiosity and provoke thoughtful reflection.” Founded in 1973, the company has reached an audience of over two million. The 70-minute production of Afflicted: Daughters of Salem is recommended for adults and young people ages 10 and older. Each performance ends with a forum theater in which the audience will be asked to decide whether or not to forgive the girls for their actions.

The concepts presented are posed to stimulate thoughtful after-performance discussion. What if these Salem teens had inspiring role models available to them? How different would history have been? At the weekend performances, Metro Theater Company celebrates nine very special women, known as the Secret Society of Inspiring Women, who are invested in the community and serve as outstanding role models. The show runs March 6-22 with Thursday and Friday performances, 10 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. at the History Museum in Forest Park (314-746-4599). For more information, visit www.metroplays.org/afflicted.

Talk about inspiring women, Alexis Jones is no ordinary 17-year old. She’s a determined R&B artist, known as Gabbii, who will be showcased on March 14 as the Kwame Foundation’s 2015 Live Your Dream scholarship recipient. Gabbii is a senior at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School and will perform at the 7 p.m. concert at Maryville University Auditorium, 650 Maryville University Drive. The Kwame Foundation launched its “Live Your Dream” scholarships in 2014. The program supports talented high school seniors who have a passion in the arts but who might not otherwise have an opportunity to achieve their career dreams. Scholarship recipients exhibit talent in music, dance, spoken word, and visual art. They receive full range services for artistic development including album production, booking, career consulting and marketing. For concert ticket info, call Kwame Foundation 314-754-5619 or visit www.kwamefoundation.org.

Crowning March performances is the 2015 Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival on March 20-21. The 12th annual event takes the stage at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the UMSL campus at 8 p.m. with headliners that include Lou Marini, Steve Wiest, Clay Jenkins, Montez Coleman and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Each evening opens with the UMSL Jazz Ensemble, directed by Jim Widner. Lou Fisher and Ken Kehner will also perform on Friday evening.

Platinum-recording saxophonist Lou Marini is the “soulful sideman” in such high-profile groups as the Saturday Night Live Band, The Blues Brothers and Blood Sweat & Tears. Composer-trombonist Steve Wiest has garnered multiple Grammy-nominations for his fresh, cutting-edge writing and extroverted playing. Legendary trumpeter Clay Jenkins will perform along with East St. Louis native percussionist Montez Coleman, whose high energy sparks excitement in every set. “We’re proud of what we’ve built,” said the festival’s Artistic Director Jim Widner. Details at www.gsljazzfest.com.

ArtFul Happenings can be viewed at www.thehealthyplanet.com.