ArtFul Living

St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

Summer is the time to kick back and relax – and in St. Louis, that means summer performances.

Missouri Botanical Garden offers its annual, free Whitaker Foundation Concert Series on Wednesday evenings. The season starts off with Terence Blanchard on June 5. Blanchard is known for his expansive composition work for Spike Lee films, from 4 Little Girls to the epic Malcolm X. His current quintet, E-Collective, performs with him at the Garden at 7 p.m. Concert details at www.mobot.org/whitaker.

By the way, Blanchard returns to St. Louis for the world premiere of his second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which is commissioned by Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Jazz St. Louis, which opens on June 15. Opera Theatre of St. Louis performs at the Loretto-Hilton Center in Webster Groves. For info about this opera, and others in the Opera Festival all month long, visit www.opera-stl.org.

Meanwhile, back at the Garden, Tonina Saputo performs her original music, both in Spanish and English, on June 12. Born in San Diego, California but raised in St. Louis, her unparalleled musical scope is thrilling. June 19 offers self-described “talented, harmonious and sassy city gals who drank whiskey and sang effortlessly and beautifully.” The River Kittens were always favorites at LouFest. Gene Dobbs Bradford rings his combination of blues, jazz, rock, funk and soul to the Garden on June 26. So, yeah, be sure to attend the Whitaker Concert Series at the Garden on Wednesdays!

ACT INC performs at the Emerson Black Box theatre at Lindenwood University’s J. Schiedegger Center for the Arts, presenting 2 great plays. Travels with My Aunt runs June 7-9 and 22-23, with Leaving Iowa, June 14-16, 21-22. The company was founded in 1979 by a group of actors who wanted the opportunity to perform in the summer. At that time, the only consistent summer theatre in St. Louis was the MUNY; no Non-Equity groups produced in the summer. Their goal, according to their original charter, was “to produce the lesser-known works of well known playwrights or plays not often produced,” especially “plays of charm and literary merit.” After moving around the region a bit, ACT INC has found a home in St. Charles, named by Lindenwood University as their Resident Summer Repertory Company. Learn more at www.actincstl.com.

Cecilia Nadal is a recognized leader in the arts in our region. As Executive Director of Gitana Productions, she continually seeks to demonstrate the strong connection between the arts and social justice. Her latest play, An Amazing Story: German Abolitionists of Missouri, is presented at the Kranzberg Art Center, 501 N. Grand, June 20-23, with evening and matinee performances. Experience this fascinating part of local history. Details at www.gitana-inc.com.

All the way through to June 23, my fav Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis returns to the Glen in Forest Park to gift the city with its annual Shakespearean performance. This year is sure to delight with “Love’s Labors Lost,” nightly (except for Mondays) at 8 p.m. But arrive early, because THIS is a St. Louis tradition: pack a picnic dinner or purchase delightfully delicious options on site to socialize and dine al fresco before the performance begins. From 6 p.m. until showtime, various entertainers stroll the grounds, actors present a Green Show synopsis of the evening’s performance, backstage tours are offered, and the atmosphere is pure excitement. Bring your own chair or blanket, or rent one!

But here’s my message: the Shakespeare Festival has been a free gift, given to St. Louis every year since 2001. The performances are first-class by professional actors and each year the sound, lighting, and all the various other aspects of a theatre production get better and better. Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis is a nonprofit organization, depending upon public support. This year, Edward Jones has offered to match up to $100,000 to the Festival—but the Festival has to receive YOUR donation to get a match. Please tuck a bit of money in your pocket when you come to the festival this year or, better yet, send a donation ahead of time. The Festival needs those matching funds but YOUR funds are needed to make that happen! Every dollar helps to keep this tradition a part of a St. Louis summer. More info at www.sfslt.com.

A live performance can be a perfect way to celebrate Father’s Day with the dad in your life!